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.

CHAPTER II

THE MYTHICAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND

The illustrious poet, Milton, in his “History of England,” is the author whom we chiefly follow in this chapter.

According to the earliest accounts, Albion, a giant, and son of Neptune, a contemporary of Hercules, ruled over the island, to which he gave his name.  Presuming to oppose the progress of Hercules in his western march, he was slain by him.

Another story is that Histion, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah, had four sons, Francus, Romanus, Alemannus, and Britto, from whom descended the French, Roman, German, and British people.

Rejecting these and other like stories, Milton gives more regard to the story of Brutus, the Trojan, which, he says, is supported by “descents of ancestry long continued, laws and exploits not plainly seeming to be borrowed or devised, which on the common belief have wrought no small impression; defended by many, denied utterly by few.”  The principal authority is Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose history, written in the twelfth century, purports to be a translation of a history of Britain brought over from the opposite shore of France, which, under the name of Brittany, was chiefly peopled by natives of Britain who, from time to time, emigrated thither, driven from their own country by the inroads of the Picts and Scots.  According to this authority, Brutus was the son of Silvius, and he of Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, whose flight from Troy and settlement in Italy are narrated in “Stories of Gods and Heroes.”

Brutus, at the age of fifteen, attending his father to the chase, unfortunately killed him with an arrow.  Banished therefor by his kindred, he sought refuge in that part of Greece where Helenus, with a band of Trojan exiles, had become established.  But Helenus was now dead and the descendants of the Trojans were oppressed by Pandrasus, the king of the country.  Brutus, being kindly received among them, so throve in virtue and in arms as to win the regard of all the eminent of the land above all others of his age.  In consequence of this the Trojans not only began to hope, but secretly to persuade him to lead them the way to liberty.  To encourage them, they had the promise of help from Assaracus, a noble Greek youth, whose mother was a Trojan.  He had suffered wrong at the hands of the king, and for that reason the more willingly cast in his lost with the Trojan exiles.

Choosing a fit opportunity, Brutus with his countrymen withdrew to the woods and hills, as the safest place from which to expostulate, and sent this message to Pandrasus:  “That the Trojans, holding it unworthy of their ancestors to serve in a foreign land, had retreated to the woods, choosing rather a savage life than a slavish one.  If that displeased him, then, with his leave, they would depart to some other country.”  Pandrasus, not expecting so bold a message from the sons of captives, went in pursuit of them, with such forces as he could gather, and met them on the banks of the Achelous, where Brutus got the advantage, and took the king captive.  The result was, that the terms demanded by the Trojans were granted; the king gave his daughter Imogen in marriage to Brutus, and furnished shipping, money, and fit provision for them all to depart from the land.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.