Gateway to the Classics: Gods and Heroes by R. E. Francillon
Gods and Heroes by  R. E. Francillon

The Sun-Flower

T HERE was a nymph named Clytĭĕ, who was so beautiful that Apollo fell in love with her. She was very proud and glad of being loved by the god of the Sun, and loved him a great deal more than he loved her. But she believed that his love was as great as her own: and so she lived happily for a long time.

But one day, Apollo happened to see a king's daughter, whose name was Leucŏthŏē. He thought she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen: so he fell in love with her, and forgot Clytie as much as if there was nobody but Leucothoe in the world. Clytie, however, knew nothing of all this, and only wondered why Apollo never came to see her any more.

Now the king, whose name was Orchămus, kept his daughter very strictly: and did not wish her to have anything to do with Apollo. I suppose he was afraid of Apollo's loving her for a time, and then leaving her to be miserable and unhappy, as happened to many nymphs and princesses in those days besides Clytie. So when King Orchamus found that Apollo was making love to Leucothoe, he shut her up in his palace, and would not allow her to go out or anybody else to go in.

But Apollo was much too clever to be beaten in that way. He disguised himself as Leucothoe's own mother, and so came to see her whenever he pleased, without anybody being anything the wiser. And so everything went on just as he wished, if it had not been for Clytie, whom he had treated just as King Orchamus was afraid he would treat Leucothoe.

Clytie wondered why Apollo never came to see her till she could bear it no longer; and she watched him, to find out what was the reason of it all. She watched till at last she saw somebody who looked like a queen go into the palace of King Orchamus. But she knew Apollo much too well to be taken in by any disguise. She secretly followed him into the palace, and found him making love to Leucothoe.

In her misery and jealousy, she went straight to King Orchamus, and told him what she had seen. Perhaps she hoped that the king would send his daughter away altogether, so that Apollo would then come back to her. She could not possibly foresee what would really happen. King Orchamus was so enraged with his daughter for receiving Apollo's visits against his commands that he ordered Leucothoe to be buried alive. Of course he could not punish Apollo: because Apollo was a god, while he was only a king.

Perhaps you will think that Apollo might have managed to save Leucothoe from such a terrible death as her father had ordered for her. As he did not, I suppose that King Orchamus had her buried before anybody could tell the news—at any rate she was dead when Apollo arrived at her grave. All he could do for her was to show his love and his sorrow by turning her into a tree from which people take a sweet-smelling gum called myrrh.

As to Clytie, whose jealousy had caused the death of the princess, he refused ever to speak to her or look at her again: and he turned her into a sunflower, which has no perfume like the myrrh-tree into which he had changed Leucothoe. But, in spite of his scorn and of everything he could do to her, Clytie loved him still: and though he would not look at her, she still spends her whole time in gazing up at him with her blossoms, which are her eyes. People say that the blossoms of the sunflower always turn toward the sun—towards the east when he is rising, towards the west when he is setting, and straight up at noon, when he is in the middle of the sky. Of course, like all other blossoms, they close at night, when he is no longer to be seen. As for the sun himself, I suspect he has forgotten both Clytie and Leucothoe long ago; and sees no difference between them and any other trees or flowers.

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