Subject - E

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Endymion - A character from Greek mythology, Edymion was a young man who spent his time in perpetual sleep in a cave on Mount Latmus in Caria. There are two versions and one spin-off on this story. In the first one, Zeus offers to give him his first wish, and this is what he chose in the belief that this would guarantee him perpetual life. In the second version, eternal sleep was a punishment after he fell in love with Zeus’s wife, Hera. Enter Selene, the goddess of the moon, who visited Endymion every night while he lay asleep. She bore him fifty daughters. The spin-off is that Selene put him in a perpetual sleep so that she and she alone could enjoy his love. Let’s look at poets who enjoyed Endymion’s fate: First off there is John Lyly, who introduced prose dialogue into English comedy. His Endymion was written while he was vice-master of the acting company of the Children of St. Paul’s and first performed in 1588. It is considered his best work. The plot is based on the myth of enacted allegories masking court intrigues and discrepancies. Then John Keats gave us his Endymion in memory of Thomas Chatterton, beginning famously with “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” There is also Oscar Wilde’s version of Endymion:

“The apple trees are hung with gold,
   And birds are loud in Arcady,
The sheep lie bleating in the fold,
The wild goat runs across the wold,
But yesterday his love he told,
   I know he will come back to me.
O rising moon! O Lady moon!
   Be you my lover’s sentinel,
   You cannot choose but know him well,
For he is shod with purple shoon,
You cannot choose but know my love,
   For he a shepherd’s crook doth bear,
And he is soft as any dove,
   And brown and curly is his hair.
The turtle now has ceased to call
   Upon her crimson-footed groom,
The grey wolf prowls about the stall,
The lily’s singing seneschal
Sleeps in the lily-bell, and all
   The violet hills are lost in gloom.
O risen moon! O holy moon!
   Stand on the top of Helice,
   And if my own true love you see,
Ah! if you see the purple shoon,
The hazel crook, the lad’s brown hair,
   The goat-skin wrapped about his arm,
Tell him that I am waiting where
   The rushlight glimmers in the Farm.
The falling dew is cold and chill,
   And no bird sings in Arcady,
The little fauns have left the hill,
Even the tired daffodil
Has closed its gilded doors, and still
   My lover comes not back to me.
False moon! False moon! O waning moon!
   Where is my own true lover gone,
   Where are the lips vermilion,
The shepherd’s crook, the purple shoon?
Why spread that silver pavilion,
   Why wear that veil of drifting mist?
Ah! thou hast young Endymion
   Thou hast the lips that should be kissed!”

Then Henry Longfellow with his ballad using Diana in place of Selene:

“The rising moon has hid the stars;
Her level rays, like golden bars,
   Lie on the landscape green,
   With shadows brown between.
And silver white the river gleams,
As if Diana, in her dreams,
   Had dropt her silver bow
   Upon the meadows low.
On such a tranquil night as this,
She woke Endymion with a kiss,
   When, sleeping in the grove,
   He dreamed not of her love.
Like Diana's kiss, unasked, unsought,
Love gives itself, but is not bought;
   Nor voice, nor sound betrays
   Its deep, impassioned gaze.
It comes,—the beautiful, the free,
The crown of all humanity,—
   In silence and alone
   To seek the elected one.
It lifts the boughs, whose shadows deep
Are Life's oblivion, the soul's sleep,
   And kisses the closed eyes
   Of him, who slumbering lies.
O weary hearts! O slumbering eyes!
O drooping souls, whose destinies
   Are fraught with fear and pain,
   Ye shall be loved again!
No one is so accursed by fate,
No one so utterly desolate,
   But some heart, though unknown,
   Responds unto his own.
Responds,—as if with unseen wings,
An angel touched its quivering strings;
   And whispers, in its song,
   "'Where hast thou stayed so long?"

Perhaps the last citation should be from a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay which falls true to spin-off of story version two:

“O sleep forever in the Latmian cave,
Mortal Endymion, darling of the Moon!
Her silver garments by the senseless wave
Shouldered and dropped and on the shingle strewn,
Her fluttering hand against her forehead pressed,
Her scattered looks that troubled all the sky.
Her rapid footsteps running down the west-
Of all her altered state, oblivious lie!
Whom earthen you, by deathless lips adored,
Wild-eyed and stammering to the grasses thrust,
And deep into her crystal body poured
The hot and sorrowful sweetness of the dust;
Whereof she wanders mad, being all unfit
For mortal love, that might not die of it.”


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Appendix