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.

Milton alludes to all these deities in the song at the conclusion of “Comus”: 

“...  Sabrina fair, Listen and appear to us, In name of great Oceanus; By the earth-shaking Neptune’s mace, And Tethys’ grave, majestic pace, By hoary Nereus’ wrinkled look, And the Carpathian wizard’s hook, [Footnote:  Proteus] By scaly Triton’s winding shell, And old soothsaying Glaucus’ spell, By Leucothea’s lovely hands, And her son who rules the strands.  By Thetis’ tinsel-slippered feet, And the songs of Sirens sweet;” etc.

Armstrong, the poet of the “Art of preserving Health,” under the inspiration of Hygeia, the goddess of health, thus celebrates the Naiads.  Paeon is a name both of Apollo and Aesculapius.

    “Come, ye Naiads! to the fountains lead! 
     Propitious maids! the task remains to sing
     Your gifts (so Paeon, so the powers of Health
     Command), to praise your crystal element. 
     O comfortable streams! with eager lips
     And trembling hands the languid thirsty quaff
     New life in you; fresh vigor fills their veins. 
     No warmer cups the rural ages knew,
     None warmer sought the sires of humankind;
     Happy in temperate peace their equal days
     Felt not the alternate fits of feverish mirth
     And sick dejection; still serene and pleased,
     Blessed with divine immunity from ills,
     Long centuries they lived; their only fate
     Was ripe old age, and rather sleep than death.”


By this name the Latins designated the Muses, but included under it also some other deities, principally nymphs of fountains.  Egeria was one of them, whose fountain and grotto are still shown.  It was said that Numa, the second king of Rome, was favored by this nymph with secret interviews, in which she taught him those lessons of wisdom and of law which he imbodied in the institutions of his rising nation.  After the death of Numa the nymph pined away and was changed into a fountain.

Byron, in “Childe Harold,” Canto iv., thus alludes to Egeria and her grotto: 

    “Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
     Egeria! all thy heavenly bosom beating
     For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
     The purple midnight veiled that mystic meeting
     With her most starry canopy;” etc.

Tennyson, also, in his “Palace of Art,” gives us a glimpse of the royal lover expecting the interview: 

    “Holding one hand against his ear,
        To list a footfall ere he saw
     The wood-nymph, stayed the Tuscan king to hear
        Of wisdom and of law.”


Project Gutenberg
The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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