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.

Unlike most of the marvels of ancient mythology, there still exist some memorials of this.  On the banks of the river Nile, in Egypt, are two colossal statues, one of which is said to be the statue of Memnon.  Ancient writers record that when the first rays of the rising sun fall upon this statue a sound is heard to issue from it, which they compare to the snapping of a harp-string.  There is some doubt about the identification of the existing statue with the one described by the ancients, and the mysterious sounds are still more doubtful.  Yet there are not wanting some modern testimonies to their being still audible.  It has been suggested that sounds produced by confined air making its escape from crevices or caverns in the rocks may have given some ground for the story.  Sir Gardner Wilkinson, a late traveller, of the highest authority, examined the statue itself, and discovered that it was hollow, and that “in the lap of the statue is a stone, which on being struck emits a metallic sound, that might still be made use of to deceive a visitor who was predisposed to believe its powers.”

The vocal statue of Memnon is a favorite subject of allusion with the poets.  Darwin, in his “Botanic Garden,” says: 

   “So to the sacred Sun in Memnon’s fane
    Spontaneous concords choired the matin strain;
    Touched by his orient beam responsive rings
    The living lyre and vibrates all its strings;
    Accordant aisles the tender tones prolong,
    And holy echoes swell the adoring song.”

Book I., 1., 182.

ACIS AND GALATEA

Scylla was a fair virgin of Sicily, a favorite of the Sea-Nymphs.  She had many suitors, but repelled them all, and would go to the grotto of Galatea, and tell her how she was persecuted.  One day the goddess, while Scylla dressed her hair, listened to the story, and then replied, “Yet, maiden, your persecutors are of the not ungentle race of men, whom, if you will, you can repel; but I, the daughter of Nereus, and protected by such a band of sisters, found no escape from the passion of the Cyclops but in the depths of the sea;” and tears stopped her utterance, which when the pitying maiden had wiped away with her delicate finger, and soothed the goddess, “Tell me, dearest,” said she, “the cause of your grief.”  Galatea then said, “Acis was the son of Faunus and a Naiad.  His father and mother loved him dearly, but their love was not equal to mine.  For the beautiful youth attached himself to me alone, and he was just sixteen years old, the down just beginning to darken his cheeks.  As much as I sought his society, so much did the Cyclops seek mine; and if you ask me whether my love for Acis or my hatred of Polyphemus was the stronger, I cannot tell you; they were in equal measure.  O Venus, how great is thy power! this fierce giant, the terror of the woods, whom no hapless stranger escaped unharmed, who defied even Jove himself, learned to feel what

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.