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Daphne (Laurels Have No Lovers)

The following is a poem written by one of my tenth grade students at Grace Academy.  The poem recently won first place at the Texas State Junior Classical League Convention – quite an honor.  The poem is based on the popular myth of Daphne and Apollo. 

A brief synopsis of the myth: Apollo had insulted the god Eros (also known as Cupid, god of love), saying that his skill as an archer was not equal to that of Apollo.  Eros, however, is not one to be trifled with.  Eros shot Apollo with one of his golden arrows, causing Apollo to fall hopelessly in love with the nymph Daphne, daughter of the River Ladon.  He then pierced Daphne’s heart with an arrow of lead, causing her to hate and despise Apollo; thus rejecting his advances.  Gods, however, do not take rejection well and so Apollo tried once more to pursue her.  Daphne tried to outrun the god, but when she could not she called out to her father, the river god, for help.  Her father transformed her into a laurel tree.  Apollo made his crown from her branches, and both victors and caesars forever after wore the laurel wreath as he did.

Daphne

(Laurels Have No Lovers)

 A fair-tongued Muse would I invoke to sing to me of how

A wreath of leaves first came to rest on Caesar’s holy brow.

The foliage that crowns him thus lies steeped in myth of old,

And though the crown seems plain perhaps, the tale yet rings of gold.

For gleaming gold was Eros’ shaft and gold were Ladon’s banks so fair,

And gold was Phoebus’ lyre, they say, and gold was Daphne’s hair.

A tale of scorn the Muse recalls, of insult and of spite,

And woe betide both man and god who choose ‘gainst Love to fight.

The retribution swiftly comes with vengeful gilded dart

Injecting fierce desire into Apollo’s beating heart…

Now sunbeam’s locks and river’s eyes and flower’s face do lyre extol,

But Phoebus’ music ne’er can stretch to Daphne’s leaden soul.

So, as gods do when wooing fails, the sun-god trusts his feet,

And on the banks the chase begins, the runners swift and fleet.

And now on father Ladon’s banks, with sand of shimm’ring grain,

The happy hunter’s caught his quarry by her silken train.

Alas, but Daphne cries aloud, both cold and resolute,

“Now from this bank shall I not stray.  ‘Tis here I plant my roots.

Forevermore I’ll stand, unmoving, by the waterside,

For Laurels have no lovers, and branches can’t be brides.”

Apollo watches rough, grey bark enfold her pale, smooth skin,

And weeps to hear the spurning heart which ever beats within.

He plucks a frond from off the tree and whispers, kneeling on the ground,

“If thou wilt not my princess be, then wouldst thou be my crown?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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