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.
But now the sister prevails above the mother, and she begins as she holds the fatal wood:  “Turn, ye Furies, goddesses of punishment! turn to behold the sacrifice I bring!  Crime must atone for crime.  Shall OEneus rejoice in his victor son, while the house of Thestius is desolate?  But, alas! to what deed am I borne along?  Brothers forgive a mother’s weakness! my hand fails me.  He deserves death, but not that I should destroy him.  But shall he then live, and triumph, and reign over Calydon, while you, my brothers, wander unavenged among the shades?  No! thou hast lived by my gift; die, now, for thine own crime.  Return the life which twice I gave thee, first at thy birth, again when I snatched this brand from the flames.  O that thou hadst then died!  Alas! evil is the conquest; but, brothers, ye have conquered.”  And, turning away her face, she threw the fatal wood upon the burning pile.

It gave, or seemed to give, a deadly groan.  Meleager, absent and unknowing of the cause, felt a sudden pang.  He burns, and only by courageous pride conquers the pain which destroys him.  He mourns only that he perishes by a bloodless and unhonored death.  With his last breath he calls upon his aged father, his brother, and his fond sisters, upon his beloved Atalanta, and upon his mother, the unknown cause of his fate.  The flames increase, and with them the pain of the hero.  Now both subside; now both are quenched.  The brand is ashes, and the life of Meleager is breathed forth to the wandering winds.

Althea, when the deed was done, laid violent hands upon herself.  The sisters of Meleager mourned their brother with uncontrollable grief; till Diana, pitying the sorrows of the house that once had aroused her anger, turned them into birds.


The innocent cause of so much sorrow was a maiden whose face you might truly say was boyish for a girl, yet too girlish for a boy.  Her fortune had been told, and it was to this effect:  “Atalanta, do not marry; marriage will be your ruin.”  Terrified by this oracle, she fled the society of men, and devoted herself to the sports of the chase.  To all suitors (for she had many) she imposed a condition which was generally effectual in relieving her of their persecutions,—­“I will be the prize of him who shall conquer me in the race; but death must be the penalty of all who try and fail.”  In spite of this hard condition some would try.  Hippomenes was to be judge of the race.  “Can it be possible that any will be so rash as to risk so much for a wife?” said he.  But when he saw her lay aside her robe for the race, he changed his mind, and said, “Pardon me, youths, I knew not the prize you were competing for.”  As he surveyed them he wished them all to be beaten, and swelled with envy of any one that seemed at all likely to win.  While such were his thoughts, the virgin darted forward.  As she ran she looked more beautiful than ever.  The breezes seemed to

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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