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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.

Pope, in his “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day,” thus celebrates the launching of the ship “Argo,” and the power of the music of Orpheus, whom he calls the Thracian: 

    “So when the first bold vessel dared the seas,
       High on the stern the Thracian raised his strain,
    While Argo saw her kindred trees
       Descend from Pelion to the main. 
    Transported demigods stood round,
       And men grew heroes at the sound.”

In Dyer’s poem of “The Fleece” there is an account of the ship “Argo” and her crew, which gives a good picture of this primitive maritime adventure: 

    “From every region of Aegea’s shore
     The brave assembled; those illustrious twins
     Castor and Pollux; Orpheus, tuneful bard;
     Zetes and Calais, as the wind in speed;
     Strong Hercules and many a chief renowned. 
     On deep Iolcos’ sandy shore they thronged,
     Gleaming in armor, ardent of exploits;
     And soon, the laurel cord and the huge stone
     Uplifting to the deck, unmoored the bark;
     Whose keel of wondrous length the skilful hand
     Of Argus fashioned for the proud attempt;
     And in the extended keel a lofty mast
     Upraised, and sails full swelling; to the chiefs
     Unwonted objects.  Now first, now they learned
     Their bolder steerage over ocean wave,
     Led by the golden stars, as Chiron’s art
     Had marked the sphere celestial,” etc.

Hercules left the expedition at Mysia, for Hylas, a youth beloved by him, having gone for water, was laid hold of and kept by the nymphs of the spring, who were fascinated by his beauty.  Hercules went in quest of the lad, and while he was absent the “Argo” put to sea and left him.  Moore, in one of his songs, makes a beautiful allusion to this incident: 

    “When Hylas was sent with his urn to the fount,
       Through fields full of light and with heart full of play,
     Light rambled the boy over meadow and mount,
       And neglected his task for the flowers in the way.

    “Thus many like me, who in youth should have tasted
       The fountain that runs by Philosophy’s shrme,
     Their time with the flowers on the margin have wasted,
       And left their light urns all as empty as mine.”

MEDEA AND AESON

Amid the rejoicings for the recovery of the Golden Fleece, Jason felt that one thing was wanting, the presence of Aeson, his father, who was prevented by his age and infirmities from taking part in them.  Jason said to Medea, “My spouse, would that your arts, whose power I have seen so mighty for my aid, could do me one further service, take some years from my life and add them to my father’s.”  Medea replied, “Not at such a cost shall it be done, but if my art avails me, his life shall be lengthened without abridging yours.”  The next full

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