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One of the most interesting species of Nymphs is the Dryads, or Hamadryads, those personifications of the vegetable life of plants. In the Homeric hymn to Aphroditè, we find the following full and accurate description of them. Aphroditè, when she informs Anchises that she is pregnant by him, and of her shame to have it known among the gods, says of the child:
But him, when first he sees the sun's clear light,
The Nymphs shall rear, the mountain-haunting Nymphs,
Nor women are *. Their life is long; they eat
* αἶ ῥ ̓ ὄυτε θνητῆς ὄντ ̓ ἀθανάτοισιν ἕπονται. is very obscure, but we think the above is the sense of it. Critics are disposed to regard the whole as an interpolation, taken, perhaps, from some Theogony.
† Ὕμνος εις Αφροδίτην, ν. 257.
They possessed power to reward and punish those who prolonged or abridged the existence of their associate-tree. In the Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius, Phineus thus explains to the heroes the cause of the poverty of Peræbius:
But he now pays the penalty laid on
His father's crime; for one time, cutting trees
But, in the pride of youth, he foolishly
Cut it; and to him and his race the Nymph
The Scholiast gives on this passage the following tale from Charon of Lampsacus :
A man, named Rhocus, happening to see an oak just ready to fall to the ground, ordered his slaves to prop it. The Nymph, who had been on the point of perishing with the tree, came to him and expressed her gratitude to him for having saved her life, and at the same time desired him to ask what reward he would. Rhocus then requested her to permit him to be her lover, and the Nymph acceded to his desire. She at the same time charged him strictly to avoid the
* Argonautica, l. ii. v. 475.
society of every other woman, and told him that a bee should be her messenger. One time the bee happened to come to Rhocus as he was playing at draughts, and he made a rough reply. This so incensed the Nymph that she deprived him of sight.
Similar was the fate of the Sicilian Daphnis *. A Naiad loved him, and forbade him to hold intercourse with any other woman under pain of loss of sight. Long he abstained, though tempted by the fairest maids of Sicily. At length a princess contrived to intoxicate him: he broke his vow, and the threatened penalty was inflicted.
Such are a few traits of the Grecian Nymphs. Those who seek farther information we must refer to higher works.
With respect to the goat-foot, horned Pans, Seilenes, and Satyrs, who are usually associated with the Nymphs, the remaining notices are so few and so indistinct as to permit of our passing them over in silence. We prefer giving no account to giving a jejune and unsatisfactory one.
We will here venture to make one assertion in opposition to very distinguished names, and that is, that the Greeks knew of no diminutive beings corresponding to the northern Duergar. We
* Parthinius Erotica, chap. xxix.
are indeed confidently referred to the Cabeiri, Telchines, &c. as dwarfish beings. That their images were dwarfish we readily grant; but does it follow that they were so themselves? And if the seven Cabeiri were the seven planets, and their name derived from a word signifying power, is it not quite absurd to conceive of them as dwarfs? Herodotus says,
"Cambyses went into the temple of Hephaestus also, and laughed much at the image of the god; for the image of Hephaestus very much resembles the Phoenician Patæci, which the Phoenicians carry about with them in the prows of their vessels. Whoever has not seen these, I will describe them to him: they are an imitation of a pygmy man*. He also entered into the temple of the Cabeiri, which it is not permitted to any one but the priest to enter, and he burned these images also with great mockery. These too are like that of Hephaestus, whose children they say they are t."
This is thus explained by mythologists:Hephæstus, or Phthas, is the great ethereal fire, the source of all heat and ignition. The Cabeiri, or planets, are therefore naturally held to be his children. Being regarded as tutelary deities,
* That is, a man a hand or four inches high. † Thalia, 37.