The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

When so many less active agencies were personified, it is not to be supposed that the winds failed to be so.  They were Boreas or Aquilo, the north wind; Zephyrus or Favonius, the west; Notus or Auster, the south; and Eurus, the east.  The first two have been chiefly celebrated by the poets, the former as the type of rudeness, the latter of gentleness.  Boreas loved the nymph Orithyia, and tried to play the lover’s part, but met with poor success.  It was hard for him to breathe gently, and sighing was out of the question.  Weary at last of fruitless endeavors, he acted out his true character, seized the maiden and carried her off.  Their children were Zetes and Calais, winged warriors, who accompanied the Argonautic expedition, and did good service in an encounter with those monstrous birds the Harpies.

Zephyrus was the lover of Flora.  Milton alludes to them in “Paradise Lost,” where he describes Adam waking and contemplating Eve still asleep.

“...  He on his side Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love, Hung over her enamored, and beheld Beauty which, whether waking or asleep, Shot forth peculiar graces; then with voice, Mild as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes, Her hand soft touching, whispered thus:  ’Awake!  My fairest, my espoused, my latest found, Heaven’s last, best gift, my ever-new delight.’”

Dr. Young, the poet of the “Night Thoughts,” addressing the idle and luxurious, says: 

“Ye delicate! who nothing can support (Yourselves most insupportable) for whom The winter rose must blow, ... ... and silky soft Favonius breathe still softer or be chid!”

CHAPTER XXIII

ACHELOUS AND HERCULES—­ADMETUS AND ALCESTIS—­ANTIGONE—­PENELOPE

ACHELOUS AND HERCULES

The river-god Achelous told the story of Erisichthon to Theseus and his companions, whom he was entertaining at his hospitable board, while they were delayed on their journey by the overflow of his waters.  Having finished his story, he added, “But why should I tell of other persons’ transformations when I myself am an instance of the possession of this power?  Sometimes I become a serpent, and sometimes a bull, with horns on my head.  Or I should say I once could do so; but now I have but one horn, having lost one.”  And here he groaned and was silent.

Theseus asked him the cause of his grief, and how he lost his horn.  To which question the river-god replied as follows:  “Who likes to tell of his defeats?  Yet I will not hesitate to relate mine, comforting myself with the thought of the greatness of my conqueror, for it was Hercules.  Perhaps you have heard of the fame of Dejanira, the fairest of maidens, whom a host of suitors strove to win.  Hercules and myself were of the number, and the rest yielded to us two.  He urged in his behalf his descent from Jove and his labors by which he had exceeded

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.