Greek and Roman Mythology > Apollo and Hyacinthus

Apollo and Hyacinthus

Apollo was passionately fond of a youth named Hyacinthus. He
accompanied him in his sports, carried the nets when he went
fishing, led the dogs when he went to hunt, followed him in his
excursions in the mountains, and neglected for him his lyre and
his arrows. One day they played a game of quoits together, and
Apollo, heaving aloft the discus, with strength mingled with
skill, sent it high and far. Hyacinthus watched it as it flew,
and excited with the sport ran forward to seize it, eager to make
his throw, when the quoit bounded from the earth and struck him
in the forehead. He fainted and fell. The god, as pale as
himself, raised him and tried all his art to stanch the wound and
retain the flitting life, but all in vain; the hurt was past the
power of medicine. As, when one has broken the stem of a lily in
the garden, it hangs its head and turns its flowers to the earth,
so the head of the dying boy, as if too heavy for his neck, fell
over on his shoulder. "Thou diest, Hyacinth," so spoke Phoebus,
"robbed of thy youth by me. Thine is the suffering, mine the
crime. Would that I could die for thee! But since that may not
be thou shalt live with me in memory and in song. My lyre shall
celebrate thee, my song shall tell thy fate, and thou shalt
become a flower inscribed with my regrets." While Apollo spoke,
behold the blood which had flowed on the ground and stained the
herbage, ceased to be blood; but a flower of hue more beautiful
than the Tyrian sprang up, resembling the lily, if it were not
that this is purple and that silvery white (it is evidently not
our modern hyacinth that is here described. It is perhaps some
species of iris, or perhaps of larkspur, or of pansy.) And this
was not enough for Phoebus; but to confer still grater honor, he
marked the petals with his sorrow, and inscribed "Ah! Ah!" upon
them, as we see to this day. The flower bears the name of
Hyacinthus, and with every returning spring revives the memory of
his fate.

It was said that Zephyrus (the West-wind), who was also fond of
Hyacinthus and jealous of his preference of Apollo, blew the
quoit out of its course to make it strike Hyacinthus. Keats
alludes to this in his Endymion, where he describes the lookers-
on at the game of quoits:

"Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent
On either side, pitying the sad death
Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath
Of Zephyr slew him; Zephyr penitent,
Who now ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,
Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain."

An allusion to Hyacinthus will also be recognized in Milton's

"Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe."

Myth Collection

Achelous and HerculesAcis and GalateaAdmetus and Alcestis
Agamemnon, Orestes, and ElectraAmphionAmphitrite
AntigoneApollo and DaphneApollo and Hyacinthus
Aurora and TithonusBacchusBaucis and Philemon
CadmusCastor and PolluxCephalus and Procris
Ceyx and HalcyoneClytieCupid and Psyche
DaedalusDiana and ActaeonDryope
Echo and NarcissusEndymionErisichthon
Glaucus and ScyllaHebe and GanymedeHercules
IbycusIo and CallistoLeucothea dnd Palaemon
LinusMarsyasMedea and Aeson
MelampusMenelaus and HelenMidas
Minerva and ArachneMonstersMusaeus
NeptuneNereus and DorisNiobe
Nisus and ScyllaOrionOrpheus and Eurydice
Pegasus and the ChimaeraPenelopePerseus and Medusa
PhaetonPluto and ProsperinePrometheus and Pandora
PygmalionPyramus and ThisbePython
ThamyrisThe Calydonian HuntThe Camenae
The CentaursThe Golden FleeceThe Graeae and Gorgons
The Griffin, or GryphonThe IliadThe Myrmidons
The PygmiesThe Rural DeitiesThe Sphinx
The Trojan WarThe Water DeitiesThe Winds
TheseusThetisVenus and Adonis
Vertumnus and Pomona

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