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held a state like goddesses. The rest are not sufficiently identified with the class, or are too little distinguished from the former varieties, to need particular mention.
The Bacchantes, or Nymphs of Bacchus, are of a very different character from their sisters. They are equally remarkable for the turbulence of their movements, and the rigidness of their chastity ; though as to the latter, “ Juvenal,” says an Italian Vlythology, "is of another opinion ;" * and Lycophron gives the title of Bacchantes to dissolute
How the followers of the god of wine came to be thought so austere we know not. The delicacy of the moral, if it existed, has escaped us. If it were meant to insinuate that a drunken female repelled every thing amatory by the force of disgust, no case could be clearer : but ancient mythology abounds with the loves of wood-gods for these ladies, who on the other hand struggled plentifully to resist them. According to the authority just mentioned, Nonnus, a Greek author of the fifth century, who wrote a poem on Bacchus as big as a tun, represents them as so jealous of their virgin honor, that they went to bed with a live serpent round their waists, to guard against surprise. The perplexity in this matter originated, perhaps, in the chastity that was expected from the ordained priestesses of Bacchus, who are often confounded with his nymphs. But so little had the nature of the latter to do with chastity, that those who undertook to represent them, gave rise to the greatest scandal that ever took place in the heathen world, and such as the Romans were obliged to suppress by a regular state interference.
The Hesperides, so called because they were the granddaughters (Milton says the daughters) of Hesperus, and
* Dizionario d'ogni Mitologia. art. “Baccanti.”
otherwise Atlantides, or daughters of Atlas, were three nymphs, who were commissioned, in company with a dragon, to guard the tree from which Juno produced the golden apples that she gave to Jupiter on her marriage day. The nymphs sang, and the dragon never slept; and so, in the melancholy beauty of that charm, the tree ever stood secure, and the apples “hung amiable.” It was one of the labors of Hercules to undo this custody, and carry away the apples. The nymphs could only weep, while he killed the dragon. Various interpretations have been given to this story. Some say the apples meant sheep, from a word which signifies both ; and that the sheep were called golden, because they were beautiful ; the common metaphorical sense of that epithet among the ancients. Others discover in it an allegory on one of the signs of the Zodiac, on the sin of avarice, the discovery of a gold mine, &c.; but we shall be forgetting the spirit of our subject for the letter. Milton, in his “Comus,” has touched upon the gardens of Hesperus, but not in his happiest manner. There is something in it too finical and perfumed. We have quoted the best lines when making out our list of the nymphs. Lucan makes you feel the massiveness of the golden boughs, and has touched beautifully on the rest.
Fuit aurea silva,
A golden grove,
in a rich glade,
* Quoted by Warton in his notes to Milton.
Mention of the Hesperides is made in the Argonautics of Apollonius, where the voyagers come upon the golden garden after Hercules had rifled it. The nymphs are observed lamenting over the slain dragon, but vanish at sight of the intruders. The latter, however, Orpheus being their spokesman, venture to implore them for water; and the nymphs, with the usual good-nature of their race, indulge the petition. They become visible, each in a tree, and tell them that the dreadful stranger, who had been there, had stamped in a rage of thirst on the ground, and struck up a fountain.
For accounts of the manners and conversation of nymphs the curious reader may consult the sixth book of Spenser, Drayton's “ Muses' Elysium,” the “ Arcadia” of Sannazaro, Cintio Giraldi's sylvan drama, entitled “Egle," and the “ Endymion” of Keats ; to which may be added the bass-relief of ancient sculpture, and the works of the great painters. (Egle brightness) is a celebrated name in nymphology; so is Galatea (milky) and Enone (winy). Cydippe (Proud horse) seems rather the name of a lady-centaur ; but the Greeks were singularly fond of names compounded from horses. Best-horse, and Golden-horse, and Hastehorse were among their philosophers (Aristippus, Chrysippus, and Speusippus); and Horse-mistress and Horsetamer, among their ladies (Hipparchia and Hippodamia). Of solitary nymphs, or rather such as lived apart, sometimes in state like goddesses, with nymphs of their own, the most celebrated are Circe, Calypso, and Egeria. The most beautiful mention of Egeria (the Watchful ?) is in Milton's Latin poems, at least to the best of our recollection. See his lines addressed to Salsilli, a Roman poet, on his sickness. We regret we have not time to indulge ourselves in attempting a version of the pas
sage.* Circe (the Encircler) is clearly the original of the modern enchantress.
says Keats, describing her. (How beautiful!) Calypso (the Secret, or Lying-hid) though no magician, was a nobler enchantress after her fashion, as we see in Homer. Boccaccio, speaking of Circe, Calisto, and Clymene, says, that nymphs of their distinguished class were no other than young ladies, delicately brought up, and living in retirement, “thalamorum colentes umbras," — cultivators of their boudoirs. Impressions,” he says, sort, were easily made on creatures of this tender sort, as on things allied to the element of water; whereas, rustic women laboring out of doors, and exposed to the sun,
6 of every
* From Cowper's translation of the poem, we extract the passage referred
“ Health, Hebe's sister, sent us from the skies,
And thou, Apollo, whom all sickness flies,
hills that melt
became “hispid” and case-hardened, and therefore deservedly lost the name of nymphs.*
THE SIRENS AND MERMAIDS OF THE
EAVING Eaca on their homeward voy
age," says Vír. Keightley, in his excellent * Mythology," " Odysseus (Ulysses) and his companions came first to the islands of the
Sirens. These were two maidens, who sat in a mead close to the sea, and with their melodious voices so charmed those who were sailing by that they forgot home, and every thing relating to it, and abode there till their bones lay whitening on the strand. By the directions of Circe, Odysseus stopped the ears of his companions with wax, and had himself tied to the mast; and thus he was the only person who heard the song of the Sirens, and escaped.
“ Hesiod † describes the mead of the Sirens as blooming with flowers, and says that their voice stilled the winds. Their names were said to be Aglaiophéme (Clear-r'oice), and Thelxiepeia (.1lagic-speech). It was feigned that they threw themselves into the sea with vexation at the escape of Odysseus; but the author of the “Orphic Argonautics places them on a rock near the shore of Ætna, and makes the song of Orpheus end their enchantment, and cause them to fling themselves into the sea.
* Sunt præterea, &c.
.-“Genealogia Deorum,” lib. vii. cap. † Frag. xxvii.