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NYMPHS OF THE VALLEYS AND MOUNTAINS.

NAPÆÆ AND OREADES.

The Napææ were the kind and gentle nymphs of the valleys and glens who appear in the train of Artemis. They are represented as lovely maidens with short tunics, which, reaching only to the knee, do not impede their swift and graceful movements in the exercise of the chase. Their pale brown tresses are fastened in a knot at the back of the head, whence a few stray curls escape over their shoulders. The Napææ are shy as the fawns, and quite as frolicsome.

The OREADES, or mountain nymphs, who are the principal and constant companions of Artemis, are tall, graceful maidens, attired as huntresses. They are ardent followers of the chase, and spare neither the gentle deer nor the timid hare, nor indeed any animal they meet with in their rapid course. Wherever their wild hunt goes the shy Napææ are represented as hiding behind the leaves, whilst their favourites, the fawns, kneel tremblingly beside them, looking up beseechingly for protection from the wild huntresses; and even the bold Satyrs dart away at their approach, and seek safety in flight.

There is a myth connected with one of these mountain nymphs, the unfortunate Echo. She became enamoured of a beautiful youth named Narcissus, son of the river-god Cephissus, who, however, failed to return her love, which so grieved her that she gradually pined away, becoming a mere shadow of her former self, till, at length, nothing remained of her except her voice, which henceforth gave back, with unerring fidelity, every sound that was uttered in the hills and dales. Narcissus himself {170} also met with an unhappy fate, for Aphrodite punished him by causing him to fall in love with his own image, which he beheld in a neighbouring fountain, whereupon, consumed with unrequited love, he wasted away, and was changed into the flower which bears his name.

The LIMONIADES, or meadow nymphs, resemble the Naiades, and are usually represented dancing hand in hand in a circle.

The HYADES, who in appearance are somewhat similar to the Oceanides, are cloudy divinities, and, from the fact of their being invariably accompanied by rain, are represented as incessantly weeping.

The MELIADES were the nymphs who presided over fruit-trees.

Before concluding this subject, attention should be drawn to the fact that, in more modern times, this beautiful idea of animating all nature in detail reappears under the various local traditions extant in different countries. Thus do the Oceanides and Nereides live again in the mermaids, whose existence is still believed in by mariners, whilst the flower and meadow nymphs assume the shape of those tiny elves and fairies, who were formerly believed to hold their midnight revels in every wood and on every common; indeed, even at the present day, the Irish peasantry, especially in the west, firmly believe in the existence of the fairies, or "good people," as they are called.



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