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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 80

Perseus gave the head of Medusa to Minerva, who had aided him so well to obtain it. Minerva took the head of her once beautiful rival and placed it in the middle of her Aegis.

Milton, in his Comus, thus alludes to the Aegis:

  "What was that snaky-headed Gorgon-shield
  That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
  Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
  But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
  And noble grace that dashed brute violence
  With sudden adoration and blank awe!"

Armstrong, the poet of the Art of Preserving Health, thus describes the effect of frost upon the waters:

  "Now blows the surly North and chills throughout
  the stiffening regions, while by stronger charms
  Than Circe e'er or fell Medea brewed,
  Each brook that wont to prattle to its banks
  Lies all bestilled and wedged betwixt its banks,
  Nor moves the withered reeds. . . .
  The surges baited by the fierce Northeast,
  Tossing with fretful spleen their angry heads,
  E'en in the foam of all their madness struck
  To monumental ice.

* * * * *

  Such execution,
  So stern, so sudden, wrought the grisly aspect
  Of terrible Medusa,
  When wandering through the woods she turned to stone
  Their savage tenants; just as the foaming lion
  Sprang furious on his prey, her speedier power
  Outran his haste,
  And fixed in that fierce attitude he stands
  Like Rage in marble!"
  Imitations of Shakespeare

Of Atlas there is another story, which I like better than the one told. He was one of the Titans who warred against Jupiter like Typhoeus, Briareus, and others. After their defeat by the king of gods and men, Atlas was condemned to stand in the far western part of the earth, by the Pillars of Hercules, and to hold on his shoulders the weight of heaven and the stars.

The story runs that Perseus, flying by, asked and obtained rest and food. The next morning he asked what he could do to reward Atlas for his kindness. The best that giant could think of was that Perseus should show him the snaky head of Medusa, that he might be turned to stone and be at rest from his heavy load.

Chapter X

Monsters. Giants. Sphinx. Pegasus and the Chimaera.
Centaurs. Griffin. Pygmies

Monsters, in the language of mythology, were beings of unnatural proportions or parts, usually regarded with terror, as possessing immense strength and ferocity, which they employed for the injury and annoyance of men. Some of them were supposed to combine the members of different animals; such were the Sphinx and the Chimaera; and to these all the terrible qualities of wild beasts were attributed, together with human sagacity and faculties. Others, as the giants, differed from men chiefly in their size; and in this particular we must recognize a wide distinction among them. The human giants, if so they may be called, such as the Cyclopes, Antaeus, Orion, and others, must be supposed not to be altogether disproportioned to human beings, for they mingled in love and strife with them. But the superhuman giants, who warred with the gods, were of vastly larger dimensions. Tityus, we are told, when stretched on the plain, covered nine acres, and Enceladus required the whole of Mount AEtna to be laid upon him to keep him down.


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