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By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Apollo and Daphne

Apollo's first love was Daphne, the virgin daughter of the river god Peneus. Daphne was an adorer Diana's lifestyle: she an admirer of Diana who had spurned many suitors and remained a virgin, desiring to hunt in the seclusion of the deep forest with just a hair-ribbon as adornment. Apollo's love was unrequited, a punishment for having scorned Cupid:

What are you doing with such manly arms,
lascivious boy? That bow befits our brawn,
wherewith we deal out wounds to savage beasts
and other mortal foes, unerringly:
just now with our innumerable arrows
we managed to lay low the mighty Python,
whose pestilential belly covered acres!
Content yourself with kindling love affairs
with your wee torch -- and don't claim our glory! (Metamorphoses, I.634-642)

Cupid drew two arrows: a gold-tipped, amorous one for Apollo; and a lead-tipped, inert one for Daphne. Apollo is overwhelmed with passion when he sights her, as a dry brush goes ablaze. But Daphne flees. Apollo chases her, rattling off his lineage, accomplishments and other desirable qualities. Uninterested, Daphne runs ever-faster and upon seeing her father Peneus she implores him to strip her off her beauty. Thus, she undergoes one of Ovid's lyrical, exhilarating transformations and becomes a laurel tree. Adoring the tree, but knowing Daphne will never be his bride, Apollo makes the tree his:

You will assuredly be my own tree,
O Laurel, and will always find yourself
girding my locks, my lyre, and my quiver too --
you will adorn great Roman generals
when every voice cries out in joyful triumph
along the route up to the Capitol;
you will protect the portals of Augustus,
guarding, on either side, his crown of oak;
and as I am -- perpetually youthful,
my flowing locks unknown to barber's shears --
so you will be an evergreen forever
bearing your brilliant foliage with glory!" (Metamorphoses, I.769-781)