Friday, 10 September 2010

Nymphs, Naiads, Whatever.

Hylas and the Nymphs (1896)
John William Waterhouse 1849-1917

Following on from my earlier theme of mermaids, sirens, and other seductive aquatic maidens, it would be remiss if me not to give some space to the freshwater variety.
in the first picture I posted we saw a hapless maiden being hauled from the depths by a crew of brawny fishermen, and I suspected that her wishes might not be altogether respected. Then I posted Odysseus, bound to the mast, as the seducing sirens board his ship, the fearful crew desperately hoping their wax-plugged ears would save them from being seduced by the maidens' song, and then destroyed. 

Here we see Hylas, the son of King Theiodamas of the Dryopians.... Or maybe not. Heracles, (or Hercules, as he is also known) had an adulterous affair with Theiodamas' queen, and she bore a son,  Hylas, famed for his beauty. 
Heracles and Theiodamas fought, and Theiodamas was killed. Heracles took Hylas, and raised him as his son.
The two of them were part of the crew of the Argos, they were Argonauts, proud heroes, sailing from adventure to adventure. The Argos anchored in a quiet bay at the isle of Mysia, and the captain, Jason, sent some men ashore to find food and fresh water. Hylas was a water boy.  And he happened upon a pool, a beautiful pool of clear water, a pool of lilies, and so, Hylas knelt, to scoop up the water, but, in a moment, he was surrounded by naiads, nymphs of the pool,  they rose up out of the water, entranced by his beauty, oh, those girls had perhaps read about boys like him, in "Naiad's Weekly", they'd giggled and wondered what boys were, you know, really like... maybe they'd had fantasies, maybe they'd taken turns to pretend to be a boy, to swagger, and talk in a deep voice, to kiss, perhaps. 
Oh well. I'm sure you can imagine it.. Teenage naiads. Hormone soup... And suddenly, there he is,  a real boy, the most perfect boy in all the world, kneeling at the edge of their very own pool. So close you could almost... touch.... him. Ahh..
And so they did. They touched him. Looked upon him longingly, they wanted him, this new thing, this boy, so angular, muscly, hard; and he, face burning red, not knowing where to look, oh my, he a boy from a ship filled with big, ugly, smelly men, never  touched a girl before, suddenly surrounded by soft, pink, fragrant, (not to mention pert-bosomed and totally naked) girls, oh my, no wonder he dropped the pitcher, stammering  as strange feelings arose, "But I must go back to the ship.." "No, please, stay a while, stay with us, here, let us loosen your tunic, so, don't shy away, we just want to....."

Look closely at the picture.  Look at how her hands are placed, one at his wrist, the other behind his upper-arm, just above the elbow. Any law-enforcement officer will recognise that grip. It seems innocuous, until he tries to move.  A little push on the wrist, and a tug on the upper arm, and Hylas will topple forward, into their world.

What happened next? All we know is in the official report. The others all returned to the ship, which was by then ready to set sail, Hylas did not. A search party went out, found the empty pitcher by the pool, but no sign of the boy. They searched the entire island.
He was never seen again. What was his fate? We'll never know.

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  1. I have no sympathy for the boy. My favorite Waterhouse Mermaid

  2. Homer and Soubriquet, a winning combination.

    The Sirens' song was Hylas' swan song, then?

    My father was the keeper of the Eddystone light
    He married a mermaid one fine night
    And from this union there came three
    A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me.

    Yo ho HO! The wind blows free -
    Oh, for the life on the rolling sea.
    Amen to the sea critters of mythology. Liked your other posts as well. I wish I had your imagination.

    But I've said that.

  3. Max:"Homer and Soubriquet?" Some say they're one and the same...

    But not the residents of Springfield.

    Swans are not in this pool. "Take me to your Leda"

    So these fishy fellas are out swimming, and suddenly, without warning, one whacked the other an enormous bash across the snout with his tail.
    "Ouch, ouch!" gurgled the hurt one, "that really hurts even though it was an accident"
    "Not really", burbled the perpetrator, "I did it on porpoise!"

    So this Eddystone light story...
    Do you share my strange fascination with these remote castles in the storm?

    Sibling of Porgy, are you Bess?

    My imagination? 'tis a curse, milord, arr, 'tis a curse.

  4. As for you, Red Dirt Girl, no sympathy? What a heartless beast you are. I speculate that he was serially ravished to bits, fed water-lily soup to get his strength back up, then ravished all over again by those naughty naiads. Poor boy. Then as soon as he was fit enough to swim, they'd have him working, fixing stuff about the pool, a squeaking door, moving an inconvenient rock, putting shelves up, installing a row of electricity outlets for their hair-driers, then, just when a normal man might be looking forward to drowsing in his armchair with a glass of cold beer, they'd be at it again, pestering him for sex.
    Poor boy.
    I wonder if Waterhouse spent rather longer than most folk in the bath, with his wife?

    Great song in that link, by the way.XXXXX

  5. Oh those misogynous Greeks... always freaking out over the power of women to ensnare men.
    The other side of the story is the men deep down want them to.

  6. I like the Pre Raphael type stuff.
    He did paint a lot of wimmen mind.

  7. I must admit that if it was me instead of this Hylas I also surely wouldn't have returned to the ship.


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