Greek and Roman Mythology > Vertumnus and Pomona

Vertumnus and Pomona

The Hamadryads were Wood-nymphs. Among them was Pomona, 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 worked 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. Oh, 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 Pomona, 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 Vertumnus, "if the tree
stood alone, and had no vine clinging to it, it 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 anything 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 offenses 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 merciful.

"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, or 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, Oh, 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 name 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 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, in the following lines:

"What soil the apple loves, what care is due
To orchats, timeliest when to press the fruits,
Thy gift, Pomona, in Miltonian verse
Adventurous I presume to sing."

Thomson, in the Seasons, alludes to Phillips:

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

It will be seen that Thomson refers to the poet's reference to
Milton, but it is not true that Phillips is only the second
writer of English blank verse. Many other poets beside Milton
had used it long before Phillips' time.

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."



Myth Collection


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AntigoneApollo and DaphneApollo and Hyacinthus
AriadneArionAristaeus
Aurora and TithonusBacchusBaucis and Philemon
CadmusCastor and PolluxCephalus and Procris
Ceyx and HalcyoneClytieCupid and Psyche
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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
RhoecusSapphoSimonides
ThamyrisThe Calydonian HuntThe Camenae
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Vertumnus and Pomona

 
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