oil on canvas (50 x 100 cm)
Ovid, Metamorphoses book VIII.
 Now Lucifer unveiled the glorious day, and as the session of the night dissolved, the cool east wind declined, and vapors wreathed the moistened valleys. Veering to the south the welcome wind gave passage to the sons of Aeacus, and wafted Cephalus on his returning way, propitious; where before the wonted hour, they entered port. King Minos, while the fair wind moved their ship, was laying waste the land of Megara. He gathered a great army round the walls built by Alcathous, where reigned in splendor King Nisus—mighty and renowned in war—upon the center of whose hoary head a lock of purple hair was growing.—Its proved virtue gave protection to his throne.
 Six times the horns of rising Phoebe grew, and still the changing fortune of the war was in suspense; so, Victory day by day between them hovered on uncertain wings. Within that city was a regal tower on tuneful walls; where once Apollo laid his golden harp; and in the throbbing stone the sounds remained. And there, in times of peace the daughter of king Nisus loved to mount the walls and strike the sounding stone with pebbles: so, when the war began, she often viewed the dreadful contest from that height; until, so long the hostile camp remained, she had become acquainted with the names, and knew the habits, horses and the arms of many a chief, and could discern the signs of their Cydonean quivers. More than all, the features of King Minos were engraved upon the tablets of her mind. And when he wore his helmet, crested with gay plumes, she deemed it glorious; when he held his shield shining with gold, no other seemed so grand; and when he poised to hurl the tough spear home, she praised his skill and strength; and when he bent his curving bow with arrow on the cord, she pictured him as Phoebus taking aim,—but when, arrayed in purple, and upon the back of his white war horse, proudly decked with richly broidered housings, he reined in the nervous steed, and took his helmet off, showing his fearless features, then the maid, daughter of Nisus, could control herself no longer; and a frenzy seized her mind. She called the javelin happy which he touched, and blessed were the reins within his hand. She had an impulse to direct her steps, a tender virgin, through the hostile ranks, or cast her body from the topmost towers into the Gnossian camp. She had a wild desire to open to the enemy the heavy brass-bound gates, or anything that Minos could desire.
 And as she sat beholding the white tents, she cried, “Alas! Should I rejoice or grieve to see this war? I grieve that Minos is the enemy of her who loves him; but unless the war had brought him, how could he be known to me? But should he take me for a hostage? That might end the war—a pledge of peace, he might keep me for his companion. O, supreme of mankind! she who bore you must have been as beautiful as you are; ample cause for Jove to lose his heart. O, happy hour! If moving upon wings through yielding air, I could alight within the hostile camp in front of Minos, and declare to him my name and passion! Then would I implore what dowry he could wish, and would provide whatever he might ask, except alone the city of my father. Perish all my secret hopes before one act of mine should offer treason to accomplish it. And yet, the kindness of a conqueror has often proved a blessing, manifest to those who were defeated. Certainly the war he carries on is justified by his slain son. He is a mighty king, thrice strengthened in his cause. Undoubtedly we shall be conquered, and, if such a fate awaits our city, why should he by force instead of my consuming love, prevail to open the strong gates? Without delay and dreadful slaughter, it is best for him to conquer and decide this savage war. Ah, Minos, how I fear the bitter fate should any warrior hurl his cruel spear and pierce you by mischance, for surely none can be so hardened to transfix your breast with purpose known. Oh, let her love prevail to open for his army the great gates. Only the thought of it, has filled her soul; she is determined to deliver up her country as a dowry with herself, and so decide the war!
 "But what avails this idle talk. A guard surrounds the gates, my father keeps the keys, and he alone is my obstruction, and the innocent account of my despair. Would to the Gods I had no father! Is not man the God of his own fortune, though his idle prayers avail not to compel his destiny? Another woman crazed with passionate desires, which now inflame me, would not hesitate, but with a fierce abandon would destroy whatever checked her passion. Who is there with love to equal mine? I dare to go through flames and swords; but swords and flames are not now needed, for I only need my royal father's lock of purple hair. More precious than fine gold, it has a power to give my heart all that it may desire.”
 While Scylla said this, night that heals our cares came on, and she grew bolder in the dark. And now it is the late and silent hour when slumber takes possession of the breast. Outwearied with the cares of busy day; then as her father slept, with stealthy tread she entered his abode, and there despoiled, and clipped his fatal lock of purple hair. Concealing in her bosom the sad prize of crime degenerate, she at once went forth a gate unguarded, and with shameless haste sped through the hostile army to the tent of Minos, whom, astonished, she addressed: “Only my love has led me to this deed. The daughter of King Nisus, I am called the maiden Scylla. Unto you I come and offer up a power that will prevail against my country, and I stipulate no recompense except yourself. Take then this purple hair, a token of my love.—Deem it not lightly as a lock of hair held idly forth to you; it is in truth my father's life.” And as she spoke she held out in her guilty hand the prize, and begged him to accept it with her love. Shocked at the thought of such a heinous crime, Minos refused, and said, “O execrable thing! Despised abomination of our time! May all the Gods forever banish you from their wide universe, and may the earth and the deep ocean be denied to you! So great a monster shall not be allowed to desecrate the sacred Isle of Crete, where Jupiter was born.”
 So Minos spoke. Nevertheless he conquered Megara, (so aided by the damsel's wicked deed) and as a just and mighty king imposed his own conditions on the vanquished land. He ordered his great fleet to tarry not; the hawsers were let loose, and the long oars quickly propelled his brazen-pointed ships.—When Scylla saw them launching forth, observed them sailing on the mighty deep, she called with vain entreaties; but at last, aware the prince ignored her and refused to recompense her wickedness, enraged, and raving, she held up her impious hands, her long hair streaming on the wind,—and said: “Oh, wherefore have you flown, and left behind the author of your glory. Oh, wretch! wretch to whom I offered up my native land, and sacrificed my father! Where have you now flown, ungrateful man whose victory is both my crime and virtue? And the gift presented to you, and my passion, have these not moved you? All my love and hope in you alone! Forsaken by my prince, shall I return to my defeated land? If never ruined it would shut its walls against me.—Shall I seek my father's face whom I delivered to all-conquering arms? My fellow-citizens despise my name; my friends and neighbors hate me; I have shut the world against me, only in the hope that Crete would surely welcome me;—and now, he has forbidden me.
 "And is it so I am requited by this thankless wretch! Europa could not be your mother! Spawn of cruel Syrtis! Savage cub of fierce Armenian tigress;—or Charybdis, tossed by the wild South-wind begot you! Can you be the son of Jupiter? Your mother was not ever tricked by the false semblance of a bull. All that story of your birth is false! You are the offspring of a bull as fierce as you are! Let your vengeance fall upon me, O my father Nisus, let the ruined city I betrayed rejoice at my misfortunes—richly merited—destroy me, you whom I have ruined;—I should perish for my crimes! But why should you, who conquered by my crime, abandon me? The treason to my father and my land becomes an act of kindness in your cause. That woman is a worthy mate for you who hid in wood deceived the raging bull, and bore to him the infamy of Crete. I do not wonder that Pasiphae preferred the bull to you, more savage than the wildest beast. Alas, alas for me! Do my complaints reach your unwilling ears? Or do the same winds waft away my words that blow upon your ships, ungrateful man?—Ah, wretched that I am, he takes delight in hastening from me. The deep waves resound as smitten by the oars, his ship departs; and I am lost and even my native land is fading from his sight. Oh heart of flint! you shall not prosper in your cruelty, and you shall not forget my sacrifice; in spite of everything I follow you! I'll grasp the curving stern of your swift ship, and I will follow through unending seas.”
 And as she spoke, she leaped into the waves, and followed the receding ships—for strength from passion came to her. And soon she clung unwelcome, to the sailing Gnossian ship. Meanwhile, the Gods had changed her father's form and now he hovered over the salt deep, a hawk with tawny wings. So when he saw his daughter clinging to the hostile ship he would have torn her with his rending beak;—he darted towards her through the yielding air. In terror she let go, but as she fell the light air held her from the ocean spray; her feather-weight supported by the breeze; she spread her wings, and changed into a bird. They called her “Ciris” when she cut the wind, and “Ciris”—cut-the-lock—remains her name.