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.
make, his fancy fetched
    Even from the blazing chariot of the Sun
    A beardless youth who touched a golden lute,
    And filled the illumined groves with ravishment. 
    The mighty hunter, lifting up his eyes
    Toward the crescent Moon, with grateful heart
    Called on the lovely Wanderer who bestowed
    That timely light to share his joyous sport;
    And hence a beaming goddess with her nymphs
    Across the lawn and through the darksome grove
    (Not unaccompanied with tuneful notes
    By echo multiplied from rock or cave)
    Swept in the storm of chase, as moon and stars
    Glance rapidly along the clouded heaven
    When winds are blowing strong.  The Traveller slaked
    His thirst from rill or gushing fount, and thanked
    The Naiad.  Sunbeams upon distant hills
    Gliding apace with shadows in their train,
    Might with small help from fancy, be transformed
    Into fleet Oreads sporting visibly. 
    The Zephyrs, fanning, as they passed, their wings,
    Lacked not for love fair objects whom they wooed
    With gentle whisper.  Withered boughs grotesque,
    Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age,
    From depth of shaggy covert peeping forth
    In the low vale, or on steep mountain side;
    And sometimes intermixed with stirring horns
    Of the live deer, or goat’s depending beard;
    These were the lurking Satyrs, wild brood
    Of gamesome deities; or Pan himself,
    That simple shepherd’s awe-inspiring god.”

All the theories which have been mentioned are true to a certain extent.  It would therefore be more correct to say that the mythology of a nation has sprung from all these sources combined than from any one in particular.  We may add also that there are many myths which have arisen from the desire of man to account for those natural phenomena which he cannot understand; and not a few have had their rise from a similar desire of giving a reason for the names of places and persons.

STATUES OF THE GODS

To adequately represent to the eye the ideas intended to be conveyed to the mind under the several names of deities was a task which called into exercise the highest powers of genius and art.  Of the many attempts four have been most celebrated, the first two known to us only by the descriptions of the ancients, the others still extant and the acknowledged masterpieces of the sculptor’s art.

THE OLYMPIAN JUPITER

The statue of the Olympian Jupiter by Phidias was considered the highest achievement of this department of Grecian art.  It was of colossal dimensions, and was what the ancients called “chryselephantine;” that is, composed of ivory and gold; the parts representing flesh being of ivory laid on a core of wood or stone, while the drapery and other ornaments were of gold.  The height of the figure was forty feet, on a pedestal twelve feet high.  The god was represented seated on his throne.  His brows were crowned with a wreath of olive, and he held in his right hand a sceptre, and in his left a statue of Victory.  The throne was of cedar, adorned with gold and precious stones.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.