Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 123

Milton also appears to have had Cyrene and her domestic scene in his mind when he describes to us Sabrina, the nymph of the river Severn, in the Guardian-spirit's Song in Comus:

  "Sabrina fair!
  Listen when thou art sitting
  Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave
  In twisted braids of lilies knitting
  The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair;
  Listen for dear honor's sake,
  Goddess of the silver lake!
  Listen and save."

The following are other celebrated mythical poets and musicians, some of whom were hardly inferior to Orpheus himself:


Amphion was the son of Jupiter and Antiope, queen of Thebes. With his twin brother Zethus he was exposed at birth on Mount Cithaeron, where they grew up among the shepherds, not knowing their parentage. Mercury gave Amphion a lyre, and taught him to play upon it, and his brother occupied himself in hunting and tending the flocks. Meanwhile Antiope, their mother, who had been treated with great cruelty by Lycus, the usurping king of Thebes, and by Dirce, his wife, found means to inform her children of their rights, and to summon them to her assistance. With a band of their fellow-herdsmen they attacked and slew Lycus, and tying Dirce by the hair of her head to a bull, let him drag her till she was dead (the punishment of Dirce is the subject of a celebrated group of statuary now in the Museum at Naples). Amphion, having become king of Thebes fortified the city with a wall. It is said that when he played on his lyre the stones moved of their own accord and took their places in the wall.

In Tennyson's poem of Amphion is an amusing use of this story:

  "Oh, had I lived when song was great,
  In days of old Amphion,
  And ta'en my fiddle to the gate
  Nor feared for reed or scion!

  And had I lived when song was great,
  And legs of trees were limber,
  And ta'en my fiddle to the gate,
  And fiddled to the timber!

  "'Tis said he had a tuneful tongue,
  Such happy intonation,
  Wherever he sat down and sung
  He left a small plantation;
  Whenever in a lonely grove
  He set up his forlorn pipes,
  The gouty oak began to move
  And flounder into hornpipes."


Linus was the instructor of Hercules in music, but having one day reproved his pupil rather harshly, he roused the anger of Hercules, who struck him with his lyre and killed him.


An ancient Thracian bard, who in his presumption challenged the Muses to a trial of skill, and being overcome in the contest was deprived by them of his sight. Milton alludes to him with other blind bards, when speaking of his own blindness (Paradise Lost, Book III.35).


Minerva invented the flute, and played upon it to the delight of all the celestial auditors; but the mischievous urchin Cupid having dared to laugh at the queer face which the goddess made while playing, Minerva threw the instrument indignantly away, and it fell down to earth, and was found by Marsyas. He blew upon it, and drew from it such ravishing sounds that he was tempted to challenge Apollo himself to a musical contest. The god of course triumphed, and punished Marsyas by flaying him alive.