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Daphne: A Love Story

May you never, oh, never behold me
sharing the couch of a god.
May none of the dwellers in heaven
Draw near to me ever.
Such love as the high gods know,
From whose eyes none can hide,
May that never be mine.
---said the Ocean-nymphs, to Prometheus

Phoebus Apollo, of the island Delos, was the beautiful son of Zeus and Leto. Among many other names given to him, Apollo was the Greek God of Light and God of Truth, having an oracle at Delphi that figures largely in the myths of the Greeks. It was rumoured that Apollo's first love was the wood nymph Daphne. His sacred tree was the laurel. This story, told by the Roman poet Ovid, presents one scenario of how that came to be.

Daphne, daughter of the river-god Peneus, wasn't the least bit interested in love and marriage. Happiest when she was streaking swiftly through the forest, this huntress, like the famed Diana, had an independent nature and savored her freedom from the love of gods and mortal men alike. But it was not to be. While she hunted one day, blissfully - and beautifully - dishevelled, Apollo spotted her. He was instantly entranced by the lovely girl and gave chase, calling out his name as he ran, erroneously thinking this would persuade her to stop.

As she fled through the forest she so loved, Daphne knew only too well that if her pursuer was indeed the god Apollo, she was doomed. Countless were the women of her day who faced death or exile, because they had been beloved of one of the gods. On she ran, determined to give her best effort to escape what she considered a fate worse than death. But eventually Apollo closed the distance, drawing close to the frantic Daphne.

With Apollo at her heels, Daphne broke out of the trees, and seeing her father's river before her, she screamed to him for help. They were her last words.

Her swift limbs suddenly anchored firmly in the earth, branches, leaves and bark growing and sprouting forth, she was transformed before Apollo's eyes into a beautiful laurel tree. The grieving Apollo declared:
"...with your leaves my victors shall wreathe their brows.
Apollo and his laurel shall be joined together wherever songs are sung and stories told."

G. H. Rothe, the German artist known as Master of the Mezzotint, in 1985 released her exquisitely beautiful "Daphne's Transformation". This intricate, beautifully-layered and delicately-coloured artwork seems nearly magical, as a tree trunk seems just as surely a leg, arteries and veins - branches. This mezzotint was issued in an edition of 150. See "G.H. Rothe Catalogue Raisonne" for details on the meticulous art of engraving directly onto copper plates, known as the mezzotint method.
I have searched for information about Gatja H. Rothe on the net, unsuccessfully. If anyone out there knows of any related sites, please let me know.

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