Helios and Clytie
Helios, the beautiful, was the sun-god, whom the Greeks loved and honored. He was tall, and as straight as an arrow. He had blue eyes, and hair which fell in golden curls over his shoulders. His limbs were strong, and the muscles of his arms stood out in rounded curves like the arms of an athlete. The sun-god was indeed a famous horseman. Every morning he drove his golden chariot across the sky. This was not an easy thing to do, for the horses were as wild as the Arabian horses of Ilderim. Ah, but they were beautiful, with their flowing manes and tails, their flashing eyes, graceful limbs, and silky coats! Fire flashed from their nostrils as they ran, and no horses have ever been swifter than those which drew the golden chariot.
Helios was proud of them, and indeed, he should have been very happy. But sometimes he grew quite tired of his pleasant task. The Hours, Minutes, and Seconds who went with him were often very tiresome, because they always said the same things. To be sure, Helios never grew tired of his beautiful sister, Eos, who drew aside the crimson curtains of the dawn. When he was ready to start, Eos bade him good-by with a pleasant smile.
At the end of the day's journey, Helios was received by the sea-nymphs, who took care of the horses, and prepared a soft couch on which he rested until the next day.
The beginning of the journey, was very pleasant to Helios. The birds sang a greeting, the brooks and rivers made music for him, and the people down upon the green earth sang songs in his praise. Everybody and everything loved him. Even the little ants, toiling away at their tiny sand mountains, watched for his coming. Helios should have been happy and contented at all times; but he was not. Sometimes his discontent darkened his bright face, so that people on the earth were frightened. In vain they sang their songs of praise and inquired, "Where is Helios?" No one could tell.
"Far down the gentle stream of Ocean" lived the stern old god Oceanus and his daughter Clytie. She was one of the sea-nymphs who danced and sang at evening when Helios returned. She was a bright and playful little nymph. All day long she ran laughing and dancing through her father's coral halls, and made his heart soften, even in his darkest moods; for Oceanus was very stern and unkind at times.
Helios was never too tired to talk to Clytie. They were the best of friends, and had many pleasant times together. Helios told her what had happened during the day, in the sky, or down upon the earth. Sometimes his stories were bright, happy ones, but often Helios told of terrible wars and brave warriors killed by cruel lances; and then Clytie would put her hands over her ears and beg Helios to tell of other things more pleasant.
One day Helios promised to take Clytie with him in the chariot. "If you are not afraid, you shall go every day," he said. Clytie said that she would not be afraid with such a brave driver.
But Oceanus could not spare Clytie, and would not give his consent. "Ah, well, Leucothea will go, even though her father consent not," said Helios.
Helios had told Clytie about the little princess Leucothea, whose father was king of an eastern country. Why should Clytie stay at home and miss the pleasure which Leucothea would enjoy? Clytie made up her mind to go without asking her father. So she called her dolphins, and bade them bring her pink-lined chariot; and away they dashed through the waves and surf. They stopped at a little rock island where the sea-nymphs played their happy games. By and by the golden chariot of Helios appeared far away in the east. Clytie's heart beat fast. She watched the sun-god as he drew nearer and nearer. She was sure that he would take her as he had promised. But Helios did not stop. Perhaps he had forgotten Clytie, or it may be that he dared not offend Oceanus. Helios drove right along, not deigning even so much as a glance toward the little rock island. Perhaps he did not know that a sad and disappointed little maiden was watching so patiently.
Day after day Clytie waited in vain for the fickle sun-god. "He has forgotten me,—he will not keep his promise," she sobbed; and she threw herself upon the rocks, and refused the comfort offered by her gentle sister nymphs.
Clytie stayed so long on the rocks that her feet became rooted in the sand, and her golden hair was changed into the yellow rays of the sunflower, which still turns toward the bright chariot of Helios.