The Little Bear

The Little Bear, whose form is in heaven,
Of stars that shine, it’s in number seven.
Some say her name was Cynosura, nurse
Of Zeus; such is the tale that they rehearse:
A nymph of Ida was she from her birth,
Of most uncommon virtue, beauty, worth.
She nursed the king when he was but a child;
For this the king of heaven on her smiled.
He placed her with the stars in heaven’s dome,
Where she, with them, could nightly shine and roam.
How great in strength was she to nurse the god,
Who scours all earth and heaven with his rod.
But others call her Helike; the name,
Though different, still speaks of the very same.
The god shows honour, always, where it’s due,
And makes his servants live each night anew.

The Great Bear

Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, born
To revel in the hunt, to Artemis sworn:
But Zeus looked down from heaven and beheld,
And saw your beauty, and his desire swelled,
And in his cunning, he took a disguise,
Appearing as the goddess in your eyes.
By force he took you, but you did not blame,
Till the day when you couldn’t hide your shame;
For when your belly was heavy with child,
Artemis beheld, and with fury wild,
Demanded why you turned from devotion,
But you replied, heavy with emotion,
That the goddess was guilty of the deed;
From her you had received the shameful seed.
The goddess, then, was filled with awful rage,
Which none could turn, to cause her to assuage
Her wrath; so she turned you into a bear,
And suffered not a mortal soul to dare
To speak a lie, and the divine defame,
Lest evil souls presume to do the same.
And, after this you bore Arcas, a son,
And he grew up, and after you did run;
And both of you were taken in a wood
By the Aetolians, who thought it good
To offer you up as a gift to Zeus;
Their intention you quickly did deduce.
The temple of Lycaean Zeus was near;
To it you fled for refuge in your fear,
And Arcas came behind you in your flight:
Zeus, who sat above, looked down from his height,
And knew himself of this to be the cause;
Then, since he’s just and right in all his laws,
He snatched you up and placed you in the sky,
And then he took your son and set him by,
To follow you among the stars each night,
And never from the heavens to alight.
For, Tethys, wife of Ocean, will not let
You enter in, and so you never set;
For Hera, in her wrath, was filled with hate,
So Tethys would not let you cross her gate;
For, she was Hera’s nurse, and loves her so:
She will not suffer you to sink below.
You wander nightly in your northern home,
Above, in heaven’s starry nighttime dome.


Boötes, farmer, driver of the ox,
Who tilled the Earth instead of keeping flocks;
He was Demeter’s child, a demigod,
But mortals raised him to work and till the sod,
To turn a field of wild grass into such
As would when planted with wheat bring forth much.
But not Boötes only Demeter had,
For she bore twins and birthed another lad;
These two, they worked a farm, and then they went
To hunt and fish each day till they were spent.
Now, Plutus was Boötes’ brother’s name,
He had great wealth, but would not share the same;
And so Boötes tilled the land to feed
Himself; in season planted he the seed;
And though each year, it sprang forth and grew,
The work was heavy and exhausting too:
But then Boötes’ ingenuity,
Devised a way that with facility
The work could be performed; with a device
But little labour from him would then suffice:
This thing was called the plow, and bread was earned
When oxen were yoked, and the land was turned.
Demeter learned of this deed of her son,
Of the fame among men that he had won;
And so she stretched her hand down from on high,
And plucked her son and placed him in the sky.
A constellation, he now hunts the Bear,
Pursuing it all year, through the nightly air;
When he has struck Ursula, in the fall,
When Persephone first hears Hades’ call,
Then turn the leaves of trees to red with blood,
Which fall from Ursula as a gory flood:
But when in spring the Bear rises again,
Boötes chases him across heaven’s main;
Demeter’s son enjoys his greatest love,
To hunt a starry foe in the dome above.