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.

There is a beautiful allusion to the story of Palinurus in Scott’s “Marmion,” Introduction to Canto I., where the poet, speaking of the recent death of William Pitt, says: 

    “O, think how, to his latest day,
    When death just hovering claimed his prey,
    With Palinure’s unaltered mood,
    Firm at his dangerous post he stood;
    Each call for needful rest repelled,
    With dying hand the rudder held,
    Till in his fall, with fateful sway,
    The steerage of the realm gave way.”

The ships at last reached the shores of Italy, and joyfully did the adventurers leap to land.  While his people were employed in making their encampment Aeneas sought the abode of the Sibyl.  It was a cave connected with a temple and grove, sacred to Apollo and Diana.  While Aeneas contemplated the scene, the Sibyl accosted him.  She seemed to know his errand, and under the influence of the deity of the place, burst forth in a prophetic strain, giving dark intimations of labors and perils through which he was destined to make his way to final success.  She closed with the encouraging words which have become proverbial:  “Yield not to disasters, but press onward the more bravely.” [Footnote:  See Proverbial Expressions.] Aeneas replied that he had prepared himself for whatever might await him.  He had but one request to make.  Having been directed in a dream to seek the abode of the dead in order to confer with his father, Anchises, to receive from him a revelation of his future fortunes and those of his race, he asked her assistance to enable him to accomplish the task.  The Sibyl replied, “The descent to Avernus is easy:  the gate of Pluto stands open night and day; but to retrace one’s steps and return to the upper air, that is the toil, that the difficulty."[Footnote:  See Proverbial Expressions.] She instructed him to seek in the forest a tree on which grew a golden branch.  This branch was to be plucked off and borne as a gift to Proserpine, and if fate was propitious it would yield to the hand and quit its parent trunk, but otherwise no force could rend it away.  If torn away, another would succeed.[Footnote:  See Proverbial Expressions.]

Aeneas followed the directions of the Sibyl.  His mother, Venus, sent two of her doves to fly before him and show him the way, and by their assistance he found the tree, plucked the branch, and hastened back with it to the Sibyl.




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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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