| Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew|
|by Josephine Preston Peabody|
|A child's first book of Greek tales containing many of the shorter myths retold with exceptional literary skill. Relates the stories of Prometheus, who brought to earth the bright-eyed fire treasured by the gods; of Orpheus, best of harpers; of the cunning Daedalus; the ambitious Phaethon; Apollo and Diana, and other gods and heroes of the olden time. Designed to supplement the myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. Ages 8-10 |
PYRAMUS AND THISBE
 VENUS did not always befriend true lovers, as she had
befriended Hippomenes, with her three golden apples.
Sometimes, in the enchanted island of Cyprus, she forgot her
worshippers far away, and they called on her in vain.
So it was in the sad story of Hero and Leander, who lived on
opposite borders of the Hellespont. Hero dwelt at Sestos,
where she served as a priestess, in the very temple of Venus;
and Leander's home was in Abydos, a town on the opposite
shore. But every night this lover would swim across the
water to see Hero, guided by the light which she was wont to
set in her tower. Even such loyalty could not conquer fate.
There came a great storm, one night, that put out the
beacon, and washed Leander's body up with the waves to Hero,
and she sprang into the water to rejoin him, and so
Not wholly unlike this was the fate of Halcyone, a queen of
Thessaly, who dreamed that her husband Ceyx had been drowned,
and on waking hastened to the shore to look for
him. There she saw her dream come true,—his lifeless body
floating towards her on the tide; and as she flung herself
after him, mad with grief, the air upheld her and she seemed
to fly. Husband and wife were changed into birds; and there
on the very water, at certain seasons, they build a nest
that floats unhurt,—a portent of calm for many days and safe
voyage for the ships. So it is
 that seamen love these birds
and look for halcyon weather.
But there once lived in Babylonia two lovers named Pyramus
and Thisbe, who were parted by a strange mischance. For
they lived in adjoining houses; and although their parents
had forbidden them to marry, these two had found a means of
talking together through a crevice in the wall.
Here, again and again, Pyramus on his side of the wall and
Thisbe on hers, they would meet to tell each other all that
had happened during the day, and to complain of their cruel
parents. At length they decided that they would endure it no
longer, but that they would leave their homes and be
married, come what might. They planned to meet, on a certain
evening, by a mulberry-tree near the tomb of King Ninus,
outside the city gates. Once safely met, they were resolved
to brave fortune together.
So far all went well. At the appointed time, Thisbe,
heavily veiled, managed to escape from home unnoticed, and
after a stealthy journey through the streets of Babylon, she
came to the grove of mulberries near the tomb of Ninus. The
place was deserted, and once there she put off the veil from
her face to see if Pyramus waited anywhere among the
shadows. She heard the sound of a footfall and turned to
behold—not Pyramus, but a creature unwelcome to any
tryst—none other than a lioness crouching to drink from the
pool hard by.
Without a cry, Thisbe fled, dropping her veil as she ran.
She found a hiding-place among the rocks at some distance,
and there she waited, not knowing what else to do.
The lioness, having quenched her thirst (after some
 ferocious meal), turned from the spring and, coming upon the
veil, sniffed at it curiously, tore and tossed it with her
reddened jaws,—as she would have done with Thisbe
herself,—then dropped the plaything and crept away to the
forest once more.
It was but a little after this that Pyramus came hurrying to
the meeting-place, breathless with eagerness to find Thisbe
and tell her what had delayed him. He found no Thisbe there.
For a moment he was confounded. Then he
looked about for some sign of her, some footprint by the
pool. There was the trail of a wild beast in the grass, and
near by a woman's veil, torn and stained with blood; he
caught it up and knew it for Thisbe's.
So she had come at the appointed hour, true to her word; she
had waited there for him alone and defenceless, and she had
fallen a prey to some beast from the jungle! As these
thoughts rushed upon the young man's mind, he could endure
"Was it to meet me, Thisbe, that you came to such a death!"
cried he. "And I followed all too late. But I will
atone. Even now I come lagging, but by no will of mine!"
So saying, the poor youth drew his sword and fell upon it,
there at the foot of that mulberry-tree which he had named
as the trysting-place, and his life-blood ran about the
During these very moments, Thisbe, hearing no sound and a
little reassured, had stolen from her hiding-place and was
come to the edge of the grove. She saw that the lioness had
left the spring, and, eager to show her lover that she had
dared all things to keep faith, she came slowly, little by
little, back to the mulberry-tree.
 She found Pyramus there, according to his promise. His
own sword was in his heart, the
empty scabbard by his side, and in his hand he held her veil
still clasped. Thisbe saw these things as in a dream, and
suddenly the truth awoke her. She saw the piteous mischance
of all; and when the dying Pyramus opened his eyes and fixed
them upon her, her heart broke. With the same sword she
stabbed herself, and the lovers died together.
PYRAMUS AND THISBE
There the parents found them, after a weary search, and they
were buried together in the same tomb. But the berries of
the mulberry-tree turned red that day, and red they have
remained ever since.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics