Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 103

They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right, when the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth uttered cries to his father, it was submerged in the blue waters of the sea, which thenceforth was called by his name. His father cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?" At last he saw the feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child. Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god.

Daedalus was so proud of his achievements that he could not bear the idea of a rival. His sister had placed her son Perdix under his charge to be taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt scholar and gave striking evidences of ingenuity. Walking on the seashore he picked up the spine of a fish. Imitating it, he took a piece of iron and notched it on the edge, and thus invented the SAW. He put two pieces of iron together, connecting them at one end with a rivet, and sharpening the other ends, and made a PAIR OF COMPASSES. Daedalus was so envious of his nephew's performances that he took an opportunity, when they were together one day on the top of a high tower, to push him off. But Minerva, who favors ingenuity, saw him falling, and arrested his fate by changing him into a bird called after his name, the Partridge. This bird does not build his next in the trees, nor take lofty flights, but nestles in the hedges, and mindful of his fall, avoids high places.

The death of Icarus is told in the following lines by Darwin:

  "—— with melting wax and loosened strings
  Sunk hapless Icarus on unfaithful wings;
  Headlong he rushed through the affrighted air,
  With limbs distorted and dishevelled hair;
  His scattered plumage danced upon the wave,
  And sorrowing Nereids decked his watery grave;
  O'er his pale corse their pearly sea-flowers shed,
  And strewed with crimson moss his marble bed;
  Struck in their coral towers the passing bell,
  And wide in ocean tolled his echoing knell."


Castor and Pollux were the offspring of Leda and the Swan, under which disguise Jupiter had concealed himself. Leda gave birth to an egg, from which sprang the twins. Helen, so famous afterwards as the cause of the Trojan war, was their sister.

When Theseus and his friend Pirithous had carried off Helen from Sparta, the youthful heroes Castor and Pollux, with their followers, hasted to her rescue. Theseus was absent from Attica, and the brothers were successful in recovering their sister.