Gateway to the Classics: Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers by Mary E. Burt
Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers by  Mary E. Burt

The Mountain That Loved a White Wave

There is a huge mountain standing down by the blue sea. It has stood there ages and ages and is just as firm on its base as ever. It is covered over with shaggy woods and it has a great eye in the middle of its forehead, a large fiery eye.


Perhaps we ought to call it a mouth instead of an eye, for it grumbles and mumbles and mutters dreadful things.

The mountain carries a mighty fire in its bosom and when it is not asleep it hurls rocks far out into the sea or down into the valley at its foot.

There are rivers running down the mountain. They gather red sand from the red rocks as they go dashing along so that they look like red rivers. They run to meet the white waves of the sea, and the white waves come rushing up to receive them as if they were very welcome visitors.

When the winds blow, the old mountain looks over the waters and if it isn't blind, it must see hundreds of white waves come frolicking up until they dash on the shore at its base.

If the grand old mountain had a heart in his bosom as well as a raging fire, how he would love the blue sea with its hundreds of white waves sporting like water-nymphs on dolphins' backs. It must be that the old mountain did love the waves, or how could people have thought of the story which they told about him.

Old Nereus, they said, was a grand old sea-god, a servant to Neptune, who dwelt in the waters, and he had a hundred daughters who lived in a splendid cave at the bottom of the sea.

When the winds blew and the dolphins rolled sporting on the waves, these sea-nymphs came up to ride about on their backs and enjoy the rocking of the billows. Now one of these nymphs was named Galatea, and she was very white, as white as marble. And she combed her hair while she swam around basking in the sunshine. There was a great giant standing on the shore. He had one vast fiery eye in the middle of his forehead. He was a shaggy monster who muttered and mumbled and threw great stones when angry.


Galatea and Cyclops

He looked out upon the waters and saw the beautiful Galatea with her white robes and her white face surrounded by her hundred sisters. When the rough old giant looked at her, his heart began to melt within him and he loved the white maiden with a raging love that kindled a mighty fire in his bosom.

He never had been used to comb his hair and his locks had become stiff for want of brushing. As soon as he saw Galatea, he began to think how he might make himself beautiful. So he took a great rake and raked out his hair which hung in masses over his brows.

And he cut his shaggy beard with a sickle and having no mirror, he looked into the waters at his fierce face to see how to compose his features, how to wreathe his face in sweet smiles.

The old Cyclops had looked cross so long that it was not easy to look pleasant at once. For a long time the ships came and went in safety before him. He threw no stones at them lest the white water-nymph might see him and fear him. There is a great hill in the form of a wedge, which projects out over the sea. The waves of the ocean flow around it on both sides.

The giant sat down on the middle of this rock to watch for Galatea. He forgot his woolly sheep, which followed him because there was no one to care for them. He laid down his staff at his feet. It was a pine-tree as large as the mast of a ship. He took up a pipe of a hundred reeds and began playing on it. So loud was his music that the mountain trembled and the sea shook from shore to shore. He sang these words playing on the pipe:

"O Galatea! fairer than the petal of the snow-white blossom, more blooming than the meadows, brighter than glass, clearer than ice, more beauteous than apples, whither has thou fled?

If thou didst know me thou wouldst repine at having fled and thou wouldst call me to thee.

I have a cave in the mountain where the warm sun is not felt in summer nor the cold in winter. There are apple-trees laden with fruit and golden grapes on the vines, as well as purple ones. I will give thee both kinds, and with thy white hands thou shalt gather strawberries in the wood-land shade.



And when I am thy husband I will bring thee chestnuts and fruit from all the trees. I am so rich in cattle that I cannot count them, and here is an abundance of milk and cheese. I will give thee rabbits and goats and a pair of doves, or a nest from the top of a tall tree. I have found on the mountain top the twin cubs of a shaggy bear, so like each other that thou canst not tell them apart and thou shalt have them for play-mates.

Oh, Galatea, lift thy white face out of the blue sea and do not scorn my presents. Surely I know myself how beautiful I am for I have looked in the smooth waters and have seen my image. Yes, I looked at myself in the waters and my figure pleased me very much. See how huge I am. Even Jupiter is not larger than I.

Plenty of hair hangs over my grisly features, and, like a grove, it covers my shoulders. Do not think it unhandsome that I am covered with stiff bristles.

A tree is covered with leaves, feathers cover the birds, and wool is an ornament to sheep. So my shaggy hair and rough beard are ornaments to me.

I have but one eye in the middle of my forehead. The Sun looks down from the heavens and beholds all things, yet the Sun has but one eye. And my father, Neptune, owns the sea in which you live. Him I offer you for a father-in-law. And if you do not hear my prayer, I shall carry a volcano in my heart, so great will be my fury."



Galatea was afraid of this shaggy monster and beside that she had promised to marry a very gentle youth whose name was Acis. Acis was wandering about on the top of the mountain when the Cyclops began his song and he felt the mountain shake with the great roar and he was frightened for fear that the Cyclops might throw a huge stone at Galatea if she scorned him.

So Acis began to run down the side of the mountain. Like a deer, he bounded over the rocks to reach Galatea that they might hide away from the Cyclops in the dark sea caves. And Galatea was frightened, too, and she came swimming up to meet him, hand in hand with her hundred sisters, her face whiter than it had ever been before.


When Cyclops saw Acis hurrying to meet Galatea, the raging fire in his bosom burned more fiercely than ever and he hurled an immense rock at the youth. The rock was so large that Acis was completely buried under it and the Cyclops thought he had crushed him to death.

But Acis was instantly changed into a leaping river which ran out from under the rock and in that form went leaping toward the sea. At first it was very red, all stained with his blood, but it cleared itself as it ran on and on, growing whiter and brighter until it leapt into the sea and clasped the beautiful Galatea in its limpid eddies. Then Galatea and her hundred sisters took Acis down to their home in the sea caves and there they all lived as happily as if Cyclops had never thrown any rocks.

And now you may tell me whether we have been reading about a giant and his sheep and sea-nymphs and a gentle youth, or about a mountain, a volcano, a river, fleecy clouds, sea-waves, and other things in nature.

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