Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 13

  "But when good Saturn, banished from above,
  Was driven to hell, the world was under Jove.
  Succeeding times a Silver Age behold,
  Excelling brass, but more excelled by gold.
  Then summer, autumn, winter did appear,
  And spring was but a season of the year.
  The sun his annual course obliquely made,
  Good days contracted and enlarged the bad,
  Then air, with sultry heats, began to glow;
  The wings of winds were clogged with ice and sno
  And shivering mortals into houses driven,
  Sought shelter from the inclemency of heaven.
  Those houses then were caves, or homely sheds;
  With twining osiers fenced; and moss their beds.
  Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful furrows broke,
  And oxen labored first beneath the yoke.
  To this came next in course the Brazen Age:
  A warlike offspring, prompt to bloody rage,
  Not impious yet! . .
  . . . Hard Steel succeeded then;
  And stubborn as the metal were the men."
  Ovid's Metam, Book I. Dryden's Translation.

Crime burst in like a flood; modesty, truth, and honor fled. In their places came fraud and cunning, violence, and the wicked love of gain. Then seamen spread sails to the wind, and the trees were torn from the mountains to serve for keels to ships, and vex the face of ocean. The earth, which till now had been cultivated in common, began to be divided off into possessions. Men were not satisfied with what the surface produced, but must dig into its bowels, and draw forth from thence the ores of metals. Mischievous IRON, and more mischievous GOLD, were produced. War sprang up, using both as weapons; the guest was not safe in his friend's house; and sons-in-law and fathers-in- law, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, could not trust one another. Sons wished their fathers dead, that they might come to the inheritance; family love lay prostrate. The earth was wet with slaughter, and the gods abandoned it, one by one, till Astraea [the goddess of innocence and purity. After leaving earth, she was placed among the stars, where she became the constellation Virgo The Virgin. [Themis] (Justice) was the mother of Astraea. She is represented as holding aloft a pair of scales, in which she weighs the claims of opposing parties. It was a favorite idea of the old poets, that these goddesses would one day return, and bring back the Golden Age. Even in a Christian Hymn, the Messiah of Pope, this idea occurs.

  "All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail,
  Returning Justice lift aloft her scale,
  Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
  And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend." See, also,
  Milton's Hymn on the nativity, stanzas xiv, and xv] alone was
      left, and finally she also took her departure.

Jupiter, seeing this state of things, burned with anger. He summoned the gods to council. They obeyed the call, and took The road to the palace of heaven. The road, which any one may see in a clear night, stretches across the face of the sky, and is called the Milky Way. Along the road stand the palaces of the illustrious gods; the common people of the skies live apart, on either side. Jupiter addressed the assembly. He set forth the frightful condition of things on the earth, and closed by announcing his intention to destroy the whole of its inhabitants, and provide a new race, unlike the first, who would be more worthy of life, and much better worshippers of the gods. So saying he took a thunderbolt, and was about to launch it at the world, and destroy it by burning it; but recollecting the danger that such a conflagration might set heaven itself on fire, he changed his plan, and resolved to drown the world. Aquilo, the north wind, which scatters the clouds, was chained up; Notus, the south, was sent out, and soon covered all the face of heaven with a cloak of pitchy darkness. The clouds, driven together, resound with a crash; torrents of rain fall; the crops are laid low; the year's labor of the husbandman perishes in an hour. Jupiter, not satisfied with his own waters, calls on his brother Neptune to aid him with his. He lets loose the rivers, and pours them over the land. At the same time, he heaves the land with an earthquake, and brings in the reflux of the ocean over the shores. Flocks, herds, men, and houses are swept away, and temples, with their sacred enclosures, profaned. If any edifice remained standing, it was overwhelmed, and its turrets lay hid beneath the waves. Now all was sea; sea without shore. Here and there some one remained on a projecting hill-top, and a few, in boats, pulled the oar where they had lately driven the plough. The fishes swim among the tree-tops; the anchor is let down into a garden. Where the graceful lambs played but now, unwieldy sea- calves gambol. The wolf swims among the sheep; the yellow lions and tigers struggle in the water. The strength of the wild boar serves him not, nor his swiftness the stag. The birds fall with weary wing into the water, having found no land for a resting place. Those living beings whom the water spared fell a prey to hunger.