Age Of Fable Or Beauties Of Mythology
Author: Bulfinch, Thomas

Chapter X: Vertumnus And Pomona.

The Hamadryads were Wood-nymphs. Pomona was of this class, and no one
excelled her in love of the garden and the culture of fruit. She cared not
for forests and rivers, but loved the cultivated country and trees that bear
delicious apples. Her right hand bore for its weapon not a javelin, but a
pruning-knife. Armed with this, she busied herself at one time to repress the
too luxuriant growths, and curtail the branches that straggled out of place;
at another, to split the twig and insert therein a graft, making the branch
adopt a nursling not its own. She took care, too, that her favorites should
not suffer from drought, and led streams of water by them that the thirsty
roots might drink. This occupation was her pursuit, her passion; and she was
free from that which Venus inspires. She was not without fear of the country
people, and kept her orchard locked, and allowed not men to enter. The Fauns
and Satyrs would have given all they possessed to win her, and so would old
Sylvanus, who looks young for his years, and Pan, who wears a garland of pine
leaves around his head. But Vertumnus loved her best of all; yet he sped no
better than the rest. O, how often, in the disguise of a reaper, did he bring
her corn in a basket, and looked the very image of a reaper! With a hay band
tied round him, one would think he had just come from turning over the grass.
Sometimes he would have an ox-goad in his hand, and you would have said he had
just unyoked his weary oxen. Now he bore a pruning-hook, and personated a
vine-dresser; and again with a ladder on his shoulder, he seemed as if he was
going to gather apples. Sometimes he trudged along as a discharged soldier,
and again he bore a fishing-rod as if going to fish. In this way, he gained
admission to her, again and again, and fed his passion with the sight of her.

One day he came in the guise of an old woman, her gray hair surmounted
with a cap, and a staff in her hand. She entered the garden and admired the
fruit. "It does you credit, my dear," she said, and kissed her, not exactly
with an old woman's kiss. She sat down on a bank, and looked up at the
branches laden with fruit which hung over her. Opposite was an elm entwined
with a vine loaded with swelling grapes. She praised the tree and its
associated vine, equally. "But," said she, "if the tree stood alone, and had
no vine clinging to it, it would have nothing to attract or offer us but its
useless leaves. And equally the vine, if it were not twined round the elm,
would lie prostrate on the ground. Why will you not take a lesson from the
tree and the vine, and consent to unite yourself with some one? I wish you
would. Helen herself had not more numerous suitors, nor Penelope, the wife of
shrewd Ulysses. Even while you spurn them, they court you, - rural deities
and others of every kind that frequent these mountains. But if you are
prudent and want to make a good alliance, and will let an old woman advise
you, - who loves you better than you have any idea of, - dismiss all the rest
and accept Vertumnus, on my recommendation. I know him as well as he knows
himself. He is not a wandering deity, but belongs to these mountains. Nor is
he like too many of the lovers nowadays, who love any one they happen to see;
he loves you, and you only. Add to this, he is young and handsome, and has
the art of assuming any shape he pleases, and can make himself just what you
command him. Moreover, he loves the same things that you do, delights in
gardening, and handles your apples with admiration. But now he cares nothing
for fruits, nor flowers, nor any thing else, but only yourself. Take pity on
him, and fancy him speaking now with my mouth. Remember that the gods punish
cruelty, and that Venus hates a hard heart, and will visit such offences
sooner or later. To prove this, let me tell you a story, which is well known
in Cyprus to be a fact; and I hope it will have the effect to make you more

"Iphis was a young man of humble parentage, who saw and loved Anaxarete,
a noble lady of the ancient family of Teucer. He struggled long with his
passion, but when he found he could not subdue it, he came a suppliant to her
mansion. First he told his passion to her nurse, and begged her as she loved
her foster-child to favor his suit. And then he tried to win her domestics to
his side. Sometimes he committed his vows to written tablets, and often hung
at her door garlands which he had moistened with his tears. He stretched
himself on her threshold, and uttered his complaints to the cruel bolts and
bars. She was deafer than the surges which rise in the November gale; harder
than steel from the German forges, on a rock that still clings to its native
cliff. She mocked and laughed at him, adding cruel words to her ungentle
treatment, and gave not the slightest gleam of hope.

"Iphis could not any longer endure the torments of hopeless love, and,
standing before her doors, he spake these last words: 'Anaxarete, you have
conquered, and shall no longer have to bear my importunities. Enjoy your
triumph! Sing songs of joy, and bind your forehead with laurel, - you have
conquered! I die; stony heart, rejoice! This at least I can do to gratify
you, and force you to praise me; and thus shall I prove that the love of you
left me but with life. Nor will I leave it to rumor to tell you of my death.
I will come myself, and you shall see me die, and feast your eyes on the
spectacle. Yet, O, ye gods, who look down on mortal woes, observe my fate! I
ask but this; let me be remembered in coming ages, and add those years to my
fame which you have reft from my life.' Thus he said, and, turning his pale
face and weeping eyes towards her mansion, he fastened a rope to the
gate-post, on which he had often hung garlands, and putting his head into the
noose, he murmured, 'This garland at least will please you, cruel girl!' and
falling hung suspended with his neck broken. As he fell he struck against the
gate, and the sound was as the sound of a groan. The servants opened the door
and found him dead, and with exclamations of pity raised him and carried him
home to his mother, for his father was not living She received the dead body
of her son, and folded the cold form to her bosom; while she poured forth the
sad words which bereaved mothers utter. The mournful funeral passed through
the town, and the pale corpse was borne on a bier to the place of the funeral
pile. By chance the home of Anaxarete was on the street where the procession
passed, and the lamentations of the mourners met the ears of her whom the
avenging deity had already marked for punishment.

"'Let us see this sad procession,' said she, and mounted to a turret,
whence through an open window she looked upon the funeral. Scarce had her
eyes rested upon the form of Iphis stretched on the bier, when they began to
stiffen, and the warm blood in her body to become cold. Endeavoring to step
back, she found she could not move her feet; trying to turn away her face, she
tried in vain; and by degrees all her limbs became stony like her heart. That
you may not doubt the fact, the statue still remains, and stands in the temple
of Venus at Salamis, in the exact form of the lady. Now think of these
things, my dear, and lay aside your scorn and your delays, and accept a lover.
So may neither the vernal frosts blight your young fruits, nor furious winds
scatter your blossoms!"

When Vertumnus had spoken thus, he dropped the disguise of an old woman,
and stood before her in his proper person, as a comely youth. It appeared to
her like the sun bursting through a cloud. He would have renewed his
entreaties, but there was no need; his arguments and the sight of his true
form prevailed, and the Nymph no longer resisted, but owned a mutual flame.

Pomona was the especial patroness of the Apple-orchard, and as such she
was invoked by Phillips, the author of a poem on Cider, in blank verse.
Thomson in the Seasons alludes to him: -

"Phillips, Pomona's bard, the second thou
Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfettered verse,
With British freedom, sing the British song."

But Pomona was also regarded as presiding over other fruits, and as such
is invoked by Thomson: -

"Bear me, Pomona, to thy citron groves,
To where the lemon and the piercing lime,
With the deep orange, glowing through the green,
Their lighter glories blend. Lay me reclined
Beneath the spreading tamarind, that shakes,
Fanned by the breeze, its fever-cooling fruit."