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
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.
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