The upward spiral of desire and fear: Apollo and Daphne

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne (1622-1625) at Galleria Borghese in Rome.

But even as he made his plaint, the Nymph with timid footsteps fled from his approach, and left him to his murmurs and his pain. Lovely the virgin seemed as the soft wind exposed her limbs, and as the zephyrs fond fluttered amid her garments, and the breeze fanned lightly in her flowing hair. She seemed most lovely to his fancy in her flight; and mad with love he followed in her steps, and silent hastened his increasing speed. As when the greyhound sees the frightened hare flit over the plain:—With eager nose outstretched, impetuous, he rushes on his prey, and gains upon her till he treads her feet, and almost fastens in her side his fangs; but she, whilst dreading that her end is near, is suddenly delivered from her fright; so was it with the god and virgin: one with hope pursued, the other fled in fear; and he who followed, borne on wings of love, permitted her no rest and gained on her, until his warm breath mingled in her hair. Her strength spent, pale and faint, with pleading eyes she gazed upon her father’s waves and prayed, “Help me my father, if thy flowing streams have virtue! Cover me, O mother Earth! Destroy the beauty that has injured me, or change the body that destroys my life.” Before her prayer was ended, torpor seized on all her body, and a thin bark closed around her gentle bosom, and her hair became as moving leaves; her arms were changed to waving branches, and her active feet as clinging roots were fastened to the ground – her face was hidden with encircling leaves. (Ovid, Metamorphoses, I, 525)

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