Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 83

Milton alludes to Bellerophon in the beginning o the seventh book of Paradise Lost:

  "Descend from Heaven, Urania, by that name
  If rightly thou art called, whose voice divine
  Following above the Olympian hill I soar,
  Above the flight of Pegasean wing,
  Up-led by thee,
  Into the Heaven of Heavens I have presumed,
  An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air,
  (Thy tempering;) with like safety guided down
  Return me to my native element;
  Lest from this flying steed unreined, (as once
  Bellerophon, though from a lower sphere,)
  Dismounted on the Aleian field I fall,
  Erroneous there to wander, and forlorn."

Young in his Night Thoughts, speaking of the skeptic, says,

  "He whose blind thought futurity denies,
  Unconscious bears, Bellerophon, like thee
  His own indictment; he condemns himself,
  Who reads his bosom reads immortal life,
  Or nature there, imposing on her sons,
  Has written fables; man was made a lie."
  Vol. II.1,12.

Pegasus, being the horse of the Muses, has always been at the service of the poets. Schiller tells a pretty story of his having been sold by a needy poet, and put to the cart and the plough. He was not fit for such service, and his clownish master could make nothing of him. But a youth stepped forth and asked leave to try him. As soon as he was seated on his back, the horse, which had appeared at first vicious, and afterwards spirit-broken, rose kingly, a spirit, a god; unfolded the splendor of his wings and soared towards heaven. Our own poet Longfellow also records an adventure of this famous steed in his Pegasus in Pound.

Shakespeare alludes to Pegasus in Henry IV, where Vernon describes Prince Henry:

  "I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
  His cuishes on his thighs, gallantly armed,
  Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury,
  And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
  As if an angel dropped down from the clouds,
  To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
  And witch the world with noble horsemanship."


The Greeks loved to people their woods and hills with strange wild people, half man, half beast. Such were the Satyrs men with goats' legs. But nobler and better were the Centaurs, men to the waist, while the rest was the form of a horse. The ancients were too fond of a horse to consider the union of his nature with man's as forming any very degraded compound, and accordingly the Centaur is the only one of the fancied monsters of antiquity to which any good traits are assigned. The Centaurs were admitted to the companionship of man, and at the marriage of Pirithous with Hippodamia, they were among the guests. At the feast, Eurytion, one of the Centaurs, becoming intoxicated with the wine, attempted to offer violence to the bride; the other Centaurs followed his example, and a dreadful conflict arose in which several of them were slain. This is the celebrated battle of the Lapithae and Centaurs, a favorite subject with the sculptors and poets of antiquity.