The Story and Myth

According to Greek mythology, Endymion was a young shepherd who slept in a cave on Mount Latmus. We are also told by Pliny the Elder that he was the first human to observe the movements of the moon. The story goes that one night, Selene the Goddess of the Moon, caught sight of the sleeping youth and resolved forthwith that Endymion should remain exactly thus, and to sleep forever, so that every night she could descend to embrace him.
old painting shows shepherd playing a pipe with moon in sky above
Detail from Endymion by Hans Thoma -1886.
It was a creative and fruitful partnership. They say that he and Selene had fifty daughters. Dreams are important. They are productive and creative - and we use the night wastefully if it's set aside only for sleeping.
illustration of woman in profile, red hair against night sky - Selene, with crescent moon hairpiece
Selene - by William James Neatby

Keats and Wilde

The poet John Keats published his poem ‘Endymion’ in 1818. The opening lines contain some of the best known poetry in the English language:

‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.’
portrait of young Regency man, the poet John Keats, chin resting on hand, with book
Portrait of the poet John Keats by William Hilton.
Oscar Wilde also wrote a poem entitled Endymion. But it is in another of his poems, The Garden of Eros, that he encapsulates the allegory of the myth, especially from a modern perspective (and with a smile):

'Methinks these new Actaeons boast too soon
That they have spied on beauty; what if we
Have analysed the rainbow, robbed the moon
Of her most ancient, chastest mystery,
Shall I, the last Endymion, lose all hope
Because rude eyes peer at my mistress through a telescope!'

In painting

In the visual arts there are, in fact, numerous representations of Selene and her shepherd. Here is a rather passionate one from 1869, by the English Victorian painter G.F.Watts
old painting showing sleeping Endymion and Selene in sliver arched above him in embrace
And here, in the wonderful baroque painting by Guercino, complete with telescope!
classical painting shows Endymion sleeping, head resting in hands, rocky landscape with moon
'Sleeping Endymion' by Gurecino
(Giovanni Francesco Barbieri 1591-1666)
Plus a splendid drawing by Pelagio Palagi ...
Detail from 'The Sleeping Endymion' by Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860).
Endymion is even ‘away with the fairies’ in this charming Victorian picture by John Atkinson Grimshaw (more widly-known for his Moonlit landscapes).
Victorian painting of shepherd (Endymion) watched over by fairy with wings
Endymion on Mount Latmus, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879.
And just one more ...
oil painting of shepherd (Endymion) watched over by fairy with wings
Endymion and Selene - Ubaldo Gandolfi, 1694.
That's Endymion. Enjoy the blogging!
small cartouche with coloured text linking to post-listings pagesmall cartouche with coloured text linking to post-listings page


Art and Design (architecture, paintings, book covers, portraiture)

Gothic Romanticism (poetry, novels, Pre-Raphaelites, music)

History (Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian, Regency, Victorian, Belle Epoque)

Humour (Including Robin's guest posts)

Literature (books, reading, writing, poems, character, historical fiction)

Garden and Outdoors (seasonal observations, plants, landscape)

small up-arrow linking to top of page