Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 78

And now the monster was within the range of a stone thrown by a skilful slinger, when with a sudden bound the youth soared into the air. As an eagle, when from his lofty flight he sees a serpent basking in the sun, pounces upon him and seizes him by the neck to prevent him from turning his head round and using his fangs, so the youth darted down upon the back of the monster and plunged his sword into its shoulder. Irritated by the wound the monster raised himself into the air, then plunged into the depth; then, like a wild boar surrounded by a pack of barking dogs, turned swiftly from side to side, while the youth eluded its attacks by means of his wings. Wherever he can find a passage for his sword between the scales he makes a wound, piercing now the side, now the flank, as it slopes towards the tail. The brute spouts from his nostrils water mixed with blood. The wings of the hero are wet with it, and he dares no longer trust to them. Alighting on a rock which rose above the waves, and holding on by a projecting fragment, as the monster floated near he gave him a death-stroke. The people who had gathered on the shore shouted so that the hills re-echoed to the sound. The parents, transported with joy, embraced their future son-in-law, calling him their deliverer and the savior of their house, and the virgin, both cause and reward of the contest, descended from the rock.

Cassiopeia was an Aethiopian, and consequently, in spite of her boasted beauty, black; at least so Milton seems to have thought, who alludes to this story in his Penseroso, where he addresses Melancholy as the

  "—— goddess, sage and holy,
  Whose saintly visage is too bright
  To hit the sense of human sight,
  And, therefore, to our weaker view
  O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue.
  Black, but such as in esteem
  Prince Memnon's sister might beseem,
  Or that starred Aethiop queen that strove
  To set her beauty's praise above
  The Sea-nymphs, and their powers offended."

Cassiopeia is called "the starred Aethiop queen," because after her death she was placed among the stars, forming the constellation of that name. Though she attained this honor, yet the Sea-Nymphs, her old enemies, prevailed so far as to cause her to be placed in that part of the heaven near the pole, where every night she is half the time held with her head downward, to give her a lesson of humility.

"Prince Memnon" was the son of Aurora and Tithonus, of whom we shall hear later.


The joyful parents, with