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

The choristers, clad in black, bore in their fleshless hands torches blazing with a pitchy flame.  Their cheeks were bloodless, and in place of hair writhing and swelling serpents curled around their brows.  Forming a circle, these awful beings sang their hymns, rending the hearts of the guilty, and enchaining all their faculties.  It rose and swelled, overpowering the sound of the instruments, stealing the judgment, palsying the heart, curdling the blood.

“Happy the man who keeps his heart pure from guilt and crime!  Him we avengers touch not; he treads the path of life secure from us.  But woe! woe! to him who has done the deed of secret murder.  We the fearful family of Night fasten ourselves upon his whole being.  Thinks he by flight to escape us?  We fly still faster in pursuit, twine our snakes around his feet, and bring him to the ground.  Unwearied we pursue; no pity checks our course; still on and on, to the end of life, we give him no peace nor rest.”  Thus the Eumenides sang, and moved in solemn cadence, while stillness like the stillness of death sat over the whole assembly as if in the presence of superhuman beings; and then in solemn march completing the circuit of the theatre, they passed out at the back of the stage.

Every heart fluttered between illusion and reality, and every breast panted with undefined terror, quailing before the awful power that watches secret crimes and winds unseen the skein of destiny.  At that moment a cry burst forth from one of the uppermost benches—­“Look! look! comrade, yonder are the cranes of Ibycus!” And suddenly there appeared sailing across the sky a dark object which a moment’s inspection showed to be a flock of cranes flying directly over the theatre.  “Of Ibycus! did he say?” The beloved name revived the sorrow in every breast.  As wave follows wave over the face of the sea, so ran from mouth to mouth the words, “Of Ibycus! him whom we all lament, whom some murderer’s hand laid low!  What have the cranes to do with him?” And louder grew the swell of voices, while like a lightning’s flash the thought sped through every heart, “Observe the power of the Eumenides!  The pious poet shall be avenged! the murderer has informed against himself.  Seize the man who uttered that cry and the other to whom he spoke!”

The culprit would gladly have recalled his words, but it was too late.  The faces of the murderers, pale with terror, betrayed their guilt.  The people took them before the judge, they confessed their crime, and suffered the punishment they deserved.

SIMONIDES

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