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.

“Then on his ear what sounds
Of harmony arose’
Far music and the distance-mellowed song
From bowers of merriment,
The waterfall remote,
The murmuring of the leafy groves;
The single nightingale
Perched in the rosier by, so richly toned,
That never from that most melodious bird
Singing a love song to his brooding mate,
Did Thracian shepherd by the grave
Of Orpheus hear a sweeter melody,
Though there the spirit of the sepulchre
All his own power infuse, to swell
The incense that he loves”


Man avails himself of the instincts of the inferior animals for his own advantage.  Hence sprang the art of keeping bees.  Honey must first have been known as a wild product, the bees building their structures in hollow trees or holes in the rocks, or any similar cavity that chance offered.  Thus occasionally the carcass of a dead animal would be occupied by the bees for that purpose.  It was no doubt from some such incident that the superstition arose that the bees were engendered by the decaying flesh of the animal; and Virgil, in the following story, shows how this supposed fact may be turned to account for renewing the swarm when it has been lost by disease or accident: 

Aristaeus, who first taught the management of bees, was the son of the water-nymph Cyrene.  His bees had perished, and he resorted for aid to his mother.  He stood at the river side and thus addressed her:  “O mother, the pride of my life is taken from me!  I have lost my precious bees.  My care and skill have availed me nothing, and you my mother have not warded off from me the blow of misfortune.”  His mother heard these complaints as she sat in her palace at the bottom of the river, with her attendant nymphs around her.  They were engaged in female occupations, spinning and weaving, while one told stories to amuse the rest.  The sad voice of Aristaeus interrupting their occupation, one of them put her head above the water and seeing him, returned and gave information to his mother, who ordered that he should be brought into her presence.  The river at her command opened itself and let him pass in, while it stood curled like a mountain on either side.  He descended to the region where the fountains of the great rivers lie; he saw the enormous receptacles of waters and was almost deafened with the roar, while he surveyed them hurrying off in various directions to water the face of the earth.  Arriving at his mother’s apartment, he was hospitably received by Cyrene and her nymphs, who spread their table with the richest dainties.  They first poured out libations to Neptune, then regaled themselves with the feast, and after that Cyrene thus addressed him:  “There is an old prophet named Proteus, who dwells in the sea and is a favorite of Neptune, whose herd of sea-calves he pastures.  We nymphs hold him in great respect, for he is a learned sage and knows all things, past,

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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