Gateway to the Classics: Good Stories for Great Holidays by Frances Jenkins Olcott
Good Stories for Great Holidays by  Frances Jenkins Olcott


BY OVID (Adapted)

Once when the golden-beamed Apollo roamed the earth, he made a companion of Hyacinthus, the son of King Amyclas of Lacedæmon; and him he loved with an exceeding great love, for the lad was beautiful beyond compare.

The sun-god threw aside his lyre, and became the daily comrade of Hyacinthus. Often they played games, or climbed the rugged mountain ridges. Together they followed the chase or fished in the quiet and shadowy pools; and the sun-god, unmindful of his dignity, carried the lad's nets and held his dogs.

It happened on a day that the two friends stripped off their garments, rubbed the juice of the olive upon their bodies, and engaged in throwing the quoit. First Apollo poised it and tossed it far. It cleaved the air with its weight and fell heavily to earth. At that moment Hyacinthus ran forwards and hastened to take up the disc, but the hard earth sent it rebounding straight into his face, so that he fell wounded to the ground.

Ah! then, pale and fearful, the sun-god hastened to the side of his fallen friend. He bore up the lad's sinking limbs and strove to stanch his wound with healing herbs. All in vain! Alas! the wound would not close. And as violets and lilies, when their stems are crushed, hang their languid blossoms on their stalks and wither away, so did Hyacinthus droop his beautiful head and die.

Then the sun-god, full of grief, cried aloud in his anguish: "O Beloved! thou fallest in thy early youth, and I alone am the cause of thy destruction! Oh, that I could give my life for thee or with thee! but since Fate will not permit this, thou shalt ever be with me, and thy praise shall dwell on my lips. My lyre struck with my hand, my songs, too, shall celebrate thee! And thou, dear lad, shalt become a new flower, and on thy leaves will I write my lamentations."

And even as the sun-god spoke, behold! the blood that had flowed from Hyacinthus's wound stained the grass, and a flower, like a lily in shape, sprang up, more bright than Tyrian purple. On its leaves did Apollo inscribe the mournful characters: "ai, ai," which mean "alas! alas!"

And as oft as the spring drives away the winter, so oft does Hyacinthus blossom in the fresh, green grass.

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