Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 126

Spencer represents Arion, mounted on his dolphin, accompanying the train of Neptune and Amphitrite:

  "Then was there heard a most celestial sound
  Of dainty music which did next ensue,
  And, on the floating waters as enthroned,
  Arion with his harp unto him drew
  The ears and hearts of all that goodly crew;
  Even when as yet the dolphin which him bore
  Through the Aegean Seas from pirates' view,
  Stood still, by him astonished at his love,
  And all the raging seas for joy forgot to roar."

Byron, in his Childe Harold, Canto II., alludes to the story of Arion, when, describing his voyage, he represents one of the seamen making music to entertain the rest:

  "The moon is up; by Heaven, a lovely eve!
  Long streams of light o'er dancing waves expand;
  Now lads on shore may sigh and maids believe;
  Such be our fate when we return to land!
  Meantime some rude Arion's restless hand
  Wakes the brisk harmony that sailors love;
  A circle there of merry listeners stand,
  Or to some well-known measure featly move
  Thoughtless as if on shore they still were free to rove."


In order to understand the story of Ibycus which follows, it is necessary to remember, first, that the theatres of the ancients were immense buildings providing seats for from ten to thirty thousand spectators, and as they were used only on festal occasions, and admission was free to all, they were usually filled. They were without roofs and open to the sky, and the performances were in the daytime. Secondly, the appalling representation of the Furies is not exaggerated in the story. It is recorded that AEschylus, the tragic poet, having on one occasion represented the Furies in a chorus of fifty performers, the terror of the spectators was such that many fainted and were thrown into convulsions, and the magistrates forbade a like representation for the future.

Ibycus, the pious poet, was on his way to the chariot races and musical competitions held at the Isthmus of Corinth, which attracted all of Grecian lineage. Apollo had bestowed on him the gift of song, the honeyed lips of the poet, and he pursued his way with lightsome step, full of the god. Already the towers of Corinth crowning the height appeared in view, and he had entered with pious awe the sacred grove of Neptune. No living object was in sight, only a flock of cranes flew overhead, taking the same course as himself in their migration to a southern clime. "Good luck to you, ye friendly squadrons," he exclaimed, "my companions from across the sea. I take your company for a good omen. We come from far, and fly in search of hospitality. May both of us meet that kind reception which shields the stranger guest from harm!"

He paced briskly on, and soon was in the middle of the wood. There suddenly, at a narrow pass, two robbers stepped forth and barred his way. He must yield or fight. But his hand, accustomed to the lyre and not to the strife of arms, sank powerless. He called for help on men and gods, but his cry reached no defender's ear. "Then here must I die," said he, "in a strange land, unlamented, cut off by the hand of outlaws, and see none to avenge my cause." Sore wounded he sank to the earth, when hoarse screamed the cranes overhead. "Take up my cause, ye cranes," he said, "since no voice but yours answers to my cry." So saying, he closed his eyes in death.