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

Do unto Trees as You Would Have Them Do unto You

There was a lake on whose green banks grew many pretty flowers. Beautiful Dryope, with her smiling baby in her arms, loved to carry garlands of roses to the water-nymphs who lived in the lake. Once when wandering there she found a lotus blossom and broke it from the stem to give it to her baby for a plaything.

Dryope's sister, who was with her, looked at the blossom and was much frightened to see drops of blood where the stem was broken off. The tree was trembling too, as if shaken with horror. It was a tree which had once been a lovely maiden by the name of Lotis. But being pursued by a wooer whom she did not like, Lotis had changed into a flowery plant.

When Dryope saw the lotus bleeding and trembling, she humbly begged it to forgive her, and then she tried to run away, but she could not. She found that her feet had roots like a plant, and that the roots had grown down into the ground and held her fast. She tried to get away, but could not. Something like the bark of a tree began to grow around her. She put her hands up to her head and found that her hair had turned to leaves.

She pressed her baby to her heart, but her arms began to turn into branches, like the branches of a tree. Poor Dryope now knew that she too must become a tree. She gave her baby to her sister, and asked her to let him come and play under her branches when he grew to be a boy.

She said she hoped he would never break off a branch from a tree lest it might be the home of a goddess or nymph. And she begged her sister never to let the cows and sheep bite off her tender branches, or eat her leaves, since that would give her great pain. Thus perished Dryope crying out that she was unjustly punished.

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