While I am I, and you are you,
So long as the world contains us both,
Me the loving and you the loth,
While the one eludes, must the other pursue.
— Life In A Love, by Robert Browning.
The sun god Apollo was a magnificent archer, but sometimes he was prone to arrogance. One day, he caught sight of Eros, the son of Aphrodite. Eros was also an archer, and his arrows were responsible for instilling the twists and turns of love and lust in a person’s heart. Apollo teased young Eros, ridiculing his abilities as an archer, claiming that one so small could make no difference with his arrows.
Angry at this insult, Eros shot two arrows: one tipped in gold, one blunted and tipped with lead. The arrow dipped in gold had the power to create insatiable lust in a person, while the other created absolute abhorrence towards all things romantic and passionate. The unfortunate soul who was struck with that arrow would have no desire to love anyone. The arrow dipped in gold struck Apollo, but the arrow dipped in lead struck the fair Daphne.
Daphne was the daughter of the river god Peneus. Apollo chased down the nymph, desperate for her love, but she wanted nothing to do with him, and she ran from him endlessly. However, soon she grew weary in her running and, fearful that Apollo would ultimately catch her, she called out to her father for help. As all gods of water possess the ability of transformation, Peneus transformed his daughter into a laurel tree. Suddenly, her legs took root and her arms grew into long and slender branches.
Apollo reached the laurel tree, and, still enamoured with Daphne, held the tree in special esteem within his heart. He claimed the tree as his own, and adorned himself with some of its leaves. And that is why the laurel was, and still is, a symbol of the god Apollo.
[Artwork: Apollo And Daphne, by John William Waterhouse.]