“There is a cliff which projects into the sea, which washes it on either side. Thither one day the huge Cyclops ascended, and sat down while his flocks spread themselves around. Laying down his staff, which would have served for a mast to hold a vessel’s sail, and taking his instrument compacted of numerous pipes, he made the hills and the waters echo the music of his song. I lay hid under a rock by the side of my beloved Acis, and listened to the distant strain. It was full of extravagant praises of my beauty, mingled with passionate reproaches of my coldness and cruelty.
“When he had finished he rose up, and, like a raging bull that cannot stand still, wandered off into the woods. Acis and I thought no more of him, till on a sudden he came to a spot which gave him a view of us as we sat. ‘I see you,’ he exclaimed, ’and I will make this the last of your love-meetings.’ His voice was a roar such as an angry Cyclops alone could utter. Aetna trembled at the sound. I, overcome with terror, plunged into the water. Acis turned and fled, crying, ‘Save me, Galatea, save me, my parents!’ The Cyclops pursued him, and tearing a rock from the side of the mountain hurled it at him. Though only a corner of it touched him, it overwhelmed him.
“All that fate left in my power I did for Acis. I endowed him with the honors of his grandfather, the river-god. The purple blood flowed out from under the rock, but by degrees grew paler and looked like the stream of a river rendered turbid by rains, and in time it became clear. The rock cleaved open, and the water, as it gushed from the chasm, uttered a pleasing murmur.”
Thus Acis was changed into a river, and the river retains the name of Acis.
Dryden, in his “Cymon and Iphigenia,” has told the story of a clown converted into a gentleman by the power of love, in a way that shows traces of kindred to the old story of Galatea and the Cyclops.
“What not his father’s
care nor tutor’s art
Could plant with pains in his unpolished heart,
The best instructor, Love, at once inspired,
As barren grounds to fruitfulness are fired.
Love taught him shame, and shame with love at strife
Soon taught the sweet civilities of life.”