C OR NET J, UNTVER!S1T^
HIGHSMI TH 45-220
Cornell University Library
The stars in song and legend.
3 1924 002 947 772
The original of tliis book is in
tlie Cornell University Library.
There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.
THE STARS IN SONG
JERMAIN G^^^RTER, Ph.D.
Director of the Cincinnati Observatory and Professor of
Astronomy in the University of Cincinnati
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM THE DRAWINGS OF
Boston, U.S.A., and London
GINN & COMPANY, PUBLISHEES
ENTERED AT STATIOKEBS' HALL
BY JEBMAIN G. PORTEB
ALL BIGHTS KESEBVED
I HAVE attempted in this little volume to present the
legendary lore of the heavens in such a way as to attract the
unprofessional reader. By numerous poetical quotations I
have tried also to show the intimate connection of the stars
with the best and highest in literature. The book embodies
to a considerable extent the material that I have collected on
this subject in the course of many years' lecturing to col-
lege classes, though I have made free use also of that ency-
clopedic work on Star Names and their Meanings, by R. H.
Allen, published only a year or two ago. So exhaustive is
the treatment of the constellations in Mr. Allen's book, that
there might seem small excuse for again presenting the sub-
ject; but the very completeness of that volume will render
it less useful to many who might be interested in a briefer
and more popular account of the star legends.
I wish also here to record my indebtedness to Sir Norman
Lockyer's Dawn of Astronomy for much interesting informa-
tion concerning sun worship among the ancients. I have
consulted, besides, many of the older standard works on
mythology and on the constellations.
Most of the quotations are taken directly from the originals,
though in a few cases I have copied these from Smyth's Cycle
of Celestial Objects or from Mr. Allen's work.
The Latin forms of classic names have in general been
adopted, and care has been taken to avoid as far as possible
the introduction of Greek words or technical terms which
\yould puzzle the unscientific reader.
JERMAIN G. PORTER.
Introduction . . . .... ix
The Day-Star — Sun Myths and Sun Worship . 1
Lunar Fables and Fancies .... . . 1.3
The Starry Heavens . . ... 22
Aries, the Kam . . . ... 27
Taurus, the Bull . . .... 30
Gemini, the Twi>-s . . .... 39
Cancer, the Crab . . . 43
Leo, the Lion . . ... 45
Virgo, the Virgin . . .47
Libra, the Scales . . . . 50
Scorpio, the Scorpion . . 52
Sagittarius, the Archer . . . 54
Capricorxus, the Goat . . ... 55
Aquarius, the "Water-Bearer . . .57
Pisces, the Fishes .... . .58
Ursa Major, the Great Bear . . . 61
Ursa Minor, the Little Bear . ... 67
Cbpheus and Cassiopeia . . 72
Perseus and Andromeda . . 74
Auriga, the Charioteer .... .77
Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair) ..... 80
Bootes, the Herdsman ........ 82
Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown 85
Ophiuchus, the Serpent-Bearer 90
Lyra, the Lyre; Delphinus, the Dolphin; A^uila, the
Eagle . 92
Cygxus, the Swan . . 96
Pegasus, the ^Vinged Horse 99
Orion , . . 101
Canis ^Ja.iou and Cams Minor, the Great and Little
Dogs . . 107
Argo Xavis, the Ship Argo 111
Crux, the Southern Cross 116
TllK GaLAXV, OU JIlLKY Way HQ
Astronomy as usually taught is purely a nature study.
Viewed solely in that light, none certainly will dispute its
educational value. To a far greater extent than any other
science does it enlarge the mind and give a true conception
of the relation of man to his physical environment. A liberal
education implies some general knowledge, at least, of the
wonderful revelations of modern astronomy.
But astronomy possesses an interest for the student also
from other points of view. Its great antiquity, for instance,
renders it worthy of attention historically. Unlike other
branches of science, which, for the most part, are but of yes-
terday, the science of the stars may be traced backward till
its beginnings are lost in the mythological and the fabulous.
It is not, however, the formal history of astronomy that I now
refer to, so much as the general relation of the progress of
astronomical ideas with the growth of civilization. It will,
in fact, be found that the knowledge of practical astronomy
possessed by a people forms a very good criterion of their
advancement in those arts which minister to physical well-
being. Among savage tribes the heavenly bodies may be
regarded with awe, and even worshiped; but their motions
and their relations to the form of the earth are not understood,
and hence cannot be employed for the accurate reckoning of
time, for navigation and surveying, with all the attendant
advantages. Throughout historic times the connection has
always been very close between the intellectual activity
which has sought to wrest the secrets of nature from the
stars, and the industrial activity which has manifested itself
in exploration and extended commerce.
To take one illustration, why was the discovery of the
western continent so long delayed? We admire the splen-
did civilizations of classic times. Why was it that clouds
and darkness then enveloped four-fifths of the earth's sur-
face ? Why could not the art which built the pyramids, or
the skill that clothed the hills and vales of Greece with
beauty, or the administrative power that made Rome the
mistress of the nations, have pierced also the secrets of
the ocean and brought to light the continents and islands
embosomed in its heaving billows ? Why was Atlantis but
a myth, and the outlying waters so full of terrors to the
imagination of the ancient mariners that they only groped
along the shore? We readily find the explanation in the
crude notions regarding the figure of the earth which still
enchained the popular mind.
The ideas of those philosophers of the Augustan age, who
had already perceived the truth on this subject, failed to gain
general acceptance and were soon lost amid the darkness of
scholasticism. Only with the revival of learning and the
renewed study of the Greek classics did they again appear
and begin to influence the thought of the age. Even in the
time of Columbus the figment of a flat earth surrounded by
an ocean stream was still so prevalent that, as we know, it
was with the greatest difficulty that he obtained the means to
fit out his vessels or the crews to man them. But for his
thorough belief in the most advanced astronomical teaching
of his day, we may be sure he would never have ventured
upon his momentous voyage.
Again, astronomy possesses an interest from what we may
call the aesthetic point of view ; and this is the phase of the
subject which it is desired particularly to present in this book,
though it is also true that the mythology of the heavens
throws much light on the historical development of the sci-
ence. In all ages the celestial bodies have been objects of
admiration, yet no doubt this was so more universally in the
infancy of the race than in modern times. The progress of
civilization tends to wean us away from nature. We do
indeed make use of her forces and her laws, but the knowl-
edge and skill which such use implies and necessitates are
confined mostly to scientists and inventors ; and the scien-
tific spirit which insists on uncovering all the secret springs
of the cosmos reacts also on the popular mind and leads to
unromantic views of nature. The rising and setting of the
sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, the solemn march
of the glittering star host across the firmament, are taken as
matters of course and excite no. wonder and inspire no awe.
Very different was it in the early days, when nature was
not regarded as one vast machine wherein each part and each
movement were articulated with all the rest, hut rather as a
series of phenomena with special relations and individual
significance. In the case of the heavenly bodies this view
would naturally lead to their deification and worship. More
especially would this be true because of the seemingly inti-
mate connection not simply of the sun, but of the stars as
well, with the changes of the seasons and the varying round
of human activity associated therewith. That this worship
of the sun, moon, and stars was well-nigh universal, we have
abundant evidence. Even the Israelites had to be cautioned
many times against the practice, as in Deuteronomy iv. 15-19:
" Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves . . . lest thou
lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun,
moon and stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be
driven to worship them, which the Lord thy God hath divided
unto all nations under the whole heaven."
Although such worship was frequently accompanied by
cruel and shameful rites, nevertheless the beauty and dignity
of the objects, together with theii- exalted position and mys-
terious yet beneficent influence, certainly redeemed this spe-
cies of idolatry from the grossness and degrading character of
INTRODUCTION ■ xiii
some other forms, — as, for instance, the worship of animals
In this deification of the celestial bodies many of the
legends relating to them had their origin. These old stories,
wild and fanciful as they are, reveal to us the thoughts and
feelings with which primitive man gazed into the sky, and
the relations and influences which he there traced. While
they contain much that is crude and even ridiculous, we may
discover also many beautiful ideas and ennobling conceptions.
It is certainly worth while to study these legends, both because
of their intrinsic interest, and for the view they give us of the
weak, but none the less honest and earnest efforts, which our
remote ancestors made to solve that complex, momentous
problem, the relation of heaven to earth.
Not all the star legends, however, come to us from antiquity.
"We meet them in the folklore of more recent periods. In the
far north and in the sunny south, among the wild aborigines
of the continents and islands of the sea, as well as the peas-
antry of the more civilized nations, these stories concerning
the sky and its inhabitants are current. Then, too, the litera-
ture of modern times abounds in references to the constella-
tions and the myths associated with them. It is impossible
to read understandingly a poet like Tennyson, with his con-
stant allusions to classic mythology, or Longfellow, whose
verse mirrors in numberless instances the beauties of the
starry firmament, without some knowledge not simply of
astronomy as a science, but of the legendary lore connected
It is in the hope of leading the reader to a fuller apprecia-
tion of the poetry of the sky, as well as to a greater interest
in the stars themselves, that this little book has been written.
Emerson in his essay on Nature says : " If the stars should
appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe
and adore, and preserve for many generations the remem-
brance of the city of God which had been shown ! But
every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the
universe with their admonishing smile." And, alas ! too
often we pay them scant heed. Even though our minds be
unscientific, and the dry facts of astronomy do not appeal to
us, let us at least familiarize ourselves with the face of the
sky ; let us make friends with those mysterious giant figures
that people its depths, so that whenever we lift our eyes and
behold them shining down from their serene heights of ether,
we shall recall the wonderful legends told of them in the
long-ago, and the beautiful fancies which they have inspired
in the poetic soul of every age.
When I survey the bright
So rich "with jewels hung, that night
Doth like an Ethiop bride appear ;
My soul her wings doth spread.
And heavenward flies,
The Almighty's mysteries to read
In the large volumes of the skies.
WiLLiAj[ Habington, 1605-45.
THE STARS IN SONG AND
THE DAY-STAR — SUN MYTHS AND
One sun by day, by night ten thousand shine,
And light us deep into the Deity ;
How boundless in magnificence and might !
Young — Night Thoughts.
Theke can be no doubt that the sun was the first
of all the celestial bodies to be observed and studied.
The mysterious thoughts and unanswerable question-
ings which its rising must have excited in the mind
of the primitive philosopher are well voiced in the
poems of Ossian :
Whence are thy beams, Sun, thy everlasting light?
Thou comest forth in thy awful beauty ; the stars hide them-
selves in the sky ; the moon, cold and pale, sinks in
the western wave ; but thou thyself movest alone.
2 THE STAKS IN SONG AND LEGEND
It is impossible for us, with our accurate knowledge
of the natural causes that produce the phenomenon of
day and night, to appreciate the feelings of our remote
ancestors as the great orb of day sank below the hori-
zon. How almost death-like must have seemed the
darkness that settled over the landscape, and how
tremendously important the coming of the dawn and
the return of day ! That divine honors should be
paid to the great source and dispenser of light and
life was inevitable.
Sun "Worship in India. — Evidences of this sun worship
can be found in nearly every nation of antiquity. The
Vedas contain hymns to the sky, to the dawn, and to
the sun, forming a kind of ritual, which was chanted
by the priests at sunset and sunrise. The burden of
these hymns is the universal conflict between good and
evil as typified by the struggle between light and dark-
ness. " Will the dawn return ? Will the sun again
rise? Will the powers of darkness be conquered by
the god of light ? "
Professor Max Miiller thus characterizes this primitive
literature : " I look upon the sunrise and sunset, on
the daily return of day and night, on the battle
between light and darkness, on the whole solar drama
SUN MYTHS AND SUN WORSHIP 3
in all its details that is enacted every day, every
month, every year, in heaven and in earth, as the
Egyptian Ideas of the Sun-God; the Myth of Horus. —
WhUe the Vedas carry us back more than three
thousand years and give us some insight into the forms
of worship prevailing among the ancestors of our own
Aryan race, in the Nile country we can trace the
evidences of a similar cult to a period even more
remote. By the Egyptians the sun was worshiped,
not simply as the general source of light ; they dis-
tinguished various forms of the sun-god, depending
upon the positions occupied in its daily course. The
rising sun was Horus, the child-god ; Amen Ra, the
sun in his noontide strength; and Osiris, the setting
sun, dying and passing into the under-world of dark-
ness. The deity that presided over this under-world
was Typhon, and we find him symbolized by the cir-
cumpolar constellations. These constellations never
set, and are consequently always visible when the sun
is absent from the sky. To the untutored mind there
came naturally, therefore, to be an antithesis between
■the two. The relations, as they existed in the thoughts
of those primitive peoples, between the rising and
4 THE STAKS IN SONG AND LEGEND
setting sun and the powers of darkness that ruled the
night were beautifully set forth in the Myth of
This legend, depicted on the temple walls, is exceed-
ingly ancient, going back perhaps as early as 5000 B.C.
It represents Horus, the rising sun, battling with and
slaying Typhon, the god of darkness, in the form of
a crocodile or hippopotamus, to revenge the death of
his father Osiris, the setting sun. The astronomical
significance of the myth is very plain. The rising sun
blots out or destroys the circumpolar constellations,
sjonbolized by the crocodUe or hippopotamus ; these in
their turn being responsible for the disappearance and
death of the setting sun.
Orientation of Egyptian Temples. — It is a well-known
fact that the pyramids stand square with the points of
the compass, and therefore face .sunrise at the time of
the equinox. But the pyramids do not represent by
any means the oldest civilization of Egypt. Among
the temple remains in Upper Egypt are some whose
ruins must have been already hoary with the dust of
centuries when the pyramid builders began their work.
When these ruins were first explored and mapped,
their arrangement greatly puzzled archaeologists ; they
SUlSr MYTHS AND SUN WORSHIP
seemed to have been set down haphazard, facing indis-
criminately in all directions. Later and more careful
study has revealed the inter-
esting fact that these temples
were erected for the purpose of
observing the rising or setting
of different heavenly bodies.
Indeed, in some respects they
resembled gigantic telescopes.
Their ground plan was such,
with chamber and ante-cham-
ber connected by ever-narrow-
ing apertures, that a beam of
light entering through the
outer pylon would pass along
the whole length of the tem-
ple, until finally it penetrated
to the inmost sanctuary and
there formed an image of
the luminous object upon the
Some of these structures were used for observing
the sun, others for the stars. It was found that
many of the solar temples faced the sunrise or sunset
Ground Plan of Temple at
B. Inner sanctuary
6 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
at the time of the summer solstice. The motive that
suggested this arrangement we can readily under-
stand. The rising of the Nile was to the Egyptians
the most important event of the year, and this rise
during all historic time has begun very near the sol-
stice. The priests, in the absence of an accurate cal-
endar, were enabled to determine the time when the
inundation was due by watching from their temples
the gradual northward movement of the sun. No
doubt the temples of this class played a prominent
part in the ceremonies connected with the great
annual festival which celebrated the approach of the
Other temples were oriented to the winter solstice.
Here, too, the motive is not far to seek. As the sun
was the personification of all good, its gradual sinking
downward in the south, causing shorter days and a
longer reign of the nocturnal powers of darkness, was
naturally regarded with foreboding and dread. The
cessation of this southward movement and the begin-
ning of the sun's return were hailed with gladness and
made the occasion of joyous festivities.
Solar Temples ia Greece. — Although the worship of
the sun was perhaps more thoroughly organized and
SUN MYTHS AND SUN WORSHIP 7
attended by more elaborate ceremonies in Egypt than
elsewhere, yet traces of this cult may be discovered in
nearly every land. Recent investigations have shown
that almost all the Grecian temples were oriented so
that the sunlight might enter them at some time in the
year. While the artistic spirit of the Greeks trans-
formed the Egyptian architectural ideas of massiveness
and mystery into those of grace and beauty, yet the
one fundamental thought remained the ^ame, — an
unobstructed axis, so that the sun's rays might pierce
through to the cella and render glorious the statue
of the god there erected.
The sun's representative in the Greek pantheon was
Helios, afterwards identified, partially at least, with
Phoebus Apollo. According to the later poets, he inhab-
ited a splendid palace somewhere below Colchis, to
which, after his daily drive in a glowing chariot across
the sky, he was conveyed in a winged boat of gold
along the northern coast of the Euxine sea.
Baal Worship. — The Phoenicians worshiped the sun
under the name of Baal. The Moloch of the Ammon-
ites and Chemosh of the Moabites were probably variant
names of the same deity. From these nations the Israel-
ites borrowed their idolatrous practices. Some have
THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
thought that the Beltane, or sacred fire of the Celtic
nations, was a survival of Baal worship. However this
may be, it is certain that the sun was reverenced
among these peoples, and yearly festivals in his honor
The Druids. — The priests of this worship were the
Druids. They seem to have erected no temples, but to
have performed their rites under the open sky. The
immense circles of standing stones, of which Stone-
henge on Salisbury plain is the most famous, probably
marked their sacred places. The circular arrangement
SUN MYTHS AND SUN WORSHIP 9
of these monoliths in itself suggests a connection with
the worship of the sun, and this idea has received
confirmation by the discovery that the single large
rock lying in the avenue which forms the approach to
Stonehenge is so placed that, as the sun rises on mid-
summer's day, its shadow falls upon the central altar.
The Druids, like the Egyptian priests, no doubt
determined in this way the turning point of the year.
Mrs. Hemans thus refers to this Druidical worship :
Where the Druid's ancient cromlech frowned,
And the oaks breathed mysterious murmurs round,
There thronged the inspired of yore, on plain or height,
In the sun's face, beneath the eye of light,
And baring unto heaven each noble head.
Stood in the circle, where none else might tread.
Scandinavian Myths. — In the cosmogony of the north-
ern nations the sun naturally played a prominent part.
The conflict of the wild, bitter forces of the north with
the genial, radiant influences of the south resulted in
the birth of the world and its inhabitants. Night was
of the race of the giants, and Day was her son. To
them the All-father gave chariots and horses. As
Night courses across the sky the foam from the mouths
of her steeds flecks the earth with rime-drops. Following
10 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
close in her tracks comes the fair youth Day, and the
light which streams from the glowing manes of his
horses illumines the sky and the world.
It is a somewhat curious fact that, according to the
Norse mythology, the end of the world, as well as its
beginning, will be due to the agency of the fire prin-
ciple. The personification of this principle is Loki,
who at first was beneficent, but fell from his high
estate and became destructive like a raging flame.
His progeny will finally, in the " twilight of the gods,"
prevail over the other deities, devouring the sun, moon,
and stars, and scattering abroad firebrands which will
burn up, not only the world, but even Valhalla itself.
Among the Scandinavian as well as the Celtic peoples,
the worship of fire and sun seems to have been very
Peruvian Sun Worship. — Again, in far-away Peru, the
Spanish conquerors found this cult well organized with
elaborate ceremonials. The Incas claimed to be the
children of the sun, and his worship was their peculiar
care. In Cuzco, the capital, stood a splendid temple
with an image of the sun in solid gold upon the
western wall. When the huge doors of the eastern
portal were thrown open, the rays of the rising sun
SUN MYTHS AND SUN WORSHIP 11
fell full upon this image, which shone with dazzling
splendor. All of the implements and ornaments of
the temple were likewise of gold. In the figurative
language of the people, gold was the " tears wept by
Orientation of Christian Cathedrals. — We thus see how
exceedingly widespread was the worship of the great
luminary. It is not surprising that upon the introduc-
tion of Christianity the usages incident to sun worship
could not be wholly displaced, but were to some extent
retained and adapted to Christian ideas. The medieval
cathedrals, for instance, like the temples of Egypt and
Greece, were oriented to the sunrise. The old basilica
of Saint Peter at Rome was so exactly aligned to the
east, that when the great doors were opened on the
verjial equinox, the sun's rays penetrated straight
through the nave and illuminated the high altar.
From the fifth century to the Renaissance this practice
was generally carried out, many even of the old Eng-
lish cathedrals facing either due east or to the point
of sunrise on the festival of their patron saint. The
mystical reasons given in defense of this custom were
that the Saviour on the cross had his face toward the
west ; hence the Christian's sanctuary should have its
12 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
outlook to tlie east, where also in the last day Christ
will descend from heaven.
But what necessity for explanation or apology ?
Where in all nature shall we find a more fitting type
of the Uncreated Glory than in the sun ?
LUNAR FABLES AND FANCIES
The silver-footed queen.
All night, through archways of the bridged pearl
And portals of pure silver, walks the moon.
Tennyson — Sonnet.
Moon Worship among the Ancients. — The moon, like
the sun, had her worshipers. Astarte, the beautiful
but licentious Syrian divinity, called by the Hebrews
Ashtaroth, or the Queen of Heaven, was a moon
goddess. In Greece she became Selene, and with the
Romans, Diana. Following classic mythology, we
make the moon feminine, but this usage is not by any
means universal. In the Scandinavian myths the
moon is a god and the sun a goddess. The same
inversion of gender is found also among the Arabians,
the Aztecs and Hindus. Possibly the lugubrious and
unmistakably masculine countenance which the full
moon shows, may be to some extent responsible for
this practice. Yet, curiously enough, the picture seen
in the lunar spots has not been so generally a human
14 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
likeness. The folklore both of the eastern and the
western world has associated them far more frequently
with the hare.
Legend of Buddha. — According to a Hindu legend,
Buddha, in an early stage of his existence, was a hare
traveling in company with an ape and a fox. The god
Indra^ disguised as a beggar, asked them for food, and
the three went out to seek it. The hare alone returned
from his quest unsuccessful ; and not wishing to seem
lacking in hospitality, ordered a fire built, and cast
himself into it to roast for his guest's supper. In
reward for this heroic devotion to duty, the god placed
him in the moon. Other legends locate on the moon
the palace of the king of the hares ; and some of the
South African tribes associated the hare and the moon
in their worship, and explained the markings on its
face as the result of scratches inflicted by the hare in
revenge for the moon's ill treatment.
The Man in the Moon. — The "man in the moon" is
so plain as to be recognizable at a glance. Various
stories to account for his presence there have been
current. One of the most widely prevalent connected
him with the Hebrew who was stoned for gathering
sticks on the Sabbath. A variation of this leo-end as
LUNAE FABLES AND FANCIES 15
given by many writers is something like this : A man
traveling on Sunday with a bundle on his back was
met by a fairy, who asked him why he worked on the
Sabbath. He replied : " Sunday on earth or Monday in
heaven, it is all one to me." " Then carry your bundle
forever," she answered. "As you have no regard for
Sunday on earth, take your perpetual Monday (Moon-
day) in heaven and travel with the moon." So there
he still remains.
Scandinavian folklore recognizes on the moon two
children bearing a pail of water suspended on a pole
from their shoulders. This is probably the original of
our Jack and Jill, the vanishing of one spot after
another as the moon wanes, representing the fall first
of Jack and then of Jill.
The Lady in the Moon. — The "man in the moon" is
decidedly homely, not to say ugly ; but a much more
beautiful as well as more striking likeness to a human
countenance may be seen by those who know where
to look for it. Upon the western half of the moon,
with face slightly upturned towards the east, can be
traced the profile of a lovely maiden. In modern
times this has received the name of Selen^, the Greek
title of the moon goddess. Whether it has ever been
16 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
recognized previous to our day seems to be doubtful;
yet legends of fair women in ■ connection with our
Actual Contour The Fa«e accentuated
The Lady in the JIuux
satellite are to be found in every age. In classic times
we have the identification of the moon with Diana.
Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep.
Sometimes it is Diana's chariot, rather than the
goddess herself, as in her wooing of Endymion told
by Morris :
There came a vision of a lovely maid,
Who seemed to step, as from a golden car
Out of the low-hung moon.
LUNAR FABLES AND FANCIES 17
Then the Incas of Peru had their story of a beauti-
ful maiden, who in the long-ago fell in love with the
moon and cast herself into his arms ; while some of
the Pacific islanders made the moon the rough wooer
who snatched a fair bride from the earth. The
Indian legend regarding the moon spots is told by
Longfellow, where Hiawatha
Saw the moon rise from the water,
Eippling, rounding from the water,
Saw the flecks and shadows on it.
Whispered, " What is that, Nokomis ? "
And the good Nokomis answered,
" Once a warrior very angry.
Seized his grandmother and threw her
Up into the sky at midnight ;
Eight against the moon he threw her ;
'Tis her body that you see there."
Many other stories about these markings might be
collected. All of them, of course, like the pictures one
sees in the fire, are purely children of the fancy.
Supposed Resemblance to the Earth. — Vague notions of
a possible resemblance to the earth seem now and then
to have been entertained. The Druids, we are told,
imagined seas upon its surface, and even considered it
18 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
to be the residence of happy souls who at death were
borne thither on a whirlwind. But it was not until
the invention of the telescope that this idea took defi-
nite shape. Milton, the contemporary of Galileo,
immortalized the discovery of his astronomer friend,
comparing Satan's shield to
. . . the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top of Eesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains in her spotty globe.
To be sure, this likeness to the earth did not prove
to be so close as the early telescopic observers fondly
dreamed. Many of their beautiful fancies faded away,
leaving the moon a lifeless, waterless, and airless world.
What wonder that philosophers and poets, in despair at
the uninviting prospect presented by science for their
contemplation on the hither side of the moon, have
turned for consolation to the farther side, allowing their
imaginations to run riot in depicting its loveliness and
Thus Robert Browning :
What, there 's nothing in the moon noteworthy ?
Nay : for if that moon could love a mortal,
LUNAR FABLES AND FANCIES 19
Use, to charm him (so to fit a fancy),
All her magic ('tis the old sweet mythos),
She would turn a new side to her mortal.
Side unseen of herdsman, huntsman, steersman, —
Blank to Zoroaster on his terrace,
Blind to Galileo on his turret,
Dumb to Homer, dumb to Keats — him, even !
Think, the wonder of the moon-struck mortal.
When she turns round, comes again in heaven,
Opens out anew for worse or better !
AVhat were seen ? None knows, none ever shall know.
Only this is sure — the sight were other.
Not the moon's same side, born late in Florence,
Dying now impoverished here in London.
God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures
Boasts two soul-sides, one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her !
— One Word More.
Moon Superstitions. — Modern superstitions concerning
the moon are quite niimerouS; and much more widely
credited than would be supposed possible in this
enlightened age. One of the most common is the
expectation of good luck if the new moon be first
seen over the right shoulder. Kustic belles frequently
attempt in this way to discover their future partners,
20 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
the glance at the moon being accompanied by an
I prithee, good moon, declare to me
This night who my husband shall be.
A dream is expected to follow giving the desired
In rural neighborhoods also the belief in the moon's
influence on vegetation is very strong. The general
rule seems to be that things which grow in the ground,
like potatoes, must be planted in the dark of the
moon, and those that grow above ground in the light
of the moon. The old superstition about the malign
influence of the moon on the human body is largely
dispelled. Though lunacy is, perhaps, not less com-
mon than formerly, we no longer attribute it to the
changing aspects of fair Luna. Not so, however,
with the weather. There is never a storm nor a
drought, a cold wave or hot wave, but the poor
moon is held responsible. Every change of the
weather, expected or unexpected, is readily accounted
for by the appearance, position, or phase of the
One old writer described the moon as "the great
depository of misspent time, wasted wealth, broken
LUNAR FABLES AND FANCIES 21
VOWS, unanswered prayers, fruitless tears, abortive
attempts, unfulfilled desires and intentions." If we
could only add to this list unfounded superstitions, of
wliat a vast amount of useless rubbish should we clear
the world !
THE STARRY HEAVENS
Stars with golden feet are wand'ring
Yonder, and they gently weep
That they cannot earth awaken
"Who in night's arms is asleep.
Number of the Stars. — When we gaze into the star-
bespangled vault we are apt to experience a certain
bewilderment. Those glittering gems seem to stand
" thick as dewdrops on the fields of heaven," and to be
absolutely numberless. The sands upon the seashore
and the stars of heaven have ever been symbols of infin-
itude. Thus God said to Abraham, " I will multiply
thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which
is upon the seashore " ; and of David, " As the host of
heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the
sea measured ; so I will multiply the seed of David my
That the number of the stars revealed by the tel-
escope does actually exceed the possibility of reckoning
is absolutely true ; but when we begin to count those
THE STARRY HEAVENS 23
that can be certainly discerned with the naked eye, we
discover that they are not so innumerable as they seem.
Seldom can more than two thousand be distinguished at
any one time ; but this number is not sharply defined, for
a multitude hover just on the verge of visibility and
under favorable conditions start, as it were, into being.
The Constellations. — Although scattered in apparent
confusion over the sphere, yet the brighter stars form
many striking configurations, which from the earliest
ages have been recognized and named. The great
majority of the constellations date back to prehistoric
times. Forty-eight of them come down to us from days
preceding those of Homer and of Hesiod. Not many
of these groups show any resemblance to the objects for
which they are named, and it is therefore impossible in
most cases to discover the relationship supposed to exist,
or the consideration which influenced the choice of appel-
lation. Evidently imagination was the most potent
factor in determining the nomenclature of the sky.
To some extent we find different systems prevailing
among different nations ; but it is to Greece that we
principally owe the figures which are now depicted on
our celestial globes, and the many interesting myths
associated with them. Not that all the constellations
24 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
primarily originated in that country ; for the Greeks,
great astronomers though they were, were also great
travelers, and were ever ready to borrow from other
peoples and other civilizations. We know that many
of their wise men visited Egypt, and brought back
thence much curious information gathered in the silent,
mysterious temples, or wormed out of the sphinx-like
priests. Even more of their astronomical knowledge,
however, was probably obtained from the Chaldeans,
who were especially proficient in that science. Among
the Eomans Chaldean and Astrologer were synonymous
terms. Isaiah also mentions Babylon as the home of
the astrologers, the star-gazers, and the monthly prog-
nosticators ; and we must remember that there was then
no definite distinction between astrology and astronomy.
In particular, an intimate acquaintance with the con-
stellations was requisite for the casting of horoscopes.
It is, therefore, probably true, as Ideler asserted nearly
a century ago, that the majority of the constellations
originated on the Euphrates. With regard to the zodiac
certainly, there is a general agreement of opinion among
arch^ologists that its twelve divisions or signs, each
marked by a corresponding star group, have come down
to us from Accadian or pre-Babylonian peoples.
THE ST ARE Y HEAVENS 25
The Zodiac. — This zone or girdle, stretching around
the celestial sphere, might be called the zoological
garden of the sky, our title, zodiac, coming from the
Greek and signifying " a circle of animals." Previous
to the introduction of Libra, the Scales, which occurred
at a comparatively late epoch, all the signs, in fact, rep-
resented living creatures. Notwithstanding this addi-
tion, the division into twelve parts seems to have been
very ancient, the Scorpion being originally a double sign
and the Claws occupying the present position of Libra.
We may, no doubt, trace this duodecimal division to
the twelve months which constitute the solar year ;
each sign would thus measure the progress of the sun
during one complete revolution of the moon. It were
rash, perhaps, to ascribe the sacred character of the
number tweh^e to this source ; yet Josephus associated
the twelve stones in the breastplate of the high priest
with the constellations of the zodiac ; and the twelve gates
of the celestial city of Saint John's apocalyptic vision,
each several gate of one pearl, not unnaturally suggest
the twelve starry portals of the sun's annual journey.
Schiller at any rate has expressed the thought :
Twelve ! twelve signs hath the zodiac, five and seven ;
The holy numbers include themselves in twelve.
26 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
For one who desires to familiarize himself with the
configurations of the stars, it will be well to begin with
the zodiacal constellations. Since they follow each
other in a continuous belt around the sky, the recog-
nition of a few prominent ones assists in locating the
rest : thus, the Pleiades mark Taurus ; Castor and
Pollux distinguish Gemini ; the sickle indicates Leo ;
Virgo may be known by the lone star Spica, Scorpio by
the fiery Antares, and Sagittarius by the arrowhead.
The last three, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces, are
less distinct, but may be traced with a little patience.
Moreover, if these groups are familiar, we have celestial
landmarks, so to speak, some of which are always visi-
ble ; and by their help other constellations, contiguous
to the north or south, may be found. Assuming that
the two principal circumpolar constellations, the Great
Dipper and the celestial '' W," or Cassiopeia's Chair,
lying on opposite sides of the pole star, are also known,
the remaining regions of the sky are not so extensive
but that, with the assistance of a good atlas, they may
be surveyed and their mystic figures traced without
ARIES, THE RAM
Now the zephyrs diminish the cold, and the year being ended,
Winter Maeotian seems longer than ever before ;
And the Ram that bore unsafely the burden of Helle,
Now makes the hom-s of the day equal with those of the night.
Longfellow — Translation from Ovid.
Aries is the first sign of the zodiac. Two or three
thousand years ago, when these constellations were
originally fashioned, it marked the vernal equinox, the
passage of the sun through which betokens the opening
of spring; but owing to the precession or slow west-
ward movement of the equinoctial points, Aries no
longer occupies this place of honor but has drifted on
to the eastward. Spenser in the Faerie Queene very
correctly sets forth this fact :
For that same golden fleecy Earn, which bore
Phrixus and Helle from their stepdame's feares,
Hath now forgot where he was plast of yore,
And shouldered hath the Bull, which fayre Eiiropa bore.
The constellation is not particularly brilliant, yet
28 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
Faint and starless to behold
As stars by moonlight,
scarcely does it justice.
The Phenomena of Aratus. — The poem of Aratus, just
quoted, is the earliest description of the starry heavens
now extant. It is entitled The Phenomena, and was
written in the third century B.C. So popular was
it with the Greeks and afterwards with the Romans,
that Landseer tells us " it became the polite amuse-
ment of the ladies to work the celestial forms in gold
and silver on the most costly hangings." Even in
more modern times this popularity does not seem to
have waned, as shown by the fact that no less than
one hundred and twenty editions in the various lan-
guages of Europe have appeared since the invention
of printing. The chief value of the poem lies in the
accurate knowledge it affords us of the early arrange-
ment of the constellations, our present star maps being,
indeed, to a large extent based upon it. Aratus has
also for us an added interest as the poet whom Saint
Paul quotes in his speech on Mars' Hill to the novelty
loving Athenians, the line,
Eor we are also his offspring,
occurring in the opening dedication.
ARIES, THE RAM 29
Mythology of Aries. — To return to our constellation,
it represents in mythology the ram with the golden
fleece of Argonautic fame, whose story briefly told is
this. Phrixus and Helle were the children of Athamas,
a legendary king of Thessaly, who afterward repudiated
his first wife and married another. To enable the
children to escape the displeasure of their stepmother,
Mercury sent a ram, which took them on its back,
vaulted into the air, and rushed off towards the east.
In crossing the strait that divides Europe from Asia,
Helle became frightened, lost her hold, and fell into
the sea, which thereafter was known as the Hellespont.
Continuing his flight, the ram bore the boy to Colchis,
at the eastern end of the Euxine or Black sea. In
return for his kind reception, Phrixus sacrificed the
ram and gave its golden fleece to the king of the
country, who hung it in the sacred grove of Ares
under the guard of a sleepless dragon. As we shall
see, several other constellations are associated with the
further history of this remarkable fleece.
Hamal. — The chief star of Aries, marking his fore-
head, was called by the Arabs Hamal, a sheep. Among
the Greeks in early times this star held the important
office of sunrise herald at the vernal equinox.
TAURUS, THE BULL
Sweet Europa's mantle blew unclasp'd,
From off her shoulder backward borne :
From one hand droop'd a crocus ; one hand grasp'd
The mild bull's golden horn.
Tennysok — Pcdace of Art.
Taurus is one of the most notable of all the constel-
lations, containing within its borders two celebrated
groups of stars, the Hyades and the Pleiades. The
Roman year prior to the time of Julius Caesar began
in March. At that season Taurus is just visible on
the western horizon, setting after the sun ; hence
Virgil's well-known description :
The white bull opens with his golden horns the year.
In legendary lore it was Europa's bull, Jupiter
having assumed this disguise to bear the maiden away
from her companions, with whom she was sporting on
the shores of her native Phoenicia, to the island of
Crete. On our star maps, following the ancient
representation, only the front part of the animal is
depicted. This, as usually explained, is because he
TAURUS, THE BULL 31
is swimming through the sea, and his flanks are
immersed in the waves.
The Hyades. — The Hyades, which Aratus accurately
Whitening all the bull's broad forehead,
form a most conspicuous and beautiful group. They
were daughters of Atlas, and together with their half-
sisters, the Pleiades, were called Atlantides. The
appellation Hyades, supposed to be derived from the
Greek word for rain, is usually attributed to their
reputed influence on the weather. In the showery
springtime they set just after the sun, and in the
stormy period of late fall just before sunrise. Why
the stars in these special positions should exercise more
than ordinary control over terrestrial affairs would be
difficult to explain ; but the notion was extremely
prevalent in ancient times that the heliacal rising or
setting, as it was called, of the heavenly bodies had
some peculiar influence ; the heat of the dog days, for
instance, being ascribed to the appearance of Sirius
above the horizon just before sunrise. Whether or not
the suggested derivation of the word be correct, however,
moisture and storm were universally attributed to the
32 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
Hyades. The classic writers again and again refer to
them as the rain stars ; Spenser called them " moist
daughters," and in Tennyson's Ulysses we read :
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vex'd the dim sea.
Aldebaran. — Aldebaran, the bright star in the Hyades
group, signifies "hindmost." The Arabians so named
it because it follows or drives the Pleiades. Another
popular title is "the Bull's-eye," from its position
in the constellation. The slight tinge of red in the
light of tliis star gives it an added beauty, and makes
it one of the most conspicuous ornaments of our win-
ter nights. Mrs. Sigourney in The Star^ thus finely
portrays it :
Go forth at night
And talk with Aldebaran, where he flames
In the cold forehead of the wintry sky.
The Pleiades. — The Pleiades lie upon the neck of the
Bull, where they seem to cluster, as Bayard Taylor has
it, like golden bees upon its mane, or, as Tennyson
beautifully describes them, like fireflies in the even-
ing's dusk :
Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.
TAURUS, THE BULL 33
With tlie Greeks these were the sailing stars, indi-
cating by their heliacal rising the opening of navigation
in May ; and this has been the common derivation of
the title Pleiades, from the Greek "to sail," but it
seems more probable that it comes from another word
signifying "many." Some of the classic poets made
them a flock of pigeons flying from the celestial hunter
Orion, and in popular folklore they have been widely
known as the "hen and her chickens," Alcyone, the
brightest star, being the " golden cluck-hen," though
sometimes this star is a girl who is feeding the brood.
A favorite eastern simile has been that of a necklace
of brilliant gems, and it is even possible that this may
have been the thought in the mind of the sacred writer
in the Book of Job, for the passage has been translated,
"Canst thou bind together the brilliant Pleiades?" If,
on the other hand, we follow Milton,
Dawn and the Pleiades before him danced,
Shedding sweet influence,
then it is the gentle but potent power of advancing
spring which this group by its heliacal rising heralds.
Not only to civilized peoples have these stars been
objects of interest; "out of the dim reveries about
34 THE STARS IN SOXG AND LEGEXD
tliem of untutored races, issued tlieir association with
the seven beneficent sky spirits of the Vedas and the
Zendavesta, and the location among them of the center
of the universe and the abode of the Deity, of which
the tradition is still preserved by the Berbers and Dyaks.
With November, the Pleiad month, many primitive peo-
ple began their year ; and on the day of the midnight
culmination of the Pleiades, November 17. no petition
was presented in vain to the ancient kings of Persia ;
the same event ga"\-e the signal at Busiris for the com-
mencement of the feast of Isis. . . . Savage Australian
tribes to this day dance in honor of the ' Seven stars,'
because ' they are \ery good to the black fellows.' " ^
The Lost Pleiad. — The legend of the lost Pleiad has
been well-nigh universal. Long ago Aratus wrote,
" Seven stars they count, but only six appear." "With
poets it has been a favorite theme.
And is tliere glory from the heavens departed?
Oh I void unmarked! — Thy sisters of the sky
Still hold their place on high,
Though from its rank thine orb so long hath started,
Thou, that no more art seen of mortal eye.
Mrs. Hemaxs — T/k' Lost Pleiad.
^ Miss Gierke's .'ii/stem of the Stars, pp. 220-221.
TAURUS, THE BULL 35
But when we consider that under favorable circum-
stances as many as a dozen can be seen with the
unaided vision, while optical assistance increases them
to five or six hundred, and the photographic plate
again multiplies this fivefold, we are forced to the
conclusion that the number is simply a matter of eye
As to which of the seven sisters disappeared, mythol-
ogy is uncertain. According to one story it was
Electra, who hid her face that she might not see the
destruction of Troy, founded by her son Dardanus ;
but another account identifies her with Merope, who,
having been deceived into marrying a mortal, felt so
disgraced that she withdrew herself from the company
of her sisters.
Alcyone. — Alcyone, the lucida of this group, is asso-
ciated with the halcyon, the similarity of the words
lending color to the idea that they had a common
origin. Thompson, the English ornithologist, hazards
the conjecture that the connection between them may
be found in the fact that Alcyone culminates at night-
fall about the time of the winter solstice, during the
calm weather accompanying which season the king-
fisher, our modern representative of the ancient
36 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
halcyon, was believed to nest. Milton in his Hymn
to the Nativity connects this legend with the time of
universal peace at the Saviour's birth:
But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of light
His reign of peace upon the earth began ;
The winds with wonder whist
Smoothly the waters kist,
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
WhUe birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The old myth is something like this. Halcyone,
the daughter of Eolus the wind-god, was the devoted
wife of Ceyx, king of Thessaly. Desiring to consult
the oracle of Apollo, against the protestations of his
wife, Ceyx embarked upon the winter sea and was
shipwrecked and drowned. Halcyone, wandering dis-
consolately upon the shore, sees his body floating on
the waves, and in her grief and despair rushes into
the raging waters to cast herself upon the beloved
form. Then behold, a miracle ! They are both
changed into halcyon birds and skim across the bil-
lows, which at once sink to rest, and calm succeeds
the wild tempest.
TAUEUS, THE BULL 37
Alcyone has of late years become more than ever
an object of popular regard, from the brilliant specu-
lations of Madler, who surmised that it might be
the central sun of the whole vast stellar universe.
But though further investigations fail entirely to cor-
roborate his views, still the star is one that may
well enthrall the fancy. Lying sunk in space at a
depth too great to fathom, and outshining our own
sun a thousandfold, Archibald Lampman's magnificent
description is hardly overdrawn :
. . . the great and burning star,
Immeasurably old, immeasurably far,
Surging forth its silver flame
Through eternity !
Nebula of the Pleiades. — The investigations of the
Pleiades by modern astronomy have led to many sur-
prises. Most startling of all is the fact that the group
combines the characteristics of a vast nebula with those
of a chister, thus indicating that these two classes of
objects are not in reality as distinct as was formerly
supposed. The magnificent photographs taken by the
Henry Brothers at Paris show that the greater part of
the constellation is enshrouded in nebulous matter. In
the neighborhood of the principal stars it lies in heavy
38 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
masses, while elsewhere the sky background is scarcely
stained by its delicate tracery. The condensation is
greatest around Merope, thus giving plausibility to
the conjecture that the light of this star may be
This enfolding nebulosity, together with the common
drift of the majority of the stars, renders it certain
that the Pleiades constitute a connected system, the
grandeur of which, however, exceeds our comprehen-
sion. A ray of light, which would take but a few
hours to cross the solar system, could not under several
years fly from boundary to boundary of this miniature
universe of suns.
GEMINI, THE TWINS
Mild Pollux, void of blame,
And steed-subduing Castor, heirs of fame.
Shelley — Translation of Homer.
Castor and Pollux, the twins, were the sons of
Leda, and hence these stars are sometimes known as
the Ledsean lights. Thus Owen Meredith in 77ie
The lone Ledeean lights from yon enchanted air
Look down upon my spirit, like a spirit's eyes that love me ;
recalling Cowley's earlier lines :
How oft unwearied have we spent the nights,
Till the Ledaean stars, so famed for love,
Wonder'd at us from above.
Helen, of Trojan fame, was their sister. They
accompanied the Argonautic expedition ; and when
on the return voyage the vessel was almost over-
whelmed in the storm, Orpheus with his lyre invoked
Apollo, who caused two stars to appear on the heads
of the twins, and the tempest was allayed. Erom this
40 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
circumstance Castor and Pollux became the tutelary
deities of the seamen ; and among the Romans it was
very common to place their effigies upon the prows of
vessels. It will be remembered that Saint Paul and
his companions made the latter part of their voyage
to Rome in a vessel whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
The lambent flames which sometimes in heavy
weather play about the mastheads were regarded as
typifying the twin gods. Thus Horace speaks of them
as " Helen's brethren, starry lights " ; but a single flame
was thought to represent Helen herself, and was con-
sidered a threatening omen. In modern times these
electrical displays, for such they are, go by the name
of Saint Helen's or Saint Elmo's lights. The Padrone
in Longfellow's Golden Legend tells the prince :
Last night I saw Saint Elmo's stars,
"With their glittering lanterns all at play
On the tops of the masts and the tips of the spars,
And I knew we should have foul weather to-day.
Castor was a renowned horseman and Pollux a famous
piigilist. Both were great warriors, and were frequently
invoked in battle as well as in storm. Macaulay's
description of how they turned the tide of conflict in
the battle of Lake Regillus is familiar to all.
GEMINI, THE TWINS 41
So spake he, and was buckling
Tighter black Auster's band.
When he was aware of a princely pair
That rode at his right hand.
So like were they, no mortal
Might one from other know :
White as snow their armor was ;
Their steeds were white as snow.
Never on earthly anvil
Did such rare armor gleam ;
And never did such gallant steeds
Drink of an earthly stream.
After the battle they bore the glad tidings to Rome
and were recognized by the high Pontiff.
The gods who live forever
Have fought for Rome to-day !
These be the great Twin Brethren
To whom the Dorians pray.
Back comes the chief in triumph.
Who in the hour of fight
Hath seen the great Twin Brethren
In harness on his right.
Safe comes the ship to haven
Through billows and through gales,
If once the great Twin Brethren
Sit shining on the sails.
42 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
Castor, albeit slightly inferior in luster, is much more
interesting than his twin Ijrother, being one of the
most magnificent double stars which the telescope has
revealed. The components, nearly equal in brightness,
are circling about each other in orbits so extended and
with motion so stately, that a single revolution will
occupy nearly a thousand years.
CANCER, THE CRAB
I was bprn, sir, when the Crab was ascending, and my affairs go
backward. — Congreve.
Cancer is the most inconspicuous of all the zodiacal
constellations, yet none probably has been the subject
of more attention. As the sign which marks the
northern tropic, where the sun stops ascending and
begins his retrograde movement, it is fittingly sym-
bolized by the obliquely crawling crab. Here was
located, according to the Chaldean and Platonic phi-
losophy, " the gate of men," by which souls were sup-
posed to descend into human bodies ; Capricorn, the
corresponding sign marking the southern tropic, being
"the gate of the gods," through which the souls
released at death returned to heaven.
Mythology recounts that Juno sent this crab to annoy
Hercules by pinching his toes, when he was contending
with the many-headed hydra of the Lernaean swamp.
Hercules having easily crushed the creature with a single
blow, Juno, by way of reward, placed it in the sky.
44 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
This constellation contains the celebrated cluster
Prsesepe, or the Manger, the two stars lying one on
either side being the asses. Since it is at best but a
faint object, the slightest condensation of vapor in the
atmosphere naturally hides it from view. Hence its
dimness was regarded by the ancients as an infallible
sign of coming storm. Aratus, who, besides his astro-
nomical poem, wrote another on weather prognostics,
gives the following rules :
A miu'ky manger ■with, both stars
Shining unaltered, is a sign of rain.
If ^vhile the northern ass is dimmed
r>y vaporous shi'oud, he of the south gleam radiant,
Expect a south wind : the vaporous shroud and radiance
Exchanging stars, harbinger Boreas.
Popularly this cluster is often called the beehive.
LEO, THE LION
The lion huge, whose tawny hide
And grinning jaws extended wide,
He o'er his shoulders threw.
WooDHULL — Translation from Euripides.
Leo represents the Nemaean lion, the fight with
which formed the first of the celebrated labors of
Hercules. It was also considered an emblem of heat,
being the fiery trigon of the Arabs ; and throughout
antiquity it has held a close relationship with the sun.
To the Egyptians especially was it sacred, because the
sun's entrance into the sign coincided with the Nile
rise. The Sphinx, sculptured with the lion's body and
virgin's head, is thought to have symbolized Leo and
the neighboring Virgo, through which the sun passed
during the continuance of the inundation.
The constellation is marked by the well-known
sickle. Regulus in the end of the handle has ever
been the "star royal," its name being the diminutive
of the Latin rex. Ptolemy seems first to have used this
title, but far back in ancient Persia our star was the
46 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
leader of the four royal guardians of heaven, each
ruling over a quarter of the sphere. Cor Leonis, the
lion's heart, was another popular title of the star.
The impression of greatness and power connected with
it was universal, and was carried over into astrology,
glory, riches, and might being the inheritance of all
born under its potent influence.
Considerably to the eastward of the sickle is Dene-
bola, marking the lion's tail. This star forms with
Arcturus and Spica an equilateral triangle, and by
taking in Cor Caroli on the north we have the so-called
diamond of Virgo. The tracing of these large figures
on the sky is a great help towards locating and remem-
bering the different constellations.
VIRGO, THE VIRGIN
I am the Virgin, and my vestal flame
Burns less intensely than the Lion's rage ;
Sheaves are my only garments, and I claim
A golden harvest as my heritage.
Longfellow — FoeVs Calendar, August.
Virgo has been universally the virgin, and generally
the goddess of harvest holding a wheat-ear in her
hand. In classic times she was interchangeably either
Ceres or her daughter Proserpine. In the springtime
Proserpine, playing among the flowers, is seized by
Pluto and carried off to the lower regions to be his
wife. Ceres, her mother, vainly seeks her up and
down the earth. At length, having learned her sad
fate from Arethusa, the nymph of the fountain, she
beseeches Jupiter to intercede, and Proserpine is allowed
to return at intervals, spending half her time with her
mother, and the rest with her husband Pluto. There
can be little doubt that this legend is allegorical,
Proserpine representing the seed, which is buried in
48 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
the earth, but after a time comes forth to the light of
day in a glad and bountiful harvest.
Aratus in his astronomical poem, however, makes
this constellation Astrsea the goddess of justice and
purity. During the golden age of innocence and
happiness she dwelt perpetually with men. When
the world began to degenerate, and the silver age
dawned, she took up her abode in heaven, but returned
at eventide to visit those who yet cared for her. But
at last came the brazen age with war and violence ;
and then this fair goddess hid her face from men and
left the world to famine, pestilence, and misery.
The bright star Spica indicates the wheat-ear which
Virgo holds in her left hand. By the Arabs it was
called the solitary or defenseless one, a title which
refers, doubtless, to its lone position on the sky, there
being no other conspicuous star near it. Vindemiatrix,
lying some distance to the north, though now but a
third magnitude star, would seem from the great
attention paid to it to have been brighter in past ages.
The name means "grape gatherer," and its heliacal
rising was formerly the herald of the vintage time.
Virgo is the largest of all th« zodiacal constellations.
This region of the sky, while comparatively starless, is
VIEGO, THE VIRGIN 49
especially remarkable for the extraordinary number of
nebulae that here congregate. No other equal area
of the heavens is nearly so lich in these mysterious
objects. Sir John Herschel first called attention to
the significant fact that the gaseous nebulse seem to
crowd towards those portions of the sky most remote
from the Milky Way. This mass, gathered together
in Virgo and Coma Berenices, he likens to " a canopy
which, taking the circle of the Milky Way as a horizon,
occupies the zenith and descends thence to a consider-
able distance on all sides."
LIBRA, THE SCALES
I bear the scales, when hang in equipoise
The night and day.
Longfellow — Poet's Calendar, September.
Libra in classic days marked the autumnal equinox,
tliougli BOW, owing to precession, Virgo occupies that
position. In all the round of the zodiac this constella-
tion alone represents an inanimate object ; and its
antiquity, though somewhat in dispute, does not seem
to be very great. Certain it is that the Greeks asso-
ciated its stars with the claws of the Scorpion which
follows to the east. Scorpio, indeed, seems to have
been considered a double sign, thus completing the
Among the Romans, however, we find the title Libra
commonly employed. Virgil, in his first Georgia,
flatters Augustus by representing the Scorpion as con-
tracting his claws to make room for the soul of the
emperor to rest after death in his natal sign, the sun
havmg occupied this position at his birth. The scales
LIBRA, THE SCALES 51
might, in this connection, be regarded as the appro-
priate insignia for the dispenser of justice to the world.
Milton suggests another origin :
The Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray,
Hung forth in heaven his golden scales, yet seen
Betwixt Astrsea and the Scorpion sign;
Astraea being, as we have seen, one of the designa-
tions of Virgo. The constellation is comparatively
faint, but may be readily located from its position
with reference to Scorpio.
SCORPIO, THE SCORPION
Though on the frigid scorpion I ride,
The dreamy air is full, and overflows
With tender memories of the summer-tide
And mingled voices of the doves and crows.
Longfellow — PoeVs Calendar, October.
Scorpio was the mythological monster which caused
the disastrous runaway of the steeds of Phoebus Apollo.
Phaethon, it would seem, desiring to prove his sonship,
demanded of his father that he be allowed to drive for
one day the chariot of the sun. After vainly expostu-
lating, Phoebus granted his request and the horses were
harnessed. Up the steep way they mount, and finding
inexperienced hands upon the reins, the steeds dash off
from the traveled road and rush headlong through the
constellations. But when they come to where the
Scorpion stretches out its long arms shod with huge
and threatening claws, and its immense tail ending in
a horrid sting, then Phaethon, pale with terror, loses
all control and throws down the reins ; while the
horses plunge wildly, hurling the chariot over trackless
SCOEPIO, THE SCOEPION 53
wastes, now up in high heaven until the gods are
scorched with the heat, and now down close to the
world until the clouds go up in vapor and the moun-
tains begin to smoke. At length Jupiter, aroused to
action by the imminent peril, launches a thunderbolt
which hurls the ambitious youth from his chariot and
plunges him into the great sky-river Eridanus.
Scorpio cannot well be mistaken because of the fiery
Antares which marks the creature's heart. Its title
signifies in the Greek " the rival of Mars," this being,
in fact, the only star in all the sky that could be
mistaken for the red god of war.
Antares is interesting telescopically, not only for its
red color, but more especially on account of the small
green companion which lies so close as to be involved
in the flaming rays of the larger star. Not far to the
northwest of this fine double is a comet-like cluster,
which Herschel describes as "the richest and most
condensed mass of stars in the firmament." Renewed
interest in it was excited by the blazing out in 1860 of
a new star right in the center of the group. The
appearance, to use Miss Gierke's striking simile, was
that of a triton invading a shoal of minnows.
SAGITTARIUS, THE ARCHER
The centaur, Sagittarius, am I,
Born of Ixion and the cloud's embrace :
With sounding hoofs across the earth I fly,
A steed Thessalian with a human face.
Longfellow — PoeVs Calendar, November.
Sagittarius is the patron of the hunter and the
chase. In the time of Eratosthenes it was figured as
a satyr, but afterwards Avas changed to a centaur, not,
however, to be confounded with the larger Centaurus
far to the south. These centaurs, or bull-killers, as
the word signifies, were an ancient race inhabiting
Mount Pelion in Thessaly. Homer called them savage
beasts, but in later times they were represented as half
man and half horse. The Thessalians being famous
riders, and hunting the bull on horseback, a national
sport, we can readily understand how the fable arose.
Forming the western portion of this constellation
is the familiar milk dipper. According to Allen it is
extremely ancient, having been " an object of worship
in China for a thousand years before our era."
CAPRICORNUS, THE GOAT
Then grievous blasts
Break southward on the sea, when coincide
The Goat and sun, and then a heaven-sent cold.
Capricorkus marked in classic times the winter
solstice. It occupied, therefore, the most southern or
lowest part of the zodiac. Milton's lines allude to this :
Some say the sun
Was bid turn reins from the equinoctial road.
Up to the tropic Crab; thence down amain,
By Leo and the Virgin and the Scales,
As deep as Capricorn, to bring in change
Of seasons to each clime.
One ancient writer suggests that, as the sun here
begins his ascent in the heavens, the goat is a fitting
symbol from its propensity to scale the inaccessible
mountain sides. As usually depicted, however, Capri-
cornus is a sea-goat, having the head and body of a
goat, but the tail of a fish. It is thus represented on
our modern star maps.
56 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
Naturally we find this constellation associated with
the god Pan, who was also part goat. The legend goes
that when the gods were driven from Olympus by the
giants and took refuge in Egypt, disguising themselves
variously as animals. Pan took the form of a goat.
When Typhon, the fire-breathing monster, suddenly
attacked him, he leaped in a fright into the Nile and
Capricornus contains one of the few notable naked-
eye doubles. This is the principal star lying at the
base of the horns. Its duplicity is now obvious to the
most casual observer, but two thousand years ago it
would have required a sharp eye to distinguish the
components. They are separating at the rate of one
minute of arc in about thirteen hundred years, their
present distance being six minutes.
AQUARIUS, THE WATER-BEARER
The sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers,
And now the nights draw near to half the day.
Longfellow — Translation of Dante.
Aquarius is the almost universal designation of the
next zodiacal constellation. Its watery character has
been attributed to the fact that the sun passes through
it during the rainy season. Many of the constellations
in this neighborhood, in fact, are aquatic, there being,
besides Capricornus and Aquarius, the Dolphin, three
fishes, and Cetus, the Whale ; so that naturally enough
we find this part of the sky designated by the Chaldeans
as the sea.
The river Eridanus also is sometimes shown as hav-
ing its source in the Waterman's bucket, — a most
unaccountable circumstance, unless, like the widow's
barrel of meal and cruse of oil in the days of Elijah,
it never runs dry. Manilius did indeed assert as much
in describing the constellation ; for he says, " And so
the urn flows on," an expression which became pro-
verbial for a ceaseless babble of tongues.
PISCES, THE FISHES
Sunset and evening star.
Tessyson — Crossing the Bar.
The zodiacal constellation Pisces consists of two
fishes, quite widely separated, but having their tails
connected by a ribbon. There is, besides, another
south of Aquarius distinguished as the Southern Fish,
and marked by the bright star Fomalhaut.
The two finny inhabitants of the zodiac are compara-
tively starless, and of little interest aside from their
mythological connection with Aphrodite or Venus. That
goddess, frightened by the giant Typhon, threw herseK
with the infant Cupid into the Euphrates. One account
says that the fishes bore them away to safety, but the
Greek legend changed them into fishes which were after-
ward exalted to the sky. Hence this constellation was
popularly known as ■' Venus and Cupid." A few words,
then, concerning the brightest and most beautiful of all
the starry host may here be appropriately added.
Venus. — The coy character of the goddess who was
fabled to have sprung from the sea foam is fittingly
PISCES, THE riSHES 59
symbolized by her representative in the sky. Now
bursting out in a blaze of beauty that dazzles the
admiring world, now swiftly retreating and vanishing
in the sunset's glare, then shyly peeping forth in the
east before the world wakes, she is as fickle and incon-
stant as the most incorrigible flirt that ever queened it
over her unfortunate lovers. Yet even this capricious
beauty owns allegiance to her lord the sun, and held
by indissoluble bonds, continually follows and attends
upon his glorious majesty.
Although the title is sometimes given to other
planets, Venus is preeminently the evening and the
morning star. Its identity in the two positions must
certainly have been known from early ages, yet it was
frequently designated by different names when respec-
tively east and west of the sun. Thus the Greeks
called it Hesperus as evening star and Phosphorus as
morning star. These names will recall Tennyson's
lines in his In Memoriam:
Sad Hesper o'er the buried sun,
And ready, thou, to die with him;
Thou watohest all things ever dim
And dimmer, and a glory done.
60 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
Bright Phosphor, fresher for the night,
By thee the world's great work is heard
Beginning, and the wakeful bird ;
Behind thee comes the greater light.
Sweet Hesper-Phosphor, double name
For what is one, the first, the last,
Thou, like my present and my past,
Thy place is changed, thou art the same.
URSA MAJOR, THE GREAT BEAR
One after one the stars have risen and set,
Sparkling upon the hoar-frost of my chain;
The Bear that prowled all night about the fold
Of the North-star hath shrunk into his den,
Scared by the blithesome footsteps of the Dawn.
Lowell — Prometheus.
This constellation, though in no way resembling that
animal, has in all ages and among nearly all peoples
been the Bear. Homer speaks of it as keeping a watch
upon Orion from its arctic den, and references to it
abound alike in classic and modern literature.
Mythology. — Mythology recognized in this star group
the beautiful Callisto, who, having unfortunately excited
the jealousy of Juno, was changed by the angry goddess
into a bear. Wandering in this sad plight through the
woods, she met her own son Areas, and was about to
embrace him, when he in alarm raised his hunting
spear to strike her. Jupiter, however, took pity on
them, and prevented the crime by snatching both up
to the sky, where they became the Great and the
62 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
Little Bears. Juno, still further enraged at the honor
thus done them, instigated Oceanus and Tethys to
forbid the creatures' approach to their watery domain.
In virtue of this prohibition they wander round and
round the pole but never venture to dip their huge
bodies beneath the horizon. As Bryant well ex-
The Bear, that sees star setting after star
In the' blue brine, descends not to the deep.
As we approach the equator, of course, this condi-
tion no longer holds, and the constellations which are
circumpolar in our latitude begin to rise and set. Thus
Camoens, the Portuguese poet, wrote:
We saw the Bears, despite of Juno, lave
Their tardy bodies in the boreal wave.
Reference in Job. — That it is this group of stars, and
not Arcturus, the leading brilliant in Bootes, which
is referred to in Job's question, " Canst thou guide
Arcturus with his sons ? " seems tolerably certain.
Indeed, the passage as translated in the revised version
reads, " Canst thou guide the Bear with her train ? "
This figuring of the stars as a she-bear attended by her
young avoids the sadly unnatural representation of our
UESA MAJOR, THE GREAT BEAR -63
modern maps which furnish a comparatively tailless
animal with a most notable caudal appendage.
Indian Legend. — Our North American Indians saw
here also a bear, but the stars of the tail were for them
the hunter and his dogs. Mr. Allen tells us that " the
Housatonic Indians, who roamed over that valley from
Pittsfield through Lenox and Stockbridge to Great Bar-
rington, had a story that the chase of the stellar bear
lasted from spring till the autumn, when the animal
was wounded and its blood plainly seen on the crimson
foliage of the forest."
Other Names. — While, as we have seen, the more
formal title of this constellation has almost universally
been the Bear, yet various other appellations, based on
real or fancied resemblances, have also been very widely
prevalent. Homer, for instance, refers to " the Bear,
which oft the Wain they call," showing that even -at
that early period the popular imagination had found in
its seven stars the likeness to some huge celestial cart
lumbering nightly about the pole. Among the Eomans
it was frequently the Plow, usually drawn by three
oxen represented by the stars in the tail ; but Cicero
speaks of Septem- or Septentriones, the Seven Plow-
oxen. We thus have two terms derived from this
64 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
constellation denoting the frigid characteristics of the
northern regions, — arctic, from the Greek word for
bear ; and septentrion, from the plow-oxen.
The Plow is still a common title in England, but
hardly so popular as the older Homeric appellation, the
Wain. In early English days it seems to have been
Arthur's Wain ; and Smyth, deriving the name from
the Welsh Arth, a bear, finds in the circling of
this constellation about the pole the possible origin
of King Arthur's famous Eound Table. Afterwards it
became Charles' Wain, originally perhaps in honor of
Charlemagne (Charles the Great), though later, of
course, associated with the English kings of the same
Use as a Timepiece. — From the circumstance that to
northern peoples these stars are visible throughout the
year, they have naturally served the rustic population
as timepieces, indicating the progress of the night by
their slow revolving motion. Shakespeare in King
Henry IV makes the carrier in the Rochester Inn
yard exclaim, " Heigh-ho ! An 't be not four by the
day, I '11 be hanged : Charles' Wain is over the new
chimney, and yet our horse not packed." Spenser
in the Faerie Queene has a similar allusion :
UESA MAJOR, THE GREAT BEAR 65
By this the northern wagoner had set
His sevenfold teme behind the steadfast starre;
and likewise Tennyson in his well-known New Years
We danced about the may-pole and in the hazel copse,
Till Charles' Wain came out above the tall white chimney-tops.
I need hardly refer to the extremely popular modern
name of this group, the Great Dipper. In springtime
it runs high up overhead in the evening, and appears
upside down ; while in the fall and early winter it
seems to be resting upon the horizon in an upright
position. Perhapg B. F. Taylor had this in mind when
he wrote in his Warld on Wheels:
From that celestial dipper, — or so I thought, — the dews
were poured out gently upon the summer world.
The middle star in the handle of this dipper is the
well-known naked-eye double formed by Mizar and
Alcor. They are popularly called " the horse and his
rider," or "Jack on the middle horse," referring to the
idea of the three horses dragging the wain or plow. A
similar conceit prevails in Germany, where Alcor repre-
sents Hans the wagoner, who, as a reward for assisting
the Saviour when weary, was offered the kingdom of
66 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
heaven ; but modestly deeming himself unsuited to
enjoy such a royal gift, he besought that instead he be
permitted to drive this celestial team, and may accord-
ingly be seen mounted upon the highest horse.
In Italy also Alcor was known as the Little Starry
Horseman; but the Greeks identified it as the lost
Pleiad Electra, who had wandered away from her
companions and been changed into a fox.
URSA MINOR, THE LITTLE BEAR
With thy long leveled rule of streaming light,
And thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
Or Tyrian Cynosure.
Milton — Comus.
Cynosure. — The Little Bear is less ancient in its con-
stellated form than the Great Bear. It seems to have
originated with the Phoenicians, who were great sea-
faring people, and naturally made use of this group,
which for several millenniums has occiipied the immedi-
ate region of the celestial pole. It was, however, early
adopted by the Greeks, by whom it was designated
Cynosure or Dog's Tail. Great difficulty has been
experienced in trying to account for this title, since the
dog is not usually mentioned in connection with the
legend of Callisto and Areas. Some authorities have
attempted to trace the word to a much earlier source
in the Euphrates valley.
However this may be, the appellation, which in
modern times is generally restricted to the pole-star
alone, has always been very popular, and even appeared
68 THE STAES IX SONG AND LEGEND
in scientific treatises of two and threes centuries ago.
It lias also sometimes been called the Little Wain or
Chariot ; thus Tennyson in In Memoriam says :
The lesser wain
Is twisting round the polar star.
Tramontana, Mountain of the North. — Another name,
Tramontana or Trans montane, that is, above or beyond
the mountain, given in medieval times indiscriminately
to the constellation and its principal star, suggests a
most curious and persistent legend respecting the
" mountain of the north." Professor Sayce finds traces
of this in the early Sumerian days, when " the heaven
was believed to rest on the peak of ' the mountain of
the world ' in the far northeast, where the gods had
their habitations." In classic times the Hyperboreans
were thought to dwell beyond its lofty peak in a clime
of perpetual spring, as Moore sings :
I come from a land in the sun-bright deep,
Where golden gardens glow,
"Where the winds of the north, becalmed in sleep,
Their conch shells never blow.
The sacred writers were evidently familiar with the
story of this fabulous mountain. Isaiah writes of it :
URSA MINOR, THE LITTLE BEAR 69
" How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer ! For
thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven ;
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God ; I will
sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the' sides
of the north." And the Psalmist likens Mount Zion to
it : " Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,
is Mount Zion, in the sides of the north, the city of the
The Hindus called it Mount Meru, "the seat of
the gods " ; and in Norse mythology we find the same
"Hill of heaven." Its existence seems to have been
believed in as late as the seventeenth century, for in
Chilmead's work we read of "the mountaine Slotus,
which lies under the pole, and is the highest in
the world." Poe also in Ulalume fancifully refers
to "Mount Yaanek, in the realms of the boreal
The Pole-Star. — The pole-star, forming the point
around which this constellation swings, is naturally
from its apparent fixity the most familiar and oft-
mentioned of all the stars. Christina Rossetti sings
One unchangeable upon a throne
Broods o'er the frozen heart of earth alone.
70 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
Shakespeare in Julius Ccesar makes him say :
But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fixed and resting quality-
There is no fellow in the firinament.
The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks ;
They are all fire, and every one doth shine :
But there 's but one in all doth hold his place.
Bryant in his fine Hyvm to the North Star thus
apostrophizes it :
The sad and solemn night
Hath yet her multitude of cheerful fires ;
The glorious host of light
Walk the dark hemisphere till she retires ;
All through her silent watches, gliding slow,
Her constellations come, and climb the heavens, and go.
And thou dost see them rise,
Star of the Pole ! And thou dost see them set.
Alone in thy cold skies.
Thou keep'st thy old unmoving station yet,
Nor join'st the dances of that glittering train.
Nor dipp'st thy virgin orb in the blue western main.
It has been for many centuries, and will be for as
many more to come, preeminently the Stella Maris,
the seaman's star. Dryden wrote of the infancy of
UESA MINOR, THE LITTLE BEAR 71
Rude as their ships were navigated then,
No useful compass or meridian known ;
Coasting, they kept the land within their ken.
And knew no north but when the Pole-star shone.
Moore also in Lalla Rookh sings of Nourmahal :
Thou loveliest, dearest of them all.
The one whose smile shone out alone,
Amidst a world the only one !
Whose light, among so many lights.
Was like that star, on starry nights,
The seaman singles from the sky
To steer his bark forever by.
So it came to be called the lode-star, leading or guid-
ing the mariner ; and to quote once more Bryant's
A beauteous type of that unchanging good.
That bright eternal beacon, by whose ray
The voyager of time should shape his heedful way.
CEPHEUS AND CASSIOPEIA
Or that starred Ethiop queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
The sea-nymphs, and their powers offended.
Milton — II Penseroso.
Cepheus was king of Ethiopia, and Cassiopeia his
beautiful queen. But so inordinate was her vanity
that she dared compare herself with the sea-nymphs,
who were greatly enraged and sent a frightful monster
to ravage the coast of the kingdom. On appealing to
the oracle, the unhappy pair were told that the only
way to avert the disaster would be to chain their
daughter Andromeda to a rock and allow the leviathan
to devour her. How she was rescued by the gallant
Perseus will appear later.
Cepheus and his queen are side by side upon the starry
sphere, opposite the Great Bear. Cepheus is an incon-
spicuous constellation, but Cassiopeia is marked by the
well-known celestial W. The rude resemblance to an
armed chair may also be made out, and this in fact has
from classic days been the common mode of depicting
CEPHEUS AND CASSIOPEIA 73
the group, the queen having been further condemned,
after the rescue of her daughter, to be bound to this
chair and swung round and round the pole, in order
that her lesson in humility might be complete.
Tycho Brahe's New Star. — It was in Cassiopeia that
the great new star flarned out in November, 1572,
speedily outshining Venus and becoming conspicuous
in full daylight, then gradually fading, till after the
lapse of sixteen months it totally vanished. The tele-
scope, however, shows in the same spot a faint reddish
star, which from its nebulous appearance and unsteady
light is generally regarded by astronomers as the
smouldering embers of the once unrivaled orb. This
brief apparition caused great alarm throughout Europe,
many considering it a portent of the end of the world.
Even the great Beza, falling in with the superstition's
of his age, attempted to prove that it was the same
star which had conducted the wise men of the East to
Bethlehem when Christ was born, and that its mission
now was to proclaim his second coming.
PERSEUS AND ANDROMEDA
Perseus, even amid tlie stars, must take
Andromeda in chains ethereal.
Mrs. Browning — Paraphrases on Nonnus.
Perseus, the son of Jupiter and Danae, might be
called the knight-errant of mythology. His earliest
exploit was the slaying of the snaky-locked Gorgon,
Medusa. Panoplied with Pluto's helmet of invisilDility
and with Minerva's polished shield, and shod with Mer-
cury's winged shoes, he tracked the monster to her sea-
girt cave, severed her horrid head, and flew away in
safety. Coming to the western limit of the world, he
found old Atlas, who, fearing lest he be robbed of his
golden apples, refused to receive the youth ; whereupon
Perseus held up the Gorgon's head before the giant and
turned him into stone. There, in the gardens of the
Hesperides, according to fable, he still stands, bearing
the weight of the heavens upon his shoulders.
Perseus, flying once more through the air, saw far
beneath him the lovely Andromeda chained to the
rocks, and the slimy sea-monster approaching to devour
.,■-"' ■,-';'* /
^ t »
1 % '.
■'■■■"fc;;:-;:*; .- s ,' ; :; .;'\
PERSEUS AND ANDROMEDA 75
her. After a desperate struggle he succeeded in hack-
ing the dragon in pieces and rescuing the maiden. At
the wedding feast, which was a natural sequence to
this knightly episode, Phineus, the former lover of the
princess, burst in, demanding his promised bride and
threatening to take her by force. Perseus reminded
him that he should have claimed her earlier from the
jaws of the horrid monster, but that now it was too
late ; for, since he had failed to prove himself a man,
he should become but the stone image of one. There-
upon holding up the Gorgon's head he petrified the
coward and his band of ruffians. Then the marriage
bells pealed merrily, and conflicts were forgotten in
happiness and peace. At their death this noble pair
were transferred to the sky.
Charles Kingsley's AndroiTieda, after most beautifully
telling the legend, makes Aphrodite thus address the
Courage I give thee, tiie heart of a queen and the mind of
Grod-like to talk with the gods, and to look on their eyes
Bearing a god-like race to thy spouse, till dying I set thee
High for a star in the heavens, a sign and a hope for the seamen.
76 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
Spreading thy long white arms all night in the heights of the
Hard by thy sire and the hero, thy spouse, while near thee thy
Sits in her ivory chair, as she plaits ambrosial tresses ;
All night long thou wilt shine.
These two constellatioBS are immediately south of
Cassiopeia, Perseus being directly in the Milky Way,
where, according to Aratus, he is stirring up a dust in
his haste to liberate Andromeda. He still bears in one
hand the head of Medusa, with its baleful, blinking
demon-eye, Algol, which about every third day drops
from the second magnitude to the fourth and recovers
in a few hours.
Andromeda contains two very interesting telescopic
objects. One is Almach, which Herschel pronounced
the most beautiful double star in the heavens. Its com-
ponents are deep yellow and sea-green, producing a fine
contrast of color. The other is the great nebula. This
is the only true nebula which can be certainly discerned
without optical aid, being known to the Arabians as
"the little cloud." Although a magnificent spectacle
in the telescope, it requires photography to show its
marvelous extent and involved structure.
■'■■ "^ ' * -5;f
' * * * '/
AURIGA, THE CHARIOTEER
Star of the winter night,
Whose chill and threatening light
O'er the tempestuous main shineth afar I
Calm days of autumn bright
Reluctant take their flight,
When from the misty deep riseth thy car.
Passing over Draco, coiled about the pole of the
ecliptic and representing the dragon which guarded the
golden apples in the gardens of the Hesperides,we come
to constellations lying somewhat farther south, between
the circumpolar groups and the zodiac. Southeast of
Perseus is the widely extended Auriga, or Charioteer,
though the name ill accords with the time-honored
pictorial representation of a man carrying in his arms
the goat Capella and the Kids, or Hsedi.
This chariot driver has been identified with Erech-
theus, the son of Vulcan, of whom Swinburne has
Thou hast loosened the necks of thine horses, and goaded their
• flanks with affright,
78 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
To the race of a course that we know not, on ways that are hid
from our sight.
As a wind through the darkness the wheels of their chariot are
And the light of its passage is night on the face of the world.
The bright first magnitude Capella, the lucida of the
constellation, represents the goat which suckled the
infant Jupiter. According to one tradition, Amalthea
herself was the goat, but more commonly she was the
nymph who fed the young god on the goat's milk.
Having in his play broken off one of the horns of the
animal, Jupiter endowed it with the miraculous power
of being filled with whatever the possessor might wish,
whence it was called the cornucopia or horn of plenty.
The three small stars near Capella are the Kids, though
more properly perhaps only the two southern ones should
be so denominated. They were in extremely bad repute
with the ancients, being termed by the classic writers
" horrid and hurtful," and Callimachus in the third
century B.C. counseled mariners :
Tempt not the winds, forewarned of dangers nigh.
When the Kids glitter in the western sky.
This connection of individual stars or constellations
with certain seasons of the year, and therefore with
AUEIGA, THE CHARIOTEER 79
the probability of pleasant or tempestuous weather,
was, of course, at best but local and temporary; for
the slow precession of the equinoxes, by gradually shift-
ing the panoramic scenery of the skies, will in the
course of ages make these same stars rulers over
COMA BERENICES (BERENICE'S HAIR)
The streaming tresses of the Egjrptian queen.
Bryant — The Constellations.
Just north of Virgo lies a group of faint stars, so
crowded together that they present a nebulous appear-
ance like a wisp of hair, or, as Serviss suggests, like
" gossamers spangled with dewdrops, which the old
woman of the nursery rhyme, who went to sweep the
cob\ve)is out of the sky," had overlooked.
The origin of this constellation, in its present form
at least, dates back to the reign of Ptolemy Euergetes
in the third century B.C. As the king was departing
on a dangerous expedition against the Assyrians, his
queen Berenice vowed, should he return in safety, to
dedicate her lovely amber tresses to the goddess of
beauty. Accordingly when the king marched home
victorious, the hair was placed in the temple of Aphro-
dite, but shortly afterwards was stolen. This grieved
the royal pair exceedingly, until Conon, the court
astronomer, announced that Jupiter had taken the
COMA BERENICES (BEEENICE'S HAIK) 81
locks and hung them m the sky, pointing to these
stars which, it would seem, had up to that time been
The similarity of the name with that of the Herodian
princess Bernice (in the Latin Beronica) has led to the
association of this star group with the legend of Saint
Veronica, who, in sympathy for the Saviour's sufferings
on the way to the cross, lent him her veil to wipe the
sweat from his brow, and found miraculously impressed
thereon the true image of our Lord.
Not far from Berenice's Hair, across the constellation
Leo, is the spot where the Capuchin De Rheita in the
seventeenth century fancied he saw, with an improved
telescope of his own construction, this same veil or
napkin bearing the likeness of the divine countenance.
This marvelous apparition is described in all serious-
ness in his work entitled Oculus Henoch et Mice, but
as Sir John Herschel appropriately remarked, "Many
strange things were seen among the stars before the
use of powerful telescopes became common."
BOOTES, THE HERDSMAN
Not every one dotli it become to question
The far-off, high Arcturus.
Schiller — Death of Wallenstein.
Bo5tes is usually translated the Herdsman, though
the name really signifies Ox Driver, a much more
appropriate title, since this constellation follows the
seven plow-oxen of Ursa Major in their daily course
around the pole. Our modern maps, however, follow
the suggestion of Hevelius, a Polish astronomer of the
seventeenth century, who placed the two hounds, Aste-
rion and Chara, in front of Bootes, and represented him
as a hunter pursuing the Great Bear.
The superb lucida of the group, Arcturus, was so
designated by the Greeks, the name meaning Bear-
guard. Smyth derives it from the similar Greek word
for tail, making it signify " tail of the Bear." Although
this etymology is probably incorrect, yet it is useful to
remember that Arcturus lies in the prolongation of the
Bear's tail and may thus be surely and readily identi-
fied. The biblical references to Arcturus, as already
BOOTES, THE HERDSMAN 83
noted, indicate Ursa Major rather than this star, the
connection between the two names in the Greek lan-
guage naturally leading to frequent confusion. In
early days it represented a spear in the hunter's hand,
and with the Arabs it was the Lance-bearer, as Emer-
son, translating the Persian poet Hafiz, has it :
Poises Arcturus aloft morning and evening his spear.
From the fact that in middle latitudes Arcturus is
setting in the northwest just as Capella and the Kids
are rising away in the northeast, the stormy character
of the latter has been transferred also to this star.
Demosthenes tells of an insurance policy issued on a
vessel going to the Crimea and back, the rate being
twenty-two and one-half per cent ; but if she did not
return before the heliacal rising of Arcturus in late
September, the rate was to be thirty per cent. Horace
also in his well-known ode extols the contented man
who is disturbed not by the " fierce violence of the
setting Arcturus or of the rising Kids."
Cor Caroli. — This is a fine doiible star, which on
modern maps is located in the heart between the two
hunting dogs of Bootes. The story goes that Scar-
borough, the court physician, on the evening before
the return of Charles II to London, beheld this star
84 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
shine out with peculiar luster, and thereupon suggested
to the astronomers that it be named in honor of the
king. " The merry monarch," who, we are told, " never
said a foolish thing, and never did a wise one," was
certainly hardly worthy of being commemorated in so
exalted a fashion ; yet to his credit it should be remem-
bered that he issued the decree for the founding- of the
royal observatory at Greenwich, an institution whose
influence in the extension of commerce and civilization
has been exceedingly beneficent.
COEONA BOREALIS, THE NORTHERN CROWN
And still her sign is seen in heaven,
And, 'midst the glittering symbols of the sky,
The starry crown of Ariadne glides.
This little constellation lies just east of Bootes, and
is one of the few wliich really resemble the objects they
commemorate. It is a beautiful circlet of stars forming
an admirable wreath or tiara.
The legend of Ariadne and her crown, which has
always been a popular one in literature, is interlinked
with that of Theseus and Bacchus. At the time when
the young prince Theseus was making a name for him-
self by his wonderful exploits, the Athenians were in
deep distress because of the tribute they were forced to
pay each year to Minos, king of Crete. This tribute
consisted of seven youths and seven maidens ; and a
most horrible fate was theirs, for they were imprisoned
in a labyrinth so artfully constructed that no one could
possibly escape, and a hideous Minotaur, with bull's
body and human head, soon caught and devoured them.
86 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen from this
calamity, and accordingly offered himself as one of the
victims. On arriving at Crete they were inspected by
King Minos ; and it happened fortunately that his
daughter Ariadne was present and fell deeply in love
with Theseus. She furnished him with a sword and a
clew of thread, by means of which the hero succeeded
in slaying the monster and escaping from the laby-
rinth. Taking Ariadne with him he sailed for Athens,
but stopped on the way at the island of Naxos, where
he basely deserted his newly made bride while she
But Venus, taking pity on her, promised that she
should have an immortal lover instead of the mortal one
she had lost. Bacchus, just returning from his triumphal
progress through Asia, landed on the island, and finding
the fair Ariadne in tears, consoled and wedded her, and
gave her this glorious crown as a marriage present. At
her death it was transferred to its place in the sky, the
gems changing into glittering stars.
According to some of the classic writers this group
represents the coiled hair of Ariadne, or even the
beautiful maid herself, upon whom Bacchus conferred
immortality. Spenser in the Faerie Queetie follows
CORONA BOEEALIS, THE NORTHERN CROWN 87
yet another form of the legend, making the crown a
gift of Theseus :
Looke ! how the crowne which Ariadne wore
Upon her yvory forehead, that same day
That Theseus her unto his bridale bore,
Being now placed in the firmament,
Through the bright heavens doth her beams display,
And is unto the starres an ornament,
Which round about her move in order excellent.
Great Aleides, stooping "with his toU,
Kests on his club. -p
The huge sky-figure Hercules lies next to Bootes on
the east, the little stellar garland last described just
finding room between the two giants. Although the
constellation is extremely ancient, its present name
seems to have been unknown to the early Greek
astronomers. Aratus thus describes it :
Like a toiling man, revolves
A form. Of it can no one clearly speak,
Nor to what toil he is attached; but, simply,
Kneeler they call him.
As now usually represented, one foot rests on the
head of Draco ; in his right hand he holds a club, and
in his left a branch around which serpents are twisting ;
while over his shoulders is thrown the hide of a lion.
The latter, of course, recalls his conquest of the
Nemsean lion, already alluded to. The slaughter of
the Hydra is symbolized by the serpent's head under
liis foot ; while the apple bough was no doubt intended
to represent the golden fruit of the Hesperides, which
Herciiles was obliged to wrest from the clutches of the
sleepless dragon that guarded the tree. On some maps
we find this branch in the giant's left hand replaced
by Cerberus, the triple-headed guardian of the lower
regions, one of the last of the celebrated twelve labors
having been to throttle this horrid creature and bring
him up to the light of day.
The Hercules Cluster. — The great cluster, lying on
the west side of the trapezium which marks the giant's
body, is one of the most remarkable objects in the
heavens. Halley wrote of it in 1716 : " This is but a
little patch, yet it shows itself to the naked eye when
the sky is serene and the moon absent." The telescope,
however, resolves it into a glorious company of glowing
suns. Although its diameter is less than eight minutes
of arc, and its area therefore not over one-sixteenth
that of the full moon, there are crowded together
within its borders, according to a conservative estimate,
as many as three or four thousand stars. Yet this
crowding is probably only apparent. No doubt its
real extent is so tremendous that there would be
plenty of room for planetary systems to revolve undis-
turbed about each member of the group.
OPHIUCHUS, THE SERPENT-BEARER
Unterrified, and like a comet burned,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In th' arctic sky, and from its horrid hair
Shakes pestilence and war.
Milton — Paradise Lost.
Lyixg south of Hercules we come upon Ophiuchus,
the Serpent-bearer. Milton, who is usually correct in
his astronomical allusions, blundered sadly in the lines
above quoted ; for Ophiuchus lies upon the celestial
equator, and can by no stretch of poetic license be
considered an arctic constellation. It is supposed to
represent ^Esculapius, the son of Apollo, and proto-
type of the medical fraternity. So skilled did he
become in his profession that he was reputed to be
able even to raise the dead to life. Pluto took offense
at this, fearing lest his kingdom should become depop-
ulated ; and at his request Jupiter launched a thunder-
bolt against the bold physician, and so scattered his
precocious wisdom that none of his numerous descend-
ants seems as yet to have succeeded in recovering it.
OPHIUCHUS, THE SERPENT-BEAREE 91
Apollo, however, insisted that his son be placed in the
sky, where his healing arts, if they can do no good,
can certainly do no harm. The association of the
serpent with this constellation may perhaps indicate
the miraculous powers which are usually ascribed in
the Orient to snake-charmers.
The foregoing is the generally accepted explanation
of this figure; but an altogether different interpre-
tation is sometimes given, by which Ophiuchus is
identified with Laocoon, the priest of Neptune, who,
during the siege of Troy, was attacked and strangled
by sea-serpents for his irreverent treatment of the
LYRA, THE LYRE; DELPHINUS, THE DOLPHIN;
AQUILA, THE EAGLE
I saw, with its celestial keys,
Its chords of air, its frets of fire.
The Samian's gi'eat ^olian lyre,
Rising through all its sevenfold bars.
From earth unto the fix6d stars.
Longfellow — Occultation of Orion.
The Lyre of Orpheus. — Few probably have not noticed
and admired the brilliant star which culminates nearly
overhead in our summer evenings. This is Vega, the
Harp-star ; and indeed, with the help of the smaller
stars close by, the rude resemblance to a lyre or harp
may easily be traced. According to the common version
this was the lyre of Orpheus, and his skill upon it was
such, that when Eurydice shortly after their marriage
was snatched from him, he succeeded in so charming
the guardians of the Stygian realms that they allowed
him to enter. Presenting himself before the deities
which presided over this kingdom of ghosts, he sang
Such notes as, warbled to the string.
Drew iron tears down Pluto's cheek,
And made him grant what love did seek. — Mii-ton.
- # .-■
LYEA, THE LYRE, ETC. "^93
Consent was given that Eurydice accompany her
husband back to the upper world ; but the condition
imposed, that he look not back to see if she were
following, proved too much for his anxious love, and
he again lost her. Yet the lyre that could bring tears
to the eyes of the furies and melt the heart of stern
Pluto, was thought worthy of a place among the
Legend of Arion and the Dolphin. — By some of the
poets Lyra has been called the harp of Arion, the
legend concerning whom connects it with the little
Dolphin not far ofE to the southeast. Arion was a
famous musician of the court of Periander, king of
Corinth. Returning from a musical contest in Sicily,
where he won a valuable prize, he was seized by the
sailors who coveted his treasure. As they were about
to throw him overboard, he requested permission to
play for the last time upon his harp. The dolphins,
lured by the sweet strains, surrounded the ship ; and
when he slipped into the water, one of them took him
upon its back and bore him safely to land.
Vega. — The resplendent Vega, or Wega, as some-
times written, derives its name from the Arabic, and
signifies " falling eagle." In Bayer's Uranometria,
94 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
published early in the seventeenth century, the eagle
is actually represented standing behind the harp and
holding the star in its beak. Vega ranks with Capella
in brightness, being surpassed only by Sirius and
Canopus. Its sapphire hue justifies the appellation
" arc-light of the sky."
The Double-Double. — A little to the northeast of
Vega is the celebrated quadruple star. An exception-
ally keen eye can distinguish its duplicity, while the
telescope shows both components to be further divisible.
Each pair seems to be revolving in one or two thousand
years, and their common drift through space renders it
probable that the two couples form one greater system,
whose period of revolution must stretch far on towards
a million years.
Ring Nebula. — Very interesting too is the ring
nebula of Lyra, the only object of this character acces-
sible to ordinary telescopes. It consists of an oval
ring somewhat over a minute in diameter, " the interior
of which is filled with a dim nebulous haze, like gauze
stretched over a hoop." ^
Aquila. — Southeast of Lyra is the constellation
Aquila, figured as a flying eagle, such being the
1 Miss Gierke's System of the Stars.
LYE A, THE LYEE, ETC. 95
meaning of Altair, its chief star. It was known to the
classic writers as the bird of Jove and bearer of his
thunder. In its talons it holds the beautiful Gany-
mede, whom Jupiter, desiring for his cup-bearer, sent
this eagle to seize and carry up to heaven. Occasion-
ally the name Antinous is given to this youth, while
Ganymede is recognized in Aquarius, the zodiacal con-
stellation. The former interpretation is preferable as
being that usually adopted in literature. Tennyson in
his Palace of Art describes the picture representing
Or else flushed Ganymede, his rosy thigh
Half bui'ied in the eagle's down,
Sole as a flying star shot through the sky
Above the pillared town.
CYGNUS, THE SWAN
Down the broad galactic river,
A^'here tlie star-beams dance and quiver,
Flies the swan with grace transcendent,
Bearing on its wings resplendent
Sacred cross of death and glory,
Emblem of redemption's story. Anon
Cycnus. — This beautiful constellation, lying just east
of Lyra and directly in the Milky Way, represents
niythologically Cycnus ^ (as properly written), the son
of Mars and most intimate friend of Phaethon. When
the latter, after his disastrous drive in the chariot of
the sun, was hurled into the river Eridanus, Cycnus
lingered about the spot, and frequently plunged beneath
the flood, seeking some relic of his lost companion.
But the gods finally grew angry and changed him into
a swan ; and therefore it is that this bird " ever sails
about in the most pensive manner, and frequently
thrusts its head into the water." Ovid thus describes
this metamorphosis :
1 The constellation is written Cygnus, the mythological name Cycnus.
GYGNUS, THE SWAN 97
His voice was lessened as lie tried to speak,
And issued through a long extended neck :
His hair transforms to down ; his fingers meet
In skinny films, and shape his oary feet :
From both his sides the wings and feathers break.
And from his mouth proceeds a blunted beak :
All Cycnus now into a swan was turned.
The Northern Cross. — The principal stars of Cygnus
form the northern cross, so well known to all star-
gazers. Exquisitely does Lowell picture its place
among the constellations that preside over the open-
ing of the New Year :
Orion kneeling in his starry niche,
The Lyre whose strings give music audible
To holy ears, and countless splendors more,
Crowned by the blazing Cross high-hung o'er all.
Albireo and 6i Cygni. — The star Albireo in the Swan's
head is one of the most lovely objects in the sky,
its components being golden and azure, and so well
separated that a very small telescope will reveal them.
The faint pair lying on the left wing, known as 61
Cygni, is deserving of notice, not so much from any
intrinsic interest, as because " these little suns were the
first of all the starry host to reveal to Bessel the secret
98 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
of their distance." ' Light requires nearly ten years to
travel thence, so that we do not perceive them as they
now are, but as they were a decade ago. Yet, as Webb
finely remarks, " not one in a million of the stars but
lies at a distance incalculably exceeding that of 61
Cygni. How vast must be the dimensions of this great
universe ! "What a temple for the Creator's glory ! "
1 Webb's Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes.
PEGASUS, THE WINGED HORSE
I dreamt that I flew through the vaulted blue,
Like Pegasus of old,
That winged steed of heavenly breed,
Which bore BeUerophon bold.
Still to the eastward we come to Pegasus marked by
the well-known square. The northeastern star of this
square, however, lies in the head of Andromeda, and
may conveniently serve to locate that constellation.
All doubtless are familiar with the story of Pegasus,
so charmingly told in Hawthorne's Wonder Book.
Although he sprang from the blood of the hateful
Gorgon, he seems nevertheless to have been an amiable
steed. Being presented by Minerva to the Muses, he
took up his abode on Mount Helicon, where with a
blow of his hoof he opened up that fountain at which
every poet must drink ere he can soar on Pegasean
wing. Here it was that BeUerophon caught him with
Minerva's golden bridle ; but after slaying the Chimgera,
this hero grew too presumptuous and attempted to fly
100 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
up to heaven, Avhereupon Jupiter sent a gadfly which
stung Pegasus and caused him to throw his rider.
With Pegasus we have completed our review of the
principal constellations north of the zodiac. Among
those that lie south of this circle only a few are of
sufl&cient interest to claim our attention. The region
of the sky about the south pole was, of course, practi-
cally unknown to the classic astronomers, and most of
its star-figures are of recent date.
Begirt with many a blazing star
Stood the great giant Algebar,
Orion, hunter of the beast !
His sword hung gleaming by his side,
And on his arm the lion's hide
Scattered across the midnight air
The golden radiance of its hair.
Longfellow — Occultation of Orion.
Brilliancy of Orion. — The question is often asked
whether the atmosphere in winter is not clearer than
in summer, since the heavens never appear so brilliant
as on a crisp frosty night. The reason of this does not
lie in the transparency of the air. Partly no doubt it
is due to its disturbed condition which causes the stars
to flash and twinkle, but chiefly to the fact that the
winter constellations outrank in splendor those that
preside with their milder radiance over the summer
Supreme in the glittering skies of our northern
winter reigns Orion. He is mentioned several times
in the Bible, the reference in the ninth chapter of Job
102 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
to "the Seven stars, Orion and the Pleiades, and the
chambers of the south," being intended as a compre-
hensive description of the whole starry heavens, the
Seven stars, or Great Bear, representing the arctic skies,
Orion and the Pleiades, the equatorial regions, and the
chambers of the south, that portion near the south pole
which to a northern observer is closed or concealed.
Threatening Character. — Orion's huge size and threat-
ening posture, combined with the stormy character of
the time of year when he rises, gave him an extremely
evil reputation with the classic writers, who hurled
against him all sorts of ugly invective, — rainy, tem-
pestuous, destructive to sailors and altogether "horrid"!
According to Polybius the loss of the Roman fleet in
the first Punic war was due " to the obstinacy of the
consuls, who, despite of the pilots, would sail between
the risings of Orion and Sirius, always a squally time."
Milton also in Paradise Lost alludes to the boisterous
character of this constellation :
When with fierce winds Orion armed
Hath Yexed the Red sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry.
Mythology. -^ Mythologically, he was a hunter or
warrior-giant, though the legends about him are
conflicting. One account made him the lover of Merope,
daughter of CEnopion, king of Chios. After Orion had
rendered the king most valuable service by clearing
his realm of wild beasts, he demanded Merope's hand
in marriage, but was refused. Thereupon he attempted
to take her by force. CEnopion, enraged, made him
drunk, and having put out his eyes, cast him on the
seashore. Following the sound of the hammer, the
giant made his way to Vulcan's forge and besought his
help. Vulcan gave him the services of a cy clops to be
his guide, and Orion, placing him on his shoulders,
proceeded to the east, and there meeting the sun-god,
was restored to sight, as Longfellow relates :
Reeled as of yore beside the sea,
When blinded by QSnopion
He sought the blacksmith at his forge,
And climbing up the narrow gorge,
Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.
According to another story he was the companion of
Diana, who fell in love with him and would have
married him, had not her brother Apollo put a stop to
the mad project by causing the Scorpion to sting him.
At the intercession of the goddess, however, he was
104 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
placed in the sky opposite to the Scorpion, so that he
might escape in the west as that loathsome reptile lifted
its head above the eastern horizon. Aratus refers to
this arrangement in his poem :
When the Scorpion comes
Orion flies to the utmost end of earth.
Culminating on the meridian the giant is upright,
but as he approaches the horizon his position becomes
more and more inclined. Tennyson, with his custom-
ary accuracy, writes in Locksley Hall of
Great Orion sloping slowly to the west.
In Maud, too, he thus beautifully pictures the western
sky at the opening of spring :
It fell at a time of year
When the face of the night is fair on the dewy downs,
And the shining daffodil dies, and the Charioteer
And starry Gemini hang like glorious crowns
Over Orion's grave low down in the west.
The Stars of Orion. — Of the brilliants in this constel-
lation, Betelguese, meaning "armpit," marks the right
shoulder ; Rigel, sometimes called Algebar, the left
foot; while Bellatrix, the female warrior or Amazon
star, lies on the left shoulder. The three stars in the
belt constitute the golden yardarm of seamen, and the
yardstick or ell of tradesmen, besides being popularly
known as the Magi or three wise men from the Orient,
and the three Marys. Tennyson in The Princess
describes them as
Those tl>ree stars of the airy Giant's zone
That glitter burnished by the frosty dark.
The celestial equator now passes just above the
northern one of the three. In 1807 the University of
Leipsic resolved that the stars belonging to the belt
and sword of Orion should in future be called Napoleon.
As Thomas Hood two centuries earlier had told us that
" this fellow was placed in heaven to teach men not to
be too confident in their own strength," there was,
perhaps, very good ground for the proposed change of
appellation ; but the new name has never been adopted
by the map-makers.
Great Nebula of Orion. — The telescope does not reveal
in all the heavens a more wonderful object than the
great nebula lying just below Orion's belt. It is fre-
quently called the fish-mouth nebula, from the rude
resemblance to the head of some marine monster. Its
brilliancy is not uniform, and the glare of the brighter
106 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
portions contrasts strongly with, the darker regions,
giving one a " sensation of looking through into the
luminous regions of illimitable space." Sir John
Herschel, viewing it through his twenty-foot reflector,
compares it to a curdling liquid, or to the breaking up
of a mackerel sky. Involved in it is the fine multiple
star, known as the trapezium from the configuration of
its four principal components.
CANIS MAJOR AND CANIS MINOR, THE GREAT
AND LITTLE DOGS
Th' autumnal star, whose brilliant ray
Shines eminent amid the depth of night,
Whom men the dog-star of Orion call.
LoKD Derby — Translation of Homer'' s Iliad.
Sirius, the Dog Star. — Homer's oft-mentioned Dog
was simply the star Sirius, our present constellation
being the creation of a later date. In another passage
of the Iliad besides the one above quoted, Sirius is
alluded to as
The star of autumn laved by ocean's wave.
The time of year intended by Homer was no doubt
the latter part of July or the first of August when
Sirius rose just before the sun ; but we may still very
properly call it autumn's star, for late in the fall, when
the wind has stripped the trees and the hoarfrost
sparkles on the ground, Sirius, large and brilliant,
begins to loom in the evening sky.
No other star visible in our northern latitudes re-
motely rivals Sirius in splendor. By the Arabs it was
108 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
known as Al Shira, the shining one ; in fact, the word
Sirius signifies in the Greek "scorching" or "spark-
ling." We can scarcely wonder that the ancients
attributed the burning heat of summer to the com-
mingling of the rays of this star with those of the
sun, their canicular or dog days being reckoned from
its heliacal rising. It thus came to pass that, although
so beautiful, it acquired a very evil reputation, all the
discomforts and ills of the torrid season being ascribed
to its influence. Pope's translation of Homer's lines.
Terrific glory ! for his burning breath
Taints the red air with fevers, plagues, and death,
well expresses the popular estimate in classic days of
the noxious effects of this glowing orb.
The Nile Star. — In Egypt, hqwever, Sirius bore a very
different character. Some five thousand years ago,
before precession had carried it so far to the eastward,
it rose with the sun at the time of the summer solstice,
and hence heralded the approach of the Nile inundation.
It was, therefore, naturally held in great reverence as the
Nile star, and had many temples dedicated to its worship.
Sir Edwin Arnold in his Egyptian Princess voices the
unquestioned belief in the star's potent influence :
CANIS MAJ^OK ANTD CANIS MINOR 109
And ever when the Star of Kneph has brought the summer
And the Nile rises fast and full along the thirsty ground,
They bear her from her rock-hewn tomb to where the sun's
May linger on the close-bound eyes were once so glad and
And strew palm clusters on her breast, while gray-haired
Of the high Egyptian lady who loved the sun so well.
Twinkling of Sirius. — Not only is Sirius the most
luminous of all the fixed stars, it also exhibits in the
most marked manner the phenomenon of scintillation
or twinkling. This is due both to its brightness and to
its low altitude as seen from northern stations. While
it is in reality an intensely white star, its twinkling
gives the impression of a many-colored, changeful light,
as Tennyson most correctly and beautifully describes it
in The Princess :
The fiery Sirius alters hue,
And bickers into red and emerald.
The scientific explanation of twinkling is found in
the composite nature of the ray of light which proceeds
from the star, and which in its passage through the
atmosphere becomes more or less broken up.
no THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
The Little Dog, Procyon. — Canis Minor, the other
hound of Orion, was known to the Greeks as Procyon,
a term which we now apply only to the principal star.
It means "precursor of the Dog," that is, of Sirius.
While it lies somewhat to the east, it is also much
farther north than the Greater Dog, and hence with
us rises first. When, however, Sirius comes to the
western horizon, Procyon is almost directly above it
towards the zenith.
The Companions of Sirius and Procyon. — Both Sirius
and Procyon have in recent years been found to be
double. The companion in each case, though heavy
enough to sway the brighter star to a quite perceptible
degree, is a body of very inferior luster. Thus Sirius
has only twice the mass of its companion, yet it gives
ten thousand times as much light. In the Procyon
system the disparity between mass and luminosity is
even greater ; while in Algol and other stars of its
class the satellite seems to be entirely dark. Discov-
eries like these suggest the possibility that the telescope
fails to reveal the full extent of the universe, and that
the conjectures of Laplace and Bessel of the existence
of countless orbs, grand but invisible, may yet prove
ARGO NAVIS, THE SHIP ARGO
Then with a whistling breeze did Juno fill the sail,
And Argo, self-impelled, shot swift before the gale.
Elton — Translation of Onomacritus.
Only a portion of this constellation rises above the
horizon in middle latitudes, its principal star, Canopus,
first becoming visible on the southern border of the
United States. Yet it was one of the original forty-
eight asterisms, well known in classic times.
The Legend. — This- ship was built for Jason, the
leader of the Argonautic expedition which sailed from
Greece to Colchis in quest of the golden fleece. Pallas
Athene herself took a hand in its construction and
placed in the vessel's prow a timber from the speaking
oak of Dodona, which should serve to guide and warn
the adventurous chieftains who formed the crew. One
of the most thrilling adventures on the outward voyage
was the passing of the Symplegades, or clashing rocks.
These guarded the entrance to the Euxine sea ; and,
tossing back and forth, were almost sure to crush any
boat that attempted to sail between them. By the
112 THE STAKS IN SONG AND LEGEND
advice of Phineus the Argonauts first let go a dove,
vphich skimmed through in safety, losing only some of
the feathers of her tail. Taking advantage of the
rebound, they bent to their oars and barely succeeded
in effecting the passage before the rocks again crashed
together. The stern of their vessel, indeed, did not
wholly escape, but vi^as more or less broken ; and so it
is represented on the maps, though some writers insist
that it is the bow of the ship that is wanting. This,
however, is evidently a mistake. On Bayer's map of
1639, we have a very interesting delineation of the
passage of the swinging rocks, the Argo being pictured
as just emerging, with her stern torn ofi: by their deadly
impact. After the fortunate completion of the voyage
the vessel was placed in the sky by Athene. If, as
many hold, this story contains a substratum of truth, and
actually brings down to us the account, highly colored
of course, of the first important commercial expedition
to what was then the far east, we may well look upon
the celestial Argo with more than ordinary interest.
Canopus. — Canopus, the lucida of this constellation,
which lies just below our horizon where the prow of
the Argo cuts the water, is, after Sirius, the brightest
star in the heavens. Canopus was the chief pilot of
AEGO NAVIS, THE SHIP ARGO 113
the fleet of Menelaus. On the return voyage after the
Trojan war, they landed in Egypt, where Canopus died
and was buried. His name was given to the city
founded upon the site, and to this star which rose just
above the horizon. This, at least, is the popular deri-
vation of the name as given by Plutarch.
Long, long before this visit of the Grecian warriors
to the shores of Egypt, which thus resulted in naming
the star, the magnificent orb itself was known and
worshiped on the banks of the Nile. Lockyer con-
cludes that several temples in Upper Egypt were not
unlikely oriented to its setting more than eight thou-
sand years ago ! That it held an important place in the
early cult of that country there can be no doubt. The
reference to it in Moore's Lalla Rookh will be recalled
in this connection :
As on some black and troublous night
The Star of Egypt, whose proud light
Never hath beamed on those who rest
In the white islands of the west,
Burns through the storm, with looks of flame
That put heaven's cloudier eyes to shame.
It might also well be designated the Desert Star,
for not only was it much used by the wild, wandering
114 THE STAES IX SONG AND LEGEND
tribes in tracking their way through the pathless
wastes, and in regulating their calendar, but it
naturally became an object of worship among them.
Carlyle in Heroes and Hero- Worship intimates how
this might be :
" Canopus, shining down over the desert with its
blue, diamond brightness (that wild, blue, spirit-like
brightness, far brighter than we ever witness here),
would pierce into the heart of the wild Ishmaelitish
man, whom it was guiding through the solitary wastes
there. To his wild heart, with all feelings in it, with
no speech for any feeling, it might seem a little eye,
that Canopus, glancing out on him from the great, deep
eternity, revealing the inner splendor to him."
The Argo Nebula. — This grand object is situated
between Argo and Centaurus, in one of the most bril-
liant portions of the Milky Way. " It is not easy,"
says Herschel, " for language to convey a full impres-
sion of the beauty and sublimity of the spectacle which
this nebula offers as it enters the field of view of the
telescope, ushered in as it is by so glorious and innumer-
able a procession of stars, to which it forms a sort of
climax." Miss Gierke strikingly characterizes it as "a
chaotic sea of luminous billows." It is sometimes
ARGO NAVIS, THE SHIP AEGO 115
called the keyhole nebula from a peculiar shaped open-
ing in its brightest part.
Among the small stars that cluster on its border is
one which, though now insignificant, has had a most
surprising history. From the time when Halley first
observed it in 1677, until the early part of the last
century, its light varied irregularly, but never exceeded
that of a second magnitude star. In 1827 it increased
to the first magnitude, and after fluctuating for several
years, finally in 1843 burst put with a splendor rival-
ing that of Sirius. For nearly ten years it maintained
this high rank; then its light slowly waned till 1886,
when it had passed beyond the range of unaided vision.
Its partial recovery at the present time encourages the
belief that its strange career is not yet ended.
CRUX, THE SOUTHERN CROSS
Then did I feel as one who, much perplext,
Led by strange legends and the light of stars
Over long regions of the midnight sand
Beyond the red tract of the pyramids,
Is suddenly drawn to look upon the sky.
From sense of unfamiliar light, and sees.
Revealed against the constellated cope,
The great cross of the south.
Owen Meredith — Queen Guenevere.
Early References. — Although not an ancient constella-
tion and invisible within the boundaries of the United
States, yet the Southern Cross is so universally known
and so remarkable a configuration of stars that it
deserves mention. The earliest reference to it seems
to have been in Dante's great poem, where he speaks of
The rays of the four consecrated stars.
In the lines,
! thou septentrional and widowed site,
Because thou art deprived of seeing these !
he seems to refer to the interesting fact that in early
ages these stars were visible from the greater portion
CRUX, THE SOUTHERN CROSS 117
of tlie northern hemisphere, but through the slow pre-
cessional change gradually shifted southward and sunk
out of sight.
The voyages of discovery of the sixteenth century
brought the constellation into prominence ; and to the
Spanish conquerors of Mexico and South America it
became a token of heaven's approbation of their
endeavors to plant the faith in the wilds of the New
World. Mrs. Hemans' lines in the Cross of the South
beautifully illustrate this sentiment :
But to thee, as thy lode-stars resplendently burn
In their clear depths of blue, with devotion I turn,
Bright Cross of the South ! and beholding thee shine,
Scarce regret the loved land of the olive and vine.
Thou recallest the ages when first o'er the main
My fathers unfolded the ensign of Spain,
And planted their faith in the regions that see
Its imperishing symbol ever blazoned in thee.
Upon the first maps of the southern hemisphere
South America is designated " Terra sancte crucis," the
land of the holy cross, a circumstance still commemo-
rated on certain Brazilian postage stamps where this con-
stellation appears. The same suggestive device may
be seen on a recent issue of New South Wales.
118 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
Use as a Timepiece. — Like the Great Bear to northern
peoples, the Cross is the night-clock of those who dwell
within and beyond the tropics. Its stars are so placed
that when culminating on the meridian it stands very
nearly upright. Humboldt in alluding to this says :
" How often have we heard our guides exclaim in the
savannahs of Venezuela and in the desert extending
from Lima to Truxillo, ' Midnight is past, the Cross
begins to bend ! ' "
A story of the tropics, wherein this constellation fig-
ures, is told for us by Whittier in his Cry of a Lost
Soul. The traveler floating at nightfall through the
gloomy forests of the Amazon is startled by
A cry, as of the pained heart of the wood,
The long, despairing moan of solitude.
The guide crosses himself, and in a frightened whisper
explains that it is the cry of a lost soul, of some infidel
or heretic burning in hell. But the traveler
Lifts to the starry calm of heaven his eyes,
And lo ! rebuking all earth's ominous cries,
The Cross of pardon lights the tropic skies.
THE GALAXY, OR MILKY WAY
A broad and ample road, -whose dust is gold
And pavement stars, as stars to thee appear,
Seen in the galaxy, that milky way.
Milton — Paradise Lost.
The Sky-River. — From time immemorial this circling
zone of light has been likened to a river, being known
anciently as Eridanus, the river of heaven, into which
the burning chariot of the sun was plunged after
Phaethon's mad drive ; often, too, as the shining stream
or river of light, recalling Longfellow's lines :
Torrent of light and river of the air.
Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen,
Like gold and silver sands in some ravine
Where mountain streams have left their channels bare.
Among the orientals it was sometimes the silver
river, " whose fish were frightened by the new moon,
which they imagined to be a hook."
This semblance to a celestial stream is rendered even
more striking where the Galaxy divides into two
branches between Centaurus and Cygnus. Miss Gierke
120 THE STARS IN SONG AND LEGEND
in her System of the Stars says: "Involuntarily the
image presents itself of a great river, forced by an
encounter with a powerful obstacle to throw its waters
into a double channel, lower down merged again into
one. The intervening long strip of islanded rock and
gravel might stand for the great rift between the
branches of the sidereal stratum, which, although to
the eye, owing to the effect of contrast, darker than
the general sky, is in reality nowhere quite free from
nebulous glimmerings. It is encroached upon by
fringes, effusions, and filaments, spanned by bridges of
light, and here and there half filled up by long, narrow,
disconnected masses or pools of nebulae, lying parallel
to the general flow of the stream."
The Path of Souls. — Again the Galaxy is a road or
pathway, our Milky Way being in fact but a transla-
tion of the classic Via lactea. Almost universally this
has been the path by which departing souls reach the
realms of the blessed, as Milton has it.
The way to God's eternal house.
So in the medieval ages it was popularly called "the
way of Rome," because the Roman pontiffs controlled
and guarded the only avenue of approach to the celestial
THE GALAXY, OE MILKY WAY 121
city. The Norsemen knew it as the path to Yalhalla,
up which went the souls of heroes who fell in battle.
The belief of our North American Indians is set forth
in Longfellow's Hiawatha, where
Many things Nokomis taught him
Of the stars that shine in heaven.
Showed the broad white road in heaven,
Pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Eunning straight across the heavens,
Crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.
To the Kingdom of Ponemah,
To the land of the hereafter ;
or in the beautiful Indian Fancy of William Hamilton
Pure leagues of stars from garish light withdrawn
Behind celestial lace-work pale as foam, • —
I think between the midnight and the dawn
Souls pass through you to their mysterious home.
The Winter Street. — With the Swedish peasantry it
is the "Winter Street," probably because, while in
the spring and summer evenings its pale milky light
mingles with the haze of the horizon, in winter it
arches magnificently across the zenith. Miss Edith
122 THE STAES IN SONG AND LEGEND
Matilda Thomas in her short poem of this name
thus describes it :
Silent with star-dust, yonder it lies —
The Winter Street, so fair and so white;
Winding along through the boundless skies,
Down heavenly vale, up heavenly height.
And who are they, all unheard and unseen —
O, who are they, whose blessed feet
Pass over that highway smooth and sheen ?
What pilgrims travel the Winter Street ?
Are they not those whom here we miss
In the ways and the days that are vacant below ?
As the dust of that street their footfalls kiss.
Does it not brighter and brighter grow ?
Jacob's Road. — In Germany a popular title has been
Jakobs Strasse, Jacob's Road, a simUe borrowed from
the ladder of his dream, on which the angels of God
ascend and descend. The same idea occurs elsewhere,
for Longfellow tells us.
The Spaniard sees in thee the pathway where
His patron saint descended in the sheen
Of his celestial armor, on serene
And quiet nights when all the heavens were fair.
THE GALAXY, OR MILKY WAY 123
Very beautiful, noble even, are these fancies, which
find in this luminous track the highway of spirits,
growing, like the path of the just, ever brighter as it
rises above the mists and fogs of this world, up into
the glorious expanses of the ether, till it is lost in the
boundlessness of the celestial realms. But grander
still, shall we not say ? is the reality, the true concep-
tion of this mighty circle of light, which science tells us
is composed of worlds heaped on worlds, suns towering
beyond suns, in a profusion that startles the imagina-
tion and awes the soul. Something of this did Long-
fellow see in the Galaxy :
The white drift of worlds o'er chasms of sable,
The star-dust that is whirled aloft and flies
From the invisible chariot wheels of God.
Allen, R. H., 54, 63
Amazon star, 104
Andromeda, 72, 74, 75
Antiquity of constellations, 23
Aratus, 28, 31, 34, 44, 48, 55, 88, 104
Arcturus, 62, 82, 83
Argonauts, 39, 111, 112
Argo Navis, 111
Ariadne, 85, 86
Arnold, Sir Edwin, 108
Arthur's Wain, 64
Athene, 111, 112
Atlas, 31, 74
Autumn's star, 107
Baal worship, 7, 8
Berenice's Hair, 80
Browning, Elizabeth B., 74
Browning, Robert, 18, 19
Bryant, W. C, 62, 70, 71, 80
Canis Major, 107
THE STAKS IN SONG AND LEGEND
Canis Minor, 110
Capella, 77, 78
Carlyle, Thomas, 114
Castor, 39, 40
Cliambers of tlie south, 102
Charles' Wain, 64
Claws of Scorpio, 25, 50
Gierke, Agnes M., 33, 34, 94, 114,
Cluster in Hercules, 89
Colchis, 7, 29
Coma Berenices, 80
Congreve, William, 43
Constellations, Origin of, 23, 24
Cor Caroli, 83
Cor Leonis, 46
Corona Borealis, 85
Cowley, Abraham, 39
Dante, 57, 116
De Rheita, 81
Desert star, 113, 114
Diana, 13, 16, 103
Dog star, 108
Draco, 77, 88
Druids, 8, 9, 17
Dryden, John, 70
Egyptian temples, 4
Egypt, Star of, 113
Emerson, R. W., 83
Eridanus, 53, 57, 96, 119
Eurydice, 92, 93
Evening Star, 59
Fish-mouth nebula, 105
Golden age, 48
Golden fleece, 29, 111
Great Bear, 61
Great Dipper, 65
Great Dog, 107
Greenwich Observatory, 84
Halley, Edmund, 89, 115
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 99
Hayne, W. H., 121
Helen's lights, 40
Helicon, Mount, 99
Hemans, Felicia, 9, 34, 117
Hercules, 43, 45, 88
Hersohel, Sir John, 49, 53, 81, 106,
Hesperides, 74, 89
Hevelius, Johannes, 82
Homer, 13, 39, 61, 63, 107, 108
Hood, Thomas, 105
Horace, 40, 83
Horus, Myth of, 3, 4
Humboldt, Baron von, 118
Hyades, 31, 32
lucas, 10, 17
Isaiah, 24, 68, 69
Jack and Jill, 15
Jacob's Road, 122
Job, 33, 62, 101
Jonson, Ben, 16
Juno, 43, 61, 62
Kids, 77, 78
Kingsley, Charles, 75
Kneph, Star of, 109
Lady in the Moon, 15, 16
Lampman, Archibald, 37
Landseer, John, 28
Ledsean lights, 39
Little Bear, 67
Little Dog, 110
Little "Wain, 68
Lockyer, Sir J. Norman, 113
Longfellow, H. W., 17, 27, 40, 47,
50, 52, 54, 57, 93, 101, 103, 119,
121, 122, 123
Lowell, J. R., 61, 97
Macaulay, Thomas B., 40
Man in the Moon, 14, 15
Medusa, 74, 76
THE STARS EST SONG AND LEGEND
Meredith, Owen, 39, 116
Merope, 35, 38, 103
Milk dipper, 54
Milky Way, 119
Milton, Jolin, 18, 33, 36, 51, 55, 67,
72, 90, 92, 102, 119, 120
Moon superstitions, 19, 20
Moon worship, 13
Moore, Thomas, 68, 71, 113
Morris, Lewis, 10
Mountain of the north, 68
Miiller, Max, 2
Nebulse in Virgo, 49
Nebula in Andromeda, 76
Nebula in Argo, 114
Nebula in Orion, 105
Nebula in Pleiades, 37, 38
Nebula in Scorpio, 53
New star in Cassiopeia, 73
New star in Scorpio, 53
Nile inundation, 6, 45
Nile star, 108
North American Indians, 17, 63,
Northern Cross, 97
Northern Crown, 85
North Star, 69
Orientation of cathedrals, 11
Orientation of temples, 4-6
Orpheus, 39, 92
Osiris, 3, 4
Ovid, 27, 96
Paul, Apostle, 28, 40
Perseus, 74, 75
Phaethon, 52, 96
Phoebus Apollo, 7, 52
Phcenicians, 7, 67
Pleiad, lost, 34, 35
Pluto, 47, 90, 93
Poe, E. A, 69
Pollux, 39, 40
Pope, Alexander, 88, 108
Quadruple star in Lyra, 94
Queen of Heaven, 13
Ring nebula, 94
Rossetti, Christina, 69
Saint Elmo's lights, 40
Sayce, A. H., 68
Scandinavian sun myths, 9, 10
Schiller, J. C. F. von, 25, 82
Scorpio, 52, 103, 104
Sea Goat, 55
Seaman's star, 70
Selen^, 13, 15
Serviss, G. P., 80
Shakespeare, 64, TO
Shelley, Percy B., 39
Sigourney, Lydia, 32
Southern Cross, 116
Spenser, Edmund, 27, 32, 64, 8(
Star of Bethlehem, 73
Star of Egypt, 113
Stars, Number of, 22, 23
Stonehenge, 8, 9
Sun worship in Egypt, 3, 4
Sun worship in Greece, 6, 7
Sun worship in India, 2
Sun worship in Peru, 10, 11
Swinburne, A. C, 77
Taylor, Bayard, 32
Taylor, B. F., 65
Tennyson, Alfred, 13, 30, 32, 58, 59,
65, 95, 104, 105, 109
Theseus, 85, 86
Thomas, Edith M., 122
Tramontana, 68, 69
Typhon, 3, 4, 56
Ursa Major, 61
XJrsa Minor, 67
Valhalla, 10, 121
Variable star in Argo, 115
Vedas, 2, 34
Venus, 58, 59, 86
Virgil, 30, 50
Weather prognostics, 44
Whittier, J. G., 118
Winter constellations, 101
Winter Street, 121
Young, Charles D., 1
Zodiac, 25, 26