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.

NIOBE

The fate of Arachne was noised abroad through all the country, and served as a warning to all presumptuous mortals not to compare themselves with the divinities.  But one, and she a matron too, failed to learn the lesson of humility.  It was Niobe, the queen of Thebes.  She had indeed much to be proud of; but it was not her husband’s fame, nor her own beauty, nor their great descent, nor the power of their kingdom that elated her.  It was her children; and truly the happiest of mothers would Niobe have been if only she had not claimed to be so.  It was on occasion of the annual celebration in honor of Latona and her offspring, Apollo and Diana,—­when the people of Thebes were assembled, their brows crowned with laurel, bearing frankincense to the altars and paying their vows,—­that Niobe appeared among the crowd.  Her attire was splendid with gold and gems, and her aspect beautiful as the face of an angry woman can be.  She stood and surveyed the people with haughty looks.  “What folly,” said she, “is this!—­to prefer beings whom you never saw to those who stand before your eyes!  Why should Latona be honored with worship, and none be paid to me?  My father was Tantalus, who was received as a guest at the table of the gods; my mother was a goddess.  My husband built and rules this city, Thebes, and Phrygia is my paternal inheritance.  Wherever I turn my eyes I survey the elements of my power; nor is my form and presence unworthy of a goddess.  To all this let me add I have seven sons and seven daughters, and look for sons-in-law and daughters-in-law of pretensions worthy of my alliance.  Have I not cause for pride?  Will you prefer to me this Latona, the Titan’s daughter, with her two children?  I have seven times as many.  Fortunate indeed am I, and fortunate I shall remain!  Will any one deny this?  My abundance is my security.  I feel myself too strong for Fortune to subdue.  She may take from me much; I shall still have much left.  Were I to lose some of my children, I should hardly be left as poor as Latona with her two only.  Away with you from these solemnities,—­put off the laurel from your brows,—­have done with this worship!” The people obeyed, and left the sacred services uncompleted.

The goddess was indignant.  On the Cynthian mountain top where she dwelt she thus addressed her son and daughter:  “My children, I who have been so proud of you both, and have been used to hold myself second to none of the goddesses except Juno alone, begin now to doubt whether I am indeed a goddess.  I shall be deprived of my worship altogether unless you protect me.”  She was proceeding in this strain, but Apollo interrupted her.  “Say no more,” said he; “speech only delays punishment.”  So said Diana also.  Darting through the air, veiled in clouds, they alighted on the towers of the city.  Spread out before the gates was a broad plain, where the youth of the city pursued their warlike sports.  The sons of Niobe

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.