Iris, The Rainbow Princess
A Greek Legend
Queen Juno was the wife of Jupiter, the great king. She lived with her husband in one of the cloud palaces of the sky, lighted by the moon and stars at night and the sun by day.
Juno had many followers who were ready to do her bidding, but she loved best of all her beautiful maid of honor, the princess Iris. No one dared to use the rainbow but Iris, to whom it had been given by Jupiter. Whenever Iris was in haste to obey Queen Juno's orders, down from the palace she would sail in a chariot drawn by two peacocks, and if she wished she might ride all the way over the rainbow.
Think of the beautiful Iris, wrapped in a fleecy cloud, gliding over this wonderful path in the heavens! Wouldn't it have been a lovely sight to see?
Once Juno sent her all the way to Dreamland to bring to Halcyone, the daughter of Aeolus, a dream of her husband, who was far away on the ocean.
Iris loved to help poor mortals, and tears filled her eyes when she heard how this lonely woman longed to see the one she loved so well.
The clouds caught the tears from the eyes of Iris, and quickly made ready for her the glorious rainbow bridge, reaching from Dreamland to the wonderful Garden of the Gods.
She wrapped herself in a cloud chosen from the sunset and, stepping into her chariot, gave the signal to her birds and drove swiftly down, down to the dim country of the King of Sleep.
Before she could reach the entrance to his palace, she had to drive through field after field of poppies, red as the sunset she had just left in the sky, for poppies give sleep to the people of Dreamland.
Somnus, the King of Sleep, lived in a deep, still cave, so dark that he had never seen the rainbow or the sun. There was no gate; soft black plumes and curtains served as doors. Here in the heart of Dreamland Iris saw all about her strange, beautiful dreams.
There were dreams for children of toys and candies and plays; dreams for men and women of all that they had ever wished for; dreams, dreams, everywhere. But Iris did not like darkness any better than you and I do, and she quickly gave an order for the King of Sleep to send the best dream possible to the anxious Halcyone. Then back she drove over the rainbow bridge, up, up to the bright palace in the clouds.
As soon as she had left the rainbow's track it faded away, but, even before it was out of sight, a dream of her husband had come to Halcyone, and Iris was happy.
Iris loved the water best of all things on earth. She always wore a chain of raindrops for pearls, and a cloud for a robe. She had an army of soldiers by each river bank. Men called the soldiers plants, but their swords were always drawn for Iris, and their stately heads were adorned with her favorite colors.
When you see a group of plants clustered at the water's edge, with their sword-like leaves pointing to the sky, and their great blue flowers looking like a crown, remember that is the flower Iris loved.
Sources And Further Reading
Project Gutenberg Classic Myths Retold by Mary Catherine Judd with drawings entirely from classic sources