| Fifty Famous Stories Retold|
|by James Baldwin|
|Includes fifty legendary tales depicting certain romantic episodes in the lives of well-known heroes and famous men, or in the history of a people. Children naturally take a deep interest in such stories. The reading of them will not only give pleasure but will lay the foundation for broader literary studies, as nearly all are the subjects of frequent allusions in poetry and prose. Ages 6-9 |
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
THERE was once a king whose name was
Dionysius. He was
so unjust and cruel that he won for himself the name of
tyrant. He knew that almost everybody hated him, and so he
was always in dread lest some one should take his life.
 But he was very rich, and he lived in a fine palace where
there were many beautiful and costly things, and he was
waited upon by a host of servants who were always ready to
do his bidding. One day a friend of his, whose name was
Damocles, said to him,—
"How happy you must be! You have here everything that any man
"Perhaps you would like to change places with me," said the
"No, not that, O king!" said Damocles; "but I think,
that, if I could only have your riches and your
pleasures for one day, I should not want any greater
"Very well," said the tyrant. "You shall have them."
And so, the next day, Damocles was led into the palace, and
all the servants were bidden to treat him as their master. He
sat down at a table in the banquet hall, and rich foods were
placed before him. Nothing was wanting that could give him
pleasure. There were costly wines, and beautiful flowers,
and rare perfumes, and
delightful music. He rested
himself among soft cushions, and felt that he was the
happiest man in all the world.
Then he chanced to raise his eyes toward the ceiling.
What was it that was dangling above him,
 with its point almost touching his head? It was a sharp
sword, and it was hung by only a single horse-hair. What if
the hair should break? There was danger every moment that
it would do so.
The Sword of Damocles
The smile faded from the lips of Damocles. His face became
ashy pale. His hands trembled. He wanted no more food;
he could drink no more wine; he took no more delight in the
music. He longed to be out of the palace, and away, he
cared not where.
"What is the matter?" said the tyrant.
"That sword! that sword!" cried Damocles. He was so badly
frightened that he dared not move.
"Yes," said Dionysius, "I know there is a sword above
your head, and that it may fall at any moment. But why
should that trouble you? I have a sword over my head all the
time. I am every moment in dread lest something may
cause me to lose my life."
"Let me go," said Damocles. "I now see that I was
mistaken, and that the rich and powerful are not so
happy as they seem. Let me go back to my old home in
the poor little cottage among the mountains."
And so long as he lived, he never again wanted to be
rich, or to change places, even for a moment, with the
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