|Greek and Roman Mythology > Clytie
return. So she pined away, sitting all day long upon the cold
ground, with her unbound tresses streaming over her shoulders.
Nine days she sat and tasted neither food nor drink, her own
tears and the chilly dew her only food. She gazed on the sun
when he rose, and as he passed through his daily course to his
setting; she saw no other object, her face turned constantly on
him. At last, they say, her limbs rooted in the ground, her face
became a sunflower, which turns on its stem so as always to face
the sun throughout its daily course; for it retains to that
extent the feeling of the nymph from whom it sprang.
One of the best known of the marble busts discovered in our own
time, generally bears the name of Clytie. It has been very
frequently copied in plaster. It represents the head of a young
girl looking down, the neck and shoulders being supported in
the cup of a large flower, which by a little effort of
imagination can be made into a giant sunflower. The latest
supposition, however, is that this bust represented not Clytie,
Hood in his Flowers thus alludes to Clytie:
"I will not have the mad Clytie,
Whose head is turned by the sun;
The tulip is a courtly quean,
Whom therefore I will shun;
The cowslip is a country wench,
The violet is a nun;
But I will woo the dainty rose,
The queen of every one."
The sunflower is a favorite emblem of constancy. Thus Moore uses
"The heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close;
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look that she turned when he rose."
It is only for convenience that the modern poets translate the
Latin word HELIOTROPIUM, by the English sunflower. The
sunflower, which was known to the ancients, was called in Greek,
helianthos, from HELIOS, the sun; and ANTHOS a flower, and in
Latin, helianthus. It derives its name from its resemblance to
the sun; but, as any one may see, at sunset, it does not "turn to
the God when he sets the same look that it turned when he rose."
The Heliotrope of the fable of Clytie is called Turn-sole in old
English books, and such a plant is known in England. It is not
the sweet heliotrope of modern gardens, which is a South American
plant. The true classical heliotrope is probably to be found in
the heliotrope of southern France, a weed not known in America.
The reader who is curious may examine the careful account of it
in Larousse's large dictionary.