It occured to me that perhaps not everyone is as familiar with the tale of MINTHE as I am. I’ve always appeciated Greek Myth transformation stories, but the downside to many of them is that the transformation cast on the poor woman is rarely deserved. It ruins my ability to enjoy the story.

I find the myth of Minthe to be slightly different, in that the nymph willingly sleeps with Hades despite her knowledge of the vengeful Persephone. Is the punishment equal to the crime? No, but in this case Minthe was punished after taking a course of action she knew might not end well for her. I feel this changes the context of the punishment, as compared to tales where a woman accidentally picks the wrong flower, or just takes the wrong path one morning and runs into a randy god. Minthe’s fate was crafted by her informed and free action.

The story I’d like to tell in my Minthe $.99 Project expands out Minthe’s desires, knowledge, and how she came to seduce Hades. Before I wrote my take on the tale, Fanny Murdaugh Downing published her own version in 1867 as the epic-length Pluto: being the sad story and lamentable fate of the fair Minthe. It is a poem I have fought hard to locate, and fought even harder to make readable. Below you will find the verses I find of particular interest, with the language and text slightly cleaned up by yours truly to improve the reading experience. I hope you enjoy, and I hope I get the chance to share my graphic novel version of Minthe’s transformation.

p.s. – if you want to completely destroy your reading experience read this with the voice and cadence of Boris Karloff’s narration of the “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” TV special in your head.

The Sad Story and Lamentable Fate of the Fair Minthe

original text selection by Fanny Murdaugh Downing (1867)
edits and corrections by Dan Standing (2013)

Minthe laughed and she sported, she danced and she sung,
Till weary and rosy, half breathless, she flung
Her beautiful form on the grass at his feet
And lay panting and roguish, provokingly sweet.
Snatching handfuls of blossoms around her that lay,
She tossed their bright leaves o’er her lover so gray;
Then laughing aloud in her frolicsome glee,
Would bashfully peep in his eyes, just to see
If his trouble was gone, when the passionate fire
That those fierce eyes expressed, made her blushes rise higher,
‘Till yielding to feelings she could not disown,
She trembled and thrilled with an influence unknown.
Then dimly a consciousness over her crept
And, hiding her face in her fingers, she wept
Great tears, which fell down in a glittering tide,
And lay sparkling like dew, on the flowers at her side.
To see her lie there in her beauty and grief,
Nor cheer her, nor proffer some hope of relief.
Was more than King Pluto could possibly do;
So, bending down to her, he tenderly drew
Her head to his bosom, and soothed and caressed
Till her fears were allayed and her griefs were repressed,
And she lay nestled close, in a bashful surprise,
The tears on her eyelids, but smiles in her eyes!
He parted the curls from her beautiful brow
And, uttering a fervent and lover-like vow,
Was placing a seal to attest it, but now
From a space just behind him a voice rang out clear,
In accents familiar and fierce to his ear,
Some words which his majesty cared not to hear.
Quick turning around, he lifted up his head
While his heart sank as cold in his bosom as lead,
For, close by his side, in a tempest of strife,
Which rent her with fury and rage, stood his wife!
She glared for a moment, then uttering a deep.
Half audible curse, with an eagle-like sweep.
She stooped over Minthe and suddenly threw
All round her a baleful and poisonous dew.

“Vile wretch.” she exclaimed. “to the Shades thou shouldst go
By an infamous death, were it not that I know
That to send thee to Hades, is only to give
Thee to Pluto forever. Therefore thou shalt live!
With thy nature all changed,
From thy lover estranged.
With the grass of the field shall thy station be ranged!
The spell has been spoken.
With mystical token,
Through ages unbroken its power shall remain!
And the depths of thy sorrow
Fresh anguish shall borrow,
And each swift-coming morrow shall heighten thy pair
Be this thought ever swelling
Beyond thy compelling,
And mockingly telling
With scoff and with jeer!
Thou art lost to thy lover!
No art can discover
A power to recover,
The charms he held dear!’
Though thv form be not human,
In heart, be thou woman!
Let womanly feeling
Be ever revealing
The woe of thy lover, a woe which will never
By any endeavor
Be able to sever,
The doom I decree thee forever! Forever!!”
She ceased, but with a baleful glare
Looked on the trembling maiden fair.
Who shrinking from th’ impending hurt,
Essayed soft pleading, to avert
The direful storm which round her broke,
And thus in plaintive accents spoke.

“Oh! Sovereign lady, is it well
To blight with an unending spell,
A life, whose sweetness, none may tell!

Majestic lady, life’s fair sun,
Not half his morning course has run;
Oh! Let him shine, ’till day is done !

Such simple pleasures make my life;
It knows not passion’s wrangling strife,
But is with richest raptures rife!

I’ve tried to spend it as I should,
In blessing others, as I could,
And less be happy, than be good.

Oh! Let me live, for life is sweet —
And of itself will quickly fleet,
Too quickly, from my girlish feet!

Alas! Insensible as steel,
Thou wilt not heed my sad appeal.
Thy cruel spell even now I feel.

Then lady, know, although thine art
My form from Pluto may dispart,
I’ll reign forever in his heart!”

She ceased, and through her tender frame,
A fierce convulsive shudder came.
And languidly each lovely limb
Seemed melting into shadows dim;

‘Till as some bubble, bright and fair,
A moment glistens in the air,
Then vanishes in rosy spray.
So softly calm, she passed away.

And on the bosom of the king
Where late her gentle head had rested,
There lay a little fragrant thing,
Whose beauty rare, its worth attested!

Oh! Not more delicate and sweet,
The richest charms of summer roses
Than the ambrosial scents complete,
The new born plant around discloses.

And in the light aerial grace,
With which its tender form was laden.
King Pluto, with delight, could trace
A likeness to the gentle maiden.

Upon the leaves of vivid green
Two diamond dewdrops brightly smiling,
Looked up through their translucent sheen,
Like her sweet eyes, his grief beguiling.

Immortal eyes can sometimes weep;
The King’s o’erflowed beyond prevention.
He cursed his queen with curses deep.
In words no Christian pen can mention!