Translated by Sir Samuel Garth,
Book the Seventh
The Story of Medea and Jason
The Argonauts now stemm'd the foaming tide,
And to Arcadia's shore their course apply'd;
Where sightless Phineus spent his age in grief,
But Boreas' sons engage in his relief;
And those unwelcome guests, the odious race
Of Harpyes, from the monarch's table chase.
With Jason then they greater toils sustain,
And Phasis' slimy banks at last they gain,
Here boldly they demand the golden prize
Of Scythia's king, who sternly thus replies:
That mighty labours they must first o'ercome,
Or sail their Argo thence unfreighted home.
Meanwhile Medea, seiz'd with fierce desire,
By reason strives to quench the raging fire;
But strives in vain!- Some God (she said) withstands,
And reason's baffl'd council countermands.
What unseen Pow'r does this disorder move?
'Tis love,- at least 'tis like, what men call love.
Else wherefore shou'd the king's commands appear
To me too hard?- But so indeed they are.
Why shou'd I for a stranger fear, lest he
Shou'd perish, whom I did but lately see?
His death, or safety, what are they to me?
Wretch, from thy virgin-breast this flame expel,
And soon- Oh cou'd I, all wou'd then be well!
But love, resistless love, my soul invades;
Discretion this, affection that perswades.
I see the right, and I approve it too,
Condemn the wrong- and yet the wrong pursue.
Why, royal maid, shou'dst thou desire to wed
A wanderer, and court a foreign bed?
Thy native land, tho' barb'rous, can present
A bridegroom worth a royal bride's content:
And whether this advent'rer lives, or dies,
In Fate, and Fortune's fickle pleasure lies.
Yet may be live! for to the Pow'rs above,
A virgin, led by no impulse of love,
So just a suit may, for the guiltless, move.
Whom wou'd not Jason's valour, youth and blood
Invite? or cou'd these merits be withstood,
At least his charming person must encline
The hardest heart- I'm sure 'tis so with mine!
Yet, if I help him not, the flaming breath
Of bulls, and earth-born foes, must be his death.
Or, should he through these dangers force his way,
At last he must be made the dragon's prey.
If no remorse for such distress I feel,
I am a tigress, and my breast is steel.
Why do I scruple then to see him slain,
And with the tragick scene my eyes prophane?
My magick's art employ, not to asswage
The Salvages, but to enflame their rage?
His earth-born foes to fiercer fury move,
And accessary to his murder prove?
The Gods forbid- But pray'rs are idle breath,
When action only can prevent his death.
Shall I betray my father, and the state,
To intercept a rambling hero's fate;
Who may sail off next hour, and sav'd from harms
By my assistance, bless another's arms?
Whilst I, not only of my hopes bereft,
But to unpity'd punishment am left.
If he is false, let the ingrateful bleed!
But no such symptom in his looks I read.
Nature wou'd ne'er have lavish'd so much grace
Upon his person, if his soul were base.
Besides, he first shall plight his faith, and swear
By all the Gods; what therefore can'st thou fear?
Medea haste, from danger set him free,
Jason shall thy eternal debtor be.
And thou, his queen, with sov'raign state enstall'd,
By Graecian dames the Kind Preserver call'd.
Hence idle dreams, by love-sick fancy bred!
Wilt thou, Medea, by vain wishes led,
To sister, brother, father bid adieu?
Forsake thy country's Gods, and country too?
My father's harsh, my brother but a child,
My sister rivals me, my country's wild;
And for its Gods, the greatest of 'em all
Inspires my breast, and I obey his call.
That great endearments I forsake, is true,
But greater far the hopes that I pursue:
The pride of having sav'd the youths of Greece
(Each life more precious than our golden fleece);
A nobler soil by me shall be possest,
I shall see towns with arts and manners blest;
And, what I prize above the world beside,
Enjoy my Jason- and when once his bride,
Be more than mortal, and to Gods ally'd.
They talk of hazards I must first sustain,
Of floating islands justling in the main;
Our tender barque expos'd to dreadful shocks
Of fierce Charybdis' gulf, and Scylla's rocks,
Where breaking waves in whirling eddies rowl,
And rav'nous dogs that in deep caverns howl:
Amidst these terrors, while I lye possest
Of him I love, and lean on Jason's breast,
In tempests unconcern'd I will appear,
Or, only for my husband's safety fear.
Didst thou say husband?- canst thou so deceive
Thy self, fond maid, and thy own cheat believe?
In vain thou striv'st to varnish o'er thy shame,
And grace thy guilt with wedlock's sacred name.
Pull off the coz'ning masque, and oh! in time
Discover and avoid the fatal crime.
She ceas'd- the Graces now, with kind surprize,
And virtue's lovely train, before her eyes
Present themselves, and vanquish'd Cupid flies.
She then retires to Hecate's shrine, that stood
Far in the covert of a shady wood:
She finds the fury of her flames asswag'd,
But, seeing Jason there, again they rag'd.
Blushes, and paleness did by turns invade
Her tender cheeks, and secret grief betray'd.
As fire, that sleeping under ashes lyes,
Fresh-blown, and rous'd, does up in blazes rise,
So flam'd the virgin's breast-
New kindled by her lover's sparkling eyes.
For chance, that day, had with uncommon grace
Adorn'd the lovely youth, and through his face
Display'd an air so pleasing as might charm
A Goddess, and a Vestal's bosom warm.
Her ravish'd eyes survey him o'er and o'er,
As some gay wonder never seen before;
Transported to the skies she seems to be,
And thinks she gazes on a deity.
But when he spoke, and prest her trembling hand,
And did with tender words her aid demand,
With vows, and oaths to make her soon his bride,
She wept a flood of tears, and thus reply'd:
I see my error, yet to ruin move,
Nor owe my fate to ignorance, but love:
Your life I'll guard, and only crave of you
To swear once more- and to your oath be true.
He swears by Hecate he would all fulfil,
And by her grandfather's prophetick skill,
By ev'ry thing that doubting love cou'd press,
His present danger, and desir'd success.
She credits him, and kindly does produce
Enchanted herbs, and teaches him their use:
Their mystick names, and virtues he admires,
And with his booty joyfully retires.
The Dragon's Teeth transform'd to Men
Impatient for the wonders of the day,
Aurora drives the loyt'ring stars away.
Now Mars's mount the pressing people fill,
The crowd below, the nobles crown the hill;
The king himself high-thron'd above the rest,
With iv'ry scepter, and in purple drest.
Forthwith the brass-hoof'd bulls are set at large,
Whose furious nostrils sulph'rous flame discharge:
The blasted herbage by their breath expires;
As forges rumble with excessive fires,
And furnaces with fiercer fury glow,
When water on the panting mass ye throw;
With such a noise, from their convulsive breast,
Thro' bellowing throats, the struggling vapour prest.
Yet Jason marches up without concern,
While on th' advent'rous youth the monsters turn
Their glaring eyes, and, eager to engage,
Brandish their steel-tipt horns in threatning rage:
With brazen hoofs they beat the ground, and choak
The ambient air with clouds of dust and smoak:
Each gazing Graecian for his champion shakes,
While bold advances he securely makes
Thro' sindging blasts; such wonders magick art
Can work, when love conspires, and plays his part.
The passive savages like statues stand,
While he their dew-laps stroaks with soothing hand;
To unknown yokes their brawny necks they yield,
And, like tame oxen, plow the wond'ring field.
The Colchians stare; the Graecians shout, and raise
Their champion's courage with inspiring praise.
Embolden'd now, on fresh attempts he goes,
With serpent's teeth the fertile furrows sows;
The glebe, fermenting with inchanted juice,
Makes the snake's teeth a human crop produce.
For as an infant, pris'ner to the womb,
Contented sleeps, 'till to perfection come,
Then does the cell's obscure confinement scorn,
He tosses, throbs, and presses to be born;
So from the lab'ring Earth no single birth,
But a whole troop of lusty youths rush forth;
And, what's more strange, with martial fury warm'd,
And for encounter all compleatly arm'd;
In rank and file, as they were sow'd, they stand,
Impatient for the signal of command.
No foe but the Aemonian youth appears;
At him they level their steel-pointed spears;
His frighted friends, who triumph'd, just before,
With peals of sighs his desp'rate case deplore:
And where such hardy warriors are afraid,
What must the tender, and enamour'd maid?
Her spirits sink, the blood her cheek forsook;
She fears, who for his safety undertook:
She knew the vertue of the spells she gave,
She knew the force, and knew her lover brave;
But what's a single champion to an host?
Yet scorning thus to see him tamely lost,
Her strong reserve of secret arts she brings,
And last, her never-failing song she sings.
Wonders ensue; among his gazing foes
The massy fragment of a rock he throws;
This charm in civil war engag'd 'em all;
By mutual wounds those Earth-born brothers fall.
The Greeks, transported with the strange success,
Leap from their seats the conqu'ror to caress;
Commend, and kiss, and clasp him in their arms:
So would the kind contriver of the charms;
But her, who felt the tenderest concern,
Honour condemns in secret flames to burn;
Committed to a double guard of fame,
Aw'd by a virgin's, and a princess' name.
But thoughts are free, and fancy unconfin'd,
She kisses, courts, and hugs him in her mind;
To fav'ring Pow'rs her silent thanks she gives,
By whose indulgence her lov'd hero lives.
One labour more remains, and, tho' the last,
In danger far surmounting all the past;
That enterprize by Fates in store was kept,
To make the dragon sleep that never slept,
Whose crest shoots dreadful lustre; from his jaws
A tripple tire of forked stings he draws,
With fangs, and wings of a prodigious size:
Such was the guardian of the golden prize.
Yet him, besprinkled with Lethaean dew,
The fair inchantress into slumber threw;
And then, to fix him, thrice she did repeat
The rhyme, that makes the raging winds retreat,
In stormy seas can halcyon seasons make,
Turn rapid streams into a standing lake;
While the soft guest his drowzy eye-lids seals,
Th' ungarded golden fleece the stranger steals;
Proud to possess the purchase of his toil,
Proud of his royal bride, the richer spoil;
To sea both prize, and patroness he bore,
And lands triumphant on his native shore.
Old Aeson restor'd to Youth
Aemonian matrons, who their absence mourn'd,
Rejoyce to see their prosp'rous sons return'd:
Rich curling fumes of incense feast the skies,
An hecatomb of voted victims dies,
With gilded horns, and garlands on their head,
And all the pomp of death, to th' altar led.
Congratulating bowls go briskly round,
Triumphant shouts in louder musick drown'd.
Amidst these revels, why that cloud of care
On Jason's brow? (to whom the largest share
Of mirth was due)- His father was not there.
Aeson was absent, once the young, and brave,
Now crush'd with years, and bending to the grave.
At last withdrawn, and by the crowd unseen,
Pressing her hand (with starting sighs between),
He supplicates his kind, and skilful queen.
O patroness! preserver of my life!
(Dear when my mistress, and much dearer wife)
Your favours to so vast a sum amount,
'Tis past the pow'r of numbers to recount;
Or cou'd they be to computation brought,
The history would a romance be thought:
And yet, unless you add one favour more,
Greater than all that you conferr'd before,
But not too hard for love and magick skill,
Your past are thrown away, and Jason's wretched still.
The morning of my life is just begun,
But my declining father's race is run;
From my large stock retrench the long arrears,
And add 'em to expiring Aeson's years.
Thus spake the gen'rous youth, and wept the rest.
Mov'd with the piety of his request,
To his ag'd sire such filial duty shown,
So diff'rent from her treatment of her own,
But still endeav'ring her remorse to hide,
She check'd her rising sighs, and thus reply'd.
How cou'd the thought of such inhuman wrong
Escape (said she) from pious Jason's tongue?
Does the whole world another Jason bear,
Whose life Medea can to yours prefer?
Or cou'd I with so dire a change dispence,
Hecate will never join in that offence:
Unjust is the request you make, and I
In kindness your petition shall deny;
Yet she that grants not what you do implore,
Shall yet essay to give her Jason more;
Find means t' encrease the stock of Aeson's years,
Without retrenchment of your life's arrears;
Provided that the triple Goddess join
A strong confed'rate in my bold design.
Thus was her enterprize resolv'd; but still
Three tedious nights are wanting to fulfil
The circling crescents of th' encreasing moon;
Then, in the height of her nocturnal noon,
Medea steals from court; her ankles bare,
Her garments closely girt, but loose her hair;
Thus sally'd, like a solitary sprite,
She traverses the terrors of the night.
Men, beasts, and birds in soft repose lay charm'd,
No boistrous wind the mountain-woods alarm'd;
Nor did those walks of love, the myrtle-trees,
Of am'rous Zephir hear the whisp'ring breeze;
All elements chain'd in unactive rest,
No sense but what the twinkling stars exprest;
To them (that only wak'd) she rears her arm,
And thus commences her mysterious charms.
She turn'd her thrice about, as oft she threw
On her pale tresses the nocturnal dew;
Then yelling thrice a most enormous sound,
Her bare knee bended on the flinty ground.
O night (said she) thou confident and guide
Of secrets, such as darkness ought to hide;
Ye stars and moon, that, when the sun retires,
Support his empire with succeeding fires;
And thou, great Hecate, friend to my design;
Songs, mutt'ring spells, your magick forces join;
And thou, O Earth, the magazine that yields
The midnight sorcerer drugs; skies, mountains, fields;
Ye wat'ry Pow'rs of fountain, stream, and lake;
Ye sylvan Gods, and Gods of night, awake,
And gen'rously your parts in my adventure take.
Oft by your aid swift currents I have led
Thro' wand'ring banks, back to their fountain head;
Transformed the prospect of the briny deep,
Made sleeping billows rave, and raving billows sleep;
Made clouds, or sunshine; tempests rise, or fall;
And stubborn lawless winds obey my call:
With mutter'd words disarm'd the viper's jaw;
Up by the roots vast oaks, and rocks cou'd draw,
Make forests dance, and trembling mountains come,
Like malefactors, to receive their doom;
Earth groan, and frighted ghosts forsake their tomb.
Thee, Cynthia, my resistless rhymes drew down,
When tinkling cymbals strove my voice to drown;
Nor stronger Titan could their force sustain,
In full career compell'd to stop his wain:
Nor could Aurora's virgin blush avail,
With pois'nous herbs I turn'd her roses pale;
The fury of the fiery bulls I broke,
Their stubborn necks submitting to my yoke;
And when the sons of Earth with fury burn'd,
Their hostile rage upon themselves I turn'd;
The brothers made with mutual wounds to bleed,
And by their fatal strife my lover freed;
And, while the dragon slept, to distant Greece,
Thro' cheated guards, convey'd the golden fleece.
But now to bolder action I proceed,
Of such prevailing juices now have need,
That wither'd years back to their bloom can bring,
And in dead winter raise a second spring.
And you'll perform't-
You will; for lo! the stars, with sparkling fires,
Presage as bright success to my desires:
And now another happy omen see!
A chariot drawn by dragons waits for me.
With these last words he leaps into the wain,
Stroaks the snakes' necks, and shakes the golden rein;
That signal giv'n, they mount her to the skies,
And now beneath her fruitful Tempe lies,
Whose stories she ransacks, then to Crete she flies;
There Ossa, Pelion, Othrys, Pindus, all
To the fair ravisher, a booty fall;
The tribute of their verdure she collects,
Nor proud Olympus' height his plants protects.
Some by the roots she plucks; the tender tops
Of others with her culling sickle crops.
Nor could the plunder of the hills suffice,
Down to the humble vales, and meads she flies;
Apidanus, Amphrysus, the next rape
Sustain, nor could Enipeus' bank escape;
Thro' Beebe's marsh, and thro' the border rang'd
Whose pasture Glaucus to a Triton chang'd.
Now the ninth day, and ninth successive night,
Had wonder'd at the restless rover's flight;
Mean-while her dragons, fed with no repast,
But her exhaling simples od'rous blast,
Their tarnish'd scales, and wrinkled skins had cast.
At last return'd before her palace gate,
Quitting her chariot, on the ground she sate;
The sky her only canopy of state.
All conversation with her sex she fled,
Shun'd the caresses of the nuptial bed:
Two altars next of grassy turf she rears,
This Hecate's name, that Youth's inscription bears;
With forest-boughs, and vervain these she crown'd;
Then delves a double trench in lower ground,
And sticks a black-fleec'd ram, that ready stood,
And drench'd the ditches with devoted blood:
New wine she pours, and milk from th' udder warm,
With mystick murmurs to compleat the charm,
And subterranean deities alarm.
To the stern king of ghosts she next apply'd,
And gentle Proserpine, his ravish'd bride,
That for old Aeson with the laws of Fate
They would dispense, and lengthen his short date;
Thus with repeated pray'rs she long assails
Th' infernal tyrant and at last prevails;
Then calls to have decrepit Aeson brought,
And stupifies him with a sleeping draught;
On Earth his body, like a corpse, extends,
Then charges Jason and his waiting friends
To quit the place, that no unhallow'd eye
Into her art's forbidden secrets pry.
This done, th' inchantress, with her locks unbound,
About her altars trips a frantick round;
Piece-meal the consecrated wood she splits,
And dips the splinters in the bloody pits,
Then hurles 'em on the piles; the sleeping sire
She lustrates thrice, with sulphur, water, fire.
In a large cauldron now the med'cine boils,
Compounded of her late-collected spoils,
Blending into the mesh the various pow'rs
Of wonder-working juices, roots, and flow'rs;
With gems i' th' eastern ocean's cell refin'd,
And such as ebbing tides had left behind;
To them the midnight's pearly dew she flings,
A scretch-owl's carcase, and ill boding wings;
Nor could the wizard wolf's warm entrails scape
(That wolf who counterfeits a human shape).
Then, from the bottom of her conj'ring bag,
Snakes' skins, and liver of a long-liv'd stag;
Last a crow's head to such an age arriv'd,
That he had now nine centuries surviv'd;
These, and with these a thousand more that grew
In sundry soils, into her pot she threw;
Then with a wither'd olive-bough she rakes
The bubling broth; the bough fresh verdure takes;
Green leaves at first the perish'd plant surround,
Which the next minute with ripe fruit were crown'd.
The foaming juices now the brink o'er-swell;
The barren heath, where-e'er the liquor fell,
Sprang out with vernal grass, and all the pride
Of blooming May- When this Medea spy'd,
She cuts her patient's throat; th' exhausted blood
Recruiting with her new enchanted flood;
While at his mouth, and thro' his op'ning wound,
A double inlet her infusion found;
His feeble frame resumes a youthful air,
A glossy brown his hoary beard and hair.
The meager paleness from his aspect fled,
And in its room sprang up a florid red;
Thro' all his limbs a youthful vigour flies,
His empty'd art'ries swell with fresh supplies:
Gazing spectators scarce believe their eyes.
But Aeson is the most surpriz'd to find
A happy change in body and in mind;
In sense and constitution the same man,
As when his fortieth active year began.
Bacchus, who from the clouds this wonder view'd,
Medea's method instantly pursu'd,
And his indulgent nurse's youth renew'd.
The Death of Pelias
Thus far obliging love employ'd her art,
But now revenge must act a tragick part;
Medea feigns a mortal quarrel bred
Betwixt her, and the partner of her bed;
On this pretence to Pelias' court she flies,
Who languishing with age and sickness lies:
His guiltless daughters, with inveigling wiles,
And well dissembled friendship, she beguiles:
The strange achievements of her art she tells,
With Aeson's cure, and long on that she dwells,
'Till them to firm perswasion she has won,
The same for their old father may be done:
For him they court her to employ her skill,
And put upon the cure what price she will.
At first she's mute, and with a grave pretence
Of difficulty, holds 'em in suspense;
Then promises, and bids 'em, from the fold
Chuse out a ram, the most infirm and old;
That so by fact their doubts may be remov'd,
And first on him the operation prov'd.
A wreath-horn'd ram is brought, so far o'er-grown
With years, his age was to that age unknown
Of sense too dull the piercing point to feel,
And scarce sufficient blood to stain the steel.
His carcass she into a cauldron threw,
With drugs whose vital qualities she knew;
His limbs grow less, he casts his horns, and years,
And tender bleatings strike their wond'ring ears.
Then instantly leaps forth a frisking lamb,
That seeks (too young to graze) a suckling dam.
The sisters, thus confirm'd with the success,
Her promise with renew'd entreaty press;
To countenance the cheat, three nights and days
Before experiment th' inchantress stays;
Then into limpid water, from the springs,
Weeds, and ingredients of no force she flings;
With antique ceremonies for pretence
And rambling rhymes without a word of sense.
Mean-while the king with all his guards lay bound
In magick sleep, scarce that of death so sound;
The daughters now are by the sorc'ress led
Into his chamber, and surround his bed.
Your father's health's concern'd, and can ye stay?
Unnat'ral nymphs, why this unkind delay?
Unsheath your swords, dismiss his lifeless blood,
And I'll recruit it with a vital flood:
Your father's life and health is in your hand,
And can ye thus like idle gazers stand?
Unless you are of common sense bereft,
If yet one spark of piety is left,
Dispatch a father's cure, and disengage
The monarch from his toilsome load of age:
Come- drench your weapons in his putrid gore;
'Tis charity to wound, when wounding will restore.
Thus urg'd, the poor deluded maids proceed,
Betray'd by zeal, to an inhumane deed,
And, in compassion, make a father bleed.
Yes, she who had the kindest, tend'rest heart,
Is foremost to perform the bloody part.
Yet, tho' to act the butchery betray'd,
They could not bear to see the wounds they made;
With looks averted, backward they advance,
Then strike, and stab, and leave the blows to chance.
Waking in consternation, he essays
(Weltring in blood) his feeble arms to raise:
Environ'd with so many swords- From whence
This barb'rous usage? what is my offence?
What fatal fury, what infernal charm,
'Gainst a kind father does his daughters arm?
Hearing his voice, as thunder-struck they stopt,
Their resolution, and their weapons dropt:
Medea then the mortal blow bestows,
And that perform'd, the tragick scene to close,
His corpse into the boiling cauldron throws.
Then, dreading the revenge that must ensue,
High mounted on her dragon-coach she flew;
And in her stately progress thro' the skies,
Beneath her shady Pelion first she spies,
With Othrys, that above the clouds did rise;
With skilful Chiron's cave, and neighb'ring ground,
For old Cerambus' strange escape renown'd,
By nymphs deliver'd, when the world was drown'd;
Who him with unexpected wings supply'd,
When delug'd hills a safe retreat deny'd.
Aeolian Pitane on her left hand
She saw, and there the statu'd dragon stand;
With Ida's grove, where Bacchus, to disguise
His son's bold theft, and to secure the prize,
Made the stoln steer a stag to represent;
Cocytus' father's sandy monument;
And fields that held the murder'd sire's remains,
Where howling Moera frights the startled plains.
Euryphilus' high town, with tow'rs defac'd
By Hercules, and matrons more disgrac'd
With sprouting horns, in signal punishment,
From Juno, or resenting Venus sent.
Then Rhodes, which Phoebus did so dearly prize,
And Jove no less severely did chastize;
For he the wizard native's pois'ning sight,
That us'd the farmer's hopeful crops to blight,
In rage o'erwhelm'd with everlasting night.
Cartheia's ancient walls come next in view,
Where once the sire almost a statue grew
With wonder, which a strange event did move,
His daughter turn'd into a turtle-dove.
Then Hyrie's lake, and Tempe's field o'er-ran,
Fam'd for the boy who there became a swan;
For there enamour'd Phyllius, like a slave,
Perform'd what tasks his paramour would crave.
For presents he had mountain-vultures caught,
And from the desart a tame lion brought;
Then a wild bull commanded to subdue,
The conquer'd savage by the horns he drew;
But, mock'd so oft, the treatment he disdains,
And from the craving boy this prize detains.
Then thus in choler the resenting lad:
Won't you deliver him?- You'll wish you had:
Nor sooner said, but, in a peevish mood,
Leapt from the precipice on which he stood:
The standers-by were struck with fresh surprize,
Instead of falling, to behold him rise
A snowy swan, and soaring to the skies.
But dearly the rash prank his mother cost,
Who ignorantly gave her son for lost;
For his misfortune wept, 'till she became
A lake, and still renown'd with Hyrie's name.
Thence to Latona's isle, where once were seen,
Transform'd to birds, a monarch, and his queen.
Far off she saw how old Cephisus mourn'd
His son, into a seele by Phoebus turn'd;
And where, astonish'd at a stranger sight,
Eumelus gaz'd on his wing'd daughter's flight.
Aetolian Pleuron she did next survey,
Where sons a mother's murder did essay,
But sudden plumes the matron bore away.
On her right hand, Cyllene, a fair soil,
Fair, 'till Menephron there the beauteous hill
Attempted with foul incest to defile.
Her harness'd dragons now direct she drives
For Corinth, and at Corinth she arrives;
Where, if what old tradition tells, be true,
In former ages men from mushrooms grew.
But here Medea finds her bed supply'd,
During her absence, by another bride;
And hopeless to recover her lost game,
She sets both bride and palace in a flame.
Nor could a rival's death her wrath asswage,
Nor stopt at Creon's family her rage,
She murders her own infants, in despight
To faithless Jason, and in Jason's sight;
Yet e'er his sword could reach her, up she springs,
Securely mounted on her dragon's wings.
The Story of Aegeus
From hence to Athens she directs her flight,
Where Phineus, so renown'd for doing right;
Where Periphas, and Polyphemon's neece,
Soaring with sudden plumes amaz'd the towns of Greece.
Here Aegeus so engaging she addrest,
That first he treats her like a royal guest;
Then takes the sorc'ress for his wedded wife;
The only blemish of his prudent life.
Mean-while his son, from actions of renown,
Arrives at court, but to his sire unknown.
Medea, to dispatch a dang'rous heir
(She knew him), did a pois'nous draught prepare;
Drawn from a drug, was long reserv'd in store
For desp'rate uses, from the Scythian shore;
That from the Echydnaean monster's jaws
Deriv'd its origin, and this the cause.
Thro' a dark cave a craggy passage lies,
To ours, ascending from the nether skies;
Thro' which, by strength of hand, Alcides drew
Chain'd Cerberus, who lagg'd, and restive grew,
With his blear'd eyes our brighter day to view.
Thrice he repeated his enormous yell,
With which he scares the ghosts, and startles Hell;
At last outragious (tho' compell'd to yield)
He sheds his foam in fury on the field,-
Which, with its own, and rankness of the ground,
Produc'd a weed, by sorcerers renown'd,
The strongest constitution to confound;
Call'd Aconite, because it can unlock
All bars, and force its passage thro' a rock.
The pious father, by her wheedles won,
Presents this deadly potion to his son;
Who, with the same assurance takes the cup,
And to the monarch's health had drank it up,
But in the very instant he apply'd
The goblet to his lips, old Aegeus spy'd
The iv'ry hilted sword that grac'd his side.
That certain signal of his son he knew,
And snatcht the bowl away; the sword he drew,
Resolv'd, for such a son's endanger'd life,
To sacrifice the most perfidious wife.
Revenge is swift, but her more active charms
A whirlwind rais'd, that snatch'd her from his arms.
While conjur'd clouds their baffled sense surprize,
She vanishes from their deluded eyes,
And thro' the hurricane triumphant flies.
The gen'rous king, altho' o'er-joy'd to find
His son was safe, yet bearing still in mind
The mischief by his treach'rous queen design'd;
The horrour of the deed, and then how near
The danger drew, he stands congeal'd with fear.
But soon that fear into devotion turns,
With grateful incense ev'ry altar burns;
Proud victims, and unconscious of their fate,
Stalk to the temple, there to die in state.
In Athens never had a day been found
For mirth, like that grand festival, renown'd.
Promiscuously the peers, and people dine,
Promiscuously their thankful voices join,
In songs of wit, sublim'd by spritely wine.
To list'ning spheres their joint applause they raise,
And thus resound their matchless Theseus' praise.
Great Theseus! Thee the Marathonian plain
Admires, and wears with pride the noble stain
Of the dire monster's blood, by valiant Theseus slain.
That now Cromyon's swains in safety sow,
And reap their fertile field, to thee they owe.
By thee th' infested Epidaurian coast
Was clear'd, and now can a free commerce boast.
The traveller his journey can pursue,
With pleasure the late dreadful valley view,
And cry, Here Theseus the grand robber slew.
Cephysus' cries to his rescu'd shore,
The merciless Procrustes is no more.
In peace, Eleusis, Ceres' rites renew,
Since Theseus' sword the fierce Cercyon slew.
By him the tort'rer Sinis was destroy'd,
Of strength (but strength to barb'rous use employ'd)
That tops of tallest pines to Earth could bend,
And thus in pieces wretched captives rend.
Inhuman Scyron now has breath'd his last,
And now Alcatho's roads securely past;
By Theseus slain, and thrown into the deep:
But Earth nor Sea his scatter'd bones wou'd keep,
Which, after floating long, a rock became,
Still infamous with Scyron's hated name.
When Fame to count thy acts and years proceeds,
Thy years appear but cyphers to thy deeds.
For thee, brave youth, as for our common-wealth,
We pray; and drink, in yours, the publick health.
Your praise the senate, and plebeians sing,
With your lov'd name the court, and cottage ring.
You make our shepherds and our sailors glad,
And not a house in this vast city's sad.
But mortal bliss will never come sincere,
Pleasure may lead, but grief brings up the rear;
While for his sons' arrival, rev'ling joy
Aegeus, and all his subjects does employ;
While they for only costly feasts prepare,
His neighb'ring monarch, Minos, threatens war:
Weak in land-forces, nor by sea more strong,
But pow'rful in a deep resented wrong
For a son's murder, arm'd with pious rage;
Yet prudently before he would engage,
To raise auxiliaries resolv'd to sail,
And with the pow'rful princes to prevail.
First Anaphe, then proud Astypalaea gains,
By presents that, and this by threats obtains:
Low Mycone, Cymolus, chalky soil,
Tall Cythnos, Scyros, flat Seriphos' isle;
Paros, with marble cliffs afar display'd;
Impregnable Sithonia; yet betray'd
To a weak foe by a gold-admiring maid,
Who, chang'd into a daw of sable hue,
Still hoards up gold, and hides it from the view.
But as these islands chearfully combine,
Others refuse t' embark in his design.
Now leftward with an easy sail he bore,
And prosp'rous passage to Oenopia's shore;
Oenopia once, but now Aegina call'd,
And with his royal mother's name install'd
By Aeacus, under whose reign did spring
The Myrmidons, and now their reigning king.
Down to the port, amidst the rabble, run
The princes of the blood; with Telamon,
Peleus the next, and Phocus the third son:
Then Aeacus, altho' opprest with years,
To ask the cause of their approach appears.
That question does the Gnossian's grief renew,
And sighs from his afflicted bosom drew;
Yet after a short solemn respite made,
The ruler of the hundred cities said:
Assist our arms, rais'd for a murder'd son,
In this religious war no risque you'll run:
Revenge the dead- for who refuse to give
Rest to their urns, unworthy are to live.
What you request, thus Aeacus replies,
Not I, but truth and common faith denies;
Athens and we have long been sworn allies:
Our leagues are fix'd, confed'rate are our pow'rs,
And who declare themselves their foes, are ours.
Minos rejoins, Your league shall dearly cost
(Yet, mindful how much safer 'twas to boast,
Than there to waste his forces, and his fame,
Before in field with his grand foe he came),
Parts without blows- nor long had left the shore,
E're into port another navy bore,
With Cephalus, and all his jolly crew;
Th' Aeacides their old acquaintance knew:
The princes bid him welcome, and in state
Conduct the heroe to their palace gate;
Who entr'ring, seem'd the charming mein to wear,
As when in youth he paid his visit there.
In his right hand an olive-branch he holds,
And, salutation past, the chief unfolds
His embassy from the Athenian state,
Their mutual friendship, leagues of ancient date;
Their common danger, ev'ry thing cou'd wake
Concern, and his address successful make:
Strength'ning his plea with all the charms of sense,
And those, with all the charms of eloquence.
Then thus the king: Like suitors do you stand
For that assistance which you may command?
Athenians, all our listed forces use
(They're such as no bold service will refuse);
And when y' ave drawn them off, the Gods be prais'd,
Fresh legions can within our isle be rais'd:
So stock'd with people, that we can prepare
Both for domestick, and for distant war,
Ours, or our friends' insulters to chastize.
Long may ye flourish thus, the prince replies.
Strange transport seiz'd me as I pass'd along,
To meet so many troops, and all so young,
As if your army did of twins consist;
Yet amongst them my late acquaintance miss'd:
Ev'n all that to your palace did resort,
When first you entertain'd me at your court;
And cannot guess the cause from whence cou'd spring
So vast a change- Then thus the sighing king:
Illustrious guest, to my strange tale attend,
Of sad beginning, but a joyful end:
The whole to a vast history wou'd swell,
I shall but half, and that confus'dly, tell.
That race whom so deserv'dly you admir'd,
Are all into their silent tombs retir'd:
They fell; and falling, how they shook my state,
Thought may conceive, but words can ne'er relate.
The Story of Ants chang'd to Men
A dreadful plague from angry Juno came,
To scourge the land, that bore her rival's name;
Before her fatal anger was reveal'd,
And teeming malice lay as yet conceal'd,
All remedies we try, all med'cines use,
Which Nature cou'd supply, or art produce;
Th' unconquer'd foe derides the vain design,
And art, and Nature foil'd, declare the cause divine.
At first we only felt th' oppressive weight
Of gloomy clouds, then teeming with our fate,
And lab'ring to discarge unactive heat:
But ere four moons alternate changes knew,
With deadly blasts the fatal South-wind blew,
Infected all the air, and poison'd as it flew.
Our fountains too a dire infection yield,
For crowds of vipers creep along the field,
And with polluted gore, and baneful steams,
Taint all the lakes, and venom all the streams.
The young disease with milder force began,
And rag'd on birds, and beasts, excusing Man.
The lab'ring oxen fall before the plow,
Th' unhappy plow-men stare, and wonder how:
The tabid sheep, with sickly bleatings, pines;
Its wool decreasing, as its strength declines:
The warlike steed, by inward foes compell'd,
Neglects his honours, and deserts the field;
Unnerv'd, and languid, seeks a base retreat,
And at the manger groans, but wish'd a nobler fate:
The stags forget their speed, the boars their rage,
Nor can the bears the stronger herds engage:
A gen'ral faintness does invade 'em all,
And in the woods, and fields, promiscuously they fall.
The air receives the stench, and (strange to say)
The rav'nous birds and beasts avoid the prey:
Th' offensive bodies rot upon the ground,
And spread the dire contagion all around.
But now the plague, grown to a larger size,
Riots on Man, and scorns a meaner prize.
Intestine heats begin the civil war,
And flushings first the latent flame declare,
And breath inspir'd, which seem'd like fiery air.
Their black dry tongues are swell'd, and scarce can move,
And short thick sighs from panting lung are drove.
They gape for air, with flatt'ring hopes t' abate
Their raging flames, but that augments their heat.
No bed, no cov'ring can the wretches bear,
But on the ground, expos'd to open air,
They lye, and hope to find a pleasing coolness there.
The suff'ring Earth with that oppression curst,
Returns the heat which they imparted first.
In vain physicians would bestow their aid,
Vain all their art, and useless all their trade;
And they, ev'n they, who fleeting life recall,
Feel the same Pow'rs, and undistinguish'd fall.
If any proves so daring to attend
His sick companion, or his darling friend,
Th' officious wretch sucks in contagious breath,
And with his friend does sympathize in death.
And now the care and hopes of life are past,
They please their fancies, and indulge their taste;
At brooks and streams, regardless of their shame,
Each sex, promiscuous, strives to quench their flame;
Nor do they strive in vain to quench it there,
For thirst, and life at once extinguish'd are.
Thus in the brooks the dying bodies sink,
But heedless still the rash survivors drink.
So much uneasy down the wretches hate,
They fly their beds, to struggle with their fate;
But if decaying strength forbids to rise,
The victim crawls and rouls, 'till on the ground he lies.
Each shuns his bed, as each wou'd shun his tomb,
And thinks th' infection only lodg'd at home.
Here one, with fainting steps, does slowly creep
O'er heaps of dead, and strait augments the heap;
Another, while his strength and tongue prevail'd,
Bewails his friend, and falls himself bewail'd:
This with imploring looks surveys the skies,
The last dear office of his closing eyes,
But finds the Heav'ns implacable, and dies.
What now, ah! what employ'd my troubled mind?
But only hopes my subjects' fate to find.
What place soe'er my weeping eyes survey,
There in lamented heaps the vulgar lay;
As acorns scatter when the winds prevail,
Or mellow fruit from shaken branches fall.
You see that dome which rears its front so high:
'Tis sacred to the monarch of the sky:
How many there, with unregarded tears,
And fruitless vows, sent up successless pray'rs?
There fathers for expiring sons implor'd,
And there the wife bewail'd her gasping lord;
With pious off'rings they'd appease the skies,
But they, ere yet th' attoning vapours rise,
Before the altars fall, themselves a sacrifice:
They fall, while yet their hands the gums contain,
The gums surviving, but their off'rers slain.
The destin'd ox, with holy garlands crown'd,
Prevents the blow, and feels th' expected wound:
When I my self invok'd the Pow'rs divine,
To drive the fatal pest from me and mine;
When now the priest with hands uplifted stood,
Prepar'd to strike, and shed the sacred blood,
The Gods themselves the mortal stroke bestow,
The victim falls, but they impart the blow:
Scarce was the knife with the pale purple stain'd,
And no presages cou'd be then obtain'd,
From putrid entrails, where th' infection reign'd.
Death stalk'd around with such resistless sway,
The temples of the Gods his force obey,
And suppliants feel his stroke, while yet they pray.
Go now, said he, your deities implore
For fruitless aid, for I defie their pow'r.
Then with a curst malicious joy survey'd
The very altars, stain'd with trophies of the dead.
The rest grown mad, and frantick with despair,
Urge their own fate, and so prevent the fear.
Strange madness that, when Death pursu'd so fast,
T' anticipate the blow with impious haste.
No decent honours to their urns are paid,
Nor cou'd the graves receive the num'rous dead;
For, or they lay unbury'd on the ground,
Or unadorn'd a needy fun'ral found:
All rev'rence past, the fainting wretches fight
For fun'ral piles which were another's right.
Unmourn'd they fall: for, who surviv'd to mourn?
And sires, and mothers unlamented burn:
Parents, and sons sustain an equal fate,
And wand'ring ghosts their kindred shadows meet.
The dead a larger space of ground require,
Nor are the trees sufficient for the fire.
Despairing under grief's oppressive weight,
And sunk by these tempestuous blasts of Fate,
O Jove, said I, if common fame says true,
If e'er Aegina gave those joys to you,
If e'er you lay enclos'd in her embrace,
Fond of her charms, and eager to possess;
O father, if you do not yet disclaim
Paternal care, nor yet disown the name;
Grant my petitions, and with speed restore
My subjects num'rous as they were before,
Or make me partner of the fate they bore.
I spoke, and glorious lightning shone around,
And ratling thunder gave a prosp'rous sound;
So let it be, and may these omens prove
A pledge, said I, of your returning love.
By chance a rev'rend oak was near the place,
Sacred to Jove, and of Dodona's race,
Where frugal ants laid up their winter meat,
Whose little bodies bear a mighty weight:
We saw them march along, and hide their store,
And much admir'd their number, and their pow'r;
Admir'd at first, but after envy'd more.
Full of amazement, thus to Jove I pray'd,
O grant, since thus my subjects are decay'd,
As many subjects to supply the dead.
I pray'd, and strange convulsions mov'd the oak,
Which murmur'd, tho' by ambient winds unshook:
My trembling hands, and stiff-erected hair,
Exprest all tokens of uncommon fear;
Yet both the earth and sacred oak I kist,
And scarce cou'd hope, yet still I hop'd the best;
For wretches, whatsoe'er the Fates divine,
Expound all omens to their own design.
But now 'twas night, when ev'n distraction wears
A pleasing look, and dreams beguile our cares,
Lo! the same oak appears before my eyes,
Nor alter'd in his shape, nor former size;
As many ants the num'rous branches bear,
The same their labour, and their frugal care;
The branches too a like commotion sound,
And shook th' industrious creatures on the ground,
Who, by degrees (what's scarce to be believ'd)
A nobler form, and larger bulk receiv'd,
And on the earth walk'd an unusual pace,
With manly strides, and an erected face-
Their num'rous legs, and former colour lost,
The insects cou'd a human figure boast.
I wake, and waking find my cares again,
And to the unperforming Gods complain,
And call their promise, and pretences, vain.
Yet in my court I heard the murm'ring voice
Of strangers, and a mixt uncommon noise:
But I suspected all was still a dream,
'Till Telamon to my apartment came,
Op'ning the door with an impetuous haste,
O come, said he, and see your faith and hopes surpast:
I follow, and, confus'd with wonder, view
Those shapes which my presaging slumbers drew:
I saw, and own'd, and call'd them subjects; they
Confest my pow'r, submissive to my sway.
To Jove, restorer of my race decay'd,
My vows were first with due oblations paid,
I then divide with an impartial hand
My empty city, and my ruin'd land,
To give the new-born youth an equal share,
And call them Myrmidons, from what they were.
You saw their persons, and they still retain
The thrift of ants, tho' now transform'd to men.
A frugal people, and inur'd to sweat,
Lab'ring to gain, and keeping what they get.
These, equal both in strength and years, shall join
Their willing aid, and follow your design,
With the first southern gale that shall present
To fill your sails, and favour your intent.
With such discourse they entertain the day;
The ev'ning past in banquets, sport, and play:
Then, having crown'd the night with sweet repose,
Aurora (with the wind at east) arose.
Now Pallas' sons to Cephalus resort,
And Cephalus with Pallas' sons to court,
To the king's levee; him sleep's silken chain,
And pleasing dreams, beyond his hour detain;
But then the princes of the blood, in state,
Expect, and meet 'em at the palace gate.
The Story of Cephalus and Procris
To th' inmost courts the Grecian youths were led,
And plac'd by Phocus on a Tyrian bed;
Who, soon observing Cephalus to hold
A dart of unknown wood, but arm'd with gold:
None better loves (said he) the huntsman's sport,
Or does more often to the woods resort;
Yet I that jav'lin's stem with wonder view,
Too brown for box, too smooth a grain for yew.
I cannot guess the tree; but never art
Did form, or eyes behold so fair a dart!
The guest then interrupts him- 'Twou'd produce
Still greater wonder, if you knew its use.
It never fails to strike the game, and then
Comes bloody back into your hand again.
Then Phocus each particular desires,
And th' author of the wond'rous gift enquires.
To which the owner thus, with weeping eyes,
And sorrow for his wife's sad fate, replies,
This weapon here (o prince!) can you believe
This dart the cause for which so much I grieve;
And shall continue to grieve on, 'till Fate
Afford such wretched life no longer date.
Would I this fatal gift had ne'er enjoy'd,
This fatal gift my tender wife destroy'd:
Procris her name, ally'd in charms and blood
To fair Orythia courted by a God.
Her father seal'd my hopes with rites divine,
But firmer love before had made her mine.
Men call'd me blest, and blest I was indeed.
The second month our nuptials did succeed;
When (as upon Hymettus' dewy head,
For mountain stags my net betimes I spread)
Aurora spy'd, and ravish'd me away,
With rev'rence to the Goddess, I must say,
Against my will, for Procris had my heart,
Nor wou'd her image from my thoughts depart.
At last, in rage she cry'd, Ingrateful boy
Go to your Procris, take your fatal joy;
And so dismiss'd me: musing, as I went,
What those expressions of the Goddess meant,
A thousand jealous fears possess me now,
Lest Procris had prophan'd her nuptial vow:
Her youth and charms did to my fancy paint
A lewd adultress, but her life a saint.
Yet I was absent long, the Goddess too
Taught me how far a woman cou'd be true.
Aurora's treatment much suspicion bred;
Besides, who truly love, ev'n shadows dread.
I strait impatient for the tryal grew,
What courtship back'd with richest gifts cou'd do.
Aurora's envy aided my design,
And lent me features far unlike to mine.
In this disguise to my own house I came,
But all was chaste, no conscious sign of blame:
With thousand arts I scarce admittance found,
And then beheld her weeping on the ground
For her lost husband; hardly I retain'd
My purpose, scarce the wish'd embrace refrain'd.
How charming was her grief! Then, Phocus, guess
What killing beauties waited on her dress.
Her constant answer, when my suit I prest,
Forbear, my lord's dear image guards this breast;
Where-e'er he is, whatever cause detains,
Who-e'er has his, my heart unmov'd remains.
What greater proofs of truth than these cou'd be?
Yet I persist, and urge my destiny.
At length, she found, when my own form return'd,
Her jealous lover there, whose loss she mourn'd.
Enrag'd with my suspicion, swift as wind,
She fled at once from me and all mankind;
And so became, her purpose to retain,
A nymph, and huntress in Diana's train:
Forsaken thus, I found my flames encrease,
I own'd my folly, and I su'd for peace.
It was a fault, but not of guilt, to move
Such punishment, a fault of too much love.
Thus I retriev'd her to my longing arms,
And many happy days possess'd her charms.
But with herself she kindly did confer,
What gifts the Goddess had bestow'd on her;
The fleetest grey-hound, with this lovely dart,
And I of both have wonders to impart.
Near Thebes a savage beast, of race unknown,
Laid waste the field, and bore the vineyards down;
The swains fled from him, and with one consent
Our Grecian youth to chase the monster went;
More swift than light'ning he the toils surpast,
And in his course spears, men, and trees o'er-cast.
We slipt our dogs, and last my Lelaps too,
When none of all the mortal race wou'd do:
He long before was struggling from my hands,
And, e're we cou'd unloose him, broke his bands.
That minute where he was, we cou'd not find,
And only saw the dust he left behind.
I climb'd a neighb'ring hill to view the chase,
While in the plain they held an equal race;
The savage now seems caught, and now by force
To quit himself, nor holds the same strait course;
But running counter, from the foe withdraws,
And with short turning cheats his gaping jaws:
Which he retrieves, and still so closely prest,
You'd fear at ev'ry stretch he were possess'd;
Yet for the gripe his fangs in vain prepare;
The game shoots from him, and he chops the air.
To cast my jav'lin then I took my stand;
But as the thongs were fitting to my hand,
While to the valley I o'er-look'd the wood,
Before my eyes two marble statues stood;
That, as pursu'd appearing at full stretch,
This barking after, and at point to catch:
Some God their course did with this wonder grace,
That neither might be conquer'd in the chase.
A sudden silence here his tongue supprest,
He here stops short, and fain wou'd wave the rest.
The eager prince then urg'd him to impart,
The Fortune that attended on the dart.
First then (said he) past joys let me relate,
For bliss was the foundation of my fate.
No language can those happy hours express,
Did from our nuptials me, and Procris bless:
The kindest pair! What more cou'd Heav'n confer?
For she was all to me, and I to her.
Had Jove made love, great Jove had been despis'd;
And I my Procris more than Venus priz'd:
Thus while no other joy we did aspire,
We grew at last one soul, and one desire.
Forth to the woods I went at break of day
(The constant practice of my youth) for prey:
Nor yet for servant, horse, or dog did call,
I found this single dart to serve for all.
With slaughter tir'd, I sought the cooler shade,
And winds that from the mountains pierc'd the glade:
Come, gentle air (so was I wont to say)
Come, gentle air, sweet Aura come away.
This always was the burden of my song,
Come 'swage my flames, sweet Aura come along.
Thou always art most welcome to my breast;
I faint; approach, thou dearest, kindest guest!
These blandishments, and more than these, I said
(By Fate to unsuspected ruin led),
Thou art my joy, for thy dear sake I love
Each desart hill, and solitary grove;
When (faint with labour) I refreshment need,
For cordials on thy fragrant breath I feed.
At last a wand'ring swain in hearing came,
And cheated with the sound of Aura's name,
He thought I some assignation made;
And to my Procris' ear the news convey'd.
Great love is soonest with suspicion fir'd:
She swoon'd, and with the tale almost expir'd.
Ah! wretched heart! (she cry'd) ah! faithless man.
And then to curse th' imagin'd nymph began:
Yet oft she doubts, oft hopes she is deceiv'd,
And chides herself, that ever she believ'd
Her lord to such injustice cou'd proceed,
'Till she her self were witness of the deed.
Next morn I to the woods again repair,
And, weary with the chase, invoke the air:
Approach, dear Aura, and my bosom chear:
At which a mournful sound did strike my ear;
Yet I proceeded, 'till the thicket by,
With rustling noise and motion, drew my eye:
I thought some beast of prey was shelter'd there,
And to the covert threw my certain spear;
From whence a tender sigh my soul did wound,
Ah me! it cry'd, and did like Procris sound.
Procris was there, too well the voice I knew,
And to the place with headlong horror flew;
Where I beheld her gasping on the ground,
In vain attempting from the deadly wound
To draw the dart, her love's dear fatal gift!
My guilty arms had scarce the strength to lift
The beauteous load; my silks, and hair I tore
(If possible) to stanch the pressing gore;
For pity beg'd her keep her flitting breath,
And not to leave me guilty of her death.
While I intreat she fainted fast away,
And these few words had only strength to say:
By all the sacred bonds of plighted love,
By all your rev'rence to the Pow'rs above,
By all the truth for which you held me dear,
And last by love, the cause through which I bleed,
Let Aura never to my bed succeed.
I then perceiv'd the error of our fate,
And told it her, but found and told too late!
I felt her lower to my bosom fall,
And while her eyes had any sight at all,
On mine she fix'd them; in her pangs still prest
My hand, and sigh'd her soul into my breast;
Yet, being undeceiv'd, resign'd her breath
Methought more chearfully, and smil'd in death.
With such concern the weeping heroe told
This tale, that none who heard him cou'd with-hold
From melting into sympathizing tears,
'Till Aeacus with his two sons appears;
Whom he commits, with their new-levy'd bands,
To Fortune's, and so brave a gen'ral's hands.
Book the Eighth
The Story of Nisus and Scylla
Now shone the morning star in bright array,
To vanquish night, and usher in the day:
The wind veers southward, and moist clouds arise,
That blot with shades the blue meridian skies.
Cephalus feels with joy the kindly gales,
His new allies unfurl the swelling sails;
Steady their course, they cleave the yielding main,
And, with a wish, th' intended harbour gain.
Mean-while King Minos, on the Attick strand,
Displays his martial skill, and wastes the land.
His army lies encampt upon the plains,
Before Alcathoe's walls, where Nisus reigns;
On whose grey head a lock of purple hue,
The strength, and fortune of his kingdom, grew.
Six moons were gone, and past, when still from far
Victoria hover'd o'er the doubtful war.
So long, to both inclin'd, th' impartial maid
Between 'em both her equal wings display'd.
High on the walls, by Phoebus vocal made,
A turret of the palace rais'd its head;
And where the God his tuneful harp resign'd.
The sound within the stones still lay enshrin'd:
Hither the daughter of the purple king
Ascended oft, to hear its musick ring;
And, striking with a pebble, wou'd release
Th' enchanted notes, in times of happy peace.
But now, from thence, the curious maid beheld
Rough feats of arms, and combats of the field:
And, since the siege was long, had learnt the name
Of ev'ry chief, his character, and fame;
Their arms, their horse, and quiver she descry'd,
Nor cou'd the dress of war the warriour hide.
Europa's son she knew above the rest,
And more, than well became a virgin breast:
In vain the crested morion veils his face,
She thinks it adds a more peculiar grace:
His ample shield, embost with burnish'd gold,
Still makes the bearer lovelier to behold:
When the tough jav'lin, with a whirl, he sends,
His strength and skill the sighing maid commends;
Or, when he strains to draw the circling bow,
And his fine limbs a manly posture show,
Compar'd with Phoebus, he performs so well,
Let her be judge, and Minos shall excell.
But when the helm put off, display'd to sight,
And set his features in an open light;
When, vaulting to his seat, his steed he prest,
Caparison'd in gold, and richly drest;
Himself in scarlet sumptuously array'd,
New passions rise, and fire the frantick maid.
O happy spear! she cries, that feels his touch;
Nay, ev'n the reins he holds are blest too much.
Oh! were it lawful, she cou'd wing her way
Thro' the stern hostile troops without dismay;
Or throw her body to the distant ground,
And in the Cretans happy camp be found.
Wou'd Minos but desire it! she'd expose
Her native country to her country's foes;
Unbar the gates, the town with flames infest,
Or any thing that Minos shou'd request.
And as she sate, and pleas'd her longing sight,
Viewing the king's pavilion veil'd with white,
Shou'd joy, or grief, she said, possess my breast,
To see my country by a war opprest?
I'm in suspense! For, tho' 'tis grief to know
I love a man that is declar'd my foe;
Yet, in my own despite, I must approve
That lucky war, which brought the man I love.
Yet, were I tender'd as a pledge of peace,
The cruelties of war might quickly cease.
Oh! with what joy I'd wear the chains he gave!
A patient hostage, and a willing slave.
Thou lovely object! if the nymph that bare
Thy charming person, were but half so fair;
Well might a God her virgin bloom desire,
And with a rape indulge his amorous fire.
Oh! had I wings to glide along the air,
To his dear tent I'd fly, and settle there:
There tell my quality, confess my flame,
And grant him any dowry that he'd name.
All, all I'd give; only my native land,
My dearest country, shou'd excepted stand,
For, perish love, and all expected joys,
E're, with so base a thought, my soul complies.
Yet, oft the vanquish'd some advantage find,
When conquer'd by a noble, gen'rous mind.
Brave Minos justly has the war begun,
Fir'd with resentment for his murder'd son:
The righteous Gods a righteous cause regard,
And will, with victory, his arms reward:
We must be conquer'd; and the captive's fate
Will surely seize us, tho' it seize us late.
Why then shou'd love be idle, and neglect
What Mars, by arms and perils, will effect?
Oh! Prince, I dye, with anxious fear opprest,
Lest some rash hand shou'd wound my charmer's breast:
For, if they saw, no barb'rous mind cou'd dare
Against that lovely form to raise a spear.
But I'm resolv'd, and fix'd in this decree,
My father's country shall my dowry be.
Thus I prevent the loss of life and blood,
And, in effect, the action must be good.
Vain resolution! for, at ev'ry gate
The trusty centinels, successive, wait:
The keys my father keeps; ah! there's my grief;
'Tis he obstructs all hopes of my relief.
Gods! that this hated light I'd never seen!
Or, all my life, without a father been!
But Gods we all may be; for those that dare,
Are Gods, and Fortune's chiefest favours share.
The ruling Pow'rs a lazy pray'r detest,
The bold adventurer succeeds the best.
What other maid, inspir'd with such a flame,
But wou'd take courage, and abandon shame?
But wou'd, tho' ruin shou'd ensue, remove
Whate'er oppos'd, and clear the way to love?
This, shall another's feeble passion dare?
While I sit tame, and languish in despair:
No; for tho' fire and sword before me lay,
Impatient love thro' both shou'd force its way.
Yet I have no such enemies to fear,
My sole obstruction is my father's hair;
His purple lock my sanguine hope destroys,
And clouds the prospect of my rising joys.
Whilst thus she spoke, amid the thick'ning air
Night supervenes, the greatest nurse of care:
And, as the Goddess spreads her sable wings,
The virgin's fears decay, and courage springs.
The hour was come, when Man's o'er-labour'd breast
Surceas'd its care, by downy sleep possest:
All things now hush'd, Scylla with silent tread
Urg'd her approach to Nisus' royal bed:
There, of the fatal lock (accursed theft!)
She her unwitting father's head bereft.
In safe possession of her impious prey,
Out at a postern gate she takes her way.
Embolden'd, by the merit of the deed
She traverses the adverse camp with speed,
'Till Minos' tent she reach'd: the righteous king
She thus bespoke, who shiver'd at the thing.
Behold th' effect of love's resistless sway!
I, Nisus' royal seed, to thee betray
My country, and my Gods. For this strange task,
Minos, no other boon but thee I ask.
This purple lock, a pledge of love, receive;
No worthless present, since in it I give
My father's head.- Mov'd at a crime so new,
And with abhorrence fill'd, back Minos drew,
Nor touch'd th' unhallow'd gift; but thus exclaim'd
(With mein indignant, and with eyes inflam'd),
Perdition seize thee, thou, thy kind's disgrace!
May thy devoted carcass find no place
In earth, or air, or sea, by all out-cast!
Shall Minos, with so foul a monster, blast
His Cretan world, where cradled Jove was nurst?
Forbid it Heav'n!- away, thou most accurst!
And now Alcathoe, its lord exchang'd,
Was under Minos' domination rang'd.
While the most equal king his care applies
To curb the conquer'd, and new laws devise,
The fleet, by his command, with hoisted sails,
And ready oars, invites the murm'ring gales.
At length the Cretan hero anchor weigh'd,
Repaying, with neglect, th' abandon'd maid.
Deaf to her cries, he furrows up the main:
In vain she prays, sollicits him in vain.
And now she furious grows in wild despair,
She wrings her hands, and throws aloft her hair.
Where run'st thou? (thus she vents her deep distress)
Why shun'st thou her that crown'd thee with success?
Her, whose fond love to thee cou'd sacrifice
Her country, and her parent, sacred ties!
Can nor my love, nor proffer'd presents find
A passage to thy heart, and make thee kind?
Can nothing move thy pity? O ingrate,
Can'st thou behold my lost, forlorn estate,
And not be soften'd? Can'st thou throw off one
Who has no refuge left but thee alone?
Where shall I seek for comfort? whither fly?
My native country does in ashes lye:
Or were't not so, my treason bars me there,
And bids me wander. Shall I next repair
To a wrong'd father, by my guilt undone?-
Me all Mankind deservedly will shun.
I, out of all the world, my self have thrown,
To purchase an access to Crete alone;
Which, since refus'd, ungen'rous man, give o'er
To boast thy race; Europa never bore
A thing so savage. Thee some tygress bred,
On the bleak Syrt's inhospitable bed;
Or where Charybdis pours its rapid tide
Tempestuous. Thou art not to Jove ally'd;
Nor did the king of Gods thy mother meet
Beneath a bull's forg'd shape, and bear to Crete.
That fable of thy glorious birth is feign'd;
Some wild outrageous bull thy dam sustain'd.
O father Nisus, now my death behold;
Exult, o city, by my baseness sold:
Minos, obdurate, has aveng'd ye all;
But 'twere more just by those I wrong'd to fall:
For why shou'dst thou, who only didst subdue
By my offending, my offence pursue?
Well art thou matcht to one whose am'rous flame
Too fiercely rag'd, for human-kind to tame;
One who, within a wooden heifer thrust,
Courted a low'ring bull's mistaken lust;
And, from whose monster-teeming womb, the Earth
Receiv'd, what much it mourn'd, a bi-form birth.
But what avails my plaints? the whistling wind,
Which bears him far away, leaves them behind.
Well weigh'd Pasiphae, when she prefer'd
A bull to thee, more brutish than the herd.
But ah! Time presses, and the labour'd oars
To distance drive the fleet, and lose the less'ning shores.
Think not, ungrateful man, the liquid way
And threat'ning billows shall inforce my stay.
I'll follow thee in spite: My arms I'll throw
Around thy oars, or grasp thy crooked prow,
And drag thro' drenching seas. Her eager tongue
Had hardly clos'd the speech, when forth she sprung
And prov'd the deep. Cupid with added force
Recruits each nerve, and aids her wat'ry course.
Soon she the ship attains, unwelcome guest;
And, as with close embrace its sides she prest,
A hawk from upper air came pouring down
('Twas Nisus cleft the sky with wings new grown).
At Scylla's head his horny bill he aims;
She, fearful of the blow, the ship disclaims,
Quitting her hold: and yet she fell not far,
But wond'ring, finds her self sustain'd in air.
Chang'd to a lark, she mottled pinions shook,
And, from the ravish'd lock, the name of Ciris took.
Now Minos, landed on the Cretan shore,
Performs his vows to Jove's protecting pow'r;
A hundred bullocks of the largest breed,
With flowrets crown'd, before his altar bleed:
While trophies of the vanquish'd, brought from far
Adorn the palace with the spoils of war.
Mean-while the monster of a human-beast,
His family's reproach, and stain, increas'd.
His double kind the rumour swiftly spread,
And evidenc'd the mother's beastly deed.
When Minos, willing to conceal the shame
That sprung from the reports of tatling Fame,
Resolves a dark inclosure to provide,
And, far from sight, the two-form'd creature hide.
Great Daedalus of Athens was the man
That made the draught, and form'd the wondrous plan;
Where rooms within themselves encircled lye,
With various windings, to deceive the eye.
As soft Maeander's wanton current plays,
When thro' the Phrygian fields it loosely strays;
Backward and forward rouls the dimpl'd tide,
Seeming, at once, two different ways to glide:
While circling streams their former banks survey,
And waters past succeeding waters see:
Now floating to the sea with downward course,
Now pointing upward to its ancient source,
Such was the work, so intricate the place,
That scarce the workman all its turns cou'd trace;
And Daedalus was puzzled how to find
The secret ways of what himself design'd.
These private walls the Minotaur include,
Who twice was glutted with Athenian blood:
But the third tribute more successful prov'd,
Slew the foul monster, and the plague remov'd.
When Theseus, aided by the virgin's art,
Had trac'd the guiding thread thro' ev'ry part,
He took the gentle maid, that set him free,
And, bound for Dias, cut the briny sea.
There, quickly cloy'd, ungrateful, and unkind,
Left his fair consort in the isle behind,
Whom Bacchus saw, and straining in his arms
Her rifled bloom, and violated charms,
Resolves, for this, the dear engaging dame
Shou'd shine for ever in the rolls of Fame;
And bids her crown among the stars be plac'd,
With an eternal constellation grac'd.
The golden circlet mounts; and, as it flies,
Its diamonds twinkle in the distant skies;
There, in their pristin form, the gemmy rays
Between Alcides, and the dragon blaze.
The Story of Daedalus and Icarus
In tedious exile now too long detain'd,
Daedalus languish'd for his native land:
The sea foreclos'd his flight; yet thus he said:
Tho' Earth and water in subjection laid,
O cruel Minos, thy dominion be,
We'll go thro' air; for sure the air is free.
Then to new arts his cunning thought applies,
And to improve the work of Nature tries.
A row of quils in gradual order plac'd,
Rise by degrees in length from first to last;
As on a cliff th' ascending thicket grows,
Or, different reeds the rural pipe compose.
Along the middle runs a twine of flax,
The bottom stems are joyn'd by pliant wax.
Thus, well compact, a hollow bending brings
The fine composure into real wings.
His boy, young Icarus, that near him stood,
Unthinking of his fate, with smiles pursu'd
The floating feathers, which the moving air
Bore loosely from the ground, and wasted here and there.
Or with the wax impertinently play'd,
And with his childish tricks the great design delay'd.
The final master-stroke at last impos'd,
And now, the neat machine compleatly clos'd;
Fitting his pinions on, a flight he tries,
And hung self-ballanc'd in the beaten skies.
Then thus instructs his child: My boy, take care
To wing your course along the middle air;
If low, the surges wet your flagging plumes;
If high, the sun the melting wax consumes:
Steer between both: nor to the northern skies,
Nor south Orion turn your giddy eyes;
But follow me: let me before you lay
Rules for the flight, and mark the pathless way.
Then teaching, with a fond concern, his son,
He took the untry'd wings, and fix'd 'em on;
But fix'd with trembling hands; and as he speaks,
The tears roul gently down his aged cheeks.
Then kiss'd, and in his arms embrac'd him fast,
But knew not this embrace must be the last.
And mounting upward, as he wings his flight,
Back on his charge he turns his aking sight;
As parent birds, when first their callow care
Leave the high nest to tempt the liquid air.
Then chears him on, and oft, with fatal art,
Reminds the stripling to perform his part.
These, as the angler at the silent brook,
Or mountain-shepherd leaning on his crook,
Or gaping plowman, from the vale descries,
They stare, and view 'em with religious eyes,
And strait conclude 'em Gods; since none, but they,
Thro' their own azure skies cou'd find a way.
Now Delos, Paros on the left are seen,
And Samos, favour'd by Jove's haughty queen;
Upon the right, the isle Lebynthos nam'd,
And fair Calymne for its honey fam'd.
When now the boy, whose childish thoughts aspire
To loftier aims, and make him ramble high'r,
Grown wild, and wanton, more embolden'd flies
Far from his guide, and soars among the skies.
The soft'ning wax, that felt a nearer sun,
Dissolv'd apace, and soon began to run.
The youth in vain his melting pinions shakes,
His feathers gone, no longer air he takes:
Oh! Father, father, as he strove to cry,
Down to the sea he tumbled from on high,
And found his Fate; yet still subsists by fame,
Among those waters that retain his name.
The father, now no more a father, cries,
Ho Icarus! where are you? as he flies;
Where shall I seek my boy? he cries again,
And saw his feathers scatter'd on the main.
Then curs'd his art; and fun'ral rites confer'd,
Naming the country from the youth interr'd.
A partridge, from a neighb'ring stump, beheld
The sire his monumental marble build;
Who, with peculiar call, and flutt'ring wing,
Chirpt joyful, and malicious seem'd to sing:
The only bird of all its kind, and late
Transform'd in pity to a feather'd state:
From whence, O Daedalus, thy guilt we date.
His sister's son, when now twelve years were past,
Was, with his uncle, as a scholar plac'd;
The unsuspecting mother saw his parts,
And genius fitted for the finest arts.
This soon appear'd; for when the spiny bone
In fishes' backs was by the stripling known,
A rare invention thence he learnt to draw,
Fil'd teeth in ir'n, and made the grating saw.
He was the first, that from a knob of brass
Made two strait arms with widening stretch to pass;
That, while one stood upon the center's place,
The other round it drew a circling space.
Daedalus envy'd this, and from the top
Of fair Minerva's temple let him drop;
Feigning, that, as he lean'd upon the tow'r,
Careless he stoop'd too much, and tumbled o'er.
The Goddess, who th' ingenious still befriends,
On this occasion her asssistance lends;
His arms with feathers, as he fell, she veils,
And in the air a new made bird he sails.
The quickness of his genius, once so fleet,
Still in his wings remains, and in his feet:
Still, tho' transform'd, his ancient name he keeps,
And with low flight the new-shorn stubble sweeps,
Declines the lofty trees, and thinks it best
To brood in hedge-rows o'er its humble nest;
And, in remembrance of the former ill,
Avoids the heights, and precipices still.
At length, fatigu'd with long laborious flights,
On fair Sicilia's plains the artist lights;
Where Cocalus the king, that gave him aid,
Was, for his kindness, with esteem repaid.
Athens no more her doleful tribute sent,
That hardship gallant Theseus did prevent;
Their temples hung with garlands, they adore
Each friendly God, but most Minerva's pow'r:
To her, to Jove, to all, their altars smoak,
They each with victims, and perfumes invoke.
Now talking Fame, thro' every Grecian town,
Had spread, immortal Theseus, thy renown.
From him the neighb'ring nations in distress,
In suppliant terms implore a kind redress.
The Story of Meleager and Atalanta
From him the Caledonians sought relief;
Though valiant Meleagros was their chief.
The cause, a boar, who ravag'd far and near:
Of Cynthia's wrath, th' avenging minister.
For Oeneus with autumnal plenty bless'd,
By gifts to Heav'n his gratitude express'd:
Cull'd sheafs, to Ceres; to Lyaeus, wine;
To Pan, and Pales, offer'd sheep and kine;
And fat of olives, to Minerva's shrine.
Beginning from the rural Gods, his hand
Was lib'ral to the Pow'rs of high command:
Each deity in ev'ry kind was bless'd,
'Till at Diana's fane th' invidious honour ceas'd.
Wrath touches ev'n the Gods; the Queen of Night,
Fir'd with disdain, and jealous of her right,
Unhonour'd though I am, at least, said she,
Not unreveng'd that impious act shall be.
Swift as the word, she sped the boar away,
With charge on those devoted fields to prey.
No larger bulls th' Aegyptian pastures feed,
And none so large Sicilian meadows breed:
His eye-balls glare with fire suffus'd with blood;
His neck shoots up a thick-set thorny wood;
His bristled back a trench impal'd appears,
And stands erected, like a field of spears;
Froth fills his chaps, he sends a grunting sound,
And part he churns, and part befoams the ground,
For tusks with Indian elephants he strove,
And Jove's own thunder from his mouth he drove.
He burns the leaves; the scorching blast invades
The tender corn, and shrivels up the blades:
Or suff'ring not their yellow beards to rear,
He tramples down the spikes, and intercepts the year:
In vain the barns expect their promis'd load,
Nor barns at home, nor recks are heap'd abroad:
In vain the hinds the threshing-floor prepare,
And exercise their flail in empty air.
With olives ever-green the ground is strow'd,
And grapes ungather'd shed their gen'rous blood.
Amid the fold he rages, nor the sheep
Their shepherds, nor the grooms their bulls can keep.
From fields to walls the frighted rabble run,
Nor think themselves secure within the town:
'Till Meleagros, and his chosen crew,
Contemn the danger, and the praise pursue.
Fair Leda's twins (in time to stars decreed)
One fought on foot, one curb'd the fiery steed;
Then issu'd forth fam'd Jason after these,
Who mann'd the foremost ship that sail'd the seas;
Then Theseus join'd with bold Perithous came;
A single concord in a double name:
The Thestian sons, Idas who swiftly ran,
And Ceneus, once a woman, now a man.
Lynceus, with eagle's eyes, and lion's heart;
Leucippus, with his never-erring dart;
Acastus, Phileus, Phoenix, Telamon,
Echion, Lelix, and Eurytion,
Achilles' father, and great Phocus' son;
Dryas the fierce, and Hippasus the strong;
With twice old Iolas, and Nestor then but young.
Laertes active, and Ancaeus bold;
Mopsus the sage, who future things foretold;
And t' other seer, yet by his wife unsold.
A thousand others of immortal fame;
Among the rest, fair Atalanta came,
Grace of the woods: a diamond buckle bound
Her vest behind, that else had flow'd upon the ground,
And shew'd her buskin'd legs; her head was bare,
But for her native ornament of hair;
Which in a simple knot was ty'd above,
Sweet negligence! unheeded bait of love!
Her sounding quiver, on her shoulder ty'd,
One hand a dart, and one a bow supply'd.
Such was her face, as in a nymph display'd
A fair fierce boy, or in a boy betray'd
The blushing beauties of a modest maid.
The Caledonian chief at once the dame
Beheld, at once his heart receiv'd the flame,
With Heav'ns averse. O happy youth, he cry'd;
For whom thy fates reserve so fair a bride!
He sigh'd, and had no leisure more to say;
His honour call'd his eyes another way,
And forc'd him to pursue the now-neglected prey.
There stood a forest on a mountain's brow,
Which over-look'd the shaded plains below.
No sounding ax presum'd those trees to bite;
Coeval with the world, a venerable sight.
The heroes there arriv'd, some spread around
The toils; some search the footsteps on the ground:
Some from the chains the faithful dogs unbound.
Of action eager, and intent in thought,
The chiefs their honourable danger sought:
A valley stood below; the common drain
Of waters from above, and falling rain:
The bottom was a moist, and marshy ground,
Whose edges were with bending oziers crown'd:
The knotty bulrush next in order stood,
And all within of reeds a trembling wood.
From hence the boar was rous'd, and sprung amain,
Like lightning sudden, on the warrior train;
Beats down the trees before him, shakes the ground.
The forest echoes to the crackling sound;
Shout the fierce youth, and clamours ring around.
All stood with their protended spears prepar'd,
With broad steel heads the brandish'd weapons glar'd.
The beast impetuous with his tusks aside
Deals glancing wounds; the fearful dogs divide:
All spend their mouths aloof, but none abide.
Echion threw the first, but miss'd his mark,
And stuck his boar-spear on a maple's bark.
Then Jason; and his javelin seem'd to take,
But fail'd with over-force, and whiz'd above his back.
Mopsus was next; but e'er he threw, address'd
To Phoebus, thus: O patron, help thy priest:
If I adore, and ever have ador'd
Thy pow'r divine, thy present aid afford;
That I may reach the beast. The God allow'd
His pray'r, and smiling, gave him what he cou'd:
He reach'd the savage, but no blood he drew:
Dian unarm'd the javelin, as it flew.
This chaf'd the boar, his nostrils flames expire,
And his red eye-balls roul with living fire.
Whirl'd from a sling, or from an engine thrown,
Amid the foes, so flies a mighty stone,
As flew the beast: the left wing put to flight,
The chiefs o'er-born, he rushes on the right.
Eupalamos and Pelagon he laid
In dust, and next to death, but for their fellows' aid.
Onesimus far'd worse, prepar'd to fly,
The fatal fang drove deep within his thigh,
And cut the nerves: the nerves no more sustain
The bulk; the bulk unprop'd, falls headlong on the plain.
Nestor had fail'd the fall of Troy to see,
But leaning on his lance, he vaulted on a tree;
Then gath'ring up his feet, look'd down with fear,
And thought his monstrous foe was still too near.
Against a stump his tusk the monster grinds,
And in the sharpen'd edge new vigour finds;
Then, trusting to his arms, young Othrys found,
And ranch'd his hips with one continu'd wound.
Now Leda's twins, the future stars, appear;
White were their habits, white their horses were:
Conspicuous both, and both in act to throw,
Their trembling lances brandish'd at the foe:
Nor had they miss'd; but he to thickets fled,
Conceal'd from aiming spears, not pervious to the steed.
But Telamon rush'd in, and happ'd to meet
A rising root, that held his fastned feet;
So down he fell, whom, sprawling on the ground,
His brother from the wooden gyves unbound.
Mean-time the virgin-huntress was not slow
T' expel the shaft from her contracted bow:
Beneath his ear the fastned arrow stood,
And from the wound appear'd the trickling blood.
She blush'd for joy: but Meleagros rais'd
His voice with loud applause, and the fair archer prais'd.
He was the first to see, and first to show
His friends the marks of the successful blow.
Nor shall thy valour want the praises due,
He said; a virtuous envy seiz'd the crew.
They shout; the shouting animates their hearts,
And all at once employ their thronging darts:
But out of order thrown, in air they joyn,
And multitude makes frustrate the design.
With both his hands the proud Ancaeus takes,
And flourishes his double-biting ax:
Then, forward to his fate, he took a stride
Before the rest, and to his fellows cry'd,
Give place, and mark the diff'rence, if you can,
Between a woman warrior, and a man,
The boar is doom'd; nor though Diana lend
Her aid, Diana can her beast defend.
Thus boasted he; then stretch'd, on tiptoe stood,
Secure to make his empty promise good.
But the more wary beast prevents the blow,
And upward rips the groin of his audacious foe.
Ancaeus falls; his bowels from the wound
Rush out, and clotted blood distains the ground.
Perithous, no small portion of the war,
Press'd on, and shook his lance: to whom from far
Thus Theseus cry'd; O stay, my better part,
My more than mistress; of my heart, the heart.
The strong may fight aloof; Ancaeus try'd
His force too near, and by presuming dy'd:
He said, and while he spake his javelin threw,
Hissing in air th' unerring weapon flew;
But on an arm of oak, that stood betwixt
The marks-man and the mark, his lance he fixt.
Once more bold Jason threw, but fail'd to wound
The boar, and slew an undeserving hound,
And thro' the dog the dart was nail'd to ground.
Two spears from Meleager's hand were sent,
With equal force, but various in th' event:
The first was fix'd in earth, the second stood
On the boar's bristled back, and deeply drank his blood.
Now while the tortur'd savage turns around,
And flings about his foam, impatient of the wound,
The wound's great author close at hand provokes
His rage, and plies him with redoubled strokes;
Wheels, as he wheels; and with his pointed dart
Explores the nearest passage to his heart.
Quick, and more quick he spins in giddy gires,
Then falls, and in much foam his soul expires.
This act with shouts heav'n-high the friendly band
Applaud, and strain in theirs the victor's hand.
Then all approach the slain with vast surprize,
Admire on what a breadth of earth he lies,
And scarce secure, reach out their spears afar,
And blood their points, to prove their partnership of war.
But he, the conqu'ring chief, his foot impress'd
On the strong neck of that destructive beast;
And gazing on the nymph with ardent eyes,
Accept, said he, fair Nonacrine, my prize,
And, though inferior, suffer me to join
My labours, and my part of praise, with thine:
At this presents her with the tusky head
And chine, with rising bristles roughly spread.
Glad she receiv'd the gift; and seem'd to take
With double pleasure, for the giver's sake.
The rest were seiz'd with sullen discontent,
And a deaf murmur through the squadron went:
All envy'd; but the Thestyan brethren show'd
The least respect, and thus they vent their spleen aloud:
Lay down those honour'd spoils, nor think to share,
Weak woman as thou art, the prize of war:
Ours is the title, thine a foreign claim,
Since Meleagrus from our lineage came.
Trust not thy beauty; but restore the prize,
Which he, besotted on that face, and eyes,
Would rend from us: at this, enflam'd with spite,
From her they snatch the gift, from him the giver's right.
But soon th' impatient prince his fauchion drew,
And cry'd, Ye robbers of another's due,
Now learn the diff'rence, at your proper cost,
Betwixt true valour, and an empty boast.
At this advanc'd, and sudden as the word,
In proud Plexippus' bosom plung'd the sword:
Toxeus amaz'd, and with amazement slow,
Or to revenge, or ward the coming blow,
Stood doubting; and while doubting thus he stood,
Receiv'd the steel bath'd in his brother's blood.
Pleas'd with the first, unknown the second news;
Althaea to the temples pays their dues
For her son's conquest; when at length appear
Her grisly brethren stretch'd upon the bier:
Pale at the sudden sight, she chang'd her cheer,
And with her cheer her robes; but hearing tell
The cause, the manner, and by whom they fell,
'Twas grief no more, or grief and rage were one
Within her soul; at last 'twas rage alone;
Which burning upwards in succession, dries
The tears, that stood consid'ring in her eyes.
There lay a log unlighted on the hearth,
When she was lab'ring in the throws of birth
For th' unborn chief; the fatal sisters came,
And rais'd it up, and toss'd it on the flame:
Then on the rock a scanty measure place
Of vital flax, and turn'd the wheel apace;
And turning sung, To this red brand and thee,
O new born babe, we give an equal destiny;
So vanish'd out of view. The frighted dame
Sprung hasty from her bed, and quench'd the flame:
The log, in secret lock'd, she kept with care,
And that, while thus preserv'd, preserv'd her heir.
This brand she now produc'd; and first she strows
The hearth with heaps of chips, and after blows;
Thrice heav'd her hand, and heav'd, she thrice repress'd:
The sister and the mother long contest,
Two doubtful titles, in one tender breast:
And now her eyes, and cheeks with fury glow,
Now pale her cheeks, her eyes with pity flow:
Now low'ring looks presage approaching storms,
And now prevailing love her face reforms:
Resolv'd, she doubts again; the tears she dry'd
With burning rage, are by new tears supply'd;
And as a ship, which winds and waves assail
Now with the current drives, now with the gale,
Both opposite, and neither long prevail:
She feels a double force, by turns obeys
Th' imperious tempest, and th' impetuous seas:
So fares Althaea's mind, she first relents
With pity, of that pity then repents:
Sister, and mother long the scales divide,
But the beam nodded on the sister's side.
Sometimes she softly sigh'd, then roar'd aloud;
But sighs were stifled in the cries of blood.
The pious, impious wretch at length decreed,
To please her brothers' ghost, her son should bleed:
And when the fun'ral flames began to rise,
Receive, she said, a sister's sacrifice;
A mother's bowels burn: high in her hand,
Thus while she spoke, she held the fatal brand;
Then thrice before the kindled pile she bow'd,
And the three Furies thrice invok'd aloud:
Come, come, revenging sisters, come, and view
A sister paying her dead brothers due:
A crime I punish, and a crime commit;
But blood for blood, and death for death is fit:
Great crimes must be with greater crimes repaid,
And second fun'rals on the former laid.
Let the whole houshold in one ruin fall,
And may Diana's curse o'ertake us all.
Shall Fate to happy Oenus still allow
One son, while Thestius stands depriv'd of two?
Better three lost, than one unpunish'd go.
Take then, dear ghosts (while yet admitted new
In Hell you wait my duty), take your due:
A costly off'ring on your tomb is laid,
When with my blood the price of yours is paid.
Ah! whither am I hurry'd? Ah! forgive,
Ye shades, and let your sister's issue live;
A mother cannot give him death; tho' he
Deserves it, he deserves it not from me.
Then shall th' unpunish'd wretch insult the slain,
Triumphant live, nor only live, but reign?
While you, thin shades, the sport of winds, are tost
O'er dreary plains, or tread the burning coast.
I cannot, cannot bear; 'tis past, 'tis done;
Perish this impious, this detested son:
Perish his sire, and perish I withal;
And let the house's heir, and the hop'd kingdom fall.
Where is the mother fled, her pious love,
And where the pains with which ten months I strove!
Ah! had'st thou dy'd, my son, in infant years,
Thy little herse had been bedew'd with tears.
Thou liv'st by me; to me thy breath resign;
Mine is the merit, the demerit thine.
Thy life by double title I require;
Once giv'n at birth, and once preserv'd from fire:
One murder pay, or add one murder more,
And me to them who fell by thee restore.
I would, but cannot: my son's image stands
Before my sight; and now their angry hands
My brothers hold, and vengeance these exact;
This pleads compassion, and repents the fact.
He pleads in vain, and I pronounce his doom:
My brothers, though unjustly, shall o'ercome.
But having paid their injur'd ghosts their due,
My son requires my death, and mine shall his pursue.
At this, for the last time, she lifts her hand,
Averts her eyes, and, half unwilling, drops the brand.
The brand, amid the flaming fewel thrown,
Or drew, or seem'd to draw, a dying groan;
The fires themselves but faintly lick'd their prey,
Then loath'd their impious food, and would have shrunk away.
Just then the heroe cast a doleful cry,
And in those absent flames began to fry:
The blind contagion rag'd within his veins;
But he with manly patience bore his pains:
He fear'd not Fate, but only griev'd to die
Without an honest wound, and by a death so dry.
Happy Ancaeus, thrice aloud he cry'd,
With what becoming fate in arms he dy'd!
Then call'd his brothers, sisters, sire around,
And, her to whom his nuptial vows were bound,
Perhaps his mother; a long sigh she drew,
And his voice failing, took his last adieu.
For as the flames augment, and as they stay
At their full height, then languish to decay,
They rise and sink by fits; at last they soar
In one bright blaze, and then descend no more:
Just so his inward heats, at height, impair,
'Till the last burning breath shoots out the soul in air.
Now lofty Calidon in ruins lies;
All ages, all degrees unsluice their eyes,
And Heav'n, and Earth resound with murmurs, groans, and cries.
Matrons and maidens beat their breasts, and tear
Their habits, and root up their scatter'd hair:
The wretched father, father now no more,
With sorrow sunk, lies prostrate on the floor,
Deforms his hoary locks with dust obscene,
And curses age, and loaths a life prolong'd with pain.
By steel her stubborn soul his mother freed,
And punish'd on her self her impious deed.
Had I a hundred tongues, a wit so large
As could their hundred offices discharge;
Had Phoebus all his Helicon bestow'd
In all the streams, inspiring all the God;
Those tongues, that wit, those streams, that God in vain
Would offer to describe his sisters' pain:
They beat their breasts with many a bruizing blow,
'Till they turn livid, and corrupt the snow.
The corps they cherish, while the corps remains,
And exercise, and rub with fruitless pains;
And when to fun'ral flames 'tis born away,
They kiss the bed on which the body lay:
And when those fun'ral flames no longer burn
(The dust compos'd within a pious urn),
Ev'n in that urn their brother they confess,
And hug it in their arms, and to their bosoms press.
His tomb is rais'd; then, stretch'd along the ground,
Those living monuments his tomb surround:
Ev'n to his name, inscrib'd, their tears they pay,
'Till tears, and kisses wear his name away.
But Cynthia now had all her fury spent,
Not with less ruin than a race content:
Excepting Gorge, perish'd all the seed,
And her whom Heav'n for Hercules decreed.
Satiate at last, no longer she pursu'd
The weeping sisters; but With Wings endu'd,
And horny beaks, and sent to flit in air;
Who yearly round the tomb in feather'd flocks repair.
The Transformation of the Naiads
Theseus mean-while acquitting well his share
In the bold chace confed'rate like a war,
To Athens' lofty tow'rs his march ordain'd,
By Pallas lov'd, and where Erectheus reign'd.
But Achelous stop'd him on the way,
By rains a deluge, and constrain'd his stay.
O fam'd for glorious deeds, and great by blood,
Rest here, says he, nor trust the rapid flood;
It solid oaks has from its margin tore,
And rocky fragments down its current bore,
The murmur hoarse, and terrible the roar.
Oft have I seen herds with their shelt'ring fold
Forc'd from the banks, and in the torrent roul'd;
Nor strength the bulky steer from ruin freed,
Nor matchless swiftness sav'd the racing steed.
In cataracts when the dissolving snow
Falls from the hills, and floods the plains below;
Toss'd by the eddies with a giddy round,
Strong youths are in the sucking whirlpools drown'd.
'Tis best with me in safety to abide,
'Till usual bounds restrain the ebbing tide,
And the low waters in their channel glide.
Theseus perswaded, in compliance bow'd:
So kind an offer, and advice so good,
O Achelous, cannot be refus'd;
I'll use them both, said he; and both he us'd.
The grot he enter'd, pumice built the hall,
And tophi made the rustick of the wall;
The floor, soft moss, an humid carpet spread,
And various shells the chequer'd roof inlaid.
'Twas now the hour when the declining sun
Two thirds had of his daily journey run;
At the spread table Theseus took his place,
Next his companions in the daring chace;
Perithous here, there elder Lelex lay,
His locks betraying age with sprinkled grey.
Acharnia's river-God dispos'd the rest,
Grac'd with the equal honour of the feast,
Elate with joy, and proud of such a guest.
The nymphs were waiters, and with naked feet
In order serv'd the courses of the meat.
The banquet done, delicious wine they brought,
Of one transparent gem the cup was wrought.
Then the great heroe of this gallant train,
Surveying far the prospect of the main:
What is that land, says he, the waves embrace?
(And with his finger pointed at the place);
Is it one parted isle which stands alone?
How nam'd? and yet methinks it seems not one.
To whom the watry God made this reply;
'Tis not one isle, but five; distinct they lye;
'Tis distance which deceives the cheated eye.
But that Diana's act may seem less strange,
These once proud Naiads were, before their change.
'Twas on a day more solemn than the rest,
Ten bullocks slain, a sacrificial feast:
The rural Gods of all the region near
They bid to dance, and taste the hallow'd cheer.
Me they forgot: affronted with the slight,
My rage, and stream swell'd to the greatest height;
And with the torrent of my flooding store,
Large woods from woods, and fields from fields I tore.
The guilty nymphs, oh! then, remembring me,
I, with their country, wash'd into the sea;
And joining waters with the social main,
Rent the gross land, and split the firm champagne.
Since, the Echinades, remote from shore
Are view'd as many isles, as nymphs before.
Perimele turn'd into an Island
But yonder far, lo, yonder does appear
An isle, a part to me for ever dear.
From that (it sailors Perimele name)
I doating, forc'd by rape a virgin's fame.
Hippodamas's passion grew so strong,
Gall'd with th' abuse, and fretted at the wrong,
He cast his pregnant daughter from a rock;
I spread my waves beneath, and broke the shock;
And as her swimming weight my stream convey'd,
I su'd for help divine, and thus I pray'd:
O pow'rful thou, whose trident does command
The realm of waters, which surround the land;
We sacred rivers, wheresoe'er begun,
End in thy lot, and to thy empire run.
With favour hear, and help with present aid;
Her whom I bear 'twas guilty I betray'd.
Yet if her father had been just, or mild,
He would have been less impious to his child;
In her, have pity'd force in the abuse;
In me, admitted love for my excuse.
O let relief for her hard case be found,
Her, whom paternal rage expell'd from ground,
Her, whom paternal rage relentless drown'd.
Grant her some place, or change her to a place,
Which I may ever clasp with my embrace.
His nodding head the sea's great ruler bent,
And all his waters shook with his assent.
The nymph still swam, tho' with the fright distrest,
I felt her heart leap trembling in her breast;
But hardning soon, whilst I her pulse explore,
A crusting Earth cas'd her stiff body o'er;
And as accretions of new-cleaving soil
Inlarg'd the mass, the nymph became an isle.
The Story of Baucis and Philemon
Thus Achelous ends: his audience hear
With admiration, and admiring, fear
The Pow'rs of Heav'n; except Ixion's Son,
Who laugh'd at all the Gods, believ'd in none:
He shook his impious head, and thus replies.
These legends are no more than pious lies:
You attribute too much to heav'nly sway,
To think they give us forms, and take away.
The rest of better minds, their sense declar'd
Against this doctrine, and with horror heard.
Then Lelex rose, an old experienc'd man,
And thus with sober gravity began;
Heav'n's pow'r is infinite: Earth, Air, and Sea,
The manufacture mass, the making Pow'r obey:
By proof to clear your doubt; in Phrygian ground
Two neighb'ring trees, with walls encompass'd round,
Stand on a mod'rate rise, with wonder shown,
One a hard oak, a softer linden one:
I saw the place, and them, by Pittheus sent
To Phrygian realms, my grandsire's government.
Not far from thence is seen a lake, the haunt
Of coots, and of the fishing cormorant:
Here Jove with Hermes came; but in disguise
Of mortal men conceal'd their deities;
One laid aside his thunder, one his rod;
And many toilsome steps together trod:
For harbour at a thousand doors they knock'd,
Not one of all the thousand but was lock'd.
At last an hospitable house they found,
A homely shed; the roof, not far from ground,
Was thatch'd with reeds, and straw, together bound.
There Baucis and Philemon liv'd, and there
Had liv'd long marry'd, and a happy pair:
Now old in love, though little was their store,
Inur'd to want, their poverty they bore,
Nor aim'd at wealth, professing to be poor.
For master, or for servant here to call,
Was all alike, where only two were all.
Command was none, where equal love was paid,
Or rather both commanded, both obey'd.
From lofty roofs the Gods repuls'd before,
Now stooping, enter'd through the little door:
The man (their hearty welcome first express'd)
A common settle drew for either guest,
Inviting each his weary limbs to rest.
But ere they sate, officious Baucis lays
Two cushions stuff'd with straw, the seat to raise;
Coarse, but the best she had; then rakes the load
Of ashes from the hearth, and spreads abroad
The living coals; and, lest they should expire,
With leaves, and bark she feeds her infant fire:
It smoaks; and then with trembling breath she blows,
'Till in a chearful blaze the flames arose.
With brush-wood, and with chips she strengthens these,
And adds at last the boughs of rotten trees.
The fire thus form'd, she sets the kettle on
(Like burnish'd gold the little seether shone),
Next took the coleworts which her husband got
From his own ground (a small well-water'd spot);
She stripp'd the stalks of all their leaves; the best
She cull'd, and them with handy care she drest.
High o'er the hearth a chine of bacon hung;
Good old Philemon seiz'd it with a prong,
And from the sooty rafter drew it down,
Then cut a slice, but scarce enough for one;
Yet a large portion of a little store,
Which for their sakes alone he wish'd were more.
This in the pot he plung'd without delay,
To tame the flesh, and drain the salt away.
The time beween, before the fire they sat,
And shorten'd the delay by pleasing chat.
A beam there was, on which a beechen pail
Hung by the handle, on a driven nail:
This fill'd with water, gently warm'd, they set
Before their guests; in this they bath'd their feet,
And after with clean towels dry'd their sweat.
This done, the host produc'd the genial bed,
Sallow the feet, the borders, and the sted,
Which with no costly coverlet they spread,
But coarse old garments; yet such robes as these
They laid alone, at feasts, on holidays.
The good old housewife, tucking up her gown,
The table sets; th' invited Gods lie down.
The trivet-table of a foot was lame,
A blot which prudent Baucis overcame,
Who thrusts beneath the limping leg a sherd,
So was the mended board exactly rear'd:
Then rubb'd it o'er with newly gather'd mint,
A wholsom herb, that breath'd a grateful scent.
Pallas began the feast, where first was seen
The party-colour'd olive, black, and green:
Autumnal cornels next in order serv'd,
In lees of wine well pickled, and preserv'd.
A garden-sallad was the third supply,
Of endive, radishes, and succory:
Then curds, and cream, the flow'r of country fare,
And new-laid eggs, which Baucis' busie care
Turn'd by a gentle fire, and roasted rare.
All these in earthen ware were serv'd to board;
And next in place, an earthen pitcher stor'd,
With liquor of the best the cottage could afford.
This was the table's ornament and pride,
With figures wrought: like pages at his side
Stood beechen bowls; and these were shining clean,
Varnish'd with wax without, and lin'd within.
By this the boiling kettle had prepar'd,
And to the table sent the smoaking lard;
On which with eager appetite they dine,
A sav'ry bit, that serv'd to relish wine:
The wine itself was suiting to the rest,
Still working in the must, and lately press'd.
The second course succeeds like that before,
Plums, apples, nuts, and of their wintry store
Dry figs, and grapes, and wrinkled dates were set
In canisters, t' enlarge the little treat:
All these a milk-white honey-comb surround,
Which in the midst the country-banquet crown'd:
But the kind hosts their entertainment grace
With hearty welcome, and an open face:
In all they did, you might discern with ease,
A willing mind, and a desire to please.
Mean-time the beechen bowls went round, and still,
Though often empty'd, were observ'd to fill;
Fill'd without hands, and of their own accord
Ran without feet, and danc'd about the board.
Devotion seiz'd the pair, to see the feast
With wine, and of no common grape, increas'd;
And up they held their hands, and fell to pray'r,
Excusing, as they could, their country fare.
One goose they had ('twas all they could allow),
A wakeful centry, and on duty now,
Whom to the Gods for sacrifice they vow:
Her with malicious zeal the couple view'd;
She ran for life, and limping they pursu'd:
Full well the fowl perceiv'd their bad intent,
And would not make her master's compliment;
But persecuted, to the Pow'rs she flies,
And close between the legs of Jove she lies:
He with a gracious ear the suppliant heard,
And sav'd her life; then what he has declar'd,
And own'd the God. The neighbourhood, said he,
Shall justly perish for impiety:
You stand alone exempted; but obey
With speed, and follow where we lead the way:
Leave these accurs'd; and to the mountain's height
Ascend; nor once look backward in your flight.
They haste, and what their tardy feet deny'd,
The trusty staff (their better leg) supply'd.
An arrow's flight they wanted to the top,
And there secure, but spent with travel, stop;
Then turn their now no more forbidden eyes;
Lost in a lake the floated level lies:
A watry desart covers all the plains,
Their cot alone, as in an isle, remains.
Wondring, with weeping eyes, while they deplore
Their neighbours' fate, and country now no more,
Their little shed, scarce large enough for two,
Seems, from the ground increas'd, in height and bulk to grow.
A stately temple shoots within the skies,
The crotches of their cot in columns rise:
The pavement polish'd marble they behold,
The gates with sculpture grac'd, the spires and tiles of gold.
Then thus the sire of Gods, with looks serene,
Speak thy desire, thou only just of men;
And thou, o woman, only worthy found
To be with such a man in marriage bound.
A-while they whisper; then, to Jove address'd,
Philemon thus prefers their joint request:
We crave to serve before your sacred shrine,
And offer at your altars rites divine:
And since not any action of our life
Has been polluted with domestick strife;
We beg one hour of death, that neither she
With widow's tears may live to bury me,
Nor weeping I, with wither'd arms may bear
My breathless Baucis to the sepulcher.
The Godheads sign their suit. They run their race
In the same tenour all th' appointed space:
Then, when their hour was come, while they relate
These past adventures at the temple gate,
Old Baucis is by old Philemon seen
Sprouting with sudden leaves of spritely green:
Old Baucis look'd where old Philemon stood,
And saw his lengthen'd arms a sprouting wood:
New roots their fasten'd feet begin to bind,
Their bodies stiffen in a rising rind:
Then, ere the bark above their shoulders grew,
They give, and take at once their last adieu.
At once, Farewell, o faithful spouse, they said;
At once th' incroaching rinds their closing lips invade.
Ev'n yet, an ancient Tyanaean shows
A spreading oak, that near a linden grows;
The neighbourhood confirm the prodigy,
Grave men, not vain of tongue, or like to lie.
I saw my self the garlands on their boughs,
And tablets hung for gifts of granted vows;
And off'ring fresher up, with pious pray'r,
The good, said I, are God's peculiar care,
And such as honour Heav'n, shall heav'nly honour share.
The Changes of Proteus
He ceas'd in his relation to proceed,
Whilst all admir'd the author, and the deed;
But Theseus most, inquisitive to know
From Gods what wondrous alterations grow.
Whom thus the Calydonian stream address'd,
Rais'd high to speak, the couch his elbow press'd.
Some, when transform'd, fix in the lasting change;
Some with more right, thro' various figures range.
Proteus, thus large thy privilege was found,
Thou inmate of the seas, which Earth surround.
Sometimes a bloming youth you grac'd the shore;
Oft a fierce lion, or a furious boar:
With glist'ning spires now seem'd an hissing snake,
The bold would tremble in his hands to take:
With horns assum'd a bull; sometimes you prov'd
A tree by roots, a stone by weight unmov'd:
Sometimes two wav'ring contraries became,
Flow'd down in water, or aspir'd in flame.
The Story of Erisichthon
In various shapes thus to deceive the eyes,
Without a settled stint of her disguise,
Rash Erisichthon's daughter had the pow'r,
And brought it to Autolicus in dow'r.
Her atheist sire the slighted Gods defy'd,
And ritual honours to their shrines deny'd.
As fame reports, his hand an ax sustain'd,
Which Ceres' consecrated grove prophan'd;
Which durst the venerable gloom invade,
And violate with light the awful shade.
An ancient oak in the dark center stood,
The covert's glory, and itself a wood:
Garlands embrac'd its shaft, and from the boughs
Hung tablets, monuments of prosp'rous vows.
In the cool dusk its unpierc'd verdure spread,
The Dryads oft their hallow'd dances led;
And oft, when round their gaging arms they cast,
Full fifteen ells it measu'rd in the waste:
Its height all under standards did surpass,
As they aspir'd above the humbler grass.
These motives, which would gentler minds restrain,
Could not make Triope's bold son abstain;
He sternly charg'd his slaves with strict decree,
To fell with gashing steel the sacred tree.
But whilst they, lingring, his commands delay'd,
He snatch'd an Ax, and thus blaspheming said:
Was this no oak, nor Ceres' favourite care,
But Ceres' self, this arm, unaw'd, shou'd dare
Its leafy honours in the dust to spread,
And level with the earth its airy head.
He spoke, and as he poiz'd a slanting stroak,
Sighs heav'd, and tremblings shook the frighted oak;
Its leaves look'd sickly, pale its acorns grew,
And its long branches sweat a chilly dew.
But when his impious hand a wound bestow'd,
Blood from the mangled bark in currents flow'd.
When a devoted bull of mighty size,
A sinning nation's grand atonement, dies;
With such a plenty from the spouting veins,
A crimson stream the turfy altars stains.
The wonder all amaz'd; yet one more bold,
The fact dissuading, strove his ax to hold.
But the Thessalian, obstinately bent,
Too proud to change, too harden'd to repent,
On his kind monitor, his eyes, which burn'd
With rage, and with his eyes his weapon turn'd;
Take the reward, says he, of pious dread:
Then with a blow lopp'd off his parted head.
No longer check'd, the wretch his crime pursu'd,
Doubled his strokes, and sacrilege renew'd;
When from the groaning trunk a voice was heard,
A Dryad I, by Ceres' love preferr'd,
Within the circle of this clasping rind
Coeval grew, and now in ruin join'd;
But instant vengeance shall thy sin pursue,
And death is chear'd with this prophetick view.
At last the oak with cords enforc'd to bow,
Strain'd from the top, and sap'd with wounds below,
The humbler wood, partaker of its fate,
Crush'd with its fall, and shiver'd with its weight.
The grove destroy'd, the sister Dryads moan,
Griev'd at its loss, and frighted at their own.
Strait, suppliants for revenge to Ceres go,
In sable weeds, expressive of their woe.
The beauteous Goddess with a graceful air
Bow'd in consent, and nodded to their pray'r.
The awful motion shook the fruitful ground,
And wav'd the fields with golden harvests crown'd.
Soon she contriv'd in her projecting mind
A plague severe, and piteous in its kind
(If plagues for crimes of such presumptuous height
Could pity in the softest breast create).
With pinching want, and hunger's keenest smart,
To tear his vitals, and corrode his heart.
But since her near approach by Fate's deny'd
To famine, and broad climes their pow'rs divide,
A nymph, the mountain's ranger, she address'd,
And thus resolv'd, her high commands express'd.
The Description of Famine
Where frozen Scythia's utmost bound is plac'd,
A desart lies, a melancholy waste:
In yellow crops there Nature never smil'd,
No fruitful tree to shade the barren wild.
There sluggish cold its icy station makes,
There paleness, frights, and aguish trembling shakes,
Of pining famine this the fated seat,
To whom my orders in these words repeat:
Bid her this miscreant with her sharpest pains
Chastise, and sheath herself into his veins;
Be unsubdu'd by plenty's baffled store,
Reject my empire, and defeat my pow'r.
And lest the distance, and the tedious way,
Should with the toil, and long fatigue dismay,
Ascend my chariot, and convey'd on high,
Guide the rein'd dragons thro' the parting sky.
The nymph, accepting of the granted carr,
Sprung to the seat, and posted thro' the air;
Nor stop'd 'till she to a bleak mountain came
Of wondrous height, and Caucasus its name.
There in a stony field the fiend she found,
Herbs gnawing, and roots scratching from the ground.
Her elfelock hair in matted tresses grew,
Sunk were her eyes, and pale her ghastly hue,
Wan were her lips, and foul with clammy glew.
Her throat was furr'd, her guts appear'd within
With snaky crawlings thro' her parchment skin.
Her jutting hips seem'd starting from their place,
And for a belly was a belly's space,
Her dugs hung dangling from her craggy spine,
Loose to her breast, and fasten'd to her chine.
Her joints protuberant by leanness grown,
Consumption sunk the flesh, and rais'd the bone.
Her knees large orbits bunch'd to monstrous size,
And ancles to undue proportion rise.
This plague the nymph, not daring to draw near,
At distance hail'd, and greeted from afar.
And tho' she told her charge without delay,
Tho' her arrival late, and short her stay,
She felt keen famine, or she seem'd to feel,
Invade her blood, and on her vitals steal.
She turn'd, from the infection to remove,
And back to Thessaly the serpents drove.
The fiend obey'd the Goddess' command
(Tho' their effects in opposition stand),
She cut her way, supported by the wind,
And reach'd the mansion by the nymph assign'd.
'Twas night, when entring Erisichthon's room,
Dissolv'd in sleep, and thoughtless of his doom,
She clasp'd his limbs, by impious labour tir'd,
With battish wings, but her whole self inspir'd;
Breath'd on his throat and chest a tainting blast,
And in his veins infus'd an endless fast.
The task dispatch'd, away the Fury flies
From plenteous regions, and from rip'ning skies;
To her old barren north she wings her speed,
And cottages distress'd with pinching need.
Still slumbers Erisichthon's senses drown,
And sooth his fancy with their softest down.
He dreams of viands delicate to eat,
And revels on imaginary meat,
Chaws with his working mouth, but chaws in vain,
And tires his grinding teeth with fruitless pain;
Deludes his throat with visionary fare,
Feasts on the wind, and banquets on the air.
The morning came, the night, and slumbers past,
But still the furious pangs of hunger last;
The cank'rous rage still gnaws with griping pains,
Stings in his throat, and in his bowels reigns.
Strait he requires, impatient in demand,
Provisions from the air, the seas, the land.
But tho' the land, air, seas, provisions grant,
Starves at full tables, and complains of want.
What to a people might in dole be paid,
Or victual cities for a long blockade,
Could not one wolfish appetite asswage;
For glutting nourishment increas'd its rage.
As rivers pour'd from ev'ry distant shore,
The sea insatiate drinks, and thirsts for more;
Or as the fire, which all materials burns,
And wasted forests into ashes turns,
Grows more voracious, as the more it preys,
Recruits dilate the flame, and spread the blaze:
So impious Erisichthon's hunger raves,
Receives refreshments, and refreshments craves.
Food raises a desire for food, and meat
Is but a new provocative to eat.
He grows more empty, as the more supply'd,
And endless cramming but extends the void.
The Transformations of Erisichthon's Daughter
Now riches hoarded by paternal care
Were sunk, the glutton swallowing up the heir.
Yet the devouring flame no stores abate,
Nor less his hunger grew with his estate.
One daughter left, as left his keen desire,
A daughter worthy of a better sire:
Her too he sold, spent Nature to sustain;
She scorn'd a lord with generous disdain,
And flying, spread her hand upon the main.
Then pray'd: Grant, thou, I bondage may escape,
And with my liberty reward thy rape;
Repay my virgin treasure with thy aid
('Twas Neptune who deflower'd the beauteous maid).
The God was mov'd, at what the fair had su'd,
When she so lately by her master view'd
In her known figure, on a sudden took
A fisher's habit, and a manly look.
To whom her owner hasted to enquire;
O thou, said he, whose baits hide treach'rous wire;
Whose art can manage, and experienc'd skill
The taper angle, and the bobbing quill,
So may the sea be ruffled with no storm,
But smooth with calms, as you the truth inform;
So your deceit may no shy fishes feel,
'Till struck, and fasten'd on the bearded steel.
Did not you standing view upon the strand,
A wand'ring maid? I'm sure I saw her stand;
Her hair disorder'd, and her homely dress
Betray'd her want, and witness'd her distress.
Me heedless, she reply'd, whoe'er you are,
Excuse, attentive to another care.
I settled on the deep my steady eye;
Fix'd on my float, and bent on my employ.
And that you may not doubt what I impart,
So may the ocean's God assist my art,
If on the beach since I my sport pursu'd,
Or man, or woman but my self I view'd.
Back o'er the sands, deluded, he withdrew,
Whilst she for her old form put off her new.
Her sire her shifting pow'r to change perceiv'd;
And various chapmen by her sale deceiv'd.
A fowl with spangled plumes, a brinded steer,
Sometimes a crested mare, or antler'd deer:
Sold for a price, she parted, to maintain
Her starving parent with dishonest gain.
At last all means, as all provisions, fail'd;
For the disease by remedies prevail'd;
His muscles with a furious bite he tore,
Gorg'd his own tatter'd flesh, and gulph'd his gore.
Wounds were his feast, his life to life a prey,
Supporting Nature by its own decay.
But foreign stories why shou'd I relate?
I too my self can to new forms translate,
Tho' the variety's not unconfin'd,
But fix'd, in number, and restrain'd in kind:
For often I this present shape retain,
Oft curl a snake the volumes of my train.
Sometimes my strength into my horns transfer'd,
A bull I march, the captain of the herd.
But whilst I once those goring weapons wore,
Vast wresting force one from my forehead tore.
Lo, my maim'd brows the injury still own;
He ceas'd; his words concluding with a groan.
Book the Ninth
The Story of Achelous and Hercules
Theseus requests the God to tell his woes,
Whence his maim'd brow, and whence his groans arose
Whence thus the Calydonian stream reply'd,
With twining reeds his careless tresses ty'd:
Ungrateful is the tale; for who can bear,
When conquer'd, to rehearse the shameful war?
Yet I'll the melancholy story trace;
So great a conqu'ror softens the disgrace:
Nor was it still so mean the prize to yield,
As great, and glorious to dispute the field.
Perhaps you've heard of Deianira's name,
For all the country spoke her beauty's fame.
Long was the nymph by num'rous suitors woo'd,
Each with address his envy'd hopes pursu'd:
I joyn'd the loving band; to gain the fair,
Reveal'd my passion to her father's ear.
Their vain pretensions all the rest resign,
Alcides only strove to equal mine;
He boasts his birth from Jove, recounts his spoils,
His step-dame's hate subdu'd, and finish'd toils.
Can mortals then (said I), with Gods compare?
Behold a God; mine is the watry care:
Through your wide realms I take my mazy way,
Branch into streams, and o'er the region stray:
No foreign guest your daughter's charms adores,
But one who rises in your native shores.
Let not his punishment your pity move;
Is Juno's hate an argument for love?
Though you your life from fair Alcmena drew,
Jove's a feign'd father, or by fraud a true.
Chuse then; confess thy mother's honour lost,
Or thy descent from Jove no longer boast.
While thus I spoke, he look'd with stern disdain,
Nor could the sallies of his wrath restrain,
Which thus break forth. This arm decides our right;
Vanquish in words, be mine the prize in fight.
Bold he rush'd on. My honour to maintain,
I fling my verdant garments on the plain,
My arms stretch forth, my pliant limbs prepare,
And with bent hands expect the furious war.
O'er my sleek skin now gather'd dust he throws,
And yellow sand his mighty muscles strows.
Oft he my neck, and nimble legs assails,
He seems to grasp me, but as often fails.
Each part he now invades with eager hand;
Safe in my bulk, immoveable I stand.
So when loud storms break high, and foam and roar
Against some mole that stretches from the shore;
The firm foundation lasting tempests braves,
Defies the warring winds, and driving waves.
A-while we breathe, then forward rush amain,
Renew the combat, and our ground maintain;
Foot strove with foot, I prone extend my breast,
Hands war with hands, and forehead forehead prest.
Thus have I seen two furious bulls engage,
Inflam'd with equal love, and equal rage;
Each claims the fairest heifer of the grove,
And conquest only can decide their love:
The trembling herds survey the fight from far,
'Till victory decides th' important war.
Three times in vain he strove my joints to wrest,
To force my hold, and throw me from his breast;
The fourth he broke my gripe, that clasp'd him round,
Then with new force he stretch'd me on the ground;
Close to my back the mighty burthen clung,
As if a mountain o'er my limbs were flung.
Believe my tale; nor do I, boastful, aim
By feign'd narration to extol my fame.
No sooner from his grasp I freedom get,
Unlock my arms, that flow'd with trickling sweat,
But quick he seized me, and renew'd the strife,
As my exhausted bosom pants for life:
My neck he gripes, my knee to earth he strains;
I fall, and bite the sand with shame, and pains.
O'er-match'd in strength, to wiles, and arts I take,
And slip his hold, in form of speckled snake;
Who, when I wreath'd in spires my body round,
Or show'd my forky tongue with hissing sound,
Smiles at my threats: Such foes my cradle knew,
He cries, dire snakes my infant hand o'erthrew;
A dragon's form might other conquests gain,
To war with me you take that shape in vain.
Art thou proportion'd to the Hydra's length,
Who by his wounds receiv'd augmented strength?
He rais'd a hundred hissing heads in air;
When one I lopt, up-sprung a dreadful pair.
By his wounds fertile, and with slaughter strong,
Singly I quell'd him, and stretch'd dead along.
What canst thou do, a form precarious, prone,
To rouse my rage with terrors not thy own?
He said; and round my neck his hands he cast,
And with his straining fingers wrung me fast;
My throat he tortur'd, close as pincers clasp,
In vain I strove to loose the forceful grasp.
Thus vanquish'd too, a third form still remains,
Chang'd to a bull, my lowing fills the plains.
Strait on the left his nervous arms were thrown
Upon my brindled neck, and tugg'd it down;
Then deep he struck my horn into the sand,
And fell'd my bulk among the dusty land.
Nor yet his fury cool'd; 'twixt rage and scorn,
From my maim'd front he tore the stubborn horn:
This, heap'd with flow'rs, and fruits, the Naiads bear,
Sacred to plenty, and the bounteous year.
He spoke; when lo, a beauteous nymph appears,
Girt like Diana's train, with flowing hairs;
The horn she brings in which all Autumn's stor'd,
And ruddy apples for the second board.
Now morn begins to dawn, the sun's bright fire
Gilds the high mountains, and the youths retire;
Nor stay'd they, 'till the troubled stream subsides,
And in its bounds with peaceful current glides.
But Achelous in his oozy bed
Deep hides his brow deform'd, and rustick head:
No real wound the victor's triumph show'd,
But his lost honours griev'd the watry God;
Yet ev'n that loss the willow's leaves o'erspread,
And verdant reeds, in garlands, bind his head.
The Death of Nessus the Centaur
This virgin too, thy love, O Nessus, found,
To her alone you owe the fatal wound.
As the strong son of Jove his bride conveys,
Where his paternal lands their bulwarks raise;
Where from her slopy urn, Evenus pours
Her rapid current, swell'd by wintry show'rs,
He came. The frequent eddies whirl'd the tide,
And the deep rolling waves all pass deny'd.
As for himself, he stood unmov'd by fears,
For now his bridal charge employ'd his cares,
The strong-limb'd Nessus thus officious cry'd
(For he the shallows of the stream had try'd),
Swim thou, Alcides, all thy strength prepare,
On yonder bank I'll lodge thy nuptial care.
Th' Aonian chief to Nessus trusts his wife,
All pale, and trembling for her heroe's life:
Cloath'd as he stood in the fierce lion's hide,
The laden quiver o'er his shoulder ty'd
(For cross the stream his bow and club were cast),
Swift he plung'd in: These billows shall be past,
He said, nor sought where smoother waters glide,
But stem'd the rapid dangers of the tide.
The bank he reach'd; again the bow he bears;
When, hark! his bride's known voice alarms his ears.
Nessus, to thee I call (aloud he cries)
Vain is thy trust in flight, be timely wise:
Thou monster double-shap'd, my right set free;
If thou no rev'rence owe my fame and me,
Yet kindred should thy lawless lust deny;
Think not, perfidious wretch, from me to fly,
Tho' wing'd with horse's speed; wounds shall pursue;
Swift as his words the fatal arrow flew:
The centaur's back admits the feather'd wood,
And thro' his breast the barbed weapon stood;
Which when, in anguish, thro' the flesh he tore,
From both the wounds gush'd forth the spumy gore
Mix'd with Lernaean venom; this he took,
Nor dire revenge his dying breast forsook.
His garment, in the reeking purple dy'd,
To rouse love's passion, he presents the bride.
The Death of Hercules
Now a long interval of time succeeds,
When the great son of Jove's immortal deeds,
And step-dame's hate, had fill'd Earth's utmost round;
He from Oechalia, with new lawrels crown'd,
In triumph was return'd. He rites prepares,
And to the King of Gods directs his pray'rs;
When Fame (who falshood cloaths in truth's disguise,
And swells her little bulk with growing lies)
Thy tender ear, o Deianira, mov'd,
That Hercules the fair Iole lov'd.
Her love believes the tale; the truth she fears
Of his new passion, and gives way to tears.
The flowing tears diffus'd her wretched grief,
Why seek I thus, from streaming eyes, relief?
She cries; indulge not thus these fruitless cares,
The harlot will but triumph in thy tears:
Let something be resolv'd, while yet there's time;
My bed not conscious of a rival's crime.
In silence shall I mourn, or loud complain?
Shall I seek Calydon, or here remain?
What tho', ally'd to Meleager's fame,
I boast the honours of a sister's name?
My wrongs, perhaps, now urge me to pursue
Some desp'rate deed, by which the world shall view
How far revenge, and woman's rage can rise,
When weltring in her blood the harlot dies.
Thus various passions rul'd by turns her breast,
She now resolves to send the fatal vest,
Dy'd with Lernaean gore, whose pow'r might move
His soul anew, and rouse declining love.
Nor knew she what her sudden rage bestows,
When she to Lychas trusts her future woes;
With soft endearments she the boy commands,
To bear the garment to her husband's hands.
Th' unwitting hero takes the gift in haste,
And o'er his shoulders Lerna's poison cast,
As first the fire with frankincense he strows,
And utters to the Gods his holy vows;
And on the marble altar's polish'd frame
Pours forth the grapy stream; the rising flame
Sudden dissolves the subtle pois'nous juice,
Which taints his blood, and all his nerves bedews.
With wonted fortitude he bore the smart,
And not a groan confess'd his burning heart.
At length his patience was subdu'd by pain,
He rends the sacred altar from the plain;
Oete's wide forests echo with his cries:
Now to rip off the deathful robe he tries.
Where-e'er he plucks the vest, the skin he tears,
The mangled muscles, and huge bones he bares
(A ghastful sight!), or raging with his pain,
To rend the sticking plague he tugs in vain.
As the red iron hisses in the flood,
So boils the venom in his curdling blood.
Now with the greedy flame his entrails glow,
And livid sweats down all his body flow;
The cracking nerves burnt up are burst in twain,
The lurking venom melts his swimming brain.
Then, lifting both his hands aloft, he cries,
Glut thy revenge, dread Empress of the skies;
Sate with my death the rancour of thy heart,
Look down with pleasure, and enjoy my smart.
Or, if e'er pity mov'd a hostile breast
(For here I stand thy enemy profest),
Take hence this hateful life, with tortures torn,
Inur'd to trouble, and to labours born.
Death is the gift most welcome to my woe,
And such a gift a stepdame may bestow.
Was it for this Busiris was subdu'd,
Whose barb'rous temples reek'd with strangers' blood?
Press'd in these arms his fate Antaeus found,
Nor gain'd recruited vigour from the ground.
Did I not triple-form'd Geryon fell?
Or did I fear the triple dog of Hell?
Did not these hands the bull's arm'd forehead hold?
Are not our mighty toils in Elis told?
Do not Stymphalian lakes proclaim thy fame?
And fair Parthenian woods resound thy name?
Who seiz'd the golden belt of Thermodon?
And who the dragon-guarded apples won?
Could the fierce centaur's strength my force withstand,
Or the fell boar that spoil'd th' Arcadian land?
Did not these arms the Hydra's rage subdue,
Who from his wounds to double fury grew?
What if the Thracian horses, fat with gore,
Who human bodies in their mangers tore,
I saw, and with their barb'rous lord o'erthrew?
What if these hands Nemaea's lion slew?
Did not this neck the heav'nly globe sustain?
The female partner of the Thunderer's reign
Fatigu'd, at length suspends her harsh commands,
Yet no fatigue hath slack'd these valiant hands.
But now new plagues pursue me, neither force,
Nor arms, nor darts can stop their raging course.
Devouring flame thro' my rack'd entrails strays,
And on my lungs and shrivel'd muscles preys.
Yet still Eurystheus breathes the vital air.
What mortal now shall seek the Gods with pray'r?
The Transformation of Lychas into a Rock
The hero said; and with the torture stung,
Furious o'er Oete's lofty hills he sprung.
Stuck with the shaft, thus scours the tyger round,
And seeks the flying author of his wound.
Now might you see him trembling, now he vents
His anguish'd soul in groans, and loud laments;
He strives to tear the clinging vest in vain,
And with up-rooted forests strows the plain;
Now kindling into rage, his hands he rears,
And to his kindred Gods directs his pray'rs.
When Lychas, lo, he spies; who trembling flew,
And in a hollow rock conceal'd from view,
Had shun'd his wrath. Now grief renew'd his pain,
His madness chaf'd, and thus he raves again.
Lychas, to thee alone my fate I owe,
Who bore the gift, the cause of all my woe.
The youth all pale, with shiv'ring fear was stung,
And vain excuses falter'd on his tongue.
Alcides snatch'd him, as with suppliant face
He strove to clasp his knees, and beg for grace:
He toss'd him o'er his head with airy course,
And hurl'd with more than with an engine's force;
Far o'er th' Eubaean main aloof he flies,
And hardens by degrees amid the skies.
So showry drops, when chilly tempests blow,
Thicken at first, then whiten into snow,
In balls congeal'd the rolling fleeces bound,
In solid hail result upon the ground.
Thus, whirl'd with nervous force thro' distant air,
The purple tide forsook his veins, with fear;
All moisture left his limbs. Transform'd to stone,
In ancient days the craggy flint was known;
Still in the Eubaean waves his front he rears,
Still the small rock in human form appears,
And still the name of hapless Lychas bears.
The Apotheosis of Hercules
But now the hero of immortal birth
Fells Oete's forests on the groaning Earth;
A pile he builds; to Philoctetes' care
He leaves his deathful instruments of war;
To him commits those arrows, which again
Shall see the bulwarks of the Trojan reign.
The son of Paean lights the lofty pyre,
High round the structure climbs the greedy fire;
Plac'd on the top, thy nervous shoulders spread
With the Nemaean spoils, thy careless head
Rais'd on a knotty club, with look divine,
Here thou, dread hero, of celestial line,
Wert stretch'd at ease; as when a chearful guest,
Wine crown'd thy bowls, and flow'rs thy temples drest.
Now on all sides the potent flames aspire,
And crackle round those limbs that mock the fire
A sudden terror seiz'd th' immortal host,
Who thought the world's profess'd defender lost.
This when the Thund'rer saw, with smiles he cries,
'Tis from your fears, ye Gods, my pleasures rise;
Joy swells my breast, that my all-ruling hand
O'er such a grateful people boasts command,
That you my suff'ring progeny would aid;
Tho' to his deeds this just respect be paid,
Me you've oblig'd. Be all your fears forborn,
Th' Oetean fires do thou, great hero, scorn.
Who vanquish'd all things, shall subdue the flame.
That part alone of gross maternal frame
Fire shall devour; while what from me he drew
Shall live immortal, and its force subdue;
That, when he's dead, I'll raise to realms above;
May all the Pow'rs the righteous act approve.
If any God dissent, and judge too great
The sacred honours of the heav'nly seat,
Ev'n he shall own his deeds deserve the sky,
Ev'n he reluctant, shall at length comply.
Th' assembled Pow'rs assent. No frown 'till now
Had mark'd with passion vengeful Juno's brow,
Mean-while whate'er was in the pow'r of flame
Was all consum'd; his body's nervous frame
No more was known, of human form bereft,
Th' eternal part of Jove alone was left.
As an old serpent casts his scaly vest,
Wreathes in the sun, in youthful glory drest;
So when Alcides mortal mold resign'd,
His better part enlarg'd, and grew refin'd;
August his visage shone; almighty Jove
In his swift carr his honour'd offspring drove;
High o'er the hollow clouds the coursers fly,
And lodge the hero in the starry sky.
The Transformation of Galanthis
Atlas perceiv'd the load of Heav'n's new guest.
Revenge still rancour'd in Eurystheus' breast
Against Alcides' race. Alcmena goes
To Iole, to vent maternal woes;
Here she pours forth her grief, recounts the spoils
Her son had bravely reap'd in glorious toils.
This Iole, by Hercules' commands,
Hyllus had lov'd, and joyn'd in nuptial bands.
Her swelling womb the teeming birth confess'd,
To whom Alcmena thus her speech address'd.
O, may the Gods protect thee, in that hour,
When, 'midst thy throws, thou call'st th' Ilithyan Pow'r!
May no delays prolong thy racking pain,
As when I su'd for Juno's aid in vain.
When now Alcides' mighty birth drew nigh,
And the tenth sign roll'd forward on the sky,
My womb extends with such a mighty load,
As Jove the parent of the burthen show'd.
I could no more th' encreasing smart sustain,
My horror kindles to recount the pain;
Cold chills my limbs while I the tale pursue,
And now methinks I feel my pangs anew.
Seven days and nights amidst incessant throws,
Fatigu'd with ills I lay, nor knew repose;
When lifting high my hands, in shrieks I pray'd,
Implor'd the Gods, and call'd Lucina's aid.
She came, but prejudic'd, to give my Fate
A sacrifice to vengeful Juno's hate.
She hears the groaning anguish of my fits,
And on the altar at my door she sits.
O'er her left knee her crossing leg she cast,
Then knits her fingers close, and wrings them fast:
This stay'd the birth; in mutt'ring verse she pray'd,
The mutt'ring verse th' unfinish'd birth delay'd.
Now with fierce struggles, raging with my pain,
At Jove's ingratitude I rave in vain.
How did I wish for death! such groans I sent,
As might have made the flinty heart relent.
Now the Cadmeian matrons round me press,
Offer their vows, and seek to bring redress;
Among the Theban dames Galanthis stands,
Strong limb'd, red hair'd, and just to my commands:
She first perceiv'd that all these racking woes
From the persisting hate of Juno rose.
As here and there she pass'd, by chance she sees
The seated Goddess; on her close-press'd knees
Her fast-knit hands she leans; with chearful voice
Galanthis cries, Whoe'er thou art, rejoyce,
Congratulate the dame, she lies at rest,
At length the Gods Alcmena's womb have blest.
Swift from her seat the startled Goddess springs,
No more conceal'd, her hands abroad she flings;
The charm unloos'd, the birth my pangs reliev'd;
Galanthis' laughter vex'd the Pow'r deceiv'd.
Fame says, the Goddess dragg'd the laughing maid
Fast by the hair; in vain her force essay'd
Her grov'ling body from the ground to rear;
Chang'd to fore-feet her shrinking arms appear:
Her hairy back her former hue retains,
The form alone is lost; her strength remains;
Who, since the lye did from her mouth proceed,
Shall from her pregnant mouth bring forth her breed;
Nor shall she quit her long-frequented home,
But haunt those houses where she lov'd to roam.
The Fable of Dryope
She said, and for her lost Galanthis sighs;
When the fair consort of her son replies;
Since you a servant's ravish'd form bemoan,
And kindly sigh for sorrows not your own,
Let me (if tears and grief permit) relate
A nearer woe, a sister's stranger fate.
No nymph of all Oechaloa could compare
For beauteous form with Dryope the fair;
Her tender mother's only hope and pride
(My self the offspring of a second bride),
This nymph, compress'd by him who rules the day,
Whom Delphi, and the Delian isle obey,
Andraemon lov'd; and blest in all those charms
That pleas'd a God, succeeded to her arms.
A lake there was, with shelving banks around,
Whose verdant summit fragrant myrtles crown'd.
Those shades, unknowing of the fates, she sought;
And to the Naiads flow'ry garlands brought;
Her smiling babe (a pleasing charge) she prest
Between her arms, and nourish'd at her breast.
Not distant far a watry lotos grows;
The Spring was new, and all the verdant boughs,
Acorn'd with blossoms, promis'd fruits that vye
In glowing colours with the Tyrian dye.
Of these she cropt, to please her infant son,
And I my self the same rash act had done,
But, lo! I saw (as near her side I stood)
The violated blossoms drop with blood;
Upon the tree I cast a frightful look,
The trembling tree with sudden horror shook.
Lotis the nymph (if rural tales be true)
As from Priapus' lawless lust she flew,
Forsook her form; and fixing here became
A flow'ry plant, which still preserves her name.
This change unknown, astonish'd at the sight,
My trembling sister strove to urge her flight;
Yet first the pardon of the Nymphs implor'd,
And those offended Sylvan pow'rs ador'd:
But when she backward would have fled, she found
Her stiff'ning feet were rooted to the ground:
In vain to free her fasten'd feet she strove,
And as she struggles only moves above;
She feels th' incroaching bark around her grow,
By slow degrees, and cover all below:
Surpriz'd at this, her trembling hand she heaves
To rend her hair; her hand is fill'd with leaves;
Where late was hair, the shooting leaves are seen
To rise, and shade her with a sudden green.
The Child Amphisus, to her bosom prest,
Perceiv'd a colder and a harder breast,
And found the springs, that n'er 'till then deny'd
Their milky moisture, on a sudden dry'd.
I saw, unhappy, what I now relate,
And stood the helpless witness of thy fate;
Embrac'd thy boughs, the rising bark delay'd,
There wish'd to grow, and mingle shade with shade.
Behold Andraemon, and th' unhappy sire
Appear, and for their Dryope enquire;
A springing tree for Dryope they find,
And print warm kisses on the panting rind;
Prostrate, with tears their kindred plant bedew,
And close embrac'd, as to the roots they grew;
The face was all that now remain'd of thee;
No more a woman, nor yet quite a tree:
Thy branches hung with humid pearls appear,
From ev'ry leaf distills a trickling tear;
And strait a voice, while yet a voice remains,
Thus thro' the trembling boughs in sighs complains.
If to the wretched any faith be giv'n,
I swear by all th' unpitying Pow'rs of Heav'n,
No wilful crime this heavy vengeance bred,
In mutual innocence our lives we led.
If this be false, let these new greens decay,
Let sounding axes lop my limbs away,
And crackling flames on all my honours prey.
Now from my branching arms this infant bear,
Let some kind nurse supply a mother's care;
Yet to his mother let him oft be led,
Sport in her shades, and in her shades be fed;
Teach him, when first his infant voice shall frame
Imperfect words, and lisp his mother's name,
To hail this tree, and say with weeping eyes,
Within this plant my hapless parent lies;
And when in youth he seeks the shady woods,
Oh, let him fly the chrystal lakes and floods,
Nor touch the fatal flow'rs; but warn'd by me,
Believe a Goddess shrin'd in ev'ry tree.
My sire, my sister, and my spouse farewel!
If in your breasts or love, or pity, dwell,
Protect your plant, nor let my branches feel
The browzing cattle, or the piercing steel.
Farewel! and since I cannot bend to join
My lips to yours, advance at least to mine.
My son, thy mother's parting kiss receive,
While yet thy mother has a kiss to give.
I can no more; the creeping rind invades
My closing lips, and hides my head in shades:
Remove your hands; the bark shall soon suffice,
Without their aid, to seal these dying eyes.
She ceas'd at once to speak, and ceas'd to be;
And all the nymph was lost within the tree:
Yet latent life thro' her new branches reign'd,
And long the plant a human heat retain'd.
Iolaus restor'd to Youth
While Iole the fatal change declares,
Alcmena's pitying hand oft wip'd her tears.
Grief too stream'd down her cheeks; soon sorrow flies,
And rising joy the trickling moisture dries,
Lo Iolaus stands before their eyes.
A youth he stood; and the soft down began
O'er his smooth chin to spread, and promise man.
Hebe submitted to her husband's pray'rs,
Instill'd new vigour, and restor'd his years.
The Prophecy of Themis
Now from her lips a solemn oath had past,
That Iolaus this gift alone shou'd taste,
Had not just Themis thus maturely said
(Which check'd her vow, and aw'd the blooming maid).
Thebes is embroil'd in war. Capaneus stands
Invincible, but by the Thund'rer's hands.
Ambition shall the guilty brothers fire,
Both rush to mutual wounds, and both expire.
The reeling Earth shall ope her gloomy womb,
Where the yet breathing bard shall find his tomb.
The son shall bath his hands in parents' blood,
And in one act be both unjust, and good.
Of home, and sense depriv'd, where-e'er he flies,
The Furies, and his mother's ghost he spies.
His wife the fatal bracelet shall implore,
And Phegeus stain his sword in kindred gore.
Callirhoe shall then with suppliant pray'r
Prevail on Jupiter's relenting ear.
Jove shall with youth her infant sons inspire,
And bid their bosoms glow with manly fire.
The Debate of the Gods
When Themis thus with prescient voice had spoke,
Among the Gods a various murmur broke;
Dissention rose in each immortal breast,
That one should grant, what was deny'd the rest.
Aurora for her aged spouse complains,
And Ceres grieves for Jason's freezing veins;
Vulcan would Erichthonius' years renew,
Her future race the care of Venus drew,
She would Anchises' blooming age restore;
A diff'rent care employ'd each heav'nly Pow'r:
Thus various int'rests did their jars encrease,
'Till Jove arose; he spoke, their tumults cease.
Is any rev'rence to our presence giv'n,
Then why this discord 'mong the Pow'rs of Heav'n?
Who can the settled will of Fate subdue?
'Twas by the Fates that Iolaus knew
A second youth. The Fates' determin'd doom
Shall give Callirhoe's race a youthful bloom.
Arms, nor ambition can this pow'r obtain;
Quell your desires; ev'n me the Fates restrain.
Could I their will controul, no rolling years
Had Aeacus bent down with silver hairs;
Then Rhadamanthus still had youth possess'd,
And Minos with eternal bloom been bless'd.
Jove's words the synod mov'd; the Pow'rs give o'er,
And urge in vain unjust complaint no more.
Since Rhadamanthus' veins now slowly flow'd,
And Aeacus, and Minos bore the load;
Minos, who in the flow'r of youth, and fame,
Made mighty nations tremble at his name,
Infirm with age, the proud Miletus fears,
Vain of his birth, and in the strength of years,
And now regarding all his realms as lost,
He durst not force him from his native coast.
But you by choice, Miletus, fled his reign,
And thy swift vessel plow'd th' Aegean main;
On Asiatick shores a town you frame,
Which still is honour'd with the founder's name.
Here you Cyanee knew, the beauteous maid,
As on her father's winding banks she stray'd:
Caunus and Byblis hence their lineage trace,
The double offspring of your warm embrace.
The Passion of of Byblis
Let the sad fate of wretched Byblis prove
A dismal warning to unlawful love;
One birth gave being to the hapless pair,
But more was Caunus than a sister's care;
Unknown she lov'd, for yet the gentle fire
Rose not in flames, nor kindled to desire,
'Twas thought no sin to wonder at his charms,
Hang on his neck, and languish in his arms;
Thus wing'd with joy, fled the soft hours away,
And all the fatal guilt on harmless Nature lay.
But love (too soon from piety declin'd)
Insensibly deprav'd her yielding mind.
Dress'd she appears, with nicest art adorn'd,
And ev'ry youth, but her lov'd brother, scorn'd;
For him alone she labour'd to be fair,
And curst all charms that might with hers compare.
'Twas she, and only she, must Caunus please,
Sick at her heart, yet knew not her disease:
She call'd him lord, for brother was a name
Too cold, and dull for her aspiring flame;
And when he spoke, if sister he reply'd,
For Byblis change that frozen word, she cry'd.
Yet waking still she watch'd her strugling breast,
And love's approaches were in vain address'd,
'Till gentle sleep an easy conquest made,
And in her soft embrace the conqueror was laid.
But oh too soon the pleasing vision fled,
And left her blushing on the conscious bed:
Ah me! (she cry'd) how monstrous do I seem?
Why these wild thoughts? and this incestuous dream?
Envy herself ('tis true) must own his charms,
But what is beauty in a sister's arms?
Oh were I not that despicable she,
How bless'd, how pleas'd, how happy shou'd I be!
But unregarded now must bear my pain,
And but in dreams, my wishes can obtain.
O sea-born Goddess! with thy wanton boy!
Was ever such a charming scene of joy?
Such perfect bliss! such ravishing delight!
Ne'er hid before in the kind shades of night.
How pleas'd my heart! in what sweet raptures tost!
Ev'n life it self in the soft combat lost,
While breathless he on my heav'd bosom lay,
And snatch'd the treasures of my soul away.
If the bare fancy so affects my mind,
How shou'd I rave if to the substance join'd?
Oh, gentle Caunus! quit thy hated line,
Or let thy parents be no longer mine!
Oh that in common all things were enjoy'd,
But those alone who have our hopes destroy'd.
Were I a princess, thou an humble swain,
The proudest kings shou'd rival thee in vain.
It cannot be, alas! the dreadful ill
Is fix'd by Fate, and he's my brother still.
Hear me, ye Gods! I must have friends in Heav'n,
For Jove himself was to a sister giv'n:
But what are their prerogatives above,
To the short liberties of human love?
Fantastick thoughts! down, down, forbidden fires,
Or instant death extinguish my desires.
Strict virtue, then, with thy malicious leave,
Without a crime I may a kiss receive:
But say shou'd I in spight of laws comply,
Yet cruel Caunus might himself deny,
No pity take of an afflicted maid
(For love's sweet game must be by couples play'd).
Yet why shou'd youth, and charms like mine, despair?
Such fears ne'er startled the Aeolian pair;
No ties of blood could their full hopes destroy,
They broke thro' all, for the prevailing joy;
And who can tell but Caunus too may be
Rack'd and tormented in his breast for me?
Like me, to the extreamest anguish drove,
Like me, just waking from a dream of love?
But stay! Oh whither wou'd my fury run!
What arguments I urge to be undone!
Away fond Byblis, quench these guilty flames;
Caunus thy love but as brother claims;
Yet had he first been touch'd with love of me,
The charming youth cou'd I despairing see?
Oppress'd with grief, and dying by disdain?
Ah no! too sure I shou'd have eas'd his pain!
Since then, if Caunus ask'd me, it were done;
Asking my self, what dangers can I run?
But canst thou ask? and see that right betray'd,
From Pyrrha down to thy whole sex convey'd?
That self-denying gift we all enjoy,
Of wishing to be won, yet seeming to be coy.
Well then, for once, let a fond mistress woo;
The force of love no custom can subdue;
This frantick passion he by words shall know,
Soft as the melting heart from whence they flow.
The pencil then in her fair hand she held,
By fear discourag'd, but by love compell'd
She writes, then blots, writes on, and blots again,
Likes it as fit, then razes it as vain:
Shame, and assurance in her face appear,
And a faint hope just yielding to despair;
Sister was wrote, and blotted as a word
Which she, and Caunus too (she hop'd) abhorr'd;
But now resolv'd to be no more controul'd
By scrup'lous virtue, thus her grief she told.
Thy lover (gentle Caunus) wishes thee
That health, which thou alone canst give to me.
O charming youth! the gift I ask bestow,
Ere thou the name of the fond writer know;
To thee without a name I would be known,
Since knowing that, my frailty I must own.
Yet why shou'd I my wretched name conceal?
When thousand instances my flames reveal:
Wan looks, and weeping eyes have spoke my pain,
And sighs discharg'd from my heav'd heart in vain;
Had I not wish'd my passion might be seen,
What cou'd such fondness and embraces mean?
Such kisses too! (Oh heedless lovely boy)
Without a crime no sister cou'd enjoy:
Yet (tho' extreamest rage has rack'd my soul,
And raging fires in my parch'd bosom roul)
Be witness, Gods! how piously I strove,
To rid my thoughts of this enchanting love.
But who cou'd scape so fierce, and sure a dart,
Aim'd at a tender, and defenceless heart?
Alas! what maid cou'd suffer, I have born,
Ere the dire secret from my breast was torn;
To thee a helpless vanquish'd wretch I come,
'Tis you alone can save, or give my doom;
My life, or death this moment you may chuse.
Yet think, oh think, no hated stranger sues,
No foe; but one, alas! too near ally'd,
And wishing still much nearer to be ty'd.
The forms of decency let age debate,
And virtue's rules by their cold morals state;
Their ebbing joys give leisure to enquire,
And blame those noble flights our youth inspire:
Where Nature kindly summons let us go,
Our sprightly years no bounds in love shou'd know,
Shou'd feel no check of guilt, and fear no ill;
Lovers, and Gods act all things at their will:
We gain one blessing from our hated kin,
Since our paternal freedom hides the sin;
Uncensur'd in each other's arms we lye,
Think then how easie to compleat our joy.
Oh, pardon and oblige a blushing maid,
Whose rage the pride of her vain sex betray'd;
Nor let my tomb thus mournfully complain,
Here Byblis lies, by her lov'd Caunus slain.
Forc'd here to end, she with a falling tear
Temper'd the pliant wax, which did the signet bear:
The curious cypher was impress'd by art,
But love had stamp'd one deeper in her heart;
Her page, a youth of confidence, and skill,
(Secret as night) stood waiting on her will;
Sighing (she cry'd): Bear this, thou faithful boy,
To my sweet partner in eternal joy:
Here a long pause her secret guilt confess'd,
And when at length she would have spoke the rest,
Half the dear name lay bury'd in her breast.
Thus as he listned to her vain command,
Down fell the letter from her trembling hand.
The omen shock'd her soul. Yet go, she cry'd;
Can a request from Byblis be deny'd?
To the Maeandrian youth this message's born,
The half-read lines by his fierce rage were torn;
Hence, hence, he cry'd, thou pandar to her lust,
Bear hence the triumph of thy impious trust:
Thy instant death will but divulge her shame,
Or thy life's blood shou'd quench the guilty flame.
Frighted, from threatning Caunus he withdrew,
And with the dreadful news to his lost mistress flew.
The sad repulse so struck the wounded fair,
Her sense was bury'd in her wild despair;
Pale was her visage, as the ghastly dead;
And her scar'd soul from the sweet mansion fled;
Yet with her life renew'd, her love returns,
And faintly thus her cruel fate she mourns:
'Tis just, ye Gods! was my false reason blind?
To write a secret of this tender kind?
With female craft I shou'd at first have strove,
By dubious hints to sound his distant love;
And try'd those useful, tho' dissembled, arts,
Which women practise on disdainful hearts:
I shou'd have watch'd whence the black storm might rise;
Ere I had trusted the unfaithful skies.
Now on the rouling billows I am tost,
And with extended sails, on the blind shelves am lost.
Did not indulgent Heav'n my doom foretell,
When from my hand the fatal letter fell?
What madness seiz'd my soul? and urg'd me on
To take the only course to be undone?
I cou'd my self have told the moving tale
With such alluring grace as must prevail;
Then had his eyes beheld my blushing fears,
My rising sighs, and my descending tears;
Round his dear neck these arms I then had spread,
And, if rejected, at his feet been dead:
If singly these had not his thoughts inclin'd,
Yet all united would have shock'd his mind.
Perhaps, my careless page might be in fault,
And in a luckless hour the fatal message brought;
Business, and worldly thoughts might fill his breast,
Sometimes ev'n love itself may be an irksome guest:
He cou'd not else have treated me with scorn,
For Caunus was not of a tygress born;
Nor steel, nor adamant has fenc'd his heart;
Like mine, 'tis naked to the burning dart.
Away false fears! he must, he shall be mine;
In death alone I will my claim resign;
'Tis vain to wish my written crime unknown,
And for my guilt much vainer to atone.
Repuls'd and baffled, fiercer still she burns,
And Caunus with disdain her impious love returns.
He saw no end of her injurious flame,
And fled his country to avoid the shame.
Forsaken Byblis, who had hopes no more;
Burst out in rage, and her loose robes she tore;
With her fair hands she smote her tender breast,
And to the wond'ring world her love confess'd;
O'er hills and dales, o'er rocks and streams she flew,
But still in vain did her wild lust pursue:
Wearied at length, on the cold earth she fell,
And now in tears alone could her sad story tell.
Relenting Gods in pity fix'd her there,
And to a fountain turn'd the weeping fair.
The Fable of Iphis and Ianthe
The fame of this, perhaps, thro' Crete had flown:
But Crete had newer wonders of her own,
In Iphis chang'd; for, near the Gnossian bounds
(As loud report the miracle resounds),
At Phaestus dwelt a man of honest blood,
But meanly born, and not so rich as good;
Esteem'd, and lov'd by all the neighbourhood;
Who to his wife, before the time assign'd
For child-birth came, thus bluntly spoke his mind.
If Heav'n, said Lygdus, will vouchsafe to hear,
I have but two petitions to prefer;
Short pains for thee, for me a son and heir.
Girls cost as many throes in bringing forth;
Beside, when born, the titts are little worth;
Weak puling things, unable to sustain
Their share of labour, and their bread to gain.
If, therefore, thou a creature shalt produce,
Of so great charges, and so little use
(Bear witness, Heav'n, with what reluctancy),
Her hapless innocence I doom to die.
He said, and common tears the common grief display,
Of him who bad, and her who must obey.
Yet Telethusa still persists, to find
Fit arguments to move a father's mind;
T' extend his wishes to a larger scope,
And in one vessel not confine his hope.
Lygdus continues hard: her time drew near,
And she her heavy load could scarcely bear;
When slumbring, in the latter shades of night,
Before th' approaches of returning light,
She saw, or thought she saw, before her bed,
A glorious train, and Isis at their head:
Her moony horns were on her forehead plac'd,
And yellow shelves her shining temples grac'd:
A mitre, for a crown, she wore on high;
The dog, and dappl'd bull were waiting by;
Osyris, sought along the banks of Nile;
The silent God: the sacred crocodile;
And, last, a long procession moving on,
With timbrels, that assist the lab'ring moon.
Her slumbers seem'd dispell'd, and, broad awake,
She heard a voice, that thus distinctly spake.
My votary, thy babe from death defend,
Nor fear to save whate'er the Gods will send.
Delude with art thy husband's dire decree:
When danger calls, repose thy trust on me:
And know thou hast not serv'd a thankless deity.
This promise made, with night the Goddess fled;
With joy the woman wakes, and leaves her bed;
Devoutly lifts her spotless hands on high,
And prays the Pow'rs their gift to ratifie.
Now grinding pains proceed to bearing throes,
'Till its own weight the burden did disclose.
'Twas of the beauteous kind, and brought to light
With secrecy, to shun the father's sight.
Th' indulgent mother did her care employ,
And past it on her husband for a boy.
The nurse was conscious of the fact alone;
The father paid his vows as for a son;
And call'd him Iphis, by a common name,
Which either sex with equal right may claim.
Iphis his grandsire was; the wife was pleas'd,
Of half the fraud by Fortune's favour eas'd:
The doubtful name was us'd without deceit,
And truth was cover'd with a pious cheat.
The habit show'd a boy, the beauteous face
With manly fierceness mingled female grace.
Now thirteen years of age were swiftly run,
When the fond father thought the time drew on
Of settling in the world his only son.
Ianthe was his choice; so wondrous fair,
Her form alone with Iphis cou'd compare;
A neighbour's daughter of his own degree,
And not more bless'd with Fortune's goods than he.
They soon espous'd; for they with ease were join'd,
Who were before contracted in the mind.
Their age the same, their inclinations too;
And bred together, in one school they grew.
Thus, fatally dispos'd to mutual fires,
They felt, before they knew, the same desires.
Equal their flame, unequal was their care;
One lov'd with hope, one languish'd in despair.
The maid accus'd the lingring day alone:
For whom she thought a man, she thought her own.
But Iphis bends beneath a greater grief;
As fiercely burns, but hopes for no relief.
Ev'n her despair adds fuel to her fire;
A maid with madness does a maid desire.
And, scarce refraining tears, Alas, said she,
What issue of my love remains for me!
How wild a passion works within my breast,
With what prodigious flames am I possest!
Could I the care of Providence deserve,
Heav'n must destroy me, if it would preserve.
And that's my fate, or sure it would have sent
Some usual evil for my punishment:
Not this unkindly curse; to rage, and burn,
Where Nature shews no prospect of return.
Nor cows for cows consume with fruitless fire;
Nor mares, when hot, their fellow-mares desire:
The father of the fold supplies his ewes;
The stag through secret woods his hind pursues;
And birds for mates the males of their own species chuse.
Her females Nature guards from female flame,
And joins two sexes to preserve the game:
Wou'd I were nothing, or not what I am!
Crete, fam'd for monsters, wanted of her store,
'Till my new love produc'd one monster more.
The daughter of the sun a bull desir'd,
And yet ev'n then a male a female fir'd:
Her passion was extravagantly new,
But mine is much the madder of the two.
To things impossible she was not bent,
But found the means to compass her intent.
To cheat his eyes she took a different shape;
Yet still she gain'd a lover, and a leap.
Shou'd all the wit of all the world conspire,
Shou'd Daedalus assist my wild desire,
What art can make me able to enjoy,
Or what can change Ianthe to a boy?
Extinguish then thy passion, hopeless maid,
And recollect thy reason for thy aid.
Know what thou art, and love as maidens ought,
And drive these golden wishes from thy thought.
Thou canst not hope thy fond desires to gain;
Where hope is wanting, wishes are in vain.
And yet no guards against our joys conspire;
No jealous husband hinders our desire;
My parents are propitious to my wish,
And she herself consenting to the bliss.
All things concur to prosper our design;
All things to prosper any love but mine.
And yet I never can enjoy the fair;
'Tis past the pow'r of Heav'n to grant my pray'r.
Heav'n has been kind, as far as Heav'n can be;
Our parents with our own desires agree;
But Nature, stronger than the Gods above,
Refuses her assistance to my love;
She sets the bar that causes all my pain;
One gift refus'd, makes all their bounty vain.
And now the happy day is just at hand,
To bind our hearts in Hymen's holy band:
Our hearts, but not our bodies: thus accurs'd,
In midst of water I complain of thirst.
Why com'st thou, Juno, to these barren rites,
To bless a bed defrauded of delights?
But why shou'd Hymen lift his torch on high,
To see two brides in cold embraces lye?
Thus love-sick Iphis her vain passion mourns;
With equal ardour fair Ianthe burns,
Invoking Hymen's name, and Juno's pow'r,
To speed the work, and haste the happy hour.
She hopes, while Telethusa fears the day,
And strives to interpose some new delay:
Now feigns a sickness, now is in a fright
For this bad omen, or that boding sight.
But having done whate'er she could devise,
And empty'd all her magazine of lies,
The time approach'd; the next ensuing day
The fatal secret must to light betray.
Then Telethusa had recourse to pray'r,
She, and her daughter with dishevel'd hair;
Trembling with fear, great Isis they ador'd,
Embrac'd her altar, and her aid implor'd.
Fair queen, who dost on fruitful Egypt smile,
Who sway'st the sceptre of the Pharian isle,
And sev'n-fold falls of disemboguing Nile,
Relieve, in this our last distress, she said,
A suppliant mother, and a mournful maid.
Thou, Goddess, thou wert present to my sight;
Reveal'd I saw thee by thy own fair light:
I saw thee in my dream, as now I see,
With all thy marks of awful majesty:
The glorious train that compass'd thee around;
And heard the hollow timbrels holy sound.
Thy words I noted, which I still retain;
Let not thy sacred oracles be vain.
That Iphis lives, that I myself am free
From shame, and punishment, I owe to thee.
On thy protection all our hopes depend.
Thy counsel sav'd us, let thy pow'r defend.
Her tears pursu'd her words; and while she spoke,
The Goddess nodded, and her altar shook:
The temple doors, as with a blast of wind,
Were heard to clap; the lunar horns that bind
The brows of Isis cast a blaze around;
The trembling timbrel made a murm'ring sound.
Some hopes these happy omens did impart;
Forth went the mother with a beating heart:
Not much in fear, nor fully satisfy'd;
But Iphis follow'd with a larger stride:
The whiteness of her skin forsook her face;
Her looks embolden'd with an awful grace;
Her features, and her strength together grew,
And her long hair to curling locks withdrew.
Her sparkling eyes with manly vigour shone,
Big was her voice, audacious was her tone.
The latent parts, at length reveal'd, began
To shoot, and spread, and burnish into man.
The maid becomes a youth; no more delay
Your vows, but look, and confidently pay.
Their gifts the parents to the temple bear:
The votive tables this inscription wear;
Iphis the man, has to the Goddess paid
The vows, that Iphis offer'd when a maid.
Now when the star of day had shewn his face,
Venus and Juno with their presence grace
The nuptial rites, and Hymen from above
Descending to compleat their happy love;
The Gods of marriage lend their mutual aid;
And the warm youth enjoys the lovely maid.
Book the Tenth
The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice
Thence, in his saffron robe, for distant Thrace,
Hymen departs, thro' air's unmeasur'd space;
By Orpheus call'd, the nuptial Pow'r attends,
But with ill-omen'd augury descends;
Nor chearful look'd the God, nor prosp'rous spoke,
Nor blaz'd his torch, but wept in hissing smoke.
In vain they whirl it round, in vain they shake,
No rapid motion can its flames awake.
With dread these inauspicious signs were view'd,
And soon a more disastrous end ensu'd;
For as the bride, amid the Naiad train,
Ran joyful, sporting o'er the flow'ry plain,
A venom'd viper bit her as she pass'd;
Instant she fell, and sudden breath'd her last.
When long his loss the Thracian had deplor'd,
Not by superior Pow'rs to be restor'd;
Inflam'd by love, and urg'd by deep despair,
He leaves the realms of light, and upper air;
Daring to tread the dark Tenarian road,
And tempt the shades in their obscure abode;
Thro' gliding spectres of th' interr'd to go,
And phantom people of the world below:
Persephone he seeks, and him who reigns
O'er ghosts, and Hell's uncomfortable plains.
Arriv'd, he, tuning to his voice his strings,
Thus to the king and queen of shadows sings.
Ye Pow'rs, who under Earth your realms extend,
To whom all mortals must one day descend;
If here 'tis granted sacred truth to tell:
I come not curious to explore your Hell;
Nor come to boast (by vain ambition fir'd)
How Cerberus at my approach retir'd.
My wife alone I seek; for her lov'd sake
These terrors I support, this journey take.
She, luckless wandring, or by fate mis-led,
Chanc'd on a lurking viper's crest to tread;
The vengeful beast, enflam'd with fury, starts,
And thro' her heel his deathful venom darts.
Thus was she snatch'd untimely to her tomb;
Her growing years cut short, and springing bloom.
Long I my loss endeavour'd to sustain,
And strongly strove, but strove, alas, in vain:
At length I yielded, won by mighty love;
Well known is that omnipotence above!
But here, I doubt, his unfelt influence fails;
And yet a hope within my heart prevails.
That here, ev'n here, he has been known of old;
At least if truth be by tradition told;
If fame of former rapes belief may find,
You both by love, and love alone, were join'd.
Now, by the horrors which these realms surround;
By the vast chaos of these depths profound;
By the sad silence which eternal reigns
O'er all the waste of these wide-stretching plains;
Let me again Eurydice receive,
Let Fate her quick-spun thread of life re-weave.
All our possessions are but loans from you,
And soon, or late, you must be paid your due;
Hither we haste to human-kind's last seat,
Your endless empire, and our sure retreat.
She too, when ripen'd years she shall attain,
Must, of avoidless right, be yours again:
I but the transient use of that require,
Which soon, too soon, I must resign entire.
But if the destinies refuse my vow,
And no remission of her doom allow;
Know, I'm determin'd to return no more;
So both retain, or both to life restore.
Thus, while the bard melodiously complains,
And to his lyre accords his vocal strains,
The very bloodless shades attention keep,
And silent, seem compassionate to weep;
Ev'n Tantalus his flood unthirsty views,
Nor flies the stream, nor he the stream pursues;
Ixion's wond'ring wheel its whirl suspends,
And the voracious vulture, charm'd, attends;
No more the Belides their toil bemoan,
And Sisiphus reclin'd, sits list'ning on his stone.
Then first ('tis said) by sacred verse subdu'd,
The Furies felt their cheeks with tears bedew'd:
Nor could the rigid king, or queen of Hell,
Th' impulse of pity in their hearts repell.
Now, from a troop of shades that last arriv'd,
Eurydice was call'd, and stood reviv'd:
Slow she advanc'd, and halting seem to feel
The fatal wound, yet painful in her heel.
Thus he obtains the suit so much desir'd,
On strict observance of the terms requir'd:
For if, before he reach the realms of air,
He backward cast his eyes to view the fair,
The forfeit grant, that instant, void is made,
And she for ever left a lifeless shade.
Now thro' the noiseless throng their way they bend,
And both with pain the rugged road ascend;
Dark was the path, and difficult, and steep,
And thick with vapours from the smoaky deep.
They well-nigh now had pass'd the bounds of night,
And just approach'd the margin of the light,
When he, mistrusting lest her steps might stray,
And gladsome of the glympse of dawning day,
His longing eyes, impatient, backward cast
To catch a lover's look, but look'd his last;
For, instant dying, she again descends,
While he to empty air his arms extends.
Again she dy'd, nor yet her lord reprov'd;
What could she say, but that too well he lov'd?
One last farewell she spoke, which scarce he heard;
So soon she drop'd, so sudden disappear'd.
All stunn'd he stood, when thus his wife he view'd
By second Fate, and double death subdu'd:
Not more amazement by that wretch was shown,
Whom Cerberus beholding, turn'd to stone;
Nor Olenus cou'd more astonish'd look,
When on himself Lethaea's fault he took,
His beauteous wife, who too secure had dar'd
Her face to vye with Goddesses compar'd:
Once join'd by love, they stand united still,
Turn'd to contiguous rocks on Ida's hill.
Now to repass the Styx in vain he tries,
Charon averse, his pressing suit denies.
Sev'n days entire, along th' infernal shores,
Disconsolate, the bard Eurydice deplores;
Defil'd with filth his robe, with tears his cheeks,
No sustenance but grief, and cares, he seeks:
Of rigid Fate incessant he complains,
And Hell's inexorable Gods arraigns.
This ended, to high Rhodope he hastes,
And Haemus' mountain, bleak with northern blasts.
And now his yearly race the circling sun
Had thrice compleat thro' wat'ry Pisces run,
Since Orpheus fled the face of womankind,
And all soft union with the sex declin'd.
Whether his ill success this change had bred,
Or binding vows made to his former bed;
Whate'er the cause, in vain the nymphs contest,
With rival eyes to warm his frozen breast:
For ev'ry nymph with love his lays inspir'd,
But ev'ry nymph repuls'd, with grief retir'd.
A hill there was, and on that hill a mead,
With verdure thick, but destitute of shade.
Where, now, the Muse's son no sooner sings,
No sooner strikes his sweet resounding strings.
But distant groves the flying sounds receive,
And list'ning trees their rooted stations leave;
Themselves transplanting, all around they grow,
And various shades their various kinds bestow.
Here, tall Chaonian oaks their branches spread,
While weeping poplars there erect their head.
The foodful Esculus here shoots his leaves,
That turf soft lime-tree, this, fat beach receives;
Here, brittle hazels, lawrels here advance,
And there tough ash to form the heroe's lance;
Here silver firs with knotless trunks ascend,
There, scarlet oaks beneath their acorns bend.
That spot admits the hospitable plane,
On this, the maple grows with clouded grain;
Here, watry willows are with Lotus seen;
There, tamarisk, and box for ever green.
With double hue here mirtles grace the ground,
And laurestines, with purple berries crown'd.
With pliant feet, now, ivies this way wind,
Vines yonder rise, and elms with vines entwin'd.
Wild Ornus now, the pitch-tree next takes root,
And Arbutus adorn'd with blushing fruit.
Then easy-bending palms, the victor's prize,
And pines erect with bristly tops arise.
For Rhea grateful still the pine remains,
For Atys still some favour she retains;
He once in human shape her breast had warm'd,
And now is cherish'd, to a tree transform'd.
The Fable of Cyparissus
Amid the throng of this promiscuous wood,
With pointed top, the taper cypress stood;
A tree, which once a youth, and heav'nly fair,
Was of that deity the darling care,
Whose hand adapts, with equal skill, the strings
To bows with which he kills, and harps to which he sings.
For heretofore, a mighty stag was bred,
Which on the fertile fields of Caea fed;
In shape and size he all his kind excell'd,
And to Carthaean nymphs was sacred held.
His beamy head, with branches high display'd,
Afforded to itself an ample shade;
His horns were gilt, and his smooth neck was grac'd
With silver collars thick with gems enchas'd:
A silver boss upon his forehead hung,
And brazen pendants in his ear-rings rung.
Frequenting houses, he familiar grew,
And learnt by custom, Nature to subdue;
'Till by degrees, of fear, and wildness, broke,
Ev'n stranger hands his proffer'd neck might stroak.
Much was the beast by Caea's youth caress'd,
But thou, sweet Cyparissus, lov'dst him best:
By thee, to pastures fresh, he oft was led,
By thee oft water'd at the fountain's head:
His horns with garlands, now, by thee were ty'd,
And, now, thou on his back wou'dst wanton ride;
Now here, now there wou'dst bound along the plains,
Ruling his tender mouth with purple reins.
'Twas when the summer sun, at noon of day,
Thro' glowing Cancer shot his burning ray,
'Twas then, the fav'rite stag, in cool retreat,
Had sought a shelter from the scorching heat;
Along the grass his weary limbs he laid,
Inhaling freshness from the breezy shade:
When Cyparissus with his pointed dart,
Unknowing, pierc'd him to the panting heart.
But when the youth, surpriz'd, his error found,
And saw him dying of the cruel wound,
Himself he would have slain thro' desp'rate grief:
What said not Phoebus, that might yield relief!
To cease his mourning, he the boy desir'd,
Or mourn no more than such a loss requir'd.
But he, incessant griev'd: at length address'd
To the superior Pow'rs a last request;
Praying, in expiation of his crime,
Thenceforth to mourn to all succeeding time.
And now, of blood exhausted he appears,
Drain'd by a torrent of continual tears;
The fleshy colour in his body fades,
And a green tincture all his limbs invades;
From his fair head, where curling locks late hung,
A horrid bush with bristled branches sprung,
Which stiffning by degrees, its stem extends,
'Till to the starry skies the spire ascends.
Apollo sad look'd on, and sighing, cry'd,
Then, be for ever, what thy pray'r imply'd:
Bemoan'd by me, in others grief excite;
And still preside at ev'ry fun'ral rite.
Thus the sweet artist in a wondrous shade
Of verdant trees, which harmony had made,
Encircled sate, with his own triumphs crown'd,
Of listning birds, and savages around.
Again the trembling strings he dext'rous tries,
Again from discord makes soft musick rise.
Then tunes his voice: O Muse, from whom I sprung,
Jove be my theme, and thou inspire my song.
To Jove my grateful voice I oft have rais'd,
Oft his almighty pow'r with pleasure prais'd.
I sung the giants in a solemn strain,
Blasted, and thunder-struck on Phlegra's plain.
Now be my lyre in softer accents mov'd,
To sing of blooming boys by Gods belov'd;
And to relate what virgins, void of shame,
Have suffer'd vengeance for a lawless flame.
The King of Gods once felt the burning joy,
And sigh'd for lovely Ganimede of Troy:
Long was he puzzled to assume a shape
Most fit, and expeditious for the rape;
A bird's was proper, yet he scorns to wear
Any but that which might his thunder bear.
Down with his masquerading wings he flies,
And bears the little Trojan to the skies;
Where now, in robes of heav'nly purple drest,
He serves the nectar at th' Almighty's feast,
To slighted Juno an unwelcome guest.
Hyacinthus transform'd into a Flower
Phoebus for thee too, Hyacinth, design'd
A place among the Gods, had Fate been kind:
Yet this he gave; as oft as wintry rains
Are past, and vernal breezes sooth the plains,
From the green turf a purple flow'r you rise,
And with your fragrant breath perfume the skies.
You when alive were Phoebus' darling boy;
In you he plac'd his Heav'n, and fix'd his joy:
Their God the Delphic priests consult in vain;
Eurotas now he loves, and Sparta's plain:
His hands the use of bow and harp forget,
And hold the dogs, or bear the corded net;
O'er hanging cliffs swift he pursues the game;
Each hour his pleasure, each augments his flame.
The mid-day sun now shone with equal light
Between the past, and the succeeding night;
They strip, then, smooth'd with suppling oyl, essay
To pitch the rounded quoit, their wonted play:
A well-pois'd disk first hasty Phoebus threw,
It cleft the air, and whistled as it flew;
It reach'd the mark, a most surprizing length;
Which spoke an equal share of art, and strength.
Scarce was it fall'n, when with too eager hand
Young Hyacinth ran to snatch it from the sand;
But the curst orb, which met a stony soil,
Flew in his face with violent recoil.
Both faint, both pale, and breathless now appear,
The boy with pain, the am'rous God with fear.
He ran, and rais'd him bleeding from the ground,
Chafes his cold limbs, and wipes the fatal wound:
Then herbs of noblest juice in vain applies;
The wound is mortal, and his skill defies.
As in a water'd garden's blooming walk,
When some rude hand has bruis'd its tender stalk,
A fading lilly droops its languid head,
And bends to earth, its life, and beauty fled:
So Hyacinth, with head reclin'd, decays,
And, sickning, now no more his charms displays.
O thou art gone, my boy, Apollo cry'd,
Defrauded of thy youth in all its pride!
Thou, once my joy, art all my sorrow now;
And to my guilty hand my grief I owe.
Yet from my self I might the fault remove,
Unless to sport, and play, a fault should prove,
Unless it too were call'd a fault to love.
Oh cou'd I for thee, or but with thee, dye!
But cruel Fates to me that pow'r deny.
Yet on my tongue thou shalt for ever dwell;
Thy name my lyre shall sound, my verse shall tell;
And to a flow'r transform'd, unheard-of yet,
Stamp'd on thy leaves my cries thou shalt repeat.
The time shall come, prophetick I foreknow,
When, joyn'd to thee, a mighty chief shall grow,
And with my plaints his name thy leaf shall show.
While Phoebus thus the laws of Fate reveal'd,
Behold, the blood which stain'd the verdant field,
Is blood no longer; but a flow'r full blown,
Far brighter than the Tyrian scarlet shone.
A lilly's form it took; its purple hue
Was all that made a diff'rence to the view,
Nor stop'd he here; the God upon its leaves
The sad expression of his sorrow weaves;
And to this hour the mournful purple wears
Ai, Ai, inscrib'd in funeral characters.
Nor are the Spartans, who so much are fam'd
For virtue, of their Hyacinth asham'd;
But still with pompous woe, and solemn state,
The Hyacinthian feasts they yearly celebrate
The Transformations of the Cerastae and Propoetides
Enquire of Amathus, whose wealthy ground
With veins of every metal does abound,
If she to her Propoetides wou'd show,
The honour Sparta does to him allow?
Nor more, she'd say, such wretches wou'd we grace,
Than those whose crooked horns deform'd their face,
From thence Cerastae call'd, an impious race:
Before whose gates a rev'rend altar stood,
To Jove inscrib'd, the hospitable God:
This had some stranger seen with gore besmear'd,
The blood of lambs, and bulls it had appear'd:
Their slaughter'd guests it was; nor flock nor herd.
Venus these barb'rous sacrifices view'd
With just abhorrence, and with wrath pursu'd:
At first, to punish such nefarious crimes,
Their towns she meant to leave, her once-lov'd climes:
But why, said she, for their offence shou'd I
My dear delightful plains, and cities fly?
No, let the impious people, who have sinn'd,
A punishment in death, or exile, find:
If death, or exile too severe be thought,
Let them in some vile shape bemoan their fault.
While next her mind a proper form employs,
Admonish'd by their horns, she fix'd her choice.
Their former crest remains upon their heads,
And their strong limbs an ox's shape invades.
The blasphemous Propoetides deny'd
Worship of Venus, and her pow'r defy'd:
But soon that pow'r they felt, the first that sold
Their lewd embraces to the world for gold.
Unknowing how to blush, and shameless grown,
A small transition changes them to stone.
The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue
Pygmalion loathing their lascivious life,
Abhorr'd all womankind, but most a wife:
So single chose to live, and shunn'd to wed,
Well pleas'd to want a consort of his bed.
Yet fearing idleness, the nurse of ill,
In sculpture exercis'd his happy skill;
And carv'd in iv'ry such a maid, so fair,
As Nature could not with his art compare,
Were she to work; but in her own defence
Must take her pattern here, and copy hence.
Pleas'd with his idol, he commends, admires,
Adores; and last, the thing ador'd, desires.
A very virgin in her face was seen,
And had she mov'd, a living maid had been:
One wou'd have thought she cou'd have stirr'd, but strove
With modesty, and was asham'd to move.
Art hid with art, so well perform'd the cheat,
It caught the carver with his own deceit:
He knows 'tis madness, yet he must adore,
And still the more he knows it, loves the more:
The flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
Fir'd with this thought, at once he strain'd the breast,
And on the lips a burning kiss impress'd.
'Tis true, the harden'd breast resists the gripe,
And the cold lips return a kiss unripe:
But when, retiring back, he look'd again,
To think it iv'ry, was a thought too mean:
So wou'd believe she kiss'd, and courting more,
Again embrac'd her naked body o'er;
And straining hard the statue, was afraid
His hands had made a dint, and hurt his maid:
Explor'd her limb by limb, and fear'd to find
So rude a gripe had left a livid mark behind:
With flatt'ry now he seeks her mind to move,
And now with gifts (the pow'rful bribes of love),
He furnishes her closet first; and fills
The crowded shelves with rarities of shells;
Adds orient pearls, which from the conchs he drew,
And all the sparkling stones of various hue:
And parrots, imitating human tongue,
And singing-birds in silver cages hung:
And ev'ry fragrant flow'r, and od'rous green,
Were sorted well, with lumps of amber laid between:
Rich fashionable robes her person deck,
Pendants her ears, and pearls adorn her neck:
Her taper'd fingers too with rings are grac'd,
And an embroider'd zone surrounds her slender waste.
Thus like a queen array'd, so richly dress'd,
Beauteous she shew'd, but naked shew'd the best.
Then, from the floor, he rais'd a royal bed,
With cov'rings of Sydonian purple spread:
The solemn rites perform'd, he calls her bride,
With blandishments invites her to his side;
And as she were with vital sense possess'd,
Her head did on a plumy pillow rest.
The feast of Venus came, a solemn day,
To which the Cypriots due devotion pay;
With gilded horns the milk-white heifers led,
Slaughter'd before the sacred altars, bled.
Pygmalion off'ring, first approach'd the shrine,
And then with pray'rs implor'd the Pow'rs divine:
Almighty Gods, if all we mortals want,
If all we can require, be yours to grant;
Make this fair statue mine, he wou'd have said,
But chang'd his words for shame; and only pray'd,
Give me the likeness of my iv'ry maid.
The golden Goddess, present at the pray'r,
Well knew he meant th' inanimated fair,
And gave the sign of granting his desire;
For thrice in chearful flames ascends the fire.
The youth, returning to his mistress, hies,
And impudent in hope, with ardent eyes,
And beating breast, by the dear statue lies.
He kisses her white lips, renews the bliss,
And looks, and thinks they redden at the kiss;
He thought them warm before: nor longer stays,
But next his hand on her hard bosom lays:
Hard as it was, beginning to relent,
It seem'd, the breast beneath his fingers bent;
He felt again, his fingers made a print;
'Twas flesh, but flesh so firm, it rose against the dint:
The pleasing task he fails not to renew;
Soft, and more soft at ev'ry touch it grew;
Like pliant wax, when chasing hands reduce
The former mass to form, and frame for use.
He would believe, but yet is still in pain,
And tries his argument of sense again,
Presses the pulse, and feels the leaping vein.
Convinc'd, o'erjoy'd, his studied thanks, and praise,
To her, who made the miracle, he pays:
Then lips to lips he join'd; now freed from fear,
He found the savour of the kiss sincere:
At this the waken'd image op'd her eyes,
And view'd at once the light, and lover with surprize.
The Goddess, present at the match she made,
So bless'd the bed, such fruitfulness convey'd,
That ere ten months had sharpen'd either horn,
To crown their bliss, a lovely boy was born;
Paphos his name, who grown to manhood, wall'd
The city Paphos, from the founder call'd.
The Story of of Cinyras and Myrrha
Nor him alone produc'd the fruitful queen;
But Cinyras, who like his sire had been
A happy prince, had he not been a sire.
Daughters, and fathers, from my song retire;
I sing of horror; and could I prevail,
You shou'd not hear, or not believe my tale.
Yet if the pleasure of my song be such,
That you will hear, and credit me too much,
Attentive listen to the last event,
And, with the sin, believe the punishment:
Since Nature cou'd behold so dire a crime,
I gratulate at least my native clime,
That such a land, which such a monster bore,
So far is distant from our Thracian shore.
Let Araby extol her happy coast,
Her cinamon, and sweet Amomum boast,
Her fragrant flow'rs, her trees with precious tears,
Her second harvests, and her double years;
How can the land be call'd so bless'd, that Myrrha bears?
Nor all her od'rous tears can cleanse her crime;
Her Plant alone deforms the happy clime:
Cupid denies to have inflam'd thy heart,
Disowns thy love, and vindicates his dart:
Some Fury gave thee those infernal pains,
And shot her venom'd vipers in thy veins.
To hate thy sire, had merited a curse;
But such an impious love deserv'd a worse.
The neighb'ring monarchs, by thy beauty led,
Contend in crowds, ambitious of thy bed:
The world is at thy choice; except but one,
Except but him, thou canst not chuse, alone.
She knew it too, the miserable maid,
Ere impious love her better thoughts betray'd,
And thus within her secret soul she said:
Ah Myrrha! whither wou'd thy wishes tend?
Ye Gods, ye sacred laws, my soul defend
From such a crime as all mankind detest,
And never lodg'd before in human breast!
But is it sin? Or makes my mind alone
Th' imagin'd sin? For Nature makes it none.
What tyrant then these envious laws began,
Made not for any other beast, but Man!
The father-bull his daughter may bestride,
The horse may make his mother-mare a bride;
What piety forbids the lusty ram,
Or more salacious goat, to rut their dam?
The hen is free to wed the chick she bore,
And make a husband, whom she hatch'd before.
All creatures else are of a happier kind,
Whom nor ill-natur'd laws from pleasure bind,
Nor thoughts of sin disturb their peace of mind.
But Man a slave of his own making lives;
The fool denies himself what Nature gives:
Too-busie senates, with an over-care,
To make us better than our kind can bear,
Have dash'd a spice of envy in the laws,
And straining up too high, have spoil'd the cause.
Yet some wise nations break their cruel chains,
And own no laws, but those which love ordains;
Where happy daughters with their sires are join'd,
And piety is doubly paid in kind.
O that I had been born in such a clime,
Not here, where 'tis the country makes the crime!
But whither wou'd my impious fancy stray?
Hence hopes, and ye forbidden thoughts away!
His worth deserves to kindle my desires,
But with the love, that daughters bear to sires.
Then had not Cinyras my father been,
What hinder'd Myrrha's hopes to be his queen?
But the perverseness of my fate is such,
That he's not mine, because he's mine too much:
Our kindred-blood debars a better tie;
He might be nearer, were he not so nigh.
Eyes, and their objects, never must unite;
Some distance is requir'd to help the sight:
Fain wou'd I travel to some foreign shore,
Never to see my native country more,
So might I to my self my self restore;
So might my mind these impious thoughts remove,
And ceasing to behold, might cease to love.
But stay I must, to feed my famish'd sight,
To talk, to kiss, and more, if more I might:
More, impious maid! What more canst thou design?
To make a monstrous mixture in thy line,
And break all statutes human and divine!
Can'st thou be call'd (to save thy wretched life)
Thy mother's rival, and thy father's wife?
Confound so many sacred names in one,
Thy brother's mother! Sister to thy son!
And fear'st thou not to see th' infernal bands,
Their heads with snakes; with torches arm'd their hands
Full at thy face th' avenging brands to bear,
And shake the serpents from their hissing hair;
But thou in time th' increasing ill controul,
Nor first debauch the body by the soul;
Secure the sacred quiet of thy mind,
And keep the sanctions Nature has design'd.
Suppose I shou'd attempt, th' attempt were vain,
No thoughts like mine, his sinless soul profane;
Observant of the right: and o that he
Cou'd cure my madness, or be mad like me!
Thus she: but Cinyras, who daily sees
A crowd of noble suitors at his knees,
Among so many, knew not whom to chuse,
Irresolute to grant, or to refuse.
But having told their names, enquir'd of her
Who pleas'd her best, and whom she would prefer.
The blushing maid stood silent with surprize,
And on her father fix'd her ardent eyes,
And looking sigh'd, and as she sigh'd, began
Round tears to shed, that scalded as they ran.
The tender sire, who saw her blush, and cry,
Ascrib'd it all to maiden modesty,
And dry'd the falling drops, and yet more kind,
He stroak'd her cheeks, and holy kisses join'd.
She felt a secret venom fire her blood,
And found more pleasure, than a daughter shou'd;
And, ask'd again what lover of the crew
She lik'd the best, she answer'd, One like you.
Mistaking what she meant, her pious will
He prais'd, and bid her so continue still:
The word of pious heard, she blush'd with shame
Of secret guilt, and cou'd not bear the name.
'Twas now the mid of night, when slumbers close
Our eyes, and sooth our cares with soft repose;
But no repose cou'd wretched Myrrha find,
Her body rouling, as she roul'd her mind:
Mad with desire, she ruminates her sin,
And wishes all her wishes o'er again:
Now she despairs, and now resolves to try;
Wou'd not, and wou'd again, she knows not why;
Stops, and returns; makes, and retracts the vow;
Fain wou'd begin, but understands not how.
As when a pine is hew'd upon the plains,
And the last mortal stroke alone remains,
Lab'ring in pangs of death, and threatning all,
This way, and that she nods, consid'ring where to fall:
So Myrrha's mind, impell'd on either side,
Takes ev'ry bent, but cannot long abide;
Irresolute on which she shou'd relie,
At last, unfix'd in all, is only fix'd to die.
On that sad thought she rests, resolv'd on death,
She rises, and prepares to choak her breath:
Then while about the beam her zone she ties,
Dear Cinyras farewell, she softly cries;
For thee I die, and only wish to be
Not hated, when thou know'st die I for thee:
Pardon the crime, in pity to the cause:
This said, about her neck the noose she draws.
The nurse, who lay without, her faithful guard,
Though not the words, the murmurs over-heard;
And sighs, and hollow sounds: surpriz'd with fright,
She starts, and leaves her bed, and springs a light;
Unlocks the door, and entring out of breath,
The dying saw, and instruments of death;
She shrieks, she cuts the zone with trembling haste,
And in her arms her fainting charge embrac'd:
Next (for she now had leisure for her tears),
She weeping ask'd, in these her blooming years,
What unforeseen misfortune caus'd her care,
To loath her life, and languish in despair!
The maid, with down-cast eyes, and mute with grief
For death unfinish'd, and ill-tim'd relief,
Stood sullen to her suit: the beldame press'd
The more to know, and bar'd her wither'd breast,
Adjur'd her by the kindly food she drew
From those dry founts, her secret ill to shew.
Sad Myrrha sigh'd, and turn'd her eyes aside:
The nurse still urg'd, and wou'd not be deny'd:
Nor only promis'd secresie, but pray'd
She might have leave to give her offer'd aid.
Good-will, she said, my want of strength supplies,
And diligence shall give what age denies:
If strong desires thy mind to fury move,
With charms and med'cines I can cure thy love:
If envious eyes their hurtuful rays have cast,
More pow'rful verse shall free thee from the blast:
If Heav'n offended sends thee this disease,
Offended Heav'n with pray'rs we can appease.
What then remains, that can these cares procure?
Thy house is flourishing, thy fortune sure:
Thy careful mother yet in health survives,
And, to thy comfort, thy kind father lives.
The virgin started at her father's name,
And sigh'd profoundly, conscious of the shame
Nor yet the nurse her impious love divin'd,
But yet surmis'd that love disturb'd her mind:
Thus thinking, she pursu'd her point, and laid,
And lull'd within her lap the mourning maid;
Then softly sooth'd her thus; I guess your grief:
You love, my child; your love shall find relief.
My long-experienc'd age shall be your guide;
Rely on that, and lay distrust aside.
No breath of air shall on the secret blow,
Nor shall (what most you fear) your father know.
Struck once again, as with a thunder-clap,
The guilty virgin bounded from her lap,
And threw her body prostrate on the bed.
And, to conceal her blushes, hid her head;
There silent lay, and warn'd her with her hand
To go: but she receiv'd not the command;
Remaining still importunate to know:
Then Myrrha thus: Or ask no more, or go;
I pr'ythee go, or staying spare my shame;
What thou would'st hear, is impious ev'n to name.
At this, on high the beldame holds her hands,
And trembling both with age, and terror stands;
Adjures, and falling at her feet intreats,
Sooths her with blandishments, and frights with threats,
To tell the crime intended, or disclose
What part of it she knew, if she no farther knows.
And last, if conscious to her counsel made,
Confirms anew the promise of her aid.
Now Myrrha rais'd her head; but soon oppress'd
With shame, reclin'd it on her nurse's breast;
Bath'd it with tears, and strove to have confess'd:
Twice she began, and stopp'd; again she try'd;
The falt'ring tongue its office still deny'd.
At last her veil before her face she spread,
And drew a long preluding sigh, and said,
O happy mother, in thy marriage-bed!
Then groan'd, and ceas'd. The good old woman shook,
Stiff were her eyes, and ghastly was her look:
Her hoary hair upright with horror stood,
Made (to her grief) more knowing than she wou'd.
Much she reproach'd, and many things she said,
To cure the madness of th' unhappy maid,
In vain: for Myrrha stood convict of ill;
Her reason vanquish'd, but unchang'd her will:
Perverse of mind, unable to reply;
She stood resolv'd, or to possess, or die.
At length the fondness of a nurse prevail'd
Against her better sense, and virtue fail'd:
Enjoy, my child, since such is thy desire,
Thy love, she said; she durst not say, thy sire:
Live, though unhappy, live on any terms;
Then with a second oath her faith confirms.
The solemn feast of Ceres now was near,
When long white linnen stoles the matrons wear;
Rank'd in procession walk the pious train,
Off'ring first-fruits, and spikes of yellow grain:
For nine long nights the nuptial-bed they shun,
And sanctifying harvest, lie alone.
Mix'd with the crowd, the queen forsook her lord,
And Ceres' pow'r with secret rites ador'd:
The royal couch, now vacant for a time,
The crafty crone, officious in her crime,
The first occasion took: the king she found
Easie with wine, and deep in pleasures drown'd,
Prepar'd for love: the beldame blew the flame,
Confess'd the passion, but conceal'd the name.
Her form she prais'd; the monarch ask'd her years;
And she reply'd, The same thy Myrrha bears.
Wine, and commended beauty fir'd his thought;
Impatient, he commands her to be brought.
Pleas'd with her charge perform'd, she hies her home,
And gratulates the nymph, the task was overcome.
Myrrha was joy'd the welcome news to hear;
But clog'd with guilt, the joy was unsincere:
So various, so discordant is the mind,
That in our will a diff'rent will we find.
Ill she presag'd, and yet pursu'd her lust;
For guilty pleasures give a double gust.
'Twas depth of night: Arctophylax had driv'n
His lazy wain half round the northern Heav'n,
When Myrrha hasten'd to the crime desir'd:
The moon beheld her first, and first retir'd:
The stars amaz'd, ran backward from the sight,
And (shrunk within their sockets) lost their light.
Icarius first withdraws his holy flame:
The virgin sign, in Heav'n the second name,
Slides down the belt, and from her station flies,
And night with sable clouds involves the skies.
Bold Myrrha still pursues her black intent;
She stumbled thrice (an omen of th' event);
Thrice shriek'd the fun'ral owl, yet on she went,
Secure of shame, because secure of sight;
Ev'n bashful sins are impudent by night.
Link'd hand in hand, th' accomplice, and the dame,
Their way exploring, to the chamber came:
The door was ope; they blindly grope their way,
Where dark in bed th' expecting monarch lay.
Thus far her courage held, but here forsakes;
Her faint knees knock at ev'ry step she makes.
The nearer to her crime, the more within
She feels remorse, and horror of her sin;
Repents too late her criminal desire,
And wishes, that unknown she could retire.
Her lingring thus, the nurse (who fear'd delay
The fatal secret might at length betray)
Pull'd forward, to compleat the work begun,
And said to Cinyras, Receive thy own.
Thus saying, she deliver'd kind to kind,
Accurs'd, and their devoted bodies join'd.
The sire, unknowing of the crime, admits
His bowels, and prophanes the hallow'd sheets;
He found she trembled, but believ'd she strove
With maiden modesty against her love,
And sought with flatt'ring words vain fancies to remove.
Perhaps he said, My daughter, cease thy fears
(Because the title suited with her years);
And, Father, she might whisper him again,
That names might not be wanting to the sin.
Full of her sire, she left th' incestuous bed,
And carry'd in her womb the crime she bred.
Another, and another night she came;
For frequent sin had left no sense of shame:
'Till Cinyras desir'd to see her face,
Whose body he had held in close embrace,
And brought a taper; the revealer, light,
Expos'd both crime, and criminal to sight.
Grief, rage, amazement, could no speech afford,
But from the sheath he drew th' avenging sword:
The guilty fled: the benefit of night,
That favour'd first the sin, secur'd the flight.
Long wand'ring thro' the spacious fields, she bent
Her voyage to th' Arabian continent;
Then pass'd the region which Panchaea join'd,
And flying, left the palmy plains behind.
Nine times the moon had mew'd her horns; at length
With travel weary, unsupply'd with strength,
And with the burden of her womb oppress'd,
Sabaean fields afford her needful rest:
There, loathing life, and yet of death afraid,
In anguish of her spirit, thus she pray'd:
Ye Pow'rs, if any so propitious are
T' accept my penitence, and hear my pray'r;
Your judgments, I confess, are justly sent;
Great sins deserve as great a punishment:
Yet since my life the living will profane,
And since my death the happy dead will stain,
A middle state your mercy may bestow,
Betwixt the realms above, and those below:
Some other form to wretched Myrrha give,
Nor let her wholly die, nor wholly live.
The pray'rs of penitents are never vain;
At least she did her last request obtain:
For while she spoke, the ground began to rise,
And gather'd round her feet, her legs, and thighs;
Her toes in roots descend, and spreading wide,
A firm foundation for the trunk provide:
Her solid bones convert to solid wood,
To pith her marrow, and to sap her blood:
Her arms are boughs, her fingers change their kind,
Her tender skin is harden'd into rind.
And now the rising tree her womb invests,
Now shooting upwards still, invades her breasts,
And shades the neck; when weary with delay,
She sunk her head within, and met it half the way.
And tho' with outward shape she lost her sense,
With bitter tears she wept her last offence;
And still she weeps, nor sheds her tears in vain;
For still the precious drops her name retain.
Mean-time the mis-begotten infant grows,
And ripe for birth, distends with deadly throes
The swelling rind, with unavailing strife,
To leave the wooden womb, and pushes into life.
The mother-tree, as if oppress'd with pain,
Writhes here, and there, to break the bark, in vain;
And, like a lab'ring woman, wou'd have pray'd,
But wants a voice to call Lucina's aid:
The bending bole sends out a hollow sound,
And trickling tears fall thicker on the ground.
The mild Lucina came uncall'd, and stood
Beside the struggling boughs, and heard the groaning wood;
Then reach'd her midwife-hand to speed the throes,
And spoke the pow'rful spells, that babes to birth disclose.
The bark divides, the living load to free,
And safe delivers the convulsive tree.
The ready nymphs receive the crying child,
And wash him in the tears the parent plant distill'd.
They swath'd him with their scarfs; beneath him spread
The ground with herbs; with roses rais'd his head.
The lovely babe was born with ev'ry grace,
Ev'n envy must have prais'd so fair a face:
Such was his form, as painters when they show
Their utmost art, on naked loves bestow:
And that their arms no diff'rence might betray,
Give him a bow, or his from Cupid take away.
Time glides along with undiscover'd haste,
The future but a length behind the past;
So swift are years. The babe, whom just before
His grandsire got, and whom his sister bore;
The drop, the thing, which late the tree inclos'd,
And late the yawning bark to life expos'd;
A babe, a boy, a beauteous youth appears,
And lovelier than himself at riper years.
Now to the queen of love he gave desires,
And, with her pains, reveng'd his mother's fires.
The Story of Venus and Adonis
For Cytherea's lips while Cupid prest,
He with a heedless arrow raz'd her breast,
The Goddess felt it, and with fury stung,
The wanton mischief from her bosom flung:
Yet thought at first the danger slight, but found
The dart too faithful, and too deep the wound.
Fir'd with a mortal beauty, she disdains
To haunt th' Idalian mount, or Phrygian plains.
She seeks not Cnidos, nor her Paphian shrines,
Nor Amathus, that teems with brazen mines:
Ev'n Heav'n itself with all its sweets unsought,
Adonis far a sweeter Heav'n is thought.
On him she hangs, and fonds with ev'ry art,
And never, never knows from him to part.
She, whose soft limbs had only been display'd
On rosie beds beneath the myrtle shade,
Whose pleasing care was to improve each grace,
And add more charms to an unrival'd face,
Now buskin'd, like the virgin huntress, goes
Thro' woods, and pathless wilds, and mountain-snows
With her own tuneful voice she joys to cheer
The panting hounds, that chace the flying deer.
She runs the labyrinth of fearful hares,
But fearless beasts, and dang'rous prey forbears,
Hunts not the grinning wolf, or foamy boar,
And trembles at the lion's hungry roar.
Thee too, Adonis, with a lover's care
She warns, if warn'd thou wou'dst avoid the snare,
To furious animals advance not nigh,
Fly those that follow, follow those that fly;
'Tis chance alone must the survivors save,
Whene'er brave spirits will attempt the brave.
O! lovely youth! in harmless sports delight;
Provoke not beasts, which, arm'd by Nature, fight.
For me, if not thy self, vouchsafe to fear;
Let not thy thirst of glory cost me dear.
Boars know not bow to spare a blooming age;
No sparkling eyes can sooth the lion's rage.
Not all thy charms a savage breast can move,
Which have so deeply touch'd the queen of love.
When bristled boars from beaten thickets spring,
In grinded tusks a thunderbolt they bring.
The daring hunters lions rouz'd devour,
Vast is their fury, and as vast their pow'r:
Curst be their tawny race! If thou would'st hear
What kindled thus my hate, then lend an ear:
The wond'rous tale I will to thee unfold,
How the fell monsters rose from crimes of old.
But by long toils I faint: see! wide-display'd,
A grateful poplar courts us with a shade.
The grassy turf, beneath, so verdant shows,
We may secure delightfully repose.
With her Adonis here be Venus blest;
And swift at once the grass and him she prest.
Then sweetly smiling, with a raptur'd mind,
On his lov'd bosom she her head reclin'd,
And thus began; but mindful still of bliss,
Seal'd the soft accents with a softer kiss.
Perhaps thou may'st have heard a virgin's name,
Who still in swiftness swiftest youths o'ercame.
Wondrous! that female weakness should outdo
A manly strength; the wonder yet is true.
'Twas doubtful, if her triumphs in the field
Did to her form's triumphant glories yield;
Whether her face could with more ease decoy
A crowd of lovers, or her feet destroy.
For once Apollo she implor'd to show
If courteous Fates a consort would allow:
A consort brings thy ruin, he reply'd;
O! learn to want the pleasures of a bride!
Nor shalt thou want them to thy wretched cost,
And Atalanta living shall be lost.
With such a rueful Fate th' affrighted maid
Sought green recesses in the wood-land glade.
Nor sighing suiters her resolves could move,
She bad them show their speed, to show their love.
He only, who could conquer in the race,
Might hope the conquer'd virgin to embrace;
While he, whose tardy feet had lagg'd behind,
Was doom'd the sad reward of death to find.
Tho' great the prize, yet rigid the decree,
But blind with beauty, who can rigour see?
Ev'n on these laws the fair they rashly sought,
And danger in excess of love forgot.
There sat Hippomenes, prepar'd to blame
In lovers such extravagance of flame.
And must, he said, the blessing of a wife
Be dearly purchas'd by a risk of life?
But when he saw the wonders of her face,
And her limbs naked, springing to the race,
Her limbs, as exquisitely turn'd, as mine,
Or if a woman thou, might vie with thine,
With lifted hands, he cry'd, forgive the tongue
Which durst, ye youths, your well-tim'd courage wrong.
I knew not that the nymph, for whom you strove,
Deserv'd th' unbounded transports of your love.
He saw, admir'd, and thus her spotless frame
He prais'd, and praising, kindled his own flame.
A rival now to all the youths who run,
Envious, he fears they should not be undone.
But why (reflects he) idly thus is shown
The fate of others, yet untry'd my own?
The coward must not on love's aid depend;
The God was ever to the bold a friend.
Mean-time the virgin flies, or seems to fly,
Swift as a Scythian arrow cleaves the sky:
Still more and more the youth her charms admires.
The race itself t' exalt her charms conspires.
The golden pinions, which her feet adorn,
In wanton flutt'rings by the winds are born.
Down from her head, the long, fair tresses flow,
And sport with lovely negligence below.
The waving ribbands, which her buskins tie,
Her snowy skin with waving purple die;
As crimson veils in palaces display'd,
To the white marble lend a blushing shade.
Nor long he gaz'd, yet while he gaz'd, she gain'd
The goal, and the victorious wreath obtain'd.
The vanquish'd sigh, and, as the law decreed,
Pay the dire forfeit, and prepare to bleed.
Then rose Hippomenes, not yet afraid,
And fix'd his eyes full on the beauteous maid.
Where is (he cry'd) the mighty conquest won,
To distance those, who want the nerves to run?
Here prove superior strength, nor shall it be
Thy loss of glory, if excell'd by me.
High my descent, near Neptune I aspire,
For Neptune was grand-parent to my sire.
From that great God the fourth my self I trace,
Nor sink my virtues yet beneath my race.
Thou from Hippomenes, o'ercome, may'st claim
An envy'd triumph, and a deathless fame.
While thus the youth the virgin pow'r defies,
Silent she views him still with softer eyes.
Thoughts in her breast a doubtful strife begin,
If 'tis not happier now to lose, than win.
What God, a foe to beauty, would destroy
The promis'd ripeness of this blooming boy?
With his life's danger does he seek my bed?
Scarce am I half so greatly worth, she said.
Nor has his beauty mov'd my breast to love,
And yet, I own, such beauty well might move:
'Tis not his charms, 'tis pity would engage
My soul to spare the greenness of his age.
What, that heroick conrage fires his breast,
And shines thro' brave disdain of Fate confest?
What, that his patronage by close degrees
Springs from th' imperial ruler of the seas?
Then add the love, which bids him undertake
The race, and dare to perish for my sake.
Of bloody nuptials, heedless youth, beware!
Fly, timely fly from a too barb'rous fair.
At pleasure chuse; thy love will be repaid
By a less foolish, and more beauteous maid.
But why this tenderness, before unknown?
Why beats, and pants my breast for him alone?
His eyes have seen his num'rous rivals yield;
Let him too share the rigour of the field,
Since, by their fates untaught, his own he courts,
And thus with ruin insolently sports.
Yet for what crime shall he his death receive?
Is it a crime with me to wish to live?
Shall his kind passion his destruction prove?
Is this the fatal recompence of love?
So fair a youth, destroy'd, would conquest shame,
Aud nymphs eternally detest my fame.
Still why should nymphs my guiltless fame upbraid?
Did I the fond adventurer persuade?
Alas! I wish thou would'st the course decline,
Or that my swiftness was excell'd by thine.
See! what a virgin's bloom adorns the boy!
Why wilt thou run, and why thy self destroy?
Hippomenes! O that I ne'er had been
By those bright eyes unfortunately seen!
Ah! tempt not thus a swift, untimely Fate;
Thy life is worthy of the longest date.
Were I less wretched, did the galling chain
Of rigid Gods not my free choice restrain,
By thee alone I could with joy be led
To taste the raptures of a nuptial bed.
Thus she disclos'd the woman's secret heart,
Young, innocent, and new to Cupid's dart.
Her thoughts, her words, her actions wildly rove,
With love she burns, yet knows not that 'tis love.
Her royal sire now with the murm'ring crowd
Demands the race impatiently aloud.
Hippomenes then with true fervour pray'd,
My bold attempt let Venus kindly aid.
By her sweet pow'r I felt this am'rous fire,
Still may she succour, whom she did inspire.
A soft, unenvious wind, with speedy care,
Wafted to Heav'n the lover's tender pray'r.
Pity, I own, soon gain'd the wish'd consent,
And all th' assistance he implor'd I lent.
The Cyprian lands, tho' rich, in richness yield
To that, surnam'd the Tamasenian field.
That field of old was added to my shrine,
And its choice products consecrated mine.
A tree there stands, full glorious to behold,
Gold are the leafs, the crackling branches gold.
It chanc'd, three apples in my hand I bore,
Which newly from the tree I sportive tore;
Seen by the youth alone, to him I brought
The fruit, and when, and how to use it, taught.
The signal sounding by the king's command,
Both start at once, and sweep th' imprinted sand.
So swiftly mov'd their feet, they might with ease,
Scarce moisten'd, skim along the glassy seas;
Or with a wondrous levity be born
O'er yellow harvests of unbending corn.
Now fav'ring peals resound from ev'ry part,
Spirit the youth, and fire his fainting heart.
Hippomenes! (they cry'd) thy life preserve,
Intensely labour, and stretch ev'ry nerve.
Base fear alone can baffle thy design,
Shoot boldly onward, and the goal is thine.
'Tis doubtful whether shouts, like these, convey'd
More pleasures to the youth, or to the maid.
When a long distance oft she could have gain'd,
She check'd her swiftness, and her feet restrain'd:
She sigh'd, and dwelt, and languish'd on his face,
Then with unwilling speed pursu'd the race.
O'er-spent with heat, his breath he faintly drew,
Parch'd was his mouth, nor yet the goal in view,
And the first apple on the plain he threw.
The nymph stop'd sudden at th' unusual sight,
Struck with the fruit so beautifully bright.
Aside she starts, the wonder to behold,
And eager stoops to catch the rouling gold.
Th' observant youth past by, and scour'd along,
While peals of joy rung from th' applauding throng.
Unkindly she corrects the short delay,
And to redeem the time fleets swift away,
Swift, as the lightning, or the northern wind,
And far she leaves the panting youth behind.
Again he strives the flying nymph to hold
With the temptation of the second gold:
The bright temptation fruitlessly was tost,
So soon, alas! she won the distance lost.
Now but a little interval of space
Remain'd for the decision of the race.
Fair author of the precious gift, he said,
Be thou, O Goddess, author of my aid!
Then of the shining fruit the last he drew,
And with his full-collected vigour threw:
The virgin still the longer to detain,
Threw not directly, but a-cross the plain.
She seem'd a-while perplex'd in dubious thought,
If the far-distant apple should be sought:
I lur'd her backward mind to seize the bait,
And to the massie gold gave double weight.
My favour to my votary was show'd,
Her speed I lessen'd, and encreas'd her load.
But lest, tho' long, the rapid race be run,
Before my longer, tedious tale is done,
The youth the goal, and so the virgin won.
Might I, Adonis, now not hope to see
His grateful thanks pour'd out for victory?
His pious incense on my altars laid?
But he nor grateful thanks, nor incense paid.
Enrag'd I vow'd, that with the youth the fair,
For his contempt, should my keen vengeance share;
That future lovers might my pow'r revere,
And, from their sad examples, learn to fear.
The silent fanes, the sanctify'd abodes,
Of Cybele, great mother of the Gods,
Rais'd by Echion in a lonely wood,
And full of brown, religious horror stood.
By a long painful journey faint, they chose!
Their weary limbs here secret to repose.
But soon my pow'r inflam'd the lustful boy,
Careless of rest he sought untimely joy.
A hallow'd gloomy cave, with moss o'er-grown,
The temple join'd, of native pumice-stone,
Where antique images by priests were kept.
And wooden deities securely slept.
Thither the rash Hippomenes retires,
And gives a loose to all his wild desires,
And the chaste cell pollutes with wanton fires.
The sacred statues trembled with surprize,
The tow'ry Goddess, blushing, veil'd her eyes;
And the lewd pair to Stygian sounds had sent,
But unrevengeful seem'd that punishment,
A heavier doom such black prophaneness draws,
Their taper figures turn to crooked paws.
No more their necks the smoothness can retain,
Now cover'd sudden with a yellow mane.
Arms change to legs: each finds the hard'ning breast
Of rage unknown, and wond'rous strength possest.
Their alter'd looks with fury grim appear,
And on the ground their brushing tails they hear.
They haunt the woods: their voices, which before
Were musically sweet, now hoarsly roar.
Hence lions, dreadful to the lab'ring swains,
Are tam'd by Cybele, and curb'd with reins,
And humbly draw her car along the plains.
But thou, Adonis, my delightful care,
Of these, and beasts, as fierce as these, beware!
The savage, which not shuns thee, timely shun,
For by rash prowess should'st thou be undone,
A double ruin is contain'd in one.
Thus cautious Venus school'd her fav'rite boy;
But youthful heat all cautions will destroy.
His sprightly soul beyond grave counsels flies,
While with yok'd swans the Goddess cuts the skies.
His faithful hounds, led by the tainted wind,
Lodg'd in thick coverts chanc'd a boar to find.
The callow hero show'd a manly heart,
And pierc'd the savage with a side-long dart.
The flying savage, wounded, turn'd again,
Wrench'd out the gory dart, and foam'd with pain.
The trembling boy by flight his safety sought,
And now recall'd the lore, which Venus taught;
But now too late to fly the boar he strove,
Who in the groin his tusks impetuous drove,
On the discolour'd grass Adonis lay,
The monster trampling o'er his beauteous prey.
Fair Cytherea, Cyprus scarce in view,
Heard from afar his groans, and own'd them true,
And turn'd her snowy swans, and backward flew.
But as she saw him gasp his latest breath,
And quiv'ring agonize in pangs of death,
Down with swift flight she plung'd, nor rage forbore,
At once her garments, and her hair she tore.
With cruel blows she beat her guiltless breast,
The Fates upbraided, and her love confest.
Nor shall they yet (she cry'd) the whole devour
With uncontroul'd, inexorable pow'r:
For thee, lost youth, my tears, and restless pain
Shall in immortal monuments remain,
With solemn pomp in annual rites return'd,
Be thou for ever, my Adonis, mourn'd,
Could Pluto's queen with jealous fury storm,
And Menthe to a fragrant herb transform?
Yet dares not Venus with a change surprise,
And in a flow'r bid her fall'n heroe rise?
Then on the blood sweet nectar she bestows,
The scented blood in little bubbles rose:
Little as rainy drops, which flutt'ring fly,
Born by the winds, along a low'ring sky.
Short time ensu'd, 'till where the blood was shed,
A flow'r began to rear its purple head:
Such, as on Punick apples is reveal'd,
Or in the filmy rind but half conceal'd.
Still here the Fate of lovely forms we see,
So sudden fades the sweet Anemonie.
The feeble stems, to stormy blasts a prey,
Their sickly beauties droop, and pine away.
The winds forbid the flow'rs to flourish long,
Which owe to winds their names in Grecian song.
Book the Eleventh
The Death of Orpheus
Here, while the Thracian bard's enchanting strain
Sooths beasts, and woods, and all the listn'ing plain,
The female Bacchanals, devoutly mad,
In shaggy skins, like savage creatures, clad,
Warbling in air perceiv'd his lovely lay,
And from a rising ground beheld him play.
When one, the wildest, with dishevel'd hair,
That loosely stream'd, and ruffled in the air;
Soon as her frantick eye the lyrist spy'd,
See, see! the hater of our sex, she cry'd.
Then at his face her missive javelin sent,
Which whiz'd along, and brusht him as it went;
But the soft wreathes of ivy twisted round,
Prevent a deep impression of the wound.
Another, for a weapon, hurls a stone,
Which, by the sound subdu'd as soon as thrown,
Falls at his feet, and with a seeming sense
Implores his pardon for its late offence.
But now their frantick rage unbounded grows,
Turns all to madness, and no measure knows:
Yet this the charms of musick might subdue,
But that, with all its charms, is conquer'd too;
In louder strains their hideous yellings rise,
And squeaking horn-pipes eccho thro' the skies,
Which, in hoarse consort with the drum, confound
The moving lyre, and ev'ry gentle sound:
Then 'twas the deafen'd stones flew on with speed,
And saw, unsooth'd, their tuneful poet bleed.
The birds, the beasts, and all the savage crew
Which the sweet lyrist to attention drew,
Now, by the female mob's more furious rage,
Are driv'n, and forc'd to quit the shady stage.
Next their fierce hands the bard himself assail,
Nor can his song against their wrath prevail:
They flock, like birds, when in a clustring flight,
By day they chase the boding fowl of night.
So crowded amphitheatres survey
The stag, to greedy dogs a future prey.
Their steely javelins, which soft curls entwine
Of budding tendrils from the leafy vine,
For sacred rites of mild religion made,
Are flung promiscuous at the poet's head.
Those clods of earth or flints discharge, and these
Hurl prickly branches sliver'd from the trees.
And, lest their passion shou'd be unsupply'd,
The rabble crew, by chance, at distance spy'd
Where oxen, straining at the heavy yoke,
The fallow'd field with slow advances broke;
Nigh which the brawny peasants dug the soil,
Procuring food with long laborious toil.
These, when they saw the ranting throng draw near,
Quitted their tools, and fled, possest with fear.
Long spades, and rakes of mighty size were found,
Carelesly left upon the broken ground.
With these the furious lunaticks engage,
And first the lab'ring oxen feel their rage;
Then to the poet they return with speed,
Whose fate was, past prevention, now decreed:
In vain he lifts his suppliant hands, in vain
He tries, before, his never-failing strain.
And, from those sacred lips, whose thrilling sound
Fierce tygers, and insensate rocks cou'd wound,
Ah Gods! how moving was the mournful sight!
To see the fleeting soul now take its flight.
Thee the soft warblers of the feather'd kind
Bewail'd; for thee thy savage audience pin'd;
Those rocks and woods that oft thy strain had led,
Mourn for their charmer, and lament him dead;
And drooping trees their leafy glories shed.
Naids and Dryads with dishevel'd hair
Promiscuous weep, and scarfs of sable wear;
Nor cou'd the river-Gods conceal their moan,
But with new floods of tears augment their own.
His mangled limbs lay scatter'd all around,
His head, and harp a better fortune found;
In Hebrus' streams they gently roul'd along,
And sooth'd the waters with a mournful song.
Soft deadly notes the lifeless tongue inspire,
A doleful tune sounds from the floating lyre;
The hollows banks in solemn consort mourn,
And the sad strain in ecchoing groans return.
Now with the current to the sea they glide,
Born by the billows of the briny tide;
And driv'n where waves round rocky Lesbos roar,
They strand, and lodge upon Methymna's shore.
But here, when landed on the foreign soil,
A venom'd snake, the product of the isle
Attempts the head, and sacred locks embru'd
With clotted gore, and still fresh-dropping blood.
Phoebus, at last, his kind protection gives,
And from the fact the greedy monster drives:
Whose marbled jaws his impious crime atone,
Still grinning ghastly, tho' transform'd to stone.
His ghost flies downward to the Stygian shore,
And knows the places it had seen before:
Among the shadows of the pious train
He finds Eurydice, and loves again;
With pleasure views the beauteous phantom's charms,
And clasps her in his unsubstantial arms.
There side by side they unmolested walk,
Or pass their blissful hours in pleasing talk;
Aft or before the bard securely goes,
And, without danger, can review his spouse.
The Thracian Women transform'd to Trees
Bacchus, resolving to revenge the wrong,
Of Orpheus murder'd, on the madding throng,
Decreed that each accomplice dame should stand
Fix'd by the roots along the conscious land.
Their wicked feet, that late so nimbly ran
To wreak their malice on the guiltless man,
Sudden with twisted ligatures were bound,
Like trees, deep planted in the turfy ground.
And, as the fowler with his subtle gins,
His feather'd captives by the feet entwines,
That flutt'ring pant, and struggle to get loose,
Yet only closer draw the fatal noose;
So these were caught; and, as they strove in vain
To quit the place, they but encreas'd their pain.
They flounce and toil, yet find themselves controul'd;
The root, tho' pliant, toughly keeps its hold.
In vain their toes and feet they look to find,
For ev'n their shapely legs are cloath'd with rind.
One smites her thighs with a lamenting stroke,
And finds the flesh transform'd to solid oak;
Another, with surprize, and grief distrest,
Lays on above, but beats a wooden breast.
A rugged bark their softer neck invades,
Their branching arms shoot up delightful shades;
At once they seem, and are, a real grove,
With mossy trunks below, and verdant leaves above.
The Fable of Midas
Nor this suffic'd; the God's disgust remains,
And he resolves to quit their hated plains;
The vineyards of Tymole ingross his care,
And, with a better choir, he fixes there;
Where the smooth streams of clear Pactolus roll'd,
Then undistinguish'd for its sands of gold.
The satyrs with the nymphs, his usual throng,
Come to salute their God, and jovial danc'd along.
Silenus only miss'd; for while he reel'd,
Feeble with age, and wine, about the field,
The hoary drunkard had forgot his way,
And to the Phrygian clowns became a prey;
Who to king Midas drag the captive God,
While on his totty pate the wreaths of ivy nod.
Midas from Orpheus had been taught his lore,
And knew the rites of Bacchus long before.
He, when he saw his venerable guest,
In honour of the God ordain'd a feast.
Ten days in course, with each continu'd night,
Were spent in genial mirth, and brisk delight:
Then on th' eleventh, when with brighter ray
Phosphor had chac'd the fading stars away,
The king thro' Lydia's fields young Bacchus sought,
And to the God his foster-father brought.
Pleas'd with the welcome sight, he bids him soon
But name his wish, and swears to grant the boon.
A glorious offer! yet but ill bestow'd
On him whose choice so little judgment show'd.
Give me, says he (nor thought he ask'd too much),
That with my body whatsoe'er I touch,
Chang'd from the nature which it held of old,
May be converted into yellow gold.
He had his wish; but yet the God repin'd,
To think the fool no better wish could find.
But the brave king departed from the place,
With smiles of gladness sparkling in his face:
Nor could contain, but, as he took his way,
Impatient longs to make the first essay.
Down from a lowly branch a twig he drew,
The twig strait glitter'd with a golden hue:
He takes a stone, the stone was turn'd to gold;
A clod he touches, and the crumbling mold
Acknowledg'd soon the great transforming pow'r,
In weight and substance like a mass of ore.
He pluck'd the corn, and strait his grasp appears
Fill'd with a bending tuft of golden ears.
An apple next he takes, and seems to hold
The bright Hesperian vegetable gold.
His hand he careless on a pillar lays.
With shining gold the fluted pillars blaze:
And while he washes, as the servants pour,
His touch converts the stream to Danae's show'r.
To see these miracles so finely wrought,
Fires with transporting joy his giddy thought.
The ready slaves prepare a sumptuous board,
Spread with rich dainties for their happy lord;
Whose pow'rful hands the bread no sooner hold,
But its whole substance is transform'd to gold:
Up to his mouth he lifts the sav'ry meat,
Which turns to gold as he attempts to eat:
His patron's noble juice of purple hue,
Touch'd by his lips, a gilded cordial grew;
Unfit for drink, and wondrous to behold,
It trickles from his jaws a fluid gold.
The rich poor fool, confounded with surprize,
Starving in all his various plenty lies:
Sick of his wish, he now detests the pow'r,
For which he ask'd so earnestly before;
Amidst his gold with pinching famine curst;
And justly tortur'd with an equal thirst.
At last his shining arms to Heav'n he rears,
And in distress, for refuge, flies to pray'rs.
O father Bacchus, I have sinn'd, he cry'd,
And foolishly thy gracious gift apply'd;
Thy pity now, repenting, I implore;
Oh! may I feel the golden plague no more.
The hungry wretch, his folly thus confest,
Touch'd the kind deity's good-natur'd breast;
The gentle God annull'd his first decree,
And from the cruel compact set him free.
But then, to cleanse him quite from further harm,
And to dilute the relicks of the charm,
He bids him seek the stream that cuts the land
Nigh where the tow'rs of Lydian Sardis stand;
Then trace the river to the fountain head,
And meet it rising from its rocky bed;
There, as the bubling tide pours forth amain,
To plunge his body in, and wash away the stain.
The king instructed to the fount retires,
But with the golden charm the stream inspires:
For while this quality the man forsakes,
An equal pow'r the limpid water takes;
Informs with veins of gold the neighb'ring land,
And glides along a bed of golden sand.
Now loathing wealth, th' occasion of his woes,
Far in the woods he sought a calm repose;
In caves and grottos, where the nymphs resort,
And keep with mountain Pan their sylvan court.
Ah! had he left his stupid soul behind!
But his condition alter'd not his mind.
For where high Tmolus rears his shady brow,
And from his cliffs surveys the seas below,
In his descent, by Sardis bounded here,
By the small confines of Hypaepa there,
Pan to the nymphs his frolick ditties play'd,
Tuning his reeds beneath the chequer'd shade.
The nymphs are pleas'd, the boasting sylvan plays,
And speaks with slight of great Apollo's lays.
Tmolus was arbiter; the boaster still
Accepts the tryal with unequal skill.
The venerable judge was seated high
On his own hill, that seem'd to touch the sky.
Above the whisp'ring trees his head he rears,
From their encumbring boughs to free his ears;
A wreath of oak alone his temples bound,
The pendant acorns loosely dangled round.
In me your judge, says he, there's no delay:
Then bids the goatherd God begin, and play.
Pan tun'd the pipe, and with his rural song
Pleas'd the low taste of all the vulgar throng;
Such songs a vulgar judgment mostly please,
Midas was there, and Midas judg'd with these.
The mountain sire with grave deportment now
To Phoebus turns his venerable brow:
And, as he turns, with him the listning wood
In the same posture of attention stood.
The God his own Parnassian laurel crown'd,
And in a wreath his golden tresses bound,
Graceful his purple mantle swept the ground.
High on the left his iv'ry lute he rais'd,
The lute, emboss'd with glitt'ring jewels, blaz'd
In his right hand he nicely held the quill,
His easy posture spoke a master's skill.
The strings he touch'd with more than human art,
Which pleas'd the judge's ear, and sooth'd his heart;
Who soon judiciously the palm decreed,
And to the lute postpon'd the squeaking reed.
All, with applause, the rightful sentence heard,
Midas alone dissatisfy'd appear'd;
To him unjustly giv'n the judgment seems,
For Pan's barbarick notes he most esteems.
The lyrick God, who thought his untun'd ear
Deserv'd but ill a human form to wear,
Of that deprives him, and supplies the place
With some more fit, and of an ampler space:
Fix'd on his noddle an unseemly pair,
Flagging, and large, and full of whitish hair;
Without a total change from what he was,
Still in the man preserves the simple ass.
He, to conceal the scandal of the deed,
A purple turbant folds about his head;
Veils the reproach from publick view, and fears
The laughing world would spy his monstrous ears.
One trusty barber-slave, that us'd to dress
His master's hair, when lengthen'd to excess,
The mighty secret knew, but knew alone,
And, tho' impatient, durst not make it known.
Restless, at last, a private place he found,
Then dug a hole, and told it to the ground;
In a low whisper he reveal'd the case,
And cover'd in the earth, and silent left the place.
In time, of trembling reeds a plenteous crop
From the confided furrow sprouted up;
Which, high advancing with the ripening year,
Made known the tiller, and his fruitless care:
For then the rustling blades, and whisp'ring wind,
To tell th' important secret, both combin'd.
The Building of Troy
Phoebus, with full revenge, from Tmolus flies,
Darts thro' the air, and cleaves the liquid skies;
Near Hellespont he lights, and treads the plains
Where great Laomedon sole monarch reigns;
Where, built between the two projecting strands,
To Panomphaean Jove an altar stands.
Here first aspiring thoughts the king employ,
To found the lofty tow'rs of future Troy.
The work, from schemes magnificent begun,
At vast expence was slowly carry'd on:
Which Phoebus seeing, with the trident God
Who rules the swelling surges with his nod,
Assuming each a mortal shape, combine
At a set price to finish his design.
The work was built; the king their price denies,
And his injustice backs with perjuries.
This Neptune cou'd not brook, but drove the main,
A mighty deluge, o'er the Phrygian plain:
'Twas all a sea; the waters of the deep
From ev'ry vale the copious harvest sweep;
The briny billows overflow the soil,
Ravage the fields, and mock the plowman's toil.
Nor this appeas'd the God's revengeful mind,
For still a greater plague remains behind;
A huge sea-monster lodges on the sands,
And the king's daughter for his prey demands.
To him that sav'd the damsel, was decreed
A set of horses of the Sun's fine breed:
But when Alcides from the rock unty'd
The trembling fair, the ransom was deny'd.
He, in revenge, the new-built walls attack'd,
And the twice-perjur'd city bravely sack'd.
Telamon aided, and in justice shar'd
Part of the plunder as his due reward:
The princess, rescu'd late, with all her charms,
Hesione, was yielded to his arms;
For Peleus, with a Goddess-bride, was more
Proud of his spouse, than of his birth before:
Grandsons to Jove there might be more than one,
But he the Goddess had enjoy'd alone.
The Story of Thetis and Peleus
For Proteus thus to virgin Thetis said,
Fair Goddess of the waves, consent to wed,
And take some spritely lover to your bed.
A son you'll have, the terror of the field,
To whom in fame, and pow'r his sire shall yield.
Jove, who ador'd the nymph with boundless love,
Did from his breast the dangerous flame remove.
He knew the Fates, nor car'd to raise up one,
Whose fame and greatness should eclipse his own,
On happy Peleus he bestow'd her charms,
And bless'd his grandson in the Goddess' arms:
A silent creek Thessalia's coast can show;
Two arms project, and shape it like a bow;
'Twould make a bay, but the transparent tide
Does scarce the yellow-gravell'd bottom hide;
For the quick eye may thro' the liquid wave
A firm unweedy level beach perceive.
A grove of fragrant myrtle near it grows,
Whose boughs, tho' thick, a beauteous grot disclose;
The well-wrought fabrick, to discerning eyes,
Rather by art than Nature seems to rise.
A bridled dolphin oft fair Thetis bore
To this her lov'd retreat, her fav'rite shore.
Here Peleus seiz'd her, slumbring while she lay,
And urg'd his suit with all that love could say:
But when he found her obstinately coy,
Resolv'd to force her, and command the joy;
The nymph, o'erpowr'd, to art for succour flies
And various shapes the eager youth surprize:
A bird she seems, but plies her wings in vain,
His hands the fleeting substance still detain:
A branchy tree high in the air she grew;
About its bark his nimble arms he threw:
A tyger next she glares with flaming eyes;
The frighten'd lover quits his hold, and flies:
The sea-Gods he with sacred rites adores,
Then a libation on the ocean pours;
While the fat entrails crackle in the fire,
And sheets of smoak in sweet perfume aspire;
'Till Proteus rising from his oozy bed,
Thus to the poor desponding lover said:
No more in anxious thoughts your mind employ,
For yet you shall possess the dear expected joy.
You must once more th' unwary nymph surprize,
As in her cooly grot she slumbring lies;
Then bind her fast with unrelenting hands,
And strain her tender limbs with knotted bands.
Still hold her under ev'ry different shape,
'Till tir'd she tries no longer to escape.
Thus he: then sunk beneath the glassy flood,
And broken accents flutter'd, where he stood.
Bright Sol had almost now his journey done,
And down the steepy western convex run;
When the fair Nereid left the briny wave,
And, as she us'd, retreated to her cave.
He scarce had bound her fast, when she arose,
And into various shapes her body throws:
She went to move her arms, and found 'em ty'd;
Then with a sigh, Some God assists ye, cry'd,
And in her proper shape stood blushing by his side.
About her waiste his longing arms he flung,
From which embrace the great Achilles sprung.
The Transformation of Daedalion
Peleus unmix'd felicity enjoy'd
(Blest in a valiant son, and virtuous bride),
'Till Fortune did in blood his hands imbrue,
And his own brother by curst chance he slew:
Then driv'n from Thessaly, his native clime,
Trachinia first gave shelter to his crime;
Where peaceful Ceyx mildly fill'd the throne,
And like his sire, the morning planet, shone;
But now, unlike himself, bedew'd with tears,
Mourning a brother lost, his brow appears.
First to the town with travel spent, and care,
Peleus, and his small company repair:
His herds, and flocks the while at leisure feed,
On the rich pasture of a neighb'ring mead.
The prince before the royal presence brought,
Shew'd by the suppliant olive what he sought;
Then tells his name, and race, and country right,
But hides th' unhappy reason of his flight.
He begs the king some little town to give,
Where they may safe his faithful vassals live.
Ceyx reply'd: To all my bounty flows,
A hospitable realm your suit has chose.
Your glorious race, and far-resounding fame,
And grandsire Jove, peculiar favours claim.
All you can wish, I grant; entreaties spare;
My kingdom (would 'twere worth the sharing) share.
Tears stop'd his speech: astonish'd Peleus pleads
To know the cause from whence his grief proceeds.
The prince reply'd: There's none of ye but deems
This hawk was ever such as now it seems;
Know 'twas a heroe once, Daedalion nam'd,
For warlike deeds, and haughty valour fam'd;
Like me to that bright luminary born,
Who wakes Aurora, and brings on the morn.
His fierceness still remains, and love of blood,
Now dread of birds, and tyrant of the wood.
My make was softer, peace my greatest care;
But this my brother wholly bent on war;
Late nations fear'd, and routed armies fled
That force, which now the tim'rous pigeons dread.
A daughter he possess'd, divinely fair,
And scarcely yet had seen her fifteenth year;
Young Chione: a thousand rivals strove
To win the maid, and teach her how to love.
Phoebus, and Mercury by chance one day
From Delphi, and Cyllene past this way;
Together they the virgin saw: desire
At once warm'd both their breasts with am'rous fire.
Phoebus resolv'd to wait 'till close of day;
But Mercury's hot love brook'd no delay;
With his entrancing rod the maid he charms,
And unresisted revels in her arms.
'Twas night, and Phoebus in a beldam's dress,
To the late rifled beauty got access.
Her time compleat nine circling moons had run;
To either God she bore a lovely son:
To Mercury Autolycus she brought,
Who turn'd to thefts and tricks his subtle thought;
Possess'd he was of all his father's slight,
At will made white look black, and black look white.
Philammon born to Phoebus, like his sire,
The Muses lov'd, and finely struck the lyre,
And made his voice, and touch in harmony conspire.
In vain, fond maid, you boast this double birth,
The love of Gods, and royal father's worth,
And Jove among your ancestors rehearse!
Could blessings such as these e'er prove a curse?
To her they did, who with audacious pride,
Vain of her own, Diana's charms decry'd.
Her taunts the Goddess with resentment fill;
My face you like not, you shall try my skill.
She said; and strait her vengeful bow she strung,
And sent a shaft that pierc'd her guilty tongue:
The bleeding tongue in vain its accents tries;
In the red stream her soul reluctant flies.
With sorrow wild I ran to her relief,
And try'd to moderate my brother's grief.
He, deaf as rocks by stormy surges beat,
Loudly laments, and hears me not intreat.
When on the fun'ral pile he saw her laid,
Thrice he to rush into the flames assay'd,
Thrice with officious care by us was stay'd.
Now, mad with grief, away he fled amain,
Like a stung heifer that resents the pain,
And bellowing wildly bounds along the plain.
O'er the most rugged ways so fast he ran,
He seem'd a bird already, not a man:
He left us breathless all behind; and now
In quest of death had gain'd Parnassus' brow:
But when from thence headlong himself he threw,
He fell not, but with airy pinions flew.
Phoebus in pity chang'd him to a fowl,
Whose crooked beak and claws the birds controul,
Little of bulk, but of a warlike soul.
A hawk become, the feather'd race's foe,
He tries to case his own by other's woe.
A Wolf turn'd into Marble
While they astonish'd heard the king relate
These wonders of his hapless brother's fate;
The prince's herdsman at the court arrives,
And fresh surprize to all the audience gives.
O Peleus, Peleus! dreadful news I bear,
He said; and trembled as he spoke for fear.
The worst, affrighted Peleus bid him tell,
Whilst Ceyx too grew pale with friendly zeal.
Thus he began: When Sol mid-heav'n had gain'd,
And half his way was past, and half remain'd,
I to the level shore my cattle drove,
And let them freely in the meadows rove.
Some stretch'd at length admire the watry plain,
Some crop'd the herb, some wanton swam the main.
A temple stands of antique make hard by,
Where no gilt domes, nor marble lure the eye;
Unpolish'd rafters bear its lowly height,
Hid by a grove, as ancient, from the sight.
Here Nereus, and the Nereids they adore;
I learnt it from the man who thither bore
His net, to dry it on the sunny shore.
Adjoyns a lake, inclos'd with willows round,
Where swelling waves have overflow'd the mound,
And, muddy, stagnate on the lower ground.
From thence a russling noise increasing flies,
Strikes the still shore; and frights us with surprize,
Strait a huge wolf rush'd from the marshy wood,
His jaws besmear'd with mingled foam, and blood,
Tho' equally by hunger urg'd, and rage,
His appetite he minds not to asswage;
Nought that he meets, his rabid fury spares,
But the whole herd with mad disorder tears.
Some of our men who strove to drive him thence,
Torn by his teeth, have dy'd in their defence.
The echoing lakes, the sea, and fields, and shore,
Impurpled blush with streams of reeking gore.
Delay is loss, nor have we time for thought;
While yet some few remain alive, we ought
To seize our arms, and with confederate force
Try if we so can stop his bloody course.
But Peleus car'd not for his ruin'd herd;
His crime he call'd to mind, and thence inferr'd,
That Psamathe's revenge this havock made,
In sacrifice to murder'd Phocus' shade.
The king commands his servants to their arms;
Resolv'd to go; but the loud noise alarms
His lovely queen, who from her chamber flew,
And her half-plaited hair behind her threw:
About his neck she hung with loving fears,
And now with words, and now with pleading tears,
Intreated that he'd send his men alone,
And stay himself, to save two lives in one.
Then Peleus: Your just fears, o queen, forget;
Too much the offer leaves me in your debt.
No arms against the monster I shall bear,
But the sea nymphs appease with humble pray'r.
The citadel's high turrets pierce the sky,
Which home-bound vessels, glad, from far descry;
This they ascend, and thence with sorrow ken
The mangled heifers lye, and bleeding men;
Th' inexorable ravager they view,
With blood discolour'd, still the rest pursue:
There Peleus pray'd submissive tow'rds the sea,
And deprecates the ire of injur'd Psamathe.
But deaf to all his pray'rs the nymph remain'd,
'Till Thetis for her spouse the boon obtain'd.
Pleas'd with the luxury, the furious beast,
Unstop'd, continues still his bloody feast:
While yet upon a sturdy bull he flew,
Chang'd by the nymph, a marble block he grew.
No longer dreadful now the wolf appears,
Bury'd in stone, and vanish'd like their fears.
Yet still the Fates unhappy Peleus vex'd;
To the Magnesian shore he wanders next.
Acastus there, who rul'd the peaceful clime,
Grants his request, and expiates his crime.
The Story of Ceyx and Alcyone
These prodigies affect the pious prince,
But more perplex'd with those that happen'd since,
He purposes to seek the Clarian God,
Avoiding Delphi, his more fam'd abode,
Since Phlegyan robbers made unsafe the road.
Yet could he not from her he lov'd so well,
The fatal voyage, he resolv'd, conceal;
But when she saw her lord prepar'd to part,
A deadly cold ran shiv'ring to her heart;
Her faded cheeks are chang'd to boxen hue,
And in her eyes the tears are ever new.
She thrice essay'd to speak; her accents hung,
And falt'ring dy'd unfinish'd on her tongue,
And vanish'd into sighs: with long delay
Her voice return'd, and found the wonted way.
Tell me, my lord, she said, what fault unknown
Thy once belov'd Alcyone has done?
Whither, ah, whither, is thy kindness gone!
Can Ceyx then sustain to leave his wife,
And unconcern'd forsake the sweets of life?
What can thy mind to this long journey move?
Or need'st thou absence to renew thy love?
Yet, if thou go'st by land, tho' grief possess
My soul ev'n then, my fears will be the less.
But ah! be warn'd to shun the watry way,
The face is frightful of the stormy sea:
For late I saw a-drift disjointed planks,
And empty tombs erected on the banks.
Nor let false hopes to trust betray thy mind,
Because my sire in caves constrains the wind,
Can with a breath their clam'rous rage appease,
They fear his whistle, and forsake the seas:
Not so; for once indulg'd, they sweep the main;
Deaf to the call, or hearing, hear in vain;
But bent on mischief bear the waves before,
And not content with seas, insult the shore,
When ocean, air, and Earth, at once ingage,
And rooted forests fly before their rage:
At once the clashing clouds to battel move,
And lightnings run across the fields above:
I know them well, and mark'd their rude comport,
While yet a child within my father's court:
In times of tempest they command alone,
And he but sits precarious on the throne:
The more I know, the more my fears augment;
And fears are oft prophetick of th' event.
But if not fears, or reasons will prevail,
If Fate has fix'd thee obstinate to sail,
Go not without thy wife, but let me bear
My part of danger with an equal share,
And present, what I suffer only fear:
Then o'er the bounding billows shall we fly,
Secure to live together, or to die.
These reasons mov'd her warlike husband's heart,
But still he held his purpose to depart:
For as he lov'd her equal to his life,
He would not to the seas expose his wife;
Nor could be wrought his voyage to refrain,
But sought by arguments to sooth her pain:
Nor these avail'd; at length he lights on one,
With which so difficult a cause he won:
My love, so short an absence cease to fear,
For by my father's holy flame I swear,
Before two moons their orb with light adorn,
If Heav'n allow me life, I will return.
This promise of so short a stay prevails;
He soon equips the ship, supplies the sails,
And gives the word to launch; she trembling views
This pomp of death, and parting tears renews:
Last with a kiss, she took a long farewel,
Sigh'd with a sad presage, and swooning fell:
While Ceyx seeks delays, the lusty crew,
Rais'd on their banks, their oars in order drew
To their broad breasts, the ship with fury flew.
The queen recover'd, rears her humid eyes,
And first her husband on the poop espies,
Shaking his hand at distance on the main;
She took the sign, and shook her hand again.
Still as the ground recedes, contracts her view
With sharpen'd sight, 'till she no longer knew
The much-lov'd face; that comfort lost supplies
With less, and with the galley feeds her eyes;
The galley born from view by rising gales,
She follow'd with her sight the flying sails:
When ev'n the flying sails were seen no more,
Forsaken of all sight she left the shore.
Then on her bridal bed her body throws,
And sought in sleep her wearied eyes to close:
Her husband's pillow, and the widow'd part
Which once he press'd, renew'd the former smart.
And now a breeze from shoar began to blow,
The sailors ship their oars, and cease to row;
Then hoist their yards a-trip, and all their sails
Let fall, to court the wind, and catch the gales:
By this the vessel half her course had run,
Both shoars were lost to sight, when at the close
Of day a stiffer gale at east arose:
The sea grew white, the rouling waves from far,
Like heralds, first denounce the watry war.
This seen, the master soon began to cry,
Strike, strike the top-sail; let the main-sheet fly,
And furl your sails: the winds repel the sound,
And in the speaker's mouth the speech is drown'd.
Yet of their own accord, as danger taught
Each in his way, officiously they wrought;
Some stow their oars, or stop the leaky sides,
Another bolder, yet the yard bestrides,
And folds the sails; a fourth with labour laves
Th' intruding seas, and waves ejects on waves.
In this confusion while their work they ply,
The winds augment the winter of the sky,
And wage intestine wars; the suff'ring seas
Are toss'd, and mingled, as their tyrants please.
The master would command, but in despair
Of safety, stands amaz'd with stupid care,
Nor what to bid, or what forbid he knows,
Th' ungovern'd tempest to such fury grows:
Vain is his force, and vainer is his skill;
With such a concourse comes the flood of ill;
The cries of men are mix'd with rattling shrowds;
Seas dash on seas, and clouds encounter clouds:
At once from east to west, from pole to pole,
The forky lightnings flash, the roaring thunders roul.
Now waves on waves ascending scale the skies,
And in the fires above the water fries:
When yellow sands are sifted from below,
The glittering billows give a golden show:
And when the fouler bottom spews the black
The Stygian dye the tainted waters take:
Then frothy white appear the flatted seas,
And change their colour, changing their disease,
Like various fits the Trachin vessel finds,
And now sublime, she rides upon the winds;
As from a lofty summit looks from high,
And from the clouds beholds the nether sky;
Now from the depth of Hell they lift their sight,
And at a distance see superior light;
The lashing billows make a loud report,
And beat her sides, as batt'ring rams a fort:
Or as a lion bounding in his way,
With force augmented, bears against his prey,
Sidelong to seize; or unapal'd with fear,
Springs on the toils, and rushes on the spear:
So seas impell'd by winds, with added pow'r
Assault the sides, and o'er the hatches tow'r.
The planks (their pitchy cov'ring wash'd away)
Now yield; and now a yawning breach display:
The roaring waters with a hostile tide
Rush through the ruins of her gaping side.
Mean-time in sheets of rain the sky descends,
And ocean swell'd with waters upwards tends;
One rising, falling one, the Heav'ns and sea
Meet at their confines, in the middle way:
The sails are drunk with show'rs, and drop with rain,
Sweet waters mingle with the briny main.
No star appears to lend his friendly light;
Darkness, and tempest make a double night;
But flashing fires disclose the deep by turns,
And while the lightnings blaze, the water burns.
Now all the waves their scatter'd force unite,
And as a soldier foremost in the fight,
Makes way for others, and an host alone
Still presses on, and urging gains the town;
So while th' invading billows come a-breast,
The hero tenth advanc'd before the rest,
Sweeps all before him with impetuous sway,
And from the walls descends upon the prey;
Part following enter, part remain without,
With envy hear their fellows' conqu'ring shout,
And mount on others' backs, in hopes to share
The city, thus become the seat of war.
An universal cry resounds aloud,
The sailors run in heaps, a helpless crowd;
Art fails, and courage falls, no succour near;
As many waves, as many deaths appear.
One weeps, and yet despairs of late relief;
One cannot weep, his fears congeal his grief,
But stupid, with dry eyes expects his fate:
One with loud shrieks laments his lost estate,
And calls those happy whom their fun'rals wait.
This wretch with pray'rs and vows the Gods implores,
And ev'n the skies he cannot see, adores.
That other on his friends his thoughts bestows,
His careful father, and his faithful spouse.
The covetous worldling in his anxious mind,
Thinks only on the wealth he left behind.
All Ceyx his Alcyone employs,
For her he grieves, yet in her absence joys:
His wife he wishes, and would still be near,
Not her with him, but wishes him with her:
Now with last looks he seeks his native shoar,
Which Fate has destin'd him to see no more;
He sought, but in the dark tempestuous night
He knew not whither to direct his sight.
So whirl the seas, such darkness blinds the sky,
That the black night receives a deeper dye.
The giddy ship ran round; the tempest tore
Her mast, and over-board the rudder bore.
One billow mounts, and with a scornful brow,
Proud of her conquest gain'd, insults the waves below;
Nor lighter falls, than if some giant tore
Pindus and Athos with the freight they bore,
And toss'd on seas; press'd with the pond'rous blow,
Down sinks the ship within th' abyss below:
Down with the vessel sink into the main
The many, never more to rise again.
Some few on scatter'd planks, with fruitless care,
Lay hold, and swim; but while they swim, despair.
Ev'n he who late a scepter did command,
Now grasps a floating fragment in his hand;
And while he struggles on the stormy main,
Invokes his father, and his wife's, in vain.
But yet his consort is his greatest care,
Alcyone he names amidst his pray'r;
Names as a charm against the waves and wind;
Most in his mouth, and ever in his mind.
Tir'd with his toil, all hopes of safety past,
From pray'rs to wishes he descends at last;
That his dead body, wafted to the sands,
Might have its burial from her friendly hands,
As oft as he can catch a gulp of air,
And peep above the seas, he names the fair;
And ev'n when plung'd beneath, on her he raves,
Murm'ring Alcyone below the waves:
At last a falling billow stops his breath,
Breaks o'er his head, and whelms him underneath.
That night, his heav'nly form obscur'd with tears,
And since he was forbid to leave the skies,
He muffled with a cloud his mournful eyes.
Mean-time Alcyone (his fate unknown)
Computes how many nights he had been gone.
Observes the waining moon with hourly view,
Numbers her age, and wishes for a new;
Against the promis'd time provides with care,
And hastens in the woof the robes he was to wear:
And for her self employs another loom,
New-dress'd to meet her lord returning home,
Flatt'ring her heart with joys, that never were to come:
She fum'd the temples with an od'rous flame,
And oft before the sacred altars came,
To pray for him, who was an empty name.
All Pow'rs implor'd, but far above the rest
To Juno she her pious vows address'd,
Her much-lov'd lord from perils to protect,
And safe o'er seas his voyage to direct:
Then pray'd, that she might still possess his heart,
And no pretending rival share a part;
This last petition heard of all her pray'r,
The rest, dispers'd by winds, were lost in air.
But she, the Goddess of the nuptial bed,
Tir'd with her vain devotions for the dead,
Resolv'd the tainted hand should be repell'd,
Which incense offer'd, and her altar held:
Then Iris thus bespoke: Thou faithful maid,
By whom thy queen's commands are well convey'd,
Haste to the house of sleep, and bid the God
Who rules the night by visions with a nod,
Prepare a dream, in figure, and in form
Resembling him, who perish'd in the storm;
This form before Alcyone present,
To make her certain of the sad event.
Indu'd with robes of various hue she flies,
And flying draws an arch (a segment of the skies):
Then leaves her bending bow, and from the steep
Descends, to search the silent house of sleep.
The House of Sleep
Near the Cymmerians, in his dark abode,
Deep in a cavern, dwells the drowzy God;
Whose gloomy mansion nor the rising sun,
Nor setting, visits, nor the lightsome noon;
But lazy vapours round the region fly,
Perpetual twilight, and a doubtful sky:
No crowing cock does there his wings display,
Nor with his horny bill provoke the day;
Nor watchful dogs, nor the more wakeful geese,
Disturb with nightly noise the sacred peace;
Nor beast of Nature, nor the tame are nigh,
Nor trees with tempests rock'd, nor human cry;
But safe repose without an air of breath
Dwells here, and a dumb quiet next to death.
An arm of Lethe, with a gentle flow
Arising upwards from the rock below,
The palace moats, and o'er the pebbles creeps,
And with soft murmurs calls the coming sleeps.
Around its entry nodding poppies grow,
And all cool simples that sweet rest bestow;
Night from the plants their sleepy virtue drains,
And passing, sheds it on the silent plains:
No door there was th' unguarded house to keep,
On creaking hinges turn'd, to break his sleep.
But in the gloomy court was rais'd a bed,
Stuff'd with black plumes, and on an ebon-sted:
Black was the cov'ring too, where lay the God,
And slept supine, his limbs display'd abroad:
About his head fantastick visions fly,
Which various images of things supply,
And mock their forms; the leaves on trees not more,
Nor bearded ears in fields, nor sands upon the shore.
The virgin ent'ring bright, indulg'd the day
To the brown cave, and brush'd the dreams away:
The God disturb'd with this new glare of light,
Cast sudden on his face, unseal'd his sight,
And rais'd his tardy head, which sunk again,
And sinking, on his bosom knock'd his chin;
At length shook off himself, and ask'd the dame,
(And asking yawn'd) for what intent she came.
To whom the Goddess thus: O sacred rest,
Sweet pleasing sleep, of all the Pow'rs the best!
O peace of mind, repairer of decay,
Whose balms renew the limbs to labours of the day,
Care shuns thy soft approach, and sullen flies away!
Adorn a dream, expressing human form,
The shape of him who suffer'd in the storm,
And send it flitting to the Trachin court,
The wreck of wretched Ceyx to report:
Before his queen bid the pale spectre stand,
Who begs a vain relief at Juno's hand.
She said, and scarce awake her eyes could keep,
Unable to support the fumes of sleep;
But fled, returning by the way she went,
And swerv'd along her bow with swift ascent.
The God, uneasy 'till he slept again,
Resolv'd at once to rid himself of pain;
And, tho' against his custom, call'd aloud,
Exciting Morpheus from the sleepy crowd:
Morpheus, of all his numerous train, express'd
The shape of man, and imitated best;
The walk, the words, the gesture could supply,
The habit mimick, and the mein bely;
Plays well, but all his action is confin'd,
Extending not beyond our human kind.
Another, birds, and beasts, and dragons apes,
And dreadful images, and monster shapes:
This demon, Icelos, in Heav'n's high hall
The Gods have nam'd; but men Phobetor call.
A third is Phantasus, whose actions roul
On meaner thoughts, and things devoid of soul;
Earth, fruits, and flow'rs he represents in dreams,
And solid rocks unmov'd, and running streams.
These three to kings, and chiefs their scenes display,
The rest before th' ignoble commons play.
Of these the chosen Morpheus is dispatch'd;
Which done, the lazy monarch, over-watch'd,
Down from his propping elbow drops his head,
Dissolv'd in sleep, and shrinks within his bed.
Darkling the demon glides, for flight prepar'd,
So soft, that scarce his fanning wings are heard.
To Trachin, swift as thought, the flitting shade,
Thro' air his momentary journey made:
Then lays aside the steerage of his wings,
Forsakes his proper form, assumes the king's;
And pale, as death, despoil'd of his array,
Into the queen's apartment takes his way,
And stands before the bed at dawn of day:
Unmov'd his eyes, and wet his beard appears;
And shedding vain, but seeming real tears;
The briny waters dropping from his hairs.
Then staring on her with a ghastly look,
And hollow voice, he thus the queen bespoke.
Know'st thou not me? Not yet, unhappy wife?
Or are my features perish'd with my life?
Look once again, and for thy husband lost,
Lo all that's left of him, thy husband's ghost!
Thy vows for my return were all in vain,
The stormy south o'ertook us in the main,
And never shalt thou see thy living lord again.
Bear witness, Heav'n, I call'd on thee in death,
And while I call'd, a billow stop'd my breath.
Think not, that flying fame reports my fate;
I present, I appear, and my own wreck relate.
Rise, wretched widow, rise; nor undeplor'd
Permit my soul to pass the Stygian ford;
But rise, prepar'd in black, to mourn thy perish'd lord.
Thus said the player-God; and adding art
Of voice and gesture, so perform'd his part,
She thought (so like her love the shade appears)
That Ceyx spake the words, and Ceyx shed the tears;
She groan'd, her inward soul with grief opprest,
She sigh'd, she wept, and sleeping beat her breast;
Then stretch'd her arms t' embrace his body bare;
Her clasping arms inclose but empty air:
At this, not yet awake, she cry'd, O stay;
One is our fate, and common is our way!
So dreadful was the dream, so loud she spoke,
That starting sudden up, the slumber broke:
Then cast her eyes around, in hope to view
Her vanish'd lord, and find the vision true:
For now the maids, who waited her commands,
Ran in with lighted tapers in their hands.
Tir'd with the search, not finding what she seeks,
With cruel blows she pounds her blubber'd cheeks;
Then from her beaten breast the linnen tare,
And cut the golden caul that bound her hair.
Her nurse demands the cause; with louder cries
She prosecutes her griefs, and thus replies.
No more Alcyone; she suffer'd death
With her lov'd lord, when Ceyx lost his breath:
No flatt'ry, no false comfort, give me none,
My shipwreck'd Ceyx is for ever gone:
I saw, I saw him manifest in view,
His voice, his figure, and his gestures knew:
His lustre lost, and ev'ry living grace,
Yet I retain'd the features of his face;
Tho' with pale cheeks, wet beard, and dropping hair,
None but my Ceyx could appear so fair:
I would have strain'd him with a strict embrace,
But thro' my arms he slipt, and vanish'd from the place:
There, ev'n just there he stood; and as she spoke,
Where last the spectre was she cast her look:
Fain would she hope, and gaz'd upon the ground,
If any printed footsteps might be found.
Then sigh'd, and said: This I too well foreknew,
And my prophetick fears presag'd too true:
'Twas what I begg'd, when with a bleeding heart
I took my leave, and suffer'd thee to part;
Or I to go along, or thou to stay,
Never, ah never to divide our way!
Happier for me, that all our hours assign'd
Together we had liv'd; ev'n not in death disjoin'd!
So had my Ceyx still been living here,
Or with my Ceyx I had perish'd there:
Now I die absent, in the vast profound;
And me, without my self, the seas have drown'd.
The storms were not so cruel: should I strive
To lengthen life, and such a grief survive;
But neither will I strive, nor wretched thee
In death forsake, but keep thee company.
If not one common sepulchre contains
Our bodies, or one urn our last remains,
Yet Ceyx and Alcyone shall join,
Their names remember'd in one common line.
No farther voice her mighty grief affords,
For sighs come rushing in betwixt her words,
And stop'd her tongue; but what her tongue deny'd,
Soft tears, and groans, and dumb complaints supply'd.
'Twas morning; to the port she takes her way,
And stands upon the margin of the sea:
That place, that very spot of ground she sought,
Or thither by her destiny was brought,
Where last he stood: and while she sadly said,
'Twas here he left me, lingring here delay'd
His parting kiss, and there his anchors weigh'd.
Thus speaking, while her thoughts past actions trace,
And call to mind, admonish'd by the place,
Sharp at her utmost ken she cast her eyes,
And somewhat floating from afar descries:
It seems a corps a-drift to distant sight,
But at a distance who could judge aright?
It wafted nearer yet, and then she knew,
That what before she but surmis'd, was true:
A corps it was, but whose it was, unknown,
Yet mov'd, howe'er, she made the cause her own.
Took the bad omen of a shipwreck'd man,
As for a stranger wept, and thus began.
Poor wretch, on stormy seas to lose thy life,
Unhappy thou, but more thy widow'd wife;
At this she paus'd: for now the flowing tide
Had brought the body nearer to the side:
The more she looks, the more her fears increase,
At nearer sight; and she's her self the less:
Now driv'n ashore, and at her feet it lies,
She knows too much in knowing whom she sees:
Her husband's corps; at this she loudly shrieks,
'Tis he, 'tis he, she cries, and tears her cheeks,
Her hair, and vest; and stooping to the sands,
About his neck she cast her trembling hands.
And is it thus, o dearer than my life,
Thus, thus return'st thou to thy longing wife!
She said, and to the neighbouring mole she strode,
(Rais'd there to break th' incursions of the flood).
Headlong from hence to plunge her self she springs,
But shoots along, supported on her wings;
A bird new-made, about the banks she plies,
Not far from shore, and short excursions tries;
Nor seeks in air her humble flight to raise,
Content to skim the surface of the seas:
Her bill tho' slender, sends a creaking noise,
And imitates a lamentable voice.
Now lighting where the bloodless body lies,
She with a fun'ral note renews her cries:
At all her stretch, her little wings she spread,
And with her feather'd arms embrac'd the dead:
Then flick'ring to his palid lips, she strove
To print a kiss, the last essay of love.
Whether the vital touch reviv'd the dead,
Or that the moving waters rais'd his head
To meet the kiss, the vulgar doubt alone;
For sure a present miracle was shown.
The Gods their shapes to winter-birds translate,
But both obnoxious to their former fate.
Their conjugal affection still is ty'd,
And still the mournful race is multiply'd:
They bill, they tread; Alcyone compress'd,
Sev'n days sits brooding on her floating nest:
A wintry queen: her sire at length is kind,
Calms ev'ry storm, and hushes ev'ry wind;
Prepares his empire for his daughter's ease,
And for his hatching nephews smooths the seas.
Aesacus transform'd into a Cormorant
These some old man sees wanton in the air,
And praises the unhappy constant pair.
Then to his friend the long-neck'd corm'rant shows,
The former tale reviving others' woes:
That sable bird, he cries, which cuts the flood
With slender legs, was once of royal blood;
His ancestors from mighty Tros proceed,
The brave Laomedon, and Ganymede
(Whose beauty tempted Jove to steal the boy),
And Priam, hapless prince! who fell with Troy:
Himself was Hector's brother, and (had Fate
But giv'n this hopeful youth a longer date)
Perhaps had rival'd warlike Hector's worth,
Tho' on the mother's side of meaner birth;
Fair Alyxothoe, a country maid,
Bare Aesacus by stealth in Ida's shade.
He fled the noisy town, and pompous court,
Lov'd the lone hills, and simple rural sport.
And seldom to the city would resort.
Yet he no rustick clownishness profest,
Nor was soft love a stranger to his breast:
The youth had long the nymph Hesperie woo'd,
Oft thro' the thicket, or the mead pursu'd:
Her haply on her father's bank he spy'd,
While fearless she her silver tresses dry'd;
Away she fled: not stags with half such speed,
Before the prowling wolf, scud o'er the mead;
Not ducks, when they the safer flood forsake,
Pursu'd by hawks, so swift regain the lake.
As fast he follow'd in the hot career;
Desire the lover wing'd, the virgin fear.
A snake unseen now pierc'd her heedless foot;
Quick thro' the veins the venom'd juices shoot:
She fell, and 'scap'd by death his fierce pursuit;
Her lifeless body, frighted, he embrac'd,
And cry'd, Not this I dreaded, but thy haste:
O had my love been less, or less thy fear!
The victory, thus bought, is far too dear.
Accursed snake! yet I more curs'd than he!
He gave the wound; the cause was given by me.
Yet none shall say, that unreveng'd you dy'd.
He spoke; then climb'd a cliff's o'er-hanging side,
And, resolute, leap'd on the foaming tide.
Tethys receiv'd him gently on the wave;
The death he sought deny'd, and feathers gave.
Debarr'd the surest remedy of grief,
And forc'd to live, he curst th' unask'd relief.
Then on his airy pinions upward flies,
And at a second fall successless tries;
The downy plume a quick descent denies.
Enrag'd, he often dives beneath the wave,
And there in vain expects to find a grave.
His ceaseless sorrow for th' unhappy maid,
Meager'd his look, and on his spirits prey'd.
Still near the sounding deep he lives; his name
From frequent diving and emerging came.
Book the Twelfth
The Trojan War
Priam, to whom the story was unknown,
As dead, deplor'd his metamorphos'd son:
A cenotaph his name, and title kept,
And Hector round the tomb, with all his brothers, wept.
This pious office Paris did not share;
Absent alone; and author of the war,
Which, for the Spartan queen, the Grecians drew
T' avenge the rape; and Asia to subdue.
A thousand ships were mann'd, to sail the sea:
Nor had their just resentments found delay,
Had not the winds, and waves oppos'd their way.
At Aulis, with united pow'rs they meet,
But there, cross-winds or calms detain'd the fleet.
Now, while they raise an altar on the shore,
And Jove with solemn sacrifice adore;
A boding sign the priests and people see:
A snake of size immense ascends a tree,
And, in the leafie summit, spy'd a nest,
Which o'er her callow young, a sparrow press'd.
Eight were the birds unfledg'd; their mother flew,
And hover'd round her care; but still in view:
'Till the fierce reptile first devour'd the brood,
Then seiz'd the flutt'ring dam, and drunk her blood.
This dire ostent, the fearful people view;
Calchas alone, by Phoebus taught, foreknew
What Heav'n decreed; and with a smiling glance,
Thus gratulates to Greece her happy chance:
O Argives, we shall conquer: Troy is ours,
But long delays shall first afflict our pow'rs:
Nine years of labour, the nine birds portend;
The tenth shall in the town's destruction end.
The serpent, who his maw obscene had fill'd,
The branches in his curl'd embraces held:
But, as in spires he stood, he turn'd to stone:
The stony snake retain'd the figure still his own.
Yet, not for this, the wind-bound navy weigh'd;
Slack were their sails; and Neptune disobey'd.
Some thought him loth the town should be destroy'd,
Whose building had his hands divine employ'd:
Not so the seer; who knew, and known foreshow'd,
The virgin Phoebe, with a virgin's blood
Must first be reconcil'd: the common cause
Prevail'd; and pity yielding to the laws,
Fair Iphigenia the devoted maid
Was, by the weeping priests, in linnen-robes array'd;
All mourn her fate; but no relief appear'd;
The royal victim bound, the knife already rear'd:
When that offended Pow'r, who caus'd their woe,
Relenting ceas'd her wrath; and stop'd the coming blow.
A mist before the ministers she cast,
And, in the virgin's room, a hind she plac'd.
Th' oblation slain, and Phoebe, reconcil'd,
The storm was hush'd, and dimpled ocean smil'd:
A favourable gale arose from shore,
Which to the port desir'd, the Graecian gallies bore.
The House of Fame
Full in the midst of this created space,
Betwixt Heav'n, Earth, and skies, there stands a place,
Confining on all three, with triple bound;
Whence all things, tho' remote, are view'd around;
And thither bring their undulating sound.
The palace of loud Fame, her seat of pow'r,
Plac'd on the summet of a lofty tow'r;
A thousand winding entries long and wide,
Receive of fresh reports a flowing tide.
A thousand crannies in the walls are made;
Nor gate, nor bars exclude the busie trade.
'Tis built of brass, the better to diffuse
The spreading sounds, and multiply the news:
Where eccho's in repeated eccho's play:
A mart for ever full, and open night and day.
Nor silence is within, nor voice express,
But a deaf noise of sounds, that never cease.
Confus'd and chiding, like the hollow roar
Of tides, receding from th' insulted shore,
Or like the broken thunder heard from far,
When Jove at distance drives the rouling war.
The courts are fill'd with a tumultuous din
Of crouds, or issuing forth, or entring in:
A thorough-fare of news: where some devise
Things never heard, some mingle truth with lies;
The troubled air with empty sounds they beat,
Intent to hear, and eager to repeat.
Error sits brooding there, with added train
Of vain credulity, and joys as vain:
Suspicion, with sedition join'd, are near,
And rumours rais'd, and murmurs mix'd, and panique fear.
Fame sits aloft, and sees the subject ground,
And seas about, and skies above; enquiring all around.
The Goddess gives th' alarm; and soon is known
The Grecian fleet descending on the town.
Fix'd on defence, the Trojans are not slow
To guard their shore, from an expected foe.
They meet in fight: by Hector's fatal hand
Protesilaus falls, and bites the strand:
Which with expence of blood the Grecians won;
And prov'd the strength unknown of Priam's son.
And to their cost the Trojan leaders felt
The Grecian heroes; and what deaths they dealt.
The Story of Cygnus
From these first onsets, the Sigaean shore
Was strew'd with carcasses, and stain'd with gore:
Neptunian Cygnus troops of Greeks had slain;
Achilles in his carr had scour'd the plain,
And clear'd the Trojan ranks: where-e'er he fought,
Cygnus, or Hector, through the fields he sought:
Cygnus he found; on him his force essay'd:
For Hector was to the tenth year delay'd.
His white-main'd steeds, that bow'd beneath the yoke,
He chear'd to courage, with a gentle stroke;
Then urg'd his fiery chariot on the foe;
And rising shook his lance; in act to throw.
But first he cry'd, O youth, be proud to bear
Thy death, ennobled by Pelides' spear.
The lance pursu'd the voice without delay,
Nor did the whizzing weapon miss the way;
But pierc'd his cuirass, with such fury sent,
And sign'd his bosom with a purple dint.
At this the seed of Neptune: Goddess-born,
For ornament, not use, these arms are worn;
This helm, and heavy buckler, I can spare;
As only decorations of the war:
So Mars is arm'd for glory, not for need.
'Tis somewhat more from Neptune to proceed,
Than from a daughter of the sea to spring:
Thy sire is mortal; mine is ocean's king.
Secure of death, I shou'd contemn thy dart,
Tho' naked; and impassible depart:
He said, and threw: the trembling weapon pass'd
Through nine bull-hides, each under other plac'd,
On his broad shield; and stuck within the last.
Achilles wrench'd it out; and sent again
The hostile gift: the hostile gift was vain.
He try'd a third, a tough well-chosen spear;
Th' inviolable body stood sincere,
Though Cygnus then did no defence provide,
But scornful offer'd his unshielded side.
Not otherwise th' impatient hero far'd,
Than as a bull incompass'd with a guard,
Amid the Circus roars, provok'd from far
By sight of scarlet, and a sanguine war:
They quit their ground, his bended horns elude;
In vain pursuing, and in vain pursu'd:
Before to farther fight he wou'd advance,
He stood considering, and survey'd his lance.
Doubts if he wielded not a wooden spear
Without a point: he look'd, the point was there.
This is my hand, and this my lance, he said;
By which so many thousand foes are dead,
O whither is their usual virtue fled!
I had it once; and the Lyrnessian wall,
And Tenedos, confess'd it in their fall.
Thy streams, Caicus, rowl'd a crimson-flood;
And Thebes ran red with her own natives' blood.
Twice Telephus employ'd their piercing steel,
To wound him first, and afterward to heal.
The vigour of this arm was never vain:
And that my wonted prowess I retain,
Witness these heaps of slaughter on the plain.
He said; and, doubtful of his former deeds,
To some new tryal of his force proceeds.
He chose Menoetes from among the rest;
At him he launch'd his spear, and pierc'd his breast:
On the hard earth the Lycian knock'd his head,
And lay supine; and forth the spirit fled.
Then thus the hero: Neither can I blame
The hand, or jav'lin; both are still the same.
The same I will employ against this foe,
And wish but with the same success to throw.
So spoke the chief; and while he spoke he threw;
The weapon with unerring fury flew,
At his left shoulder aim'd: nor entrance found;
But back, as from a rock, with swift rebound
Harmless return'd: a bloody mark appear'd,
Which with false joy the flatter'd hero chear'd.
Wound there was none; the blood that was in view,
The lance before from slain Menoetes drew.
Headlong he leaps from off his lofty car,
And in close fight on foot renews the war.
Raging with high disdain, repeats his blows;
Nor shield, nor armour can their force oppose;
Huge cantlets of his buckler strew the ground,
And no defence in his bor'd arms is found,
But on his flesh, no wound or blood is seen;
The sword it self is blunted on the skin.
This vain attempt the chief no longer bears;
But round his hollow temples and his ears
His buckler beats: the son of Neptune, stunn'd
With these repeated buffets, quits his ground;
A sickly sweat succeeds, and shades of night;
Inverted Nature swims before his sight:
Th' insulting victor presses on the more,
And treads the steps the vanquish'd trod before,
Nor rest, nor respite gives. A stone there lay
Behind his trembling foe, and stopp'd his way:
Achilles took th' advantage which he found,
O'er-turn'd, and push'd him backward on the ground,
His buckler held him under, while he press'd,
With both his knees, above his panting breast.
Unlac'd his helm: about his chin the twist
He ty'd; and soon the strangled soul dismiss'd.
With eager haste he went to strip the dead:
The vanish'd body from his arms was fled.
His sea-God sire, t' immortalize his frame,
Had turn'd it to a bird that bears his name.
A truce succeeds the labours of this day,
And arms suspended with a long delay.
While Trojan walls are kept with watch and ward;
The Greeks before their trenches mount the guard;
The feast approach'd; when to the blue-ey'd maid
His vows for Cygnus slain the victor paid,
And a white heyfer on her altar laid.
The reeking entrails on the fire they threw,
And to the Gods the grateful odour flew.
Heav'n had its part in sacrifice: the rest
Was broil'd, and roasted for the future feast.
The chief-invited guests were set around!
And hunger first asswag'd, the bowls were crown'd,
Which in deep draughts their cares, and labours drown'd.
The mellow harp did not their ears employ:
And mute was all the warlike symphony:
Discourse, the food of souls, was their delight,
And pleasing chat prolong'd the summer's night.
The subject, deeds of arms; and valour shown,
Or on the Trojan side, or on their own.
Of dangers undertaken, fame atchiev'd,
They talk'd by turns; the talk by turns reliev'd.
What things but these could fierce Achilles tell,
Or what cou'd fierce Achilles hear so well?
The last great act perform'd, of Cygnus slain,
Did most the martial audience entertain:
Wondring to find a body free by Fate
From steel; and which cou'd ev'n that steel rebate:
Amaz'd, their admiration they renew;
And scarce Pelides cou'd believe it true.
The Story of Caeneus
Then Nestor thus: what once this age has known,
In fated Cygnus, and in him alone,
These eyes have seen in Caeneus long before;
Whose body not a thousand swords cou'd bore.
Caeneus, in courage, and in strength, excell'd;
And still his Othrys with his fame is fill'd:
But what did most his martial deeds adorn
(Though since he chang'd his sex) a woman born.
A novelty so strange, and full of Fate,
His list'ning audience ask'd him to relate.
Achilles thus commends their common sute:
O father, first for prudence in repute,
Tell, with that eloquence, so much thy own,
What thou hast heard, or what of Caeneus known:
What was he, whence his change of sex begun,
What trophies, join'd in wars with thee, he won?
Who conquer'd him, and in what fatal strife
The youth, without a wound, cou'd lose his life?
Neleides then: Though tardy age, and time,
Have shrunk my sinews, and decay'd my prime;
Though much I have forgotten of my store,
Yet not exhausted, I remember more.
Of all that arms atchiev'd, or peace design'd,
That action still is fresher in my mind,
Than ought beside. If reverend age can give
To faith a sanction, in my third I live.
'Twas in my second cent'ry, I survey'd
Young Caenis, then a fair Thessalian maid:
Caenis the bright, was born to high command;
A princess, and a native of thy land,
Divine Achilles; every tongue proclaim'd
Her beauty, and her eyes all hearts inflam'd.
Peleus, thy sire, perhaps had sought her bed,
Among the rest; but he had either led
Thy mother then; or was by promise ty'd;
But she to him, and all, alike her love deny'd.
It was her fortune once to take her way
Along the sandy margin of the sea:
The Pow'r of ocean view'd her as she pass'd,
And, lov'd as soon as seen, by force embrac'd.
So Fame reports. Her virgin-treasure seiz'd,
And his new joys, the ravisher so pleas'd,
That thus, transported, to the nymph he cry'd;
Ask what thou wilt, no pray'r shall be deny'd.
This also Fame relates: the haughty fair,
Who not the rape ev'n of a God cou'd bear,
This answer, proud, return'd: To mighty wrongs
A mighty recompence, of right, belongs.
Give me no more to suffer such a shame;
But change the woman, for a better name;
One gift for all: she said; and while she spoke,
A stern, majestick, manly tone she took.
A man she was: and as the Godhead swore,
To Caeneus turn'd, who Caenis was before.
To this the lover adds, without request,
No force of steel shou'd violate his breast.
Glad of the gift, the new-made warrior goes;
And arms among the Greeks, and longs for equal foes.
The Skirmish between the Centaurs and Lapithites
Now brave Perithous, bold Ixion's son,
The love of fair Hippodame had won.
The cloud-begotten race, half men, half beast,
Invited, came to grace the nuptial feast:
In a cool cave's recess the treat was made,
Whose entrance, trees with spreading boughs o'er-shade
They sate: and summon'd by the bridegroom, came,
To mix with those, the Lapythaean name:
Nor wanted I: the roofs with joy resound:
And Hymen, Io Hymen, rung around.
Rais'd altars shone with holy fires; the bride,
Lovely her self (and lovely by her side
A bevy of bright nymphs, with sober grace),
Came glitt'ring like a star, and took her place.
Her heav'nly form beheld, all wish'd her joy;
And little wanted; but in vain, their wishes all employ.
For one, most brutal, of the brutal brood,
Or whether wine, or beauty fir'd his blood,
Or both at once, beheld with lustful eyes
The bride; at once resolv'd to make his prize.
Down went the board; and fastning on her hair,
He seiz'd with sudden force the frighted fair.
'Twas Eurytus began: his bestial kind
His crime pursu'd; and each as pleas'd his mind,
Or her, whom chance presented, took: the feast
An image of a taken town express'd.
The cave resounds with female shrieks; we rise,
Mad with revenge to make a swift reprise:
And Theseus first, What phrenzy has possess'd,
O Eurytus, he cry'd, thy brutal breast,
To wrong Perithous, and not him alone,
But while I live, two friends conjoyn'd in one?
To justifie his threat, he thrusts aside
The crowd of centaurs; and redeems the bride:
The monster nought reply'd: for words were vain,
And deeds cou'd only deeds unjust maintain;
But answers with his hand, and forward press'd,
With blows redoubled, on his face, and breast.
An ample goblet stood, of antick mold,
And rough with figures of the rising gold;
The hero snatch'd it up, and toss'd in air
Full at the front of the foul ravisher.
He falls; and falling vomits forth a flood
Of wine, and foam, and brains, and mingled blood.
Half roaring, and half neighing through the hall,
Arms, arms, the double-form'd with fury call;
To wreak their brother's death: a medley-flight
Of bowls, and jars, at first supply the fight,
Once instruments of feasts; but now of Fate;
Wine animates their rage, and arms their hate.
Bold Amycus, from the robb'd vestry brings
The chalices of Heav'n; and holy things
Of precious weight: a sconce that hung on high,
With tapers fill'd, to light the sacristy,
Torn from the cord, with his unhallow'd hand
He threw amid the Lapythaean band.
On Celadon the ruin fell; and left
His face of feature, and of form bereft:
So, when some brawny sacrificer knocks,
Before an altar led, an offer'd ox,
His eyes-balls rooted out, are thrown to ground;
His nose, dismantled, in his mouth is found;
His jaws, cheeks, front, one undistinguish'd wound.
This, Belates, th' avenger, cou'd not brook;
But, by the foot, a maple board he took;
And hurl'd at Amycus; his chin it bent
Against his chest, and down the centaur sent:
Whom sputtring bloody teeth, the second blow
Of his drawn sword, dispatch'd to shades below.
Grineus was near; and cast a furious look
On the side-altar, cens'd with sacred smoke,
And bright with flaming fires; The Gods, he cry'd,
Have with their holy trade our hands supply'd:
Why use we not their gifts? Then from the floor
An altar stone he heav'd, with all the load it bore:
Altar, and altar's freight together slew,
Where thickest throng'd the Lapythaean crew:
And, at once, Broteas and Oryus flew.
Oryus' mother, Mycale, was known
Down from her sphere to draw the lab'ring moon.
Exadius cry'd, Unpunish'd shall not go
This fact, if arms are found against the foe.
He look'd about, where on a pine were spread
The votive horns of a stag's branching head:
At Grineus these he throws; so just they fly,
That the sharp antlers stuck in either eye:
Breathless, and blind he fell; with blood besmear'd;
His eye-balls beaten out, hung dangling on his beard.
Fierce Rhoetus, from the hearth a burning brand
Selects, and whirling waves; 'till, from his hand
The fire took flame; then dash'd it from the right,
On fair Charaxus' temples, near the sight:
The whistling pest came on, and pierc'd the bone,
And caught the yellow hair, that shrivel'd while it shone.
Caught, like dry stubble fir'd; or like seerwood;
Yet from the wound ensu'd no purple flood;
But look'd a bubbling mass of frying blood.
His blazing locks sent forth a crackling sound;
And hiss'd, like red hot ir'n within the smithy drown'd.
The wounded warrior shook his flaming hair,
Then (what a team of horse could hardly rear)
He heaves the threshold stone, but could not throw;
The weight itself forbad the threaten'd blow;
Which dropping from his lifted arms, came down
Full on Cometes' head; and crush'd his crown.
Nor Rhoetus then retain'd his joy; but said,
So by their fellows may our foes be sped;
Then, with redoubled strokes he plies his head:
The burning lever not deludes his pains:
But drives the batter'd skull within the brains.
Thus flush'd, the conqueror, with force renew'd,
Evagrus, Dryas, Corythus, pursu'd:
First, Corythus, with downy cheeks, he slew;
Whose fall, when fierce Evagrus had in view,
He cry'd, What palm is from a beardless prey?
Rhoetus prevents what more he had to say;
And drove within his mouth the fi'ry death,
Which enter'd hissing in, and choak'd his breath.
At Dryas next he flew: but weary chance,
No longer wou'd the same success advance.
For while he whirl'd in fiery circles round
The brand, a sharpen'd stake strong Dryas found;
And in the shoulder's joint inflicts the wound.
The weapon stuck; which, roaring out with pain,
He drew; nor longer durst the fight maintain,
But turn'd his back, for fear; and fled amain.
With him fled Orneus, with like dread possess'd,
Thaumas, and Medon wounded in the breast;
And Mermeros, in the late race renown'd,
Now limping ran, and tardy with his wound.
Pholus, and Melaneus from fight withdrew,
And Abas maim'd, who boars encountring slew:
And Augur Asbolos, whose art in vain,
From fight dissuaded the four-footed train,
Now beat the hoof with Nessus on the plain;
But to his fellow cry'd, Be safely slow,
Thy death deferr'd is due to great Alcides' bow.
Mean-time strong Dryas urg'd his chance so well,
That Lycidas, Areos, Imbreus fell;
All, one by one, and fighting face to face:
Crenaeus fled, to fall with more disgrace:
For, fearful, while he look'd behind, he bore,
Betwixt his nose, and front, the blow before.
Amid the noise, and tumult of the fray,
Snoring, and drunk with wine, Aphidas lay.
Ev'n then the bowl within his hand he kept,
And on a bear's rough hide securely slept.
Him Phorbas with his flying dart transfix'd;
Take thy next draught, with Stygian waters mix'd,
And sleep thy fill, th' insulting victor cry'd;
Surpriz'd with death unfelt, the centaur dy'd;
The ruddy vomit, as he breath'd his soul
Repass'd his throat, and fill'd his empty bowl.
I saw Petraeus' arms employ'd around
A well-grown oak, to root it from the ground.
This way, and that, he wrench'd the fibrous bands;
The trunk was like a sappling, in his hands,
And still obey'd the bent: while thus he stood,
Perithous' dart drove on; and nail'd him to the wood;
Lycus, and Chromis fell, by him oppress'd:
Helops, and Dictis added to the rest
A nobler palm: Helops, through either ear
Transfix'd, receiv'd the penetrating spear.
This Dictis saw; and, seiz'd with sudden fright,
Leapt headlong from the hill of steepy height;
And crush'd an ash beneath, that cou'd not bear his weight.
The shatter'd tree receives his fall; and strikes,
Within his full-blown paunch, the sharpen'd spikes.
Strong Aphareus had heav'd a mighty stone,
The fragment of a rock; and wou'd have thrown;
But Theseus, with a club of harden'd oak,
The cubit-bone of the bold centaur broke;
And left him maim'd; nor seconded the stroke.
Then leapt on tall Bianor's back (who bore
No mortal burden but his own, before);
Press'd with his knees his sides; the double man,
His speed with spurs increas'd, unwilling ran.
One hand the hero fastn'd on his locks;
His other ply'd him with repeated strokes.
The club rung round his ears, and batter'd brows;
He falls; and lashing up his heels, his rider throws.
The same Herculean arms, Nedymnus wound;
And lay by him Lycotas on the ground,
And Hippasus, whose beard his breast invades;
And Ripheus, haunter of the woodland shades:
And Thereus, us'd with mountain-bears to strive,
And from their dens to draw th' indignant beasts alive.
Demoleon cou'd not bear this hateful sight,
Or the long fortune of th' Athenian knight:
But pull'd with all his force, to disengage
From Earth a pine, the product of an age:
The root stuck fast: the broken trunk he sent
At Theseus; Theseus frustrates his intent,
And leaps aside; by Pallas warn'd, the blow
To shun (for so he said; and we believ'd it so).
Yet not in vain th' enormous weight was cast;
Which Crantor's body sunder'd at the waist:
Thy father's 'squire, Achilles, and his care;
Whom conquer'd in the Polopeian war,
Their king, his present ruin to prevent,
A pledge of peace implor'd, to Peleus sent.
Thy sire, with grieving eyes, beheld his Fate;
And cry'd, Not long, lov'd Crantor, shalt thou wait
Thy vow'd revenge. At once he said, and threw
His ashen-spear; which quiver'd, as it flew;
With all his force, and all his soul apply'd;
The sharp point enter'd in the centaur's side:
Both hands, to wrench it out, the monster join'd;
And wrench'd it out; but left the steel behind;
Stuck in his lungs it stood: inrag'd he rears
His hoofs, and down to ground thy father bears.
Thus trampled under foot, his shield defends
His head; his other hand the lance portends.
Ev'n while he lay extended on the dust,
He sped the centaur, with one single thrust.
Two more his lance before transfix'd from far;
And two, his sword had slain, in closer war.
To these was added Dorylas, who spread
A bull's two goring horns around his head.
With these he push'd; in blood already dy'd,
Him fearless, I approach'd; and thus defy'd:
Now, monster, now, by proof it shall appear,
Whether thy horns are sharper, or my spear.
At this, I threw: for want of other ward,
He lifted up his hand, his front to guard.
His hand it pass'd; and fix'd it to his brow:
Loud shouts of ours attend the lucky blow.
Him Peleus finish'd, with a second wound,
Which thro' the navel pierc'd: he reel'd around;
And dragg'd his dangling bowels on the ground.
Trod what he drag'd; and what he trod, he crush'd:
And to his mother-Earth, with empty belly, rush'd.
The Story of Cyllarus and Hylonome
Nor cou'd thy form, o Cyllarus, foreflow
Thy Fate (if form to monsters men allow):
Just bloom'd thy beard: thy beard of golden hue:
Thy locks, in golden waves, about thy shoulders flew.
Sprightly thy look: thy shapes in ev'ry part
So clean, as might instruct the sculptor's art;
As far as man extended: where began
The beast, the beast was equal to the man.
Add but a horse's head and neck; and he,
O Castor, was a courser worthy thee.
So was his back proportion'd for the seat:
So rose his brawny chest; so swiftly mov'd his feet.
Coal-black his colour, but like jett it shone;
His legs, and flowing tail were white alone.
Belov'd by many maidens of his kind;
But fair Hylonome possess'd his mind;
Hylonome, for features, and for face,
Excelling all the nymphs of double race:
Nor less her blandishments, than beauty, move;
At once both loving, and confessing love.
For him she dress'd: for him, with female care
She comb'd, and set in curls, her auburn hair.
Of roses, violets, and lillies mix'd,
And sprigs of flowing rosemary betwixt,
She form'd the chaplet, that adorn'd her front:
In waters of the Pegasaean fount,
And in the streams that from the fountain play,
She wash'd her face; and bath'd her twice a-day.
The scarf of furs, that hung below her side,
Was ermin, or the panther's spotted pride;
Spoils of no common beast: with equal flame
They lov'd: their silvan pleasures were the same:
All day they hunted: and when day expir'd,
Together to some shady cave retir'd:
Invited to the nuptials, both repair:
And, side by side, they both engage in war.
Uncertain from what hand, a flying dart
At Cyllarus was sent; which pierc'd his heart.
The jav'lin drawn from out the mortal wound,
He faints with stagg'ring steps; and seeks the ground:
The fair within her arms receiv'd his fall,
And strove his wand'ring spirits to recall:
And while her hand the streaming blood oppos'd,
Join'd face to face, his lips with hers she clos'd.
Stifled with kisses, a sweet death he dies;
She fills the fields with undistinguish'd cries;
At least her words were in her clamour drown'd;
For my stunn'd ears receiv'd no vocal sound.
In madness of her grief, she seiz'd the dart
New-drawn, and reeking from her lover's heart;
To her bare bosom the sharp point apply'd;
And wounded fell; and falling by his side,
Embrac'd him in her arms; and thus embracing dy'd.
Ev'n still methinks, I see Phaeocomes;
Strange was his habit, and as odd his dress.
Six lions' hides, with thongs together fast,
His upper part defended to his waist:
And where man ended, the continued vest,
Spread on his back, the houss and trappings of a beast.
A stump too heavy for a team to draw
(It seems a fable, tho' the fact I saw);
He threw at Pholon; the descending blow
Divides the skull, and cleaves his head in two.
The brains, from nose, and mouth, and either ear,
Came issuing out, as through a colendar
The curdled milk; or from the press the whey,
Driv'n down by weight above, is drain'd away.
But him, while stooping down to spoil the slain,
Pierc'd through the paunch, I tumbled on the plain.
Then Chthonyus, and Teleboas I slew:
A fork the former arm'd; a dart his fellow threw.
The jav'lin wounded me (behold the scar,
Then was my time to seek the Trojan war;
Then I was Hector's match in open field;
But he was then unborn; at least a child:
Now, I am nothing). I forbear to tell
By Periphantas how Pyretus fell;
The centaur by the knight: nor will I stay
On Amphix, or what deaths he dealt that day:
What honour, with a pointless lance, he won,
Stuck in the front of a four-footed man.
What fame young Macareus obtain'd in fight:
Or dwell on Nessus, now return'd from flight.
How prophet Mopsus not alone divin'd,
Whose valour equal'd his foreseeing mind.
Caeneus transform'd to an Eagle
Already Caeneus, with his conquering hand,
Had slaughter'd five the boldest of their band.
Pyrachmus, Helymus, Antimachus,
Bromus the brave, and stronger Stiphelus,
Their names I number'd, and remember well,
No trace remaining, by what wounds they fell.
Laitreus, the bulki'st of the double race,
Whom the spoil'd arms of slain Halesus grace,
In years retaining still his youthful might,
Though his black hairs were interspers'd with white,
Betwixt th' imbattled ranks began to prance,
Proud of his helm, and Macedonian lance;
And rode the ring around; that either hoast
Might hear him, while he made this empty boast:
And from a strumpet shall we suffer shame?
For Caenis still, not Caeneus, is thy name:
And still the native softness of thy kind
Prevails; and leaves the woman in thy mind;
Remember what thou wert; what price was paid
To change thy sex; to make thee not a maid:
And but a man in shew; go, card and spin;
And leave the business of the war to men.
While thus the boaster exercis'd his pride,
The fatal spear of Caeneus reach'd his side:
Just in the mixture of the kinds it ran;
Betwixt the neather beast, and upper man:
The monster mad with rage, and stung with smart,
His lance directed at the hero's heart:
It struck; but bounded from his harden'd breast,
Like hail from tiles, which the safe house invest.
Nor seem'd the stroke with more effect to come,
Than a small pebble falling on a drum.
He next his fauchion try'd, in closer fight;
But the keen fauchion had no pow'r to bite.
He thrust; the blunted point return'd again:
Since downright blows, he cry'd, and thrusts are vain,
I'll prove his side; in strong embraces held
He prov'd his side; his side the sword repell'd:
His hollow belly eccho'd to the stroke,
Untouch'd his body, as a solid rock;
Aim'd at his neck at last, the blade in shivers broke.
Th' impassive knight stood idle, to deride
His rage, and offer'd oft his naked side;
At length, Now monster, in thy turn, he cry'd,
Try thou the strength of Caeneus: at the word
He thrust; and in his shoulder plung'd the sword.
Then writh'd his hand; and as he drove it down,
Deep in his breast, made many wounds in one.
The centaurs saw, inrag'd, th' unhop'd success;
And rushing on in crowds, together press;
At him, and him alone, their darts they threw:
Repuls'd they from his fated body flew.
Amaz'd they stood; 'till Monichus began,
O shame, a nation conquer'd by a man!
A woman-man! yet more a man is he,
Than all our race; and what he was, are we.
Now, what avail our nerves? th' united force,
Of two the strongest creatures, man and horse;
Nor Goddess-born; nor of Ixion's seed
We seem (a lover built for Juno's bed);
Master'd by this half man. Whole mountains throw
With woods at once, and bury him below.
This only way remains. Nor need we doubt
To choak the soul within; though not to force it out:
Heap weights, instead of wounds. He chanc'd to see
Where southern storms had rooted up a tree;
This, rais'd from Earth, against the foe he threw;
Th' example shewn, his fellow-brutes pursue.
With forest-loads the warrior they invade;
Othrys, and Pelion soon were void of shade;
And spreading groves were naked mountains made.
Press'd with the burden, Caeneus pants for breath;
And on his shoulders bears the wooden death.
To heave th' intolerable weight he tries;
At length it rose above his mouth and eyes:
Yet still he heaves; and, strugling with despair,
Shakes all aside, and gains a gulp of air:
A short relief, which but prolongs his pain;
He faints by fits; and then respires again:
At last, the burden only nods above,
As when an earthquake stirs th' Idaean grove.
Doubtful his death: he suffocated seem'd,
To most; but otherwise our Mopsus deem'd,
Who said he saw a yellow bird arise
From out the piles, and cleave the liquid skies:
I saw it too, with golden feathers bright;
Nor e'er before beheld so strange a sight.
Whom Mopsus viewing, as it soar'd around
Our troop, and heard the pinions' rattling sound,
All hail, he cry'd, thy country's grace and love!
Once first of men below, now first of birds above.
Its author to the story gave belief:
For us, our courage was increas'd by grief:
Asham'd to see a single man, pursu'd
With odds, to sink beneath a multitude,
We push'd the foe: and forc'd to shameful flight,
Part fell, and part escap'd by favour of the night.
The Fate of Periclymenos
This tale, by Nestor told, did much displease
Tlepolemus, the seed of Hercules:
For, often he had heard his father say,
That he himself was present at the fray;
And more than shar'd the glories of the day.
Old Chronicle, he said, among the rest,
You might have nam'd Alcides at the least:
Is he not worth your praise? The Pylian prince
Sigh'd ere he spoke; then made this proud defence.
My former woes in long oblivion drown'd,
I wou'd have lost; but you renew the wound:
Better to pass him o'er, than to relate
The cause I have your mighty sire to hate.
His fame has fill'd the world, and reach'd the sky
(Which, oh, I wish, with truth, I cou'd deny!);
We praise not Hector; though his name, we know,
Is great in arms; 'tis hard to praise a foe.
He, your great father, levell'd to the ground
Messenia's tow'rs: nor better fortune found
Elis, and Pylos; that a neighb'ring state,
And this my own: both guiltless of their fate.
To pass the rest, twelve, wanting one, he slew;
My brethren, who their birth from Neleus drew,
All youths of early promise, had they liv'd;
By him they perish'd: I alone surviv'd.
The rest were easie conquest: but the fate
Of Periclymenos, is wondrous to relate.
To him, our common grandsire of the main
Had giv'n to change his form, and chang'd, resume again.
Vary'd at pleasure, every shape he try'd;
And in all beasts, Alcides still defy'd:
Vanquish'd on Earth, at length he soar'd above;
Chang'd to the bird, that bears the bolt of Jove:
The new-dissembled eagle, now endu'd
With beak, and pounces, Hercules pursu'd,
And cuff'd his manly cheeks, and tore his face;
Then, safe retir'd, and tour'd in empty space.
Alcides bore not long his flying foe;
But bending his inevitable bow,
Reach'd him in air, suspended as he stood;
And in his pinion fix'd the feather'd wood.
Light was the wound; but in the sinew hung
The point, and his disabled wing unstrung.
He wheel'd in air, and stretch'd his vans in vain;
His vans no longer cou'd his flight sustain:
For while one gather'd wind, one unsupply'd
Hung drooping down, nor pois'd his other side.
He fell: the shaft that slightly was impress'd,
Now from his heavy fall with weight increas'd,
Drove through his neck, aslant, he spurns the ground,
And the soul issues through the weazon's wound.
Now, brave commander of the Rhodian seas,
What praise is due from me, to Hercules?
Silence is all the vengeance I decree
For my slain brothers; but 'tis peace with thee.
Thus with a flowing tongue old Nestor spoke:
Then, to full bowls each other they provoke:
At length, with weariness, and wine oppress'd,
They rise from table; and withdraw to rest.
The Death of Achilles
The sire of Cygnus, monarch of the main,
Mean-time, laments his son, in battel slain,
And vows the victor's death; nor vows in vain.
For nine long years the smother'd pain he bore
(Achilles was not ripe for Fate before):
Then when he saw the promis'd hour was near,
He thus bespoke the God, that guides the year:
Immortal offspring of my brother Jove;
My brightest nephew, and whom best I love,
Whose hands were join'd with mine, to raise the wall
Of tott'ring Troy, now nodding to her fall,
Dost thou not mourn our pow'r employ'd in vain;
And the defenders of our city slain?
To pass the rest, could noble Hector lie
Unpity'd, drag'd around his native Troy?
And yet the murd'rer lives: himself by far
A greater plague, than all the wasteful war:
He lives; the proud Pelides lives, to boast
Our town destroy'd, our common labour lost.
O, could I meet him! But I wish too late:
To prove my trident is not in his Fate!
But let him try (for that's allow'd) thy dart,
And pierce his only penetrable part.
Apollo bows to the superior throne;
And to his uncle's anger, adds his own.
Then in a cloud involv'd, he takes his flight,
Where Greeks, and Trojans mix'd in mortal fight;
And found out Paris, lurking where he stood,
And stain'd his arrows with plebeian blood:
Phoebus to him alone the God confess'd,
Then to the recreant knight, he thus address'd.
Dost thou not blush, to spend thy shafts in vain
On a degenerate, and ignoble train?
If fame, or better vengeance be thy care,
There aim: and, with one arrow, end the war.
He said; and shew'd from far the blazing shield
And sword, which, but Achilles, none cou'd wield;
And how he mov'd a God, and mow'd the standing field.
The deity himself directs aright
Th' invenom'd shaft; and wings the fatal flight.
Thus fell the foremost of the Grecian name;
And he, the base adult'rer, boasts the fame.
A spectacle to glad the Trojan train;
And please old Priam, after Hector slain.
If by a female hand he had foreseen
He was to die, his wish had rather been
The lance, and double ax of the fair warriour queen.
And now the terror of the Trojan field,
The Grecian honour, ornament, and shield,
High on a pile, th' unconquer'd chief is plac'd,
The God that arm'd him first, consum'd at last.
Of all the mighty man, the small remains
A little urn, and scarcely fill'd, contains.
Yet great in Homer, still Achilles lives;
And equal to himself, himself survives.
His buckler owns its former lord; and brings
New cause of strife, betwixt contending kings;
Who worthi'st after him, his sword to wield,
Or wear his armour, or sustain his shield.
Ev'n Diomede sat mute, with down-cast eyes;
Conscious of wanted worth to win the prize:
Nor Menelaus presum'd these arms to claim,
Nor he the king of men, a greater name.
Two rivals only rose: Laertes' son,
And the vast bulk of Ajax Telamon:
The king, who cherish'd each with equal love,
And from himself all envy wou'd remove,
Left both to be determin'd by the laws;
And to the Graecian chiefs transferr'd the cause.
Book the Thirteenth
The Speeches of Ajax and Ulysses
The chiefs were set; the soldiers crown'd the field:
To these the master of the seven-fold shield
Upstarted fierce: and kindled with disdain.
Eager to speak, unable to contain
His boiling rage, he rowl'd his eyes around
The shore, and Graecian gallies hall'd a-ground.
Then stretching out his hands, O Jove, he cry'd,
Must then our cause before the fleet be try'd?
And dares Ulysses for the prize contend,
In sight of what he durst not once defend?
But basely fled that memorable day,
When I from Hector's hands redeem'd the flaming prey.
So much 'tis safer at the noisie bar
With words to flourish, than ingage in war.
By diff'rent methods we maintain our right,
Nor am I made to talk, nor he to fight.
In bloody fields I labour to be great;
His arms are a smooth tongue, and soft deceit:
Nor need I speak my deeds, for those you see,
The sun, and day are witnesses for me.
Let him who fights unseen, relate his own,
And vouch the silent stars, and conscious moon.
Great is the prize demanded, I confess,
But such an abject rival makes it less;
That gift, those honours, he but hop'd to gain,
Can leave no room for Ajax to be vain:
Losing he wins, because his name will be
Ennobled by defeat, who durst contend with me.
Were my known valour question'd, yet my blood
Without that plea wou'd make my title good:
My sire was Telamon, whose arms, employ'd
With Hercules, these Trojan walls destroy'd;
And who before with Jason sent from Greece,
In the first ship brought home the golden fleece.
Great Telamon from Aeacus derives
His birth (th' inquisitor of guilty lives
In shades below; where Sisyphus, whose son
This thief is thought, rouls up the restless heavy stone),
Just Aeacus, the king of Gods above
Begot: thus Ajax is the third from Jove.
Nor shou'd I seek advantage from my line,
Unless (Achilles) it was mix'd with thine:
As next of kin, Achilles' arms I claim;
This fellow wou'd ingraft a foreign name
Upon our stock, and the Sisyphian seed
By fraud, and theft asserts his father's breed:
Then must I lose these arms, because I came
To fight uncall'd, a voluntary name,
Nor shunn'd the cause, but offer'd you my aid?
While he long lurking was to war betray'd:
Forc'd to the field he came, but in the reer;
And feign'd distraction to conceal his fear:
'Till one more cunning caught him in the snare
(Ill for himself); and dragg'd him into war.
Now let a hero's arms a coward vest,
And he who shunn'd all honours, gain the best:
And let me stand excluded from my right,
Robb'd of my kinsman's arms, who first appear'd in fight,
Better for us, at home had he remain'd,
Had it been true the madness which he feign'd,
Or so believ'd; the less had been our shame,
The less his counsell'd crime, which brands the Grecian name;
Nor Philoctetes had been left inclos'd
In a bare isle, to wants and pains expos'd,
Where to the rocks, with solitary groans,
His suff'rings, and our baseness he bemoans:
And wishes (so may Heav'n his wish fulfill)
The due reward to him, who caus'd his ill.
Now he, with us to Troy's destruction sworn,
Our brother of the war, by whom are born
Alcides' arrows, pent in narrow bounds,
With cold and hunger pinch'd, and pain'd with wounds,
To find him food and cloathing, must employ
Against the birds the shafts due to the fate of Troy.
Yet still he lives, and lives from treason free,
Because he left Ulysses' company;
Poor Palamede might wish, so void of aid,
Rather to have been left, than so to death betray'd.
The coward bore the man immortal spight,
Who sham'd him out of madness into fight:
Nor daring otherwise to vent his hate,
Accus'd him first of treason to the state;
And then for proof produc'd the golden store,
Himself had hidden in his tent before:
Thus of two champions he depriv'd our host,
By exile one, and one by treason lost.
Thus fights Ulysses, thus his fame extends,
A formidable man, but to his friends:
Great, for what greatness is in words, and sound,
Ev'n faithful Nestor less in both is found:
But that he might without a rival reign,
He left this faithful Nestor on the plain;
Forsook his friend ev'n at his utmost need,
Who tir'd, and tardy with his wounded steed,
Cry'd out for aid, and call'd him by his name;
But cowardice has neither ears nor shame;
Thus fled the good old man, bereft of aid,
And, for as much as lay in him, betray'd:
That this is not a fable forg'd by me,
Like one of his, an Ulyssean lie,
I vouch ev'n Diomede, who tho' his friend,
Cannot that act excuse, much less defend:
He call'd him back aloud, and tax'd his fear;
And sure enough he heard, but durst not hear.
The Gods with equal eyes on mortal look,
He justly was forsaken, who forsook:
Wanted that succour, he refus'd to lend,
Found ev'ry fellow such another friend:
No wonder, if he roar'd that all might hear;
His elocution was increas'd by fear:
I heard, I ran, I found him out of breath,
Pale, trembling, and half dead with fear of death.
Though he had judg'd himself by his own laws,
And stood condemn'd, I help'd the common cause:
With my broad buckler hid him from the foe
(Ev'n the shield trembled as he lay below);
And from impending Fate the coward freed:
Good Heav'n forgive me for so bad a deed!
If still he will persist, and urge the strife,
First let him give me back his forfeit life:
Let him return to that opprobrious field;
Again creep under my protecting shield:
Let him lie wounded, let the foe be near,
And let his quiv'ring heart confess his fear;
There put him in the very jaws of Fate;
And let him plead his cause in that estate:
And yet when snatch'd from death, when from below
My lifted shield I loos'd, and let him go;
Good Heav'ns, how light he rose, with what a bound
He sprung from earth, forgetful of his wound;
How fresh, how eager then his feet to ply;
Who had not strength to stand, had speed to fly!
Hector came on, and brought the Gods along;
Fear seiz'd alike the feeble, and the strong:
Each Greek was an Ulysses; such a dread
Th' approach, and ev'n the sound of Hector bred:
Him, flesh'd with slaughter, and with conquest crown'd,
I met, and over-turn'd him to the ground;
When after, matchless as he deem'd in might,
He challeng'd all our host to single fight;
All eyes were fix'd on me: the lots were thrown;
But for your champion I was wish'd alone:
Your vows were heard; we fought, and neither yield;
Yet I return'd unvanquish'd from the field.
With Jove to friend, th' insulting Trojan came,
And menac'd us with force, our fleet with flame.
Was it the strength of this tongue-valiant lord,
In that black hour, that sav'd you from the sword?
Or was my breast expos'd alone, to brave
A thousand swords, a thousand ships to save?
The hopes of your return! And can you yield,
For a sav'd fleet, less than a single shield?
Think it no boast, o Grecians, if I deem
These arms want Ajax, more than Ajax them:
Or, I with them an equal honour share;
They honour'd to be worn, and I to wear.
Will he compare my courage with his sleight?
As well he may compare the day with night.
Night is indeed the province of his reign:
Yet all his dark exploits no more contain
Than a spy taken, and a sleeper slain;
A priest made pris'ner, Pallas made a prey:
But none of all these actions done by day:
Nor ought of these was done, and Diomede away.
If on such petty merits you confer
So vast a prize, let each his portion share;
Make a just dividend; and if not all,
The greater part to Diomede will fall.
But why for Ithacus such arms as those,
Who naked, and by night invades his foes?
The glitt'ring helm by moonlight will proclaim
The latent robber, and prevent his game:
Nor cou'd he hold his tott'ring head upright
Beneath that morion, or sustain the weight;
Nor that right arm cou'd toss the beamy lance;
Much less the left that ampler shield advance;
Pond'rous with precious weight, and rough with cost
Of the round world in rising gold emboss'd.
That orb would ill become his hand to wield,
And look as for the gold he stole the shield;
Which, shou'd your error on the wretch bestow,
It would not frighten, but allure the foe:
Why asks he, what avails him not in fight,
And wou'd but cumber, and retard his flight,
In which his only excellence is plac'd?
You give him death, that intercept his haste.
Add, that his own is yet a maiden-shield,
Nor the least dint has suffer'd in the field,
Guiltless of fight: mine batter'd, hew'd, and bor'd,
Worn out of service, must forsake his lord,
What farther need of words our right to scan?
My arguments are deeds, let action speak the man.
Since from a champion's arms the strife arose,
Go cast the glorious prize amid the foes;
Then send us to redeem both arms, and shield,
And let him wear, who wins 'em in the field.
He said: a murmur from a multitude,
Or somewhat like a stifled shout, ensu'd:
'Till from his seat arose Laertes' son,
Look'd down a while, and paus'd, e'er he begun;
Then, to th' expecting audience, rais'd his look,
And not without prepar'd attention spoke:
Soft was his tone, and sober was his face;
Action his words, and words his action grace.
If Heav'n, my lords, had heard our common pray'r,
These arms had caus'd no quarrel for an heir;
Still great Achilles had his own possess'd,
And we with great Achilles had been bless'd;
But since hard Fate, and Heav'n's severe decree,
Have ravish'd him away from you, and me
(At this he sigh'd, and wip'd his eyes, and drew,
Or seem'd to draw, some drops of kindly dew),
Who better can succeed Achilles lost,
Than he, who gave Achilles to your hoast?
This only I request, that neither he
May gain, by being what he seems to be,
A stupid thing; nor I may lose the prize,
By having sense, which Heav'n to him denies:
Since great or small, the talent I enjoy'd
Was ever in the common cause employ'd;
Nor let my wit, and wonted eloquence,
Which often has been us'd in your defense,
And in my own, this only time be brought
To bear against my self, and deem'd a fault.
Make not a crime, where Nature made it none;
For ev'ry man may freely use his own.
The deeds of long-descended ancestors
Are but by grace of imputation ours,
Theirs in effect; but since he draws his line
From Jove, and seems to plead a right divine;
From Jove, like him, I claim my pedigree,
And am descended in the same degree:
My sire Laertes was Arcesius' heir,
Arcesius was the son of Jupiter:
No parricide, no banish'd man, is known
In all my line: let him excuse his own.
Hermes ennobles too my mother's side,
By both my parents to the Gods ally'd.
But not because that on the female part
My blood is better, dare I claim desert,
Or that my sire from parricide is free;
But judge by merit betwixt him, and me:
The prize be to the best; provided yet
That Ajax for a while his kin forget,
And his great sire, and greater uncle's name,
To fortifie by them his feeble claim:
Be kindred and relation laid aside,
And honour's cause by laws of honour try'd:
For if he plead proximity of blood;
That empty title is with ease withstood.
Peleus, the hero's sire, more nigh than he,
And Pyrrhus, his undoubted progeny,
Inherit first these trophies of the field;
To Scyros, or to Pthia, send the shield:
And Teucer has an uncle's right; yet he
Waves his pretensions, nor contends with me.
Then since the cause on pure desert is plac'd,
Whence shall I take my rise, what reckon last?
I not presume on ev'ry act to dwell,
But take these few, in order as they fell.
Thetis, who knew the Fates, apply'd her care
To keep Achilles in disguise from war;
And 'till the threatning influence was past,
A woman's habit on the hero cast:
All eyes were cozen'd by the borrow'd vest,
And Ajax (never wiser than the rest)
Found no Pelides there: at length I came
With proffer'd wares to this pretended dame;
She, not discover'd by her mien, or voice,
Betray'd her manhood by her manly choice;
And while on female toys her fellows look,
Grasp'd in her warlike hand, a javelin shook;
Whom, by this act reveal'd, I thus bespoke:
O Goddess-born! resist not Heav'n's decree,
The fall of Ilium is reserv'd for thee;
Then seiz'd him, and produc'd in open light,
Sent blushing to the field the fatal knight.
Mine then are all his actions of the war;
Great Telephus was conquer'd by my spear,
And after cur'd: to me the Thebans owe,
Lesbos, and Tenedos, their overthrow;
Syros and Cylla: not on all to dwell,
By me Lyrnesus, and strong Chrysa fell:
And since I sent the man who Hector slew,
To me the noble Hector's death is due:
Those arms I put into his living hand,
Those arms, Pelides dead, I now demand.
When Greece was injur'd in the Spartan prince,
And met at Aulis to avenge th' offence,
'Twas a dead calm, or adverse blasts, that reign'd,
And in the port the wind-bound fleet detain'd:
Bad signs were seen, and oracles severe
Were daily thunder'd in our gen'ral's ear;
That by his daughter's blood we must appease
Diana's kindled wrath, and free the seas.
Affection, int'rest, fame, his heart assail'd:
But soon the father o'er the king prevail'd:
Bold, on himself he took the pious crime,
As angry with the Gods, as they with him.
No subject cou'd sustain their sov'reign's look,
'Till this hard enterprize I undertook:
I only durst th' imperial pow'r controul,
And undermin'd the parent in his soul;
Forc'd him t' exert the king for common good,
And pay our ransom with his daughter's blood.
Never was cause more difficult to plead,
Than where the judge against himself decreed:
Yet this I won by dint of argument;
The wrongs his injur'd brother underwent,
And his own office, sham'd him to consent.
'Tis harder yet to move the mother's mind,
And to this heavy task was I design'd:
Reasons against her love I knew were vain;
I circumvented whom I could not gain:
Had Ajax been employ'd, our slacken'd sails
Had still at Aulis waited happy gales.
Arriv'd at Troy, your choice was fix'd on me,
A fearless envoy, fit for a bold embassy:
Secure, I enter'd through the hostile court,
Glitt'ring with steel, and crowded with resort:
There, in the midst of arms, I plead our cause,
Urge the foul rape, and violated laws;
Accuse the foes, as authors of the strife,
Reproach the ravisher, demand the wife.
Priam, Antenor, and the wiser few,
I mov'd; but Paris, and his lawless crew
Scarce held their hands, and lifted swords; but stood
In act to quench their impious thirst of blood:
This Menelaus knows; expos'd to share
With me the rough preludium of the war.
Endless it were to tell, what I have done,
In arms, or council, since the siege begun:
The first encounter's past, the foe repell'd,
They skulk'd within the town, we kept the field.
War seem'd asleep for nine long years; at length
Both sides resolv'd to push, we try'd our strength
Now what did Ajax, while our arms took breath,
Vers'd only in the gross mechanick trade of death?
If you require my deeds, with ambush'd arms
I trapp'd the foe, or tir'd with false alarms;
Secur'd the ships, drew lines along the plain,
The fainting chear'd, chastis'd the rebel-train,
Provided forage, our spent arms renew'd;
Employ'd at home, or sent abroad, the common cause pursu'd.
The king, deluded in a dream by Jove,
Despair'd to take the town, and order'd to remove.
What subject durst arraign the Pow'r supream,
Producing Jove to justifie his dream?
Ajax might wish the soldiers to retain
From shameful flight, but wishes were in vain:
As wanting of effect had been his words,
Such as of course his thundring tongue affords.
But did this boaster threaten, did he pray,
Or by his own example urge their stay?
None, none of these: but ran himself away.
I saw him run, and was asham'd to see;
Who ply'd his feet so fast to get aboard, as he?
Then speeding through the place, I made a stand,
And loudly cry'd, O base degenerate band,
To leave a town already in your hand!
After so long expence of blood, for fame,
To bring home nothing, but perpetual shame!
These words, or what I have forgotten since
(For grief inspir'd me then with eloquence),
Reduc'd their minds; they leave the crowded port,
And to their late forsaken camp resort:
Dismay'd the council met: this man was there,
But mute, and not recover'd of his fear:
Thersites tax'd the king, and loudly rail'd,
But his wide opening mouth with blows I seal'd.
Then, rising, I excite their souls to fame,
And kindle sleeping virtue into flame.
From thence, whatever he perform'd in fight
Is justly mine, who drew him back from flight.
Which of the Grecian chiefs consorts with thee?
But Diomede desires my company,
And still communicates his praise with me.
As guided by a God, secure he goes,
Arm'd with my fellowship, amid the foes:
And sure no little merit I may boast,
Whom such a man selects from such an hoast;
Unforc'd by lots I went without affright,
To dare with him the dangers of the night:
On the same errand sent, we met the spy
Of Hector, double-tongu'd, and us'd to lie;
Him I dispatch'd, but not 'till undermin'd,
I drew him first to tell, what treach'rous Troy design'd:
My task perform'd, with praise I had retir'd,
But not content with this, to greater praise aspir'd:
Invaded Rhesus, and his Thracian crew,
And him, and his, in their own strength I slew;
Return'd a victor, all my vows compleat,
With the king's chariot, in his royal seat:
Refuse me now his arms, whose fiery steeds
Were promis'd to the spy for his nocturnal deeds:
Yet let dull Ajax bear away my right,
When all his days out-balance this one night.
Nor fought I darkling still: the sun beheld
With slaughter'd Lycians when I strew'd the field:
You saw, and counted as I pass'd along,
Alastor, Chromius, Ceranos the strong,
Alcander, Prytanis, and Halius,
Noemon, Charopes, and Ennomus;
Coon, Chersidamas; and five beside,
Men of obscure descent, but courage try'd:
All these this hand laid breathless on the ground;
Nor want I proofs of many a manly wound:
All honest, all before: believe not me;
Words may deceive, but credit what you see.
At this he bar'd his breast, and show'd his scars,
As of a furrow'd field, well plow'd with wars;
Nor is this part unexercis'd, said he;
That gyant-bulk of his from wounds is free:
Safe in his shield he fears no foe to try,
And better manages his blood, than I:
But this avails me not; our boaster strove
Not with our foes alone, but partial Jove,
To save the fleet: this I confess is true
(Nor will I take from any man his due):
But thus assuming all, he robs from you.
Some part of honour to your share will fall,
He did the best indeed, but did not all.
Patroclus in Achilles' arms, and thought
The chief he seem'd, with equal ardour fought;
Preserv'd the fleet, repell'd the raging fire,
And forc'd the fearful Trojans to retire.
But Ajax boasts, that he was only thought
A match for Hector, who the combat sought:
Sure he forgets the king, the chiefs, and me:
All were as eager for the fight, as he:
He but the ninth, and not by publick voice,
Or ours preferr'd, was only Fortune's choice:
They fought; nor can our hero boast th' event,
For Hector from the field unwounded went.
Why am I forc'd to name that fatal day,
That snatch'd the prop and pride of Greece away?
I saw Pelides sink, with pious grief,
And ran in vain, alas! to his relief;
For the brave soul was fled: full of my friend
I rush'd amid the war, his relicks to defend:
Nor ceas'd my toil, 'till I redeem'd the prey,
And, loaded with Achilles, march'd away:
Those arms, which on these shoulders then I bore,
'Tis just you to these shoulders should restore.
You see I want not nerves, who cou'd sustain
The pond'rous ruins of so great a man:
Or if in others equal force you find,
None is endu'd with a more grateful mind.
Did Thetis then, ambitious in her care,
These arms thus labour'd for her son prepare;
That Ajax after him the heav'nly gift shou'd wear!
For that dull soul to stare with stupid eyes,
On the learn'd unintelligible prize!
What are to him the sculptures of the shield,
Heav'n's planets, Earth, and Ocean's watry field?
The Pleiads, Hyads; less, and greater Bear,
Undipp'd in seas; Orion's angry star;
Two diff'ring cities, grav'd on either hand;
Would he wear arms he cannot understand?
Beside, what wise objections he prepares
Against my late accession to the wars?
Does not the fool perceive his argument
Is with more force against Achilles bent?
For if dissembling be so great a crime,
The fault is common, and the same in him:
And if he taxes both of long delay,
My guilt is less, who sooner came away.
His pious mother, anxious for his life,
Detain'd her son; and me, my pious wife.
To them the blossoms of our youth were due,
Our riper manhood we reserv'd for you.
But grant me guilty, 'tis not much my care,
When with so great a man my guilt I share:
My wit to war the matchless hero brought,
But by this fool I never had been caught.
Nor need I wonder, that on me he threw
Such foul aspersions, when he spares not you:
If Palamede unjustly fell by me,
Your honour suffer'd in th' unjust decree:
I but accus'd, you doom'd: and yet he dy'd,
Convinc'd of treason, and was fairly try'd:
You heard not he was false; your eyes beheld
The traytor manifest; the bribe reveal'd.
That Philoctetes is on Lemnos left,
Wounded, forlorn, of human aid bereft,
Is not my crime, or not my crime alone;
Defend your justice, for the fact's your own:
'Tis true, th' advice was mine; that staying there
He might his weary limbs with rest repair,
From a long voyage free, and from a longer war.
He took the counsl, and he lives at least;
Th' event declares I counsell'd for the best:
Though faith is all in ministers of state;
For who can promise to be fortunate?
Now since his arrows are the Fate of Troy,
Do not my wit, or weak address, employ;
Send Ajax there, with his persuasive sense,
To mollifie the man, and draw him thence:
But Xanthus shall run backward; Ida stand
A leafless mountain; and the Grecian band
Shall fight for Troy; if, when my councils fail,
The wit of heavy Ajax can prevail.
Hard Philoctetes, exercise thy spleen
Against thy fellows, and the king of men;
Curse my devoted head, above the rest,
And wish in arms to meet me breast to breast:
Yet I the dang'rous task will undertake,
And either die my self, or bring thee back.
Nor doubt the same success, as when before
The Phrygian prophet to these tents I bore,
Surpriz'd by night, and forc'd him to declare
In what was plac'd the fortune of the war,
Heav'n's dark decrees, and answers to display,
And how to take the town, and where the secret lay:
Yet this I compass'd, and from Troy convey'd
The fatal image of their guardian-maid;
That work was mine; for Pallas, though our friend,
Yet while she was in Troy, did Troy defend.
Now what has Ajax done, or what design'd?
A noisie nothing, and an empty wind.
If he be what he promises in show,
Why was I sent, and why fear'd he to go?
Our boasting champion thought the task not light
To pass the guards, commit himself to night;
Not only through a hostile town to pass,
But scale, with steep ascent, the sacred place;
With wand'ring steps to search the cittadel,
And from the priests their patroness to steal:
Then through surrounding foes to force my way,
And bear in triumph home the heavn'ly prey;
Which had I not, Ajax in vain had held,
Before that monst'rous bulk, his sev'nfold shield.
That night to conquer Troy I might be said,
When Troy was liable to conquest made.
Why point'st thou to my partner of the war?
Tydides had indeed a worthy share
In all my toil, and praise; but when thy might
Our ships protected, did'st thou singly fight?
All join'd, and thou of many wert but one;
I ask'd no friend, nor had, but him alone:
Who, had he not been well assur'd, that art,
And conduct were of war the better part,
And more avail'd than strength, my valiant friend
Had urg'd a better right, than Ajax can pretend:
As good at least Eurypilus may claim,
And the more mod'rate Ajax of the name:
The Cretan king, and his brave charioteer,
And Menelaus bold with sword, and spear:
All these had been my rivals in the shield,
And yet all these to my pretensions yield.
Thy boist'rous hands are then of use, when I
With this directing head those hands apply.
Brawn without brain is thine: my prudent care
Foresees, provides, administers the war:
Thy province is to fight; but when shall be
The time to fight, the king consults with me:
No dram of judgment with thy force is join'd:
Thy body is of profit, and my mind.
By how much more the ship her safety owes
To him who steers, than him that only rows;
By how much more the captain merits praise,
Than he who fights, and fighting but obeys;
By so much greater is my worth than thine,
Who canst but execute, what I design.
What gain'st thou, brutal man, if I confess
Thy strength superior, when thy wit is less?
Mind is the man: I claim my whole desert,
From the mind's vigour, and th' immortal part.
But you, o Grecian chiefs, reward my care,
Be grateful to your watchman of the war:
For all my labours in so long a space,
Sure I may plead a title to your grace:
Enter the town, I then unbarr'd the gates,
When I remov'd their tutelary Fates.
By all our common hopes, if hopes they be
Which I have now reduc'd to certainty;
By falling Troy, by yonder tott'ring tow'rs,
And by their taken Gods, which now are ours;
Or if there yet a farther task remains,
To be perform'd by prudence, or by pains;
If yet some desp'rate action rests behind,
That asks high conduct, and a dauntless mind;
If ought be wanting to the Trojan doom,
Which none but I can manage, and o'ercome,
Award, those arms I ask, by your decree:
Or give to this, what you refuse to me.
He ceas'd: and ceasing with respect he bow'd,
And with his hand at once the fatal statue show'd.
Heav'n, air and ocean rung, with loud applause,
And by the gen'ral vote he gain'd his cause.
Thus conduct won the prize, when courage fail'd,
And eloquence o'er brutal force prevail'd.
The Death of Ajax
He who cou'd often, and alone, withstand
The foe, the fire, and Jove's own partial hand,
Now cannot his unmaster'd grief sustain,
But yields to rage, to madness, and disdain;
Then snatching out his fauchion, Thou, said he,
Art mine; Ulysses lays no claim to thee.
O often try'd, and ever-trusty sword,
Now do thy last kind office to thy lord:
'Tis Ajax who requests thy aid, to show
None but himself, himself cou'd overthrow:
He said, and with so good a will to die,
Did to his breast the fatal point apply,
It found his heart, a way 'till then unknown,
Where never weapon enter'd, but his own.
No hands cou'd force it thence, so fix'd it stood,
'Till out it rush'd, expell'd by streams of spouting blood.
The fruitful blood produc'd a flow'r, which grew
On a green stem; and of a purple hue:
Like his, whom unaware Apollo slew:
Inscrib'd in both, the letters are the same,
But those express the grief, and these the name.
The Story of Polyxena and Hecuba
The victor with full sails for Lemnos stood
(Once stain'd by matrons with their husbands' blood),
Thence great Alcides' fatal shafts to bear,
Assign'd to Philoctetes' secret care.
These with their guardian to the Greeks convey'd,
Their ten years' toil with wish'd success repaid.
With Troy old Priam falls: his queen survives;
'Till all her woes compleat, transform'd she grieves
In borrow'd sounds, nor with an human face,
Barking tremendous o'er the plains of Thrace.
Still Ilium's flames their pointed columns raise,
And the red Hellespont reflects the blaze.
Shed on Jove's altar are the poor remains
Of blood, which trickl'd from old Priam's veins.
Cassandra lifts her hands to Heav'n in vain,
Drag'd by her sacred hair; the trembling train
Of matrons to their burning temples fly:
There to their Gods for kind protection cry;
And to their statues cling 'till forc'd away,
The victor Greeks bear off th' invidious prey.
From those high tow'rs Astyanax is thrown,
Whence he was wont with pleasure to look down.
When oft his mother with a fond delight
Pointed to view his father's rage in fight,
To win renown, and guard his country's right.
The winds now call to sea; brisk northern gales
Sing in the shrowds, and court the spreading sails.
Farewel, dear Troy, the captive matrons cry;
Yes, we must leave our long-lov'd native sky.
Then prostrate on the shore they kiss the sand,
And quit the smoking ruines of the land.
Last Hecuba on board, sad sight! appears;
Found weeping o'er her children's sepulchres:
Drag'd by Ulysses from her slaughter'd sons,
Whilst yet she graspt their tombs, and kist their mouldring
Yet Hector's ashes from his urn she bore,
And in her bosom the sad relique wore:
Then scatter'd on his tomb her hoary hairs,
A poor oblation mingled with her tears.
Oppos'd to Ilium lye the Thracian plains,
Where Polymestor safe in plenty reigns.
King Priam to his care commits his son,
Young Polydore, the chance of war to shun.
A wise precaution! had not gold, consign'd
For the child's use, debauch'd the tyrant's mind.
When sinking Troy to its last period drew,
With impious hands his royal charge he slew;
Then in the sea the lifeless coarse is thrown;
As with the body he the guilt could drown.
The Greeks now riding on the Thracian shore,
'Till kinder gales invite, their vessels moor.
Here the wide-op'ning Earth to sudden view
Disclos'd Achilles, great as when he drew
The vital air, but fierce with proud disdain,
As when he sought Briseis to regain;
When stern debate, and rash injurious strife
Unsheath'd his sword, to reach Atrides' life.
And will ye go? he said. Is then the name
Of the once great Achilles lost to fame?
Yet stay, ungrateful Greeks; nor let me sue
In vain for honours to my Manes due.
For this just end, Polyxena I doom
With victim-rites to grace my slighted tomb.
The phantom spoke; the ready Greeks obey'd,
And to the tomb led the devoted maid
Snatch'd from her mother, who with pious care
Cherish'd this last relief of her despair.
Superior to her sex, the fearless maid,
Approach'd the altar, and around survey'd
The cruel rites, and consecrated knife,
Which Pyrrhus pointed at her guiltless life,
Then as with stern amaze intent he stood,
"Now strike," she said; "now spill my genr'ous blood;
Deep in my breast, or throat, your dagger sheath,
Whilst thus I stand prepar'd to meet my death.
For life on terms of slav'ry I despise:
Yet sure no God approves this sacrifice.
O cou'd I but conceal this dire event
From my sad mother, I should dye content.
Yet should she not with tears my death deplore,
Since her own wretched life demands them more.
But let not the rude touch of man pollute
A virgin-victim; 'tis a modest suit.
It best will please, whoe'er demands my blood,
That I untainted reach the Stygian flood.
Yet let one short, last, dying prayer be heard;
To Priam's daughter pay this last regard;
'Tis Priam's daughter, not a captive, sues;
Do not the rites of sepulture refuse.
To my afflicted mother, I implore,
Free without ransom my dead corpse restore:
Nor barter me for gain, when I am cold;
But be her tears the price, if I am sold:
Time was she could have ransom'd me with gold".
Thus as she pray'd, one common shower of tears
Burst forth, and stream'd from ev'ry eye but hers.
Ev'n the priest wept, and with a rude remorse
Plung'd in her heart the steel's resistless force.
Her slacken'd limbs sunk gently to the ground,
Dauntless her looks, unalter'd by the wound.
And as she fell, she strove with decent pride
To hide, what suits a virgin's care to hide.
The Trojan matrons the pale corpse receive,
And the whole slaughter'd race of Priam grieve,
Sad they recount the long disastrous tale;
Then with fresh tears, thee, royal maid, bewail;
Thy widow'd mother too, who flourish'd late
The royal pride of Asia's happier state:
A captive lot now to Ulysses born;
Whom yet the victor would reject with scorn,
Were she not Hector's mother: Hector's fame
Scarce can a master for his mother claim!
With strict embrace the lifeless coarse she view'd;
And her fresh grief that flood of tears renew'd,
With which she lately mourn'd so many dead;
Tears for her country, sons, and husband shed.
With the thick gushing stream she bath'd the wound;
Kiss'd her pale lips; then weltring on the ground,
With wonted rage her frantick bosom tore;
Sweeping her hair amidst the clotted gore;
Whilst her sad accents thus her loss deplore.
"Behold a mother's last dear pledge of woe!
Yes, 'tis the last I have to suffer now.
Thou, my Polyxena, my ills must crown:
Already in thy Fate, I feel my own.
'Tis thus, lest haply of my numerous seed
One should unslaughter'd fall, even thou must bleed:
And yet I hop'd thy sex had been thy guard;
But neither has thy tender sex been spar'd.
The same Achilles, by whose deadly hate
Thy brothers fell, urg'd thy untimely fate!
The same Achilles, whose destructive rage
Laid waste my realms, has robb'd my childless age.
When Paris' shafts with Phoebus' certain aid
At length had pierc'd this dreaded chief, I said,
Secure of future ills, he can no more:
But see, he still pursues me as before.
With rage rekindled his dead ashes burn;
And his yet murd'ring ghost my wretched house must mourn.
This tyrant's lust of slaughter I have fed
With large supplies from my too-fruitful bed.
Troy's tow'rs lye waste; and the wide ruin ends
The publick woe; but me fresh woe attends.
Troy still survives to me; to none but me;
And from its ills I never must be free.
I, who so late had power, and wealth, and ease,
Bless'd with my husband, and a large encrease,
Must now in poverty an exile mourn;
Ev'n from the tombs of my dead offspring torn:
Giv'n to Penelope, who proud of spoil,
Allots me to the loom's ungrateful toil;
Points to her dames, and crys with scorning mien:
See Hector's mother, and great Priam's queen!
And thou, my child, sole hope of all that's lost,
Thou now art slain, to sooth this hostile ghost.
Yes, my child falls an offering to my foe!
Then what am I, who still survive this woe?
Say, cruel Gods! for what new scenes of death
Must a poor aged wretch prolong this hated breath?
Troy fal'n, to whom could Priam happy seem?
Yet was he so; and happy must I deem
His death; for O! my child, he saw not thine,
When he his life did with his Troy resign.
Yet sure due obsequies thy tomb might grace;
And thou shalt sleep amidst thy kingly race.
Alas! my child, such fortune does not wait
Our suffering house in this abandon'd state.
A foreign grave, and thy poor mother's tears
Are all the honours that attend thy herse.
All now is lost!- Yet no; one comfort more
Of life remains, my much-lov'd Polydore.
My youngest hope: here on this coast he lives,
Nurs'd by the guardian-king, he still survives.
Then let me hasten to the cleansing flood,
And wash away these stains of guiltless blood."
Streit to the shore her feeble steps repair
With limping pace, and torn dishevell'd hair
Silver'd with age. "Give me an urn," she cry'd,
"To bear back water from this swelling tide":
When on the banks her son in ghastly hue
Transfix'd with Thracian arrows strikes her view.
The matrons shriek'd; her big-swoln grief surpast
The pow'r of utterance; she stood aghast;
She had nor speech, nor tears to give relief;
Excess of woe suppress'd the rising grief.
Lifeless as stone, on Earth she fix'd her eyes;
And then look'd up to Heav'n with wild surprise.
Now she contemplates o'er with sad delight
Her son's pale visage; then her aking sight
Dwells on his wounds: she varys thus by turns,
Wild as the mother-lion, when among
The haunts of prey she seeks her ravish'd young:
Swift flies the ravisher; she marks his trace,
And by the print directs her anxious chase.
So Hecuba with mingled grief, and rage
Pursues the king, regardless of her age.
She greets the murd'rer with dissembled joy
Of secret treasure hoarded for her boy.
The specious tale th' unwary king betray'd.
Fir'd with the hopes of prey: "Give quick," he said
With soft enticing speech, "the promis'd store:
Whate'er you give, you give to Polydore.
Your son, by the immortal Gods I swear,
Shall this with all your former bounty share."
She stands attentive to his soothing lyes,
And darts avenging horrour from her eyes.
Then full resentment fires her boyling blood:
She springs upon him, 'midst the captive crowd
(Her thirst of vengeance want of strength supplies):
Fastens her forky fingers in his eyes:
Tears out the rooted balls; her rage pursues,
And in the hollow orbs her hand imbrews.
The Thracians, fir'd, at this inhuman scene,
With darts, and stones assail the frantick queen.
She snarls, and growls, nor in an human tone;
Then bites impatient at the bounding stone;
Extends her jaws, as she her voice would raise
To keen invectives in her wonted phrase;
But barks, and thence the yelping brute betrays.
Still a sad monument the place remains,
And from this monstrous change its name obtains:
Where she, in long remembrance of her ills,
With plaintive howlings the wide desart fills.
Greeks, Trojans, friends, and foes, and Gods above
Her num'rous wrongs to just compassion move.
Ev'n Juno's self forgets her ancient hate,
And owns, she had deserv'd a milder fate.
The Funeral of Memnon
Yet bright Aurora, partial as she was
To Troy, and those that lov'd the Trojan cause,
Nor Troy, nor Hecuba can now bemoan,
But weeps a sad misfortune, more her own.
Her offspring Memnon, by Achilles slain,
She saw extended on the Phrygian plain:
She saw, and strait the purple beams, that grace
The rosie morning, vanish'd from her face;
A deadly pale her wonted bloom invades,
And veils the lowring skies with mournful shades.
But when his limbs upon the pile were laid,
The last kind duty that by friends is paid,
His mother to the skies directs her flight,
Nor cou'd sustain to view the doleful sight:
But frantick, with her loose neglected hair,
Hastens to Jove, and falls a suppliant there.
O king of Heav'n, o father of the skies,
The weeping Goddess passionately cries,
Tho' I the meanest of immortals am,
And fewest temples celebrate my fame,
Yet still a Goddess, I presume to come
Within the verge of your etherial dome:
Yet still may plead some merit, if my light
With purple dawn controuls the Pow'rs of night;
If from a female hand that virtue springs,
Which to the Gods, and men such pleasure brings.
Yet I nor honours seek, nor rites divine,
Nor for more altars, or more fanes repine;
Oh! that such trifles were the only cause,
From whence Aurora's mind its anguish draws!
For Memnon lost, my dearest only child,
With weightier grief my heavy heart is fill'd;
My warrior son! that liv'd but half his time,
Nipt in the bud, and blasted in his prime;
Who for his uncle early took the field,
And by Achilles' fatal spear was kill'd.
To whom but Jove shou'd I for succour come?
For Jove alone cou'd fix his cruel doom.
O sov'reign of the Gods accept my pray'r,
Grant my request, and sooth a mother's care;
On the deceas'd some solemn boon bestow,
To expiate the loss, and ease my woe.
Jove, with a nod, comply'd with her desire;
Around the body flam'd the fun'ral fire;
The pile decreas'd, that lately seem'd so high,
And sheets of smoak roll'd upward to the sky:
As humid vapours from a marshy bog,
Rise by degrees, condensing into fog,
That intercept the sun's enliv'ning ray,
And with a cloud infect the chearful day.
The sooty ashes wafted by the air,
Whirl round, and thicken in a body there;
Then take a form, which their own heat, and fire
With active life, and energy inspire.
Its lightness makes it seem to fly, and soon
It skims on real wings, that are its own;
A real bird, it beats the breezy wind,
Mix'd with a thousand sisters of the kind,
That, from the same formation newly sprung,
Up-born aloft on plumy pinions hung.
Thrice round the pile advanc'd the circling throng.
Thrice, with their wings, a whizzing consort rung.
In the fourth flight their squadron they divide,
Rank'd in two diff'rent troops, on either side:
Then two, and two, inspir'd with martial rage,
From either troop in equal pairs engage.
Each combatant with beak, and pounces press'd,
In wrathful ire, his adversary's breast;
Each falls a victim, to preserve the fame
Of that great hero, whence their being came.
From him their courage, and their name they take,
And, as they liv'd, they dye for Memnon's sake.
Punctual to time, with each revolving year,
In fresh array the champion birds appear;
Again, prepar'd with vengeful minds, they come
To bleed, in honour of the souldier's tomb.
Therefore in others it appear'd not strange,
To grieve for Hecuba's unhappy change:
But poor Aurora had enough to do
With her own loss, to mind another's woe;
Who still in tears, her tender nature shews,
Besprinkling all the world with pearly dews.
The Voyage of Aeneas
Troy thus destroy'd, 'twas still deny'd by Fate,
The hopes of Troy should perish with the state.
His sire, the son of Cytherea bore,
And household-Gods from burning Ilium's shore,
The pious prince (a double duty paid)
Each sacred burthen thro' the flames convey'd.
With young Ascanius, and this only prize,
Of heaps of wealth, he from Antandros flies;
But struck with horror, left the Thracian shore,
Stain'd with the blood of murder'd Polydore.
The Delian isle receives the banish'd train,
Driv'n by kind gales, and favour'd by the main.
Here pious Anius, priest, and monarch reign'd,
And either charge, with equal care sustain'd,
His subjects rul'd, to Phoebus homage pay'd,
His God obeying, and by those obey'd.
The priest displays his hospitable gate,
And shows the riches of his church, and state
The sacred shrubs, which eas'd Latona's pain,
The palm, and olive, and the votive fane.
Here grateful flames with fuming incense fed,
And mingled wine, ambrosial odours shed;
Of slaughter'd steers the crackling entrails burn'd:
And then the strangers to the court return'd.
On beds of tap'stry plac'd aloft, they dine
With Ceres' gift, and flowing bowls of wine;
When thus Anchises spoke, amidst the feast:
Say, mitred monarch, Phoebus' chosen priest,
Or (e'er from Troy by cruel Fate expell'd)
When first mine eyes these sacred walls beheld,
A son, and twice two daughters crown'd thy bliss?
Or errs my mem'ry, and I judge amiss?
The royal prophet shook his hoary head,
With snowy fillets bound, and sighing, said:
Thy mem'ry errs not, prince; thou saw'st me then,
The happy father of so large a train;
Behold me now (such turns of chance befall
The race of man!), almost bereft of all.
For (ah!) what comfort can my son bestow,
What help afford, to mitigate my woe!
While far from hence, in Andros' isle he reigns,
(From him so nam'd) and there my place sustains.
Him Delius praescience gave; the twice-born God
A boon more wond'rous on the maids bestow'd.
Whate'er they touch'd, he gave them to transmute
(A gift past credit, and above their suit)
To Ceres, Bacchus, and Minerva's fruit.
How great their value, and how rich their use,
Whose only touch such treasures could produce!
The dire destroyer of the Trojan reign,
Fierce Agamemnon, such a prize to gain
(A proof we also were design'd by Fate
To feel the tempest, that o'erturn'd your state),
With force superior, and a ruffian crew,
From these weak arms, the helpless virgins drew:
And sternly bad them use the grant divine,
To keep the fleet in corn, and oil, and wine.
Each, as they could, escap'd: two strove to gain
Euboea's isle, and two their brother's reign.
The soldier follows, and demands the dames;
If held by force, immediate war proclaims.
Fear conquer'd Nature in their brother's mind,
And gave them up to punishment assign'd.
Forgive the deed; nor Hector's arm was there,
Nor thine, Aeneas, to maintain the war;
Whose only force upheld your Ilium's tow'rs,
For ten long years, against the Grecian pow'rs.
Prepar'd to bind their captive arms in bands,
To Heav'n they rear'd their yet unfetter'd hands,
Help, Bacchus, author of the gift, they pray'd;
The gift's great author gave immediate aid;
If such destruction of their human frame
By ways so wond'rous, may deserve the name;
Nor could I hear, nor can I now relate
Exact, the manner of their alter'd state;
But this in gen'ral of my loss I knew,
Transform'd to doves, on milky plumes they flew,
Such as on Ida's mount thy consort's chariot drew.
With such discourse, they entertain'd the feast;
Then rose from table, and withdrew to rest.
The following morn, ere Sol was seen to shine,
Th' inquiring Trojans sought the sacred shrine;
The mystick Pow'r commands them to explore
Their ancient mother, and a kindred shore.
Attending to the sea, the gen'rous prince
Dismiss'd his guests with rich munificence,
In old Anchises' hand a sceptre plac'd,
A vest, and quiver young Ascanius grac'd,
His sire, a cup; which from th' Aonian coast,
Ismenian Therses sent his royal host.
Alcon of Myle made what Therses sent,
And carv'd thereon this ample argument.
A town with sev'n distinguish'd gates was shown,
Which spoke its name, and made the city known;
Before it, piles, and tombs, and rising flames,
The rites of death, and quires of mourning dames,
Who bar'd their breasts, and gave their hair to flow,
The signs of grief, and marks of publick woe.
Their fountains dry'd, the weeping Naiads mourn'd,
The trees stood bare, with searing cankers burn'd,
No herbage cloath'd the ground, a ragged flock
Of goats half-famish'd, lick'd the naked rock,
Of manly courage, and with mind serene,
Orion's daughters in the town were seen;
One heav'd her chest to meet the lifted knife,
One plung'd the poyniard thro' the seat of life,
Their country's victims; mourns the rescu'd state,
The bodies burns, and celebrates their Fate.
To save the failure of th' illustrious line,
From the pale ashes rose, of form divine,
Two gen'rous youths; these, fame Coronae calls,
Who join the pomp, and mourn their mother's falls.
These burnish'd figures form'd of antique mold,
Shone on the brass, with rising sculpture bold;
A wreath of gilt Acanthus round the brim was roll'd.
Nor less expence the Trojan gifts express'd;
A fuming censer for the royal priest,
A chalice, and a crown of princely cost,
With ruddy gold, and sparkling gems emboss'd.
Now hoisting sail, to Crete the Trojans stood,
Themselves remembring sprung from Teucer's blood;
But Heav'n forbids, and pestilential Jove
From noxious skies, the wand'ring navy drove.
Her hundred cities left, from Crete they bore,
And sought the destin'd land, Ausonia's shore;
But toss'd by storms at either Strophas lay,
'Till scar'd by Harpies from the faithless bay.
Then passing onward with a prosp'rous wind,
Left sly Ulysses' spacious realms behind;
Ambracia's state, in former ages known.
The strife of Gods, the judge transform'd to stone
They saw; for Actian Phoebus since renown'd,
Who Caesar's arms with naval conquest crown'd;
Next pass'd Dodona, wont of old to boast
Her vocal forest; and Chaonia's coast,
Where king Molossus' sons on wings aspir'd,
And saw secure the harmless fewel fir'd.
Now to Phaeacia's happy isle they came,
For fertile orchards known to early fame;
Epirus past, they next beheld with joy
A second Ilium, and fictitious Troy;
Here Trojan Helenus the sceptre sway'd,
Who show'd their fate and mystick truths display'd.
By him confirm'd Sicilia's isle they reach'd,
Whose sides to sea three promontories stretch'd,
Pachynos to the stormy south is plac'd,
On Lilybaeum blows the gentle west,
Peloro's cliffs the northern bear survey,
Who rolls above, and dreads to touch the sea.
By this they steer, and favour'd by the tide,
Secure by night in Zancle's harbour ride.
Here cruel Scylla guards the rocky shore,
And there the waves of loud Charybdis roar:
This sucks, and vomits ships, and bodies drown'd;
And rav'nous dogs the womb of that surround,
In face a virgin; and (if ought be true
By bards recorded) once a virgin too.
A train of youths in vain desir'd her bed;
By sea-nymphs lov'd, to nymphs of seas she fled;
The maid to these, with female pride, display'd
Their baffled courtship, and their love betray'd.
When Galatea thus bespoke the fair
(But first she sigh'd), while Scylla comb'd her hair:
You, lovely maid, a gen'rous race pursues,
Whom safe you may (as now you do) refuse;
To me, tho' pow'rful in a num'rous train
Of sisters, sprung from Gods, who rule the main,
My native seas could scarce a refuge prove,
To shun the fury of the Cyclops' love,
Tears choak'd her utt'rance here; the pity'ng maid
With marble fingers wip'd them off, and said:
My dearest Goddess, let thy Scylla know,
(For I am faithful) whence these sorrows flow.
The maid's intreaties o'er the nymph prevail,
Who thus to Scylla tells the mournful tale.
The Story of Acis, Polyphemus and Galatea
Acis, the lovely youth, whose loss I mourn,
From Faunus, and the nymph Symethis born,
Was both his parents' pleasure; but, to me
Was all that love could make a lover be.
The Gods our minds in mutual bands did join:
I was his only joy, and he was mine.
Now sixteen summers the sweet youth had seen;
And doubtful down began to shade his chin:
When Polyphemus first disturb'd our joy;
And lov'd me fiercely, as I lov'd the boy.
Ask not which passion in my soul was high'r,
My last aversion, or my first desire:
Nor this the greater was, nor that the less;
Both were alike, for both were in excess.
Thee, Venus, thee both Heav'n, and Earth obey;
Immense thy pow'r, and boundless is thy sway.
The Cyclops, who defy'd th' aetherial throne,
And thought no thunder louder than his own,
The terror of the woods, and wilder far
Than wolves in plains, or bears in forests are,
Th' inhuman host, who made his bloody feasts
On mangl'd members of his butcher'd guests,
Yet felt the force of love, and fierce desire,
And burnt for me, with unrelenting fire.
Forgot his caverns, and his woolly care,
Assum'd the softness of a lover's air;
And comb'd, with teeth of rakes, his rugged hair.
Now with a crooked scythe his beard he sleeks;
And mows the stubborn stubble of his cheeks:
Now in the crystal stream he looks, to try
His simagres, and rowls his glaring eye.
His cruelty, and thirst of blood are lost;
And ships securely sail along the coast.
The prophet Telemus (arriv'd by chance
Where Aetna's summets to the seas advance,
Who mark'd the tracts of every bird that flew,
And sure presages from their flying drew)
Foretold the Cyclops, that Ulysses' hand
In his broad eye shou'd thrust a flaming brand.
The giant, with a scornful grin, reply'd,
Vain augur, thou hast falsely prophesy'd;
Already love his flaming brand has tost;
Looking on two fair eyes, my sight I lost,
Thus, warn'd in vain, with stalking pace he strode,
And stamp'd the margin of the briny flood
With heavy steps; and weary, sought agen
The cool retirement of his gloomy den.
A promontory, sharp'ning by degrees,
Ends in a wedge, and overlooks the seas:
On either side, below, the water flows;
This airy walk the giant lover chose.
Here on the midst he sate; his flocks, unled,
Their shepherd follow'd, and securely fed.
A pine so burly, and of length so vast,
That sailing ships requir'd it for a mast,
He wielded for a staff, his steps to guide:
But laid it by, his whistle while he try'd.
A hundred reeds of a prodigious growth,
Scarce made a pipe, proportion'd to his mouth:
Which when he gave it wind, the rocks around,
And watry plains, the dreadful hiss resound.
I heard the ruffian-shepherd rudely blow,
Where, in a hollow cave, I sat below;
On Acis' bosom I my head reclin'd:
And still preserve the poem in my mind.
Oh lovely Galatea, whiter far
Than falling snows, and rising lillies are;
More flowry than the meads, as chrystal bright:
Erect as alders, and of equal height:
More wanton than a kid, more sleek thy skin,
Than orient shells, that on the shores are seen,
Than apples fairer, when the boughs they lade;
Pleasing, as winter suns, or summer shade:
More grateful to the sight, than goodly plains;
And softer to the touch, than down of swans;
Or curds new turn'd; and sweeter to the taste
Than swelling grapes, that to the vintage haste:
More clear than ice, or running streams, that stray
Through garden plots, but ah! more swift than they.
Yet, Galatea, harder to be broke
Than bullocks, unreclaim'd, to bear the yoke,
And far more stubborn, than the knotted oak:
Like sliding streams, impossible to hold;
Like them, fallacious, like their fountains, cold.
More warping, than the willow, to decline
My warm embrace, more brittle, than the vine;
Immovable, and fixt in thy disdain:
Tough, as these rocks, and of a harder grain.
More violent, than is the rising flood;
And the prais'd peacock is not half so proud.
Fierce, as the fire, and sharp, as thistles are,
And more outragious, than a mother-bear:
Deaf, as the billows to the vows I make;
And more revengeful, than a trodden snake.
In swiftness fleeter, than the flying hind,
Or driven tempests, or the driving wind.
All other faults, with patience I can bear;
But swiftness is the vice I only fear.
Yet if you knew me well, you wou'd not shun
My love, but to my wish'd embraces run:
Wou'd languish in your turn, and court my stay;
And much repent of your unwise delay.
My palace, in the living rock, is made
By Nature's hand; a spacious pleasing shade:
Which neither heat can pierce, nor cold invade.
My garden fill'd with fruits you may behold,
And grapes in clusters, imitating gold;
Some blushing bunches of a purple hue:
And these, and those, are all reserv'd for you.
Red strawberries, in shades, expecting stand,
Proud to be gather'd by so white a hand.
Autumnal cornels latter fruit provide;
And plumbs, to tempt you, turn their glossy side:
Not those of common kinds; but such alone,
As in Phaeacian orchards might have grown:
Nor chestnuts shall be wanting to your food,
Nor garden-fruits, nor wildings of the wood;
The laden boughs for you alone shall bear;
And yours shall be the product of the year.
The flocks you see, are all my own; beside
The rest that woods, and winding vallies hide;
And those that folded in the caves abide.
Ask not the numbers of my growing store;
Who knows how many, knows he has no more.
Nor will I praise my cattle; trust not me,
But judge your self, and pass your own decree:
Behold their swelling dugs; the sweepy weight
Of ewes, that sink beneath the milky freight;
In the warm folds their tender lambkins lye;
Apart from kids, that call with human cry.
New milk in nut-brown bowls is duely serv'd
For daily drink; the rest for cheese reserv'd.
Nor are these household dainties all my store:
The fields, and forests will afford us more;
The deer, the hare, the goat, the savage boar.
All sorts of ven'son; and of birds the best;
A pair of turtles taken from the nest.
I walk'd the mountains, and two cubs I found
(Whose dam had left 'em on the naked ground),
So like, that no distinction could be seen:
So pretty, they were presents for a queen;
And so they shall; I took them both away;
And keep, to be companions of your play.
Oh raise, fair nymph, your beauteous face above
The waves; nor scorn my presents, and my love.
Come, Galatea, come, and view my face;
I late beheld it, in the watry glass;
And found it lovelier, than I fear'd it was.
Survey my towring stature, and my size:
Not Jove, the Jove you dream, that rules the skies,
Bears such a bulk, or is so largely spread:
My locks (the plenteous harvest of my head)
Hang o'er my manly face; and dangling down,
As with a shady grove, my shoulders crown.
Nor think, because my limbs and body bear
A thick-set underwood of bristling hair,
My shape deform'd; what fouler sight can be,
Than the bald branches of a leafless tree?
Foul is the steed without a flowing mane:
And birds, without their feathers, and their train.
Wool decks the sheep; and Man receives a grace
From bushy limbs, and from a bearded face.
My forehead with a single eye is fill'd,
Round, as a ball, and ample, as a shield.
The glorious lamp of Heav'n, the radiant sun,
Is Nature's eye; and she's content with one.
Add, that my father sways your seas, and I,
Like you, am of the watry family.
I make you his, in making you my own;
You I adore; and kneel to you alone:
Jove, with his fabled thunder, I despise,
And only fear the lightning of your eyes.
Frown not, fair nymph; yet I cou'd bear to be
Disdain'd, if others were disdain'd with me.
But to repulse the Cyclops, and prefer
The love of Acis (Heav'ns!) I cannot bear.
But let the stripling please himself; nay more,
Please you, tho' that's the thing I most abhor;
The boy shall find, if e'er we cope in fight,
These giant limbs, endu'd with giant might.
His living bowels from his belly torn,
And scatter'd limbs shall on the flood be born:
Thy flood, ungrateful nymph; and fate shall find,
That way for thee, and Acis to be join'd.
For oh! I burn with love, and thy disdain
Augments at once my passion, and my pain.
Translated Aetna flames within my heart,
And thou, inhuman, wilt not ease my smart.
Lamenting thus in vain, he rose, and strode
With furious paces to the neighb'ring wood:
Restless his feet, distracted was his walk;
Mad were his motions, and confus'd his talk.
Mad, as the vanquish'd bull, when forc'd to yield
His lovely mistress, and forsake the field.
Thus far unseen I saw: when fatal chance,
His looks directing, with a sudden glance,
Acis and I were to his sight betray'd;
Where, nought suspecting, we securely play'd.
From his wide mouth a bellowing cry he cast,
I see, I see; but this shall be your last:
A roar so loud made Aetna to rebound:
And all the Cyclops labour'd in the sound.
Affrighted with his monstrous voice, I fled,
And in the neighbouring ocean plung'd my head.
Poor Acis turn'd his back, and Help, he cry'd,
Help, Galatea, help, my parent Gods,
And take me dying to your deep abodes.
The Cyclops follow'd; but he sent before
A rib, which from the living rock he tore:
Though but an angle reach'd him of the stone,
The mighty fragment was enough alone,
To crush all Acis; 'twas too late to save,
But what the Fates allow'd to give, I gave:
That Acis to his lineage should return;
And rowl, among the river Gods, his urn.
Straight issu'd from the stone a stream of blood;
Which lost the purple, mingling with the flood,
Then, like a troubled torrent, it appear'd:
The torrent too, in little space, was clear'd.
The stone was cleft, and through the yawning chink
New reeds arose, on the new river's brink.
The rock, from out its hollow womb, disclos'd
A sound like water in its course oppos'd,
When (wond'rous to behold), full in the flood,
Up starts a youth, and navel high he stood.
Horns from his temples rise; and either horn
Thick wreaths of reeds (his native growth) adorn.
Were not his stature taller than before,
His bulk augmented, and his beauty more,
His colour blue; for Acis he might pass:
And Acis chang'd into a stream he was,
But mine no more; he rowls along the plains
With rapid motion, and his name retains.
The Story of Glaucus and Scylla
Here ceas'd the nymph; the fair assembly broke,
The sea-green Nereids to the waves betook:
While Scylla, fearful of the wide-spread main,
Swift to the safer shore returns again.
There o'er the sandy margin, unarray'd,
With printless footsteps flies the bounding maid;
Or in some winding creek's secure retreat
She baths her weary limbs, and shuns the noonday's heat.
Her Glaucus saw, as o'er the deep he rode,
New to the seas, and late receiv'd a God.
He saw, and languish'd for the virgin's love;
With many an artful blandishment he strove
Her flight to hinder, and her fears remove.
The more he sues, the more she wings her flight,
And nimbly gains a neighb'ring mountain's height.
Steep shelving to the margin of the flood,
A neighb'ring mountain bare, and woodless stood;
Here, by the place secur'd, her steps she stay'd,
And, trembling still, her lover's form survey'd.
His shape, his hue, her troubled sense appall,
And dropping locks that o'er his shoulders fall;
She sees his face divine, and manly brow,
End in a fish's wreathy tail below:
She sees, and doubts within her anxious mind,
Whether he comes of God, or monster kind.
This Glaucus soon perceiv'd; and, Oh! forbear
(His hand supporting on a rock lay near),
Forbear, he cry'd, fond maid, this needless fear.
Nor fish am I, nor monster of the main,
But equal with the watry Gods I reign;
Nor Proteus, nor Palaemon me excell,
Nor he whose breath inspires the sounding shell.
My birth, 'tis true, I owe to mortal race,
And I my self but late a mortal was:
Ev'n then in seas, and seas alone, I joy'd;
The seas my hours, and all my cares employ'd,
In meshes now the twinkling prey I drew;
Now skilfully the slender line I threw,
And silent sat the moving float to view.
Not far from shore, there lies a verdant mead,
With herbage half, and half with water spread:
There, nor the horned heifers browsing stray,
Nor shaggy kids, nor wanton lambkins play;
There, nor the sounding bees their nectar cull,
Nor rural swains their genial chaplets pull,
Nor flocks, nor herds, nor mowers haunt the place,
To crop the flow'rs, or cut the bushy grass:
Thither, sure first of living race came I,
And sat by chance, my dropping nets to dry.
My scaly prize, in order all display'd,
By number on the greensward there I lay'd,
My captives, whom or in my nets I took,
Or hung unwary on my wily hook.
Strange to behold! yet what avails a lye?
I saw 'em bite the grass, as I sate by;
Then sudden darting o'er the verdant plain,
They spread their finns, as in their native main:
I paus'd, with wonder struck, while all my prey
Left their new master, and regain'd the sea.
Amaz'd, within my secret self I sought,
What God, what herb the miracle had wrought:
But sure no herbs have pow'r like this, I cry'd;
And strait I pluck'd some neighb'ring herbs, and try'd.
Scarce had I bit, and prov'd the wond'rous taste,
When strong convulsions shook my troubled breast;
I felt my heart grow fond of something strange,
And my whole Nature lab'ring with a change.
Restless I grew, and ev'ry place forsook,
And still upon the seas I bent my look.
Farewel for ever! farewel, land! I said;
And plung'd amidst the waves my sinking head.
The gentle Pow'rs, who that low empire keep,
Receiv'd me as a brother of the deep;
To Tethys, and to Ocean old, they pray
To purge my mortal earthy parts away.
The watry parents to their suit agreed,
And thrice nine times a secret charm they read,
Then with lustrations purify my limbs,
And bid me bathe beneath a hundred streams:
A hundred streams from various fountains run,
And on my head at once come rushing down.
Thus far each passage I remember well,
And faithfully thus far the tale I tell;
But then oblivion dark, on all my senses fell.
Again at length my thought reviving came,
When I no longer found my self the same;
Then first this sea-green beard I felt to grow,
And these large honours on my spreading brow;
My long-descending locks the billows sweep,
And my broad shoulders cleave the yielding deep;
My fishy tail, my arms of azure hue,
And ev'ry part divinely chang'd, I view.
But what avail these useless honours now?
What joys can immortality bestow?
What, tho' our Nereids all my form approve?
What boots it, while fair Scylla scorns my love?
Thus far the God; and more he wou'd have said;
When from his presence flew the ruthless maid.
Stung with repulse, in such disdainful sort,
He seeks Titanian Circe's horrid court.