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.

Moore, in the “Sylph’s Ball,” speaking of Davy’s Safety Lamp, is reminded of the wall that separated Thisbe and her lover: 

    “O for that Lamp’s metallic gauze,
       That curtain of protecting wire,
     Which Davy delicately draws
       Around illicit, dangerous fire!

     The wall he sets ’twixt Flame and Air,
       (Like that which barred young Thisbe’s bliss,)
     Through whose small holes this dangerous pair
       May see each other, but not kiss.”

In Mickle’s translation of the “Lusiad” occurs the following allusion to the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, and the metamorphosis of the mulberries.  The poet is describing the Island of Love: 

“... here each gift Pomona’s hand bestows In cultured garden, free uncultured flows, The flavor sweeter and the hue more fair Than e’er was fostered by the hand of care.  The cherry here in shining crimson glows, And stained with lovers’ blood, in pendent rows, The mulberries o’erload the bending boughs.”

If any of our young readers can be so hard-hearted as to enjoy a laugh at the expense of poor Pyramus and Thisbe, they may find an opportunity by turning to Shakspeare’s play of the “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where it is most amusingly burlesqued.


Cephalus was a beautiful youth and fond of manly sports.  He would rise before the dawn to pursue the chase.  Aurora saw him when she first looked forth, fell in love with him, and stole him away.  But Cephalus was just married to a charming wife whom he devotedly loved.  Her name was Procris.  She was a favorite of Diana, the goddess of hunting, who had given her a dog which could outrun every rival, and a javelin which would never fail of its mark; and Procris gave these presents to her husband.  Cephalus was so happy in his wife that he resisted all the entreaties of Aurora, and she finally dismissed him in displeasure, saying, “Go, ungrateful mortal, keep your wife, whom, if I am not much mistaken, you will one day be very sorry you ever saw again.”

Cephalus returned, and was as happy as ever in his wife and his woodland sports.  Now it happened some angry deity had sent a ravenous fox to annoy the country; and the hunters turned out in great strength to capture it.  Their efforts were all in vain; no dog could run it down; and at last they came to Cephalus to borrow his famous dog, whose name was Lelaps.  No sooner was the dog let loose than he darted off, quicker than their eye could follow him.  If they had not seen his footprints in the sand they would have thought he flew.  Cephalus and others stood on a hill and saw the race.  The fox tried every art; he ran in a circle and turned on his track, the dog close upon him, with open jaws, snapping at his heels, but biting only the air.  Cephalus was about to use his javelin, when suddenly he saw both dog and game stop instantly.  The heavenly powers who had given both were not willing that either should conquer.  In the very attitude of life and action they were turned into stone.  So lifelike and natural did they look, you would have thought, as you looked at them, that one was going to bark, the other to leap forward.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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