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.

Our readers will be anxious to know the fate of Helen, the fair but guilty occasion of so much slaughter.  On the fall of Troy Menelaus recovered possession of his wife, who had not ceased to love him, though she had yielded to the might of Venus and deserted him for another.  After the death of Paris she aided the Greeks secretly on several occasions, and in particular when Ulysses and Diomed entered the city in disguise to carry off the Palladium.  She saw and recognized Ulysses, but kept the secret and even assisted them in obtaining the image.  Thus she became reconciled to her husband, and they were among the first to leave the shores of Troy for their native land.  But having incurred the displeasure of the gods they were driven by storms from shore to shore of the Mediterranean, visiting Cyprus, Phoenicia, and Egypt.  In Egypt they were kindly treated and presented with rich gifts, of which Helen’s share was a golden spindle and a basket on wheels.  The basket was to hold the wool and spools for the queen’s work.

Dyer, in his poem of the “Fleece,” thus alludes to this incident: 

    “... many yet adhere
    To the ancient distaff, at the bosom fixed,
    Casting the whirling spindle as they walk.

    This was of old, in no inglorious days,
    The mode of spinning, when the Egyptian prince
    A golden distaff gave that beauteous nymph,
    Too beauteous Helen; no uncourtly gift.”

Milton also alludes to a famous recipe for an invigorating draught, called Nepenthe, which the Egyptian queen gave to Helen: 

    “Not that Nepenthes which the wife of Thone
    In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena,
    Is of such power to stir up joy as this,
    To life so friendly or so cool to thirst.”

    —­Comus.

Menelaus and Helen at length arrived in safety at Sparta, resumed their royal dignity, and lived and reigned in splendor; and when Telemachus, the son of Ulysses, in search of his father, arrived at Sparta, he found Menelaus and Helen celebrating the marriage of their daughter Hermione to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles.

AGAMEMNON, ORESTES, AND ELECTRA

Agamemnon, the general-in-chief of the Greeks, the brother of Menelaus, and who had been drawn into the quarrel to avenge his brother’s wrongs, not his own, was not so fortunate in the issue.  During his absence his wife Clytemnestra had been false to him, and when his return was expected, she with her paramour, Aegisthus, laid a plan for his destruction, and at the banquet given to celebrate his return, murdered him.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.