I watch Apollo’s lust grow. The golden arrow that struck him spurs his desire to have Daphne, to hold her.
That desire, his wanton hope, forces his prophecies to fail. There’s no predicting what he’ll do next.
Like when the cornfields’ thin fibers burn, or sparks engulf a bush when a distracted traveler, forgetful in his morning rush, leaves a flame behind, the god was consumed by fire and tended to his lust with hope.
Apollo watches the unstyled coils lying on her neck and asks, “What if you straightened your hair?” He saw her eyes sparkling like burning stars; he saw her kissable lips, but just observing could not satisfy him.
I heard his voice cry out in praise of her hands and fingers and arms — he was so flattering — and her bare shoulder, but anything unseen by Apollo, had to be more beautiful.
I felt the gust of wind as she sped past us, not even stopping to hear what Apollo had to say.
I heard a terrible echo rip through the untangled woods.
The words rang out: “What if you straightened your hair?” The coiled hair on my back felt itchy; it prickled from the attention of nearby eyes. The voice called out again — “Hey! Nymph! Stop — Listen: I won’t chase you like the wolf chases the sheep, the lion, the stag, or the eagle chases the wing of the anxious dove. They are the predators, not me.”
My legs began to work without seeing who pursued. I felt no pain, and I did not consider the damage to my bare skin. My light feet did not disturb the untouched forest paths — and all the beasts cleared in unison, conspiring to assist in my escape, protecting our forest from the intrusion. His shouts continued, unbothered by my flight; he sang his own praises, but I could barely hear over the sound of my warm-bloodedness.
The man is closing ground on me. As he names my limbs, my body is not mine; it is an object to have and to hold. I rip at the hair that he gazed at so fondly, discarding any trace of desire from me.
I cry out for my father.
Once light, my legs are now heavy with effort, and there is no one else to call upon.
I followed the scene close behind Apollo, wanting to see what would happen next. Daphne’s father answered her pleas — but he was too late. Apollo had caught up to her.
He gripped her soft arm with his, but where he grabbed her, her flesh burst from its skin, revealing a rugged wooden interior. He tried again, reaching for her hand, but her fingers swelled and stretched past their limits; branches sprouted where Apollo had touched.
Panicked, not wanting to lose her beauty, Apollo pawed at what he desired, and every part he touched became wooden. Her warmth faded, and her heart no longer thumped. Apollo raked his hands through her coiled hair, but it transformed, and his fingers snagged on the leaves and branches.
With her last breath, Daphne cried again for someone to save her. Her wild eyes flitted, searching for salvation. She sees me, and her branches reach toward me with hope. I slink back into the forest to remain unseen.
He grabbed at her beautiful feet, once untested and now blemished from her flight. Her toes curled away from his touch, digging into the dirt, rooting Daphne to the spot. Her transformation is complete. I hear Apollo kissing the limbs of the Daphne tree, as he had set out to do, excited by his latest victory. From this conquest, he takes a trophy; he yanks a branch from the Daphne-tree and wears her as a crown on his golden hair. Daphne’s branch fingers still reach out for help, but Apollo believes she is reaching for him.
Phoebus amat visaeque cupit conubia Daphnes,
quodque cupit, sperat, suaque illum oracula fallunt,
utque leves stipulae demptis adolentur aristis,
ut facibus saepes ardent, quas forte viator
vel nimis admovit vel iam sub luce reliquit,
sic deus in flammas abiit, sic pectore toto
uritur et sterilem sperando nutrit amorem.
spectat inornatos collo pendere capillos
et ‘quid, si comantur?’ ait. videt igne micantes
sideribus similes oculos, videt oscula, quae non
est vidisse satis; laudat digitosque manusque
bracchiaque et nudos media plus parte lacertos;
si qua latent, meliora putat. fugit ocior aura
illa levi neque ad haec revocantis verba resistit:
‘nympha, precor, Penei, mane! non insequor hostis;
nympha, mane! sic agna lupum, sic cerva leonem,
sic aquilam penna fugiunt trepidante columbae,
hostes quaeque suos: amor est mihi causa sequendi!
me miserum! ne prona cadas indignave laedi
crura notent sentes et sim tibi causa doloris!
aspera, qua properas, loca sunt: moderatius, oro,
curre fugamque inhibe, moderatius insequar ipse.
cui placeas, inquire tamen: non incola montis,
non ego sum pastor, non hic armenta gregesque
horridus observo. nescis, temeraria, nescis,
quem fugias, ideoque fugis: mihi Delphica tellus
et Claros et Tenedos Patareaque regia servit;
Iuppiter est genitor; per me, quod eritque fuitque
estque, patet; per me concordant carmina nervis.
certa quidem nostra est, nostra tamen una sagitta
certior, in vacuo quae vulnera pectore fecit!
inventum medicina meum est, opiferque per orbem
dicor, et herbarum subiecta potentia nobis.
ei mihi, quod nullis amor est sanabilis herbis
nec prosunt domino, quae prosunt omnibus, artes!’
‘fer, pater,’ inquit ‘opem! si flumina numen habetis,
qua nimium placui, mutando perde figuram!’
[quae facit ut laedar mutando perde figuram.]
vix prece finita torpor gravis occupat artus,
mollia cinguntur tenui praecordia libro,
in frondem crines, in ramos bracchia crescunt,
pes modo tam velox pigris radicibus haeret,
ora cacumen habet: remanet nitor unus in illa.
Hanc quoque Phoebus amat positaque in stipite dextra
sentit adhuc trepidare novo sub cortice pectus
conplexusque suis ramos ut membra lacertis
oscula dat ligno; refugit tamen oscula lignum.
cui deus ‘at, quoniam coniunx mea non potes esse,
arbor eris certe’ dixit ‘mea! semper habebunt
te coma, te citharae, te nostrae, laure, pharetrae;
tu ducibus Latiis aderis, cum laeta Triumphum
vox canet et visent longas Capitolia pompas;
postibus Augustis eadem fidissima custos
ante fores stabis mediamque tuebere quercum,
utque meum intonsis caput est iuvenale capillis,
tu quoque perpetuos semper gere frondis honores!’
finierat Paean: factis modo laurea ramis
adnuit utque caput visa est agitasse cacumen.