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.

In Shelley’s poem “Adonais” is the following allusion to the story of Actaeon: 

    “’Midst others of less note came one frail form,
    A phantom among men:  companionless
    As the last cloud of an expiring storm,
    Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
    Had gazed on Nature’s naked loveliness,
    Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray
    With feeble steps o’er the world’s wilderness;
    And his own Thoughts, along that rugged way,
    Pursued like raging hounds their father and their prey.”

    Stanza 31.

The allusion is probably to Shelley himself.

LATONA AND THE RUSTICS

Some thought the goddess in this instance more severe than was just, while others praised her conduct as strictly consistent with her virgin dignity.  As, usual, the recent event brought older ones to mind, and one of the bystanders told this story:  “Some countrymen of Lycia once insulted the goddess Latona, but not with impunity.  When I was young, my father, who had grown too old for active labors, sent me to Lycia to drive thence some choice oxen, and there I saw the very pond and marsh where the wonder happened.  Near by stood an ancient altar, black with the smoke of sacrifice and almost buried among the reeds.  I inquired whose altar it might be, whether of Faunus or the Naiads, or some god of the neighboring mountain, and one of the country people replied, ’No mountain or river god possesses this altar, but she whom royal Juno in her jealousy drove from land to land, denying her any spot of earth whereon to rear her twins.  Bearing in her arms the infant deities, Latona reached this land, weary with her burden and parched with thirst.  By chance she espied on the bottom of the valley this pond of clear water, where the country people were at work gathering willows and osiers.  The goddess approached, and kneeling on the bank would have slaked her thirst in the cool stream, but the rustics forbade her.  ‘Why do you refuse me water?’ said she; ’water is free to all.  Nature allows no one to claim as property the sunshine, the air, or the water.  I come to take my share of the common blessing.  Yet I ask it of you as a favor.  I have no intention of washing my limbs in it, weary though they be, but only to quench my thirst.  My mouth is so dry that I can hardly speak.  A draught Of water would be nectar to me; it would revive me, and I would own myself indebted to you for life itself.  Let these infants move your pity, who stretch out their little arms as if to plead for me;’ and the children, as it happened, were stretching out their arms.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.