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.

Byron alludes to the story of Sappho in “Childe Harold,” Canto ii.: 

   “Childe Harold sailed and passed the barren spot
    Where sad Penelope o’erlooked the wave,
    And onward viewed the mount, not yet forgot,
    The lover’s refuge and the Lesbian’s grave. 
    Dark Sappho! could not verse immortal save
    That breast imbued with such immortal fire?

   “’Twas on a Grecian autumn’s gentle eve
    Childe Harold hailed Leucadia’s cape afar;” etc.

Those who wish to know more of Sappho and her “leap” are referred to the “Spectator,” Nos. 223 and 229.  See also Moore’s “Evenings in Greece.”

CHAPTER XXVI

ENDYMION—­ORION—­AURORA AND TITHONUS—­ACIS AND GALATEA

DIANA AND ENDYMION

Endymion was a beautiful youth who fed his flock on Mount Latmos.  One calm, clear night Diana, the moon, looked down and saw him sleeping.  The cold heart of the virgin goddess was warmed by his surpassing beauty, and she came down to him, kissed him, and watched over him while he slept.

Another story was that Jupiter bestowed on him the gift of perpetual youth united with perpetual sleep.  Of one so gifted we can have but few adventures to record.  Diana, it was said, took care that his fortunes should not suffer by his inactive life, for she made his flock increase, and guarded his sheep and lambs from the wild beasts.

The story of Endymion has a peculiar charm from the human meaning which it so thinly veils.  We see in Endymion the young poet, his fancy and his heart seeking in vain for that which can satisfy them, finding his favorite hour in the quiet moonlight, and nursing there beneath the beams of the bright and silent witness the melancholy and the ardor which consumes him.  The story suggests aspiring and poetic love, a life spent more in dreams than in reality, and an early and welcome death.—­S.  G. B.

The “Endymion” of Keats is a wild and fanciful poem, containing some exquisite poetry, as this, to the moon: 

“...  The sleeping kine Couched in thy brightness dream of fields divine.  Innumerable mountains rise, and rise, Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes, And yet thy benediction passeth not One obscure hiding-place, one little spot Where pleasure may be sent; the nested wren Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken;” etc., etc.

Dr. Young, in the “Night Thoughts,” alludes to Endymion thus: 

“...  These thoughts, O night, are thine; From thee they came like lovers’ secret sighs, While others slept.  So Cynthia, poets feign, In shadows veiled, soft, sliding from her sphere, Her shepherd cheered, of her enamoured less Than I of thee.”

Fletcher, in the “Faithful Shepherdess,” tells: 

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.