Daphne and Apollo

(with apologies to Ovid, Lord Byron, everyone who reads it, etc.)

Apollo thought that love killed Daphne--as if that could be!
In fact, she prayed she'd never have to touch him, and was turned into a tree.
Ovid's narration
Of Daphne's transformation
Suggests there's something to be said against cupidity.

This happened out in Thessaly, an age or two ago.
Apollo, Delos' god, was teasing Cupid for his poky little bow.
The chubby yenta
Sped to Parnassus, sent a
Few arrows flying, smirked, and settled in to watch the show.

One shaft was golden-tipped, a sex machine, like Isaac Hayes,
That made its target hopelessly enamored of the first to meet his gaze.
Cupid's projectile
Flew straight to the erectile
Tissues of brave Apollo, who saw Daphne, and ablaze

With longing, like a harvest field where some dumb schmuck has thrown
A cigarette, or dry pines hit by lightning, he resolved he had to bone
The hunting maiden.
But Daphne was a shade un-
Derwhelmed by the idea, to put it mildly. On her own,

Her plan had been to stay a virgin huntress, like Diana.
But struck by Cupid's second, leaden arrow, it redoubled--she began a
Fervent ramble
Through Dionysic bramble,
And bitterly eschewed the Apollonian banana.

For reasons that I can't explain, her father was a creek--
Apparently this sort of thing was fine if you were ancient and a Greek.
"My darling daughter,
I may be running water,"
He said, "but I want grandkids!" She retorted with a shriek:

"Oh, Papa, please! Diana's daddy helped her stay a virgin,
And I don't ever want to put down roots!" She let her coaxing arms submerge in
Swift Peneus.
"The fellas try to play us,
But trophies of the hunt are all that make our pulses surge." In

The meantime, lust-humbled Apollo's heartsick. Watch him stare
Like a geeky college freshman at those tender limbs, those liquid eyes, that hair,
All wild and messy,
And tied up in a dressy
Little ribbon. How'd it look untied and flowing on her bare

Exquisite shoulders--no, he moans, it's not enough to look.
(Observe how love transforms a bold man to an infant quailing for a cook-
Ie, and requires
An object of desires
Object-ified ad lib--this happens all through Ovid's book.)

"Don't be defined by your virginity, like Wendy Shalit--
You'd like me better if we slept together, to quote Debora Iyall! It
Ought to stir you
To have a god prefer you,"
He cries. "I'm wise, and known for my discriminating palate!"

So now he bounds across the forest like Pepe Le Pew--
"Com'eer, my honee-plom! I weel not hurt you, chere! I am lookeeng for you!"
But Daphne's itching
To ditch the woo he's pitching--
"Thees leetle one! Runneeng from me, she falls and gets boo-boo!"

And Daphne's freaking out, her robes in gorgeous perturbation,
Alerted by his dodgy French, the universal language of predation.
(Frogs, when kissing,
Slip tongues in.) Daphne, hissing
"Oh, shut up!," flees. Not that remorse did not oppose temptation--

A little still he strove, the son of Jove, and much repented,
But ultimately found he'd have to have the fleeing lass to be contented.
Pale and stumbling,
His hot breath on her tumbling
Hair, Daphne's sprinting like a hare whose trail the hounds have scented.

And then she sees her river-dad, and calls out "Daddy, please!
Destroy my beauty, still my grace, and save my virtue!" And, abruptly, she's
No longer limber,
Her limbs transformed to timber--
Apollo, at the water's edge, finds nothing but some trees.

Deluded by the arrow and his standard godly pride,
He figures that she's drowned herself by way of a romantic suicide.
Swooning and sobbing,
He grabs the laurel; throbbing
Beneath its bark, he feels her heartbeat. Ardor undenied,

He plants his lips on trunk and limbs, and reaches up to stroke
Her leafy fronds. The laurel still recoils, disgusted, straining at her yoke--
It seems ignoble
To spend her life immobile
And nonetheless molested, thanks to love's sadistic joke.

Apollo, overjoyed, declares "That's great! A laurel-spray
To grace my temples, to surround my quiver, and to wreathe the lyre I play.
Triumphal marches
Will pass beneath your arches.
Say yes!" And Daphne bows her head--or seems to, anyway.

 

n.b.: the inimitable Amie Strong managed to condense this entire thing to a limerick.