Of Apollo the swan sings as he alights upon the banks of the eddying River Peneios; with clear voice and to the beating of his wings the swan sings of him. And of Apollo, the minstrel, holding the lyre in his hands, sings first and last. He and Artemis, his sister, were the children of Leto and Zeus. Long did Leto wander over the earth, trying to find a place where she could give birth to her children, for Hera, the great spouse of Zeus, was angry and withheld all help from her. At last she came to Delos and begged of that island to grant her a place where she might be delivered of her burthen. And Delos, that little
island, said, "Gladly, Lady Leto, would I give a place for the birth of your children. I who am little and ill-spoken of by men on account of my hard and rocky soil would be honoured greatly should their birth take place on any lap of my lands. But I have fear, too--I fear lest your children should become ashamed of their birth-place, and overturn me, and thrust me down into the depths of the sea, and have the strange and ugly creatures of the deep make their lairs on me--sea-lions haunting my vales and not human beings. But all should be well, Goddess, if you would take a great oath that your son shall build a temple upon my land." Leto took an oath by Styx--the oath that the Gods take and may be broken never--that her son should have his temple built upon the island.
So Leto's children were born on Delos, that little island--her twin children, Apollo and Artemis. Although Hera withheld all help many of the Goddesses were present at the birth. They took Apollo and washed him in sweet water; they clothed him in white and they put a golden band about him. And Themis, one of the elder Goddesses, gave him ambrosia and nectar, the food of the immortal Gods.
As soon as he had tasted that divine food the infant sprang from the arms of his nurse. He spoke, and all Delos blossomed and gleamed with golden light. He took into his hands the bow and the lyre. Later he received from Hephaistos a quiver of arrows. With these arrows, shot from his silver bow, he slew Python, the huge dragon that was the offspring of Earth. He slew Typhon, too--Typhon, the monster that had no likeness to anything that the Gods had brought into being.
Leaving there the dead and sprawling monster, he went into the lovely Vale of Tempe. There he saw Daphne; Earth was her mother, her father was Peneios, the River. Her hair was unbound as she ran down the slopes of the Mountain Ossa. She saw him standing upon a peak, his silver bow across his shoulder, with the light striking upon his quiver. She knew him for the most beautiful of the Olympians. But when he called to her she fled from him, for she had vowed that no God nor no man should possess her. She ran as a deer runs. Apollo followed her. Down the slopes of Ossa the chase went, the God in pursuit of the maiden. Daphne knew all the places; she was swift of foot and she thought she could out-distance her pursuer. On she ran. But
now her breath came in pants; her heart nearly burst within her body. She heard the words that were called out to her, "Stay, O stay! It is not hate that makes me follow you!" She heard his breathing behind her.
Into a soft place she ran, and her feet sank into the ground. "O Mother Earth, make it that I do not have to yield to him," she prayed. Then she felt his breath upon her neck; she felt his hands upon her shoulders. She swayed; she knew herself changed, and rooted in earth, and safe from pursuit. And Apollo found himself holding the twigs and the leaves of a laurel-tree. "Daphne, O Daphne," he cried, as he felt the blood in the body he held flow down and become sap, as he saw the limbs, and the flesh, and the flowing hair become branches and leaves. He mourned for her where he stood. But as he loved Daphne as a maiden so now he loves her as a tree. He plucked the leaves and put them around his brows. And still Apollo wears and still he gives the laurel.