In ancient times, when Apollo, the god of the
shining sun, roamed the earth, he met Cupid, who
with bended bow and drawn string was seeking
human beings to wound with the arrows of love.
"Silly boy," said Apollo, "what dost thou with
the warlike bow? Such burden best befits my
shoulders, for did I not slay the fierce serpent, the
Python, whose baleful breath destroyed all that
came nigh him? Warlike arms are for the mighty,
not for boys like thee! Do thou carry a torch with
which to kindle love in human hearts, but no
longer lay claim to my weapon, the bow!"
But Cupid replied in anger: "Let
thy bow shoot what it will, Apollo, but my bow shall
shoot THEE!" And the god of love rose up, and
beating the air with his wings, he drew two magic arrows
from his quiver. One was of shining gold and with
its barbed point could Cupid inflict wounds of
love - the other arrow was of dull silver and its
wound had the power to engender hate.
The silver arrow Cupid fixed in
the breast of Daphne, the daughter of the river-god
Peneus - and forthwith she fled away from the homes
of men, and hunted beasts in the forest.
With the golden arrow Cupid grievously
wounded Apollo, who fleeing to the woods saw
there the Nymph Daphne pursuing the deer - and
straightway the sun-god fell in love with her
beauty. Her golden locks hung down upon her
neck, her eyes were like stars, her form was slender
and graceful and clothed in clinging white.
Swifter than the light wind she flew, and Apollo
"O Nymph! daughter of Peneus," he cried,
"stay, I entreat thee! Why dost thou fly as a
lamb from the wolf, as a deer from the lion, or as
dove with trembling wings Bees from the eagle! I
am no common man! I am no shepherd! Thou
knowest not, rash maid, from whom thou art flying!
The priests of Delphi and Tenedos pay their
service to me. Jupiter is my sire. Mine own
arrow is unerring, but Cupid's aim is truer, for he
has made this wound in my heart! Alas! wretched
me! though I am that great one who discovered
the art of healing, yet this love may not be healed
by my herbs nor my skill!"
But Daphne stopped not at these
words, she flew from him with timid step. The winds
fluttered her garments, the light breezes spread her
flowing locks behind her. Swiftly Apollo drew
near even as the keen greyhound draws near to
the frightened hare he is pursuing. With trembling
limbs Daphne sought the river, the home of
her father, Peneus. Close behind her was Apollo,
the sun-god. She felt his breath on her hair and
his hand on her shoulder. Her strength was spent,
she grew pale, and in faint accents she implored
"O save me, my father, save me from Apollo,
Scarcely had she thus spoken before a heaviness
seized her limbs. Her breast was covered with
bark, her hair grew into green leaves, and her
arms into branches. Her feet, a moment before so
swift, became rooted to the ground. And Daphne
was no longer a Nymph, but a green laurel tree.
When Apollo beheld this change he cried out
and embraced the tree, and kissed its leaves.
"Beautiful Daphne," he
said, "since thou cannot
be my bride, yet shalt thou be my tree. Henceforth
my hair, my lyre, and my quiver shall be
adorned with laurel. Thy wreaths shall be given
to conquering chiefs, to winners of fame and joy -
and as my head has never been shorn of its locks,
so shalt thou wear thy green leaves, winter and
summer - forever!"
Apollo ceased speaking and the laurel bent its
new-made boughs in assent, and its stem seemed
to shake and its leaves gently to murmur.