There are nine stories in this book, each written from the point of view of a young boy who lives and works in a historical settler. Beginning with Meryt, the son of a canal builder in ancient Egypt, and continuing to Nathanial, an apprentice silver smith in the age of Paul Revere, the book also has stories about working boys from ancient Greek (sculpture), Ancient Rome (soldier), Molsem Arabia (scholar), Fanders(weaver), Renaissance Italy (painter), England (sailor), and France in the age of Louis the XIV.
When the earth was made, the old Greek stories say, the gods gave to the two great Titans, the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus, the care of men and animals. Epimetheus took the animals for his special charge. To some he gave scales that they might be well protected, to some claws to fight with, to others fangs or stings, and his gifts were so effective that Prometheus saw that his darling, Man, would be quite defenseless and in danger. He went to Olympus, where the gods lived, and stealing fire from the chariot of the sun brought it back to Man and taught him to use it. Then Man was safe. For the animals never outgrew the fear of fire, but Man with his knowledge of how to use it became master over all the creatures on the earth.
But Prometheus was not content to stop here. He wanted Man not only to rise above the animals but to try to reach even to the gods. He taught him crafts,—how to use his hands; to build houses and not to live in holes in the earth like ants; to train the animals to help him in his work; to understand numbers and letters,—to figure and to write; to educate his senses and to develop his mind and memory.
Then life on the earth was a new thing for Man. As he schooled his mind and worked with his hands, he discovered joy and beauty, and he learned to hope and plan and dream. His skill grew and his dreams grew with his skill, until he became Man the Artist, whose brain and hands can create beauty only less perfect than the gods have made. Sometimes he was rash and thought himself too easily the equal of the gods, as Arachne did, who declared that she could weave as well as Athena, or like Marsyas who thought his music as sweet as Apollo's. Then for such pride and boasting he had to be rebuked. But he went on trying and daring and dreaming.
Scholar, sculptor, painter, musician, poet, and craftsman,—the artist, whoever he is, works on gladly with all his might. Blessed with Prometheus' gifts, he knows no limit to his dreams. He is always trying to outdo himself and reach the gods.
Acknowledgment is due the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for its courtesy in allowing the use of photographs of many objects in its collections.
|LAURA WOOLSEY LORD SCALES|