|Greek and Roman Mythology > Cephalus and Procris
Cephalus and Procris
would rise before the dawn to pursue the chase. Aurora saw him
when she first looked forth, fell in love with him, and stole him
away. But Cephalus was just married to a charming wife whom he
loved devotedly. Her name was Procris. She was a favorite of
Diana, the goddess of hunting, who had given her a dog which
could outrun every rival, and a javelin which would never fail of
its mark; and Procris gave these presents to her husband.
Cephalus was so happy in his wife that he resisted all the
entreaties of Aurora, and she finally dismissed him in
displeasure, saying, "Go, ungrateful mortal, keep your wife,
whom, if I am not much mistaken, you will one day be very sorry
you ever saw again."
Cephalus returned, and was as happy as ever in his wife and his
woodland sports. Now it happened some angry deity had sent a
ravenous fox to annoy the country; and the hunters turned out in
great strength to capture it. Their efforts were all in vain; no
dog could run it down; and at last they came to Cephalus to
borrow his famous dog, whose name was Lelaps. No sooner was the
dog let loose than he darted off, quicker than their eye could
follow him. If they had not seen his footprints in the sand they
would have thought he flew. Cephalus and others stood on a hill
and saw the race. The fox tried every art; he ran in a circle
and turned on his track, the dog close upon him, with open jaws,
snapping at his heels, but biting only the air. Cephalus was
about to use his javelin, when suddenly he saw both dog and game
stop instantly. The heavenly powers who had given both, were not
willing that either should conquer. In the very attitude of life
and action they were turned into stone. So lifelike and natural
did they look, you would have thought, as you looked at them,
that one was going to bark, the other to leap forward.
Cephalus, though he had lost his dog, still continued to take
delight in the chase. He would go out at early morning, ranging
the woods and hills unaccompanied by any one, needing no help,
for his javelin was a sure weapon in all cases. Fatigued with
hunting, when the sun got high he would seek a shady nook where a
cool stream flowed, and, stretched on the grass with his garments
thrown aside, would enjoy the breeze. Sometimes he would say
aloud, "Come, sweet breeze, come and fan my breast, come and
allay the heat that burns me." Some one passing by one day heard
him talking in this way to the air, and, foolishly believing that
he was talking to some maiden, went and told the secret to
Procris, Cephalus's wife. Love is credulous. Procris, at the
sudden shock, fainted away. Presently recovering, she said, "It
cannot be true; I will not believe it unless I myself am a
witness to it." So she waited, with anxious heart, till the next
morning, when Cephalus went to hunt as usual. Then she stole out
after him, and concealed herself in the place where the informer
directed her. Cephalus came as he was wont when tired with
sport, and stretched himself on the green bank, saying, "Come,
sweet breeze, come and fan me; you know how I love you! You make
the groves and my solitary rambles delightful." He was running
on in this way when he heard, or thought he heard, a sound as of
a sob in the bushes. Supposing it some wild animal, he threw hie
javelin at the spot. A cry from his beloved Procris told him
that the weapon had too surely met its mark. He rushed to the
place, and found her bleeding and with sinking strength
endeavoring to draw forth from the wound the javelin, her own
gift. Cephalus raised her from the earth, strove to stanch the
blood, and called her to revive and not to leave him miserable,
to reproach himself with her death. She opened her feeble eyes,
and forced herself to utter these few words: "I implore you, if
you have ever loved me, if I have ever deserved kindness at your
hands, my husband, grant me this last request; do not marry that
odious Breeze!" This disclosed the whole mystery; but alas!
What advantage to disclose it now? She died; but her face wore a
calm expression, and she looked pityingly and forgivingly on her
husband when he made her understand the truth.
In Shakespeare's play just quoted, there is an allusion to
Cephalus and Procris, although rather badly spelt.
Pyramus says, "Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true."
Thisbe. "As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you."
Moore, in his Legendary Ballads, has one on Cephalus and Procris,
"A hunter once in a grove reclined,
To shun the noon's bright eye,
And oft he wooed the wandering wind
To cool his brow with its sigh.
While mute lay even the wild bee's hum,
Nor breath could stir the aspen's hair,
His song was still, 'Sweet Air, O come!'
While Echo answered, 'Come, sweet Air!'"