Nonfiction > Francis Bacon > Of the Wisdom of the Ancients
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Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.
 
XIV. Memnon
Or the Early-ripe
 
MEMNON, according to the poets, was the son of Aurora. Conspicuous for the beauty of his arms, and great in popular reputation, he came to the Trojan war; where rushing with breathless haste and headlong courage at the highest mark, he engaged Achilles, the bravest of all the Greeks, in single fight; and fell by his hand. In pity of his fate Jupiter sent birds to grace his funeral that kept up a continual cry of grief and lamentation. His statue also, as often as the rays of the rising sun touched it, is said to have uttered a mournful sound.  1
  The fable seems meant to apply to the unfortunate deaths of young men of high promise. For such are as it were the sons of the morning, and it commonly happens that, being puffed up with empty and outward advantages, they venture upon enterprises that are beyond their strength, provoke and challenge to combat the bravest heroes, and falling in the unequal conflict are extinguished. But the death of such persons is wont to be followed by infinite commiseration; for of all mortal accidents there is none so lamentable, none so powerful to move pity, as this cropping of the flower of virtue before its time: the rather because their life has been too short to give occasion of satiety or of envy, which might otherwise mitigate sorrow at their death and temper compassion. And not only do lamentations and wailings hover like those mourner birds about the funeral pile; but the same feeling of pity lasts long after: and more especially upon all fresh accidents and new movements and beginnings of great events, as by the touch of sunrise, the regret for them is stirred up again and renewed.  2
 
 
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