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.
of the sea, and to bathe in its waters.  Here the goddess poured her poisonous mixture, and muttered over it incantations of mighty power.  Scylla came as usual and plunged into the water up to her waist.  What was her horror to perceive a brood of serpents and barking monsters surrounding her!  At first she could not imagine they were a part of herself, and tried to run from them, and to drive them away; but as she ran she carried them with her, and when she tried to touch her limbs, she found her hands touch only the yawning jaws of monsters.  Scylla remained rooted to the spot.  Her temper grew as ugly as her form, and she took pleasure in devouring hapless mariners who came within her grasp.  Thus she destroyed six of the companions of Ulysses, and tried to wreck the ships of Aeneas, till at last she was turned into a rock, and as such still continues to be a terror to mariners.

Keats, in his “Endymion,” has given a new version of the ending of “Glaucus and Scylla.”  Glaucus consents to Circe’s blandishments, till he by chance is witness to her transactions with her beasts.  Disgusted with her treachery and cruelty, he tries to escape from her, but is taken and brought back, when with reproaches she banishes him, sentencing him to pass a thousand years in decrepitude and pain.  He returns to the sea, and there finds the body of Scylla, whom the goddess has not transformed but drowned.  Glaucus learns that his destiny is that, if he passes his thousand years in collecting all the bodies of drowned lovers, a youth beloved of the gods will appear and help him.  Endymion fulfils this prophecy, and aids in restoring Glaucus to youth, and Scylla and all the drowned lovers to life.

The following is Glaucus’s account of his feelings after his “sea-change”: 

    “I plunged for life or death.  To interknit
     One’s senses with so dense a breathing stuff
     Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
     Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
     And buoyant round my limbs.  At first I dwelt
     Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
     Forgetful utterly of self-intent,
     Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow. 
     Then like a new-fledged bird that first doth show
     His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
     I tried in fear the pinions of my will. 
     ’Twas freedom! and at once I visited
     The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed,” etc.




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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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