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.
a time, hardly one in a thousand.  Numberless birds, hawks, crows, and vultures hovered over the stream, with clamorous cries, and strove to snatch from the water some of these names; but they were too heavy for them, and after a while the birds were forced to let them drop into the river of oblivion.  But two beautiful swans, of snowy whiteness, gathered some few of the names, and returned with them to the shore, where a lovely nymph received them from their beaks, and carried them to a temple placed upon a hill, and suspended them for all time upon a sacred column, on which stood the statue of Immortality.

Astolpho was amazed at all this, and asked his guide to explain it.  He replied, “The old man is Time.  All the names upon the tickets would be immortal if the old man did not plunge them into the river of oblivion.  Those clamorous birds which make vain efforts to save certain of the names are flatterers, pensioners, venal rhymesters, who do their best to rescue from oblivion the unworthy names of their patrons; but all in vain; they may keep them from their fate a little while, but ere long the river of oblivion must swallow them all.

“The swans, that with harmonious strains carry certain names to the temple of Eternal Memory, are the great poets, who save from oblivion worse than death the names of those they judge worthy of immortality.  Swans of this kind are rare.  Let monarchs know the true breed, and fail not to nourish with care such as may chance to appear in their time.”


When Astolpho had descended to the earth with the precious phial, St. John showed him a plant of marvellous virtues, with which he told him he had only to touch the eyes of the king of Abyssinia to restore him to sight.  “That important service,” said the saint, “added to your having delivered him from the Harpies, will induce him to give you an army wherewith to attack the Africans in their rear, and force them to return from France to defend their own country.”  The saint also instructed him how to lead his troops in safety across the great deserts, where caravans are often overwhelmed with moving columns of sand.  Astolpho, fortified with ample instructions, remounted the Hippogriff, thanked the saint, received his blessing, and took his flight down to the level country.

Keeping the course of the river Nile, he soon arrived at the capital of Abyssinia, and rejoined Senapus.  The joy of the king was great when he heard again the voice of the hero who had delivered him from the Harpies.  Astolpho touched his eyes with the plant which he had brought from the terrestrial paradise, and restored their sight.  The king’s gratitude was unbounded.  He begged him to name a reward, promising to grant it, whatever it might be.  Astolpho asked an army to go to the assistance of Charlemagne, and the king not only granted him a hundred thousand men, but offered to lead them himself.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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