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.
over his neck and shoulders flowed his hair perfumed with odors; his left hand held the lyre, his right the ivory wand with which he struck its chords.  They fell prostrate at his feet, as if a lightning bolt had struck them.  “We meant to murder him, and he has become a god.  O Earth, open and receive us!” Then Periander spoke.  “He lives, the master of the lay!  Kind Heaven protects the poet’s life.  As for you, I invoke not the spirit of vengeance; Arion wishes not your blood.  Ye slaves of avarice, begone!  Seek some barbarous land, and never may aught beautiful delight your souls!”

Spenser represents Arion, mounted on his dolphin, accompanying the train of Neptune and Amphitrite: 

    “Then was there heard a most celestial sound
     Of dainty music which did next ensue,
     And, on the floating waters as enthroned,
     Arion with his harp unto him drew
     The ears and hearts of all that goodly crew;
     Even when as yet the dolphin which him bore
     Through the Aegean Seas from pirates’ view,
     Stood still, by him astonished at his lore,
     And all the raging seas for joy forgot to roar.”

Byron, in his “Childe Harold,” Canto ii., alludes to the story of Arion, when, describing his voyage, he represents one of the seamen making music to entertain the rest: 

    “The moon is up; by Heaven a lovely eve! 
     Long streams of light o’er dancing waves expand;
     Now lads on shore may sigh and maids believe;
     Such be our fate when we return to land! 
     Meantime some rude Arion’s restless hand
     Wakes the brisk harmony that sailors love;
     A circle there of merry listeners stand,
     Or to some well-known measure featly move
   Thoughtless as if on shore they still were free to rove.”


In order to understand the story of Ibycus which follows it is necessary to remember, first, that the theatres of the ancients were immense fabrics capable of containing from ten to thirty thousand spectators, and as they were used only on festival occasions, and admission was free to all, they were usually filled.  They were without roofs and open to the sky, and the performances were in the daytime.  Secondly, the appalling representation of the Furies is not exaggerated in the story.  It is recorded that Aeschylus, the tragic poet, having on one occasion represented the Furies in a chorus of fifty performers, the terror of the spectators was such that many fainted and were thrown into convulsions, and the magistrates forbade a like representation for the future.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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