The steeds took fright. This way and that they went, terrified by the monsters they had never encountered before, shaking out of their silver quiet the cool stars towards the north, then fleeing as far to the south among new wonders. The heavens were full of terror.
Up, far above the clouds, they went, and down again, towards the defenseless Earth, that could not flee from the chariot of the Sun. Great rivers hid themselves in the ground, and mountains were consumed. Harvests perished like a moth that is singed in a candle-flame.
In vain did Phaethon call to the horses and pull upon the reins. As in a hideous dream, he saw his own Earth, his beautiful home and the home of all men, his kindred, parched by the fires of this mad chariot, and blackening beneath him. The ground cracked open and the sea shrank. Heedless water-nymphs, who had lingered in the shallows, were left gasping like bright fishes. The dryads shrank, and tried to cover themselves from the scorching heat. The poor Earth lifted her withered face in a last prayer to Zeus to save her if he might.
Then Zeus, calling all the Gods to witness that there was no other means of safety, hurled his thunderbolt; and Phaethon knew no more.
His body fell through the heavens, aflame like a shooting star; and the horses of the Sun dashed homeward with the empty chariot.
Poor Clymene grieved sore over the boy’s death; but the young Heliades, daughters of the Sun, refused all comfort. Day and night they wept together about their brother’s grave by the river, until the Gods took pity and changed them all into poplar-trees. And ever after that they wept sweet tears of amber, clear as sunlight.
By Josephine Preston Peabody
There are so many tales of the vanity of kings and queens that the half of them cannot be told.
There was Cassiopaeia, queen of AEthiopia, who boasted that her beauty outshone the beauty of all the sea-nymphs, so that in anger they sent a horrible sea-serpent to ravage the coast. The king prayed of an oracle to know how the monster might be appeased, and learned that he must offer up his own daughter, Andromeda. The maiden was therefore chained to a rock by the sea-side, and left to her fate. But who should come to rescue her but a certain young hero, Perseus, who was hastening homeward after a perilous adventure with the snaky-haired Gorgons. Filled with pity at the story of Andromeda, he waited for the dragon, met and slew him, and set the maiden free. As for the boastful queen, the Gods forgave her, and at her death she was set among the stars. That story ended well.
But there was once a queen of Thebes, Niobe, fortunate above all women, and yet arrogant in the face of the gods. Very beautiful she was, and nobly born, but above all things she boasted of her children, for she had seven sons and seven daughters.