The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

There is an allusion to the story of Bacchus and the mariners in
Milton’s “Comus,” at line 46, The story of Circe will be found in


    “Bacchus that first from out the purple grapes
     Crushed the sweet poison of misused wine,
     After the Tuscan manners transformed,
     Coasting the Tyrrhene shore as the winds listed
     On Circe’s island fell (who knows not Circe,
     The daughter of the Sun? whose charmed cup
     Whoever tasted lost his upright shape,
     And downward fell into a grovelling swine).”


We have seen in the story of Theseus how Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, after helping Theseus to escape from the labyrinth, was carried by him to the island of Naxos and was left there asleep, while the ungrateful Theseus pursued his way home without her.  Ariadne, on waking and finding herself deserted, abandoned herself to grief.  But Venus took pity on her, and consoled her with the promise that she should have an immortal lover, instead of the mortal one she had lost.

The island where Ariadne was left was the favorite island of Bacchus, the same that he wished the Tyrrhenian mariners to carry him to, when they so treacherously attempted to make prize of him.  As Ariadne sat lamenting her fate, Bacchus found her, consoled her, and made her his wife.  As a marriage present he gave her a golden crown, enriched with gems, and when she died, he took her crown and threw it up into the sky.  As it mounted the gems grew brighter and were turned into stars, and preserving its form Ariadne’s crown remains fixed in the heavens as a constellation, between the kneeling Hercules and the man who holds the serpent.

Spenser alludes to Ariadne’s crown, though he has made some mistakes in his mythology.  It was at the wedding of Pirithous, and not Theseus, that the Centaurs and Lapithae quarrelled.

    “Look how the crown which Ariadne wore
    Upon her ivory forehead that same day
    That Theseus her unto his bridal bore,
    Then the bold Centaurs made that bloody fray
    With the fierce Lapiths which did them dismay;
    Being now placed in the firmament,
    Through the bright heaven doth her beams display,
    And is unto the stars an ornament,
    Which round about her move in order excellent.”


The rural deities—­Eris
—­Rhoecus—­the water deities—­ Camenae—­winds


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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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