The Empty Purse--A Sermon To Our Later Prodigal Son
Thou, run to the dry on this wayside bank,
Too plainly of all the propellers bereft!
Quenched youth, and is that thy purse?
Even such limp slough as the snake has left
Slack to the gale upon spikes of whin,
For cast-off coat of a life gone blank,
In its frame of a grin at the seeker, is thine;
And thine to crave and to curse
The sweet thing once within.
Accuse him: some devil committed the theft,
Which leaves of the portly a skin,
No more; of the weighty a whine.
Pursue him: and first, to be sure of his track,
Over devious ways that have led to this,
In the stream's consecutive line,
Let memory lead thee back
To where waves Morning her fleur-de-lys,
Unflushed at the front of the roseate door
Unopened yet: never shadow there
Of a Tartarus lighted by Dis
For souls whose cry is, alack!
An ivory cradle rocks, apeep
Through his eyelashes' laugh, a breathing pearl.
There the young chief of the animals wore
A likeness to heavenly hosts, unaware
Of his love of himself; with the hours at leap.
In a dingle away from a rutted highroad,
Around him the earliest throstle and merle,
Our human smile between milk and sleep,
Effervescent of Nature he crowed.
Fair was that season; furl over furl
The banners of blossom; a dancing floor
This earth; very angels the clouds; and fair
Thou on the tablets of forehead and breast:
Careless, a centre of vigilant care.
Thy mother kisses an infant curl.
The room of the toys was a boundless nest,
A kingdom the field of the games,
Till entered the craving for more,
And the worshipped small body had aims.
A good little idol, as records attest,
When they tell of him lightly appeased in a scream
By sweets and caresses: he gave but sign
That the heir of a purse-plumped dominant race,
Accustomed to plenty, not dumb would pine.
Almost magician, his earliest dream
Was lord of the unpossessed
For a look; himself and his chase,
As on puffs of a wind at whirl,
Made one in the wink of a gleam.
She kisses a locket curl,
She conjures to vision a cherub face,
When her butterfly counted his day
All meadow and flowers, mishap
Derided, and taken for play
The fling of an urchin's cap.
When her butterfly showed him an eaglet born,
For preying too heedlessly bred,
What a heart clapped in thee then!
With what fuller colours of morn!
And high to the uttermost heavens it flew,
Swift as on poet's pen.
It flew to be wedded, to wed
The mystery scented around:
Issue of flower and dew,
Issue of light and sound:
Thinner than either; a thread
Spun of the dream they threw
To kindle, allure, evade.
It ran the sea-wave, the garden's dance,
To the forest's dark heart down a dappled glade;
Led on by a perishing glance,
By a twinkle's eternal waylaid.
Woman, the name was, when she took form;
Sheaf of the wonders of life. She fled,
Close imaged; she neared, far seen. How she made
Palpitate earth of the living and dead!
Did she not show thee the world designed
Solely for loveliness? Nested warm,
The day was the morrow in flight. And for thee,
She muted the discords, tuned, refined;
Drowned sharp edges beneath her cloak.
Eye of the waters, and throb of the tree,
Sliding on radiance, winging from shade,
With her witch-whisper o'er ruins, in reeds,
She sang low the song of her promise delayed;
Beckoned and died, as a finger of smoke
Astream over woodland. And was not she
History's heroines white on storm?
Remember her summons to valorous deeds.
Shone she a lure of the honey-bag swarm,
Most was her beam on the knightly: she led
For the honours of manhood more than the prize;
Waved her magnetical yoke
Whither the warrior bled,
Ere to the bower of sighs.
And shy of her secrets she was; under deeps
Plunged at the breath of a thirst that woke
The dream in the cave where the Dreaded sleeps.
Away over heaven the young heart flew,
And caught many lustres, till some one said
(Or was it the thought into hearing grew?),
NOT THOU AS COMMONER MEN!
Thy stature puffed and it swayed,
It stiffened to royal-erect;
A brassy trumpet brayed;
A whirling seized thy head;
The vision of beauty was flecked.
Note well the how and the when,
The thing that prompted and sped.
Thereanon the keen passions clapped wing,
Fixed eye, and the world was prey.
No simple world of thy greenblade Spring,
Nor world of thy flowerful prime
On the topmost Orient peak
Above a yet vaporous day.
Flesh was it, breast to beak:
A four-walled windowless world without ray,
Only darkening jets on a river of slime,
Where harsh over music as woodland jay,
A voice chants, Woe to the weak!
And along an insatiate feast,
Women and men are one
In the cup transforming to beast.
Magian worship they paid to their sun,
Lord of the Purse! Behold him climb.
Stalked ever such figure of fun
For monarch in great-grin pantomime?
See now the heart dwindle, the frame distend;
The soul to its anchorite cavern retreat,
From a life that reeks of the rotted end;
While he--is he pictureable? replete,
Gourd-like swells of the rank of the soil,
Hollow, more hollow at core.
And for him did the hundreds toil
Despised; in the cold and heat,
This image ridiculous bore
On their shoulders for morsels of meat!
Gross, with the fumes of incense full,
With parasites tickled, with slaves begirt,
He strutted, a cock, he bellowed, a bull,
He rolled him, a dog, in dirt.
And dog, bull, cook, was he, fanged, horned, plumed;
Original man, as philosophers vouch;
Carnivorous, cannibal; length-long exhumed,
Frightfully living and armed to devour;
The primitive weapons of prey in his pouch;
The bait, the line and the hook:
To feed on his fellows intent.
God of the Danae shower,
He had but to follow his bent.
He battened on fowl not safely hutched,
On sheep astray from the crook;
A lure for the foolish in fold:
To carrion turning what flesh he touched.
And O the grace of his air,
As he at the goblet sips,
A centre of girdles loosed,
With their grisly label, Sold!
Credulous hears the fidelity swear,
Which has roving eyes over yielded lips:
To-morrow will fancy himself the seduced,
The stuck in a treacherous slough,
Because of his faith in a purchased pair,
False to a vinous vow.
In his glory of banquet strip him bare,
And what is the creature we view?
Our pursy Apollo Apollyon's tool;
A small one, still of the crew
By serpent Apollyon blest:
His plea in apology, blindfold Fool.
A fool surcharged, propelled, unwarned;
Not viler, you hear him protest:
Of a popular countenance not incorrect.
But deeds are the picture in essence, deeds
Paint him the hooved and homed,
Despite the poor pother he pleads,
And his look of a nation's elect.
We have him, our quarry confessed!
And scan him: the features inspect
Of that bestial multiform: cry,
Corroborate I, O Samian Sage!
The book of thy wisdom, proved
On me, its last hieroglyph page,
Alive in the horned and hooved?
Thou! will he make reply.
Thus has the plenary purse
Done often: to do will engage
Anew upon all of thy like, or worse.
And now is thy deepest regret
To be man, clean rescued from beast:
From the grip of the Sorcerer, Gold,
But now from his cavernous hold,
Free may thy soul be set,
As a child of the Death and the Life, to learn,
Refreshed by some bodily sweat,
The meaning of either in turn,
What issue may come of the two:-
A morn beyond mornings, beyond all reach
Of emotional arms at the stretch to enfold:
A firmament passing our visible blue.
To those having nought to reflect it, 'tis nought;
To those who are misty, 'tis mist on the beach
From the billow withdrawing; to those who see
Earth, our mother, in thought,
Her spirit it is, our key.
Ay, the Life and the Death are her words to us here,
Of one significance, pricking the blind.
This is thy gain now the surface is clear:
To read with a soul in the mirror of mind
Is man's chief lesson.--Thou smilest! I preach!
Acid smiling, my friend, reveals
Abysses within; frigid preaching a street
Paved unconcernedly smooth
For the lecturer straight on his heels,
Up and down a policeman's beat;
Bearing tonics not labelled to soothe.
Thou hast a disgust of the sermon in rhyme.
It is not attractive in being too chaste.
The popular tale of adventure and crime
Would equally sicken an overdone taste.
So, then, onward. Philosophy, thoughtless to soothe,
Lifts, if thou wilt, or there leaves thee supine.
Thy condition, good sooth, has no seeming of sweet;
It walks our first crags, it is flint for the tooth,
For the thirsts of our nature brine.
But manful has met it, manful will meet.
And think of thy privilege: supple with youth,
To have sight of the headlong swine,
Once fouling thee, jumping the dips!
As the coin of thy purse poured out:
An animal's holiday past:
And free of them thou, to begin a new bout;
To start a fresh hunt on a resolute blast:
No more an imp-ridden to bournes of eclipse:
Having knowledge to spur thee, a gift to compare;
Rubbing shoulder to shoulder, as only the book
Of the world can be read, by necessity urged.
For witness, what blinkers are they who look
From the state of the prince or the millionnaire!
They see but the fish they attract,
The hungers on them converged;
And never the thought in the shell of the act,
Nor ever life's fangless mirth.
But first, that the poisonous of thee be purged,
Go into thyself, strike Earth.
She is there, she is felt in a blow struck hard.
Thou findest a pugilist countering quick,
Cunning at drives where thy shutters are barred;
Not, after the studied professional trick,
Blue-sealing; she brightens the sight. Strike Earth,
Antaeus, young giant, whom fortune trips!
And thou com'st on a saving fact,
To nourish thy planted worth.
Be it clay, flint, mud, or the rubble of chips,
Thy roots have grasp in the stern-exact:
The redemption of sinners deluded! the last
Dry handful, that bruises and saves.
To the common big heart are we bound right fast,
When our Mother admonishing nips
At the nakedness bare of a clout,
And we crave what the commonest craves.
This wealth was a fortress-wall,
Under which grew our grim little beast-god stout;
Self-worshipped, the foe, in division from all;
With crowds of illogical Christians, no doubt;
Till the rescuing earthquake cracked.
Thus are we man made firm;
Made warm by the numbers compact.
We follow no longer a trumpet-snout,
At a trot where the hog is tracked,
Nor wriggle the way of the worm.
Thou wilt spare us the cynical pout
At humanity: sign of a nature bechurled.
No stenchy anathemas cast
Upon Providence, women, the world.
Distinguish thy tempers and trim thy wits.
The purchased are things of the mart, not classed
Among resonant types that have freely grown.
Thy knowledge of women might be surpassed:
As any sad dog's of sweet flesh when he quits
The wayside wandering bone!
No revilings of comrades as ingrates: thee
The tempter, misleader, and criminal (screened
By laws yet barbarous) own.
If some one performed Fiend's deputy,
He was for awhile the Fiend.
Still, nursing a passion to speak,
As the punch-bowl does, in the moral vein,
When the ladle has finished its leak,
And the vessel is loquent of nature's inane,
Hie where the demagogues roar
Like a Phalaris bull, with the victim's force:
Hurrah to their jolly attack
On a City that smokes of the Plain;
A city of sin's death-dyes,
Holding revel of worms in a corse;
A city of malady sore,
Over-ripe for the big doom's crack:
A city of hymnical snore;
Connubial truths and lies
Demanding an instant divorce,
Clean as the bright from the black.
It were well for thy system to sermonize.
There are giants to slay, and they call for their Jack.
Then up stand thou in the midst:
Thy good grain out of thee thresh,
Hand upon heart: relate
What things thou legally didst
For the Archseducer of flesh.
Omitting the murmurs of women and fate,
Confess thee an instrument armed
To be snare of our wanton, our weak,
Of all by the sensual charmed.
For once shall repentance be done by the tongue:
Speak, though execrate, speak
A word on grandmotherly Laws
Giving rivers of gold to our young,
In the days of their hungers impure;
To furnish them beak and claws,
And make them a banquet's lure.
Thou the example, saved
Miraculously by this poor skin!
Thereat let the Purse be waved:
The snake-slough sick of the snaky sin:
A devil, if devil as devil behaved
Ever, thou knowest, look thou but in,
Where he shivers, a culprit fettered and shaved;
O a bird stripped of feather, a fish clipped of fin!
And commend for a washing the torrents of wrath,
Which hurl at the foe of the dearest men prize
Rough-rolling boulders and froth.
Gigantical enginery they can command,
For the crushing of enemies not of great size:
But hold to thy desperate stand.
Men's right of bequeathing their all to their own
(With little regard for the creatures they squeezed);
Their mill and mill-water and nether mill-stone
Tied fast to their infant; lo, this is the last
Of their hungers, by prudent devices appeased.
The law they decree is their ultimate slave;
Wherein we perceive old Voracity glassed.
It works from their dust, and it reeks of their grave.
Point them to greener, though Journals be guns;
To brotherly fields under fatherly skies;
Where the savage still primitive learns of a debt
He has owed since he drummed on his belly for war;
And how for his giving, the more will he get;
For trusting his fellows, leave friends round his sons:
Till they see, with the gape of a startled surprise,
Their adored tyrant-monster a brute to abhor,
The sun of their system a father of flies!
So, for such good hope, take their scourge unashamed;
'Tis the portion of them who civilize,
Who speak the word novel and true:
How the brutish antique of our springs may be tamed,
Without loss of the strength that should push us to flower;
How the God of old time will act Satan of new,
If we keep him not straight at the higher God aimed;
For whose habitation within us we scour
This house of our life; where our bitterest pains
Are those to eject the Infernal, who heaps
Mire on the soul. Take stripes or chains;
Grip at thy standard reviled.
And what if our body be dashed from the steeps?
Our spoken in protest remains.
A young generation reaps.
The young generation! ah, there is the child
Of our souls down the Ages! to bleed for it, proof
That souls we have, with our senses filed,
Our shuttles at thread of the woof.
May it be braver than ours,
To encounter the rattle of hostile bolts,
To look on the rising of Stranger Powers.
May it know how the mind in expansion revolts
From a nursery Past with dead letters aloof,
And the piping to stupor of Precedents shun,
In a field where the forefather print of the hoof
Is not yet overgrassed by the watering hours,
And should prompt us to Change, as to promise of sun,
Till brain-rule splendidly towers.
For that large light we have laboured and tramped
Thorough forests and bogland, still to perceive
Our animate morning stamped
With the lines of a sombre eve.
A timorous thing ran the innocent hind,
When the wolf was the hypocrite fang under hood,
The snake a lithe lurker up sleeve,
And the lion effulgently ramped.
Then our forefather hoof did its work in the wood,
By right of the better in kind.
But now will it breed yon bestial brood
Three-fold thrice over, if bent to bind,
As the healthy in chains with the sick,
Unto despot usage our issuing mind.
It signifies battle or death's dull knell.
Precedents icily written on high
Challenge the Tentatives hot to rebel.
Our Mother, who speeds her bloomful quick
For the march, reads which the impediment well.
She smiles when of sapience is their boast.
O loose of the tug between blood run dry
And blood running flame may our offspring run!
May brain democratic be king of the host!
Less then shall the volumes of History tell
Of the stop in progression, the slip in relapse,
That counts us a sand-slack inch hard won
Beneath an oppressive incumbent perhaps.
Let the senile lords in a parchment sky,
And the generous turbulents drunken of morn,
Their battle of instincts put by,
A moment examine this field:
On a Roman street cast thoughtful eye,
Along to the mounts from the bog-forest weald.
It merits a glance at our history's maps,
To see across Britain's old shaggy unshorn,
Through the Parties in strife internecine, foot
The ruler's close-reckoned direct to the mark.
From the head ran the vanquisher's orderly route,
In the stride of his forts through the tangle and dark.
From the head runs the paved firm way for advance,
And we shoulder, we wrangle! The light on us shed
Shows dense beetle blackness in swarm, lurid Chance,
The Goddess of gamblers, above. From the head,
Then when it worked for the birth of a star
Fraternal with heaven's in beauty and ray,
Sprang the Acropolis. Ask what crown
Comes of our tides of the blood at war,
For men to bequeath generations down!
And ask what thou wast when the Purse was brimmed:
What high-bounding ball for the Gods at play:
A Conservative youth! who the cream-bowl skimmed,
Desiring affairs to be left as they are.
So, thou takest Youth's natural place in the fray,
As a Tentative, combating Peace,
Our lullaby word for decay. -
There will come an immediate decree
In thy mind for the opposite party's decease,
If he bends not an instant knee.
Expunge it: extinguishing counts poor gain.
And accept a mild word of police:-
Be mannerly, measured; refrain
From the puffings of him of the bagpipe cheeks.
Our political, even as the merchant main,
A temperate gale requires
For the ship that haven seeks;
Neither God of the winds nor his bellowsy squires.
Then observe the antagonist, con
His reasons for rocking the lullaby word.
You stand on a different stage of the stairs.
He fought certain battles, yon senile lord.
In the strength of thee, feel his bequest to his heirs.
We are now on his inches of ground hard won,
For a perch to a flight o'er his resting fence.
Does it knock too hard at thy head if I say,
That Time is both father and son?
Tough lesson, when senses are floods over sense! -
Discern the paternal of Now
As the Then of thy present tense.
You may pull as you will either way,
You can never be other than one.
So, be filial. Giants to slay
Demand knowing eyes in their Jack.
There are those whom we push from the path with respect.
Bow to that elder, though seeing him bow
To the backward as well, for a thunderous back
Upon thee. In his day he was not all wrong.
Unto some foundered zenith he strove, and was wrecked.
He scrambled to shore with a worship of shore.
The Future he sees as the slippery murk;
The Past as his doctrinal library lore.
He stands now the rock to the wave's wild wash.
Yet thy lumpish antagonist once did work
Heroical, one of our strong.
His gold to retain and his dross reject,
Engage him, but humour, not aiming to quash.
Detest the dead squat of the Turk,
And suffice it to move him along.
Drink of faith in the brains a full draught
Before the oration: beware
Lest rhetoric moonily waft
Whither horrid activities snare.
Rhetoric, juice for the mob
Despising more luminous grape,
Oft at its fount has it laughed
In the cataracts rolling for rape
Of a Reason left single to sob!
'Tis known how the permanent never is writ
In blood of the passions: mercurial they,
Shifty their issue: stir not that pit
To the game our brutes best play.
But with rhetoric loose, can we check man's brute?
Assemblies of men on their legs invoke
Excitement for wholesome diversion: there shoot
Electrical sparks between their dry thatch
And thy waved torch, more to kindle than light.
'Tis instant between you: the trick of a catch
(To match a Batrachian croak)
Will thump them a frenzy or fun in their veins.
Then may it be rather the well-worn joke
Thou repeatest, to stop conflagration, and write
Penance for rhetoric. Strange will it seem,
When thou readest that form of thy homage to brains!
For the secret why demagogues fail,
Though they carry hot mobs to the red extreme,
And knock out or knock in the nail
(We will rank them as flatly sincere,
Devoutly detesting a wrong,
Engines o'ercharged with our human steam),
Question thee, seething amid the throng.
And ask, whether Wisdom is born of blood-heat;
Or of other than Wisdom comes victory here; -
Aught more than the banquet and roundelay,
That is closed with a terrible terminal wail,
A retributive black ding-dong?
And ask of thyself: This furious Yea
Of a speech I thump to repeat,
In the cause I would have prevail,
For seed of a nourishing wheat,
IS IT ACCEPTED OF SONG?
Does it sound to the mind through the ear,
Right sober, pure sane? has it disciplined feet?
Thou wilt find it a test severe;
Unerring whatever the theme.
Rings it for Reason a melody clear,
We have bidden old Chaos retreat;
We have called on Creation to hear;
All forces that make us are one full stream.
Simple islander! thus may the spirit in verse,
Showing its practical value and weight,
Pipe to thee clear from the Empty Purse,
Lead thee aloft to that high estate. -
The test is conclusive, I deem:
It embraces or mortally bites.
We have then the key-note for debate:
A Senate that sits on the heights
Over discords, to shape and amend.
And no singer is needed to serve
The musical God, my friend.
Needs only his law on a sensible nerve:
A law that to Measure invites,
Forbidding the passions contend.
Is it accepted of Song?
And if then the blunt answer be Nay,
Dislink thee sharp from the ramping horde,
Slaves of the Goddess of hoar-old sway,
The Queen of delirious rites,
Queen of those issueless mobs, that rend
For frenzy the strings of a fruitful accord,
Pursuing insensate, seething in throng,
Their wild idea to its ashen end.
Off to their Phrygia, shriek and gong,
Shorn from their fellows, behold them wend!
But thou, should the answer ring Ay,
Hast warrant of seed for thy word:
The musical God is nigh
To inspirit and temper, tune it, and steer
Through the shoals: is it worthy of Song,
There are souls all woman to hear,
Woman to bear and renew.
For he is the Master of Measure, and weighs,
Broad as the arms of his blue,
Fine as the web of his rays,
Justice, whose voice is a melody clear,
The one sure life for the numbered long,
From him are the brutal and vain,
The vile, the excessive, out-thrust:
He points to the God on the upmost throne:
He is the saver of grain,
The sifter of spirit from dust.
He, Harmony, tells how to Measure pertain
The virilities: Measure alone
Has votaries rich in the male:
Fathers embracing no cloud,
Sowing no harvestless main:
Alike by the flesh and the spirit endowed
To create, to perpetuate; woo, win, wed;
Send progeny streaming, have earth for their own,
Over-run the insensates, disperse with a puff
Simulacra, though solid they sail,
And seem such imperial stuff:
Yes, the living divide off the dead.
Then thou with thy furies outgrown,
Not as Cybele's beast will thy head lash tail
So praeter-determinedly thermonous,
Nor thy cause be an Attis far fled.
Thou under stress of the strife
Shalt hear for sustainment supreme
The cry of the conscience of Life:
KEEP THE YOUNG GENERATIONS IN HAIL,
AND BEQUEATH THEM NO TUMBLED HOUSE!
There hast thou the sacred theme,
Therein the inveterate spur,
Of the Innermost. See her one blink
In vision past eyeballs. Not thee
She cares for, but us. Follow her.
Follow her, and thou wilt not sink.
With thy soul the Life espouse:
This Life of the visible, audible, ring
With thy love tight about; and no death will be;
The name be an empty thing,
And woe a forgotten old trick:
And battle will come as a challenge to drink;
As a warrior's wound each transient sting.
She leads to the Uppermost link by link;
Exacts but vision, desires not vows.
Above us the singular number to see;
The plural warm round us; ourself in the thick,
A dot or a stop: that is our task;
Her lesson in figured arithmetic,
For the letters of Life behind its mask;
Her flower-like look under fearful brows.
As for thy special case, O my friend, one must think
Massilia's victim, who held the carouse
For the length of a carnival year,
Knew worse: but the wretch had his opening choice.
For thee, by our law, no alternatives were:
Thy fall was assured ere thou camest to a voice.
He cancelled the ravaging Plague,
With the roll of his fat off the cliff.
Do thou with thy lean as the weapon of ink,
Though they call thee an angler who fishes the vague
And catches the not too pink,
Attack one as murderous, knowing thy cause
Is the cause of community. Iterate,
Iterate, iterate, harp on the trite:
Our preacher to win is the supple in stiff:
Yet always in measure, with bearing polite:
The manner of one that would expiate
His share in grandmotherly Laws,
Which do the dark thing to destroy,
Under aspect of water so guilelessly white
For the general use, by the devils befouled.
Enough, poor prodigal boy!
Thou hast listened with patience; another had howled.
Repentance is proved, forgiveness is earned.
And 'tis bony: denied thee thy succulent half
Of the parable's blessing, to swineherd returned:
A Sermon thy slice of the Scriptural calf!
By my faith, there is feasting to come,
Not the less, when our Earth we have seen
Beneath and on surface, her deeds and designs:
Who gives us the man-loving Nazarene,
The martyrs, the poets, the corn and the vines.
By my faith in the head, she has wonders in loom;
Revelations, delights. I can hear a faint crow
Of the cock of fresh mornings, far, far, yet distinct;
As down the new shafting of mines,
A cry of the metally gnome.
When our Earth we have seen, and have linked
With the home of the Spirit to whom we unfold,
Imprisoned humanity open will throw
Its fortress gates, and the rivers of gold
For the congregate friendliness flow.
Then the meaning of Earth in her children behold:
Glad eyes, frank hands, and a fellowship real:
And laughter on lips, as the birds' outburst
At the flooding of light. No robbery then
The feast, nor a robber's abode the home,
For a furnished model of our first den!
Nor Life as a stationed wheel;
Nor History written in blood or in foam,
For vendetta of Parties in cursing accursed.
The God in the conscience of multitudes feel,
And we feel deep to Earth at her heart,
We have her communion with men,
New ground, new skies for appeal.
Yield into harness thy best and thy worst;
Away on the trot of thy servitude start,
Through the rigours and joys and sustainments of air.
If courage should falter, 'tis wholesome to kneel.
Remember that well, for the secret with some,
Who pray for no gift, but have cleansing in prayer,
And free from impurities tower-like stand.
I promise not more, save that feasting will come
To a mind and a body no longer inversed:
The sense of large charity over the land,
Earth's wheaten of wisdom dispensed in the rough,
And a bell ringing thanks for a sustenance meal
Through the active machine: lean fare,
But it carries a sparkle! And now enough,
And part we as comrades part,
To meet again never or some day or soon.
Our season of drought is reminder rude:-
No later than yesternoon,
I looked on the horse of a cart,
By the wayside water-trough.
How at every draught of his bride of thirst
His nostrils widened! The sight was good:
Food for us, food, such as first
Drew our thoughts to earth's lowly for food.
- quotes about robbery
- quotes about slavery
- quotes about numbers
- quotes about cleaning
- quotes about words
- quotes about speed
- quotes about revolution
- quotes about philosophy
- quotes about wisdom
When The Rivers Run Dry
when the rivers run dry
the fishes die
the mosses turn brown
the sands and pebbles
enslaved by the sun
stare at the clouds
looking for the mercy
the ferns wilt
and those birds and
pigs that used to come
and stop for a drink
on such a dryness
i keep faith
on this presence.
Till The Rivers Run Dry
You ask how long Ill love you
Its hard to explain but Ill try
Tell me how long has the sun been shining
Above us in the sky?
Till the last day of forever,
If I have it my way well stay together
Till the rivers run dry Ill be loving you.
Till the mountains have crumbled
Ill always be true
And if for some reason you say goodbye
Ask me how long I would cry
Till all the rivers run dry
This path that were walking
May be rough and rocky sometimes
But well believe in one another
Whatever we find
And when you need a hand to guide you
I will be there walking beside you
Till the rivers run dry
- quotes about illness
- quotes about walking
- quotes about mountains
- quotes about love
- quotes about seasons
- quotes about dance
- quotes about sky
- quotes about time
Sonnet- On Insurance
The modern trend's to insure everything,
Like house and house-hold articles from theft;
As unnatural events, the world can bring,
And penniless, a man can then be left.
Even our life must be insured these days,
As accidents and diseases afflict;
Our profession too must be safe always!
As losses great, life can on us inflict.
Does man insure his soul from devil's theft?
What Policy will guard his soul's good health?
What is the use of soul with grace bereft?
The purity of soul is our best wealth.
Faith is the Policy all men must take;
And preserve soul from sins for Heaven's sake.
Let not one word
be left unsaid.
Let not one song
be left unsung
or ever hung
out to dry.
So no one can ask
how or why?
For they both were left
in a head to die.
Speak your word.
Sing your song.
To keep it mute
in a head too long
leaves a vaccum
out in space
and inner frustration
left in place.
How The West Was Won & Where It Got Us
Blood from a stone
Water from wine.
Born under earplay design.
A stroke of bad luck,
Wrong place, wrong time.
Lets fly up out of the lime.
The story is a sad one, told many times.
The story of my life in trying times.
Just add water, stir in lime.
How the west was won and where it got us.
Canary got trapped, the uranium mine.
A stroke of bad luck, now the bird has died.
A marker to mark where my tears run dry.
I cross it, bless it, alkali.
The story is a sad one, told many times.
The story of my life in trying times.
Just add water, stir in lime.
How the west was won and where it got us.
I didnt wear glasses cause I thought it might rain.
Now I cant see anything.
I made a mistake, chalked it up to design.
I cracked through time, space, godless and dry.
I point my nose to the northern star,
Watch the decline from a hazy distance.
The story is a sad one, told many times.
The story of my life in trying times.
Just add water, stir in lime.
How the west was won and where it got us.
How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us
Blood from a stone, water from wine.
Born under earplay design.
A stroke of bad luck, wrong place, wrong time.
Let's fly up out of the lime.
The story is a sad one, told many times.
The story of my life in trying times.
Just add water, stir in lime.
How the west was won and where it got us.
Canary got trapped, the uranium mine.
A stroke of bad luck, now the bird has died.
A marker to mark where my tears run dry.
I cross it, bless it, alkali.
The story is a sad one, told many times.
The story of my life in trying times.
Just add water, stir in lime.
How the west was won and where it got us.
I didn't wear glasses cause I thought it might rain.
Now I can't see anything.
I made a mistake, chalked it up to design.
I cracked through time, space, Godless and dry.
I point my nose to the northern star,
Watch her decline from a hazy distance.
The story is a sad one, told many times.
The story of my life in trying times.
Just add water, stir in lime.
How the west was won and where it got us
The Dying Slave
Faint-gazing on the burning orb of day,
When Afric's injured son expiring lay,
His forehead cold, his labouring bosom bare,
His dewy temples, and his sable hair,
His poor companions kissed, and cried aloud,
Rejoicing, whilst his head in peace he bowed:--
Now thy long, long task is done,
Swiftly, brother, wilt thou run,
Ere to-morrow's golden beam
Glitter on thy parent stream,
Swiftly the delights to share,
The feast of joy that waits thee there.
Swiftly, brother, wilt thou ride
O'er the long and stormy tide,
Fleeter than the hurricane,
Till thou see'st those scenes again,
Where thy father's hut was reared,
Where thy mother's voice was heard;
Where thy infant brothers played
Beneath the fragrant citron shade;
Where through green savannahs wide
Cooling rivers silent glide,
Or the shrill cicalas sing
Ceaseless to their murmuring;
Where the dance, the festive song,
Of many a friend divided long,
Doomed through stranger lands to roam,
Shall bid thy spirit welcome home!
Fearless o'er the foaming tide
Again thy light canoe shall ride;
Fearless on the embattled plain
Thou shalt lift thy lance again;
Or, starting at the call of morn,
Wake the wild woods with thy horn;
Or, rushing down the mountain-slope,
O'ertake the nimble antelope;
Or lead the dance, 'mid blissful bands,
On cool Andracte's yellow sands;
Or, in the embowering orange-grove,
Tell to thy long-forsaken love
The wounds, the agony severe,
Thy patient spirit suffered here!
Fear not now the tyrant's power,
Past is his insulting hour;
Mark no more the sullen trait
On slavery's brow of scorn and hate;
Hear no more the long sigh borne
Murmuring on the gales of morn!
Go in peace; yet we remain
Far distant toiling on in pain;
Ere the great Sun fire the skies
To our work of woe we rise;
And see each night, without a friend,
The world's great comforter descend!
Tell our brethren, where ye meet,
Thus we toil with weary feet;
Yet tell them that Love's generous flame,
In joy, in wretchedness the same,
In distant worlds was ne'er forgot;
And tell them that we murmur not;
Tell them, though the pang will start,
And drain the life-blood from the heart,--
Tell them, generous shame forbids
The tear to stain our burning lids!
Tell them, in weariness and want,
For our native hills we pant,
Where soon, from shame and sorrow free,
We hope in death to follow thee!
Fingal - Book V
Cuthullin and Connal still remain on the hill. Fingal and Swaran meet: the combat is described. Swaran is overcome, bound, and delivered over as a prisoner to the care of Ossian, and Gaul, the son of Morni; Fingal, his younger sons and Oscar still pursue the enemy. The episode of Orla, a chief of Lochlin, who was mortally wounded in the battle, is introduced. Fingal, touched with the death of Orla, orders the pursuit to be discontinued; and calling his sons together, he is informed that Ryno, the youngest of them, was slain. He laments his death, hears the story of Lamderg and Gelchossa, and returns towards the place where he had left Swaran. Carril, who had been sent by Cuthullin to congratulate Fingal on his victory, comes in the mean time to Ossian. The conversation of the two poets closes the action of the fourth day.
On Cromla's resounding side Connal spoke to the chief of the noble car. Why that gloom, son of Semo? Our friends are the mighty in fight. Renowned art thou, O warrior! many were the deaths of thy steel. Often has Bragéla met, with blue-rolling eyes of joy: often has she met her hero returning in the midst of the valiant, when his sword was red with slaughter, when his foes were silent in the fields of the tomb. Pleasant to her ears were thy bards, when thy deeds, arose in song.
But behold the king of Morven! He moves, below, like a pillar of fire. His strength is like the stream of Lubar, or the wind of the echoing Cromla, when the branchy forests of night are torn from all their rocks. Happy are thy people, O Fingal! thine arm shall finish their wars. Thou art the first in their dangers: the wisest in the days of their peace. Thou speakest, and thy thousands obey: armies tremble at the sound of thy steel. Happy are thy people, O Fingal! king of resounding Selma. Who is that so dark and terrible coming in the thunder of his course? who but Starno's son, to meet the king of Morven? Behold the battle of the chiefs! it is the storm of the ocean, when two spirits meet far distant, and contend for the rolling of waves. The hunter hears the noise on his bill. He sees the high billows advancing to Ardven's shore.
Such were the words of Connal when the heroes met in fight. There was the clang of arms! there every blow, like the hundred hammers of the furnace! Terrible is the battle of the kings; dreadful the look of their eyes. Their dark-brown shields are cleft in twain. Their steel flies, broken, from their helms. They fling their weapons down. Each rushes to his hero's grasp; their sinewy arms bend round each other: they turn from side to side, and strain and stretch their large-spreading limbs below. But when the pride of their strength arose they shook the hill with their heels. Rocks tumble from their places on high; the green-headed bushes are overturned. At length the strength of Swaran fell; the king of the groves is bound. Thus have I seen on Cona; but Cona I behold no more! thus have I seen two dark hills removed from their place by the strength of their bursting stream. They turn from side to side in their fall; their tall oaks meet one another on high. Then they tumble together with all their rocks and trees. The streams are turned by their side. The red ruin is seen afar.
"Sons of distant Morven, "said Fingal, "guard the king of Lochlin. He is strong as his thousand waves. His hand is taught to war. His race is of the times of old. Gaul, thou first of my heroes; Ossian, king of songs attend. He is the friend of Agandecca; raise to joy his grief. But Oscar, Fillan, and Ryno, ye children of the race, pursue Lochlin over Lena, that no vessel may hereafter bound on the dark-rolling waves of Inistore."
They flew sudden across the heath. He slowly moved, like a cloud of thunder, when the sultry plain of summer is silent and dark. His sword is before him as a sunbeam; terrible as the streaming meteor of night. He came towards a chief of Lochlin. He spoke to the son of the wave. — "Who is that so dark and sad, at the rock of the roaring stream? He cannot bound over its course. How stately is the chief! His bossy shield is on his side; his spear like the tree f the desert. Youth of the dark-red hair, art thou of the foes of Fingal?"
"I am a son of Lochlin," he cries; "strong is my arm in war. My spouse is weeping at home. Orla shall never return!" "Or fights or yields the hero?" said Fingal of the noble deeds; "foes do not conquer in my presence: my friends are renowned in the hall. Son of the wave, follow me: partake the feast of my shells: pursue the deer of my desert: be thou the friend of Fingal." "No," said the hero: "I assist the feeble. My strength is with the weak in arms. My sword has been always unmatched, O warrior! let the king of Morven yield!" "I never yielded, Orla. Fingal never yielded to man. Draw thy sword, and choose thy foe. Many are my heroes!"
"Does then the king refuse the fight?" said Orla of the dark-brown shield. "Fingal is a match for Orla; and he alone of all his race! But, king of Morven, if I shall fall, as one time the warrior must die; raise my tomb in the midst: let it be the greatest on Lena. Send over the dark-blue wave, the sword of Orla to the spouse of his love, that she may show it to her son, with tears to kindle his soul to war." "Son of the mournful tale," said Fingal, "why dost thou awaken my tears! One day the warriors must die, and the children see their useless arms in the hall. But, Orla, thy tomb shall rise. Thy white-bosomed spouse shall weep over thy sword."
They fought on the heath of Lena. Feeble was the arm of Orla. The sword of Fingal descended, and cleft his shield in twain. It fell and glittered on the ground, as the moon on the ruffled stream. "King of Morven," said the hero, "lift thy sword and pierce my breast. Wounded and faint from battle, my friends have left me here. The mournful tale shall come to my love on the banks of the streamy Lota, when she is alone in the wood, and the rustling blast in the leaves!"
"No," said the king of Morven: "I will never wound thee, Orla. On the banks of Lota let her see thee, escaped from the hands of war. Let thy gray-haired father, who, perhaps, is blind with age, let him hear the sound of thy voice, and brighten within his hall. With joy let the hero rise, and search for the son with his hands!" "But never will he find him, Fingal," said the youth of the streamy Lota: "on Lena's heath I must die: foreign bards shall talk of me. My broad belt covers my wound of death. I give it to the wind!"
The dark blood poured from his side; he fell pale on the heath of Lena. Fingal bent over him as he died, and. called his younger chiefs. "Oscar and Fillan, my sons, raise high the memory of Orla. Here let the dark-haired hero rest, far from the spouse of his love. Here let him rest in his narrow house, far from the sound of Lota. The feeble will find his bow at home, but will not be able to bend it. His faithful dogs howl on his hills; his boars which he used to pursue, rejoice. Fallen is the arm of battle! the mighty among the valiant is low! Exalt the voice, and blow the horn, ye sons of the king of Morven! Let us go back to Swaran, to send the night away in song. Fillan, Oscar, and Ryno, fly over the heath of Lena. Where, Ryno, art thou, young son of fame? thou art not wont to be the last to answer thy father's voice!"
"Ryno," said Ullin, first of bards, "is with the awful forms of his fathers. With Trathal, king of shields; with Trenmor of mighty deeds. The youth is low, the youth is pale, he lies on Lena's heath!" "Fell the swiftest of the race," said the king, "the first to bend the bow? Thou scarce hast been known to me! Why did young Ryno fall? But sleep thou softly on Lena; Fingal shall soon behold thee. Soon shall my voice be heard no more, and my footsteps cease to be seen. The bards will tell of Fingal's name. The stones will talk of me. But, Ryno, thou art low, indeed: thou hast not received thy fame. Ullin, strike the harp for Ryno; tell what the chief would have been. Farewell, thou first in every field. No more shall I direct thy dart. Thou that hast been so fair! I behold thee not. Farewell." The tear is on the cheek of the king, for terrible was his son in war. His son that was like a beam of fire by night on a hill, when the forests sink down in its course, and the traveller trembles at the sound. But the winds drive it beyond the steep. It sinks from sight, and darkness prevails.
"Whose fame is in that dark-green tomb?" began the king of generous shells: "four stones with their heads of moss stand there. They mark the narrow house of death. Near it let Ryno rest. A neighbor to the brave let him lie. Some chief of fame is here, to fly with my son on clouds. O Ullin! raise the songs of old. Awake their memory in their tomb. If in the field they never fled, my son shall rest by their side. He shall rest, far distant from Morven, on Lena's resounding plains."
"Here," said the bard of song, "here rest the first of heroes. Silent is Lamderg in this place, dumb is Ullin, king of swords. And who, soft smiling from her cloud, shows me her face of love? Why, daughter, why so pale art thou, first of the maids of Cromla? Dost thou sleep with the foes in battle, white-bosomed daughter of Tuathal? Thou hast been the love of thousands, but Lamderg was thy love. He came to Tura's mossy towers, and striking his dark buckler, spoke: 'Where is Gelchossa, my love, the daughter of the noble Tuathal? I left her in the hall of Tura, when I fought with the great Ulfada. Return soon, O Lamderg! she said, for here I sit in grief. Her white breast rose with sighs. Her cheek was wet with tears. But I see her not coming to meet me to soothe my soul after war. Silent is the hull of my joy. I near not the voice of the bard. Bran does not shake his chains at the gate, glad at the coming of Lamderg. Where is Gelchossa, my love, the mild daughter of generous Tuathal?'
"'Lamderg,' says Ferchios, son of Aidon, 'Gelchossa moves stately on Cromla. She and the maids of the bow pursue the flying deer!' 'Ferchios!' replied the chief of Cromla, 'no noise meets the ear of Lamderg! No sound is in the woods of Lena. No deer fly in my sight. No panting dog pursues. I see not Gelchossa, my love, fair as the full moon setting on the hills.. Go, Ferchios, go to Allad, the gray-haired son of the rock. His dwelling is in the circle of stones He may know of the bright Gelchossa!'
"The son of Aidon went. He spoke to the ear of age. 'Allad, dweller of rocks, thou that tremblest alone, what saw thine eyes of age?' 'I saw,' answered Allad the old, 'Ullin the son of Cairbar. He came, in darkness, from Cromla. He hummed a surly song, like a blast in a leafless wood. He entered the hall of Tura. "Lamderg," he said, "most dreadful of men, fight or yield to Ullin." "Lamderg," replied Gelchossa, "the son of battle is not here. He fights Ulfada, mighty chief. He is not here, thou first of men! But Lamderg never yields. He will fight the son of Cairbar!" "Lovely thou," said terrible Ullin, "daughter of the generous Tuathal. I carry thee to Cairbar's halls. The valiant shall have Gelchossa. Three days I remain on Cromla, to wait that son of battle, Lamderg. On the fourth Gelchossa is mine, if the mighty Lamderg flies."'
"'Allad,' said the chief of Cromla, 'peace to thy dreams in the cave! Ferchios, sound the horn of Lamderg, that Ullin may hear in his halls.' Lamderg, like a roaring storm ascended the hill from Tura. He hummed a surly song as he went, like the noise of a falling stream. He darkly stood upon the hill, like a cloud varying its form to the wind. He rolled a stone, the sign of war. Ullin heard in Cairbar's hall. The hero heard, with joy, his foe. He took his father's spear. A smile brightens his dark-brown cheek, as he places his sword by his side. The dagger glittered in his hand, he whistled as he went.
"Gelchossa saw the silent chief, as a wreath of mist ascending the hill. She struck her white and heaving breast; and silent, tearful, feared for Lamderg. 'Cairbar, hoary chief of shells,' said the maid of the tender hand, 'I must bend the bow on Cromla. I see the dark-brown hinds.' She hasted up the hill. In vain the gloomy heroes fought. Why should I tell to Selma's king how wrathful heroes fight? Fierce Ullin fell. Young Lamderg came, all pale, to the daughter of generous Tuathal! 'What blood, my love;' she trembling said, 'what blood runs down my warrior's side?' ' It is Ullin's blood,' the chief replied, 'thou fairer than the snow! Gelchossa, let me rest here a little while.' The mighty Lamderg died! 'And sleepest thou so soon on earth, O chief of shady Tura?' Three days she mourned beside her love. The hunters found her cold. They raised this tomb above the three. Thy son, O king of Morven, may rest here with heroes!"
"And here my son shall rest," said Fingal. "The voice of their fame is in mine ears. Fillan and Fergus, bring hither Orla, the pale youth of the stream of Lota! not unequalled shall Ryno lie in earth, when Orla is by his side. Weep, ye daughters of Morven! ye maids of the streamy Lota, weep! Like a tree they grew on the hills. They have fallen like the oak of the desert, when it lies across a stream, and withers in the wind. Oscar, chief of every youth, thou seest how they have fallen. Be thou like them on earth renowned. Like them the song of bards. Terrible were their forms in battle; but calm was Ryno in the days of peace. He was like the bow of the shower seen far distant on the stream, when the sun is setting on Mora, when silence dwells on the hill of deer. Rest, youngest of my sons! rest, O Ryno! on Lena. We too shall be no more. Warriors one day must fall!"
Such was thy grief, thou king of swords, when Ryno lay on earth. What must the grief of Ossian be, for thou thyself art gone! I hear not thy distant voice on Cona. My eyes perceive thee not. Often forlorn and dark I sit at thy tomb, and feel it with my hands. When I think I hear thy voice, it is but the passing blast. Fingal has long since fallen asleep, the ruler of the war!
Then Gaul and Ossian sat with Swaran, on the soft green banks of Lubar. I touched the harp to please the king; but gloomy was his brow. He rolled his red eyes towards Lena. The hero mourned his host. I raised mine eyes to Cromla's brow. I saw the son of generous Semo. Sad and slow he retired from his hilt, towards the lonely cave of Tura. He saw Fingal victorious, and mixed his joy with grief. The sun is bright on his armor. Connal slowly strode behind. They sunk behind the hill, like two pillars of the fire of night, when winds pursue them over the mountain, and the flaming death resounds! Beside a stream of roaring foam his cave is in a rock. One tree bends above it. The rushing winds echo against its sides. Here rests the chief of Erin, the son of generous Semo. His thoughts are on the battles he lost. The tear is on his cheek. He mourned the departure of his fame, that fled like the mist of Cona. O Bragéla! thou art too far remote to cheer the soul of the hero. But let him see thy bright form in his mind, that his thoughts may return to the lonely sunbeam of his love!
Who comes with the locks of age? It is the son of songs. "Hail, Carril of other times! Thy voice is like the harp in the halls of Tura. Thy words are pleasant as the shower which falls on the sunny field. Carril of the times of old, why comest thou from the son of the generous Semo?"
"Ossian, king of swords," replied the bard, "thou best canst raise the song. Long hast thou been known to Carril, thou ruler of war! Often have I touched the harp to lovely Everallin. Thou too hast often joined my voice in Branno's hall of generous shells. And often, amidst our voices, was heard the mildest Everallin. One day she sung of Cormac's fall, the youth who died for her love. I saw the tears on her cheek, and on thine, thou chief of men. Her soul was touched for the unhappy, though she loved him not. How fair among a thousand maids was the daughter of generous Branno!"
Bring not, Carril," I replied, "bring not her memory to my mind. My soul must melt at the remembrance. My eyes must have their tears. Pale in the earth is she, the softly-blushing fair of my love! But sit thou on the heath, O bard! and let us hear thy voice. It is pleasant as the gale of spring, that sighs on the hunter's ear, when he awakens from dreams of joy, and has heard the music of the spirits of the hill!"
Duke Vincento: Be absolute for death; either death or life
Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences,
That dost this habitation, where thou keep‘st,
Hourly afflict: merely, thou art death‘s fool;
For him thou labour‘st by thy flight to shun
And yet runn‘st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all the accommodations that thou bear‘st
Are nursed by baseness. Thou‘rt by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm. Thy best of rest is sleep,
And that thou oft provokest; yet grossly fear‘st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself;
For thou exist‘st on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou strivest to get,
And what thou hast, forget‘st. Thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,
After the moon. If thou art rich, thou‘rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear‘s thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age,
But, as it were, an after-dinner‘s sleep,
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth
Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,
To make thy riches pleasant. What‘s yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid moe thousand deaths: yet death we fear,
That makes these odds all even.
Metamorphoses: Book The Fifth
WHILE Perseus entertain'd with this report
His father Cepheus, and the list'ning court,
Within the palace walls was heard aloud
The roaring noise of some unruly crowd;
Not like the songs which chearful friends prepare
For nuptial days, but sounds that threaten'd war;
And all the pleasures of this happy feast,
To tumult turn'd, in wild disorder ceas'd:
So, when the sea is calm, we often find
A storm rais'd sudden by some furious wind.
The Story of Chief in the riot Phineus first appear'd,
Perseus The rash ringleader of this boist'rous herd,
continu'd And brandishing his brazen-pointed lance,
Behold, he said, an injur'd man advance,
Stung with resentment for his ravish'd wife,
Nor shall thy wings, o Perseus, save thy life;
Nor Jove himself; tho' we've been often told
Who got thee in the form of tempting gold.
His lance was aim'd, when Cepheus ran, and said,
Hold, brother, hold; what brutal rage has made
Your frantick mind so black a crime conceive?
Are these the thanks that you to Perseus give?
This the reward that to his worth you pay,
Whose timely valour sav'd Andromeda?
Nor was it he, if you would reason right,
That forc'd her from you, but the jealous spight
Of envious Nereids, and Jove's high decree;
And that devouring monster of the sea,
That ready with his jaws wide gaping stood
To eat my child, the fairest of my blood.
You lost her then, when she seem'd past relief,
And wish'd perhaps her death, to ease your grief
With my afflictions: not content to view
Andromeda in chains, unhelp'd by you,
Her spouse, and uncle; will you grieve that he
Expos'd his life the dying maid to free?
And shall you claim his merit? Had you thought
Her charms so great, you shou'd have bravely sought
That blessing on the rocks, where fix'd she lay:
But now let Perseus bear his prize away,
By service gain'd, by promis'd faith possess'd;
To him I owe it, that my age is bless'd
Still with a child: Nor think that I prefer
Perseus to thee, but to the loss of her.
Phineus on him, and Perseus, roul'd about
His eyes in silent rage, and seem'd to doubt
Which to destroy; 'till, resolute at length,
He threw his spear with the redoubled strength
His fury gave him, and at Perseus struck;
But missing Perseus, in his seat it stuck.
Who, springing nimbly up, return'd the dart,
And almost plung'd it in his rival's heart;
But he for safety to the altar ran,
Unfit protection for so vile a man;
Yet was the stroke not vain, as Rhaetus found,
Who in his brow receiv'd a mortal wound;
Headlong he tumbled, when his skull was broke,
From which his friends the fatal weapon took,
While he lay trembling, and his gushing blood
In crimson streams around the table flow'd.
But this provok'd th' unruly rabble worse,
They flung their darts, and some in loud discourse
To death young Perseus, and the monarch doom;
But Cepheus left before the guilty room,
With grief appealing to the Gods above,
Who laws of hospitality approve,
Who faith protect, and succour injur'd right,
That he was guiltless of this barb'rous fight.
Pallas her brother Perseus close attends,
And with her ample shield from harm defends,
Raising a sprightly courage in his heart:
But Indian Athis took the weaker part,
Born in the chrystal grottoes of the sea,
Limnate's son, a fenny nymph, and she
Daughter of Ganges; graceful was his mein,
His person lovely, and his age sixteen.
His habit made his native beauty more;
A purple mantle fring'd with gold he wore;
His neck well-turn'd with golden chains was grac'd,
His hair with myrrh perfum'd, was nicely dress'd.
Tho' with just aim he cou'd the javelin throw,
Yet with more skill he drew the bending bow;
And now was drawing it with artful hand,
When Perseus snatching up a flaming brand,
Whirl'd sudden at his face the burning wood,
Crush'd his eyes in, and quench'd the fire with
Thro' the soft skin the splinter'd bones appear,
And spoil'd the face that lately was so fair.
When Lycabas his Athis thus beheld,
How was his heart with friendly horror fill'd!
A youth so noble, to his soul so dear,
To see his shapeless look, his dying groans to
He snatch'd the bow the boy was us'd to bend,
And cry'd, With me, false traytor, dare contend;
Boast not a conquest o'er a child, but try
Thy strength with me, who all thy pow'rs defy;
Nor think so mean an act a victory.
While yet he spoke he flung the whizzing dart,
Which pierc'd the plaited robe, but miss'd his
Perseus defy'd, upon him fiercely press'd
With sword, unsheath'd, and plung'd it in his
His eyes o'erwhelm'd with night, he stumbling
And with his latest breath on Athis calls;
Pleas'd that so near the lovely youth he lies,
He sinks his head upon his friend, and dies.
Next eager Phorbas, old Methion's son,
Came rushing forward with Amphimedon;
When the smooth pavement, slippery made with gore,
Trip'd up their feet, and flung 'em on the floor;
The sword of Perseus, who by chance was nigh,
Prevents their rise, and where they fall, they lye:
Full in his ribs Amphimedon he smote,
And then stuck fiery Phorbas in the throat.
Eurythus lifting up his ax, the blow
Was thus prevented by his nimble foe;
A golden cup he seizes, high embost,
And at his head the massy goblet tost:
It hits, and from his forehead bruis'd rebounds,
And blood, and brains he vomits from his wounds;
With his slain fellows on the floor he lies,
And death for ever shuts his swimming eyes.
Then Polydaemon fell, a Goddess-born;
Phlegias, and Elycen with locks unshorn
Next follow'd; next, the stroke of death he gave
To Clytus, Abanis, and Lycetus brave;
While o'er unnumber'd heaps of ghastly dead,
The Argive heroe's feet triumphant tread.
But Phineus stands aloof, and dreads to feel
His rival's force, and flies his pointed steel:
Yet threw a dart from far; by chance it lights
On Idas, who for neither party fights;
But wounded, sternly thus to Phineus said,
Since of a neuter thou a foe hast made,
This I return thee, drawing from his side
The dart; which, as he strove to fling, he dy'd.
Odites fell by Clymenus's sword,
The Cephen court had not a greater lord.
Hypseus his blade does in Protenor sheath,
But brave Lyncides soon reveng'd his death.
Here too was old Emathion, one that fear'd
The Gods, and in the cause of Heav'n appear'd,
Who only wishing the success of right,
And, by his age, exempted from the fight,
Both sides alike condemns: This impious war
Cease, cease, he cries; these bloody broils
This scarce the sage with high concern had said,
When Chromis at a blow struck off his head,
Which dropping, on the royal altar roul'd,
Still staring on the crowd with aspect bold;
And still it seem'd their horrid strife to blame,
In life and death, his pious zeal the same;
While clinging to the horns, the trunk expires,
The sever'd head consumes amidst the fires.
Then Phineus, who from far his javelin threw,
Broteas and Ammon, twins and brothers, slew;
For knotted gauntlets matchless in the field;
But gauntlets must to swords and javelins yield.
Ampycus next, with hallow'd fillets bound,
As Ceres' priest, and with a mitre crown'd,
His spear transfix'd, and struck him to the ground.
O Iapetides, with pain I tell
How you, sweet lyrist, in the riot fell;
What worse than brutal rage his breast could fill,
Who did thy blood, o bard celestial! spill?
Kindly you press'd amid the princely throng,
To crown the feast, and give the nuptial song:
Discord abhorr'd the musick of thy lyre,
Whose notes did gentle peace so well inspire;
Thee, when fierce Pettalus far off espy'd,
Defenceless with thy harp, he scoffing cry'd,
Go; to the ghosts thy soothing lessons play;
We loath thy lyre, and scorn thy peaceful lay:
And, as again he fiercely bid him go,
He pierc'd his temples with a mortal blow.
His harp he held, tho' sinking on the ground,
Whose strings in death his trembling fingers found
By chance, and tun'd by chance a dying sound.
With grief Lycormas saw him fall, from far,
And, wresting from the door a massy bar,
Full in his poll lays on a load of knocks,
Which stun him, and he falls like a devoted ox.
Another bar Pelates would have snach'd,
But Corynthus his motions slily watch'd;
He darts his weapon from a private stand,
And rivets to the post his veiny hand:
When strait a missive spear transfix'd his side,
By Abas thrown, and as he hung, he dy'd.
Melaneus on the prince's side was slain;
And Dorylas, who own'd a fertile plain,
Of Nasamonia's fields the wealthy lord,
Whose crowded barns, could scarce contain their
A whizzing spear obliquely gave a blow,
Stuck in his groin, and pierc'd the nerves below;
His foe behld his eyes convulsive roul,
His ebbing veins, and his departing soul;
Then taunting said, Of all thy spacious plain,
This spot thy only property remains.
He left him thus; but had no sooner left,
Than Perseus in revenge his nostrils cleft;
From his friend's breast the murd'ring dart he
And the same weapon at the murderer threw;
His head in halves the darted javelin cut,
And on each side the brain came issuing out.
Fortune his friend, in deaths around he deals,
And this his lance, and that his faulchion feels:
Now Clytius dies; and by a diff'rent wound,
The twin, his brother Clanis, bites the ground.
In his rent jaw the bearded weapon sticks,
And the steel'd dart does Clytius' thigh transfix.
With these Mendesian Celadon he slew:
And Astreus next, whose mother was a Jew,
His sire uncertain: then by Perseus fell
Aethion, who cou'd things to come foretell;
But now he knows not whence the javelin flies
That wounds his breast, nor by whose arm he dies.
The squire to Phineus next his valour try'd,
And fierce Agyrtes stain'd with paricide.
As these are slain, fresh numbers still appear,
And wage with Perseus an unequal war;
To rob him of his right, the maid he won,
By honour, promise, and desert his own.
With him, the father of the beauteous bride,
The mother, and the frighted virgin side;
With shrieks, and doleful cries they rend the air:
Their shrieks confounded with the din of war,
With dashing arms, and groanings of the slain,
They grieve unpitied, and unheard complain.
The floor with ruddy streams Bellona stains,
And Phineus a new war with double rage maintains.
Perseus begirt, from all around they pour
Their lances on him, a tempestuous show'r,
Aim'd all at him; a cloud of darts, and spears,
Or blind his eyes, or whistle round his ears.
Their numbers to resist, against the wall
He guards his back secure, and dares them all.
Here from the left Molpeus renews the fight,
And bold Ethemon presses on the right:
As when a hungry tyger near him hears
Two lowing herds, a-while he both forbears;
Nor can his hopes of this, or that renounce,
So strong he lusts to prey on both at once;
Thus Perseus now with that, or this is loth
To war distinct:, but fain would fall on both.
And first Chaonian Molpeus felt his blow,
And fled, and never after fac'd his foe;
Then fierce Ethemon, as he turn'd his back,
Hurried with fury, aiming at his neck,
His brandish'd sword against the marble struck
With all his might; the brittle weapon broke,
And in his throat the point rebounding stuck.
Too slight the wound for life to issue thence,
And yet too great for battel, or defence;
His arms extended in this piteous state,
For mercy he wou'd sue, but sues too late;
Perseus has in his bosom plung'd the sword,
And, ere he speaks, the wound prevents the word.
The crowds encreasing, and his friends
Himself by warring multitudes oppress'd:
Since thus unequally you fight, 'tis time,
He cry'd, to punish your presumptuous crime;
Beware, my friends; his friends were soon prepar'd,
Their sight averting, high the head he rear'd,
And Gorgon on his foes severely star'd.
Vain shift! says Thescelus, with aspect bold,
Thee, and thy bugbear monster, I behold
With scorn; he lifts his arm, but ere he threw
The dart, the heroe to a statue grew.
In the same posture still the marble stands,
And holds the warrior's weapons in its hands.
Amphyx, whom yet this wonder can't alarm,
Heaves at Lyncides' breast his impious arm;
But, while thus daringly he presses on,
His weapon and his arm are turn'd to stone.
Next Nileus, he who vainly said he ow'd
His origin to Nile's prolifick flood;
Who on his shield seven silver rivers bore,
His birth to witness by the arms he wore;
Full of his sev'n-fold father, thus express'd
His boast to Perseus, and his pride confess'd:
See whence we sprung; let this thy comfort be
In thy sure death, that thou didst die by me.
While yet he spoke, the dying accents hung
In sounds imperfect on his marble tongue;
Tho' chang'd to stone, his lips he seem'd to
And thro' th' insensate rock wou'd force a speech.
This Eryx saw, but seeing wou'd not own;
The mischief by your selves, he cries, is done,
'Tis your cold courage turns your hearts to stone.
Come, follow me; fall on the stripling boy,
Kill him, and you his magick arms destroy.
Then rushing on, his arm to strike he rear'd,
And marbled o'er his varied frame appear'd.
These for affronting Pallas were chastis'd,
And justly met the death they had despis'd.
But brave Aconteus, Perseus' friend, by chance
Look'd back, and met the Gorgon's fatal glance:
A statue now become, he ghastly stares,
And still the foe to mortal combat dares.
Astyages the living likeness knew,
On the dead stone with vengeful fury flew;
But impotent his rage, the jarring blade
No print upon the solid marble made:
Again, as with redoubled might he struck,
Himself astonish'd in the quarry stuck.
The vulgar deaths 'twere tedious to rehearse,
And fates below the dignity of verse;
Their safety in their flight two hundred found,
Two hundred, by Medusa's head were ston'd.
Fierce Phineus now repents the wrongful fight,
And views his varied friends, a dreadful sight;
He knows their faces, for their help he sues,
And thinks, not hearing him, that they refuse:
By name he begs their succour, one by one,
Then doubts their life, and feels the friendly
Struck with remorse, and conscious of his pride,
Convict of sin, he turn'd his eyes aside;
With suppliant mein to Perseus thus he prays,
Hence with the head, as far as winds and seas
Can bear thee; hence, o quit the Cephen shore,
And never curse us with Medusa more,
That horrid head, which stiffens into stone
Those impious men who, daring death, look on.
I warr'd not with thee out of hate or strife,
My honest cause was to defend my wife,
First pledg'd to me; what crime cou'd I suppose,
To arm my friends, and vindicate my spouse?
But vain, too late I see, was our design;
Mine was the title, but the merit thine.
Contending made me guilty, I confess;
But penitence shou'd make that guilt the less:
'Twas thine to conquer by Minerva's pow'r;
Favour'd of Heav'n, thy mercy I implore;
For life I sue; the rest to thee I yield;
In pity, from my sight remove the shield.
He suing said; nor durst revert his eyes
On the grim head: and Perseus thus replies:
Coward, what is in me to grant, I will,
Nor blood, unworthy of my valour spill:
Fear not to perish by my vengeful sword,
From that secure; 'tis all the Fates afford.
Where I now see thee, thou shalt still be seen,
A lasting monument to please our queen;
There still shall thy betroth'd behold her spouse,
And find his image in her father's house.
This said; where Phineus turn'd to shun the shield
Full in his face the staring head he held;
As here and there he strove to turn aside,
The wonder wrought, the man was petrify'd:
All marble was his frame, his humid eyes
Drop'd tears, which hung upon the stone like ice.
In suppliant posture, with uplifted hands,
And fearful look, the guilty statue stands.
Hence Perseus to his native city hies,
Victorious, and rewarded with his prize.
Conquest, o'er Praetus the usurper, won,
He re-instates his grandsire in the throne.
Praetus, his brother dispossess'd by might,
His realm enjoy'd, and still detain'd his right:
But Perseus pull'd the haughty tyrant down,
And to the rightful king restor'd the throne.
Weak was th' usurper, as his cause was wrong;
Where Gorgon's head appears, what arms are strong?
When Perseus to his host the monster held,
They soon were statues, and their king expell'd.
Thence, to Seriphus with the head he sails,
Whose prince his story treats as idle tales:
Lord of a little isle, he scorns to seem
Too credulous, but laughs at that, and him.
Yet did he not so much suspect the truth,
As out of pride, or envy, hate the youth.
The Argive prince, at his contempt enrag'd,
To force his faith by fatal proof engag'd.
Friends, shut your eyes, he cries; his shield he
And to the king expos'd Medusa's snakes.
The monarch felt the pow'r he wou'd not own,
And stood convict of folly in the stone.
Minerva's Thus far Minerva was content to rove
Interview with With Perseus, offspring of her father Jove:
the Muses Now, hid in clouds, Seriphus she forsook;
And to the Theban tow'rs her journey took.
Cythnos and Gyaros lying to the right,
She pass'd unheeded in her eager flight;
And chusing first on Helicon to rest,
The virgin Muses in these words address'd:
Me, the strange tidings of a new-found spring,
Ye learned sisters, to this mountain bring.
If all be true that Fame's wide rumours tell,
'Twas Pegasus discover'd first your well;
Whose piercing hoof gave the soft earth a blow,
Which broke the surface where these waters flow.
I saw that horse by miracle obtain
Life, from the blood of dire Medusa slain;
And now, this equal prodigy to view,
From distant isles to fam'd Boeotia flew.
The Muse Urania said, Whatever cause
So great a Goddess to this mansion draws;
Our shades are happy with so bright a guest,
You, Queen, are welcome, and we Muses blest.
What Fame has publish'd of our spring is true,
Thanks for our spring to Pegasus are due.
Then, with becoming courtesy, she led
The curious stranger to their fountain's head;
Who long survey'd, with wonder, and delight,
Their sacred water, charming to the sight;
Their ancient groves, dark grottos, shady bow'rs,
And smiling plains adorn'd with various flow'rs.
O happy Muses! she with rapture cry'd,
Who, safe from cares, on this fair hill reside;
Blest in your seat, and free your selves to please
With joys of study, and with glorious ease.
The Fate of Then one replies: O Goddess, fit to guide
Pyreneus Our humble works, and in our choir preside,
Who sure wou'd wisely to these fields repair,
To taste our pleasures, and our labours share,
Were not your virtue, and superior mind
To higher arts, and nobler deeds inclin'd;
Justly you praise our works, and pleasing seat,
Which all might envy in this soft retreat,
Were we secur'd from dangers, and from harms;
But maids are frighten'd with the least alarms,
And none are safe in this licentious time;
Still fierce Pyreneus, and his daring crime,
With lasting horror strikes my feeble sight,
Nor is my mind recover'd from the fright.
With Thracian arms this bold usurper gain'd
Daulis, and Phocis, where he proudly reign'd:
It happen'd once, as thro' his lands we went,
For the bright temple of Parnassus bent,
He met us there, and in his artful mind
Hiding the faithless action he design'd,
Confer'd on us (whom, oh! too well he knew)
All honours that to Goddesses are due.
Stop, stop, ye Muses, 'tis your friend who calls,
The tyrant said; behold the rain that falls
On ev'ry side, and that ill-boding sky,
Whose lowring face portends more storms are nigh.
Pray make my house your own, and void of fear,
While this bad weather lasts, take shelter here.
Gods have made meaner places their resort,
And, for a cottage, left their shining court.
Oblig'd to stop, by the united force
Of pouring rains, and complaisant discourse,
His courteous invitation we obey,
And in his hall resolve a-while to stay.
Soon it clear'd up; the clouds began to fly,
The driving north refin'd the show'ry sky;
Then to pursue our journey we began:
But the false traitor to his portal ran,
Stopt our escape, the door securely barr'd,
And to our honour, violence prepar'd.
But we, transform'd to birds, avoid his snare,
On pinions rising in the yielding air.
But he, by lust and indignation fir'd,
Up to his highest tow'r with speed retir'd,
And cries, In vain you from my arms withdrew,
The way you go your lover will pursue.
Then, in a flying posture wildly plac'd,
And daring from that height himself to cast,
The wretch fell headlong, and the ground bestrew'd
With broken bones, and stains of guilty blood.
The Story of The Muse yet spoke; when they began to hear
the Pierides A noise of wings that flutter'd in the air;
And strait a voice, from some high-spreading bough,
Seem'd to salute the company below.
The Goddess wonder'd, and inquir'd from whence
That tongue was heard, that spoke so plainly sense
(It seem'd to her a human voice to be,
But prov'd a bird's; for in a shady tree
Nine magpies perch'd lament their alter'd state,
And, what they hear, are skilful to repeat).
The sister to the wondring Goddess said,
These, foil'd by us, by us were thus repaid.
These did Evippe of Paeonia bring
With nine hard labour-pangs to Pella's king.
The foolish virgins of their number proud,
And puff'd with praises of the senseless crowd,
Thro' all Achaia, and th' Aemonian plains
Defy'd us thus, to match their artless strains;
No more, ye Thespian girls, your notes repeat,
Nor with false harmony the vulgar cheat;
In voice or skill, if you with us will vye,
As many we, in voice or skill will try.
Surrender you to us, if we excell,
Fam'd Aganippe, and Medusa's well.
The conquest yours, your prize from us shall be
The Aemathian plains to snowy Paeone;
The nymphs our judges. To dispute the field,
We thought a shame; but greater shame to yield.
On seats of living stone the sisters sit,
And by the rivers swear to judge aright.
The Song of Then rises one of the presumptuous throng,
the Pierides Steps rudely forth, and first begins the song;
With vain address describes the giants' wars,
And to the Gods their fabled acts prefers.
She sings, from Earth's dark womb how Typhon rose,
And struck with mortal fear his heav'nly foes.
How the Gods fled to Egypt's slimy soil,
And hid their heads beneath the banks of Nile:
How Typhon, from the conquer'd skies, pursu'd
Their routed godheads to the sev'n-mouth'd flood;
Forc'd every God, his fury to escape,
Some beastly form to take, or earthly shape.
Jove (so she sung) was chang'd into a ram,
From whence the horns of Libyan Ammon came.
Bacchus a goat, Apollo was a crow,
Phaebe a cat; die wife of Jove a cow,
Whose hue was whiter than the falling snow.
Mercury to a nasty Ibis turn'd,
The change obscene, afraid of Typhon, mourn'd;
While Venus from a fish protection craves,
And once more plunges in her native waves.
She sung, and to her harp her voice apply'd;
Then us again to match her they defy'd.
But our poor song, perhaps, for you to hear,
Nor leisure serves, nor is it worth your ear.
That causeless doubt remove, O Muse rehearse,
The Goddess cry'd, your ever-grateful verse.
Beneath a chequer'd shade she takes her seat,
And bids the sister her whole song repeat.
The sister thus: Calliope we chose
For the performance. The sweet virgin rose,
With ivy crown'd she tunes her golden strings,
And to her harp this composition sings.
The Song of First Ceres taught the lab'ring hind to plow
the Muses The pregnant Earth, and quickning seed to sow.
She first for Man did wholsome food provide,
And with just laws the wicked world supply'd:
All good from her deriv'd, to her belong
The grateful tributes of the Muse's song.
Her more than worthy of our verse we deem,
Oh! were our verse more worthy of the theme.
Jove on the giant fair Trinacria hurl'd,
And with one bolt reveng'd his starry world.
Beneath her burning hills Tiphaeus lies,
And, strugling always, strives in vain to rise.
Down does Pelorus his right hand suppress
Tow'rd Latium, on the left Pachyne weighs.
His legs are under Lilybaeum spread,
And Aetna presses hard his horrid head.
On his broad back he there extended lies,
And vomits clouds of ashes to the skies.
Oft lab'ring with his load, at last he tires,
And spews out in revenge a flood of fires.
Mountains he struggles to o'erwhelm, and towns;
Earth's inmost bowels quake, and Nature groans.
His terrors reach the direful king of Hell;
He fears his throws will to the day reveal
The realms of night, and fright his trembling
This to prevent, he quits the Stygian coasts,
In his black carr, by sooty horses drawn,
Fair Sicily he seeks, and dreads the dawn.
Around her plains he casts his eager eyes,
And ev'ry mountain to the bottom tries.
But when, in all the careful search, he saw
No cause of fear, no ill-suspected flaw;
Secure from harm, and wand'ring on at will,
Venus beheld him from her flow'ry hill:
When strait the dame her little Cupid prest
With secret rapture to her snowy breast,
And in these words the flutt'ring boy addrest.
O thou, my arms, my glory, and my pow'r,
My son, whom men, and deathless Gods adore;
Bend thy sure bow, whose arrows never miss'd,
No longer let Hell's king thy sway resist;
Take him, while stragling from his dark abodes
He coasts the kingdoms of superior Gods.
If sovereign Jove, if Gods who rule the waves,
And Neptune, who rules them, have been thy slaves;
Shall Hell be free? The tyrant strike, my son,
Enlarge thy mother's empire, and thy own.
Let not our Heav'n be made the mock of Hell,
But Pluto to confess thy pow'r compel.
Our rule is slighted in our native skies,
See Pallas, see Diana too defies
Thy darts, which Ceres' daughter wou'd despise.
She too our empire treats with aukward scorn;
Such insolence no longer's to be born.
Revenge our slighted reign, and with thy dart
Transfix the virgin's to the uncle's heart.
She said; and from his quiver strait he drew
A dart that surely wou'd the business do.
She guides his hand, she makes her touch the test,
And of a thousand arrows chose the best:
No feather better pois'd, a sharper head
None had, and sooner none, and surer sped.
He bends his bow, he draws it to his ear,
Thro' Pluto's heart it drives, and fixes there.
The Rape of Near Enna's walls a spacious lake is spread,
Proserpine Fam'd for the sweetly-singing swans it bred;
Pergusa is its name: and never more
Were heard, or sweeter on Cayster's shore.
Woods crown the lake; and Phoebus ne'er invades
The tufted fences, or offends the shades:
Fresh fragrant breezes fan the verdant bow'rs,
And the moist ground smiles with enamel'd flow'rs
The chearful birds their airy carols sing,
And the whole year is one eternal spring.
Here, while young Proserpine, among the maids,
Diverts herself in these delicious shades;
While like a child with busy speed and care
She gathers lillies here, and vi'lets there;
While first to fill her little lap she strives,
Hell's grizly monarch at the shade arrives;
Sees her thus sporting on the flow'ry green,
And loves the blooming maid, as soon as seen.
His urgent flame impatient of delay,
Swift as his thought he seiz'd the beauteous prey,
And bore her in his sooty carr away.
The frighted Goddess to her mother cries,
But all in vain, for now far off she flies;
Far she behind her leaves her virgin train;
To them too cries, and cries to them in vain,
And, while with passion she repeats her call,
The vi'lets from her lap, and lillies fall:
She misses 'em, poor heart! and makes new moan;
Her lillies, ah! are lost, her vi'lets gone.
O'er hills, the ravisher, and vallies speeds,
By name encouraging his foamy steeds;
He rattles o'er their necks the rusty reins,
And ruffles with the stroke their shaggy manes.
O'er lakes he whirls his flying wheels, and comes
To the Palici breathing sulph'rous fumes.
And thence to where the Bacchiads of renown
Between unequal havens built their town;
Where Arethusa, round th' imprison'd sea,
Extends her crooked coast to Cyane;
The nymph who gave the neighb'ring lake a name,
Of all Sicilian nymphs the first in fame,
She from the waves advanc'd her beauteous head,
The Goddess knew, and thus to Pluto said:
Farther thou shalt not with the virgin run;
Ceres unwilling, canst thou be her son?
The maid shou'd be by sweet perswasion won.
Force suits not with the softness of the fair;
For, if great things with small I may compare,
Me Anapis once lov'd; a milder course
He took, and won me by his words, not force.
Then, stretching out her arms, she stopt his way;
But he, impatient of the shortest stay,
Throws to his dreadful steeds the slacken'd rein,
And strikes his iron sceptre thro' the main;
The depths profound thro' yielding waves he
And to Hell's center a free passage leaves;
Down sinks his chariot, and his realms of night
The God soon reaches with a rapid flight.
Cyane dissolves But still does Cyane the rape bemoan,
to a Fountain And with the Goddess' wrongs laments her own;
For the stoln maid, and for her injur'd spring,
Time to her trouble no relief can bring.
In her sad heart a heavy load she bears,
'Till the dumb sorrow turns her all to tears.
Her mingling waters with that fountain pass,
Of which she late immortal Goddess was;
Her varied members to a fluid melt,
A pliant softness in her bones is felt;
Her wavy locks first drop away in dew,
And liquid next her slender fingers grew.
The body's change soon seizes its extreme,
Her legs dissolve, and feet flow off in stream.
Her arms, her back, her shoulders, and her side,
Her swelling breasts in little currents glide,
A silver liquor only now remains
Within the channel of her purple veins;
Nothing to fill love's grasp; her husband chaste
Bathes in that bosom he before embrac'd.
A Boy Thus, while thro' all the Earth, and all the
transform'd to main,
an Eft Her daughter mournful Ceres sought in vain;
Aurora, when with dewy looks she rose,
Nor burnish'd Vesper found her in repose,
At Aetna's flaming mouth two pitchy pines
To light her in her search at length she tines.
Restless, with these, thro' frosty night she goes,
Nor fears the cutting winds, nor heeds the snows;
And, when the morning-star the day renews,
From east to west her absent child pursues.
Thirsty at last by long fatigue she grows,
But meets no spring, no riv'let near her flows.
Then looking round, a lowly cottage spies,
Smoaking among the trees, and thither hies.
The Goddess knocking at the little door,
'Twas open'd by a woman old and poor,
Who, when she begg'd for water, gave her ale
Brew'd long, but well preserv'd from being stale.
The Goddess drank; a chuffy lad was by,
Who saw the liquor with a grutching eye,
And grinning cries, She's greedy more than dry.
Ceres, offended at his foul grimace,
Flung what she had not drunk into his face,
The sprinklings speckle where they hit the skin,
And a long tail does from his body spin;
His arms are turn'd to legs, and lest his size
Shou'd make him mischievous, and he might rise
Against mankind, diminutives his frame,
Less than a lizzard, but in shape the same.
Amaz'd the dame the wondrous sight beheld,
And weeps, and fain wou'd touch her quondam child.
Yet her approach th' affrighted vermin shuns,
And fast into the greatest crevice runs.
A name they gave him, which the spots exprest,
That rose like stars, and varied all his breast.
What lands, what seas the Goddess wander'd o'er,
Were long to tell; for there remain'd no more.
Searching all round, her fruitless toil she mourns,
And with regret to Sicily returns.
At length, where Cyane now flows, she came,
Who cou'd have told her, were she still the same
As when she saw her daughter sink to Hell;
But what she knows she wants a tongue to tell.
Yet this plain signal manifestly gave,
The virgin's girdle floating on a wave,
As late she dropt it from her slender waste,
When with her uncle thro' the deep she past.
Ceres the token by her grief confest,
And tore her golden hair, and beat her breast.
She knows not on what land her curse shou'd fall,
But, as ingrate, alike upbraids them all,
Unworthy of her gifts; Trinacria most,
Where the last steps she found of what she lost.
The plough for this the vengeful Goddess broke,
And with one death the ox, and owner struck,
In vain the fallow fields the peasant tills,
The seed, corrupted ere 'tis sown, she kills.
The fruitful soil, that once such harvests bore,
Now mocks the farmer's care, and teems no more.
And the rich grain which fills the furrow'd glade,
Rots in the seed, or shrivels in the blade;
Or too much sun burns up, or too much rain
Drowns, or black blights destroy the blasted plain;
Or greedy birds the new-sown seed devour,
Or darnel, thistles, and a crop impure
Of knotted grass along the acres stand,
And spread their thriving roots thro' all the land.
Then from the waves soft Arethusa rears
Her head, and back she flings her dropping hairs.
O mother of the maid, whom thou so far
Hast sought, of whom thou canst no tidings hear;
O thou, she cry'd, who art to life a friend,
Cease here thy search, and let thy labour end.
Thy faithful Sicily's a guiltless clime,
And shou'd not suffer for another's crime;
She neither knew, nor cou'd prevent the deed;
Nor think that for my country thus I plead;
My country's Pisa, I'm an alien here,
Yet these abodes to Elis I prefer,
No clime to me so sweet, no place so dear.
These springs I Arethusa now possess,
And this my seat, o gracious Goddess, bless:
This island why I love, and why I crost
Such spacious seas to reach Ortygia's coast,
To you I shall impart, when, void of care,
Your heart's at ease, and you're more fit to hear;
When on your brow no pressing sorrow sits,
For gay content alone such tales admits.
When thro' Earth's caverns I a-while have roul'd
My waves, I rise, and here again behold
The long-lost stars; and, as I late did glide
Near Styx, Proserpina there I espy'd.
Fear still with grief might in her face be seen;
She still her rape laments; yet, made a queen,
Beneath those gloomy shades her sceptre sways,
And ev'n th' infernal king her will obeys.
This heard, the Goddess like a statue stood,
Stupid with grief; and in that musing mood
Continu'd long; new cares a-while supprest
The reigning of her immortal breast.
At last to Jove her daughter's sire she flies,
And with her chariot cuts the chrystal skies;
She comes in clouds, and with dishevel'd hair,
Standing before his throne, prefers her pray'r.
King of the Gods, defend my blood and thine,
And use it not the worse for being mine.
If I no more am gracious in thy sight,
Be just, o Jove, and do thy daughter right.
In vain I sought her the wide world around,
And, when I most despair'd to find her, found.
But how can I the fatal finding boast,
By which I know she is for ever lost?
Without her father's aid, what other Pow'r
Can to my arms the ravish'd maid restore?
Let him restore her, I'll the crime forgive;
My child, tho' ravish'd, I'd with joy receive.
Pity, your daughter with a thief shou'd wed,
Tho' mine, you think, deserves no better bed.
Jove thus replies: It equally belongs
To both, to guard our common pledge from wrongs.
But if to things we proper names apply,
This hardly can be call'd an injury.
The theft is love; nor need we blush to own
The thief, if I can judge, to be our son.
Had you of his desert no other proof,
To be Jove's brother is methinks enough.
Nor was my throne by worth superior got,
Heav'n fell to me, as Hell to him, by lot:
If you are still resolv'd her loss to mourn,
And nothing less will serve than her return;
Upon these terms she may again be yours
(Th' irrevocable terms of fate, not ours),
Of Stygian food if she did never taste,
Hell's bounds may then, and only then, be past.
The The Goddess now, resolving to succeed,
Transformation Down to the gloomy shades descends with speed;
of Ascalaphus But adverse fate had otherwise decreed.
into an Owl For, long before, her giddy thoughtless child
Had broke her fast, and all her projects spoil'd.
As in the garden's shady walk she stray'd,
A fair pomegranate charm'd the simple maid,
Hung in her way, and tempting her to taste,
She pluck'd the fruit, and took a short repast.
Seven times, a seed at once, she eat the food;
The fact Ascalaphus had only view'd;
Whom Acheron begot in Stygian shades
On Orphne, fam'd among Avernal maids;
He saw what past, and by discov'ring all,
Detain'd the ravish'd nymph in cruel thrall.
But now a queen, she with resentment heard,
And chang'd the vile informer to a bird.
In Phlegeton's black stream her hand she dips,
Sprinkles his head, and wets his babling lips.
Soon on his face, bedropt with magick dew,
A change appear'd, and gawdy feathers grew.
A crooked beak the place of nose supplies,
Rounder his head, and larger are his eyes.
His arms and body waste, but are supply'd
With yellow pinions flagging on each side.
His nails grow crooked, and are turn'd to claws,
And lazily along his heavy wings he draws.
Ill-omen'd in his form, the unlucky fowl,
Abhorr'd by men, and call'd a scrieching owl.
The Daughters Justly this punishment was due to him,
of Achelous And less had been too little for his crime;
transform'd to But, o ye nymphs that from the flood descend,
Sirens What fault of yours the Gods cou'd so offend,
With wings and claws your beauteous forms to spoil,
Yet save your maiden face, and winning smile?
Were you not with her in Pergusa's bow'rs,
When Proserpine went forth to gather flow'rs?
Since Pluto in his carr the Goddess caught,
Have you not for her in each climate sought?
And when on land you long had search'd in vain,
You wish'd for wings to cross the pathless main;
That Earth and Sea might witness to your care:
The Gods were easy, and return'd your pray'r;
With golden wing o'er foamy waves you fled,
And to the sun your plumy glories spread.
But, lest the soft enchantment of your songs,
And the sweet musick of your flat'ring tongues
Shou'd quite be lost (as courteous fates ordain),
Your voice and virgin beauty still remain.
Jove some amends for Ceres lost to make,
Yet willing Pluto shou'd the joy partake,
Gives 'em of Proserpine an equal share,
Who, claim'd by both, with both divides the year.
The Goddess now in either empire sways,
Six moons in Hell, and six with Ceres stays.
Her peevish temper's chang'd; that sullen mind,
Which made ev'n Hell uneasy, now is kind,
Her voice refines, her mein more sweet appears,
Her forehead free from frowns, her eyes from tears,
As when, with golden light, the conqu'ring day
Thro' dusky exhalations clears a way.
Ceres her daughter's rape no longer mourn'd,
But back to Arethusa's spring return'd;
And sitting on the margin, bid her tell
From whence she came, and why a sacred well.
The Story of Still were the purling waters, and the maid
Arethusa From the smooth surface rais'd her beauteous head,
Wipes off the drops that from her tresses ran,
And thus to tell Alpheus' loves began.
In Elis first I breath'd the living air,
The chase was all my pleasure, all my care.
None lov'd like me the forest to explore,
To pitch the toils, and drive the bristled boar.
Of fair, tho' masculine, I had the name,
But gladly wou'd to that have quitted claim:
It less my pride than indignation rais'd,
To hear the beauty I neglected, prais'd;
Such compliments I loath'd, such charms as these
I scorn'd, and thought it infamy to please.
Once, I remember, in the summer's heat,
Tir'd with the chase, I sought a cool retreat;
And, walking on, a silent current found,
Which gently glided o'er the grav'ly ground.
The chrystal water was so smooth, so clear,
My eye distinguish'd ev'ry pebble there.
So soft its motion, that I scarce perceiv'd
The running stream, or what I saw believ'd.
The hoary willow, and the poplar, made
Along the shelving bank a grateful shade.
In the cool rivulet my feet I dipt,
Then waded to the knee, and then I stript;
My robe I careless on an osier threw,
That near the place commodiously grew;
Nor long upon the border naked stood,
But plung'd with speed into the silver flood.
My arms a thousand ways I mov'd, and try'd
To quicken, if I cou'd, the lazy tide;
Where, while I play'd my swimming gambols o'er,
I heard a murm'ring voice, and frighted sprung to
Oh! whither, Arethusa, dost thou fly?
From the brook's bottom did Alpheus cry;
Again, I heard him, in a hollow tone,
Oh! whither, Arethusa, dost thou run?
Naked I flew, nor cou'd I stay to hide
My limbs, my robe was on the other side;
Alpheus follow'd fast, th' inflaming sight
Quicken'd his speed, and made his labour light;
He sees me ready for his eager arms,
And with a greedy glance devours my charms.
As trembling doves from pressing danger fly,
When the fierce hawk comes sousing from the sky;
And, as fierce hawks the trembling doves pursue,
From him I fled, and after me he flew.
First by Orchomenus I took my flight,
And soon had Psophis and Cyllene in sight;
Behind me then high Maenalus I lost,
And craggy Erimanthus scal'd with frost;
Elis was next; thus far the ground I trod
With nimble feet, before the distanc'd God.
But here I lagg'd, unable to sustain
The labour longer, and my flight maintain;
While he more strong, more patient of the toil,
And fir'd with hopes of beauty's speedy spoil,
Gain'd my lost ground, and by redoubled pace,
Now left between us but a narrow space.
Unweary'd I 'till now o'er hills, and plains,
O'er rocks, and rivers ran, and felt no pains:
The sun behind me, and the God I kept,
But, when I fastest shou'd have run, I stept.
Before my feet his shadow now appear'd;
As what I saw, or rather what I fear'd.
Yet there I could not be deceiv'd by fear,
Who felt his breath pant on my braided hair,
And heard his sounding tread, and knew him to be
Tir'd, and despairing, O celestial maid,
I'm caught, I cry'd, without thy heav'nly aid.
Help me, Diana, help a nymph forlorn,
Devoted to the woods, who long has worn
Thy livery, and long thy quiver born.
The Goddess heard; my pious pray'r prevail'd;
In muffling clouds my virgin head was veil'd,
The am'rous God, deluded of his hopes,
Searches the gloom, and thro' the darkness gropes;
Twice, where Diana did her servant hide
He came, and twice, O Arethusa! cry'd.
How shaken was my soul, how sunk my heart!
The terror seiz'd on ev'ry trembling part.
Thus when the wolf about the mountain prowls
For prey, the lambkin hears his horrid howls:
The tim'rous hare, the pack approaching nigh,
Thus hearkens to the hounds, and trembles at the
Nor dares she stir, for fear her scented breath
Direct the dogs, and guide the threaten'd death.
Alpheus in the cloud no traces found
To mark my way, yet stays to guard the ground,
The God so near, a chilly sweat possest
My fainting limbs, at ev'ry pore exprest;
Pharsalia - Book IX: Cato
Yet in those ashes on the Pharian shore,
In that small heap of dust, was not confined
So great a shade; but from the limbs half burnt
And narrow cell sprang forth and sought the sky
Where dwells the Thunderer. Black the space of air
Upreaching to the poles that bear on high
The constellations in their nightly round;
There 'twixt the orbit of the moon and earth
Abide those lofty spirits, half divine,
Who by their blameless lives and fire of soul
Are fit to tolerate the pure expanse
That bounds the lower ether: there shall dwell,
Where nor the monument encased in gold,
Nor richest incense, shall suffice to bring
The buried dead, in union with the spheres,
Pompeius' spirit. When with heavenly light
His soul was filled, first on the wandering stars
And fixed orbs he bent his wondering gaze;
Then saw what darkness veils our earthly day
And scorned the insults heaped upon his corse.
Next o'er Emathian plains he winged his flight,
And ruthless Caesar's standards, and the fleet
Tossed on the deep: in Brutus' blameless breast
Tarried awhile, and roused his angered soul
To reap the vengeance; last possessed the mind
Of haughty Cato.
He while yet the scales
Were poised and balanced, nor the war had given
The world its master, hating both the chiefs,
Had followed Magnus for the Senate's cause
And for his country: since Pharsalia's field
Ran red with carnage, now was all his heart
Bound to Pompeius. Rome in him received
Her guardian; a people's trembling limbs
He cherished with new hope and weapons gave
Back to the craven hands that cast them forth.
Nor yet for empire did he wage the war
Nor fearing slavery: nor in arms achieved
Aught for himself: freedom, since Magnus fell,
The aim of all his host. And lest the foe
In rapid course triumphant should collect
His scattered bands, he sought Corcyra's gulfs
Concealed, and thence in ships unnumbered bore
The fragments of the ruin wrought in Thrace.
Who in such mighty armament had thought
A routed army sailed upon the main
Thronging the sea with keels? Round Malea's cape
And Taenarus open to the shades below
And fair Cythera's isle, th' advancing fleet
Sweeps o'er the yielding wave, by northern breeze
Borne past the Cretan shores. But Phycus dared
Refuse her harbour, and th' avenging hand
Left her in ruins. Thus with gentle airs
They glide along the main and reach the shore
From Palinurus named; for not alone
On seas Italian, Pilot of the deep,
Hast thou thy monument; and Libya too
Claims that her waters pleased thy soul of yore.
Then in the distance on the main arose
The shining canvas of a stranger fleet,
Or friend or foe they knew not. Yet they dread
In every keel the presence of that chief
Their fear-compelling conqueror. But in truth
That navy tears and sorrow bore, and woes
To make e'en Cato weep.
For when in vain
Cornelia prayed her stepson and the crew
To stay their flight, lest haply from the shore
Back to the sea might float the headless corse;
And when the flame arising marked the place
Of that unhallowed rite, 'Fortune, didst thou
Judge me unfit,' she cried, 'to light the pyre
To cast myself upon the hero dead,
The lock to sever, and compose the limbs
Tossed by the cruel billows of the deep,
To shed a flood of tears upon his wounds,
And from the flickering flame to bear away
And place within the temples of the gods
All that I could, his dust? That pyre bestows
No honour, haply by some Pharian hand
Piled up in insult to his mighty shade.
Happy the Crassi lying on the waste
Unburied. To the greater shame of heaven
Pompeius has such funeral. And shall this
For ever be my lot? her husbands slain
Cornelia ne'er enclose within the tomb,
Nor shed the tear beside the urn that holds
The ashes of the loved? Yet for my grief
What boots or monument or ordered pomp?
Dost thou not, impious, upon thy heart
Pompeius' image, and upon thy soul
Bear ineffaceable? Dust closed in urns
Is for the wife who would survive her lord
Not such as thee, Cornelia! And yet
Yon scanty light that glimmers from afar
Upon the Pharian shore, somewhat of thee
Recalls, Pompeius! Now the flame sinks down
And smoke drifts up across the eastern sky
Bearing thine ashes, and the rising wind
Sighs hateful in the sail. To me no more
Dearer than this whatever land may yield
Pompeius' victory, nor the frequent car
That carried him in triumph to the hill;
Gone is that happy husband from my thoughts;
Here did I lose the hero whom I knew;
Here let me stay; his presence shall endear
The sands of Nile where fell the fatal blow.
Thou, Sextus, brave the chances of the war
And bear Pompeius' standard through the world.
For thus thy father spake within mine ear:
`When sounds my fatal hour let both my sons
Urge on the war; nor let some Caesar find
Room for an empire, while shall live on earth
Still one in whom Pompeius' blood shall run.
This your appointed task; all cities strong
In freedom of their own, all kingdoms urge
To join the combat; for Pompeius calls.
Nor shall a chieftain of that famous name
Ride on the seas and fail to find a fleet.
Urged by his sire's unconquerable will
And mindful of his rights, mine heir shall rouse
All nations to the conflict. One alone,
(Should he contend for freedom) may ye serve;
Cato, none else!' Thus have I kept the faith;
Thy plot prevailed upon me, and I lived
Thy mandate to discharge. Now through the void
Of space, and shades of Hell, if such there be,
I follow; yet how distant be my doom
I know not: first my spirit must endure
The punishment of life, which saw thine end
And could survive it; sighs shall break my heart,
Tears shall dissolve it: sword nor noose I need
Nor headlong plunge. 'Twere shameful since thy death,
Were aught but grief required to cause my own.'
She seeks the cabin, veiled, in funeral garb,
In tears to find her solace, and to love
Grief in her husband's room; no prayers were hers
For life, as were the sailors'; nor their shout
Roused by the height of peril, moved her soul,
Nor angered waves: but sorrowing there she lay,
Resigned to death and welcoming the storm.
First reached they Cyprus on the foamy brine;
Then as the eastern breeze more gently held
The favouring deep, they touched the Libyan shore
Where stood the camp of Cato. Sad as one
Who deep in fear presages ills to come,
Cnaeus beheld his brother and his band
Of patriot comrades. Swift into the wave
He leaps and cries, 'Where, brother, is our sire?
Still stands our country mistress of the world,
Or are we fallen, Rome with Magnus' death
Rapt to the shades?' Thus he: but Sextus said
'Oh happy thou who by report alone
Hear'st of the deed that chanced on yonder shore!
These eyes that saw, my brother, share the guilt.
Not Caesar wrought the murder of our sire,
Nor any captain worthy in the fray.
He fell beneath the orders of a king
Shameful and base, while trusting to the gods
Who shield the guest; a king who in that land
By his concession ruled: (this the reward
For favours erst bestowed). Within my sight
Pierced through with wounds our noble father fell:
Yet deeming not the petty prince of Nile
So fell a deed would dare, to Egypt's strand
I thought great Caesar come. But worse than all,
Worse than the wounds which gaped upon his frame
Struck me with horror to the inmost heart,
Our murdered father's head, shorn from the trunk
And borne aloft on javelin; this sight,
As rumour said, the cruel victor asked
To feast his eyes, and prove the bloody deed.
For whether ravenous birds and Pharian dogs
Have torn his corse asunder, or a fire
Consumed it, which with stealthy flame arose
Upon the shore, I know not. For the parts
Devoured by destiny I only blame
The gods: I weep the part preserved by men.'
Thus Sextus spake: and Cnaeus at the words
Flamed into fury for his father's shame.
'Sailors, launch forth our navies, by your oars
Forced through the deep though wind and sea oppose:
Captains, lead on: for civil strife ne'er gave
So great a prize; to lay in earth the limbs
Of Magnus, and avenge him with the blood
Of that unmanly tyrant. Shall I spare
Great Alexander's fort, nor sack the shrine
And plunge his body in the tideless marsh?
Nor drag Amasis from the Pyramids,
And all their ancient Kings, to swim the Nile?
Torn from his tomb, that god of all mankind
Isis, unburied, shall avenge thy shade;
And veiled Osiris shall I hurl abroad
In mutilated fragments; and the form
Of sacred Apis; and with these their gods
Shall light a furnace, that shall burn the head
They held in insult. Thus their land shall pay
The fullest penalty for the shameful deed.
No husbandman shall live to till the fields
Nor reap the benefit of brimming Nile.
Thou only, Father, gods and men alike
Fallen and perished, shalt possess the land.'
Such were the words he spake; and soon the fleet
Had dared the angry deep: but Cato's voice
While praising, calmed the youthful chieftain's rage.
Meanwhile, when Magnus' fate was known, the air
Sounded with lamentations which the shore
Re-echoed; never through the ages past,
By history recorded, was it known
That thus a people mourned their ruler's death.
Yet more when worn with tears, her pallid cheek
Veiled by her loosened tresses, from the ship
Cornelia came, they wept and beat the breast.
The friendly land once gained, her husband's garb,
His arms and spoils, embroidered deep in gold,
Thrice worn of old upon the sacred hill
She placed upon the flame. Such were for her
The ashes of her spouse: and such the love
Which glowed in every heart, that soon the shore
Blazed with his obsequies. Thus at winter-tide
By frequent fires th' Apulian herdsman seeks
To render to the fields their verdant growth;
Till blaze Garganus' uplands and the meads
Of Vultur, and the pasture of the herds
By warm Matinum.
Yet Pompeius' shade
Nought else so gratified, not all the blame
The people dared to heap upon the gods,
For him their hero slain, as these few words
From Cato's noble breast instinct with truth:
'Gone is a citizen who though no peer
Of those who disciplined the state of yore
In due submission to the bounds of right,
Yet in this age irreverent of law
Has played a noble part. Great was his power,
But freedom safe: when all the plebs was prone
To be his slaves, he chose the private gown;
So that the Senate ruled the Roman state,
The Senate's ruler: nought by right of arms
He e'er demanded: willing took he gifts
Yet from a willing giver: wealth was his
Vast, yet the coffers of the State he filled
Beyond his own. He seized upon the sword,
Knew when to sheath it; war did he prefer
To arts of peace, yet armed loved peace the more.
Pleased took he power, pleased he laid it down:
Chaste was his home and simple, by his wealth
Untarnished. Mid the peoples great his name
And venerated: to his native Rome
He wrought much good. True faith in liberty
Long since with Marius and Sulla fled:
Now when Pompeius has been reft away
Its counterfeit has perished. Now unshamed
Shall seize the despot on Imperial power,
Unshamed shall cringe the Senate. Happy he
Who with disaster found his latest breath
And met the Pharian sword prepared to slay.
Life might have been his lot, in despot rule,
Prone at his kinsman's throne. Best gift of all
The knowledge how to die; next, death compelled.
If cruel Fortune doth reserve for me
An alien conqueror, may Juba be
As Ptolemaeus. So he take my head
My body grace his triumph, if he will.'
More than had Rome resounded with his praise
Words such as these gave honour to the shade
Of that most noble dead.
Meanwhile the crowd
Weary of warfare, since Pompeius' fall,
Broke into discord, as their ancient chief
Cilician called them to desert the camp.
But Cato hailed them from the furthest beach:
'Untamed Cilician, is thy course now set
For Ocean theft again; Pompeius gone,
Once more a pirate?' Thus he spake, and gazed
At all the stirring throng; but one whose mind
Was fixed on flight, thus answered, 'Pardon, chief,
'Twas love of Magnus, not of civil war,
That led us to the fight: his side was ours:
With him whom all the world preferred to peace,
Our cause is perished. Let us seek our homes
Long since unseen, our children and our wives.
If nor the rout nor dread Pharsalia's field
Nor yet Pompeius' death shall close the war,
Whence comes the end? The vigour of a life
For us is vanished: in our failing years
Give us at least some pious hand to speed
The parting soul, and light the funeral pyre.
Scarce even to its captains civil strife
Concedes due burial. Nor in our defeat
Does Fortune threaten us with the savage yoke
Of distant nations. In the garb of Rome
And with her rights, I leave thee. Who had been
Second to Magnus living, he shall be
My first hereafter: to that sacred shade
Be the prime honour. Chance of war appoints
My lord but not my leader. Thee alone
I followed, Magnus; after thee the fates.
Nor hope we now for victory, nor wish;
For all our Thracian army is fled
In Caesar's victory, whose potent star
Of fortune rules the world, and none but he
Has power to keep or save. That civil war
Which while Pompeius lived was loyalty
Is impious now. If in the public right
Thou, patriot Cato, find'st thy guide, we seek
The standards of the Consul.' Thus he spake
And with him leaped into the ship a throng
Of eager comrades.
Then was Rome undone,
For all the shore was stirring with a crowd
Athirst for slavery. But burst these words
From Cato's blameless breast: 'Then with like vows
As Caesar's rival host ye too did seek
A lord and master! not for Rome the fight,
But for Pompeius! For that now no more
Ye fight for tyranny, but for yourselves,
Not for some despot chief, ye live and die;
Since now 'tis safe to conquer and no lord
Shall rob you, victors, of a world subdued --
Ye flee the war, and on your abject necks
Feel for the absent yoke; nor can endure
Without a despot! Yet to men the prize
Were worth the danger. Magnus might have used
To evil ends your blood; refuse ye now,
With liberty so near, your country's call?
Now lives one tyrant only of the three;
Thus far in favour of the laws have wrought
The Pharian weapons and the Parthian bow;
Not you, degenerate! Begone, and spurn
This gift of Ptolemaeus. Who would think
Your hands were stained with blood? The foe will deem
That you upon that dread Thessalian day
First turned your backs. Then flee in safety, flee!
By neither battle nor blockade subdued
Caesar shall give you life! O slaves most base,
Your former master slain, ye seek his heir!
Why doth it please you not yet more to earn
Than life and pardon? Bear across the sea
Metellus' daughter, Magnus' weeping spouse,
And both his sons; outstrip the Pharian gift,
Nor spare this head, which, laid before the feet
Of that detested tyrant, shall deserve
A full reward. Thus, cowards, shall ye learn
In that ye followed me how great your gain.
Quick to your task and purchase thus with blood
Your claim on Caesar. Dastardly is flight
Which crime commends not.'
Cato thus recalled
The parting vessels. So when bees in swarm
Desert their waxen cells, forget the hive
Ceasing to cling together, and with wings
Untrammelled seek the air, nor slothful light
On thyme to taste its bitterness -- then rings
The Phrygian gong -- at once they pause aloft
Astonied; and with love of toil resumed
Through all the flowers for their honey store
In ceaseless wanderings search; the shepherd joys,
Sure that th' Hyblaean mead for him has kept
His cottage store, the riches of his home.
Now in the active conduct of the war
Were brought to discipline their minds, untaught
To bear repose; first on the sandy shore
Toiling they learned fatigue: then stormed thy walls,
Cyrene; prizeless, for to Cato's mind
'Twas prize enough to conquer. Juba next
He bids attack, though Nature on the path
Had placed the Syrtes; which his sturdy heart
Aspired to conquer. Either at the first
When Nature gave the universe its form
She left this region neither land nor sea;
Not wholly shrunk, so that it should receive
The ocean flood; nor firm enough to stand
Against its buffets -- all the pathless coast
Lies in uncertain shape; the land by earth
Is parted from the deep; on sandy banks
The seas are broken, and from shoal to shoal
The waves advance to sound upon the shore.
Nature, in spite, thus left her work undone,
Unfashioned to men's use -- Or else of old
A foaming ocean filled the wide expanse,
But Titan feeding from the briny depths
His burning fires (near to the zone of heat)
Reduced the waters; and the sea still fights
With Phoebus' beams, which in the length of time
Drank deeper of its fountains.
When the main
Struck by the oars gave passage to the fleet,
Black from the sky rushed down a southern gale
Upon his realm, and from the watery plain
Drave back th' invading ships, and from the shoals
Compelled the billows, and in middle sea
Raised up a bank. Forth flew the bellying sails
Beyond the prows, despite the ropes that dared
Resist the tempest's fury; and for those
Who prescient housed their canvas to the storm,
Bare-masted they were driven from their course.
Best was their lot who gained the open waves
Of ocean; others lightened of their masts
Shook off the tempest; but a sweeping tide
Hurried them southwards, victor of the gale.
Some freed of shallows on a bank were forced
Which broke the deep: their ship in part was fast,
Part hanging on the sea; their fates in doubt.
Fierce rage the waves till hems them in the land;
Nor Auster's force in frequent buffets spent
Prevails upon the shore. High from the main
By seas inviolate one bank of sand,
Far from the coast arose; there watched in vain
The storm-tossed mariners, their keel aground,
No shore descrying. Thus in sea were lost
Some portion, but the major part by helm
And rudder guided, and by pilots' hands
Who knew the devious channels, safe at length
Floated the marsh of Triton loved (as saith
The fable) by that god, whose sounding shell
All seas and shores re-echo; and by her,
Pallas, who springing from her father's head
First lit on Libya, nearest land to heaven,
(As by its heat is proved); here on the brink
She stood, reflected in the placid wave
And called herself Tritonis. Lethe's flood
Flows silent near, in fable from a source
Infernal sprung, oblivion in his stream;
Here, too, that garden of the Hesperids
Where once the sleepless dragon held his watch,
Shorn of its leafy wealth. Shame be on him
Who calls upon the poet for the proof
Of that which in the ancient days befell;
But here were golden groves by yellow growth
Weighed down in richness, here a maiden band
Were guardians; and a serpent, on whose eyes
Sleep never fell, was coiled around the trees,
Whose branches bowed beneath their ruddy load.
But great Alcides stripped the bending boughs,
And bore their shining apples (thus his task
Accomplished) to the court of Argos' king.
Driven on the Libyan realms, more fruitful here,
Pompeius stayed the fleet, nor further dared
In Garamantian waves. But Cato's soul
Leaped in his breast, impatient of delay,
To pass the Syrtes by a landward march,
And trusting to their swords, 'gainst tribes unknown
To lead his legions. And the storm which closed
The main to navies gave them hope of rain;
Nor biting frosts they feared, in Libyan clime;
Nor suns too scorching in the falling year.
Thus ere they trod the deserts, Cato spake:
'Ye men of Rome, who through mine arms alone
Can find the death ye covet, and shall fall
With pride unbroken should the fates command,
Meet this your weighty task, your high emprise
With hearts resolved to conquer. For we march
On sterile wastes, burnt regions of the world;
Scarce are the wells, and Titan from the height
Burns pitiless, unclouded; and the slime
Of poisonous serpents fouls the dusty earth.
Yet shall men venture for the love of laws
And country perishing, upon the sands
Of trackless Libya; men who brave in soul
Rely not on the end, and in attempt
Will risk their all. 'Tis not in Cato's thoughts
On this our enterprise to lead a band
Blind to the truth, unwitting of the risk.
Nay, give me comrades for the danger's sake,
Whom I shall see for honour and for Rome
Bear up against the worst. But whose needs
A pledge of safety, to whom life is sweet,
Let him by fairer journey seek his lord.
First be my foot upon the sand; on me
First strike the burning sun; across my path
The serpent void his venom; by my fate
Know ye your perils. Let him only thirst
Who sees me at the spring: who sees me seek
The shade, alone sink fainting in the heat;
Or whoso sees me ride before the ranks
Plodding their weary march: such be the lot
Of each, who, toiling, finds in me a chief
And not a comrade. Snakes, thirst, burning sand
The brave man welcomes, and the patient breast
Finds happiness in labour. By its cost
Courage is sweeter; and this Libyan land
Such cloud of ills can furnish as might make
Men flee unshamed.' 'Twas thus that Cato spake,
Kindling the torch of valour and the love
Of toil: then reckless of his fate he strode
The desert path from which was no return:
And Libya ruled his destinies, to shut
His sacred name within a narrow tomb.
One-third of all the world, if fame we trust,
Is Libya; yet by winds and sky she yields
Some part to Europe; for the shores of Nile
No more than Scythian Tanais are remote
From furthest Gades, where with bending coast,
Yielding a place to Ocean, Europe parts
From Afric shores. Yet falls the larger world
To Asia only. From the former two
Issues the Western wind; but Asia's right
Touches the Southern limits and her left
The Northern tempest's home; and of the East
She's mistress to the rising of the Sun.
All that is fertile of the Afric lands
Lies to the west, but even here abound
No wells of water: though the Northern wind,
Infrequent, leaving us with skies serene,
Falls there in showers. Not gold nor wealth of brass
It yields the seeker: pure and unalloyed
Down to its lowest depths is Libyan soil.
Yet citron forests to Maurusian tribes
Were riches, had they known; but they, content,
Lived 'neath the shady foliage, till gleamed
The axe of Rome amid the virgin grove,
To bring from furthest limits of the world
Our banquet tables and the fruit they bear.
But suns excessive and a scorching air
Burn all the glebe beside the shifting sands:
There die the harvests on the crumbling mould;
No root finds sustenance, nor kindly Jove
Makes rich the furrow nor matures the vine.
Sleep binds all nature and the tract of sand
Lies ever fruitless, save that by the shore
The hardy Nasamon plucks a scanty grass.
Unclothed their race, and living on the woes
Worked by the cruel Syrtes on mankind;
For spoilers are they of the luckless ships
Cast on the shoals: and with the world by wrecks
Their only commerce.
Here at Cato's word
His soldiers passed, in fancy from the winds
That sweep the sea secure: here on them fell
Smiting with greater strength upon the shore,
Than on the ocean, Auster's tempest force,
And yet more fraught with mischief: for no crags
Repelled his strength, nor lofty mountains tamed
His furious onset, nor in sturdy woods
He found a bar; but free from reining hand,
Raged at his will o'er the defenceless earth.
Nor did he mingle dust and clouds of rain
In whirling circles, but the earth was swept
And hung in air suspended, till amazed
The Nasamon saw his scanty field and home
Reft by the tempest, and the native huts
From roof to base were hurried on the blast.
Not higher, when some all-devouring flame
Has seized upon its prey, in volumes dense
Rolls up the smoke, and darkens all the air.
Then with fresh might he fell upon the host
Of marching Romans, snatching from their feet
The sand they trod. Had Auster been enclosed
In some vast cavernous vault with solid walls
And mighty barriers, he had moved the world
Upon its ancient base and made the lands
To tremble: but the facile Libyan soil
By not resisting stood, and blasts that whirled
The surface upwards left the depths unmoved.
Helmet and shield and spear were torn away
By his most violent breath, and borne aloft
Through all the regions of the boundless sky;
Perchance a wonder in some distant land,
Where men may fear the weapons from the heaven
There falling, as the armour of the gods,
Nor deem them ravished from a soldier's arm.
'Twas thus on Numa by the sacred fire
Those shields descended which our chosen priests
Bear on their shoulders; from some warlike race
By tempest rapt, to be the prize of Rome.
Fearing the storm prone fell the host to earth
Winding their garments tight, and with clenched hands
Gripping the earth: for not their weight alone
Withstood the tempest which upon their frames
Piled mighty heaps, and their recumbent limbs
Buried in sand. At length they struggling rose
Back to their feet, when lo! around them stood,
Forced by the storm, a growing bank of earth
Which held them motionless. And from afar
Where walls lay prostrate, mighty stones were hurled,
Thus piling ills on ills in wondrous form:
No dwellings had they seen, yet at their feet
Beheld the ruins. All the earth was hid
In vast envelopment, nor found they guide
Save from the stars, which as in middle deep
Flamed o'er them wandering: yet some were hid
Beneath the circle of the Libyan earth
Which tending downwards hid the Northern sky.
When warmth dispersed the tempest-driven air,
And rose upon the earth the flaming day,
Bathed were their limbs in sweat, but parched and dry
Their gaping lips; when to a scanty spring
Far off beheld they came, whose meagre drops
All gathered in the hollow of a helm
They offered to their chief. Caked were their throats
With dust, and panting; and one little drop
Had made him envied. 'Wretch, and dost thou deem
Me wanting in a brave man's heart?' he cried,
'Me only in this throng? And have I seemed
Tender, unfit to bear the morning heat?
He who would quench his thirst 'mid such a host,
Doth most deserve its pangs.' Then in his wrath
Dashed down the helmet, and the scanty spring,
Thus by their leader spurned, sufficed for all.
Now had they reached that temple which possess
Sole in all Libya, th' untutored tribes
Of Garamantians. Here holds his seat
(So saith the story) a prophetic Jove,
Wielding no thunderbolts, nor like to ours,
The Libyan Hammen of the curved horn.
No wealth adorns his fane by Afric tribes
Bestowed, nor glittering hoard of Eastern gems.
Though rich Arabians, Ind and Ethiop
Know him alone as Jove, still is he poor
Holding his shrine by riches undefiled
Through time, and god as of the olden days
Spurns all the wealth of Rome. That here some god
Dwells, witnesses the only grove
That buds in Libya -- for that which grows
Upon the arid dust which Leptis parts
From Berenice, knows no leaves; alone
Hammon uprears a wood; a fount the cause
Which with its waters binds the crumbling soil.
Yet shall the Sun when poised upon the height
Strike through the foliage: hardly can the tree
Protect its trunk, and to a little space
His rays draw in the circle of the shade.
Here have men found the spot where that high band
Solstitial divides in middle sky
The zodiac stars: not here oblique their course,
Nor Scorpion rises straighter than the Bull,
Nor to the Scales does Ram give back his hours,
Nor does Astraea bid the Fishes sink
More slowly down: but watery Capricorn
Is equal with the Crab, and with the Twins
The Archer; neither does the Lion rise
Above Aquarius. But the race that dwells
Beyond the fervour of the Libyan fires
Sees to the South that shadow which with us
Falls to the North: slow Cynosure sinks
For them below the deep; and, dry with us,
The Wagon plunges; far from either pole,
No star they know that does not seek the main,
But all the constellations in their course
Whirl to their vision through the middle sky.
Before the doors the Eastern peoples stood
Seeking from horned Jove to know their fates:
Yet to the Roman chief they yielded place,
Whose comrades prayed him to entreat the gods
Famed through the Libyan world, and judge the voice
Renowned from distant ages. First of these
Was Labienus: 'Chance,' he said, 'to us
The voice and counsel of this mighty god
Has offered as we march; from such a guide
To know the issues of the war, and learn
To track the Syrtes. For to whom on earth
If not to blameless Cato, shall the gods
Entrust their secrets? Faithful thou at least,
Their follower through all thy life hast been;
Now hast thou liberty to speak with Jove.
Ask impious Caesar's fates, and learn the laws
That wait our country in the future days:
Whether the people shall be free to use
Their rights and customs, or the civil war
For us is wasted. To thy sacred breast,
Lover of virtue, take the voice divine;
Demand what virtue is and guide thy steps
By heaven's high counsellor.'
But Cato, full
Of godlike thoughts borne in his quiet breast,
This answer uttered, worthy of the shrines:
'What, Labienus, dost thou bid me ask?
Whether in arms and freedom I should wish
To perish, rather than endure a king?
Is longest life worth aught? And doth its term
Make difference? Can violence to the good
Do injury? Do Fortune's threats avail
Outweighed by virtue? Doth it not suffice
To aim at deeds of bravery? Can fame
Grow by achievement? Nay! No Hammen's voice
Shall teach us this more surely than we know.
Bound are we to the gods; no voice we need;
They live in all our acts, although the shrine
Be silent: at our birth and once for all
What may be known the author of our being
Revealed; nor Chose these thirsty sands to chaunt
To few his truth, whelmed in the dusty waste.
God has his dwelling in all things that be,
In earth and air and sea and starry vault,
In virtuous deeds; in all that thou can'st see,
In all thy thoughts contained. Why further, then,
Seek we our deities? Let those who doubt
And halting, tremble for their coming fates,
Go ask the oracles. No mystic words,
Make sure my heart, but surely-coming Death.
Coward alike and brave, we all must die.
Thus hath Jove spoken: seek to know no more.'
Thus Cato spake, and faithful to his creed
He parted from the temple of the god
And left the oracle of Hammon dumb.
Bearing his javelin, as one of them
Before the troops he marched: no panting slave
With bending neck, no litter bore his form.
He bade them not, but showed them how to toil.
Spare in his sleep, the last to sip the spring
When at some rivulet to quench their thirst
The eager ranks pressed onward, he alone
Until the humblest follower might drink
Stood motionless. If for the truly good
Is fame, and virtue by the deed itself,
Not by sucoessful issue, should be judged,
Yield, famous ancestors! Fortune, not worth
Gained you your glory. But such name as his
Who ever merited by successful war
Or slaughtered peoples? Rather would I lead
With him his triumph through the pathless sands
And Libya's bounds, than in Pompeius' car
Three times ascend the Capitol, or break
The proud Jugurtha. Rome! in him behold
His country's father, worthiest of thy vows;
A name by which men shall not blush to swear,
Whom, should'st thou break the fetters from thy neck,
Thou may'st in distant days decree divine.
Now was the heat more dense, and through that clime
Than which no further on the Southern side
The gods permit, they trod; and scarcer still
The water, till in middle sands they found
One bounteous spring which clustered serpents held
Though scaroe the space sufficed. By thirsting snakes
The fount was thronged and asps pressed on the marge.
But when the chieftain saw that speedy fate
Was on the host, if they should leave the well
Untasted, 'Vain,' he cried, 'your fear of death.
Drink, nor delay: 'tis from the threatening tooth
Men draw their deaths, and fatal from the fang
Issues the juice if mingled with the blood;
The cup is harmless.' Then he sipped the fount,
Still doubting, and in all the Libyan waste
There only was he first to touch the stream.
Why fertile thus in death the pestilent air
Of Libya, what poison in her soil
Her several nature mixed, my care to know
Has not availed: but from the days of old
A fabled story has deceived the world.
Far on her limits, where the burning shore
Admits the ocean fervid from the sun
Plunged in its waters, lay Medusa's fields
Untilled; nor forests shaded, nor the plough
Furrowed the soil, which by its mistress' gaze
Was hardened into stone: Phorcus, her sire.
Malevolent nature from her body first
Drew forth these noisome pests; first from her jaws
Issued the sibilant rattle of serpent tongues;
Clustered around her head the poisonous brood
Like to a woman's hair, wreathed on her neck
Which gloried in their touch; their glittering heads
Advanced towards her; and her tresses kempt
Dripped down with viper's venom. This alone
Thou hast, accursed one, which men can see
Unharmed; for who upon that gaping mouth
Looked and could dread? To whom who met her glance,
Was death permitted? Fate delayed no more.
But ere the victim feared had struck him down:
Perished the limbs while living, and the soul
Grew stiff and stark ere yet it fled the frame.
Men have been frenzied by the Furies' locks,
Not killed; and Cerberus at Orpheus' song
Ceased from his hissing, and Alcides saw
The Hydra ere he slew. This monster born
Brought horror with her birth upon her sire
Phorcus, in second order God of Waves,
And upon Ceto and the Gorgon brood,
Her sisters. She could threat the sea and sky
With deadly calm unknown, and from the world
Bid cease the soil. Borne down by instant weight
Fowls fell from air, and beasts were fixed in stone.
Whole Ethiop tribes who tilled the neighbouring lands
Rigid in marble stood. The Gorgon sight
No creature bore and even her serpents turned
Back from her visage. Atlas in his place
Beside the Western columns, by her look
Was turned to rocks; and when on snakes of old
Phlegraean giants stood and frighted heaven,
She made them mountains, and the Gorgon head
Borne on Athena's bosom closed the war.
Here born of Danae and the golden shower,
Floating on wings Parrhasian, by the god
Arcadian given, author of the lyre
And wrestling art, came Perseus, down from heaven
Swooping. Cyllenian Harp did he bear
Still crimson from another monster slain,
The guardian of the heifer loved by Jove.
This to her winged brother Pallas lent
Price of the monster's head: by her command
Upon the limits of the Libyan land
He sought the rising sun, with flight averse,
Poised o'er Medusa's realm; a burnished shield
Of yellow brass upon his other arm,
Her gift, he bore: in which she bade him see
The fatal face unscathed. Nor yet in sleep
Lay all the monster, for such total rest
To her were death -- so fated: serpent locks
In vigilant watch, some reaching forth defend
Her head, while others lay upon her face
And slumbering eyes. Then hero Perseus shook
Though turned averse; trembled his dexter hand:
But Pallas held, and the descending blade
Shore the broad neck whence sprang the viper brood.
What visage bore the Gorgon as the steel
Thus reft her life! what poison from her throat
Breathed! from her eyes what venom of death distilled!
The goddess dared not look, and Perseus' face
Had frozen, averse, had not Athena veiled
With coils of writhing snakes the features dead.
Then with the Gorgon head the hero flew
Uplifted on his wings and sought the sky.
Shorter had been his voyage through the midst
Of Europe's cities; but Athena bade
To spare her peoples and their fruitful lands;
For who when such an airy courser passed
Had not looked up to heaven? Western winds
Now sped his pinions, and he took his course
O'er Libya's regions, from the stars and suns
Veiled by no culture. Phoebus' nearer track
There burns the soil, and loftiest on the sky
There fails the night, to shade the wandering moon,
If o'er forgetful of her course oblique,
Straight through the stars, nor bending to the North
Nor to the South, she hastens. Yet that earth,
In nothing fertile, void of fruitful yield,
Drank in the poison of Medusa's blood,
Dripping in dreadful dews upon the soil,
And in the crumbling sands by heat matured.
First from the dust was raised a gory clot
In guise of Asp, sleep-bringing, swollen of neck:
Full was the blood and thick the poison drop
That were its making; in no other snake
More copious held. Greedy of warmth it seeks
No frozen world itself, nor haunts the sands
Beyond the Nile; yet has our thirst of gain
No shame nor limit, and this Libyan death,
This fatal pest we purchase for our own.
Haemorrhois huge spreads out his scaly coils,
Who suffers not his hapless victims' blood
To stay within their veins. Chersydros sprang
To life, to dwell within the doubtful marsh
Where land nor sea prevails. A cloud of spray
Marked fell Chelyder's track: and Cenchris rose
Straight gliding to his prey, his belly tinged
With various spots unnumbered, more than those
Which paint the Theban marble; horned snakes
With spines contorted: like to torrid sand
Ammodytes, of hue invisible:
Sole of all serpents Scytale to shed
In vernal frosts his slough; and thirsty Dipsas;
Dread Amphisbaena with his double head
Tapering; and Natrix who in bubbling fount
Fuses his venom. Greedy Prester swells
His foaming jaws; Pareas, head erect
Furrows with tail alone his sandy path;
Swift Jaculus there, and Seps whose poisonous juice
Makes putrid flesh and frame: and there upreared
His regal head, and frighted from his track
With sibilant terror all the subject swam,
Baneful ere darts his poison, Basilisk
In sands deserted king. Ye serpents too
Who in all other regions harmless glide
Adored as gods, and bright with golden scales,
In those hot wastes are deadly; poised in air
Whole herds of kine ye follow, and with coils
Encircling close, crush in the mighty bull.
Nor does the elephant in his giant bulk,
Nor aught, find safety; and ye need no fang
Nor poison, to compel the fatal end.
Amid these pests undaunted Cato urged
His desert journey on. His hardy troops
Beneath his eyes, pricked by a scanty wound,
In strangest forms of death unnumbered fall.
Tyrrhenian Aulus, bearer of a flag,
Trod on a Dipsas; quick with head reversed
The serpent struck; no mark betrayed the tooth:
The aspect of the wound nor threatened death,
Nor any evil; but the poison germ
In silence working as consuming fire
Absorbed the moisture of his inward frame,
Draining the natural juices that were spread
Around his vitals; in his arid jaws
Set flame upon his tongue: his wearied limbs
No sweat bedewed; dried up, the fount of tears
Fled from his eyelids. Tortured by the fire
Nor Cato's sternness, nor of his sacred charge
The honour could withhold him; but he dared
To dash his standard down, and through the plains
Raging, to seek for water that might slake
The fatal venom thirsting at his heart.
Plunge him in Tanais, in Rhone and Po,
Pour on his burning tongue the flood of Nile,
Yet were the fire unquenched. So fell the fang
Of Dipsas in the torrid Libyan lands;
In other climes less fatal. Next he seeks
Amid the sands, all barren to the depths,
For moisture: then returning to the shoals
Laps them with greed -- in vain -- the briny draught
Scarce quenched the thirst it made. Nor knowing yet
The poison in his frame, he steels himself
To rip his swollen veins and drink the gore.
Cato bids lift the standard, lest his troops
May find in thirst a pardon for the deed.
But on Sabellus' yet more piteous death
Their eyes were fastened. Clinging to his skin
A Seps with curving tooth, of little size,
He seized and tore away, and to the sands
Pierced with his javelin. Small the serpent's bulk;
None deals a death more horrible in form.
For swift the flesh dissolving round the wound
Bared the pale bone; swam all his limbs in blood;
Wasted the tissue of his calves and knees:
And all the muscles of his thighs were thawed
In black distilment, and file membrane sheath
Parted, that bound his vitals, which abroad
Flowed upon earth: yet seemed it not that all
His frame was loosed, for by the venomous drop
Were all the bands that held his muscles drawn
Down to a juice; the framework of his chest
Was bare, its cavity, and all the parts
Hid by the organs of life, that make the man.
So by unholy death there stood revealed
His inmost nature. Head and stalwart arms,
And neck and shoulders, from their solid mass
Melt in corruption. Not more swiftly flows
Wax at the sun's command, nor snow compelled
By southern breezes. Yet not all is said:
For so to noxious humours fire consumes
Our fleshly frame; but on the funeral pyre
What bones have perished? These dissolve no less
Than did the mouldered tissues, nor of death
Thus swift is left a trace. Of Afric pests
Thou bear'st the palm for hurtfulness: the life
They snatch away, thou only with the life
The clay that held it.
Lo! a different fate,
Not this by melting! for a Prester's fang
Nasidius struck, who erst in Marsian fields
Guided the ploughshare. Burned upon his face
A redness as of flame: swollen the skin,
His features hidden, swollen all his limbs
Till more than human: and his definite frame
One tumour huge concealed. A ghastly gore
Is puffed from inwards as the virulent juice
Courses through all his body; which, thus grown,
His corselet holds not. Not in caldron so
Boils up to mountainous height the steaming wave;
Nor in such bellying curves does canvas bend
To Eastern tempests. Now the ponderous bulk
Rejects the limbs, and as a shapeless trunk
Burdens the earth: and there, to beasts and birds
A fatal feast, his comrades left the corse
Nor dared to place, yet swelling, in the tomb.
But for their eyes the Libyan pests prepared
More dreadful sights. On Tullus great in heart,
And bound to Cato with admiring soul,
A fierce Haemorrhois fixed. From every limb,
(As from a statue saffron spray is showered
In every part) there spouted forth for blood
A sable poison: from the natural pores
Of moisture, gore profuse; his mouth was filled
And gaping nostrils, and his tears were blood.
Brimmed full his veins; his very sweat was red;
All was one wound.
Then piteous Levus next
In sleep was victim, for around his heart
Stood still the blood congealed: no pain he felt
Of venomous tooth, but swift upon him fell
Death, and he sought the shades; more swift to kill
No draught in poisonous cups from ripened plants
Of direst growth Sabaean wizards brew.
Lo! Upon branchless trunk a serpent, named
By Libyans Jaculus, rose in coils to dart
His venom from afar. Through Paullus' brain
It rushed, nor stayed; for in the wound itself
Was death. Then did they know how slowly flies,
Flung from a sling, the stone; how gently speed
Through air the shafts of Scythia.
Murrus, the lance by which thou didst transfix
A Basilisk? Swift through the weapon ran
The poison to his hand: he draws his sword
And severs arm and shoulder at a blow:
Then gazed secure upon his severed hand
Which perished as he looked. So had'st thou died,
And such had been thy fate!
Whoe'er had thought
A scorpion had strength o'er death or fate?
Yet with his threatening coils and barb erect
He won the glory of Orion slain;
So bear the stars their witness. And who would fear
Thy haunts, Salpuga? Yet the Stygian Maids
Have given thee power to snap the fatal threads.
Thus nor the day with brightness, nor the night
With darkness gave them peace. The very earth
On which they lay they feared; nor leaves nor straw
They piled for couches, but upon the ground
Unshielded from the fates they laid their limbs,
Cherished beneath whose warmth in chill of night
The frozen pests found shelter; in whose jaws
Harmless the while, the lurking venom slept.
Nor did they know the measure of their march
Accomplished, nor their path; the stars in heaven
Their only guide. 'Return, ye gods,' they cried,
In frequent wail, 'the arms from which we fled.
Give back Thessalia. Sworn to meet the sword
Why, lingering, fall we thus? In Caesar's place
The thirsty Dipsas and the horned snake
Now wage the warfare. Rather let us seek
That region by the horses of the sun
Scorched, and the zone most torrid: let us fall
Slain by some heavenly cause, and from the sky
Descend our fate! Not, Africa, of thee
Complain we, nor of Nature. From mankind
Cut off, this quarter, teeming thus with pests
She gave to snakes, and to the barren fields
Denied the husbandman, nor wished that men
Should perish by their venom. To the realms
Of serpents have we come. Hater of men,
Receive thy vengeance, whoso of the gods
Severed this region upon either hand,
With death in middle space. Our march is set
Through thy sequestered kingdom, and the host
Which knows thy secret seeks the furthest world.
Perchance some greater wonders on our path
May still await us; in the waves be plunged
Heaven's constellations, and the lofty pole
Stoop from its height. By further space removed
No land, than Juba's realm; by rumour's voice
Drear, mournful. Haply for this serpent land
There may we long, where yet some living thing
Gives consolation. Not my native land
Nor European fields I hope for now
Lit by far other suns, nor Asia's plains.
But in what land, what region of the sky,
Where left we Africa? But now with frosts
Cyrene stiffened: have we changed the laws
Which rule the seasons, in this little space?
Cast from the world we know, 'neath other skies
And stars we tread; behind our backs the home
Of southern tempests: Rome herself perchance
Now lies beneath our feet. Yet for our fates
This solace pray we, that on this our track
Pursuing Caesar with his host may come.'
Thus was their stubborn patience of its plaints
Disburdened. But the bravery of their chief
Forced them to bear their toils. Upon the sand,
All bare, he lies and dares at every hour
Fortune to strike: he only at the fate
Of each is present, flies to every call;
And greatest boon of all, greater than life,
Brought strength to die. To groan in death was shame
In such a presence. What power had all the ills
Possessed upon him? In another's breast
He conquers misery, teaching by his mien
That pain is powerless.
Hardly aid at length
Did Fortune, wearied of their perils, grant.
Alone unharmed of all who till the earth,
By deadly serpents, dwells the Psyllian race.
Potent as herbs their song; safe is their blood,
Nor gives admission to the poison germ
E'en when the chant has ceased. Their home itself
Placed in such venomous tract and serpent-thronged
Gained them this vantage, and a truce with death,
Else could they not have lived. Such is their trust
In purity of blood, that newly born
Each babe they prove by test of deadly asp
For foreign lineage. So the bird of Jove
Turns his new fledglings to the rising sun
And such as gaze upon the beams of day
With eves unwavering, for the use of heaven
He rears; but such as blink at Phoebus' rays
Casts from the nest. Thus of unmixed descent
The babe who, dreading not the serpent touch,
Plays in his cradle with the deadly snake.
Nor with their own immunity from harm
Contented do they rest, but watch for guests
Who need their help against the noisome plague.
Now to the Roman standards are they come,
And when the chieftain bade the tents be fixed,
First all the sandy space within the lines
With song they purify and magic words
From which all serpents flee: next round the camp
In widest circuit from a kindled fire
Rise aromatic odours: danewort burns,
And juice distils from Syrian galbanum;
Then tamarisk and costum, Eastern herbs,
Strong panacea mixt with centaury
From Thrace, and leaves of fennel feed the flames,
And thapsus brought from Eryx: and they burn
Larch, southern-wood and antlers of a deer
Which lived afar. From these in densest fumes,
Deadly to snakes, a pungent smoke arose;
And thus in safety passed the night away.
But should some victim feel the fatal fang
Upon the march, then of this magic race
Were seen the wonders, for a mighty strife
Rose 'twixt the Psyllian and the poison germ.
First with saliva they anoint the limbs
That held the venomous juice within the wound;
Nor suffer it to spread. From foaming mouth
Next with continuous cadence would they pour
Unceasing chants -- nor breathing space nor pause --
Else spreads the poison: nor does fate permit
A moment's silence. Oft from the black flesh
Flies forth the pest beneath the magic song:
But should it linger nor obey the voice,
Repugmant to the summons, on the wound
Prostrate they lay their lips and from the depths
Now paling draw the venom. In their mouths,
Sucked from the freezing flesh, they hold the death,
Then spew it forth; and from the taste shall know
The snake they conquer.
Aided thus at length
Wanders the Roman host in better guise
Upon the barren fields in lengthy march.
Twice veiled the moon her light and twice renewed;
Yet still, with waning or with growing orb
Saw Cato's steps upon the sandy waste.
But more and more beneath their feet the dust
Began to harden, till the Libyan tracts
Once more were earth, and in the distance rose
Some groves of scanty foliage, and huts
Of plastered straw unfashioned: and their hearts
Leaped at the prospect of a better land.
How fled their sorrow! how with growing joy
They met the savage lion in the path!
In tranquil Leptis first they found retreat:
And passed a winter free from heat and rain.
When Caesar sated with Emathia's slain
Forsook the battlefield, all other cares
Neglected, he pursued his kinsman fled,
On him alone intent: by land his steps
He traced in vain; then, rumour for his guide,
He crossed the sea and reached the Thracian strait
For love renowned; where on the mournful shore
Rose Hero's tower, and Helle born of cloud
Took from the rolling waves their former name.
Nowhere with shorter space the sea divides
Europe from Asia; though Pontus parts
By scant division from Byzantium's hold
Chalcedon oyster-rich: and small the strait
Through which Propontis pours the Euxine wave.
Then marvelling at their ancient fame, he seeks
Sigeum's sandy beach and Simois' stream,
Rhoeteum noble for its Grecian tomb,
And all the hero's shades, the theme of song.
Next by the town of Troy burnt down of old
Now but a memorable name, he turns
His steps, and searches for the mighty stones
Relics of Phoebus' wall. But bare with age
Forests of trees and hollow mouldering trunks
Pressed down Assaracus' palace, and with roots
Wearied, possessed the temples of the gods.
All Pergamus with densest brake was veiled
And even her stones were perished. He beheld
Thy rock, Hesione; the hidden grove,
Anchises' nuptial chamber; and the cave
Where sat the arbiter; the spot from which
Was snatched the beauteous youth; the mountain lawn
Where played Oenone. Not a stone but told
The story of the past. A little stream
Scarce trickling through the arid plain he passed,
Nor knew 'twas Xanthus: deep in grass he placed,
Careless, his footstep; but the herdsman cried
'Thou tread'st the dust of Hector.' Stones confused
Lay at his feet in sacred shape no more:
'Look on the altar of Jove,' thus spake the guide,
'God of the household, guardian of the home.'
O sacred task of poets, toil supreme,
Which rescuing all things from allotted fate
Dost give eternity to mortal men!
Grudge not the glory, Caesar, of such fame.
For if the Latian Muse may promise aught,
Long as the heroes of the Trojan time
Shall live upon the page of Smyrna's bard,
So long shall future races read of thee
In this my poem; and Pharsalia's song
Live unforgotten in the age to come.
When by the ancient grandeur of the place
The chieftain's sight was filled, of gathered turf
Altars he raised: and as the sacred flame
Cast forth its odours, these not idle vows
Gave to the gods, 'Ye deities of the dead,
Who watch o'er Phrygian ruins: ye who now
Lavinia's homes inhabit, and Alba's height:
Gods of my sire Aeneas, in whose fanes
The Trojan fire still burns: pledge of the past
Mysterious Pallas, of the inmost shrine,
Unseen of men! here in your ancient seat,
Most famous offspring of Iulus' race,
I call upon you and with pious hand
Burn frequent offerings. To my emprise
Give prosperous ending! Here shall I replace
The Phrygian peoples, here with glad return
Italia's sons shall build another Troy,
Here rise a Roman Pergamus.'
He seeks his fleet, and eager to regain
Time spent at Ilium, to the favouring breeze
Spreads all his canvas. Past rich Asia borne,
Rhodes soon he left while foamed the sparkling main
Beneath his keels; nor ceased the wind to stretch
His bending sails, till on the seventh night
The Pharian beam proclaimed Egyptian shores.
But day arose, and veiled the nightly lamp
Ere rode his barks on waters safe from storm.
Then Caesar saw that tumult held the shore,
And mingled voices of uncertain sound
Struck on his ear: and trusting not himself
To doubtful kingdoms, of uncertain troth,
He kept his ships from land.
But from the king
Came his vile minion forth upon the wave,
Bearing his dreadful gift, Pompeius' head,
Wrapped in a covering of Pharian wool.
First took he speech and thus in shameless words
Commends the murder: 'Conqueror of the world,
First of the Roman race, and, what as yet
Thou dost not know, safe by thy kinsman slain;
This gift receive from the Pellaean king,
Sole trophy absent from the Thracian field,
To crown thy toils on lands and on the deep.
Here in thine absence have we placed for thee
An end upon the war. Here Magnus came
To mend his fallen fortunes; on our swords
Here met his death. With such a pledge of faith
Here have we bought thee, Caesar; with his blood
Seal we this treaty. Take the Pharian realm
Sought by no bloodshed, take the rule of Nile,
Take all that thou would'st give for Magnus' life:
And hold him vassal worthy of thy camp
To whom the fates against thy son-in-law
Such power entrusted; nor hold thou the deed
Lightly accomplished by the swordsman's stroke,
And so the merit. Guest ancestral he
Who was its victim; who, his sire expelled,
Gave back to him the sceptre. For a deed
So great, thou'lt find a name -- or ask the world.
If 'twas a crime, thou must confess the debt
To us the greater, for that from thy hand
We took the doing.'
Then he held and showed
Unveiled the head. Now had the hand of death
Passed with its changing touch upon the face:
Nor at first sight did Caesar on the gift
Pass condemnation; nor avert his gaze,
But dwelt upon the features till he knew
The crime accomplished. Then when truth was sure
The loving father rose, and tears he shed
Which flowed at his command, and glad in heart
Forced from his breast a groan: thus by the flow
Of feigned tears and grief he hoped to hide
His joy else manifest: and the ghastly boon
Sent by the king disparaging, professed
Rather to mourn his son's dissevered head,
Than count it for a debt. For thee alone,
Magnus, he durst not fail to find a tear:
He, Caesar, who with mien unaltered spurned
The Roman Senate, and with eyes undimmed
Looked on Pharsalia's field. O fate most hard!
Didst thou with impious war pursue the man
Whom 'twas thy lot to mourn? No kindred ties
No memory of thy daughter and her son
Touch on thy heart. Didst think perchance that grief
Might help thy cause 'mid lovers of his name?
Or haply, moved by envy of the king,
Griev'st that to other hands than thine was given
To shed the captive's life-blood? and complain'st
Thy vengeance perished and the conquered chief
Snatched from thy haughty hand? Whate'er the cause
That urged thy grief, 'twas far removed from love.
Was this forsooth the object of thy toil
O'er lands and oceans, that without thy ken
He should not perish? Nay! but well was reft
From thine arbitrament his fate. What crime
Did cruel Fortune spare, what depth of shame
To Roman honour! since she suffered not,
Perfidious traitor, while yet Magnus lived,
That thou should'st pity him!
Thus by words he dared,
To gain their credence in his sembled grief:
'Hence from my sight with thy detested gift,
Thou minion, to thy King. Worse does your crime
Deserve from Caesar than from Magnus' hands.
The only prize that civil war affords
Thus have we lost -- to bid the conquered live.
If but the sister of this Pharian king
Were not by him detested, by the head
Of Cleopatra had I paid this gift.
Such were the fit return. Why did he draw
His separate sword, and in the toil that's ours
Mingle his weapons? In Thessalia's field
Gave we such right to the Pellaean blade?
Magnus as partner in the rule of Rome
I had not brooked; and shall I tolerate
Thee, Ptolemaeus? In vain with civil wars
Thus have we roused the nations, if there be
Now any might but Caesar's. If one land
Yet owned two masters, I had turned from yours
The prows of Latium; but fame forbids,
Lest men should whisper that I did not damn
This deed of blood, but feared the Pharian land.
Nor think ye to deceive; victorious here
I stand: else had my welcome at your hands
Been that of Magnus; and that neck were mine
But for Pharsalia's chance. At greater risk
So seems it, than we dreamed of, took we arms;
Exile, and Magnus' threats, and Rome I knew,
Not Ptolemaeus. But we spare the boy:
Pass by the murder. Let the princeling know
We give no more than pardon for his crime.
And now in honour of the mighty dead,
Not merely that the earth may hide your guilt,
Lay ye the chieftain's head within the tomb;
With proper sepulture appease his shade
And place his scattered ashes in an urn.
Thus may he know my coming, and may hear
Affection's accents, and my fond complaints.
Me sought he not, but rather, for his life,
This Pharian vassal; snatching from mankind
The happy morning which had shown the world
A peace between us. But my prayers to heaven
No favouring answer found; that arms laid down
In happy victory, Magnus, once again
I might embrace thee, begging thee to grant
Thine ancient love to Caesar, and thy life.
Thus for my labours with a worthy prize
Content, thine equal, bound in faithful peace,
I might have brought thee to forgive the gods
For thy disaster; thou had'st gained for me
From Rome forgiveness.'
Thus he spake, but found
No comrade in his tears; nor did the host
Give credit to his grief. Deep in their breasts
They hide their groans, and gaze with joyful front
(O famous Freedom!) on the deed of blood:
And dare to laugh when mighty Caesar wept.
You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I—
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock
Even should the middle mud let anchor go!
I hooked my cause on to the Clergy's,—plea
Which, even if law tipped off my hat and plume,
Revealed my priestly tonsure, saved me so.
The Pope moreover, this old Innocent,
Being so meek and mild and merciful,
So fond o' the poor and so fatigued of earth,
So … fifty thousand devils in deepest hell!
Why must he cure us of our strange conceit
Of the angel in man's likeness, that we loved
And looked should help us at a pinch? He help?
He pardon? Here's his mind and message—death!
Thank the good Pope! Now, is he good in this,
Never mind, Christian,—no such stuff's extant,—
But will my death do credit to his reign,
Show he both lived and let live, so was good?
Cannot I live if he but like? "The law!"
Why, just the law gives him the very chance,
The precise leave to let my life alone,
Which the archangelic soul of him (he says)
Yearns after! Here they drop it in his palm,
My lawyers, capital o' the cursed kind,—
Drop life to take and hold and keep: but no!
He sighs, shakes head, refuses to shut hand,
Motions away the gift they bid him grasp,
And of the coyness comes—that off I run
And down I go, he best knows whither! mind,
He knows, who sets me rolling all the same!
Disinterested Vicar of our Lord,
This way he abrogates and disallows,
Nullifies and ignores,—reverts in fine
To the good and right, in detriment of me!
Talk away! Will you have the naked truth?
He's sick of his life's supper,—swallowed lies:
So, hobbling bedward, needs must ease his maw
Just where I sit o' the door-sill. Sir Abate,
Can you do nothing? Friends, we used to frisk:
What of this sudden slash in a friend's face,
This cut across our good companionship
That showed its front so gay when both were young?
Were not we put into a beaten path,
Bid pace the world, we nobles born and bred,
We body of friends with each his scutcheon full
Of old achievement and impunity,—
Taking the laugh of morn and Sol's salute
As forth we fared, pricked on to breathe our steeds
And take equestrian sport over the green
Under the blue, across the crop,—what care?
If we went prancing up hill and down dale,
In and out of the level and the straight,
By the bit of pleasant byeway, where was harm?
Still Sol salutes me and the morning laughs:
I see my grandsire's hoof-prints,—point the spot
Where he drew rein, slipped saddle, and stabbed knave
For daring throw gibe—much less, stone—from pale:
Then back, and on, and up with the cavalcade.
Just so wend we, now canter, now converse,
Till, 'mid the jauncing pride and jaunty port,
Something of a sudden jerks at somebody—
A dagger is out, a flashing cut and thrust,
Because I play some prank my grandsire played,
And here I sprawl: where is the company? Gone!
A trot and a trample! only I lie trapped,
Writhe in a certain novel springe just set
By the good old Pope: I'm first prize. Warn me? Why?
Apprise me that the law o' the game is changed?
Enough that I'm a warning, as I writhe,
To all and each my fellows of the file,
And make law plain henceforward past mistake,
"For such a prank, death is the penalty!"
Pope the Five Hundredth (what do I know or care?)
Deputes your Eminency and Abateship
To announce that, twelve hours from this time, he needs
I just essay upon my body and soul
The virtue of his brand-new engine, prove
Represser of the pranksome! I'm the first!
Thanks. Do you know what teeth you mean to try
The sharpness of, on this soft neck and throat?
I know it,—I have seen and hate it,—ay,
As you shall, while I tell you! Let me talk,
Or leave me, at your pleasure! talk I must:
What is your visit but my lure to talk?
Nay, you have something to disclose?—a smile,
At end of the forced sternness, means to mock
The heart-beats here? I call your two hearts stone!
Is your charge to stay with me till I die?
Be tacit as your bench, then! Use your ears,
I use my tongue: how glibly yours will run
At pleasant supper-time … God's curse! … to-night
When all the guests jump up, begin so brisk
"Welcome, his Eminence who shrived the wretch!
"Now we shall have the Abate's story!"
How I could spill this overplus of mine
Among those hoar-haired, shrunk-shanked odds and ends
Of body and soul old age is chewing dry!
Those windlestraws that stare while purblind death
Mows here, mows there, makes hay of juicy me,
And misses just the bunch of withered weed
Would brighten hell and streak its smoke with flame!
How the life I could shed yet never shrink,
Would drench their stalks with sap like grass in May!
Is it not terrible, I entreat you, Sirs?—
With manifold and plenitudinous life,
Prompt at death's menace to give blow for threat,
Answer his "Be thou not!" by "Thus I am!"—
Terrible so to be alive yet die?
How I live, how I see! so,—how I speak!
Lucidity of soul unlocks the lips:
I never had the words at will before.
How I see all my folly at a glance!
"A man requires a woman and a wife:"
There was my folly; I believed the saw.
I knew that just myself concerned myself,
Yet needs must look for what I seemed to lack,
In a woman,—why, the woman's in the man!
Fools we are, how we learn things when too late!
Overmuch life turns round my woman-side:
The male and female in me, mixed before,
Settle of a sudden: I'm my wife outright
In this unmanly appetite for truth,
This careless courage as to consequence,
This instantaneous sight through things and through,
This voluble rhetoric, if you please,—'t is she!
Here you have that Pompilia whom I slew,
Also the folly for which I slew her!
And, fool-like, what is it I wander from?
What did I say of your sharp iron tooth?
Ah,—that I know the hateful thing! this way.
I chanced to stroll forth, many a good year gone,
One warm Spring eve in Rome, and unaware
Looking, mayhap, to count what stars were out,
Came on your fine axe in a frame, that fails
And so cuts off a man's head underneath,
Mannaia,—thus we made acquaintance first:
Out of the way, in a by-part o' the town,
At the Mouth-of-Truth o' the river-side, you know:
One goes by the Capitol: and wherefore coy,
Retiring out of crowded noisy Rome?
Because a very little time ago
It had done service, chopped off head from trunk
Belonging to a fellow whose poor house
The thing must make a point to stand before—
Who stabled buffaloes and so gained bread,
(Our clowns unyoke them in the ground hard by)
And, after use of much improper speech,
Had struck at Duke Some-title-or-other's face,
Because he kidnapped, carried away and kept
Felice's sister who would sit and sing
I' the filthy doorway while she plaited fringe
To deck the brutes with,—on their gear it goes,—
The good girl with the velvet in her voice.
So did the Duke, so did Felice, so
Did Justice, intervening with her axe.
There the man-mutilating engine stood
At ease, both gay and grim, like a Swiss guard
Off duty,—purified itself as well,
Getting dry, sweet and proper for next week,—
And doing incidental good, 't was hoped
To the rough lesson-lacking populace
Who now and then, forsooth, must right their wrongs!
There stood the twelve-foot-square of scaffold, railed
Considerately round to elbow-height,
For fear an officer should tumble thence
And sprain his ankle and be lame a month,
Through starting when the axe fell and head too!
Railed likewise were the steps whereby 't was reached.
All of it painted red: red, in the midst,
Ran up two narrow tall beams barred across,
Since from the summit, some twelve feet to reach,
The iron plate with the sharp shearing edge
Had slammed, jerked, shot, slid,—I shall soon find which!—
And so lay quiet, fast in its fit place,
The wooden half-moon collar, now eclipsed
By the blade which blocked its curvature: apart,
The other half,—the under half-moon board
Which, helped by this, completes a neck's embrace,—
Joined to a sort of desk that wheels aside
Out of the way when done with,—down you kneel,
In you're pushed, over you the other drops,
Tight you're clipped, whiz, there's the blade cleaves its best,
Out trundles body, down flops head on floor,
And where's your soul gone? That, too, I shall find!
This kneeling place was red, red, never fear!
But only slimy-like with paint, not blood,
For why? a decent pitcher stood at hand,
A broad dish to hold sawdust, and a broom
By some unnamed utensil,—scraper-rake,—
Each with a conscious air of duty done.
Underneath, loungers,—boys and some few men,—
Discoursed this platter, named the other tool,
Just as, when grooms tie up and dress a steed,
Boys lounge and look on, and elucubrate
What the round brush is used for, what the square,—
So was explained—to me the skill-less then—
The manner of the grooming for next world
Undergone by Felice What's-his-name.
There's no such lovely month in Rome as May—
May's crescent is no half-moon of red plank,
And came now tilting o'er the wave i' the west,
One greenish-golden sea, right 'twixt those bars
Of the engine—I began acquaintance with,
Understood, hated, hurried from before,
To have it out of sight and cleanse my soul!
Here it is all again, conserved for use:
Twelve hours hence, I may know more, not hate worse.
That young May-moon-month! Devils of the deep!
Was not a Pope then Pope as much as now?
Used not he chirrup o'er the Merry Tales,
Chuckle,—his nephew so exact the wag
To play a jealous cullion such a trick
As wins the wife i' the pleasant story! Well?
Why do things change? Wherefore is Rome un-Romed?
I tell you, ere Felice's corpse was cold,
The Duke, that night, threw wide his palace-doors,
Received the compliments o' the quality
For justice done him,—bowed and smirked his best,
And in return passed round a pretty thing,
A portrait of Felice's sister's self,
Florid old rogue Albano's masterpiece,
As—better than virginity in rags—
Bouncing Europa on the back o' the bull:
They laughed and took their road the safelier home.
Ah, but times change, there's quite another Pope,
I do the Duke's deed, take Felice's place,
And, being no Felice, lout and clout,
Stomach but ill the phrase "I lost my head!"
How euphemistic! Lose what? Lose your ring,
Your snuff-box, tablets, kerchief!—but, your head?
I learnt the process at an early age;
'T was useful knowledge, in those same old days,
To know the way a head is set on neck.
My fencing-master urged "Would you excel?
"Rest not content with mere bold give-and-guard,
"Nor pink the antagonist somehow-anyhow!
"See me dissect a little, and know your game!
"Only anatomy makes a thrust the thing."
Oh Cardinal, those lithe live necks of ours!
Here go the vertebræ, here's Atlas, here
Axis, and here the symphyses stop short,
So wisely and well,—as, o'er a corpse, we cant,—
And here's the silver cord which … what's our word?
Depends from the gold bowl, which loosed (not "lost")
Lets us from heaven to hell,—one chop, we're loose!
"And not much pain i' the process," quoth a sage:
Who told him? Not Felice's ghost, I think!
Such "losing" is scarce Mother Nature's mode.
She fain would have cord ease itself away,
Worn to a thread by threescore years and ten,
Snap while we slumber: that seems bearable.
I'm told one clot of blood extravasate
Ends one as certainly as Roland's sword,—
One drop of lymph suffused proves Oliver's mace,—
Intruding, either of the pleasant pair,
On the arachnoid tunic of my brain.
That's Nature's way of loosing cord!—but Art,
How of Art's process with the engine here,
When bowl and cord alike are crushed across,
Bored between, bruised through? Why, if Fagon's self,
The French Court's pride, that famed practitioner,
Would pass his cold pale lightning of a knife,
Pistoja-ware, adroit 'twixt joint and joint,
With just a "See how facile, gentlefolk!"—
The thing were not so bad to bear! Brute force
Cuts as he comes, breaks in, breaks on, breaks out
O' the hard and soft of you: is that the same?
A lithe snake thrids the hedge, makes throb no leaf:
A heavy ox sets chest to brier and branch,
Bursts somehow through, and leaves one hideous hole
And why, why must this needs be?
Oh, if men were but good! They are not good,
Nowise like Peter: people called him rough,
But if, as I left Rome, I spoke the Saint,
—"Petrus, quo vadis?"—doubtless, I should hear,
"To free the prisoner and forgive his fault!
"I plucked the absolute dead from God's own bar,
"And raised up Dorcas,—why not rescue thee?"
What would cost one such nullifying word?
If Innocent succeeds to Peter's place,
Let him think Peter's thought, speak Peter's speech!
I say, he is bound to it: friends, how say you?
Concede I be all one bloodguiltiness
And mystery of murder in the flesh,
Why should that fact keep the Pope's mouth shut fast?
He execrates my crime,—good!—sees hell yawn
One inch from the red plank's end which I press,—
Nothing is better! What's the consequence?
How should a Pope proceed that knows his cue?
Why, leave me linger out my minute here,
Since close on death comes judgment and comes doom,
Not crib at dawn its pittance from a sheep
Destined ere dewfall to be butcher's-meat!
Think, Sirs, if I have done you any harm,
And you require the natural revenge,
Suppose, and so intend to poison me,
—Just as you take and slip into my draught
The paperful of powder that clears scores,
You notice on my brow a certain blue:
How you both overset the wine at once!
How you both smile! "Our enemy has the plague!
"Twelve hours hence he'll be scraping his bones bare
"Of that intolerable flesh, and die,
"Frenzied with pain: no need for poison here!
"Step aside and enjoy the spectacle!"
Tender for souls are you, Pope Innocent!
Christ's maxim is—one soul outweighs the world:
Respite me, save a soul, then, curse the world!
"No," venerable sire, I hear you smirk,
"No: for Christ's gospel changes names, not things,
"Renews the obsolete, does nothing more!
"Our fire-new gospel is re-tinkered law,
"Our mercy, justice,—Jove's rechristened God,—
"Nay, whereas, in the popular conceit,
"'T is pity that old harsh Law somehow limps,
"Lingers on earth, although Law's day be done,
"Else would benignant Gospel interpose,
"Not furtively as now, but bold and frank
"O'erflutter us with healing in her wings,
"Law being harshness, Gospel only love—
"We tell the people, on the contrary,
"Gospel takes up the rod which Law lets fall;
"Mercy is vigilant when justice sleeps!
"Does Law permit a taste of Gospel-grace?
"The secular arm allow the spiritual power
"To act for once?—no compliment so fine
"As that our Gospel handsomely turn harsh,
"Thrust victim back on Law the nice and coy!"
Yes, you do say so, else you would forgive
Me whom Law does not touch but tosses you!
Don't think to put on the professional face!
You know what I know: casuists as you are,
Each nerve must creep, each hair start, sting and stand,
At such illogical inconsequence!
Dear my friends, do but see! A murder's tried,
There are two parties to the cause: I'm one,
—Defend myself, as somebody must do:
I have the best o' the battle: that's a fact,
Simple fact,—fancies find no place just now.
What though half Rome condemned me? Half approved:
And, none disputes, the luck is mine at last,
All Rome, i' the main, acquitting me: whereon,
What has the Pope to ask but "How finds Law?"
"I find," replies Law, "I have erred this while:
"Guilty or guiltless, Guido proves a priest,
"No layman: he is therefore yours, not mine:
"I bound him: loose him, you whose will is Christ's!"
And now what does this Vicar of our Lord,
Shepherd o' the flock,—one of whose charge bleats sore
For crook's help from the quag wherein it drowns?
Law suffers him employ the crumpled end:
His pleasure is to turn staff, use the point,
And thrust the shuddering sheep, he calls a wolf,
Back and back, down and down to where hell gapes!
"Guiltless," cries Law—"Guilty" corrects the Pope!
"Guilty," for the whim's sake! "Guilty," he somehow thinks,
And anyhow says: 't is truth; he dares not lie!
Others should do the lying. That's the cause
Brings you both here: I ought in decency
Confess to you that I deserve my fate,
Am guilty, as the Pope thinks,—ay, to the end,
Keep up the jest, lie on, lie ever, lie
I' the latest gasp of me! What reason, Sirs?
Because to-morrow will succeed to-day
For you, though not for me: and if I stick
Still to the truth, declare with my last breath,
I die an innocent and murdered man,—
Why, there's the tongue of Rome will wag apace
This time to-morrow: don't I hear the talk!
"So, to the last he proved impenitent?
"Pagans have said as much of martyred saints!
"Law demurred, washed her hands of the whole case.
"Prince Somebody said this, Duke Something, that,
"Doubtless the man's dead, dead enough, don't fear!
"But, hang it, what if there have been a spice,
"A touch of … eh? You see, the Pope's so old,
"Some of us add, obtuse: age never slips
"The chance of shoving youth to face death first!"
And so on. Therefore to suppress such talk
You two come here, entreat I tell you lies,
And end, the edifying way. I end,
Telling the truth! Your self-styled shepherd thieves!
A thief—and how thieves hate the wolves we know:
Damage to theft, damage to thrift, all's one!
The red hand is sworn foe of the black jaw.
That's only natural, that's right enough:
But why the wolf should compliment the thief
With shepherd's title, bark out life in thanks,
And, spiteless, lick the prong that spits him,—eh,
Cardinal? My Abate, scarcely thus!
There, let my sheepskin-garb, a curse on't, go—
Leave my teeth free if I must show my shag!
Repent? What good shall follow? If I pass
Twelve hours repenting, will that fact hold fast
The thirteenth at the horrid dozen's end?
If I fall forthwith at your feet, gnash, tear,
Foam, rave, to give your story the due grace,
Will that assist the engine half-way back
Into its hiding-house?—boards, shaking now,
Bone against bone, like some old skeleton bat
That wants, at winter's end, to wake and prey!
Will howling put the spectre back to sleep?
Ah, but I misconceive your object, Sirs!
Since I want new life like the creature,—life
Being done with here, begins i' the world away:
I shall next have "Come, mortals, and be judged!"
There's but a minute betwixt this and then:
So, quick, be sorry since it saves my soul!
Sirs, truth shall save it, since no lies assist!
Hear the truth, you, whatever you style yourselves,
Civilization and society!
Come, one good grapple, I with all the world!
Dying in cold blood is the desperate thing;
The angry heart explodes, bears off in blaze
The indignant soul, and I'm combustion-ripe.
Why, you intend to do your worst with me!
That's in your eyes! You dare no more than death,
And mean no less. I must make up my mind.
So Pietro,—when I chased him here and there,
Morsel by morsel cut away the life
I loathed,—cried for just respite to confess
And save his soul: much respite did I grant!
Why grant me respite who deserve my doom?
Me—who engaged to play a prize, fight you,
Knowing your arms, and foil you, trick for trick,
At rapier-fence, your match and, maybe, more.
I knew that if I chose sin certain sins,
Solace my lusts out of the regular way
Prescribed me, I should find you in the path,
Have to try skill with a redoubted foe;
You would lunge, I would parry, and make end.
At last, occasion of a murder comes:
We cross blades, I, for all my brag, break guard,
And in goes the cold iron at my breast,
Out at my back, and end is made of me.
You stand confessed the adroiter swordsman,—ay,
But on your triumph you increase, it seems,
Want more of me than lying flat on face:
I ought to raise my ruined head, allege
Not simply I pushed worse blade o' the pair,
But my antagonist dispensed with steel!
There was no passage of arms, you looked me low,
With brow and eye abolished cut and thrust
Nor used the vulgar weapon! This chance scratch,
This incidental hurt, this sort of hole
I' the heart of me? I stumbled, got it so!
Fell on my own sword as a bungler may!
Yourself proscribe such heathen tools, and trust
To the naked virtue: it was virtue stood
Unarmed and awed me,—on my brow there burned
Crime out so plainly intolerably red,
That I was fain to cry—"Down to the dust
"With me, and bury there brow, brand and all!"
Law had essayed the adventure,—but what's Law?
Morality exposed the Gorgon shield!
Morality and Religion conquer me.
If Law sufficed would you come here, entreat
I supplement law, and confess forsooth?
Did not the Trial show things plain enough?
"Ah, but a word of the man's very self
"Would somehow put the keystone in its place
"And crown the arch!" Then take the word you want!
I say that, long ago, when things began,
All the world made agreement, such and such
Were pleasure-giving profit-bearing acts,
But henceforth extra-legal, nor to be:
You must not kill the man whose death would please
And profit you, unless his life stop yours
Plainly, and need so be put aside:
Get the thing by a public course, by law,
Only no private bloodshed as of old!
All of us, for the good of every one,
Renounced such licence and conformed to law:
Who breaks law, breaks pact therefore, helps himself
To pleasure and profit over and above the due,
And must pay forfeit,—pain beyond his share:
For, pleasure being the sole good in the world,
Anyone's pleasure turns to someone's pain,
So, law must watch for everyone,—say we,
Who call things wicked that give too much joy,
And nickname mere reprisal, envy makes,
Punishment: quite right! thus the world goes round.
I, being well aware such pact there was,
I, in my time who found advantage come
Of law's observance and crime's penalty,—
Who, but for wholesome fear law bred in friends,
Had doubtless given example long ago,
Furnished forth some friend's pleasure with my pain,
And, by my death, pieced out his scanty life,—
I could not, for that foolish life of me,
Help risking law's infringement,—I broke bond,
And needs must pay price,—wherefore, here's my head,
Flung with a flourish! But, repentance too?
But pure and simple sorrow for law's breach
Rather than blunderer's-ineptitude?
Cardinal, no! Abate, scarcely thus!
'T is the fault, not that I dared try a fall
With Law and straightway am found undermost,
But that I failed to see, above man's law,
God's precept you, the Christians, recognize?
Colly my cow! Don't fidget, Cardinal!
Abate, cross your breast and count your beads
And exorcize the devil, for here he stands
And stiffens in the bristly nape of neck,
Daring you drive him hence! You, Christians both?
I say, if ever was such faith at all
Born in the world, by your community
Suffered to live its little tick of time,
'T is dead of age, now, ludicrously dead;
Honour its ashes, if you be discreet,
In epitaph only! For, concede its death,
Allow extinction, you may boast unchecked
What feats the thing did in a crazy land
At a fabulous epoch,—treat your faith, that way,
Just as you treat your relics: "Here's a shred
"Of saintly flesh, a scrap of blessed bone,
"Raised King Cophetua, who was dead, to life
"In Mesopotamy twelve centuries since,
"Such was its virtue!"—twangs the Sacristan,
Holding the shrine-box up, with hands like feet
Because of gout in every finger joint:
Does he bethink him to reduce one knob,
Allay one twinge by touching what he vaunts?
I think he half uncrooks fist to catch fee,
But, for the grace, the quality of cure,—
Cophetua was the man put that to proof!
Not otherwise, your faith is shrined and shown
And shamed at once: you banter while you bow!
Do you dispute this? Come, a monster-laugh,
A madman's laugh, allowed his Carnival
Later ten days than when all Rome, but he,
Laughed at the candle-contest: mine's alight,
'T is just it sputter till the puff o' the Pope
End it to-morrow and the world turn Ash.
Come, thus I wave a wand and bring to pass
In a moment, in the twinkle of an eye,
What but that—feigning everywhere grows fact,
Professors turn possessors, realize
The faith they play with as a fancy now,
And bid it operate, have full effect
On every circumstance of life, to-day,
In Rome,—faith's flow set free at fountain-head!
Now, you'll own, at this present, when I speak,
Before I work the wonder, there's no man
Woman or child in Rome, faith's fountain-head,
But might, if each were minded, realize
Conversely unbelief, faith's opposite—
Set it to work on life unflinchingly,
Yet give no symptom of an outward change:
Why should things change because men disbelieve
What's incompatible, in the whited tomb,
With bones and rottenness one inch below?
What saintly act is done in Rome to-day
But might be prompted by the devil,—"is"
I say not,—"has been, and again may be,—"
I do say, full i' the face o' the crucifix
You try to stop my mouth with! Off with it!
Look in your own heart, if your soul have eyes!
You shall see reason why, though faith were fled,
Unbelief still might work the wires and move
Man, the machine, to play a faithful part.
Preside your college, Cardinal, in your cape,
Or,—having got above his head, grown Pope,—
Abate, gird your loins and wash my feet!
Do you suppose I am at loss at all
Why you crook, why you cringe, why fast or feast?
Praise, blame, sit, stand, lie or go!—all of it,
In each of you, purest unbelief may prompt,
And wit explain to who has eyes to see.
But, lo, I wave wand, made the false the true!
Here's Rome believes in Christianity!
What an explosion, how the fragments fly
Of what was surface, mask and make-believe!
Begin now,—look at this Pope's-halberdier
In wasp-like black and yellow foolery!
He, doing duty at the corridor,
Wakes from a muse and stands convinced of sin!
Down he flings halbert, leaps the passage-length,
Pushes into the presence, pantingly
Submits the extreme peril of the case
To the Pope's self,—whom in the world beside?—
And the Pope breaks talk with ambassador,
Bids aside bishop, wills the whole world wait
Till he secure that prize, outweighs the world,
A soul, relieve the sentry of his qualm!
His Altitude the Referendary,—
Robed right, and ready for the usher's word
To pay devoir,—is, of all times, just then
'Ware of a master-stroke of argument
Will cut the spinal cord … ugh, ugh! … I mean,
Paralyse Molinism for evermore!
Straight he leaves lobby, trundles, two and two,
Down steps to reach home, write, if but a word
Shall end the impudence: he leaves who likes
Go pacify the Pope: there's Christ to serve!
How otherwise would men display their zeal?
If the same sentry had the least surmise
A powder-barrel 'neath the pavement lay
In neighbourhood with what might prove a match,
Meant to blow sky-high Pope and presence both—
Would he not break through courtiers, rank and file,
Bundle up, bear off and save body so,
The Pope, no matter for his priceless soul?
There's no fool's-freak here, nought to soundly swinge,
Only a man in earnest, you'll so praise
And pay and prate about, that earth shall ring!
Had thought possessed the Referendary
His jewel-case at home was left ajar,
What would be wrong in running, robes awry,
To be beforehand with the pilferer?
What talk then of indecent haste? Which means,
That both these, each in his degree, would do
Just that,—for a comparative nothing's sake,
And thereby gain approval and reward,—
Which, done for what Christ says is worth the world,
Procures the doer curses, cuffs and kicks.
I call such difference 'twixt act and act,
Sheer lunacy unless your truth on lip
Be recognized a lie in heart of you!
How do you all act, promptly or in doubt,
When there's a guest poisoned at supper-time
And he sits chatting on with spot on cheek?
"Pluck him by the skirt, and round him in the ears,
"Have at him by the beard, warn anyhow!"
Good, and this other friend that's cheat and thief
And dissolute,—go stop the devil's feast,
Withdraw him from the imminent hell-fire!
Why, for your life, you dare not tell your friend
"You lie, and I admonish you for Christ!"
Who yet dare seek that same man at the Mass
To warn him—on his knees, and tinkle near,—
He left a cask a-tilt, a tap unturned,
The Trebbian running: what a grateful jump
Out of the Church rewards your vigilance!
Perform that self-same service just a thought
More maladroitly,—since a bishop sits
At function!—and he budges not, bites lip,—
"You see my case: how can I quit my post?
"He has an eye to any such default.
"See to it, neighbour, I beseech your love!"
He and you know the relative worth of things,
What is permissible or inopportune.
Contort your brows! You know I speak the truth:
Gold is called gold, and dross called dross, i' the Book:
Gold you let lie and dross pick up and prize!
—Despite your muster of some fifty monks
And nuns a-maundering here and mumping there,
Who could, and on occasion would, spurn dross,
Clutch gold, and prove their faith a fact so far,—
I grant you! Fifty times the number squeak
And gibber in the madhouse—firm of faith,
This fellow, that his nose supports the moon;
The other, that his straw hat crowns him Pope:
Does that prove all the world outside insane?
Do fifty miracle-mongers match the mob
That acts on the frank faithless principle,
Born-baptized-and-bred Christian-atheists, each
With just as much a right to judge as you,—
As many senses in his soul, and nerves
I' neck of him as I,—whom, soul and sense,
Neck and nerve, you abolish presently,—
I being the unit in creation now
Who pay the Maker, in this speech of mine,
A creature's duty, spend my last of breath
In bearing witness, even by my worst fault,
To the creature's obligation, absolute,
Perpetual: my worst fault protests, "The faith
"Claims all of me: I would give all she claims,
"But for a spice of doubt: the risk's too rash:
"Double or quits, I play, but, all or nought,
"Exceeds my courage: therefore, I descend
"To the next faith with no dubiety—
"Faith in the present life, made last as long
"And prove as full of pleasure as may hap,
"Whatever pain it cause the world." I'm wrong?
I've had my life, whate'er I lose: I'm right?
I've got the single good there was to gain.
Entire faith, or else complete unbelief!
Aught between has my loathing and contempt,
Mine and God's also, doubtless: ask yourself,
Cardinal, where and how you like a man!
Why, either with your feet upon his head,
Confessed your caudatory, or, at large,
The stranger in the crowd who caps to you
But keeps his distance,—why should he presume?
You want no hanger-on and dropper-off,
Now yours, and now not yours but quite his own,
According as the sky looks black or bright.
Just so I capped to and kept off from faith—
You promised trudge behind through fair and foul,
Yet leave i' the lurch at the first spit of rain.
Who holds to faith whenever rain begins?
What does the father when his son lies dead,
The merchant when his money-bags take wing,
The politician whom a rival ousts?
No case but has its conduct, faith prescribes:
Where's the obedience that shall edify?
Why, they laugh frankly in the face of faith
And take the natural course,—this rends his hair
Because his child is taken to God's breast.
That gnashes teeth and raves at loss of trash
Which rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal,
And this, enabled to inherit earth
Through meekness, curses till your blood runs cold!
Down they all drop to my low level, rest
Heart upon dungy earth that's warm and soft,
And let who please attempt the altitudes.
Each playing prodigal son of heavenly sire,
Turning his nose up at the fatted calf,
Fain to fill belly with the husks, we swine
Did eat by born depravity of taste!
Enough of the hypocrites. But you, Sirs, you—
Who never budged from litter where I lay,
And buried snout i' the draff-box while I fed,
Cried amen to my creed's one article—
"Get pleasure, 'scape pain,—give your preference
"To the immediate good, for time is brief,
"And death ends good and ill and everything!
"What's got is gained, what's gained soon is gained twice,
"And,—inasmuch as faith gains most,—feign faith!"
So did we brother-like pass word about:
—You, now,—like bloody drunkards but half-drunk,
Who fool men yet perceive men find them fools,—
Vexed that a titter gains the gravest mouth,—
O' the sudden you must needs re-introduce
Solemnity, straight sober undue mirth
By a blow dealt me your boon companion here
Who, using the old licence, dreamed of harm
No more than snow in harvest: yet it falls!
You check the merriment effectually
By pushing your abrupt machine i' the midst,
Making me Rome's example: blood for wine!
The general good needs that you chop and change!
I may dislike the hocus-pocus,—Rome,
The laughter-loving people, won't they stare
Chap-fallen!—while serious natures sermonize
"The magistrate, he beareth not the sword
"In vain; who sins may taste its edge, we see!"
Why my sin, drunkards? Where have I abused
Liberty, scandalized you all so much?
Who called me, who crooked finger till I came,
Fool that I was, to join companionship?
I knew my own mind, meant to live my life,
Elude your envy, or else make a stand,
Take my own part and sell you my life dear.
But it was "Fie! No prejudice in the world
"To the proper manly instinct! Cast your lot
"Into our lap, one genius ruled our births,
"We'll compass joy by concert; take with us
"The regular irregular way i' the wood;
"You'll miss no game through riding breast by breast,
"In this preserve, the Church's park and pale,
"Rather than outside where the world lies waste!"
Come, if you said not that, did you say this?
Give plain and terrible warning, "Live, enjoy?
"Such life begins in death and ends in hell!
"Dare you bid us assist your sins, us priests
"Who hurry sin and sinners from the earth?
"No such delight for us, why then for you?
"Leave earth, seek heaven or find its opposite!"
Had you so warned me, not in lying words
But veritable deeds with tongues of flame,
That had been fair, that might have struck a man,
Silenced the squabble between soul and sense,
Compelled him to make mind up, take one course
Or the other, peradventure!—wrong or right,
Foolish or wise, you would have been at least
Sincere, no question,—forced me choose, indulge
Or else renounce my instincts, still play wolf
Or find my way submissive to your fold,
Be red-crossed on my fleece, one sheep the more.
But you as good as bade me wear sheep's wool
Over wolf's skin, suck blood and hide the noise
By mimicry of something like a bleat,—
Whence it comes that because, despite my care,
Because I smack my tongue too loud for once,
Drop baaing, here's the village up in arms!
Have at the wolfs throat, you who hate the breed!
Oh, were it only open yet to choose—
One little time more—whether I'd be free
Your foe, or subsidized your friend forsooth!
Should not you get a growl through the white fangs
In answer to your beckoning! Cardinal,
Abate, managers o' the multitude,
I'd turn your gloved hands to account, be sure!
You should manipulate the coarse rough mob:
'T is you I'd deal directly with, not them,—
Using your fears: why touch the thing myself
When I could see you hunt, and then cry "Shares!
"Quarter the carcase or we quarrel; come,
"Here's the world ready to see justice done!"
Oh, it had been a desperate game, but game
Wherein the winner's chance were worth the pains!
We'd try conclusions!—at the worst, what worse
Than this Mannaia-machine, each minute's talk
Helps push an inch the nearer me? Fool, fool!
You understand me and forgive, sweet Sirs?
I blame you, tear my hair and tell my woe—
All's but a flourish, figure of rhetoric!
One must try each expedient to save life.
One makes fools look foolisher fifty-fold
By putting in their place men wise like you,
To take the full force of an argument
Would buffet their stolidity in vain.
If you should feel aggrieved by the mere wind
O' the blow that means to miss you and maul them,
That's my success! Is it not folly, now,
To say with folk, "A plausible defence—
"We see through notwithstanding, and reject?"
Reject the plausible they do, these fools,
Who never even make pretence to show
One point beyond its plausibility
In favour of the best belief they hold!
"Saint Somebody-or-other raised the dead:"
Did he? How do you come to know as much?
"Know it, what need? The story's plausible,
"Avouched for by a martyrologist,
"And why should good men sup on cheese and leeks
"On such a saint's day, if there were no saint?"
I praise the wisdom of these fools, and straight
Tell them my story—"plausible, but false!"
False, to be sure! What else can story be
That runs—a young wife tired of an old spouse,
Found a priest whom she fled away with,—both
Took their full pleasure in the two-days' flight,
Which a grey-headed greyer-hearted pair,
(Whose best boast was, their life had been a lie)
Helped for the love they bore all liars. Oh,
Here incredulity begins! Indeed?
Allow then, were no one point strictly true,
There's that i' the tale might seem like truth at least
To the unlucky husband,—jaundiced patch—
Jealousy maddens people, why not him?
Say, he was maddened, so forgivable!
Humanity pleads that though the wife were true,
The priest true, and the pair of liars true,
They might seem false to one man in the world!
A thousand gnats make up a serpent's sting,
And many sly soft stimulants to wrath
Compose a formidable wrong at last
That gets called easily by some one name
Not applicable to the single parts,
And so draws down a general revenge,
Excessive if you take crime, fault by fault.
Jealousy! I have known a score of plays,
Were listened to and laughed at in my time
As like the everyday-life on all sides,
Wherein the husband, mad as a March hare,
Suspected all the world contrived his shame.
What did the wife? The wife kissed both eyes blind,
Explained away ambiguous circumstance,
And while she held him captive by the hand,
Crowned his head,—you know what's the mockery,—
By half her body behind the curtain. That's
Nature now! That's the subject of a piece
I saw in Vallombrosa Convent, made
Expressly to teach men what marriage was!
But say "Just so did I misapprehend,
"Imagine she deceived me to my face,"
And that's pretence too easily seen through!
All those eyes of all husbands in all plays,
At stare like one expanded peacock-tail,
Are laughed at for pretending to be keen
While horn-blind: but the moment I step forth—
Oh, I must needs o' the sudden prove a lynx
And look the heart, that stone-wall, through and through!
Such an eye, God's may be,—not yours nor mine.
Yes, presently . . what hour is fleeting now?
When you cut earth away from under me,
I shall be left alone with, pushed beneath
Some such an apparitional dread orb
As the eye of God, since such an eye there glares:
I fancy it go filling up the void
Above my mote-self it devours, or what
Proves—wrath, immensity wreaks on nothingness.
Just how I felt once, couching through the dark,
Hard by Vittiano; young I was, and gay,
And wanting to trap fieldfares: first a spark
Tipped a bent, as a mere dew-globule might
Any stiff grass-stalk on the meadow,—this
Grew fiercer, flamed out full, and proved the sun.
What do I want with proverbs, precepts here?
Away with man! What shall I say to God?
This, if I find the tongue and keep the mind—
"Do Thou wipe out the being of me, and smear
"This soul from off Thy white of things, I blot!
"I am one huge and sheer mistake,—whose fault?
"Not mine at least, who did not make myself!"
Someone declares my wife excused me so!
Perhaps she knew what argument to use.
Grind your teeth, Cardinal: Abate, writhe!
What else am I to cry out in my rage,
Unable to repent one particle
O' the past? Oh, how I wish some cold wise man
Would dig beneath the surface which you scrape,
Deal with the depths, pronounce on my desert
Groundedly! I want simple sober sense,
That asks, before it finishes with a dog,
Who taught the dog that trick you hang him for?
You both persist to call that act a crime,
Which sense would call ... yes, I maintain it, Sirs,...
A blunder! At the worst, I stood in doubt
On cross-road, took one path of many paths:
It leads to the red thing, we all see now,
But nobody saw at first: one primrose-patch
In bank, one singing-bird in bush, the less,
Had warned me from such wayfare: let me prove!
Put me back to the cross-road, start afresh!
Advise me when I take the first false step!
Give me my wife: how should I use my wife,
Love her or hate her? Prompt my action now!
There she is, there she stands alive and pale,
The thirteen-years' old child, with milk for blood,
Pompilia Comparini, as at first,
Which first is only four brief years ago!
I stand too in the little ground-floor room
O' the father's house at Via Vittoria: see!
Her so-called mother,—one arm round the waist
O' the child to keep her from the toys, let fall
At wonder I can live yet look so grim,—
Ushers her in, with deprecating wave
Of the other,—and she fronts me loose at last,
Held only by the mother's finger-tip.
Struck dumb,—for she was white enough before!—
She eyes me with those frightened balls of black,
As heifer—the old simile comes pat—
Eyes tremblingly the altar and the priest.
The amazed look, all one insuppressive prayer,—
Might she but breathe, set free as heretofore,
Have this cup leave her lips unblistered, bear
Any cross anywhither anyhow,
So but alone, so but apart from me!
You are touched? So am I, quite otherwise,
If 't is with pity. I resent my wrong,
Being a man: I only show man's soul
Through man's flesh: she sees mine, it strikes her thus!
Is that attractive? To a youth perhaps—
Calf-creature, one-part boy to three-parts girl,
To whom it is a flattering novelty
That he, men use to motion from their path,
Can thus impose, thus terrify in turn
A chit whose terror shall be changed apace
To bliss unbearable when grace and glow,
Prowess and pride descend the throne and touch
Esther in all that pretty tremble, cured
By the dove o' the sceptre! But myself am old,
O' the wane at least, in all things: what do you say
To her who frankly thus confirms my doubt?
I am past the prime, I scare the woman-world,
Done-with that way: you like this piece of news?
A little saucy rose-bud minx can strike
Death-damp into the breast of doughty king
Though 't were French Louis,—soul I understand,—
Saying, by gesture of repugnance, just
"Sire, you are regal, puissant and so forth,
"But—young you have been, are not, nor will be!"
In vain the mother nods, winks, bustles up,
"Count, girls incline to mature worth like you!
"As for Pompilia, what's flesh, fish, or fowl
"To one who apprehends no difference,
"And would accept you even were you old
"As you are … youngish by her father's side?
"Trim but your beard a little, thin your bush
"Of eyebrow; and for presence, portliness,
"And decent gravity, you beat a boy!"
Deceive yourself one minute, if you may,
In presence of the child that so loves age,
Whose neck writhes, cords itself against your kiss,
Whose hand you wring stark, rigid with despair!
Well, I resent this; I am young in soul,
Nor old in body,—thews and sinews here,—
Though the vile surface be not smooth as once,—
Far beyond that first wheelwork which went wrong
Through the untempered iron ere 't was proof:
I am the wrought man worth ten times the crude,
Would woman see what this declines to see,
Declines to say "I see,"—the officious word
That makes the thing, pricks on the soul to shoot
New fire into the half-used cinder, flesh!
Therefore 't is she begins with wronging me,
Who cannot but begin with hating her.
Our marriage follows: there she stands again!
Why do I laugh? Why, in the very gripe
O' the jaws of death's gigantic skull, do I
Grin back his grin, make sport of my own pangs?
Why from each clashing of his molars, ground
To make the devil bread from out my grist,
Leaps out a spark of mirth, a hellish toy?
Take notice we are lovers in a church,
Waiting the sacrament to make us one
And happy! Just as bid, she bears herself,
Comes and kneels, rises, speaks, is silent,—goes:
So have I brought my horse, by word and blow,
To stand stock-still and front the fire he dreads.
How can I other than remember this,
Resent the very obedience? Gain thereby?
Yes, I do gain my end and have my will,—
Thanks to whom? When the mother speaks the word,
She obeys it—even to enduring me!
There had been compensation in revolt—
Revolt's to quell: but martyrdom rehearsed,
But predetermined saintship for the sake
O' the mother?—"Go!" thought I, "we meet again!"
Pass the next weeks of dumb contented death,
She lives,—wakes up, installed in house and home,
Is mine, mine all day-long, all night-long mine.
Good folk begin at me with open mouth
"Now, at least, reconcile the child to life!
"Study and make her love … that is, endure
"The … hem! the … all of you though somewhat old,
"Till it amount to something, in her eye,
"As good as love, better a thousand times,—
"Since nature helps the woman in such strait,
"Makes passiveness her pleasure: failing which,
"What if you give up boy-and-girl-fools'-play
"And go on to wise friendship all at once?
"Those boys and girls kiss themselves cold, you know,
"Toy themselves tired and slink aside full soon
"To friendship, as they name satiety:
"Thither go you and wait their coming!" Thanks,
Considerate advisers,—but, fair play!
Had you and I, friends, started fair at first
We, keeping fair, might reach it, neck by neck,
This blessed goal, whenever fate so please:
But why am I to miss the daisied mile
The course begins with, why obtain the dust
Of the end precisely at the starting-point?
Why quaff life's cup blown free of all the beads,
The bright red froth wherein our beard should steep
Before our mouth essay the black o' the wine?
Foolish, the love-fit? Let me prove it such
Like you, before like you I puff things clear!
"The best's to come, no rapture but content!
"Not love's first glory but a sober glow,
"Not a spontaneous outburst in pure boon,
"So much as, gained by patience, care and toil,
"Proper appreciation and esteem!"
Go preach that to your nephews, not to me
Who, tired i' the midway of my life, would stop
And take my first refreshment, pluck a rose:
What's this coarse woolly hip, worn smooth of leaf,
You counsel I go plant in garden-plot,
Water with tears, manure with sweat and blood,
In confidence the seed shall germinate
And, for its very best, some far-off day,
Grow big, and blow me out a dog-rose bell?
Why must your nephews begin breathing spice
O' the hundred-petalled Provence prodigy?
Nay, more and worse,—would such my root bear rose—
Prove really flower and favourite, not the kind
That's queen, but those three leaves that make one cup
And hold the hedge-bird's breakfast,—then indeed
The prize though poor would pay the care and toil!
Respect we Nature that makes least as most,
Marvellous in the minim! But this bud,
Bit through and burned black by the tempter's tooth,
This bloom whose best grace was the slug outside
And the wasp inside its bosom,—call you "rose"?
Claim no immunity from a weed's fate
For the horrible present! What you call my wife
I call a nullity in female shape,
Vapid disgust, soon to be pungent plague,
When mixed with, made confusion and a curse
By two abominable nondescripts,
That father and that mother: think you see
The dreadful bronze our boast, we Aretines,
The Etruscan monster, the three-headed thing,
Bellerophon's foe! How name you the whole beast?
You choose to name the body from one head,
That of the simple kid which droops the eye,
Hangs the neck and dies tenderly enough:
I rather see the griesly lion belch
Flame out i' the midst, the serpent writhe her rings,
Grafted into the common stock for tail,
And name the brute, Chimæra which I slew!
How was there ever more to be—(concede
My wife's insipid harmless nullity)—
Dissociation from that pair of plagues—
That mother with her cunning and her cant—
The eyes with first their twinkle of conceit,
Then, dropped to earth in mock-demureness,—now,
The smile self-satisfied from ear to ear,
Now, the prim pursed-up mouth's protruded lips,
With deferential duck, slow swing of head,
Tempting the sudden fist of man too much,—
That owl-like screw of lid and rock of ruff!
As for the father,—Cardinal, you know,
The kind of idiot!—such are rife in Rome,
But they wear velvet commonly; good fools,
At the end of life, to furnish forth young folk
Who grin and bear with imbecility:
Since the stalled ass, the joker, sheds from jaw
Corn, in the joke, for those who laugh or starve.
But what say we to the same solemn beast
Wagging his ears and wishful of our pat,
When turned, with holes in hide and bones laid bare,
To forage for himself i' the waste o' the world,
Sir Dignity i' the dumps? Pat him? We drub
Self-knowledge, rather, into frowzy pate,
Teach Pietro to get trappings or go hang!
Fancy this quondam oracle in vogue
At Via Vittoria, this personified
Authority when time was,—Pantaloon
Flaunting his tom-fool tawdry just the same
As if Ash-Wednesday were mid-Carnival!
That's the extreme and unforgiveable
Of sins, as I account such. Have you stooped
For your own ends to bestialize yourself
By flattery of a fellow of this stamp?
The ends obtained or else shown out of reach,
He goes on, takes the flattery for pure truth,—
"You love, and honour me, of course: what next?"
What, but the trifle of the stabbing, friend?—
Which taught you how one worships when the shrine
Has lost the relic that we bent before.
Angry! And how could I be otherwise?
'T is plain: this pair of old pretentious fools
Meant to fool me: it happens, I fooled them.
Why could not these who sought to buy and sell
Me,—when they found themselves were bought and sold,
Make up their mind to the proved rule of right,
Be chattel and not chapman any more?
Miscalculation has its consequence;
But when the shepherd crooks a sheep-like thing
And meaning to get wool, dislodges fleece
And finds the veritable wolf beneath,
(How that staunch image serves at every turn!)
Does he, by way of being politic,
Pluck the first whisker grimly visible?
Or rather grow in a trice all gratitude,
Protest this sort-of-what-one-might-name sheep
Beats the old other curly-coated kind,
And shall share board and bed, if so it deign,
With its discoverer, like a royal ram?
Ay, thus, with chattering teeth and knocking knees,
Would wisdom treat the adventure! these, forsooth,
Tried whisker-plucking, and so found what trap
The whisker kept perdue, two rows of teeth—
Sharp, as too late the prying fingers felt.
What would you have? The fools transgress, the fools
Forthwith receive appropriate punishment:
They first insult me, I return the blow,
There follows noise enough: four hubbub months,
Now hue and cry, now whimpering and wail—
A perfect goose-yard cackle of complaint
Because I do not gild the geese their oats,—
I have enough of noise, ope wicket wide,
Sweep out the couple to go whine elsewhere,
Frightened a little, hurt in no respect,
And am just taking thought to breathe again,
Taste the sweet sudden silence all about,
When, there they raise it, the old noise I know,
At Rome i' the distance! "What, begun once more?
"Whine on, wail ever, 't is the loser's right!"
But eh, what sort of voice grows on the wind?
Triumph it sounds and no complaint at all!
And triumph it is. My boast was premature:
The creatures, I turned forth, clapped wing and crew
Fighting-cock-fashion,—they had filched a pearl
From dung-heap, and might boast with cause enough!
I was defrauded of all bargained for:
You know, the Pope knows, not a soul but knows
My dowry was derision, my gain—muck,
My wife, (the Church declared my flesh and blood)
The nameless bastard of a common whore:
My old name turned henceforth to … shall I say
"He that received the ordure in his face?"
And they who planned this wrong, performed this wrong,
And then revealed this wrong to the wide world,
Rounded myself in the ears with my own wrong,—
Why, these were (note hell's lucky malice, now!)
These were just they who, they alone, could act
And publish and proclaim their infamy,
Secure that men would in a breath believe
Compassionate and pardon them,—for why?
They plainly were too stupid to invent,
Too simple to distinguish wrong from right,—
Inconscious agents they, the silly-sooth,
Of heaven's retributive justice on the strong
Proud cunning violent oppressor—me!
Follow them to their fate and help your best,
You Rome, Arezzo, foes called friends of me,
They gave the good long laugh to, at my cost!
Defray your share o' the cost, since you partook
The entertainment! Do!—assured the while,
That not one stab, I dealt to right and left,
But went the deeper for a fancy—this—
That each might do me two-fold service, find
A friend's face at the bottom of each wound,
And scratch its smirk a little!
There's a report at Florence,—is it true?—
That when your relative the Cardinal
Built, only the other day, that barrack-bulk,
The palace in Via Larga, someone picked
From out the street a saucy quip enough
That fell there from its day's flight through the town,
About the flat front and the windows wide
And bulging heap of cornice,—hitched the joke
Into a sonnet, signed his name thereto,
And forthwith pinned on post the pleasantry:
For which he's at the galleys, rowing now
Up to his waist in water,—just because
Panciatic and lymphatic rhymed so pat!
I hope, Sir, those who passed this joke on me
Were not unduly punished? What say you,
Prince of the Church, my patron? Nay, indeed,
I shall not dare insult your wits so much
As think this problem difficult to solve.
This Pietro and Violante then, I say,
These two ambiguous insects, changing name
And nature with the season's warmth or chill,—
Now, grovelled, grubbing toiling moiling ants,
A very synonym of thrift and peace,—
Anon, with lusty June to prick their heart,
Soared i' the air, winged flies for more offence,
Circled me, buzzed me deaf and stung me blind,
And stunk me dead with fetor in the face
Until I stopped the nuisance: there's my crime!
Pity I did not suffer them subside
Into some further shape and final form
Of execrable life? My masters, no!
I, by one blow, wisely cut short at once
Them and their transformations of disgust,
In the snug little Villa out of hand.
"Grant me confession, give bare time for that!"—
Shouted the sinner till his mouth was stopped.
His life confessed!—that was enough for me,
Who came to see that he did penance. 'S death!
Here's a coil raised, a pother and for what?
Because strength, being provoked by weakness, fought
And conquered,—the world never heard the like!
Pah, how I spend my breath on them, as if
'T was their fate troubled me, too hard to range
Among the right and fit and proper things!
Ay, but Pompilia,—I await your word,—
She, unimpeached of crime, unimplicate
In folly, one of alien blood to these
I punish, why extend my claim, exact
Her portion of the penalty? Yes, friends,
I go too fast: the orator's at fault:
Yes, ere I lay her, with your leave, by them
As she was laid at San Lorenzo late,
I ought to step back, lead you by degrees,
Recounting at each step some fresh offence,
Up to the red bed,—never fear, I will!
Gaze at her, where I place her, to begin,
Confound me with her gentleness and worth!
The horrible pair have fled and left her now,
She has her husband for her sole concern:
His wife, the woman fashioned for his help,
Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, the bride
To groom as is the Church and Spouse to Christ:
There she stands in his presence: "Thy desire
"Shall be to the husband, o'er thee shall he rule!"
—"Pompilia, who declare that you love God,
"You know who said that: then, desire my love,
"Yield me contentment and be ruled aright!"
She sits up, she lies down, she comes and goes,
Kneels at the couch-side, overleans the sill
O' the window, cold and pale and mute as stone,
Strong as stone also. "Well, are they not fled?
"Am I not left, am I not one for all?
"Speak a word, drop a tear, detach a glance,
"Bless me or curse me of your own accord!
"Is it the ceiling only wants your soul,
"Is worth your eyes?" And then the eyes descend,
And do look at me. Is it at the meal?
"Speak!" she obeys, "Be silent!" she obeys,
Counting the minutes till I cry "Depart,"
As brood-bird when you saunter past her eggs.
Departs she? just the same through door and wall
I see the same stone strength of white despair.
And all this will be never otherwise!
Before, the parents' presence lent her life:
She could play off her sex's armoury,
Entreat, reproach, be female to my male,
Try all the shrieking doubles of the hare,
Go clamour to the Commissary, bid
The Archbishop hold my hands and stop my tongue,
And yield fair sport so: but the tactics change,
The hare stands stock-still to enrage the hound!
Since that day when she learned she was no child
Of those she thought her parents,—that their trick
Had tricked me whom she thought sole trickster late,—
Why, I suppose she said within herself
"Then, no more struggle for my parents' sake!
"And, for my own sake, why needs struggle be?"
But is there no third party to the pact?
What of her husband's relish or dislike
For this new game of giving up the game,
This worst offence of not offending more?
I'll not believe but instinct wrought in this,
Set her on to conceive and execute
The preferable plague: how sure they probe—
These jades, the sensitivest soft of man!
The long black hair was wound now in a wisp,
Crowned sorrow better than the wild web late:
No more soiled dress, 't is trimness triumphs now,
For how should malice go with negligence?
The frayed silk looked the fresher for her spite!
There was an end to springing out of bed,
Praying me, with face buried on my feet,
Be hindered of my pastime,—so an end
To my rejoinder, "What, on the ground at last?
'Vanquished in fight, a supplicant for life?
"What if I raise you? 'Ware the casting down
"When next you fight me!" Then, she lay there, mine:
Now, mine she is if I please wring her neck,—
A moment of disquiet, working eyes,
Protruding tongue, a long sigh, then no more,—
As if one killed the horse one could not ride!
Had I enjoined "Cut off the hair!"—why, snap
The scissors, and at once a yard or so
Had fluttered in black serpents to the floor:
But till I did enjoin it, how she combs,
Uncurls and draws out to the complete length,
Plaits, places the insulting rope on head
To be an eyesore past dishevelment!
Is all done? Then sit still again and stare!
I advise—no one think to bear that look
Of steady wrong, endured as steadily
—Through what sustainment of deluding hope?
Who is the friend i' the background that notes all?
Who may come presently and close accounts?
This self-possession to the uttermost,
How does it differ in aught, save degree,
From the terrible patience of God?
"All which just means,
"She did not love you!" Again the word is launched
And the fact fronts me! What, you try the wards
With the true key and the dead lock flies ope?
No, it sticks fast and leaves you fumbling still!
You have some fifty servants, Cardinal,—
Which of them loves you? Which subordinate
But makes parade of such officiousness
That,—if there's no love prompts it,—love, the sham,
Does twice the service done by love, the true.
God bless us liars, where's one touch of truth
In what we tell the world, or world tells us,
Of how we love each other? All the same,
We calculate on word and deed, nor err,—
Bid such a man do such a loving act,
Sure of effect and negligent of cause,
Just as we bid a horse, with cluck of tongue,
Stretch his legs arch-wise, crouch his saddled back
To foot-reach of the stirrup—all for love,
And some for memory of the smart of switch
On the inside of the foreleg—what care we?
Yet where's the bond obliges horse to man
Like that which binds fast wife to husband? God
Laid down the law: gave man the brawny arm
And ball of fist—woman the beardless cheek
And proper place to suffer in the side:
Since it is he can strike, let her obey!
Can she feel no love? Let her show the more,
Sham the worse, damn herself praiseworthily!
Who's that soprano, Rome went mad about
Last week while I lay rotting in my straw?
The very jailer gossiped in his praise—
How,—dressed up like Armida, though a man;
And painted to look pretty, though a fright,—
He still made love so that the ladies swooned,
Being an eunuch. "Ah, Rinaldo mine!
"But to breathe by thee while Jove slays us both!
All the poor bloodless creature never felt,
Si, do, re, mi, fa, squeak and squall—for what?
Two gold zecchines the evening. Here's my slave,
Whose body and soul depend upon my nod,
Can't falter out the first note in the scale
For her life! Why blame me if I take the life?
All women cannot give men love, forsooth!
No, nor all pullets lay the henwife eggs—
Whereat she bids them remedy the fault,
Brood on a chalk-ball: soon the nest is stocked—
Otherwise, to the plucking and the spit!
This wife of mine was of another mood—
Would not begin the lie that ends with truth,
Nor feign the love that brings real love about:
Wherefore I judged, sentenced and punished her
But why particularize, defend the deed?
Say that I hated her for no one cause
Beyond my pleasure so to do,—what then?
Just on as much incitement acts the world,
All of you! Look and like! You favour one
Browbeat another, leave alone a third,—
Why should you master natural caprice?
Pure nature Try: plant elm by ash in file;
Both unexceptionable trees enough,
They ought to overlean each other, pair
At top, and arch across the avenue
The whole path to the pleasaunce: do they so—
Or loathe, lie off abhorrent each from each?
Lay the fault elsewhere: since we must have faults,
Mine shall have been,—seeing there's ill in the end
Come of my course,—that I fare somehow worse
For the way I took: my fault … as God's my judge,
I see not where my fault lies, that's the truth!
I ought … oh, ought in my own interest
Have let the whole adventure go untried,
This chance by marriage: or else, trying it,
Ought to have turned it to account, some one
O' the hundred otherwises? Ay, my friend,
Easy to say, easy to do: step right
Now you've stepped left and stumbled on the thing,
—The red thing! Doubt I any more than you
That practice makes man perfect? Give again
The chance,—same marriage and no other wife,
Be sure I'll edify you! That's because
I'm practised, grown fit guide for Guido's self.
You proffered guidance,—I know, none so well,—
You laid down law and rolled decorum out,
From pulpit-corner on the gospel-side,—
Wanted to make your great experience mine,
Save me the personal search and pains so: thanks!
Take your word on life's use? When I take his—
The muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn,
Gone blind in padding round and round one path,—
As to the taste of green grass in the field!
What do you know o' the world that's trodden flat
And salted sterile with your daily dung,
Leavened into a lump of loathsomeness?
Take your opinion of the modes of life,
The aims of life, life's triumph or defeat,
How to feel, how to scheme, and how to do
Or else leave undone? You preached long and loud
On high-days, "Take our doctrine upon trust!
"Into the mill-house with you! Grind our corn,
"Relish our chaff, and let the green grass grow!"
I tried chaff, found I famished on such fare,
So made this mad rush at the mill-house-door,
Buried my head up to the ears in dew,
Browsed on the best: for which you brain me, Sirs!
Be it so. I conceived of life that way,
And still declare—life, without absolute use
Of the actual sweet therein, is death, not life.
Give me,—pay down,—not promise, which is air,—
Something that's out of life and better still,
Make sure reward, make certain punishment,
Entice me, scare me,—I'll forgo this life;
Otherwise, no!—the less that words, mere wind,
Would cheat me of some minutes while they plague,
Baulk fulness of revenge here,—blame yourselves
For this eruption of the pent-up soul
You prisoned first and played with afterward
"Deny myself" meant simply pleasure you,
The sacred and superior, save the mark!
You,—whose stupidity and insolence
I must defer to, soothe at every turn,—
Whose swine-like snuffling greed and grunting lust
I had to wink at or help gratify,—
While the same passions,—dared they perk in me,
Me, the immeasurably marked, by God,
Master of the whole world of such as you,—
I, boast such passions? 'T was "Suppress them straight!
"Or stay, we'll pick and choose before destroy.
"Here's wrath in you, a serviceable sword,—
"Beat it into a ploughshare! What's this long
"Lance-like ambition? Forge a pruning-hook,
"May be of service when our vines grow tall!
"But—sword use swordwise, spear thrust out as spear?
"Anathema! Suppression is the word!"
My nature, when the outrage was too gross,
Widened itself an outlet over-wide
By way of answer, sought its own relief
With more of fire and brimstone than you wished.
All your own doing: preachers, blame yourselves!
'T is I preach while the hour-glass runs and runs!
God keep me patient! All I say just means—
My wife proved, whether by her fault or mine,—
That's immaterial,—a true stumbling-block
I' the way of me her husband. I but plied
The hatchet yourselves use to clear a path,
Was politic, played the game you warrant wins,
Plucked at law's robe a-rustle through the courts,
Bowed down to kiss divinity's buckled shoe
Cushioned i' the church: efforts all wide the aim!
Procedures to no purpose! Then flashed truth.
The letter kills, the spirit keeps alive
In law and gospel: there be nods and winks
Instruct a wise man to assist himself
In certain matters, nor seek aid at all.
"Ask money of me,"—quoth the clownish saw,—
"And take my purse! But,—speaking with respect,—
"Need you a solace for the troubled nose?
"Let everybody wipe his own himself!"
Sirs, tell me free and fair! Had things gone well
At the wayside inn: had I surprised asleep
The runaways, as was so probable,
And pinned them each to other partridge-wise,
Through back and breast to breast and back, then bade
Bystanders witness if the spit, my sword,
Were loaded with unlawful game for once—
Would you have interposed to damp the glow
Applauding me on every husband's cheek?
Would you have checked the cry "A judgment, see!
"A warning, note! Be henceforth chaste, ye wives,
"Nor stray beyond your proper precinct, priests!"
If you had, then your house against itself
Divides, nor stands your kingdom any more.
Oh why, why was it not ordained just so?
Why fell not things out so nor otherwise?
Ask that particular devil whose task it is
To trip the all-but-at perfection,—slur
The line o' the painter just where paint leaves off
And life begins,—put ice into the ode
O' the poet while he cries "Next stanza—fire!"
Inscribe all human effort with one word,
Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
Being incomplete, my act escaped success.
Easy to blame now! Every fool can swear
To hole in net that held and slipped the fish.
But, treat my act with fair unjaundiced eye,
What was there wanting to a masterpiece
Except the luck that lies beyond a man?
My way with the woman, now proved grossly wrong,
Just missed of being gravely grandly right
And making mouths laugh on the other side.
Do, for the poor obstructed artist's sake,
Go with him over that spoiled work once more!
Take only its first flower, the ended act
Now in the dusty pod, dry and defunct!
I march to the Villa, and my men with me,
That evening, and we reach the door and stand.
I say … no, it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe, my hand upon the latch,
"Let me forebode! Thus far, too much success:
"I want the natural failure—find it where?
"Which thread will have to break and leave a loop
"I' the meshy combination, my brain's loom
"Wove this long while, and now next minute tests?
"Of three that are to catch, two should go free,
"One must: all three surprised,—impossible!
"Beside, I seek three and may chance on six,—
"This neighbour, t' other gossip,—the babe's birth
"Brings such to fireside, and folks give them wine,—
"'T is late: but when I break in presently
"One will be found outlingering the rest
"For promise of a posset,—one whose shout
"Would raise the dead down in the catacombs,
"Much more the city-watch that goes its round.
"When did I ever turn adroitly up
"To sun some brick embedded in the soil,
"And with one blow crush all three scorpions there?
"Or Pietro or Violante shambles off—
"It cannot be but I surprise my wife—
"If only she is stopped and stamped on, good!
"That shall suffice: more is improbable.
"Now I may knock!" And this once for my sake
The impossible was effected: I called king,
Queen and knave in a sequence, and cards came,
All three, three only! So, I had my way,
Did my deed: so, unbrokenly lay bare
Each tænia that had sucked me dry of juice,
At last outside me, not an inch of ring
Left now to writhe about and root itself
I' the heart all powerless for revenge! Henceforth
I might thrive: these were drawn and dead and damned
Oh Cardinal, the deep long sigh you heave
When the load's off you, ringing as it runs
All the way down the serpent-stair to hell!
No doubt the fine delirium flustered me,
Turned my brain with the influx of success
As if the sole need now were to wave wand
And find doors fly wide,—wish and have my will,—
The rest o' the scheme would care for itself: escape
Easy enough were that, and poor beside!
It all but proved so,—ought to quite have proved,
Since, half the chances had sufficed, set free
Anyone, with his senses at command,
From thrice the danger of my flight. But, drunk,
Redundantly triumphant,—some reverse
Was sure to follow! There's no other way
Accounts for such prompt perfect failure then
And there on the instant. Any day o' the week,
A ducat slid discreetly into palm
O' the mute post-master, while you whisper him—
How you the Count and certain four your knaves,
Have just been mauling who was malapert,
Suspect the kindred may prove troublesome,
Therefore, want horses in a hurry,—that
And nothing more secures you any day
The pick o' the stable! Yet I try the trick,
Double the bribe, call myself Duke for Count,
And say the dead man only was a Jew,
And for my pains find I am dealing just
With the one scrupulous fellow in all Rome—
Just this immaculate official stares,
Sees I want hat on head and sword in sheath,
Am splashed with other sort of wet than wine,
Shrugs shoulder, puts my hand by, gold and all,
Stands on the strictness of the rule o' the road!
"Where's the Permission?" Where's the wretched rag
With the due seal and sign of Rome's Police,
To be had for asking, half-an-hour ago?
"Gone? Get another, or no horses hence!"
He dares not stop me, we five glare too grim,
But hinders,—hacks and hamstrings sure enough,
Gives me some twenty miles of miry road
More to march in the middle of that night
Whereof the rough beginning taxed the strength
O' the youngsters, much more mine, both soul and flesh,
Who had to think as well as act: dead-beat,
We gave in ere we reached the boundary
And safe spot out of this irrational Rome,—
Where, on dismounting from our steeds next day,
We had snapped our fingers at you, safe and sound,
Tuscans once more in blessed Tuscany,
Where laws make wise allowance, understand
Civilized life and do its champions right!
Witness the sentence of the Rota there,
Arezzo uttered, the Granduke confirmed,
One week before I acted on its hint,—
Giving friend Guillichini, for his love,
The galleys, and my wife your saint, Rome's saint,—
Rome manufactures saints enough to know,—
Seclusion at the Stinche for her life.
All this, that all but was, might all have been,
Yet was not! baulked by just a scrupulous knave
Whose palm was horn through handling horses' hoofs
And could not close upon my proffered gold!
What say you to the spite of fortune? Well,
The worst's in store: thus hindered, haled this way
To Rome again by hangdogs, whom find I
Here, still to fight with, but my pale frail wife?
—Riddled with wounds by one not like to waste
The blows he dealt,—knowing anatomy,—
(I think I told you) bound to pick and choose
The vital parts! 'T was learning all in vain!
She too must shimmer through the gloom o' the grave,
Come and confront me—not at judgment-seat
Where I could twist her soul, as erst her flesh,
And turn her truth into a lie,—but there,
O' the death-bed, with God's hand between us both,
Striking me dumb, and helping her to speak,
Tell her own story her own way, and turn
My plausibility to nothingness!
Four whole days did Pompilia keep alive,
With the best surgery of Rome agape
At the miracle,—this cut, the other slash,
And yet the life refusing to dislodge,
Four whole extravagant impossible days,
Till she had time to finish and persuade
Every man, every woman, every child
In Rome, of what she would: the selfsame she
Who, but a year ago, had wrung her hands,
Reddened her eyes and beat her breasts, rehearsed
The whole game at Arezzo, nor availed
Thereby to move one heart or raise one hand!
When destiny intends you cards like these,
What good of skill and preconcerted play?
Had she been found dead, as I left her dead,
I should have told a tale brooked no reply:
You scarcely will suppose me found at fault
With that advantage! "What brings me to Rome?
"Necessity to claim and take my wife:
"Better, to claim and take my new born babe,—
"Strong in paternity a fortnight old,
"When't is at strongest: warily I work,
"Knowing the machinations of my foe;
"I have companionship and use the night:
"I seek my wife and child,—I find—no child
"But wife, in the embraces of that priest
"Who caused her to elope from me. These two,
"Backed by the pander-pair who watch the while,
"Spring on me like so many tiger-cats,
"Glad of the chance to end the intruder. I—
"What should I do but stand on my defence,
"Strike right, strike left, strike thick and threefold, slay,
"Not all-because the coward priest escapes.
"Last, I escape, in fear of evil tongues,
"And having had my taste of Roman law."
What's disputable, refutable here?—
Save by just this one ghost-thing half on earth,
Half out of it,—as if she held God's hand
While she leant back and looked her last at me,
Forgiving me (here monks begin to weep)
Oh, from her very soul, commending mine
To heavenly mercies which are infinite,—
While fixing fast my head beneath your knife!
'T is fate not fortune. All is of a piece!
When was it chance informed me of my youths?
My rustic four o' the family, soft swains,
What sweet surprise had they in store for me,
Those of my very household,—what did Law
Twist with her rack-and-cord-contrivance late
From out their bones and marrow? What but this—
Had no one of these several stumbling-blocks
Stopped me, they yet were cherishing a scheme,
All of their honest country homespun wit,
To quietly next day at crow of cock
Cut my own throat too, for their own behoof,
Seeing I had forgot to clear accounts
O' the instant, nowise slackened speed for that,—
And somehow never might find memory,
Once safe back in Arezzo, where things change,
And a court-lord needs mind no country lout.
Well, being the arch-offender, I die last,—
May, ere my head falls, have my eyesight free,
Nor miss them dangling high on either hand,
Like scarecrows in a hemp-field, for their pains!
And then my Trial,—'t is my Trial that bites
Like a corrosive, so the cards are packed,
Dice loaded, and my life-stake tricked away!
Look at my lawyers, lacked they grace of law,
Latin or logic? Were not they fools to the height,
Fools to the depth, fools to the level between,
O' the foolishness set to decide the case?
They feign, they flatter; nowise does it skill,
Everything goes against me: deal each judge
His dole of flattery and feigning,—why,
He turns and tries and snuffs and savours it,
As some old fly the sugar-grain, your gift;
Then eyes your thumb and finger, brushes clean
The absurd old head of him, and whisks away,
Leaving your thumb and finger dirty. Faugh!
And finally, after this long-drawn range
Of affront and failure, failure and affront,—
This path, 'twixt crosses leading to a skull,
Paced by me barefoot, bloodied by my palms
From the entry to the end,—there's light at length,
A cranny of escape: appeal may be
To the old man, to the father, to the Pope,
For a little life—from one whose life is spent,
A little pity—from pity's source and seat,
A little indulgence to rank, privilege,
From one who is the thing personified,
Rank, privilege, indulgence, grown beyond
Earth's bearing, even, ask Jansenius else!
Still the same answer, still no other tune
From the cicala perched at the tree-top
Than crickets noisy round the root: 't is "Die!"
Bids Law—"Be damned!" adds Gospel,—nay,
No word so frank,—'t is rather, "Save yourself!"
The Pope subjoins—"Confess and be absolved!
"So shall my credit countervail your shame,
"And the world see I have not lost the knack
"Of trying all the spirits: yours, my son,
"Wants but a fiery washing to emerge
"In clarity! Come, cleanse you, ease the ache
"Of these old bones, refresh our bowels, boy!"
Do I mistake your mission from the Pope?
Then, bear his Holiness the mind of me!
I do get strength from being thrust to wall,
Successively wrenched from pillar and from post
By this tenacious hate of fortune, hate
Of all things in, under, and above earth.
Warfare, begun this mean unmanly mode,
Does best to end so,—gives earth spectacle
Of a brave fighter who succumbs to odds
That turn defeat to victory. Stab, I fold
My mantle round me! Rome approves my act:
Applauds the blow which costs me life but keeps
My honour spotless: Rome would praise no more
Had I fallen, say, some fifteen years ago,
Helping Vienna when our Aretines
Flocked to Duke Charles and fought Turk Mustafa;
Nor would you two be trembling o'er my corpse
With all this exquisite solicitude.
Why is it that I make such suit to live?
The popular sympathy that's round me now
Would break like bubble that o'er-domes a fly:
Solid enough while he lies quiet there,
But let him want the air and ply the wing,
Why, it breaks and bespatters him, what else?
Cardinal, if the Pope had pardoned me,
And I walked out of prison through the crowd,
It would not be your arm I should dare press!
Then, if I got safe to my place again,
How sad and sapless were the years to come!
I go my old ways and find things grown grey;
You priests leer at me, old friends look askance
The mob's in love, I'll wager, to a man,
With my poor young good beauteous murdered wife:
For hearts require instruction how to beat,
And eyes, on warrant of the story, wax
Wanton at portraiture in white and black
Of dead Pompilia gracing ballad-sheet,
Which eyes, lived she unmurdered and unsung,
Would never turn though she paced street as bare
As the mad penitent ladies do in France.
My brothers quietly would edge me out
Of use and management of things called mine;
Do I command? "You stretched command before!
Show anger? "Anger little helped you once!"
Advise? "How managed you affairs of old?"
My very mother, all the while they gird,
Turns eye up, gives confirmatory groan;
For unsuccess, explain it how you will,
Disqualifies you, makes you doubt yourself,
—Much more, is found decisive by your friends.
Beside, am I not fifty years of age?
What new leap would a life take, checked like mine
I' the spring at outset? Where's my second chance?
Ay, but the babe … I had forgot my son,
My heir! Now for a burst of gratitude!
There's some appropriate service to intone,
Some gaudeamus and thanksgiving psalm!
Old, I renew my youth in him, and poor
Possess a treasure,—is not that the phrase?
Only I must wait patient twenty years—
Nourishing all the while, as father ought,
The excrescence with my daily blood of life.
Does it respond to hope, such sacrifice,—
Grows the wen plump while I myself grow lean?
Why, here's my son and heir in evidence,
Who stronger, wiser, handsomer than I
By fifty years, relieves me of each load,—
Tames my hot horse, carries my heavy gun,
Courts my coy mistress,—has his apt advice
On house-economy, expenditure,
And what not? All which good gifts and great growth
Because of my decline, he brings to bear
On Guido, but half apprehensive how
He cumbers earth, crosses the brisk young Count,
Who civilly would thrust him from the scene.
Contrariwise, does the blood-offering fail?
There's an ineptitude, one blank the more
Added to earth in semblance of my child?
Then, this has been a costly piece of work,
My life exchanged for his!—why he, not I,
Enjoy the world, if no more grace accrue?
Dwarf me, what giant have you made of him?
I do not dread the disobedient son:
I know how to suppress rebellion there,
Being not quite the fool my father was.
But grant the medium measure of a man,
The usual compromise 'twixt fool and sage,
—You know—the tolerably-obstinate,
The not-so-much-perverse but you may train,
The true son-servant that, when parent bids
"Go work, son, in my vineyard!" makes reply
"I go, Sir!"—Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsidize,
Have the same work from, at a paul the head?
Look at those four young precious olive-plants
Reared at Vittiano,—not on flesh and blood,
These twenty years, but black bread and sour wine!
I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome:
They did my hest as unreluctantly,
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repays youth expended so—
Youth, I say, who am young still: grant but leave
To live my life out, to the last I'd live
And die conceding age no right of youth!
It is the will runs the renewing nerve
Through flaccid flesh that faints before the time.
Therefore no sort of use for son have I—
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast,—of means
To the end: for make the end attainable
Without the means,—my relish were like yours.
A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of robins ready cooked,
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow,
And snare sufficiently for supper.
The time's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword: why not
Say—Tuscan-like, more ancient, better still?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world,
Me among others: truce to nonsense now!
Name me, a primitive religionist—
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One sprung,—your frigid Virgil's fieriest word,—
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart of oak,
With,—for a visible divinity,—
The portent of a Jove Ægiochus
Descried 'mid clouds, lightning and thunder, couched
On topmost crag of your Capitoline:
'T is in the Seventh Æneid,—what, the Eighth?
Right,—thanks, Abate,—though the Christian's dumb,
The Latinist's vivacious in you yet!
I know my grandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield,
Whereto his grandson presently will give gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths,
But get to shake hands at the last of all:
Mine's your faith too,—in Jove Ægiochus!
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement,
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race
To make communication possible;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
Midway hang these: we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no question nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idly wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gods their trade,
Which is to teach us: we'll obey when taught.
Why should we do our duty past the need?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth,—say prayer!
When the sun shines and Jove is glad,—sing psalm!
But wherefore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering for sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own?
Learned Abate,—no one teaches you
What Venus means and who's Apollo here!
I spare you, Cardinal,—but, though you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know that!
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast:
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry?
Give alms prescribed on Friday: but, hold hand
Because your foe lies prostrate,—where's the word
Explicit in the book debars revenge?
The rationale of your scheme is just
"Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure free!"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers,
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest,
And so are saved propitiating—whom?
What all-good, all-wise and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the very sins in man, himself
Made life's necessity when man he made?
Irrational bunglers! So, the living truth
Revealed to strike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, called
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change came fast:
The inexorable need in man for life—
(Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life,
And bade you do your worst: which worst was done
In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this, Saint that, dutifully starved,
Froze, fought with beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire:
He kept life-long unspotted from the world!
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
His life and emulates Saint that, Saint this?
Men mutter, make excuse or mutiny,
In fine are minded all to leave the new,
Stick to the old,—enjoy old liberty,
No prejudice in enjoyment, if you please,
To the new profession: sin o' the sly, henceforth!
The law stands though the letter kills: what then?
The spirit saves as unmistakeably.
Omniscience sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Omnibenevolence pardons: it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there's a wink somewhere!
Such was the logic in this head of mine:
I, like the rest, wrote "poison" on my bread,
But broke and ate:—said "Those that use the sword
"Shall perish by the same;" then stabbed my foe.
I stand on solid earth, not empty air:
Dislodge me, let your Pope's crook hale me hence!
Not he, nor you! And I so pity both,
I'll make the true charge you want wit to make:
"Count Guido, who reveal our mystery,
"And trace all issues to the love of life.
"We having life to love and guard, like you,
"Why did you put us upon self-defence?
"You well knew what prompt pass-word would appease
"The sentry's ire when folk infringed his bounds,
"And yet kept mouth shut: do you wonder then
"If, in mere decency, he shot you dead?
"He can't have people play such pranks as yours
"Beneath his nose at noonday: you disdained
"To give him an excuse before the world
"By crying 'I break rule to save our camp!'
"Under the old rule, such offence were death;
"And you had heard the Pontifex pronounce
"'Since you slay foe and violate the form,
"'Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
"'Had you, while, say, law-suiting foe to death,
"'But raised an altar to the Unknown God
"'Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
"Why then this pother?—all because the Pope,
"Doing his duty, cried 'A foreigner,
"'You scandalize the natives: here at Rome
"'Romano vivitur more: wise men, here,
"'Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
"'The fit defence had been,—you stamped on wheat,
"'Intending all the time to trample tares,—
"'Were fain extirpate, then, the heretic,
"'You now find, in your haste was slain a fool:
"'Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
"'Meant to breed up your babe a Molinist!
"'Whence you are duly contrite. Not one word
"'Of all this wisdom did you urge: which slip
"'Death must atone for.'"
So, let death atone!
So ends mistake, so end mistakers!—end
Perhaps to recommence,—how should I know?
Only, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible,
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee,—
Byblis in fluvium, let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lycaon in lupum, but
The strong become a wolf for evermore!
Change that Pompilia to a puny stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank!
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, for once,—
Wallow in what is now a wolfishness
Coerced too much by the humanity
That's half of me as well! Grow out of man,
Glut the wolf-nature,—what remains but grow
Into the man again, be man indeed
And all man? Do I ring the changes right?
Deformed, transformed, reformed, informed, conformed!
The honest instinct, pent and crossed through life,
Let surge by death into a visible flow
Of rapture: as the strangled thread of flame
Painfully winds, annoying and annoyed,
Malignant and maligned, thro' stone and ore,
Till earth exclude the stranger: vented once,
It finds full play, is recognized a-top
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth
Fire for the mount, the streamlet for the vale!
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine—
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O' the red thread through that insignificance!
Again, how she is at me with those eyes!
Away with the empty stare! Be holy still,
And stupid ever! Occupy your patch
Of private snow that's somewhere in what world
May now be growing icy round your head,
And aguish at your foot-print,—freeze not me,
Dare follow not another step I take,
Not with so much as those detested eyes,
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that's next to hell!
None of your abnegation of revenge!
Fly at me frank, tug while I tear again!
There's God, go tell Him, testify your worst!
Not she! There was no touch in her of hate:
And it would prove her hell, if I reached mine!
To know I suffered, would still sadden her,
Do what the angels might to make amends!
Therefore there's either no such place as hell,
Or thence shall I be thrust forth, for her sake,
And thereby undergo three hells, not one—
I who, with outlet for escape to heaven,
Would tarry if such flight allowed my foe
To raise his head, relieved of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery pavement else!
So am I made, "who did not make myself:"
(How dared she rob my own lip of the word?)
Beware me in what other world may be!—
Pompilia, who have brought me to this pass!
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in revenge.
She maundered "All is over and at end:
"I go my own road, go you where God will!
"Forgive you? I forget you!" There's the saint
That takes your taste, you other kind of men!
How you had loved her! Guido wanted skill
To value such a woman at her worth!
Properly the instructed criticize
"What's here, you simpleton have tossed to take
"Its chance i' the gutter? This a daub, indeed?
"Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags!"
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design:
Give me my gorge of colour, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me!
Titian 's the man, not Monk Angelico
Who traces you some timid chalky ghost
That turns the church into a charnel: ay,
Just such a pencil might depict my wife!
She,—since she, also, would not change herself,—
Why could not she come in some heart-shaped cloud,
Rainbowed about with riches, royalty
Rimming her round, as round the tintless lawn
Guardingly runs the selvage cloth of gold?
I would have left the faint fine gauze untouched,
Needle-worked over with its lily and rose,
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Purity, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot: but what's grace
When you want meat and drink and clothes and fire?
A tale comes to my mind that's apposite—
Possibly true, probably false, a truth
Such as all truths we live by, Cardinal!
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed—whoever was the potentate,
To Paynimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe,
And, risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles up,
Rubs his eyes and looks round and sees my sire,
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty)
And says "Take this, and if thou get safe home,
"Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow:
"Run thence an hour in a straight line, and stop:
"Describe a circle round (for central point)
"The furze aforesaid, reaching every way
"The length of that hour's run: I give it thee,—
"The central point, to build a castle there,
"The space circumjacent, for fit demesne,
"The whole to be thy children's heritage,—
"Whom, for thy sake, bid thou wear furze on cap!"
Those are my arms: we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto,
Straining to start, means swift and greedy both;
He stands upon a triple mount of gold—
By Jove, then, he's escaping from true gold
And trying to arrive at empty air!
Aha! the fancy never crossed my mind!
My father used to tell me, and subjoin
"As for the castle, that took wings and flew:
"The broad lands,—why, to traverse them to day
"Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
"I doubt not I could stand and spit so far:
"But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of that,
"So long as fortune leaves one field to grub!
"Wherefore, hurra for furze and loyalty!"
What may I mean, where may the lesson lurk?
"Do not bestow on man, by way of gift,
"Furze without land for framework,—vaunt no grace
"Of purity, no furze-sprig of a wife,
"To me, i' the thick of battle for my bread,
"Without some better dowry,—gold will do!"
No better gift than sordid muck? Yes, Sirs!
Many more gifts much better. Give them me!
O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?
"Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heaven and hell!
"Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
"Two bodies work one pleasure! What are these
"Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger, friend?
"They fret thee or they frustrate? Give the word—
"Be certain they shall frustrate nothing more!
"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
"—Being a prince and potency, forsooth!—
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson,—pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet—
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!
"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck—my dupe's,—
"Then take the breast shall turn a breast indeed!"
Such women are there; and they marry whom?
Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked wife,—
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores!
His monster is perfection,—Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot blames
As not an honest distaff to spin wool!
O thou Lucrezia, is it long to wait
Yonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence?—virgin yet,
Virtuous again, in face of what's to teach—
Sin unimagined, unimaginable,—
I come to claim my bride,—thy Borgia's self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be!
Cardinal, take away your crucifix!
Abate, leave my lips alone,—they bite!
Vainly you try to change what should not change,
And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my heart—
It grows the stonier for your saving dew!
You steep the substance, you would lubricate,
In waters that but touch to petrify!
You too are petrifactions of a kind:
Move not a muscle that shows mercy. Rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste!
I thought you would not slay impenitence,
But teased, from men you slew, contrition first,—
I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
You know I am wronged!—wronged, say, and wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first you showed us scarlet on your back,
Called to the College? Your straightforward way
To your legitimate end,—I think it passed
Over a scantling of heads brained, hearts broke,
Lives trodden into dust! How otherwise?
Such was the way o' the world, and so you walked.
Does memory haunt your pillow? Not a whit.
God wills you never pace your garden-path,
One appetizing hour ere dinner-time,
But your intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happy innocent things:
Feel you remorse about that damsel-fly
Which buzzed so near your mouth and flapped your face?
You blotted it from being at a blow:
It was a fly, you were a man, and more,
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind,—these are things fit to save,
Fit to brush fly from: why, because I take
My course, must needs the Pope kill me?—kill you!
You! for this instrument, he throws away,
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good from out!
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next year;
I'll tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor: first the Chamberlain,
Old San Cesario,—Colloredo, next,—
Then, one, two, three, four, I refuse to name;
After these, comes Altieri; then come you—
Seventh on the list you come, unless … ha, ha,
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the help
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently?
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcrum-stone that's all the sage requires
To fit his lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name,
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like these
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend!
Translate into the Court-conventional
Count Guido must not die, is innocent!
"Fair, be assured! But what an he were foul,
"Blood-drenched and murder-crusted head to foot?
"Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
"Nay, outrages the Louis you so love!
"He has friends who will avenge him; enemies
"Who will hate God now with impunity,
"Missing the old coercive: would you send
"A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
"An atheist?" Go and say this, for God's sake!
—Why, you don't think I hope you'll say one word?
Neither shall I persuade you from your stand
Nor you persuade me from my station: take
Your crucifix away, I tell you twice!
Come, I am tired of silence! Pause enough!
You have prayed: I have gone inside my soul
And shut its door behind me: 't is your torch
Makes the place dark: the darkness let alone
Grows tolerable twilight: one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and depth.
What is this fact I feel persuaded of—
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Although Saint Peter's bark scuds, billow-borne,
Leaves me to founder where it flung me first?
Spite of your splashing, I am high and dry!
God takes his own part in each thing He made;
Made for a reason, He conserves his work,
Gives each its proper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite,
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up, ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf's at bay!
Shall he try bleating?—or take turn or two,
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox,
And, failing to escape the foe by craft,
Give up attempt, die fighting quietly?
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a pang
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-embrace in mid back-bone they break,
After their weary work thro' the foe's flesh?
That's the wolf-nature. Don't mistake my trope!
A Cardinal so qualmish? Eminence,
My fight is figurative, blows i' the air,
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spirit-bravado, no real fisticuffs!
I shall not presently, when the knock comes,
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face,
No, trust me! I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me too,
The appropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and myrrh,—
I know not,—I begin to taste my strength,
Careless, gay even. What's the worth of life?
The Pope's dead now, my murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so: and you, forsooth—
Why, you don't think, Abate, do your best,
You'll live a year more with that hacking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek's a pit?
Tozzi has got you also down in book!
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot?
Go eat your heart, you'll never be a Pope!
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pucci, for promotion in the church?
She's more than in the church,—in the churchyard!
Plautilla Pucci, your affianced bride,
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love,—
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
Stops that with veto,—so, enjoy yourself!
I see you all reel to the rock, you waves—
Some forthright, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows how,
But all bound whither the main-current sets,
Rockward, an end in foam for all of you!
What if I be o'ertaken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind,
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant,
The boundary whereon I break to mist?
Go to! the smoothest safest of you all,
Most perfect and compact wave in my train,
Spite of the blue tranquillity above,
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace,
Where broods the halcyon and the fish leaps free,
Will presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain,
Will rock vertiginously in turn, and reel,
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then,
So much for the untimeliness of death!
And, as regards the manner that offends,
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick! Undoubtedly
The soul's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst thro' life, by alternation due,
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
You never know what life means till you die:
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes life live,
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument,
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more?
What's love, what's faith without a worst to dread?
Lack-lustre jewelry! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die—
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle's born!
From out myself how the strange colours come!
Is there a new rule in another world?
Be sure I shall resign myself: as here
I recognized no law I could not see,
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for God,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope.
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable—
With something changeless at the heart of me
To know me by, some nucleus that's myself:
Accretions did it wrong? Away with them—
You soon shall see the use of fire!
All that was, is; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates,—
I use up my last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-house-gossip-face,
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante,—and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompilia's pale
Poison my hasty hunger took for food.
A strong tree wants no wreaths about its trunk,
No cloying cups, no sickly sweet of scent,
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so,
Drinking hot bull's blood, fit for men like me?
I lived and died a man, and take man's chance,
Honest and bold: right will be done to such.
Who are these you have let descend my stair?
Ha, their accursed psalm! Lights at the sill!
Is it "Open" they dare bid you? Treachery!
Sirs, have I spoken one word all this while
Out of the world of words I had to say?
Not one word! All was folly—I laughed and mocked!
Sirs, my first true word, all truth and no lie,
Is—save me notwithstanding! Life is all!
I was just stark mad,—let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as you please pile!
Don't open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke's—no, I am the Pope's!
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?
Of the four Humours in Mans Constitution.
The former four now ending their discourse,
Ceasing to vaunt their good, or threat their force.
Lo other four step up, crave leave to show
The native qualityes that from them flow:
But first they wisely shew'd their high descent,
Each eldest daughter to each Element.
Choler was own'd by fire, and Blood by air,
Earth knew her black swarth child, water her fair:
All having made obeysance to each Mother,
Had leave to speak, succeeding one the other:
But 'mongst themselves they were at variance,
Which of the four should have predominance.
Choler first hotly claim'd right by her mother,
Who had precedency of all the other:
But Sanguine did disdain what she requir'd,
Pleading her self was most of all desir'd.
Proud Melancholy more envious then the rest,
The second, third or last could not digest.
She was the silentest of all the four,
Her wisdom spake not much, but thought the more
Mild Flegme did not contest for chiefest place,
Only she crav'd to have a vacant space.
Well, thus they parle and chide; but to be brief,
Or will they, nill they, Choler will be chief.
They seing her impetuosity
At present yielded to necessity.
To shew my high descent and pedegree,
Your selves would judge but vain prolixity;
It is acknowledged from whence I came,
It shall suffice to shew you what I am,
My self and mother one, as you shall see,
But shee in greater, I in less degree.
We both once Masculines, the world doth know,
Now Feminines awhile, for love we owe
Unto your Sisterhood, which makes us render
Our noble selves in a less noble gender.
Though under Fire we comprehend all heat,
Yet man for Choler is the proper seat:
I in his heart erect my regal throne,
Where Monarch like I play and sway alone.
Yet many times unto my great disgrace
One of your selves are my Compeers in place,
Where if your rule prove once predominant,
The man proves boyish, sottish, ignorant:
But if you yield subservience unto me,
I make a man, a man in th'high'st degree:
Be he a souldier, I more fence his heart
Then iron Corslet 'gainst a sword or dart.
What makes him face his foe without appal,
To storm a breach, or scale a city wall,
In dangers to account himself more sure
Then timerous Hares whom Castles do immure?
Have you not heard of worthyes, Demi-Gods?
Twixt them and others what is't makes the odds
But valour? whence comes that? from none of you,
Nay milksops at such brunts you look but blew.
Here's sister ruddy, worth the other two,
Who much will talk, but little dares she do,
Unless to Court and claw, to dice and drink,
And there she will out-bid us all, I think,
She loves a fiddle better then a drum,
A Chamber well, in field she dares not come,
She'l ride a horse as bravely as the best,
And break a staff, provided 'be in jest;
But shuns to look on wounds, & blood that's spilt,
She loves her sword only because its gilt.
Then here's our sad black Sister, worse then you.
She'l neither say she will, nor will she doe;
But peevish Malecontent, musing sits,
And by misprissions like to loose her witts:
If great perswasions cause her meet her foe,
In her dull resolution she's so slow,
To march her pace to some is greater pain
Then by a quick encounter to be slain.
But be she beaten, she'l not run away,
She'l first advise if't be not best to stay.
Now let's give cold white sister flegme her right,
So loving unto all she scorns to fight:
If any threaten her, she'l in a trice
Convert from water to congealed ice:
Her teeth will chatter, dead and wan's her face,
And 'fore she be assaulted, quits the place.
She dares not challeng, if I speak amiss,
Nor hath she wit or heat to blush at this.
Here's three of you all see now what you are,
Then yield to me preheminence in war.
Again who fits for learning, science, arts?
Who rarifies the intellectual parts:
From whence fine spirits flow and witty notions:
But tis not from our dull, slow sisters motions:
Nor sister sanguine, from thy moderate heat,
Poor spirits the Liver breeds, which is thy seat.
What comes from thence, my heat refines the same
And through the arteries sends it o're the frame:
The vital spirits they're call'd, and well they may
For when they fail, man turns unto his clay.
The animal I claim as well as these,
The nerves, should I not warm, soon would they freeze
But flegme her self is now provok'd at this
She thinks I never shot so far amiss.
The brain she challengeth, the head's her seat;
But know'ts a foolish brain that wanteth heat.
My absence proves it plain, her wit then flyes
Out at her nose, or melteth at her eyes.
Oh who would miss this influence of thine
To be distill'd, a drop on every Line?
Alas, thou hast no Spirits; thy Company
Will feed a dropsy, or a Tympany,
The Palsy, Gout, or Cramp, or some such dolour:
Thou wast not made, for Souldier or for Scholar;
Of greazy paunch, and bloated cheeks go vaunt,
But a good head from these are dissonant.
But Melancholy, wouldst have this glory thine,
Thou sayst thy wits are staid, subtil and fine;
'Tis true, when I am Midwife to thy birth
Thy self's as dull, as is thy mother Earth:
Thou canst not claim the liver, head nor heart
Yet hast the Seat assign'd, a goodly part
The sinke of all us three, the hateful Spleen
Of that black Region, nature made thee Queen;
Where pain and sore obstruction thou dost work,
Where envy, malice, thy Companions lurk.
If once thou'rt great, what follows thereupon
But bodies wasting, and destruction?
So base thou art, that baser cannot be,
Th'excrement adustion of me.
But I am weary to dilate your shame,
Nor is't my pleasure thus to blur your name,
Only to raise my honour to the Skies,
As objects best appear by contraries.
But Arms, and Arts I claim, and higher things,
The princely qualities befitting Kings,
Whose profound heads I line with policies,
They'r held for Oracles, they are so wise,
Their wrathful looks are death their words are laws
Their Courage it foe, friend, and Subject awes;
But one of you, would make a worthy King
Like our sixth Henry (that same virtuous thing)
That when a Varlet struck him o're the side,
Forsooth you are to blame, he grave reply'd.
Take Choler from a Prince, what is he more
Then a dead Lion, by Beasts triumph'd o're.
Again you know, how I act every part
By th'influence, I still send from the heart:
It's nor your Muscles, nerves, nor this nor that
Do's ought without my lively heat, that's flat:
Nay th'stomack magazine to all the rest
Without my boyling heat cannot digest:
And yet to make my greatness, still more great
What differences, the Sex? but only heat.
And one thing more, to close up my narration
Of all that lives, I cause the propagation.
I have been sparings what I might have said
I love no boasting, that's but Childrens trade.
To what you now shall say I will attend,
And to your weakness gently condescend.
Good Sisters, give me leave, as is my place
To vent my grief, and wipe off my disgrace:
Your selves may plead your wrongs are no whit less
Your patience more then mine, I must confess
Did ever sober tongue such language speak,
Or honesty such tyes unfriendly break?
Dost know thy self so well us so amiss?
Is't arrogance or folly causeth this?
Ile only shew the wrong thou'st done to me,
Then let my sisters right their injury.
To pay with railings is not mine intent,
But to evince the truth by Argument:
I will analyse this thy proud relation
So full of boasting and prevarication,
Thy foolish incongruityes Ile show,
So walk thee till thou'rt cold, then let thee go.
There is no Souldier but thy self (thou sayest,)
No valour upon Earth, but what thou hast
Thy silly provocations I despise,
And leave't to all to judge, where valour lies
No pattern, nor no pattron will I bring
But David, Judah's most heroick King,
Whose glorious deeds in Arms the world can tell,
A rosie cheek Musitian thou know'st well;
He knew well how to handle Sword and Harp,
And how to strike full sweet, as well as sharp,
Thou laugh'st at me for loving merriment,
And scorn'st all Knightly sports at Turnament.
Thou sayst I love my Sword, because it's gilt,
But know, I love the Blade, more then the Hill,
Yet do abhor such temerarious deeds,
As thy unbridled, barbarous Choler breeds:
Thy rudeness counts good manners vanity,
And real Complements base flattery.
For drink, which of us twain like it the best,
Ile go no further then thy nose for test:
Thy other scoffs, not worthy of reply
Shall vanish as of no validity:
Of thy black Calumnies this is but part,
But now Ile shew what souldier thou art.
And though thou'st us'd me with opprobrious spight
My ingenuity must give thee right.
Thy choler is but rage when tis most pure,
But usefull when a mixture can endure;
As with thy mother fire, so tis with thee,
The best of all the four when they agree:
But let her leave the rest, then I presume
Both them and all things else she would consume.
VVhilst us for thine associates thou tak'st,
A Souldier most compleat in all points mak'st:
But when thou scorn'st to take the help we lend,
Thou art a Fury or infernal Fiend.
Witness the execrable deeds thou'st done,
Nor sparing Sex nor Age, nor Sire nor Son;
To satisfie thy pride and cruelty,
Thou oft hast broke bounds of Humanity,
Nay should I tell, thou would'st count me no blab,
How often for the lye, thou'st given the stab.
To take the wall's a sin of so high rate,
That nought but death the same may expiate,
To cross thy will, a challenge doth deserve
So shed'st that blood, thou'rt bounden to preserve
Wilt thou this valour, Courage, Manhood call:
No, know 'tis pride most diabolibal.
If murthers be thy glory, tis no less,
Ile not envy thy feats, nor happiness:
But if in fitting time and place 'gainst foes
For countreys good thy life thou dar'st expose,
Be dangers n'er so high, and courage great,
Ile praise that prowess, fury, Choler, heat:
But such thou never art when all alone,
Yet such when we all four are joyn'd in one.
And when such thou art, even such are we,
The friendly Coadjutors still of thee.
Nextly the Spirits thou dost wholly claim,
Which nat'ral, vital, animal we name:
To play Philosopher I have no list,
Nor yet Physitian, nor Anatomist,
For acting these, l have no will nor Art,
Yet shall with Equity, give thee thy part
For natural, thou dost not much contest;
For there is none (thou sayst) if some not best;
That there are some, and best, I dare averre
Of greatest use, if reason do not erre:
What is there living, which do'nt first derive
His Life now Animal, from vegetive:
If thou giv'st life, I give the nourishment,
Thine without mine, is not, 'tis evident:
But I without thy help, can give a growth
As plants trees, and small Embryon know'th
And if vital Spirits, do flow from thee
I am as sure, the natural, from me:
Be thine the nobler, which I grant, yet mine
Shall justly claim priority of thine.
I am the fountain which thy Cistern fills
Through warm blew Conduits of my venial rills:
What hath the heart, but what's sent from the liver
If thou'rt the taker, I must be the giver.
Then never boast of what thou dost receive:
For of such glory I shall thee bereave.
But why the heart should be usurp'd by thee,
I must confess seems something strange to me:
The spirits through thy heat made perfect are,
But the Materials none of thine, that's clear:
Their wondrous mixture is of blood and air,
The first my self, second my mother fair.
But Ile not force retorts, nor do thee wrong,
Thy fi'ry yellow froth is mixt among,
Challeng not all, 'cause part we do allow;
Thou know'st I've there to do as well as thou:
But thou wilt say I deal unequally,
Their lives the irascible faculty,
Which without all dispute, is Cholers own;
Besides the vehement heat, only there known
Can be imputed, unto none but Fire
Which is thy self, thy Mother and thy Sire
That this is true, I easily can assent
If still you take along my Aliment;
And let me be your partner which is due,
So shall I give the dignity to you:
Again, Stomacks Concoction thou dost claim,
But by what right, nor do'st, nor canst thou name
Unless as heat, it be thy faculty,
And so thou challengest her property.
The help she needs, the loving liver lends,
Who th'benefit o'th' whole ever intends
To meddle further I shall be but shent,
Th'rest to our Sisters is more pertinent;
Your slanders thus refuted takes no place,
Nor what you've said, doth argue my disgrace,
Now through your leaves, some little time I'l spend
My worth in humble manner to commend
This, hot, moist nutritive humour of mine
When 'tis untaint, pure, and most genuine
Shall chiefly take the place, as is my due
Without the least indignity to you.
Of all your qualities I do partake,
And what you single are, the whole I make
Your hot, moist, cold, dry natures are but four,
I moderately am all, what need I more;
As thus, if hot then dry, if moist, then cold,
If this you cann't disprove, then all I hold
My virtues hid, I've let you dimly see
My sweet Complection proves the verity.
This Scarlet die's a badge of what's within
One touch thereof, so beautifies the skin:
Nay, could I be, from all your tangs but pure
Mans life to boundless Time might still endure.
But here one thrusts her heat, wher'ts not requir'd
So suddenly, the body all is fired,
And of the calme sweet temper quite bereft,
Which makes the Mansion, by the Soul soon left.
So Melancholy seizes on a man,
With her unchearful visage, swarth and wan,
The body dryes, the mind sublime doth smother,
And turns him to the womb of's earthy mother:
And flegm likewise can shew her cruel art,
With cold distempers to pain every part:
The lungs she rots, the body wears away,
As if she'd leave no flesh to turn to clay,
Her languishing diseases, though not quick
At length demolishes the Faberick,
All to prevent, this curious care I take,
In th'last concoction segregation make
Of all the perverse humours from mine own,
The bitter choler most malignant known
I turn into his Cell close by my side
The Melancholy to the Spleen t'abide:
Likewise the whey, some use I in the veins,
The overplus I send unto the reins:
But yet for all my toil, my care and skill,
Its doom'd by an irrevocable will
That my intents should meet with interruption,
That mortal man might turn to his corruption.
I might here shew the nobleness of mind
Of such as to the sanguine are inclin'd,
They're liberal, pleasant, kind and courteous,
And like the Liver all benignious.
For arts and sciences they are the fittest;
And maugre Choler still they are the wittiest:
With an ingenious working Phantasie,
A most voluminous large Memory,
And nothing wanting but Solidity.
But why alas, thus tedious should I be,
Thousand examples you may daily see.
If time I have transgrest, and been too long,
Yet could not be more brief without much wrong;
I've scarce wip'd off the spots proud choler cast,
Such venome lies in words, though but a blast:
No braggs i've us'd, to you I dare appeal,
If modesty my worth do not conceal.
I've us'd no bittererss nor taxt your name,
As I to you, to me do ye the same.
He that with two Assailants hath to do,
Had need be armed well and active too.
Especially when friendship is pretended,
That blow's most deadly where it is intended.
Though choler rage and rail, I'le not do so,
The tongue's no weapon to assault a foe:
But sith we fight with words, we might be kind
To spare our selves and beat the whistling wind,
Fair rosie sister, so might'st thou scape free;
I'le flatter for a time as thou didst me:
But when the first offender I have laid,
Thy soothing girds shall fully be repaid.
But Choler be thou cool'd or chaf'd, I'le venter,
And in contentions lists now justly enter.
What mov'd thee thus to vilifie my name,
Not past all reason, but in truth all shame:
Thy fiery spirit shall bear away this prize,
To play such furious pranks I am too wise:
If in a Souldier rashness be so precious,
Know in a General tis most pernicious.
Nature doth teach to shield the head from harm,
The blow that's aim'd thereat is latcht by th'arm.
When in Batalia my foes I face
I then command proud Choler stand thy place,
To use thy sword, thy courage and thy art
There to defend my self, thy better part.
This wariness count not for cowardize,
He is not truly valiant that's not wise.
It's no less glory to defend a town,
Then by assault to gain one not our own;
And if Marcellus bold be call'd Romes sword,
Wise Fabius is her buckler all accord:
And if thy hast my slowness should not temper,
'Twere but a mad irregular distemper;
Enough of that by our sisters heretofore,
Ile come to that which wounds me somewhat more
Of learning, policy thou wouldst bereave me,
But's not thine ignorance shall thus deceive me:
What greater Clark or Politician lives,
Then he whose brain a touch my humour gives?
What is too hot my coldness doth abate,
What's diffluent I do consolidate.
If I be partial judg'd or thought to erre,
The melancholy snake shall it aver,
Whose cold dry head more subtilty doth yield,
Then all the huge beasts of the fertile field.
Again thou dost confine me to the spleen,
As of that only part I were the Queen,
Let me as well make thy precincts the Gall,
So prison thee within that bladder small:
Reduce the man to's principles, then see
If I have not more part then all you three:
What is within, without, of theirs or thine,
Yet time and age shall soon declare it mine.
When death doth seize the man your stock is lost,
When you poor bankrupts prove then have I most.
You'l say here none shall e're disturb my right,
You high born from that lump then take your flight.
Then who's mans friend, when life & all forsakes?
His Mother mine, him to her womb retakes:
Thus he is ours, his portion is the grave,
But while he lives, I'le shew what part I have:
And first the firm dry bones I justly claim,
The strong foundation of the stately frame:
Likewise the usefull Slpeen, though not the best,
Yet is a bowel call'd well as the rest:
The Liver, Stomack, owe their thanks of right,
The first it drains, of th'last quicks appetite.
Laughter (thô thou say malice) flows from hence,
These two in one cannot have residence.
But thou most grosly dost mistake to think
The Spleen for all you three was made a sink,
Of all the rest thou'st nothing there to do,
But if thou hast, that malice is from you.
Again you often touch my swarthy hue,
That black is black, and I am black tis true;
But yet more comely far I dare avow,
Then is thy torrid nose or brazen brow.
But that which shews how high your spight is bent
Is charging me to be thy excrement:
Thy loathsome imputation I defie,
So plain a slander needeth no reply.
When by thy heat thou'st bak'd thy self to crust,
And so art call'd black Choler or adust,
Thou witless think'st that I am thy excretion,
So mean thou art in Art as in discretion:
But by your leave I'le let your greatness see
What Officer thou art to us all three,
The Kitchin Drudge, the cleanser of the sinks
That casts out all that man e're eats or drinks:
If any doubt the truth whence this should come,
Shew them thy passage to th'Duodenum;
Thy biting quality still irritates,
Till filth and thee nature exonerates:
If there thou'rt stopt, to th'Liver thou turn'st in,
And thence with jaundies saffrons all the skin.
No further time Ile spend in confutation,
I trust I've clear'd your slanderous imputation.
I now speak unto all, no more to one,
Pray hear, admire and learn instruction.
My virtues yours surpass without compare,
The first my constancy that jewel rare:
Choler's too rash this golden gift to hold,
And Sanguine is more fickle manifold,
Here, there her restless thoughts do ever fly,
Constant in nothing but unconstancy.
And what Flegme is, we know, like to her mother,
Unstable is the one, and so the other;
With me is noble patience also found,
Impatient Choler loveth not the sound,
What sanguine is, she doth not heed nor care,
Now up, now down, transported like the Air:
Flegme's patient because her nature's tame;
But I, by virtue do acquire the same.
My Temperance, Chastity is eminent,
But these with you, are seldome resident;
Now could I stain my ruddy Sisters face
With deeper red, to shew you her dsgrace,
But rather I with silence vaile her shame
Then cause her blush, while I relate the same.
Nor are ye free from this inormity,
Although she bear the greatest obloquie,
My prudence, judgement, I might now reveal
But wisdom 'tis my wisdome to conceal.
Unto diseases not inclin'd as you,
Nor cold, nor hot, Ague nor Plurisie,
Nor Cough, nor Quinsey, nor the burning Feaver,
I rarely feel to act his fierce endeavour;
My sickness in conceit chiefly doth lye,
What I imagine that's my malady.
Chymeraes strange are in my phantasy,
And things that never were, nor shall I see
I love not talk, Reason lies not in length,
Nor multitude of words argues our strength;
I've done pray sister Flegme proceed in Course,
We shall expect much sound, but little force.
Patient I am, patient i'd need to be,
To bear with the injurious taunts of three,
Though wit I want, and anger I have less,
Enough of both, my wrongs now to express
I've not forgot, how bitter Choler spake
Nor how her gaul on me she causeless brake;
Nor wonder 'twas for hatred there's not small,
Where opposition is Diametrical.
To what is Truth I freely will assent,
Although my Name do suffer detriment,
What's slanderous repell, doubtful dispute,
And when I've nothing left to say be mute.
Valour I want, no Souldier am 'tis true,
I'le leave that manly Property to you;
I love no thundring guns, nor bloody wars,
My polish'd Skin was not ordain'd for Skarrs:
But though the pitched field I've ever fled,
At home the Conquerours have conquered.
Nay, I could tell you what's more true then meet,
That Kings have laid their Scepters at my feet;
When Sister sanguine paints my Ivory face:
The Monarchs bend and sue, but for my grace
My lilly white when joyned with her red,
Princes hath slav'd, and Captains captived,
Country with Country, Greece with Asia fights
Sixty nine Princes, all stout Hero Knights.
Under Troys walls ten years will wear away,
Rather then loose one beauteous Helena.
But 'twere as vain, to prove this truth of mine
As at noon day, to tell the Sun doth shine.
Next difference that 'twixt us twain doth lye
Who doth possess the brain, or thou or I?
Shame forc'd the say, the matter that was mine,
But the Spirits by which it acts are thine:
Thou speakest Truth, and I can say no less,
Thy heat doth much, I candidly confess;
Yet without ostentation I may say,
I do as much for thee another way:
And though I grant, thou art my helper here,
No debtor I because it's paid else where.
With all your flourishes, now Sisters three
Who is't that dare, or can, compare with me,
My excellencies are so great, so many,
I am confounded; fore I speak of any:
The brain's the noblest member all allow,
Its form and Scituation will avow,
Its Ventricles, Membranes and wondrous net,
Galen, Hippocrates drive to a set;
That Divine Ofspring the immortal Soul
Though it in all, and every part be whole,
Within this stately place of eminence,
Doth doubtless keep its mighty residence.
And surely, the Soul sensitive here lives,
Which life and motion to each creature gives,
The Conjugation of the parts, to th'braine
Doth shew, hence flow the pow'rs which they retain
Within this high Built Cittadel, doth lye
The Reason, fancy, and the memory;
The faculty of speech doth here abide,
The Spirits animal, from hence do slide:
The five most noble Senses here do dwell;
Of three it's hard to say, which doth excell.
This point now to discuss, 'longs not to me,
I'le touch the sight, great'st wonder of the three;
The optick Nerve, Coats, humours all are mine,
The watry, glassie, and the Chrystaline;
O mixture strange! O colour colourless,
Thy perfect temperament who can express:
He was no fool who thought the soul lay there,
Whence her affections passions speak so clear.
O good, O bad, O true, O traiterous eyes
What wonderments within your Balls there lyes,
Of all the Senses sight shall be the Queen;
Yet some may wish, O had mine eyes ne're seen.
Mine, likewise is the marrow, of the back,
Which runs through all the Spondles of the rack,
It is the substitute o'th royal brain,
All Nerves, except seven pair, to it retain.
And the strong Ligaments from hence arise,
Which joynt to joynt, the intire body tyes.
Some other parts there issue from the Brain,
Whose worth and use to tell, I must refrain:
Some curious learned Crooke, may these reveal
But modesty, hath charg'd me to conceal
Here's my Epitome of excellence:
For what's the Brains is mine by Consequence.
A foolish brain (quoth Choler) wanting heat
But a mad one say I, where 'tis too great,
Phrensie's worse then folly, one would more glad
With a tame fool converse then with a mad;
For learning then my brain is not the fittest,
Nor will I yield that Choler is the wittiest.
Thy judgement is unsafe, thy fancy little,
For memory the sand is not more brittle;
Again, none's fit for Kingly state but thou,
If Tyrants be the best, I le it allow:
But if love be as requisite as fear,
Then thou and I must make a mixture here.
Well to be brief, I hope now Cholers laid,
And I'le pass by what Sister sanguine said.
To Melancholy I le make no reply,
The worst she said was instability,
And too much talk, both which I here confess
A warning good, hereafter I'le say less.
Let's now be friends; its time our spight were spent,
Lest we too late this rashness do repent,
Such premises will force a sad conclusion,
Unless we agree, all falls into confusion.
Let Sangine with her hot hand Choler hold,
To take her moist my moisture will be bold:
My cold, cold melancholy hand shall clasp;
Her dry, dry Cholers other hand shall grasp.
Two hot, two moist, two cold, two dry here be,
A golden Ring, the Posey VNITY.
Nor jarrs nor scoffs, let none hereafter see,
But all admire our perfect Amity
Nor be discern'd, here's water, earth, air, fire,
But here a compact body, whole intire.
This loving counsel pleas'd them all so well
That flegm was judg'd for kindness to excell.
Metamorphoses: Book The Third
WHEN now Agenor had his daughter lost,
He sent his son to search on ev'ry coast;
And sternly bid him to his arms restore
The darling maid, or see his face no more,
But live an exile in a foreign clime;
Thus was the father pious to a crime.
The Story of The restless youth search'd all the world around;
of Cadmus But how can Jove in his amours be found?
When, tir'd at length with unsuccessful toil,
To shun his angry sire and native soil,
He goes a suppliant to the Delphick dome;
There asks the God what new appointed home
Should end his wand'rings, and his toils relieve.
The Delphick oracles this answer give.
"Behold among the fields a lonely cow,
Unworn with yokes, unbroken to the plow;
Mark well the place where first she lays her down,
There measure out thy walls, and build thy town,
And from thy guide Boeotia call the land,
In which the destin'd walls and town shall stand."
No sooner had he left the dark abode,
Big with the promise of the Delphick God,
When in the fields the fatal cow he view'd,
Nor gall'd with yokes, nor worn with servitude:
Her gently at a distance he pursu'd;
And as he walk'd aloof, in silence pray'd
To the great Pow'r whose counsels he obey'd.
Her way thro' flow'ry Panope she took,
And now, Cephisus, cross'd thy silver brook;
When to the Heav'ns her spacious front she rais'd,
And bellow'd thrice, then backward turning gaz'd
On those behind, 'till on the destin'd place
She stoop'd, and couch'd amid the rising grass.
Cadmus salutes the soil, and gladly hails
The new-found mountains, and the nameless vales,
And thanks the Gods, and turns about his eye
To see his new dominions round him lye;
Then sends his servants to a neighb'ring grove
For living streams, a sacrifice to Jove.
O'er the wide plain there rose a shady wood
Of aged trees; in its dark bosom stood
A bushy thicket, pathless and unworn,
O'er-run with brambles, and perplex'd with thorn:
Amidst the brake a hollow den was found,
With rocks and shelving arches vaulted round.
Deep in the dreary den, conceal'd from day,
Sacred to Mars, a mighty dragon lay,
Bloated with poison to a monstrous size;
Fire broke in flashes when he glanc'd his eyes:
His tow'ring crest was glorious to behold,
His shoulders and his sides were scal'd with gold;
Three tongues he brandish'd when he charg'd his
His teeth stood jaggy in three dreadful rowes.
The Tyrians in the den for water sought,
And with their urns explor'd the hollow vault:
From side to side their empty urns rebound,
And rowse the sleeping serpent with the sound.
Strait he bestirs him, and is seen to rise;
And now with dreadful hissings fills the skies,
And darts his forky tongues, and rowles his glaring
The Tyrians drop their vessels in the fright,
All pale and trembling at the hideous sight.
Spire above spire uprear'd in air he stood,
And gazing round him over-look'd the wood:
Then floating on the ground in circles rowl'd;
Then leap'd upon them in a mighty fold.
Of such a bulk, and such a monstrous size
The serpent in the polar circle lyes,
That stretches over half the northern skies.
In vain the Tyrians on their arms rely,
In vain attempt to fight, in vain to fly:
All their endeavours and their hopes are vain;
Some die entangled in the winding train;
Some are devour'd, or feel a loathsom death,
Swoln up with blasts of pestilential breath.
And now the scorching sun was mounted high,
In all its lustre, to the noon-day sky;
When, anxious for his friends, and fill'd with
To search the woods th' impatient chief prepares.
A lion's hide around his loins he wore,
The well poiz'd javelin to the field he bore,
Inur'd to blood; the far-destroying dart;
And, the best weapon, an undaunted heart.
Soon as the youth approach'd the fatal place,
He saw his servants breathless on the grass;
The scaly foe amid their corps he view'd,
Basking at ease, and feasting in their blood.
"Such friends," he cries, "deserv'd a longer date;
But Cadmus will revenge or share their fate."
Then heav'd a stone, and rising to the throw,
He sent it in a whirlwind at the foe:
A tow'r, assaulted by so rude a stroke,
With all its lofty battlements had shook;
But nothing here th' unwieldy rock avails,
Rebounding harmless from the plaited scales,
That, firmly join'd, preserv'd him from a wound,
With native armour crusted all around.
With more success, the dart unerring flew,
Which at his back the raging warriour threw;
Amid the plaited scales it took its course,
And in the spinal marrow spent its force.
The monster hiss'd aloud, and rag'd in vain,
And writh'd his body to and fro with pain;
He bit the dart, and wrench'd the wood away;
The point still buried in the marrow lay.
And now his rage, increasing with his pain,
Reddens his eyes, and beats in ev'ry vein;
Churn'd in his teeth the foamy venom rose,
Whilst from his mouth a blast of vapours flows,
Such as th' infernal Stygian waters cast.
The plants around him wither in the blast.
Now in a maze of rings he lies enrowl'd,
Now all unravel'd, and without a fold;
Now, like a torrent, with a mighty force
Bears down the forest in his boist'rous course.
Cadmus gave back, and on the lion's spoil
Sustain'd the shock, then forc'd him to recoil;
The pointed jav'lin warded off his rage:
Mad with his pains, and furious to engage,
The serpent champs the steel, and bites the spear,
'Till blood and venom all the point besmear.
But still the hurt he yet receiv'd was slight;
For, whilst the champion with redoubled might
Strikes home the jav'lin, his retiring foe
Shrinks from the wound, and disappoints the blow.
The dauntless heroe still pursues his stroke,
And presses forward, 'till a knotty oak
Retards his foe, and stops him in the rear;
Full in his throat he plung'd the fatal spear,
That in th' extended neck a passage found,
And pierc'd the solid timber through the wound.
Fix'd to the reeling trunk, with many a stroke
Of his huge tail he lash'd the sturdy oak;
'Till spent with toil, and lab'ring hard for
He now lay twisting in the pangs of death.
Cadmus beheld him wallow in a flood
Of swimming poison, intermix'd with blood;
When suddenly a speech was heard from high
(The speech was heard, nor was the speaker nigh),
"Why dost thou thus with secret pleasure see,
Insulting man! what thou thy self shalt be?"
Astonish'd at the voice, he stood amaz'd,
And all around with inward horror gaz'd:
When Pallas swift descending from the skies,
Pallas, the guardian of the bold and wise,
Bids him plow up the field, and scatter round
The dragon's teeth o'er all the furrow'd ground;
Then tells the youth how to his wond'ring eyes
Embattled armies from the field should rise.
He sows the teeth at Pallas's command,
And flings the future people from his hand.
The clods grow warm, and crumble where he sows;
And now the pointed spears advance in rows;
Now nodding plumes appear, and shining crests,
Now the broad shoulders and the rising breasts;
O'er all the field the breathing harvest swarms,
A growing host, a crop of men and arms.
So through the parting stage a figure rears
Its body up, and limb by limb appears
By just degrees; 'till all the man arise,
And in his full proportion strikes the eyes.
Cadmus surpriz'd, and startled at the sight
Of his new foes, prepar'd himself for fight:
When one cry'd out, "Forbear, fond man, forbear
To mingle in a blind promiscuous war."
This said, he struck his brother to the ground,
Himself expiring by another's wound;
Nor did the third his conquest long survive,
Dying ere scarce he had begun to live.
The dire example ran through all the field,
'Till heaps of brothers were by brothers kill'd;
The furrows swam in blood: and only five
Of all the vast increase were left alive.
Echion one, at Pallas's command,
Let fall the guiltless weapon from his hand,
And with the rest a peaceful treaty makes,
Whom Cadmus as his friends and partners takes;
So founds a city on the promis'd earth,
And gives his new Boeotian empire birth.
Here Cadmus reign'd; and now one would have
The royal founder in his exile blest:
Long did he live within his new abodes,
Ally'd by marriage to the deathless Gods;
And, in a fruitful wife's embraces old,
A long increase of children's children told:
But no frail man, however great or high,
Can be concluded blest before he die.
Actaeon was the first of all his race,
Who griev'd his grandsire in his borrow'd face;
Condemn'd by stern Diana to bemoan
The branching horns, and visage not his own;
To shun his once lov'd dogs, to bound away,
And from their huntsman to become their prey,
And yet consider why the change was wrought,
You'll find it his misfortune, not his fault;
Or, if a fault, it was the fault of chance:
For how can guilt proceed from ignorance?
The In a fair chace a shady mountain stood,
Transformation Well stor'd with game, and mark'd with trails of
of Actaeon blood;
into a Stag Here did the huntsmen, 'till the heat of day,
Pursue the stag, and load themselves with rey:
When thus Actaeon calling to the rest:
"My friends," said he, "our sport is at the best,
The sun is high advanc'd, and downward sheds
His burning beams directly on our heads;
Then by consent abstain from further spoils,
Call off the dogs, and gather up the toils,
And ere to-morrow's sun begins his race,
Take the cool morning to renew the chace."
They all consent, and in a chearful train
The jolly huntsmen, loaden with the slain,
Return in triumph from the sultry plain.
Down in a vale with pine and cypress clad,
Refresh'd with gentle winds, and brown with shade,
The chaste Diana's private haunt, there stood
Full in the centre of the darksome wood
A spacious grotto, all around o'er-grown
With hoary moss, and arch'd with pumice-stone.
From out its rocky clefts the waters flow,
And trickling swell into a lake below.
Nature had ev'ry where so plaid her part,
That ev'ry where she seem'd to vie with art.
Here the bright Goddess, toil'd and chaf'd with
Was wont to bathe her in the cool retreat.
Here did she now with all her train resort,
Panting with heat, and breathless from the sport;
Her armour-bearer laid her bow aside,
Some loos'd her sandals, some her veil unty'd;
Each busy nymph her proper part undrest;
While Crocale, more handy than the rest,
Gather'd her flowing hair, and in a noose
Bound it together, whilst her own hung loose.
Five of the more ignoble sort by turns
Fetch up the water, and unlade the urns.
Now all undrest the shining Goddess stood,
When young Actaeon, wilder'd in the wood,
To the cool grott by his hard fate betray'd,
The fountains fill'd with naked nymphs survey'd.
The frighted virgins shriek'd at the surprize
(The forest echo'd with their piercing cries).
Then in a huddle round their Goddess prest:
She, proudly eminent above the rest,
With blushes glow'd; such blushes as adorn
The ruddy welkin, or the purple morn;
And tho' the crowding nymphs her body hide,
Half backward shrunk, and view'd him from a side.
Surpriz'd, at first she would have snatch'd her
But sees the circling waters round her flow;
These in the hollow of her hand she took,
And dash'd 'em in his face, while thus she spoke:
"Tell, if thou can'st, the wond'rous sight
A Goddess naked to thy view expos'd."
This said, the man begun to disappear
By slow degrees, and ended in a deer.
A rising horn on either brow he wears,
And stretches out his neck, and pricks his ears;
Rough is his skin, with sudden hairs o'er-grown,
His bosom pants with fears before unknown:
Transform'd at length, he flies away in haste,
And wonders why he flies away so fast.
But as by chance, within a neighb'ring brook,
He saw his branching horns and alter'd look.
Wretched Actaeon! in a doleful tone
He try'd to speak, but only gave a groan;
And as he wept, within the watry glass
He saw the big round drops, with silent pace,
Run trickling down a savage hairy face.
What should he do? Or seek his old abodes,
Or herd among the deer, and sculk in woods!
Here shame dissuades him, there his fear prevails,
And each by turns his aking heart assails.
As he thus ponders, he behind him spies
His op'ning hounds, and now he hears their cries:
A gen'rous pack, or to maintain the chace,
Or snuff the vapour from the scented grass.
He bounded off with fear, and swiftly ran
O'er craggy mountains, and the flow'ry plain;
Through brakes and thickets forc'd his way, and
Through many a ring, where once he did pursue.
In vain he oft endeavour'd to proclaim
His new misfortune, and to tell his name;
Nor voice nor words the brutal tongue supplies;
From shouting men, and horns, and dogs he flies,
Deafen'd and stunn'd with their promiscuous cries.
When now the fleetest of the pack, that prest
Close at his heels, and sprung before the rest,
Had fasten'd on him, straight another pair,
Hung on his wounded haunch, and held him there,
'Till all the pack came up, and ev'ry hound
Tore the sad huntsman grov'ling on the ground,
Who now appear'd but one continu'd wound.
With dropping tears his bitter fate he moans,
And fills the mountain with his dying groans.
His servants with a piteous look he spies,
And turns about his supplicating eyes.
His servants, ignorant of what had chanc'd,
With eager haste and joyful shouts advanc'd,
And call'd their lord Actaeon to the game.
He shook his head in answer to the name;
He heard, but wish'd he had indeed been gone,
Or only to have stood a looker-on.
But to his grief he finds himself too near,
And feels his rav'nous dogs with fury tear
Their wretched master panting in a deer.
The Birth of Actaeon's suff'rings, and Diana's rage,
Bacchus Did all the thoughts of men and Gods engage;
Some call'd the evils which Diana wrought,
Too great, and disproportion'd to the fault:
Others again, esteem'd Actaeon's woes
Fit for a virgin Goddess to impose.
The hearers into diff'rent parts divide,
And reasons are produc'd on either side.
Juno alone, of all that heard the news,
Nor would condemn the Goddess, nor excuse:
She heeded not the justice of the deed,
But joy'd to see the race of Cadmus bleed;
For still she kept Europa in her mind,
And, for her sake, detested all her kind.
Besides, to aggravate her hate, she heard
How Semele, to Jove's embrace preferr'd,
Was now grown big with an immortal load,
And carry'd in her womb a future God.
Thus terribly incens'd, the Goddess broke
To sudden fury, and abruptly spoke.
"Are my reproaches of so small a force?
'Tis time I then pursue another course:
It is decreed the guilty wretch shall die,
If I'm indeed the mistress of the sky,
If rightly styl'd among the Pow'rs above
The wife and sister of the thund'ring Jove
(And none can sure a sister's right deny);
It is decreed the guilty wretch shall die.
She boasts an honour I can hardly claim,
Pregnant she rises to a mother's name;
While proud and vain she triumphs in her Jove,
And shows the glorious tokens of his love:
But if I'm still the mistress of the skies,
By her own lover the fond beauty dies."
This said, descending in a yellow cloud,
Before the gates of Semele she stood.
Old Beroe's decrepit shape she wears,
Her wrinkled visage, and her hoary hairs;
Whilst in her trembling gait she totters on,
And learns to tattle in the nurse's tone.
The Goddess, thus disguis'd in age, beguil'd
With pleasing stories her false foster-child.
Much did she talk of love, and when she came
To mention to the nymph her lover's name,
Fetching a sigh, and holding down her head,
"'Tis well," says she, "if all be true that's said.
But trust me, child, I'm much inclin'd to fear
Some counterfeit in this your Jupiter:
Many an honest well-designing maid
Has been by these pretended Gods betray'd,
But if he be indeed the thund'ring Jove,
Bid him, when next he courts the rites of love,
Descend triumphant from th' etherial sky,
In all the pomp of his divinity,
Encompass'd round by those celestial charms,
With which he fills th' immortal Juno's arms."
Th' unwary nymph, ensnar'd with what she said,
Desir'd of Jove, when next he sought her bed,
To grant a certain gift which she would chuse;
"Fear not," reply'd the God, "that I'll refuse
Whate'er you ask: may Styx confirm my voice,
Chuse what you will, and you shall have your
"Then," says the nymph, "when next you seek my
May you descend in those celestial charms,
With which your Juno's bosom you enflame,
And fill with transport Heav'n's immortal dame."
The God surpriz'd would fain have stopp'd her
But he had sworn, and she had made her choice.
To keep his promise he ascends, and shrowds
His awful brow in whirl-winds and in clouds;
Whilst all around, in terrible array,
His thunders rattle, and his light'nings play.
And yet, the dazling lustre to abate,
He set not out in all his pomp and state,
Clad in the mildest light'ning of the skies,
And arm'd with thunder of the smallest size:
Not those huge bolts, by which the giants slain
Lay overthrown on the Phlegrean plain.
'Twas of a lesser mould, and lighter weight;
They call it thunder of a second-rate,
For the rough Cyclops, who by Jove's command
Temper'd the bolt, and turn'd it to his hand,
Work'd up less flame and fury in its make,
And quench'd it sooner in the standing lake.
Thus dreadfully adorn'd, with horror bright,
Th' illustrious God, descending from his height,
Came rushing on her in a storm of light.
The mortal dame, too feeble to engage
The lightning's flashes, and the thunder's rage,
Consum'd amidst the glories she desir'd,
And in the terrible embrace expir'd.
But, to preserve his offspring from the tomb,
Jove took him smoaking from the blasted womb:
And, if on ancient tales we may rely,
Inclos'd th' abortive infant in his thigh.
Here when the babe had all his time fulfill'd,
Ino first took him for her foster-child;
Then the Niseans, in their dark abode,
Nurs'd secretly with milk the thriving God.
The 'Twas now, while these transactions past on
of Tiresias And Bacchus thus procur'd a second birth,
When Jove, dispos'd to lay aside the weight
Of publick empire and the cares of state,
As to his queen in nectar bowls he quaff'd,
"In troth," says he, and as he spoke he laugh'd,
"The sense of pleasure in the male is far
More dull and dead, than what you females share."
Juno the truth of what was said deny'd;
Tiresias therefore must the cause decide,
For he the pleasure of each sex had try'd.
It happen'd once, within a shady wood,
Two twisted snakes he in conjunction view'd,
When with his staff their slimy folds he broke,
And lost his manhood at the fatal stroke.
But, after seven revolving years, he view'd
The self-same serpents in the self-same wood:
"And if," says he, "such virtue in you lye,
That he who dares your slimy folds untie
Must change his kind, a second stroke I'll try."
Again he struck the snakes, and stood again
New-sex'd, and strait recover'd into man.
Him therefore both the deities create
The sov'raign umpire, in their grand debate;
And he declar'd for Jove: when Juno fir'd,
More than so trivial an affair requir'd,
Depriv'd him, in her fury, of his sight,
And left him groping round in sudden night.
But Jove (for so it is in Heav'n decreed,
That no one God repeal another's deed)
Irradiates all his soul with inward light,
And with the prophet's art relieves the want of
The Fam'd far and near for knowing things to come,
Transformation From him th' enquiring nations sought their doom;
of Echo The fair Liriope his answers try'd,
And first th' unerring prophet justify'd.
This nymph the God Cephisus had abus'd,
With all his winding waters circumfus'd,
And on the Nereid got a lovely boy,
Whom the soft maids ev'n then beheld with joy.
The tender dame, sollicitous to know
Whether her child should reach old age or no,
Consults the sage Tiresias, who replies,
"If e'er he knows himself he surely dies."
Long liv'd the dubious mother in suspence,
'Till time unriddled all the prophet's sense.
Narcissus now his sixteenth year began,
Just turn'd of boy, and on the verge of man;
Many a friend the blooming youth caress'd,
Many a love-sick maid her flame confess'd:
Such was his pride, in vain the friend caress'd,
The love-sick maid in vain her flame confess'd.
Once, in the woods, as he pursu'd the chace,
The babbling Echo had descry'd his face;
She, who in others' words her silence breaks,
Nor speaks her self but when another speaks.
Echo was then a maid, of speech bereft,
Of wonted speech; for tho' her voice was left,
Juno a curse did on her tongue impose,
To sport with ev'ry sentence in the close.
Full often when the Goddess might have caught
Jove and her rivals in the very fault,
This nymph with subtle stories would delay
Her coming, 'till the lovers slip'd away.
The Goddess found out the deceit in time,
And then she cry'd, "That tongue, for this thy
Which could so many subtle tales produce,
Shall be hereafter but of little use."
Hence 'tis she prattles in a fainter tone,
With mimick sounds, and accents not her own.
This love-sick virgin, over-joy'd to find
The boy alone, still follow'd him behind:
When glowing warmly at her near approach,
As sulphur blazes at the taper's touch,
She long'd her hidden passion to reveal,
And tell her pains, but had not words to tell:
She can't begin, but waits for the rebound,
To catch his voice, and to return the sound.
The nymph, when nothing could Narcissus move,
Still dash'd with blushes for her slighted love,
Liv'd in the shady covert of the woods,
In solitary caves and dark abodes;
Where pining wander'd the rejected fair,
'Till harrass'd out, and worn away with care,
The sounding skeleton, of blood bereft,
Besides her bones and voice had nothing left.
Her bones are petrify'd, her voice is found
In vaults, where still it doubles ev'ry sound.
The Story of Thus did the nymphs in vain caress the boy,
Narcissus He still was lovely, but he still was coy;
When one fair virgin of the slighted train
Thus pray'd the Gods, provok'd by his disdain,
"Oh may he love like me, and love like me in vain!"
Rhamnusia pity'd the neglected fair,
And with just vengeance answer'd to her pray'r.
There stands a fountain in a darksom wood,
Nor stain'd with falling leaves nor rising mud;
Untroubled by the breath of winds it rests,
Unsully'd by the touch of men or beasts;
High bow'rs of shady trees above it grow,
And rising grass and chearful greens below.
Pleas'd with the form and coolness of the place,
And over-heated by the morning chace,
Narcissus on the grassie verdure lyes:
But whilst within the chrystal fount he tries
To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise.
For as his own bright image he survey'd,
He fell in love with the fantastick shade;
And o'er the fair resemblance hung unmov'd,
Nor knew, fond youth! it was himself he lov'd.
The well-turn'd neck and shoulders he descries,
The spacious forehead, and the sparkling eyes;
The hands that Bacchus might not scorn to show,
And hair that round Apollo's head might flow;
With all the purple youthfulness of face,
That gently blushes in the wat'ry glass.
By his own flames consum'd the lover lyes,
And gives himself the wound by which he dies.
To the cold water oft he joins his lips,
Oft catching at the beauteous shade he dips
His arms, as often from himself he slips.
Nor knows he who it is his arms pursue
With eager clasps, but loves he knows not who.
What could, fond youth, this helpless passion
What kindled in thee this unpity'd love?
Thy own warm blush within the water glows,
With thee the colour'd shadow comes and goes,
Its empty being on thy self relies;
Step thou aside, and the frail charmer dies.
Still o'er the fountain's wat'ry gleam he stood,
Mindless of sleep, and negligent of food;
Still view'd his face, and languish'd as he view'd.
At length he rais'd his head, and thus began
To vent his griefs, and tell the woods his pain.
"You trees," says he, "and thou surrounding grove,
Who oft have been the kindly scenes of love,
Tell me, if e'er within your shades did lye
A youth so tortur'd, so perplex'd as I?
I, who before me see the charming fair,
Whilst there he stands, and yet he stands not
In such a maze of love my thoughts are lost:
And yet no bulwark'd town, nor distant coast,
Preserves the beauteous youth from being seen,
No mountains rise, nor oceans flow between.
A shallow water hinders my embrace;
And yet the lovely mimick wears a face
That kindly smiles, and when I bend to join
My lips to his, he fondly bends to mine.
Hear, gentle youth, and pity my complaint,
Come from thy well, thou fair inhabitant.
My charms an easy conquest have obtain'd
O'er other hearts, by thee alone disdain'd.
But why should I despair? I'm sure he burns
With equal flames, and languishes by turns.
When-e'er I stoop, he offers at a kiss,
And when my arms I stretch, he stretches his.
His eye with pleasure on my face he keeps,
He smiles my smiles, and when I weep he weeps.
When e'er I speak, his moving lips appear
To utter something, which I cannot hear.
"Ah wretched me! I now begin too late
To find out all the long-perplex'd deceit;
It is my self I love, my self I see;
The gay delusion is a part of me.
I kindle up the fires by which I burn,
And my own beauties from the well return.
Whom should I court? how utter my complaint?
Enjoyment but produces my restraint,
And too much plenty makes me die for want.
How gladly would I from my self remove!
And at a distance set the thing I love.
My breast is warm'd with such unusual fire,
I wish him absent whom I most desire.
And now I faint with grief; my fate draws nigh;
In all the pride of blooming youth I die.
Death will the sorrows of my heart relieve.
Oh might the visionary youth survive,
I should with joy my latest breath resign!
But oh! I see his fate involv'd in mine."
This said, the weeping youth again return'd
To the clear fountain, where again he burn'd;
His tears defac'd the surface of the well,
With circle after circle, as they fell:
And now the lovely face but half appears,
O'er-run with wrinkles, and deform'd with tears.
"Ah whither," cries Narcissus, "dost thou fly?
Let me still feed the flame by which I die;
Let me still see, tho' I'm no further blest."
Then rends his garment off, and beats his breast:
His naked bosom redden'd with the blow,
In such a blush as purple clusters show,
Ere yet the sun's autumnal heats refine
Their sprightly juice, and mellow it to wine.
The glowing beauties of his breast he spies,
And with a new redoubled passion dies.
As wax dissolves, as ice begins to run,
And trickle into drops before the sun;
So melts the youth, and languishes away,
His beauty withers, and his limbs decay;
And none of those attractive charms remain,
To which the slighted Echo su'd in vain.
She saw him in his present misery,
Whom, spight of all her wrongs, she griev'd to see.
She answer'd sadly to the lover's moan,
Sigh'd back his sighs, and groan'd to ev'ry groan:
"Ah youth! belov'd in vain," Narcissus cries;
"Ah youth! belov'd in vain," the nymph replies.
"Farewel," says he; the parting sound scarce fell
From his faint lips, but she reply'd, "farewel."
Then on th' wholsome earth he gasping lyes,
'Till death shuts up those self-admiring eyes.
To the cold shades his flitting ghost retires,
And in the Stygian waves it self admires.
For him the Naiads and the Dryads mourn,
Whom the sad Echo answers in her turn;
And now the sister-nymphs prepare his urn:
When, looking for his corps, they only found
A rising stalk, with yellow blossoms crown'd.
The Story of This sad event gave blind Tiresias fame,
Pentheus Through Greece establish'd in a prophet's name.
Th' unhallow'd Pentheus only durst deride
The cheated people, and their eyeless guide.
To whom the prophet in his fury said,
Shaking the hoary honours of his head:
"'Twere well, presumptuous man, 'twere well for
If thou wert eyeless too, and blind, like me:
For the time comes, nay, 'tis already here,
When the young God's solemnities appear:
Which, if thou dost not with just rites adorn,
Thy impious carcass, into pieces torn,
Shall strew the woods, and hang on ev'ry thorn.
Then, then, remember what I now foretel,
And own the blind Tiresias saw too well."
Still Pentheus scorns him, and derides his skill;
But time did all the prophet's threats fulfil.
For now through prostrate Greece young Bacchus
Whilst howling matrons celebrate the God:
All ranks and sexes to his Orgies ran,
To mingle in the pomps, and fill the train.
When Pentheus thus his wicked rage express'd:
"What madness, Thebans, has your souls possess'd?
Can hollow timbrels, can a drunken shout,
And the lewd clamours of a beastly rout,
Thus quell your courage; can the weak alarm
Of women's yells those stubborn souls disarm,
Whom nor the sword nor trumpet e'er could fright,
Nor the loud din and horror of a fight?
And you, our sires, who left your old abodes,
And fix'd in foreign earth your country Gods;
Will you without a stroak your city yield,
And poorly quit an undisputed field?
But you, whose youth and vigour should inspire
Heroick warmth, and kindle martial fire,
Whom burnish'd arms and crested helmets grace,
Not flow'ry garlands and a painted face;
Remember him to whom you stand ally'd:
The serpent for his well of waters dy'd.
He fought the strong; do you his courage show,
And gain a conquest o'er a feeble foe.
If Thebes must fall, oh might the fates afford
A nobler doom from famine, fire, or sword.
Then might the Thebans perish with renown:
But now a beardless victor sacks the town;
Whom nor the prancing steed, nor pond'rous shield,
Nor the hack'd helmet, nor the dusty field,
But the soft joys of luxury and ease,
The purple vests, and flow'ry garlands please.
Stand then aside, I'll make the counterfeit
Renounce his god-head, and confess the cheat.
Acrisius from the Grecian walls repell'd
This boasted pow'r; why then should Pentheus yield?
Go quickly drag th' impostor boy to me;
I'll try the force of his divinity."
Thus did th' audacious wretch those rites profane;
His friends dissuade th' audacious wretch in vain:
In vain his grandsire urg'd him to give o'er
His impious threats; the wretch but raves the more.
So have I seen a river gently glide,
In a smooth course, and inoffensive tide;
But if with dams its current we restrain,
It bears down all, and foams along the plain.
But now his servants came besmear'd with blood,
Sent by their haughty prince to seize the God;
The God they found not in the frantick throng,
But dragg'd a zealous votary along.
The Mariners Him Pentheus view'd with fury in his look,
transform'd to And scarce with-held his hands, whilst thus he
"Vile slave! whom speedy vengeance shall pursue,
And terrify thy base seditious crew:
Thy country and thy parentage reveal,
And, why thou joinest in these mad Orgies, tell."
The captive views him with undaunted eyes,
And, arm'd with inward innocence, replies,
"From high Meonia's rocky shores I came,
Of poor descent, Acoetes is my name:
My sire was meanly born; no oxen plow'd
His fruitful fields, nor in his pastures low'd.
His whole estate within the waters lay;
With lines and hooks he caught the finny prey,
His art was all his livelyhood; which he
Thus with his dying lips bequeath'd to me:
In streams, my boy, and rivers take thy chance;
There swims, said he, thy whole inheritance.
Long did I live on this poor legacy;
'Till tir'd with rocks, and my old native sky,
To arts of navigation I inclin'd;
Observ'd the turns and changes of the wind,
Learn'd the fit havens, and began to note
The stormy Hyades, the rainy Goat,
The bright Taygete, and the shining Bears,
With all the sailor's catalogue of stars.
"Once, as by chance for Delos I design'd,
My vessel, driv'n by a strong gust of wind,
Moor'd in a Chian Creek; a-shore I went,
And all the following night in Chios spent.
When morning rose, I sent my mates to bring
Supplies of water from a neighb'ring spring,
Whilst I the motion of the winds explor'd;
Then summon'd in my crew, and went aboard.
Opheltes heard my summons, and with joy
Brought to the shore a soft and lovely boy,
With more than female sweetness in his look,
Whom straggling in the neighb'ring fields he took.
With fumes of wine the little captive glows,
And nods with sleep, and staggers as he goes.
"I view'd him nicely, and began to trace
Each heav'nly feature, each immortal grace,
And saw divinity in all his face,
I know not who, said I, this God should be;
But that he is a God I plainly see:
And thou, who-e'er thou art, excuse the force
These men have us'd; and oh befriend our course!
Pray not for us, the nimble Dictys cry'd,
Dictys, that could the main-top mast bestride,
And down the ropes with active vigour slide.
To the same purpose old Epopeus spoke,
Who over-look'd the oars, and tim'd the stroke;
The same the pilot, and the same the rest;
Such impious avarice their souls possest.
Nay, Heav'n forbid that I should bear away
Within my vessel so divine a prey,
Said I; and stood to hinder their intent:
When Lycabas, a wretch for murder sent
From Tuscany, to suffer banishment,
With his clench'd fist had struck me over-board,
Had not my hands in falling grasp'd a cord.
"His base confederates the fact approve;
When Bacchus (for 'twas he) begun to move,
Wak'd by the noise and clamours which they rais'd;
And shook his drowsie limbs, and round him gaz'd:
What means this noise? he cries; am I betray'd?
Ah, whither, whither must I be convey'd?
Fear not, said Proreus, child, but tell us where
You wish to land, and trust our friendly care.
To Naxos then direct your course, said he;
Naxos a hospitable port shall be
To each of you, a joyful home to me.
By ev'ry God, that rules the sea or sky,
The perjur'd villains promise to comply,
And bid me hasten to unmoor the ship.
With eager joy I launch into the deep;
And, heedless of the fraud, for Naxos stand.
They whisper oft, and beckon with the hand,
And give me signs, all anxious for their prey,
To tack about, and steer another way.
Then let some other to my post succeed,
Said I, I'm guiltless of so foul a deed.
What, says Ethalion, must the ship's whole crew
Follow your humour, and depend on you?
And strait himself he seated at the prore,
And tack'd about, and sought another shore.
"The beauteous youth now found himself betray'd,
And from the deck the rising waves survey'd,
And seem'd to weep, and as he wept he said:
And do you thus my easy faith beguile?
Thus do you bear me to my native isle?
Will such a multitude of men employ
Their strength against a weak defenceless boy?
"In vain did I the God-like youth deplore,
The more I begg'd, they thwarted me the more.
And now by all the Gods in Heav'n that hear
This solemn oath, by Bacchus' self, I swear,
The mighty miracle that did ensue,
Although it seems beyond belief, is true.
The vessel, fix'd and rooted in the flood,
Unmov'd by all the beating billows stood.
In vain the mariners would plow the main
With sails unfurl'd, and strike their oars in vain;
Around their oars a twining ivy cleaves,
And climbs the mast, and hides the cords in leaves:
The sails are cover'd with a chearful green,
And berries in the fruitful canvass seen.
Amidst the waves a sudden forest rears
Its verdant head, and a new Spring appears.
"The God we now behold with open'd eyes;
A herd of spotted panthers round him lyes
In glaring forms; the grapy clusters spread
On his fair brows, and dangle on his head.
And whilst he frowns, and brandishes his spear,
My mates surpriz'd with madness or with fear,
Leap'd over board; first perjur'd Madon found
Rough scales and fins his stiff'ning sides
Ah what, cries one, has thus transform'd thy look?
Strait his own mouth grew wider as he spoke;
And now himself he views with like surprize.
Still at his oar th' industrious Libys plies;
But, as he plies, each busy arm shrinks in,
And by degrees is fashion'd to a fin.
Another, as he catches at a cord,
Misses his arms, and, tumbling over-board,
With his broad fins and forky tail he laves
The rising surge, and flounces in the waves.
Thus all my crew transform'd around the ship,
Or dive below, or on the surface leap,
And spout the waves, and wanton in the deep.
Full nineteen sailors did the ship convey,
A shole of nineteen dolphins round her play.
I only in my proper shape appear,
Speechless with wonder, and half dead with fear,
'Till Bacchus kindly bid me fear no more.
With him I landed on the Chian shore,
And him shall ever gratefully adore."
"This forging slave," says Pentheus, "would
O'er our just fury by a far-fetch'd tale:
Go, let him feel the whips, the swords, the fire,
And in the tortures of the rack expire."
Th' officious servants hurry him away,
And the poor captive in a dungeon lay.
But, whilst the whips and tortures are prepar'd,
The gates fly open, of themselves unbarr'd;
At liberty th' unfetter'd captive stands,
And flings the loosen'd shackles from his hands.
The Death of But Pentheus, grown more furious than before,
Pentheus Resolv'd to send his messengers no more,
But went himself to the distracted throng,
Where high Cithaeron echo'd with their song.
And as the fiery war-horse paws the ground,
And snorts and trembles at the trumpet's sound;
Transported thus he heard the frantick rout,
And rav'd and madden'd at the distant shout.
A spacious circuit on the hill there stood.
Level and wide, and skirted round with wood;
Here the rash Pentheus, with unhallow'd eyes,
The howling dames and mystick Orgies spies.
His mother sternly view'd him where he stood,
And kindled into madness as she view'd:
Her leafy jav'lin at her son she cast,
And cries, "The boar that lays our country waste!
The boar, my sisters! Aim the fatal dart,
And strike the brindled monster to the heart."
Pentheus astonish'd heard the dismal sound,
And sees the yelling matrons gath'ring round;
He sees, and weeps at his approaching fate,
And begs for mercy, and repents too late.
"Help, help! my aunt Autonoe," he cry'd;
"Remember, how your own Actaeon dy'd."
Deaf to his cries, the frantick matron crops
One stretch'd-out arm, the other Ino lops.
In vain does Pentheus to his mother sue,
And the raw bleeding stumps presents to view:
His mother howl'd; and, heedless of his pray'r,
Her trembling hand she twisted in his hair,
"And this," she cry'd, "shall be Agave's share,"
When from the neck his struggling head she tore,
And in her hands the ghastly visage bore.
With pleasure all the hideous trunk survey;
Then pull'd and tore the mangled limbs away,
As starting in the pangs of death it lay,
Soon as the wood its leafy honours casts,
Blown off and scatter'd by autumnal blasts,
With such a sudden death lay Pentheus slain,
And in a thousand pieces strow'd the plain.
By so distinguishing a judgment aw'd,
The Thebans tremble, and confess the God.
The End of the Third Book.
Pharsalia - Book VI: The Fight Near Dyrhachium. Scaeva's Exploits. The Witch Of Thessalia.
Now that the chiefs with minds intent on fight
Had drawn their armies near upon the hills
And all the gods beheld their chosen pair,
Caesar, the Grecian towns despising, scorned
To reap the glory of successful war
Save at his kinsman's cost. In all his prayers
He seeks that moment, fatal to the world,
When shall be cast the die, to win or lose,
And all his fortune hang upon the throw.
Thrice he drew out his troops, his eagles thrice,
Demanding battle; thus to increase the woe
Of Latium, prompt as ever: but his foes,
Proof against every art, refused to leave
The rampart of their camp. Then marching swift
By hidden path between the wooded fields
He seeks, and hopes to seize, Dyrrhachium's fort;
But Magnus, speeding by the ocean marge,
First camped on Petra's slopes, a rocky hill
Thus by the natives named. From thence he keeps
Watch o'er the fortress of Corinthian birth
Which by its towers alone without a guard
Was safe against a siege. No hand of man
In ancient days built up her lofty wall,
No hammer rang upon her massive stones:
Not all the works of war, nor Time himself
Shall undermine her. Nature's hand has raised
Her adamantine rocks and hedged her in
With bulwarks girded by the foamy main:
And but for one short bridge of narrow earth
Dyrrhachium were an island. Steep and fierce,
Dreaded of sailors, are the cliffs that bear
Her walls; and tempests, howling from the west,
Toss up the raging main upon the roofs;
And homes and temples tremble at the shock.
Thirsting for battle and with hopes inflamed
Here Caesar hastes, with distant rampart lines
Seeking unseen to coop his foe within,
Though spread in spacious camp upon the hills.
With eagle eye he measures out the land
Meet to be compassed, nor content with turf
Fit for a hasty mound, he bids his troops
Tear from the quarries many a giant rock:
And spoils the dwellings of the Greeks, and drags
Their walls asunder for his own. Thus rose
A mighty barrier which no ram could burst
Nor any ponderous machine of war.
Mountains are cleft, and level through the hills
The work of Caesar strides: wide yawns the moat,
Forts show their towers rising on the heights,
And in vast circle forests are enclosed
And groves and spacious lands, and beasts of prey,
As in a line of toils. Pompeius lacked
Nor field nor forage in th' encircled span
Nor room to move his camp; nay, rivers rose
Within, and ran their course and reached the sea;
And Caesar wearied ere he saw the whole,
And daylight failed him. Let the ancient tale
Attribute to the labours of the gods
The walls of Ilium: let the fragile bricks
Which compass in great Babylon, amaze
The fleeting Parthian. Here a larger space
Than those great cities which Orontes swift
And Tigris' stream enclose, or that which boasts
In Eastern climes, the lordly palaces
Fit for Assyria's kings, is closed by walls
Amid the haste and tumult of a war
Forced to completion. Yet this labour huge
Was spent in vain. So many hands had joined
Or Sestos with Abydos, or had tamed
With mighty mole the Hellespontine wave,
Or Corinth from the realm of Pelops' king
Had rent asunder, or had spared each ship
Her voyage round the long Malean cape,
Or had done anything most hard, to change
The world's created surface. Here the war
Was prisoned: blood predestinate to flow
In all the parts of earth; the host foredoomed
To fall in Libya or in Thessaly
Was here: in such small amphitheatre
The tide of civil passion rose and fell.
At first Pompeius knew not: so the hind
Who peaceful tills the mid-Sicilian fields
Hears not Pelorous sounding to the storm;
So billows thunder on Rutupian shores ,
Unheard by distant Caledonia's tribes.
But when he saw the mighty barrier stretch
O'er hill and valley, and enclose the land,
He bade his columns leave their rocky hold
And seize on posts of vantage in the plain;
Thus forcing Caesar to extend his troops
On wider lines; and holding for his own
Such space encompassed as divides from Rome
Aricia, sacred to that goddess chaste
Of old Mycenae; or as Tiber holds
From Rome's high ramparts to the Tuscan sea,
Unless he deviate. No bugle call
Commands an onset, and the darts that fly
Fly though forbidden; but the arm that flings
For proof the lance, at random, here and there
Deals impious slaughter. Weighty care compelled
Each leader to withhold his troops from fight;
For there the weary earth of produce failed
Pressed by Pompeius' steeds, whose horny hoofs
Rang in their gallop on the grassy fields
And killed the succulence. They strengthless lay
Upon the mown expanse, nor pile of straw,
Brought from full barns in place of living grass,
Relieved their craving; shook their panting flanks,
And as they wheeled Death struck his victim down.
Then foul contagion filled the murky air
Whose poisonous weight pressed on them in a cloud
Pestiferous; as in Nesis' isle the breath
Of Styx rolls upwards from the mist-clad rocks;
Or that fell vapour which the caves exhale
From Typhon raging in the depths below.
Then died the soldiers, for the streams they drank
Held yet more poison than the air: the skin
Was dark and rigid, and the fiery plague
Made hard their vitals, and with pitiless tooth
Gnawed at their wasted features, while their eyes
Started from out their sockets, and the head
Drooped for sheer weariness. So the disease
Grew swifter in its strides till scarce was room,
'Twixt life and death, for sickness, and the pest
Slew as it struck its victim, and the dead
Thrust from the tents (such all their burial) lay
Blent with the living. Yet their camp was pitched
Hard by the breezy sea by which might come
All nations' harvests, and the northern wind
Not seldom rolled the murky air away.
Their foe, not vexed with pestilential air
Nor stagnant waters, ample range enjoyed
Upon the spacious uplands: yet as though
In leaguer, famine seized them for its prey.
Scarce were the crops half grown when Caesar saw
How prone they seized upon the food of beasts,
And stripped of leaves the bushes and the groves,
And dragged from roots unknown the doubtful herb.
Thus ate they, starving, all that teeth may bite
Or fire might soften, or might pass their throats
Dry, parched, abraded; food unknown before
Nor placed on tables: while the leaguered foe
Was blessed with plenty.
When Pompeius first
Was pleased to break his bonds and be at large,
No sudden dash he makes on sleeping foe
Unarmed in shade of night; his mighty soul
Scorns such a path to victory. 'Twas his aim,
To lay the turrets low; to mark his track,
By ruin spread afar; and with the sword
To hew a path between his slaughtered foes.
Minucius' turret was the chosen spot
Where groves of trees and thickets gave approach
Safe, unbetrayed by dust.
Up from the fields
Flashed all at once his eagles into sight
And all his trumpets blared. But ere the sword
Could win the battle, on the hostile ranks
Dread panic fell; prone as in death they lay
Where else upright they should withstand the foe;
Nor more availed their valour, and in vain
The cloud of weapons flew, with none to slay.
Then blazing torches rolling pitchy flame
Are hurled, and shaken nod the lofty towers
And threaten ruin, and the bastions groan
Struck by the frequent engine, and the troops
Of Magnus by triumphant eagles led
Stride o'er the rampart, in their front the world.
Yet now that passage which not Caesar's self
Nor thousand valiant squadrons had availed
To rescue from their grasp, one man in arms
Steadfast till death refused them; Scaeva named
This hero soldier: long he served in fight
Waged 'gainst the savage on the banks of Rhone;
And now centurion made, through deeds of blood,
He bore the staff before the marshalled line.
Prone to all wickedness, he little recked
How valourous deeds in civil war may be
Greatest of crimes; and when he saw how turned
His comrades from the war and sought in flight
A refuge, 'Whence,' he cried, 'this impious fear
Unknown to Caesar's armies? Do ye turn
Your backs on death, and are ye not ashamed
Not to be found where slaughtered heroes lie?
Is loyalty too weak? Yet love of fight
Might bid you stand. We are the chosen few
Through whom the foe would break. Unbought by blood
This day shall not be theirs. 'Neath Caesar's eye,
True, death would be more happy; but this boon
Fortune denies: at least my fall shall be
Praised by Pompeius. Break ye with your breasts
Their weapons; blunt the edges of their swords
With throats unyielding. In the distant lines
The dust is seen already, and the sound
Of tumult and of ruin finds the ear
Of Caesar: strike; the victory is ours:
For he shall come who while his soldiers die
Shall make the fortress his.' His voice called forth
The courage that the trumpets failed to rouse
When first they rang: his comrades mustering come
To watch his deeds; and, wondering at the man,
To test if valour thus by foes oppressed,
In narrow space, could hope for aught but death.
But Scaeva standing on the tottering bank
Heaves from the brimming turret on the foe
The corpses of the fallen; the ruined mass
Furnishing weapons to his hands; with beams,
And ponderous stones, nay, with his body threats
His enemies; with poles and stakes he thrusts
The breasts advancing; when they grasp the wall
He lops the arm: rocks crush the foeman's skull
And rive the scalp asunder: fiery bolts
Dashed at another set his hair aflame,
Till rolls the greedy blaze about his eyes
With hideous crackle. As the pile of slain
Rose to the summit of the wall he sprang,
Swift as across the nets a hunted pard,
Above the swords upraised, till in mid throng
Of foes he stood, hemmed in by densest ranks
And ramparted by war; in front and rear,
Where'er he struck, the victor. Now his sword
Blunted with gore congealed no more could wound,
But brake the stricken limb; while every hand
Flung every quivering dart at him alone;
Nor missed their aim, for rang against his shield
Dart after dart unerring, and his helm
In broken fragments pressed upon his brow;
His vital parts were safeguarded by spears
That bristled in his body. Fortune saw
Thus waged a novel combat, for there warred
Against one man an army. Why with darts,
Madmen, assail him and with slender shafts,
'Gainst which his life is proof? Or ponderous stones
This warrior chief shall overwhelm, or bolts
Flung by the twisted thongs of mighty slings.
Let steelshod ram or catapult remove
This champion of the gate. No fragile wall
Stands here for Caesar, blocking with its bulk
Pompeius' way to freedom. Now he trusts
His shield no more, lest his sinister hand,
Idle, give life by shame; and on his breast
Bearing a forest of spears, though spent with toil
And worn with onset, falls upon his foe
And braves alone the wounds of all the war.
Thus may an elephant in Afric wastes,
Oppressed by frequent darts, break those that fall
Rebounding from his horny hide, and shake
Those that find lodgment, while his life within
Lies safe, protected, nor doth spear avail
To reach the fount of blood. Unnumbered wounds
By arrow dealt, or lance, thus fail to slay
This single warrior. But lo! from far
A Cretan archer's shaft, more sure of aim
Than vows could hope for, strikes on Scaeva's brow
To light within his eye: the hero tugs
Intrepid, bursts the nerves, and tears the shaft
Forth with the eyeball, and with dauntless heel
Treads them to dust. Not otherwise a bear
Pannonian, fiercer for the wound received,
Maddened by dart from Libyan thong propelled,
Turns circling on her wound, and still pursues
The weapon fleeing as she whirls around.
Thus, in his rage destroyed, his shapeless face
Stood foul with crimson flow. The victors' shout
Glad to the sky arose; no greater joy
A little blood could give them had they seen
That Caesar's self was wounded. Down he pressed
Deep in his soul the anguish, and, with mien,
No longer bent on fight, submissive cried,
'Spare me, ye citizens; remove the war
Far hence: no weapons now can haste my death;
Draw from my breast the darts, but add no more.
Yet raise me up to place me in the camp
Of Magnus, living: this your gift to him;
No brave man's death my title to renown,
But Caesar's flag deserted.' So he spake.
Unhappy Aulus thought his words were true,
Nor saw within his hand the pointed sword;
And leaping forth in haste to make his own
The prisoner and his arms, in middle throat
Received the lightning blade. By this one death
Rose Scaeva's valour again; and thus he cried,
Such be the punishment of all who thought
Great Scaeva vanquished; if Pompeius seeks
Peace from this reeking sword, low let him lay
At Caesar's feet his standards. Me do ye think
Such as yourselves, and slow to meet the fates?
Your love for Magnus and the Senate's cause
Is less than mine for death.' These were his words;
And dust in columns proved that Caesar came.
Thus was Pompeius' glory spared the stain
Of flight compelled by Scaeva. He, when ceased
The battle, fell, no more by rage of fight,
Or sight of blood out-pouring from his wounds,
Roused to the combat. Fainting there he lay
Upon the shoulders of his comrades borne,
Who him adoring (as though deity
Dwelt in his bosom) for his matchless deeds,
Plucked forth the gory shafts and took his arms
To deck the gods and shield the breast of Mars.
Thrice happy thou with such a name achieved,
Had but the fierce Iberian from thy sword,
Or heavy shielded Teuton, or had fled
The light Cantabrian: with no spoils shalt thou
Adorn the Thunderer's temple, nor upraise
The shout of triumph in the ways of Rome.
For all thy prowess, all thy deeds of pride
Do but prepare her lord.
Nor on this hand
Repulsed, Pompeius idly ceased from war,
Content within his bars; but as the sea
Tireless, which tempests force upon the crag
That breaks it, or which gnaws a mountain side
Some day to fall in ruin on itself;
He sought the turrets nearest to the main,
On double onset bent; nor closely kept
His troops in hand, but on the spacious plain
Spread forth his camp. They joyful leave the tents
And wander at their will. Thus Padus flows
In brimming flood, and foaming at his bounds,
Making whole districts quake; and should the bank
Fail 'neath his swollen waters, all his stream
Breaks forth in swirling eddies over fields
Not his before; some lands are lost, the rest
Gain from his bounty.
Hardly from his tower
Had Caesar seen the fire or known the fight:
And coming found the rampart overthrown,
The dust no longer stirred, the rains cold
As from a battle done. The peace that reigned
There and on Magnus' side, as though men slept,
Their victory won, aroused his angry soul.
Quick he prepares, so that he end their joy
Careless of slaughter or defeat, to rush
With threatening columns on Torquatus' post.
But swift as sailor, by his trembling mast
Warned of Circeian tempest, furls his sails,
So swift Torquatus saw, and prompt to wage
The war more closely, he withdrew his men
Within a narrower wall.
Now past the trench
Were Caesar's companies, when from the hills
Pompeius hurled his host upon their ranks
Shut in, and hampered. Not so much o'erwhelmed
As Caesar's soldiers is the hind who dwells
On Etna's slopes, when blows the southern wind,
And all the mountain pours its cauldrons forth
Upon the vale; and huge Enceladus
Writhing beneath his load spouts o'er the plains
A blazing torrent.
Blinded by the dust,
Encircled, vanquished, ere the fight, they fled
In cloud of terror on their rearward foe,
So rushing on their fates. Thus had the war
Shed its last drop of blood and peace ensued,
But Magnus suffered not, and held his troops.
Back from the battle.
Thou, oh Rome, had'st been
Free, happy, mistress of thy laws and rights
Were Sulla here. Now shalt thou ever grieve
That in his crowning crime, to have met in fight
A pious kinsman, Caesar's vantage lay.
Oh tragic destiny! Nor Munda's fight
Hispania had wept, nor Libya mourned
Encrimsoned Utica, nor Nilus' stream,
With blood unspeakable polluted, borne
A nobler corse than her Egyptian kings:
Nor Juba lain unburied on the sands,
Nor Scipio with his blood outpoured appeased
The ghosts of Carthage; nor the blameless life
Of Cato ended: and Pharsalia's name
Had then been blotted from the book of fate.
But Caesar left the region where his arms
Had found the deities averse, and marched
His shattered columns to Thessalian lands.
Then to Pompeius came (whose mind was bent
To follow Caesar wheresoe'er he fled)
His captains, striving to persuade their chief
To seek Ausonia, his native land,
Now freed from foes. 'Ne'er will I pass,' he said,
'My country's limit, nor revisit Rome
Like Caesar, at the head of banded hosts.
Hesperia when the war began was mine;
Mine, had I chosen in our country's shrines,
In midmost forum of her capital,
To join the battle. So that banished far
Be war from Rome, I'll cross the torrid zone
Or those for ever frozen Scythian shores.
What! shall my victory rob thee of the peace
I gave thee by my flight? Rather than thou
Should'st feel the evils of this impious war,
Let Caesar deem thee his.' Thus said, his course
He turned towards the rising of the sun,
And following devious paths, through forests wide,
Made for Emathia, the land by fate
Foredoomed to see the issue.
Thessalia on that side where Titan first
Raises the wintry day, by Ossa's rocks
Is prisoned in: but in th' advancing year
When higher in the vault his chariot rides
'Tis Pelion that meets the morning rays.
And when beside the Lion's flames he drives
The middle course, Othrys with woody top
Screens his chief ardour. On the hither side
Pindus receives the breezes of the west
And as the evening falls brings darkness in.
There too Olympus, at whose foot who dwells
Nor fears the north nor sees the shining bear.
Between these mountains hemmed, in ancient time
The fields were marsh, for Tempe's pass not yet
Was cleft, to give an exit to the streams
That filled the plain: but when Alcides' hand
Smote Ossa from Olympus at a blow,
And Nereus wondered at the sudden flood
Of waters to the main, then on the shore
(Would it had slept for ever 'neath the deep)
Seaborn Achilles' home Pharsalus rose;
And Phylace whence sailed that ship of old
Whose keel first touched upon the beach of Troy;
And Dorion mournful for the Muses' ire
On Thamyris vanquished: Trachis; Melibe
Strong in the shafts of Hercules, the price
Of that most awful torch; Larissa's hold
Potent of yore; and Argos, famous erst,
O'er which men pass the ploughshare: and the spot
Fabled as Echionian Thebes, where once
Agave bore in exile to the pyre
(Grieving 'twas all she had) the head and neck
Of Pentheus massacred. The lake set free
Flowed forth in many rivers: to the west
Aeas, a gentle stream; nor stronger flows
The sire of Isis ravished from his arms;
And Achelous, rival for the hand
Of Oeneus' daughter, rolls his earthy flood
To silt the shore beside the neighbouring isles.
Evenus purpled by the Centaur's blood
Wanders through Calydon: in the Malian Gulf
Thy rapids fall, Spercheius: pure the wave
With which Amphrysos irrigates the meads
Where once Apollo served: Anaurus flows
Breathing no vapour forth; no humid air
Ripples his face: and whatever stream,
Nameless itself, to Ocean gives its waves
Through thee, Peneus: whirled in eddies foams
Apidanus; Enipeus lingers on
Swift only when fresh streams his volume swell:
And thus Asopus takes his ordered course,
Phoenix and Melas; but Eurotas keeps
His stream aloof from that with which he flows,
Peneus, gliding on his top as though
Upon the channel. Fable says that, sprung
From darkest pools of Styx, with common floods
He scorns to mingle, mindful of his source,
So that the gods above may fear him still.
Soon as were sped the rivers, Boebian ploughs
Dark with its riches broke the virgin soil;
Then came Lelegians to press the share,
And Dolopes and sons of Oeolus
By whom the glebe was furrowed. Steed-renowned
Magnetians dwelt there, and the Minyan race
Who smote the sounding billows with the oar.
There in the cavern from the pregnant cloud
Ixion's sons found birth, the Centaur brood
Half beast, half human: Monychus who broke
The stubborn rocks of Pholoe, Rhoetus fierce
Hurling from Oeta's top gigantic elms
Which northern storms could hardly overturn;
Pholus, Alcides' host: Nessus who bore
The Queen across Evenus' waves, to feel
The deadly arrow for his shameful deed;
And aged Chiron who with wintry star
Against the huger Scorpion draws his bow.
Here sparkled on the land the warrior seed;
Here leaped the charger from Thessalian rocks
Struck by the trident of the Ocean King,
Omen of dreadful war; here first he learned,
Champing the bit and foaming at the curb,
Yet to obey his lord. From yonder shore
The keel of pine first floated, and bore men
To dare the perilous chance of seas unknown:
And here Ionus ruler of the land
First from the furnace molten masses drew
Of iron and brass; here first the hammer fell
To weld them, shapeless; here in glowing stream
Ran silver forth and gold, soon to receive
The minting stamp. 'Twas thus that money came
Whereby men count their riches, cause accursed
Of warfare. Hence came down that Python huge
On Cirrha: hence the laurel wreath which crowns
The Pythian victor: here Aloeus' sons
Gigantic rose against the gods, what time
Pelion had almost touched the stars supreme,
And Ossa's loftier peak amid the sky
Opposing, barred the constellations' way.
When in this fated land the chiefs had placed
Their several camps, foreboding of the end
Now fast approaching, all men's thoughts were turned
Upon the final issue of the war.
And as the hour drew near, the coward minds
Trembling beneath the shadow of the fate
Now hanging o'er them, deemed disaster near:
While some took heart; yet doubted what might fall,
In hope and fear alternate. 'Mid the throng
Sextus, unworthy son of worthy sire
Who soon upon the waves that Scylla guards,
Sicilian pirate, exile from his home,
Stained by his deeds of shame the fights he won,
Could bear delay no more; his feeble soul,
Sick of uncertain fate, by fear compelled,
Forecast the future: yet consulted not
The shrine of Delos nor the Pythian caves;
Nor was he satisfied to learn the sound
Of Jove's brass cauldron, 'mid Dodona's oaks,
By her primaeval fruits the nurse of men:
Nor sought he sages who by flight of birds,
Or watching with Assyrian care the stars
And fires of heaven, or by victims slain,
May know the fates to come; nor any source
Lawful though secret. For to him was known
That which excites the hate of gods above;
Magicians' lore, the savage creed of Dis
And all the shades; and sad with gloomy rites
Mysterious altars. For his frenzied soul
Heaven knew too little. And the spot itself
Kindled his madness, for hard by there dwelt
The brood of Haemon whom no storied witch
Of fiction e'er transcended; all their art
In things most strange and most incredible;
There were Thessalian rocks with deadly herbs
Thick planted, sensible to magic chants,
Funereal, secret: and the land was full
Of violence to the gods: the Queenly guest
From Colchis gathered here the fatal roots
That were not in her store: hence vain to heaven
Rise impious incantations, all unheard;
For deaf the ears divine: save for one voice
Which penetrates the furthest depths of airs
Compelling e'en th' unwilling deities
To hearken to its accents. Not the care
Of the revolving sky or starry pole
Can call them from it ever. Once the sound
Of those dread tones unspeakable has reached
The constellations, then nor Babylon
Nor secret Memphis, though they open wide
The shrines of ancient magic and entreat
The gods, could draw them from the fires that smoke
Upon the altars of far Thessaly.
To hearts of flint those incantations bring
Love, strange, unnatural; the old man's breast
Burns with illicit fire. Nor lies the power
In harmful cup nor in the juicy pledge
Of love maternal from the forehead drawn;
Charmed forth by spells alone the mind decays,
By poisonous drugs unharmed. With woven threads
Crossed in mysterious fashion do they bind
Those whom no passion born of beauteous form
Or loving couch unites. All things on earth
Change at their bidding; night usurps the day;
The heavens disobey their wonted laws;
At that dread hymn the Universe stands still;
And Jove while urging the revolving wheels
Wonders they move not. Torrents are outpoured
Beneath a burning sun; and thunder roars
Uncaused by Jupiter. From their flowing locks
Vapours immense shall issue at their call;
When falls the tempest seas shall rise and foam
Moved by their spell; though powerless the breeze
To raise the billows. Ships against the wind
With bellying sails move onward. From the rock
Hangs motionless the torrent: rivers run
Uphill; the summer heat no longer swells
Nile in his course; Maeander's stream is straight;
Slow Rhone is quickened by the rush of Saone;
Hills dip their heads and topple to the plain;
Olympus sees his clouds drift overhead;
And sunless Scythia's sempiternal snows
Melt in mid-winter; the inflowing tides
Driven onward by the moon, at that dread chant
Ebb from their course; earth's axes, else unmoved,
Have trembled, and the force centripetal
Has tottered, and the earth's compacted frame
Struck by their voice has gaped, till through the void
Men saw the moving sky. All beasts most fierce
And savage fear them, yet with deadly aid
Furnish the witches' arts. Tigers athirst
For blood, and noble lions on them fawn
With bland caresses: serpents at their word
Uncoil their circles, and extended glide
Along the surface of the frosty field;
The viper's severed body joins anew;
And dies the snake by human venom slain.
Whence comes this labour on the gods, compelled
To hearken to the magic chant and spells,
Nor daring to despise them? Doth some bond
Control the deities? Is their pleasure so,
Or must they listen? and have silent threats
Prevailed, or piety unseen received
So great a guerdon? Against all the gods
Is this their influence, or on one alone
Who to his will constrains the universe,
Himself constrained? Stars most in yonder clime
Shoot headlong from the zenith; and the moon
Gliding serene upon her nightly course
Is shorn of lustre by their poisonous chant,
Dimmed by dark earthly fires, as though our orb
Shadowed her brother's radiance and barred
The light bestowed by heaven; nor freshly shines
Until descending nearer to the earth
She sheds her baneful drops upon the mead.
These sinful rites and these her sister's songs
Abhorred Erichtho, fiercest of the race,
Spurned for their piety, and yet viler art
Practised in novel form. To her no home
Beneath a sheltering roof her direful head
Thus to lay down were crime: deserted tombs
Her dwelling-place, from which, darling of hell,
She dragged the dead. Nor life nor gods forbad
But that she knew the secret homes of Styx
And learned to hear the whispered voice of ghosts
At dread mysterious meetings. Never sun
Shed his pure light upon that haggard cheek
Pale with the pallor of the shades, nor looked
Upon those locks unkempt that crowned her brow.
In starless nights of tempest crept the hag
Out from her tomb to seize the levin bolt;
Treading the harvest with accursed foot
She burned the fruitful growth, and with her breath
Poisoned the air else pure. No prayer she breathed
Nor supplication to the gods for help
Nor knew the pulse of entrails as do men
Who worship. Funeral pyres she loves to light
And snatch the incense from the flaming tomb.
The gods at her first utterance grant her prayer
For things unlawful, lest they hear again
Its fearful accents: men whose limbs were quick
With vital power she thrust within the grave
Despite the fates who owed them years to come:
The funeral reversed brought from the tomb
Those who were dead no longer; and the pyre
Yields to her shameless clutch still smoking dust
And bones enkindled, and the torch which held
Some grieving sire but now, with fragments mixed
In sable smoke and ceremental cloths
Singed with the redolent fire that burned the dead.
But those who lie within a stony cell
Untouched by fire, whose dried and mummied frames
No longer know corruption, limb by limb
Venting her rage she tears, the bloodless eyes
Drags from their cavities, and mauls the nail
Upon the withered hand: she gnaws the noose
By which some wretch has died, and from the tree
Drags down a pendent corpse, its members torn
Asunder to the winds: forth from the palms
Wrenches the iron, and from the unbending bond
Hangs by her teeth, and with her hands collects
The slimy gore which drips upon the limbs.
Where lay a corpse upon the naked earth
On ravening birds and beasts of prey the hag
Kept watch, nor marred by knife or hand her spoil,
Till on his victim seized some nightly wolf;
Then dragged the morsel from his thirsty fangs;
Nor fears she murder, if her rites demand
Blood from the living, or some banquet fell
Requires the panting entrail. Pregnant wombs
Yield to her knife the infant to be placed
On flaming altars: and whene'er she needs
Some fierce undaunted ghost, he fails not her
Who has all deaths in use. Her hand has chased
From smiling cheeks the rosy bloom of life;
And with sinister hand from dying youth
Has shorn the fatal lock: and holding oft
In foul embraces some departed friend
Severed the head, and through the ghastly lips,
Held by her own apart, some impious tale
Dark with mysterious horror hath conveyed
Down to the Stygian shades.
When rumour brought
Her name to Sextus, in the depth of night,
While Titan's chariot beneath our earth
Wheeled on his middle course, he took his way
Through fields deserted; while a faithful band,
His wonted ministers in deeds of guilt,
Seeking the hag 'mid broken sepulchres,
Beheld her seated on the crags afar
Where Haemus falls towards Pharsalia's plain.
There was she proving for her gods and priests
Words still unknown, and framing numbered chants
Of dire and novel purpose: for she feared
Lest Mars might stray into another world,
And spare Thessalian soil the blood ere long
To flow in torrents; and she thus forbade
Philippi's field, polluted with her song,
Thick with her poisonous distilments sown,
To let the war pass by. Such deaths, she hopes,
Soon shall be hers! the blood of all the world
Shed for her use! to her it shall be given
To sever from their trunks the heads of kings,
Plunder the ashes of the noble dead,
Italia's bravest, and in triumph add
The mightiest warriors to her host of shades.
And now what spoils from Magnus' tombless corse
Her hand may snatch, on which of Caesar's limbs
She soon may pounce, she makes her foul forecast
And eager gloats.
To whom the coward son
Of Magnus thus: 'Thou greatest ornament
Of Haemon's daughters, in whose power it lies
Or to reveal the fates, or from its course
To turn the future, be it mine to know
By thy sure utterance to what final end
Fortune now guides the issue. Not the least
Of all the Roman host on yonder plain
Am I, but Magnus' most illustrious son,
Lord of the world or heir to death and doom.
The unknown affrights me: I can firmly face
The certain terror. Bid my destiny
Yield to thy power the dark and hidden end,
And let me fall foreknowing. From the gods
Extort the truth, or, if thou spare the gods,
Force it from hell itself. Fling back the gates
That bar th' Elysian fields; let Death confess
Whom from our ranks he seeks. No humble task
I bring, but worthy of Erichtho's skill
Of such a struggle fought for such a prize
To search and tell the issue.'
Then the witch
Pleased that her impious fame was noised abroad
Thus made her answer: 'If some lesser fates
Thy wish had been to change, against their wish
It had been easy to compel the gods
To its accomplishment. My art has power
When of one man the constellations press
The speedy death, to compass a delay;
And mine it is, though every star decrees
A ripe old age, by mystic herbs to shear
The life midway. But should some purpose set
From the beginning of the universe,
And all the labouring fortunes of mankind,
Be brought in question, then Thessalian art
Bows to the power supreme. But if thou be
Content to know the issue pre-ordained,
That shall be swiftly thine; for earth and air
And sea and space and Rhodopaean crags
Shall speak the future. Yet it easiest seems
Where death in these Thessalian fields abounds
To raise a single corpse. From dead men's lips
Scarce cold, in fuller accents falls the voice;
Not from some mummied flame in accents shrill
Uncertain to the ear.'
Thus spake the hag
And through redoubled night, a squalid veil
Swathing her pallid features, stole among
Unburied carcases. Fast fled the wolves,
The carrion birds with maw unsatisfied
Relaxed their talons, as with creeping step
She sought her prophet. Firm must be the flesh
As yet, though cold in death, and firm the lungs
Untouched by wound. Now in the balance hung
The fates of slain unnumbered; had she striven
Armies to raise and order back to life
Whole ranks of warriors, the laws had failed
Of Erebus; and, summoned up from Styx,
Its ghostly tenants had obeyed her call,
And rising fought once more. At length the witch
Picks out her victim with pierced throat agape
Fit for her purpose. Gripped by pitiless hook
O'er rocks she drags him to the mountain cave
Accursed by her fell rites, that shall restore
The dead man's life.
Close to the hidden brink
The land that girds the precipice of hell
Sinks towards the depths: with ever falling leaves
A wood o'ershadows, and a spreading yew
Casts shade impenetrable. Foul decay
Fills all the space, and in the deep recess
Darkness unbroken, save by chanted spells,
Reigns ever. Not where gape the misty jaws
Of caverned Taenarus, the gloomy bound
Of either world, through which the nether kings
Permit the passage of the dead to earth,
So poisonous, mephitic, hangs the air.
Nay, though the witch had power to call the shades
Forth from the depths, 'twas doubtful if the cave
Were not a part of hell. Discordant hues
Flamed on her garb as by a fury worn;
Bare was her visage, and upon her brow
Dread vipers hissed, beneath her streaming locks
In sable coils entwined. But when she saw
The youth's companions trembling, and himself
With eyes cast down, with visage as of death,
Thus spake the witch: 'Forbid your craven souls
These fears to cherish: soon returning life
This frame shall quicken, and in tones which reach
Even the timorous ear shall speak the man.
If I have power the Stygian lakes to show,
The bank that sounds with fire, the fury band,
And giants lettered, and the hound that shakes
Bristling with heads of snakes his triple head,
What fear is this that cringes at the sight
Of timid shivering shades?'
Then to her prayer.
First through his gaping bosom blood she pours
Still fervent, washing from his wounds the gore.
Then copious poisons from the moon distils
Mixed with all monstrous things which Nature's pangs
Bring to untimely birth; the froth from dogs
Stricken with madness, foaming at the stream;
A lynx's entrails: and the knot that grows
Upon the fell hyaena; flesh of stags
Fed upon serpents; and the sucking fish
Which holds the vessel back though eastern winds
Make bend the canvas; dragon's eyes; and stones
That sound beneath the brooding eagle's wings.
Nor Araby's viper, nor the ocean snake
Who in the Red Sea waters guards the shell,
Are wanting; nor the slough on Libyan sands
By horned reptile cast; nor ashes fail
Snatched from an altar where the Phoenix died.
And viler poisons many, which herself
Has made, she adds, whereto no name is given:
Pestiferous leaves pregnant with magic chants
And blades of grass which in their primal growth
Her cursed mouth had slimed. Last came her voice
More potent than all herbs to charm the gods
Who rule in Lethe. Dissonant murmurs first
And sounds discordant from the tongues of men
She utters, scarce articulate: the bay
Of wolves, and barking as of dogs, were mixed
With that fell chant; the screech of nightly owl
Raising her hoarse complaint; the howl of beast
And sibilant hiss of snake -- all these were there;
And more -- the waft of waters on the rock,
The sound of forests and the thunder peal.
Such was her voice; but soon in clearer tones
Reaching to Tartarus, she raised her song:
'Ye awful goddesses, avenging power
Of Hell upon the damned, and Chaos huge
Who striv'st to mix innumerable worlds,
And Pluto, king of earth, whose weary soul
Grieves at his godhead; Styx; and plains of bliss
We may not enter: and thou, Proserpine,
Hating thy mother and the skies above,
My patron goddess, last and lowest form
Of Hecate through whom the shades and I
Hold silent converse; warder of the gate
Who castest human offal to the dog:
Ye sisters who shall spin the threads again;
And thou, O boatman of the burning wave,
Now wearied of the shades from hell to me
Returning, hear me if with voice I cry
Abhorred, polluted; if the flesh of man
Hath ne'er been absent from my proffered song,
Flesh washed with brains still quivering; if the child
Whose severed head I placed upon the dish
But for this hand had lived -- a listening ear
Lend to my supplication! From the caves
Hid in the innermost recess of hell
I claim no soul long banished from the light.
For one but now departed, lingering still
Upon the brink of Orcus, is my prayer.
Grant (for ye may) that listening to the spell
Once more he seek his dust; and let the shade
Of this our soldier perished (if the war
Well at your hands has merited), proclaim
The destiny of Magnus to his son.'
Such prayers she uttered; then, her foaming lips
And head uplifting, present saw the ghost.
Hard by he stood, beside the hated corpse
His ancient prison, and loathed to enter in.
There was the yawning chest where fell the blow
That was his death; and yet the gift supreme
Of death, his right, (Ah, wretch!) was reft away.
Angered at Death the witch, and at the pause
Conceded by the fates, with living snake
Scourges the moveless corse; and on the dead
She barks through fissures gaping to her song,
Breaking the silence of their gloomy home:
'Tisiphone, Megaera, heed ye not?
Flies not this wretched soul before your whips
The void of Erebus? By your very names,
She-dogs of hell, I'll call you to the day,
Not to return; through sepulchres and death
Your gaoler: from funereal urns and tombs
I'll chase you forth. And thou, too, Hecate,
Who to the gods in comely shape and mien,
Not that of Erebus, appearst, henceforth
Wasted and pallid as thou art in hell
At my command shalt come. I'll noise abroad
The banquet that beneath the solid earth
Holds thee, thou maid of Enna; by what bond
Thou lov'st night's King, by what mysterious stain
Infected, so that Ceres fears from hell
To call her daughter. And for thee, base king,
Titan shall pierce thy caverns with his rays
And sudden day shall smite thee. Do ye hear?
Or shall I summon to mine aid that god
At whose dread name earth trembles; who can look
Unflinching on the Gorgon's head, and drive
The Furies with his scourge, who holds the depths
Ye cannot fathom, and above whose haunts
Ye dwell supernal; who by waves of Styx
Forswears himself unpunished?'
Then the blood
Grew warm and liquid, and with softening touch
Cherished the stiffened wounds and filled the veins,
Till throbbed once more the slow returning pulse
And every fibre trembled, as with death
Life was commingled. Then, not limb by limb,
With toil and strain, but rising at a bound
Leaped from the earth erect the living man.
Fierce glared his eyes uncovered, and the life
Was dim, and still upon his face remained
The pallid hues of hardly parted death.
Amazement seized upon him, to the earth
Brought back again: but from his lips tight drawn
No murmur issued; he had power alone
When questioned to reply. 'Speak,' quoth the hag,
'As I shall bid thee; great shall be thy gain
If but thou answerest truly, freed for aye
From all Haemonian art. Such burial place
Shall now be thine, and on thy funeral pyre
Such fatal woods shall burn, such chant shall sound,
That to thy ghost no more or magic song
Or spell shall reach, and thy Lethaean sleep
Shall never more be broken in a death
From me received anew: for such reward
Think not this second life enforced in vain.
Obscure may be the answers of the gods
By priestess spoken at the holy shrine;
But whose braves the oracles of death
In search of truth, should gain a sure response.
Then speak, I pray thee. Let the hidden fates
Tell through thy voice the mysteries to come.'
Thus spake she, and her words by mystic force
Gave him his answer; but with gloomy mien,
And tears swift flowing, thus he made reply:
'Called from the margin of the silent stream
I saw no fateful sisters spin the threads.
Yet know I this, that 'mid the Roman shades
Reigns fiercest discord; and this impious war
Destroys the peace that ruled the fields of death.
Elysian meads and deeps of Tartarus
In paths diverse the Roman chieftains leave
And thus disclose the fates. The blissful ghosts
Bear visages of sorrow. Sire and son
The Decii, who gave themselves to death
In expiation of their country's doom,
And great Camillus, wept; and Sulla's shade
Complained of fortune. Scipio bewailed
The scion of his race about to fall
In sands of Libya: Cato, greatest foe
To Carthage, grieves for that indignant soul
Which shall disdain to serve. Brutus alone
In all the happy ranks I smiling saw,
First consul when the kings were thrust from Rome.
The chains were fallen from boastful Catiline.
Him too I saw rejoicing, and the pair
Of Marii, and Cethegus' naked arm.
The Drusi, heroes of the people, joyed,
In laws immoderate; and the famous pair
Of greatly daring brothers: guilty bands
By bars eternal shut within the doors
That close the prison of hell, applaud the fates,
Claiming the plains Elysian: and the King
Throws wide his pallid halls, makes hard the points
Of craggy rocks, and forges iron chains,
The victor's punishment. But take with thee
This comfort, youth, that there a calm abode,
And peaceful, waits thy father and his house.
Nor let the glory of a little span
Disturb thy boding heart: the hour shall come
When all the chiefs shall meet. Shrink not from death,
But glowing in the greatness of your souls,
E'en from your humble sepulchres descend,
And tread beneath your feet, in pride of place,
The wandering phantoms of the gods of Rome.
Which of the chiefs by Tiber's yellow stream,
And which by Nile shall rest (the leaders' fate)
This fight decides, no more. Nor seek to know
From me thy fortunes: for the fates in time
Shall give thee all thy due; and thy great sire,
A surer prophet, in Sicilian fields
Shall speak thy future -- doubting even he
What regions of the world thou should'st avoid
And what should'st seek. O miserable race!
Europe and Asia and Libya's plains,
Which saw your conquests, now shall hold alike
Your burial-place -- nor has the earth for you
A happier land than this.'
His task performed,
He stands in mournful guise, with silent look
Asking for death again; yet could not die
Till mystic herb and magic chant prevailed.
For nature's law, once used, had power no more
To slay the corpse and set the spirit free.
With plenteous wood she builds the funeral pyre
To which the dead man comes: then as the flames
Seized on his form outstretched, the youth and witch
Together sought the camp; and as the dawn
Now streaked the heavens, by the hag's command
The day was stayed till Sextus reached his tent,
And mist and darkness veiled his safe return.
Endymion: Book II
O Sovereign power of love! O grief! O balm!
All records, saving thine, come cool, and calm,
And shadowy, through the mist of passed years:
For others, good or bad, hatred and tears
Have become indolent; but touching thine,
One sigh doth echo, one poor sob doth pine,
One kiss brings honey-dew from buried days.
The woes of Troy, towers smothering o'er their blaze,
Stiff-holden shields, far-piercing spears, keen blades,
Struggling, and blood, and shrieks--all dimly fades
Into some backward corner of the brain;
Yet, in our very souls, we feel amain
The close of Troilus and Cressid sweet.
Hence, pageant history! hence, gilded cheat!
Swart planet in the universe of deeds!
Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds
Along the pebbled shore of memory!
Many old rotten-timber'd boats there be
Upon thy vaporous bosom, magnified
To goodly vessels; many a sail of pride,
And golden keel'd, is left unlaunch'd and dry.
But wherefore this? What care, though owl did fly
About the great Athenian admiral's mast?
What care, though striding Alexander past
The Indus with his Macedonian numbers?
Though old Ulysses tortured from his slumbers
The glutted Cyclops, what care?--Juliet leaning
Amid her window-flowers,--sighing,--weaning
Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow,
Doth more avail than these: the silver flow
Of Hero's tears, the swoon of Imogen,
Fair Pastorella in the bandit's den,
Are things to brood on with more ardency
Than the death-day of empires. Fearfully
Must such conviction come upon his head,
Who, thus far, discontent, has dared to tread,
Without one muse's smile, or kind behest,
The path of love and poesy. But rest,
In chaffing restlessness, is yet more drear
Than to be crush'd, in striving to uprear
Love's standard on the battlements of song.
So once more days and nights aid me along,
Like legion'd soldiers.
What promise hast thou faithful guarded since
The day of sacrifice? Or, have new sorrows
Come with the constant dawn upon thy morrows?
Alas! 'tis his old grief. For many days,
Has he been wandering in uncertain ways:
Through wilderness, and woods of mossed oaks;
Counting his woe-worn minutes, by the strokes
Of the lone woodcutter; and listening still,
Hour after hour, to each lush-leav'd rill.
Now he is sitting by a shady spring,
And elbow-deep with feverous fingering
Stems the upbursting cold: a wild rose tree
Pavilions him in bloom, and he doth see
A bud which snares his fancy: lo! but now
He plucks it, dips its stalk in the water: how!
It swells, it buds, it flowers beneath his sight;
And, in the middle, there is softly pight
A golden butterfly; upon whose wings
There must be surely character'd strange things,
For with wide eye he wonders, and smiles oft.
Lightly this little herald flew aloft,
Follow'd by glad Endymion's clasped hands:
Onward it flies. From languor's sullen bands
His limbs are loos'd, and eager, on he hies
Dazzled to trace it in the sunny skies.
It seem'd he flew, the way so easy was;
And like a new-born spirit did he pass
Through the green evening quiet in the sun,
O'er many a heath, through many a woodland dun,
Through buried paths, where sleepy twilight dreams
The summer time away. One track unseams
A wooded cleft, and, far away, the blue
Of ocean fades upon him; then, anew,
He sinks adown a solitary glen,
Where there was never sound of mortal men,
Saving, perhaps, some snow-light cadences
Melting to silence, when upon the breeze
Some holy bark let forth an anthem sweet,
To cheer itself to Delphi. Still his feet
Went swift beneath the merry-winged guide,
Until it reached a splashing fountain's side
That, near a cavern's mouth, for ever pour'd
Unto the temperate air: then high it soar'd,
And, downward, suddenly began to dip,
As if, athirst with so much toil, 'twould sip
The crystal spout-head: so it did, with touch
Most delicate, as though afraid to smutch
Even with mealy gold the waters clear.
But, at that very touch, to disappear
So fairy-quick, was strange! Bewildered,
Endymion sought around, and shook each bed
Of covert flowers in vain; and then he flung
Himself along the grass. What gentle tongue,
What whisperer disturb'd his gloomy rest?
It was a nymph uprisen to the breast
In the fountain's pebbly margin, and she stood
'Mong lilies, like the youngest of the brood.
To him her dripping hand she softly kist,
And anxiously began to plait and twist
Her ringlets round her fingers, saying: "Youth!
Too long, alas, hast thou starv'd on the ruth,
The bitterness of love: too long indeed,
Seeing thou art so gentle. Could I weed
Thy soul of care, by heavens, I would offer
All the bright riches of my crystal coffer
To Amphitrite; all my clear-eyed fish,
Golden, or rainbow-sided, or purplish,
Vermilion-tail'd, or finn'd with silvery gauze;
Yea, or my veined pebble-floor, that draws
A virgin light to the deep; my grotto-sands
Tawny and gold, ooz'd slowly from far lands
By my diligent springs; my level lilies, shells,
My charming rod, my potent river spells;
Yes, every thing, even to the pearly cup
Meander gave me,--for I bubbled up
To fainting creatures in a desert wild.
But woe is me, I am but as a child
To gladden thee; and all I dare to say,
Is, that I pity thee; that on this day
I've been thy guide; that thou must wander far
In other regions, past the scanty bar
To mortal steps, before thou cans't be ta'en
From every wasting sigh, from every pain,
Into the gentle bosom of thy love.
Why it is thus, one knows in heaven above:
But, a poor Naiad, I guess not. Farewel!
I have a ditty for my hollow cell."
Hereat, she vanished from Endymion's gaze,
Who brooded o'er the water in amaze:
The dashing fount pour'd on, and where its pool
Lay, half asleep, in grass and rushes cool,
Quick waterflies and gnats were sporting still,
And fish were dimpling, as if good nor ill
Had fallen out that hour. The wanderer,
Holding his forehead, to keep off the burr
Of smothering fancies, patiently sat down;
And, while beneath the evening's sleepy frown
Glow-worms began to trim their starry lamps,
Thus breath'd he to himself: "Whoso encamps
To take a fancied city of delight,
O what a wretch is he! and when 'tis his,
After long toil and travelling, to miss
The kernel of his hopes, how more than vile:
Yet, for him there's refreshment even in toil;
Another city doth he set about,
Free from the smallest pebble-bead of doubt
That he will seize on trickling honey-combs:
Alas, he finds them dry; and then he foams,
And onward to another city speeds.
But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination's struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are sill the air, the subtle food,
To make us feel existence, and to shew
How quiet death is. Where soil is men grow,
Whether to weeds or flowers; but for me,
There is no depth to strike in: I can see
Nought earthly worth my compassing; so stand
Upon a misty, jutting head of land--
Alone? No, no; and by the Orphean lute,
When mad Eurydice is listening to 't;
I'd rather stand upon this misty peak,
With not a thing to sigh for, or to seek,
But the soft shadow of my thrice-seen love,
Than be--I care not what. O meekest dove
Of heaven! O Cynthia, ten-times bright and fair!
From thy blue throne, now filling all the air,
Glance but one little beam of temper'd light
Into my bosom, that the dreadful might
And tyranny of love be somewhat scar'd!
Yet do not so, sweet queen; one torment spar'd,
Would give a pang to jealous misery,
Worse than the torment's self: but rather tie
Large wings upon my shoulders, and point out
My love's far dwelling. Though the playful rout
Of Cupids shun thee, too divine art thou,
Too keen in beauty, for thy silver prow
Not to have dipp'd in love's most gentle stream.
O be propitious, nor severely deem
My madness impious; for, by all the stars
That tend thy bidding, I do think the bars
That kept my spirit in are burst--that I
Am sailing with thee through the dizzy sky!
How beautiful thou art! The world how deep!
How tremulous-dazzlingly the wheels sweep
Around their axle! Then these gleaming reins,
How lithe! When this thy chariot attains
Is airy goal, haply some bower veils
Those twilight eyes? Those eyes!--my spirit fails--
Dear goddess, help! or the wide-gaping air
Will gulph me--help!"--At this with madden'd stare,
And lifted hands, and trembling lips he stood;
Like old Deucalion mountain'd o'er the flood,
Or blind Orion hungry for the morn.
And, but from the deep cavern there was borne
A voice, he had been froze to senseless stone;
Nor sigh of his, nor plaint, nor passion'd moan
Had more been heard. Thus swell'd it forth: "Descend,
Young mountaineer! descend where alleys bend
Into the sparry hollows of the world!
Oft hast thou seen bolts of the thunder hurl'd
As from thy threshold, day by day hast been
A little lower than the chilly sheen
Of icy pinnacles, and dipp'dst thine arms
Into the deadening ether that still charms
Their marble being: now, as deep profound
As those are high, descend! He ne'er is crown'd
With immortality, who fears to follow
Where airy voices lead: so through the hollow,
The silent mysteries of earth, descend!"
He heard but the last words, nor could contend
One moment in reflection: for he fled
Into the fearful deep, to hide his head
From the clear moon, the trees, and coming madness.
'Twas far too strange, and wonderful for sadness;
Sharpening, by degrees, his appetite
To dive into the deepest. Dark, nor light,
The region; nor bright, nor sombre wholly,
But mingled up; a gleaming melancholy;
A dusky empire and its diadems;
One faint eternal eventide of gems.
Aye, millions sparkled on a vein of gold,
Along whose track the prince quick footsteps told,
With all its lines abrupt and angular:
Out-shooting sometimes, like a meteor-star,
Through a vast antre; then the metal woof,
Like Vulcan's rainbow, with some monstrous roof
Curves hugely: now, far in the deep abyss,
It seems an angry lightning, and doth hiss
Fancy into belief: anon it leads
Through winding passages, where sameness breeds
Vexing conceptions of some sudden change;
Whether to silver grots, or giant range
Of sapphire columns, or fantastic bridge
Athwart a flood of crystal. On a ridge
Now fareth he, that o'er the vast beneath
Towers like an ocean-cliff, and whence he seeth
A hundred waterfalls, whose voices come
But as the murmuring surge. Chilly and numb
His bosom grew, when first he, far away,
Descried an orbed diamond, set to fray
Old darkness from his throne: 'twas like the sun
Uprisen o'er chaos: and with such a stun
Came the amazement, that, absorb'd in it,
He saw not fiercer wonders--past the wit
Of any spirit to tell, but one of those
Who, when this planet's sphering time doth close,
Will be its high remembrancers: who they?
The mighty ones who have made eternal day
For Greece and England. While astonishment
With deep-drawn sighs was quieting, he went
Into a marble gallery, passing through
A mimic temple, so complete and true
In sacred custom, that he well nigh fear'd
To search it inwards, whence far off appear'd,
Through a long pillar'd vista, a fair shrine,
And, just beyond, on light tiptoe divine,
A quiver'd Dian. Stepping awfully,
The youth approach'd; oft turning his veil'd eye
Down sidelong aisles, and into niches old.
And when, more near against the marble cold
He had touch'd his forehead, he began to thread
All courts and passages, where silence dead
Rous'd by his whispering footsteps murmured faint:
And long he travers'd to and fro, to acquaint
Himself with every mystery, and awe;
Till, weary, he sat down before the maw
Of a wide outlet, fathomless and dim
To wild uncertainty and shadows grim.
There, when new wonders ceas'd to float before,
And thoughts of self came on, how crude and sore
The journey homeward to habitual self!
A mad-pursuing of the fog-born elf,
Whose flitting lantern, through rude nettle-briar,
Cheats us into a swamp, into a fire,
Into the bosom of a hated thing.
What misery most drowningly doth sing
In lone Endymion's ear, now he has caught
The goal of consciousness? Ah, 'tis the thought,
The deadly feel of solitude: for lo!
He cannot see the heavens, nor the flow
Of rivers, nor hill-flowers running wild
In pink and purple chequer, nor, up-pil'd,
The cloudy rack slow journeying in the west,
Like herded elephants; nor felt, nor prest
Cool grass, nor tasted the fresh slumberous air;
But far from such companionship to wear
An unknown time, surcharg'd with grief, away,
Was now his lot. And must he patient stay,
Tracing fantastic figures with his spear?
"No!" exclaimed he, "why should I tarry here?"
No! loudly echoed times innumerable.
At which he straightway started, and 'gan tell
His paces back into the temple's chief;
Warming and glowing strong in the belief
Of help from Dian: so that when again
He caught her airy form, thus did he plain,
Moving more near the while. "O Haunter chaste
Of river sides, and woods, and heathy waste,
Where with thy silver bow and arrows keen
Art thou now forested? O woodland Queen,
What smoothest air thy smoother forehead woos?
Where dost thou listen to the wide halloos
Of thy disparted nymphs? Through what dark tree
Glimmers thy crescent? Wheresoe'er it be,
'Tis in the breath of heaven: thou dost taste
Freedom as none can taste it, nor dost waste
Thy loveliness in dismal elements;
But, finding in our green earth sweet contents,
There livest blissfully. Ah, if to thee
It feels Elysian, how rich to me,
An exil'd mortal, sounds its pleasant name!
Within my breast there lives a choking flame--
O let me cool it among the zephyr-boughs!
A homeward fever parches up my tongue--
O let me slake it at the running springs!
Upon my ear a noisy nothing rings--
O let me once more hear the linnet's note!
Before mine eyes thick films and shadows float--
O let me 'noint them with the heaven's light!
Dost thou now lave thy feet and ankles white?
O think how sweet to me the freshening sluice!
Dost thou now please thy thirst with berry-juice?
O think how this dry palate would rejoice!
If in soft slumber thou dost hear my voice,
Oh think how I should love a bed of flowers!--
Young goddess! let me see my native bowers!
Deliver me from this rapacious deep!"
Thus ending loudly, as he would o'erleap
His destiny, alert he stood: but when
Obstinate silence came heavily again,
Feeling about for its old couch of space
And airy cradle, lowly bow'd his face
Desponding, o'er the marble floor's cold thrill.
But 'twas not long; for, sweeter than the rill
To its old channel, or a swollen tide
To margin sallows, were the leaves he spied,
And flowers, and wreaths, and ready myrtle crowns
Up heaping through the slab: refreshment drowns
Itself, and strives its own delights to hide--
Nor in one spot alone; the floral pride
In a long whispering birth enchanted grew
Before his footsteps; as when heav'd anew
Old ocean rolls a lengthened wave to the shore,
Down whose green back the short-liv'd foam, all hoar,
Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.
Increasing still in heart, and pleasant sense,
Upon his fairy journey on he hastes;
So anxious for the end, he scarcely wastes
One moment with his hand among the sweets:
Onward he goes--he stops--his bosom beats
As plainly in his ear, as the faint charm
Of which the throbs were born. This still alarm,
This sleepy music, forc'd him walk tiptoe:
For it came more softly than the east could blow
Arion's magic to the Atlantic isles;
Or than the west, made jealous by the smiles
Of thron'd Apollo, could breathe back the lyre
To seas Ionian and Tyrian.
O did he ever live, that lonely man,
Who lov'd--and music slew not? 'Tis the pest
Of love, that fairest joys give most unrest;
That things of delicate and tenderest worth
Are swallow'd all, and made a seared dearth,
By one consuming flame: it doth immerse
And suffocate true blessings in a curse.
Half-happy, by comparison of bliss,
Is miserable. 'Twas even so with this
Dew-dropping melody, in the Carian's ear;
First heaven, then hell, and then forgotten clear,
Vanish'd in elemental passion.
And down some swart abysm he had gone,
Had not a heavenly guide benignant led
To where thick myrtle branches, 'gainst his head
Brushing, awakened: then the sounds again
Went noiseless as a passing noontide rain
Over a bower, where little space he stood;
For as the sunset peeps into a wood
So saw he panting light, and towards it went
Through winding alleys; and lo, wonderment!
Upon soft verdure saw, one here, one there,
Cupids a slumbering on their pinions fair.
After a thousand mazes overgone,
At last, with sudden step, he came upon
A chamber, myrtle wall'd, embowered high,
Full of light, incense, tender minstrelsy,
And more of beautiful and strange beside:
For on a silken couch of rosy pride,
In midst of all, there lay a sleeping youth
Of fondest beauty; fonder, in fair sooth,
Than sighs could fathom, or contentment reach:
And coverlids gold-tinted like the peach,
Or ripe October's faded marigolds,
Fell sleek about him in a thousand folds--
Not hiding up an Apollonian curve
Of neck and shoulder, nor the tenting swerve
Of knee from knee, nor ankles pointing light;
But rather, giving them to the filled sight
Officiously. Sideway his face repos'd
On one white arm, and tenderly unclos'd,
By tenderest pressure, a faint damask mouth
To slumbery pout; just as the morning south
Disparts a dew-lipp'd rose. Above his head,
Four lily stalks did their white honours wed
To make a coronal; and round him grew
All tendrils green, of every bloom and hue,
Together intertwin'd and trammel'd fresh:
The vine of glossy sprout; the ivy mesh,
Shading its Ethiop berries; and woodbine,
Of velvet leaves and bugle-blooms divine;
Convolvulus in streaked vases flush;
The creeper, mellowing for an autumn blush;
And virgin's bower, trailing airily;
With others of the sisterhood. Hard by,
Stood serene Cupids watching silently.
One, kneeling to a lyre, touch'd the strings,
Muffling to death the pathos with his wings;
And, ever and anon, uprose to look
At the youth's slumber; while another took
A willow-bough, distilling odorous dew,
And shook it on his hair; another flew
In through the woven roof, and fluttering-wise
Rain'd violets upon his sleeping eyes.
At these enchantments, and yet many more,
The breathless Latmian wonder'd o'er and o'er;
Until, impatient in embarrassment,
He forthright pass'd, and lightly treading went
To that same feather'd lyrist, who straightway,
Smiling, thus whisper'd: "Though from upper day
Thou art a wanderer, and thy presence here
Might seem unholy, be of happy cheer!
For 'tis the nicest touch of human honour,
When some ethereal and high-favouring donor
Presents immortal bowers to mortal sense;
As now 'tis done to thee, Endymion. Hence
Was I in no wise startled. So recline
Upon these living flowers. Here is wine,
Alive with sparkles--never, I aver,
Since Ariadne was a vintager,
So cool a purple: taste these juicy pears,
Sent me by sad Vertumnus, when his fears
Were high about Pomona: here is cream,
Deepening to richness from a snowy gleam;
Sweeter than that nurse Amalthea skimm'd
For the boy Jupiter: and here, undimm'd
By any touch, a bunch of blooming plums
Ready to melt between an infant's gums:
And here is manna pick'd from Syrian trees,
In starlight, by the three Hesperides.
Feast on, and meanwhile I will let thee know
Of all these things around us." He did so,
Still brooding o'er the cadence of his lyre;
And thus: "I need not any hearing tire
By telling how the sea-born goddess pin'd
For a mortal youth, and how she strove to bind
Him all in all unto her doting self.
Who would not be so prison'd? but, fond elf,
He was content to let her amorous plea
Faint through his careless arms; content to see
An unseiz'd heaven dying at his feet;
Content, O fool! to make a cold retreat,
When on the pleasant grass such love, lovelorn,
Lay sorrowing; when every tear was born
Of diverse passion; when her lips and eyes
Were clos'd in sullen moisture, and quick sighs
Came vex'd and pettish through her nostrils small.
Hush! no exclaim--yet, justly mightst thou call
Curses upon his head.--I was half glad,
But my poor mistress went distract and mad,
When the boar tusk'd him: so away she flew
To Jove's high throne, and by her plainings drew
Immortal tear-drops down the thunderer's beard;
Whereon, it was decreed he should be rear'd
Each summer time to life. Lo! this is he,
That same Adonis, safe in the privacy
Of this still region all his winter-sleep.
Aye, sleep; for when our love-sick queen did weep
Over his waned corse, the tremulous shower
Heal'd up the wound, and, with a balmy power,
Medicined death to a lengthened drowsiness:
The which she fills with visions, and doth dress
In all this quiet luxury; and hath set
Us young immortals, without any let,
To watch his slumber through. 'Tis well nigh pass'd,
Even to a moment's filling up, and fast
She scuds with summer breezes, to pant through
The first long kiss, warm firstling, to renew
Embower'd sports in Cytherea's isle.
Look! how those winged listeners all this while
Stand anxious: see! behold!"--This clamant word
Broke through the careful silence; for they heard
A rustling noise of leaves, and out there flutter'd
Pigeons and doves: Adonis something mutter'd,
The while one hand, that erst upon his thigh
Lay dormant, mov'd convuls'd and gradually
Up to his forehead. Then there was a hum
Of sudden voices, echoing, "Come! come!
Arise! awake! Clear summer has forth walk'd
Unto the clover-sward, and she has talk'd
Full soothingly to every nested finch:
Rise, Cupids! or we'll give the blue-bell pinch
To your dimpled arms. Once more sweet life begin!"
At this, from every side they hurried in,
Rubbing their sleepy eyes with lazy wrists,
And doubling overhead their little fists
In backward yawns. But all were soon alive:
For as delicious wine doth, sparkling, dive
In nectar'd clouds and curls through water fair,
So from the arbour roof down swell'd an air
Odorous and enlivening; making all
To laugh, and play, and sing, and loudly call
For their sweet queen: when lo! the wreathed green
Disparted, and far upward could be seen
Blue heaven, and a silver car, air-borne,
Whose silent wheels, fresh wet from clouds of morn,
Spun off a drizzling dew,--which falling chill
On soft Adonis' shoulders, made him still
Nestle and turn uneasily about.
Soon were the white doves plain, with necks stretch'd out,
And silken traces lighten'd in descent;
And soon, returning from love's banishment,
Queen Venus leaning downward open arm'd:
Her shadow fell upon his breast, and charm'd
A tumult to his heart, and a new life
Into his eyes. Ah, miserable strife,
But for her comforting! unhappy sight,
But meeting her blue orbs! Who, who can write
Of these first minutes? The unchariest muse
To embracements warm as theirs makes coy excuse.
O it has ruffled every spirit there,
Saving love's self, who stands superb to share
The general gladness: awfully he stands;
A sovereign quell is in his waving hands;
No sight can bear the lightning of his bow;
His quiver is mysterious, none can know
What themselves think of it; from forth his eyes
There darts strange light of varied hues and dyes:
A scowl is sometimes on his brow, but who
Look full upon it feel anon the blue
Of his fair eyes run liquid through their souls.
Endymion feels it, and no more controls
The burning prayer within him; so, bent low,
He had begun a plaining of his woe.
But Venus, bending forward, said: "My child,
Favour this gentle youth; his days are wild
With love--he--but alas! too well I see
Thou know'st the deepness of his misery.
Ah, smile not so, my son: I tell thee true,
That when through heavy hours I used to rue
The endless sleep of this new-born Adon',
This stranger ay I pitied. For upon
A dreary morning once I fled away
Into the breezy clouds, to weep and pray
For this my love: for vexing Mars had teaz'd
Me even to tears: thence, when a little eas'd,
Down-looking, vacant, through a hazy wood,
I saw this youth as he despairing stood:
Those same dark curls blown vagrant in the wind:
Those same full fringed lids a constant blind
Over his sullen eyes: I saw him throw
Himself on wither'd leaves, even as though
Death had come sudden; for no jot he mov'd,
Yet mutter'd wildly. I could hear he lov'd
Some fair immortal, and that his embrace
Had zoned her through the night. There is no trace
Of this in heaven: I have mark'd each cheek,
And find it is the vainest thing to seek;
And that of all things 'tis kept secretest.
Endymion! one day thou wilt be blest:
So still obey the guiding hand that fends
Thee safely through these wonders for sweet ends.
'Tis a concealment needful in extreme;
And if I guess'd not so, the sunny beam
Thou shouldst mount up to with me. Now adieu!
Here must we leave thee."--At these words up flew
The impatient doves, up rose the floating car,
Up went the hum celestial. High afar
The Latmian saw them minish into nought;
And, when all were clear vanish'd, still he caught
A vivid lightning from that dreadful bow.
When all was darkened, with Etnean throe
The earth clos'd--gave a solitary moan--
And left him once again in twilight lone.
He did not rave, he did not stare aghast,
For all those visions were o'ergone, and past,
And he in loneliness: he felt assur'd
Of happy times, when all he had endur'd
Would seem a feather to the mighty prize.
So, with unusual gladness, on he hies
Through caves, and palaces of mottled ore,
Gold dome, and crystal wall, and turquois floor,
Black polish'd porticos of awful shade,
And, at the last, a diamond balustrade,
Leading afar past wild magnificence,
Spiral through ruggedest loopholes, and thence
Stretching across a void, then guiding o'er
Enormous chasms, where, all foam and roar,
Streams subterranean tease their granite beds;
Then heighten'd just above the silvery heads
Of a thousand fountains, so that he could dash
The waters with his spear; but at the splash,
Done heedlessly, those spouting columns rose
Sudden a poplar's height, and 'gan to enclose
His diamond path with fretwork, streaming round
Alive, and dazzling cool, and with a sound,
Haply, like dolphin tumults, when sweet shells
Welcome the float of Thetis. Long he dwells
On this delight; for, every minute's space,
The streams with changed magic interlace:
Sometimes like delicatest lattices,
Cover'd with crystal vines; then weeping trees,
Moving about as in a gentle wind,
Which, in a wink, to watery gauze refin'd,
Pour'd into shapes of curtain'd canopies,
Spangled, and rich with liquid broideries
Of flowers, peacocks, swans, and naiads fair.
Swifter than lightning went these wonders rare;
And then the water, into stubborn streams
Collecting, mimick'd the wrought oaken beams,
Pillars, and frieze, and high fantastic roof,
Of those dusk places in times far aloof
Cathedrals call'd. He bade a loth farewel
To these founts Protean, passing gulph, and dell,
And torrent, and ten thousand jutting shapes,
Half seen through deepest gloom, and griesly gapes,
Blackening on every side, and overhead
A vaulted dome like Heaven's, far bespread
With starlight gems: aye, all so huge and strange,
The solitary felt a hurried change
Working within him into something dreary,--
Vex'd like a morning eagle, lost, and weary,
And purblind amid foggy, midnight wolds.
But he revives at once: for who beholds
New sudden things, nor casts his mental slough?
Forth from a rugged arch, in the dusk below,
Came mother Cybele! alone--alone--
In sombre chariot; dark foldings thrown
About her majesty, and front death-pale,
With turrets crown'd. Four maned lions hale
The sluggish wheels; solemn their toothed maws,
Their surly eyes brow-hidden, heavy paws
Uplifted drowsily, and nervy tails
Cowering their tawny brushes. Silent sails
This shadowy queen athwart, and faints away
In another gloomy arch.
Young traveller, in such a mournful place?
Art thou wayworn, or canst not further trace
The diamond path? And does it indeed end
Abrupt in middle air? Yet earthward bend
Thy forehead, and to Jupiter cloud-borne
Call ardently! He was indeed wayworn;
Abrupt, in middle air, his way was lost;
To cloud-borne Jove he bowed, and there crost
Towards him a large eagle, 'twixt whose wings,
Without one impious word, himself he flings,
Committed to the darkness and the gloom:
Down, down, uncertain to what pleasant doom,
Swift as a fathoming plummet down he fell
Through unknown things; till exhaled asphodel,
And rose, with spicy fannings interbreath'd,
Came swelling forth where little caves were wreath'd
So thick with leaves and mosses, that they seem'd
Large honey-combs of green, and freshly teem'd
With airs delicious. In the greenest nook
The eagle landed him, and farewel took.
It was a jasmine bower, all bestrown
With golden moss. His every sense had grown
Ethereal for pleasure; 'bove his head
Flew a delight half-graspable; his tread
Was Hesperean; to his capable ears
Silence was music from the holy spheres;
A dewy luxury was in his eyes;
The little flowers felt his pleasant sighs
And stirr'd them faintly. Verdant cave and cell
He wander'd through, oft wondering at such swell
Of sudden exaltation: but, "Alas!
Said he, "will all this gush of feeling pass
Away in solitude? And must they wane,
Like melodies upon a sandy plain,
Without an echo? Then shall I be left
So sad, so melancholy, so bereft!
Yet still I feel immortal! O my love,
My breath of life, where art thou? High above,
Dancing before the morning gates of heaven?
Or keeping watch among those starry seven,
Old Atlas' children? Art a maid of the waters,
One of shell-winding Triton's bright-hair'd daughters?
Or art, impossible! a nymph of Dian's,
Weaving a coronal of tender scions
For very idleness? Where'er thou art,
Methinks it now is at my will to start
Into thine arms; to scare Aurora's train,
And snatch thee from the morning; o'er the main
To scud like a wild bird, and take thee off
From thy sea-foamy cradle; or to doff
Thy shepherd vest, and woo thee mid fresh leaves.
No, no, too eagerly my soul deceives
Its powerless self: I know this cannot be.
O let me then by some sweet dreaming flee
To her entrancements: hither sleep awhile!
Hither most gentle sleep! and soothing foil
For some few hours the coming solitude."
Thus spake he, and that moment felt endued
With power to dream deliciously; so wound
Through a dim passage, searching till he found
The smoothest mossy bed and deepest, where
He threw himself, and just into the air
Stretching his indolent arms, he took, O bliss!
A naked waist: "Fair Cupid, whence is this?"
A well-known voice sigh'd, "Sweetest, here am I!"
At which soft ravishment, with doating cry
They trembled to each other.--Helicon!
O fountain'd hill! Old Homer's Helicon!
That thou wouldst spout a little streamlet o'er
These sorry pages; then the verse would soar
And sing above this gentle pair, like lark
Over his nested young: but all is dark
Around thine aged top, and thy clear fount
Exhales in mists to heaven. Aye, the count
Of mighty Poets is made up; the scroll
Is folded by the Muses; the bright roll
Is in Apollo's hand: our dazed eyes
Have seen a new tinge in the western skies:
The world has done its duty. Yet, oh yet,
Although the sun of poesy is set,
These lovers did embrace, and we must weep
That there is no old power left to steep
A quill immortal in their joyous tears.
Long time in silence did their anxious fears
Question that thus it was; long time they lay
Fondling and kissing every doubt away;
Long time ere soft caressing sobs began
To mellow into words, and then there ran
Two bubbling springs of talk from their sweet lips.
"O known Unknown! from whom my being sips
Such darling essence, wherefore may I not
Be ever in these arms? in this sweet spot
Pillow my chin for ever? ever press
These toying hands and kiss their smooth excess?
Why not for ever and for ever feel
That breath about my eyes? Ah, thou wilt steal
Away from me again, indeed, indeed--
Thou wilt be gone away, and wilt not heed
My lonely madness. Speak, my kindest fair!
Is--is it to be so? No! Who will dare
To pluck thee from me? And, of thine own will,
Full well I feel thou wouldst not leave me. Still
Let me entwine thee surer, surer--now
How can we part? Elysium! who art thou?
Who, that thou canst not be for ever here,
Or lift me with thee to some starry sphere?
Enchantress! tell me by this soft embrace,
By the most soft completion of thy face,
Those lips, O slippery blisses, twinkling eyes,
And by these tenderest, milky sovereignties--
These tenderest, and by the nectar-wine,
The passion"--------"O lov'd Ida the divine!
Endymion! dearest! Ah, unhappy me!
His soul will 'scape us--O felicity!
How he does love me! His poor temples beat
To the very tune of love--how sweet, sweet, sweet.
Revive, dear youth, or I shall faint and die;
Revive, or these soft hours will hurry by
In tranced dulness; speak, and let that spell
Affright this lethargy! I cannot quell
Its heavy pressure, and will press at least
My lips to thine, that they may richly feast
Until we taste the life of love again.
What! dost thou move? dost kiss? O bliss! O pain!
I love thee, youth, more than I can conceive;
And so long absence from thee doth bereave
My soul of any rest: yet must I hence:
Yet, can I not to starry eminence
Uplift thee; nor for very shame can own
Myself to thee. Ah, dearest, do not groan
Or thou wilt force me from this secrecy,
And I must blush in heaven. O that I
Had done it already; that the dreadful smiles
At my lost brightness, my impassion'd wiles,
Had waned from Olympus' solemn height,
And from all serious Gods; that our delight
Was quite forgotten, save of us alone!
And wherefore so ashamed? 'Tis but to atone
For endless pleasure, by some coward blushes:
Yet must I be a coward!--Horror rushes
Too palpable before me--the sad look
Of Jove--Minerva's start--no bosom shook
With awe of purity--no Cupid pinion
In reverence veiled--my crystaline dominion
Half lost, and all old hymns made nullity!
But what is this to love? O I could fly
With thee into the ken of heavenly powers,
So thou wouldst thus, for many sequent hours,
Press me so sweetly. Now I swear at once
That I am wise, that Pallas is a dunce--
Perhaps her love like mine is but unknown--
O I do think that I have been alone
In chastity: yes, Pallas has been sighing,
While every eve saw me my hair uptying
With fingers cool as aspen leaves. Sweet love,
I was as vague as solitary dove,
Nor knew that nests were built. Now a soft kiss--
Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss,
An immortality of passion's thine:
Ere long I will exalt thee to the shine
Of heaven ambrosial; and we will shade
Ourselves whole summers by a river glade;
And I will tell thee stories of the sky,
And breathe thee whispers of its minstrelsy.
My happy love will overwing all bounds!
O let me melt into thee; let the sounds
Of our close voices marry at their birth;
Let us entwine hoveringly--O dearth
Of human words! roughness of mortal speech!
Lispings empyrean will I sometime teach
Thine honied tongue--lute-breathings, which I gasp
To have thee understand, now while I clasp
Thee thus, and weep for fondness--I am pain'd,
Endymion: woe! woe! is grief contain'd
In the very deeps of pleasure, my sole life?"--
Hereat, with many sobs, her gentle strife
Melted into a languor. He return'd
Entranced vows and tears.
Ye who have yearn'd
With too much passion, will here stay and pity,
For the mere sake of truth; as 'tis a ditty
Not of these days, but long ago 'twas told
By a cavern wind unto a forest old;
And then the forest told it in a dream
To a sleeping lake, whose cool and level gleam
A poet caught as he was journeying
To Phoebus' shrine; and in it he did fling
His weary limbs, bathing an hour's space,
And after, straight in that inspired place
He sang the story up into the air,
Giving it universal freedom. There
Has it been ever sounding for those ears
Whose tips are glowing hot. The legend cheers
Yon centinel stars; and he who listens to it
Must surely be self-doomed or he will rue it:
For quenchless burnings come upon the heart,
Made fiercer by a fear lest any part
Should be engulphed in the eddying wind.
As much as here is penn'd doth always find
A resting place, thus much comes clear and plain;
Anon the strange voice is upon the wane--
And 'tis but echo'd from departing sound,
That the fair visitant at last unwound
Her gentle limbs, and left the youth asleep.--
Thus the tradition of the gusty deep.
Now turn we to our former chroniclers.--
Endymion awoke, that grief of hers
Sweet paining on his ear: he sickly guess'd
How lone he was once more, and sadly press'd
His empty arms together, hung his head,
And most forlorn upon that widow'd bed
Sat silently. Love's madness he had known:
Often with more than tortured lion's groan
Moanings had burst from him; but now that rage
Had pass'd away: no longer did he wage
A rough-voic'd war against the dooming stars.
No, he had felt too much for such harsh jars:
The lyre of his soul Eolian tun'd
Forgot all violence, and but commun'd
With melancholy thought: O he had swoon'd
Drunken from pleasure's nipple; and his love
Henceforth was dove-like.--Loth was he to move
From the imprinted couch, and when he did,
'Twas with slow, languid paces, and face hid
In muffling hands. So temper'd, out he stray'd
Half seeing visions that might have dismay'd
Alecto's serpents; ravishments more keen
Than Hermes' pipe, when anxious he did lean
Over eclipsing eyes: and at the last
It was a sounding grotto, vaulted, vast,
O'er studded with a thousand, thousand pearls,
And crimson mouthed shells with stubborn curls,
Of every shape and size, even to the bulk
In which whales arbour close, to brood and sulk
Against an endless storm. Moreover too,
Fish-semblances, of green and azure hue,
Ready to snort their streams. In this cool wonder
Endymion sat down, and 'gan to ponder
On all his life: his youth, up to the day
When 'mid acclaim, and feasts, and garlands gay,
He stept upon his shepherd throne: the look
Of his white palace in wild forest nook,
And all the revels he had lorded there:
Each tender maiden whom he once thought fair,
With every friend and fellow-woodlander--
Pass'd like a dream before him. Then the spur
Of the old bards to mighty deeds: his plans
To nurse the golden age 'mong shepherd clans:
That wondrous night: the great Pan-festival:
His sister's sorrow; and his wanderings all,
Until into the earth's deep maw he rush'd:
Then all its buried magic, till it flush'd
High with excessive love. "And now," thought he,
"How long must I remain in jeopardy
Of blank amazements that amaze no more?
Now I have tasted her sweet soul to the core
All other depths are shallow: essences,
Once spiritual, are like muddy lees,
Meant but to fertilize my earthly root,
And make my branches lift a golden fruit
Into the bloom of heaven: other light,
Though it be quick and sharp enough to blight
The Olympian eagle's vision, is dark,
Dark as the parentage of chaos. Hark!
My silent thoughts are echoing from these shells;
Or they are but the ghosts, the dying swells
Of noises far away?--list!"--Hereupon
He kept an anxious ear. The humming tone
Came louder, and behold, there as he lay,
On either side outgush'd, with misty spray,
A copious spring; and both together dash'd
Swift, mad, fantastic round the rocks, and lash'd
Among the conchs and shells of the lofty grot,
Leaving a trickling dew. At last they shot
Down from the ceiling's height, pouring a noise
As of some breathless racers whose hopes poize
Upon the last few steps, and with spent force
Along the ground they took a winding course.
Endymion follow'd--for it seem'd that one
Ever pursued, the other strove to shun--
Follow'd their languid mazes, till well nigh
He had left thinking of the mystery,--
And was now rapt in tender hoverings
Over the vanish'd bliss. Ah! what is it sings
His dream away? What melodies are these?
They sound as through the whispering of trees,
Not native in such barren vaults. Give ear!
"O Arethusa, peerless nymph! why fear
Such tenderness as mine? Great Dian, why,
Why didst thou hear her prayer? O that I
Were rippling round her dainty fairness now,
Circling about her waist, and striving how
To entice her to a dive! then stealing in
Between her luscious lips and eyelids thin.
O that her shining hair was in the sun,
And I distilling from it thence to run
In amorous rillets down her shrinking form!
To linger on her lily shoulders, warm
Between her kissing breasts, and every charm
Touch raptur'd!--See how painfully I flow:
Fair maid, be pitiful to my great woe.
Stay, stay thy weary course, and let me lead,
A happy wooer, to the flowery mead
Where all that beauty snar'd me."--"Cruel god,
Desist! or my offended mistress' nod
Will stagnate all thy fountains:--tease me not
With syren words--Ah, have I really got
Such power to madden thee? And is it true--
Away, away, or I shall dearly rue
My very thoughts: in mercy then away,
Kindest Alpheus for should I obey
My own dear will, 'twould be a deadly bane."--
"O, Oread-Queen! would that thou hadst a pain
Like this of mine, then would I fearless turn
And be a criminal."--"Alas, I burn,
I shudder--gentle river, get thee hence.
Alpheus! thou enchanter! every sense
Of mine was once made perfect in these woods.
Fresh breezes, bowery lawns, and innocent floods,
Ripe fruits, and lonely couch, contentment gave;
But ever since I heedlessly did lave
In thy deceitful stream, a panting glow
Grew strong within me: wherefore serve me so,
And call it love? Alas, 'twas cruelty.
Not once more did I close my happy eyes
Amid the thrush's song. Away! Avaunt!
O 'twas a cruel thing."--"Now thou dost taunt
So softly, Arethusa, that I think
If thou wast playing on my shady brink,
Thou wouldst bathe once again. Innocent maid!
Stifle thine heart no more;--nor be afraid
Of angry powers: there are deities
Will shade us with their wings. Those fitful sighs
'Tis almost death to hear: O let me pour
A dewy balm upon them!--fear no more,
Sweet Arethusa! Dian's self must feel
Sometimes these very pangs. Dear maiden, steal
Blushing into my soul, and let us fly
These dreary caverns for the open sky.
I will delight thee all my winding course,
From the green sea up to my hidden source
About Arcadian forests; and will shew
The channels where my coolest waters flow
Through mossy rocks; where, 'mid exuberant green,
I roam in pleasant darkness, more unseen
Than Saturn in his exile; where I brim
Round flowery islands, and take thence a skim
Of mealy sweets, which myriads of bees
Buzz from their honied wings: and thou shouldst please
Thyself to choose the richest, where we might
Be incense-pillow'd every summer night.
Doff all sad fears, thou white deliciousness,
And let us be thus comforted; unless
Thou couldst rejoice to see my hopeless stream
Hurry distracted from Sol's temperate beam,
And pour to death along some hungry sands."--
"What can I do, Alpheus? Dian stands
Severe before me: persecuting fate!
Unhappy Arethusa! thou wast late
A huntress free in"--At this, sudden fell
Those two sad streams adown a fearful dell.
The Latmian listen'd, but he heard no more,
Save echo, faint repeating o'er and o'er
The name of Arethusa. On the verge
Of that dark gulph he wept, and said: "I urge
Thee, gentle Goddess of my pilgrimage,
By our eternal hopes, to soothe, to assuage,
If thou art powerful, these lovers pains;
And make them happy in some happy plains.
He turn'd--there was a whelming sound--he stept,
There was a cooler light; and so he kept
Towards it by a sandy path, and lo!
More suddenly than doth a moment go,
The visions of the earth were gone and fled--
He saw the giant sea above his head.
Metamorphoses: Book The Seventh
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.
The Story of Meanwhile Medea, seiz'd with fierce desire,
Medea and By reason strives to quench the raging fire;
Jason But strives in vain!- Some God (she said)
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
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 Impatient for the wonders of the day,
Dragon's Teeth Aurora drives the loyt'ring stars away.
transform'd to Now Mars's mount the pressing people fill,
Men 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
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
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 Aemonian matrons, who their absence mourn'd,
restor'd to Rejoyce to see their prosp'rous sons return'd:
Youth 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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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 Thus far obliging love employ'd her art,
Pelias 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
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 From hence to Athens she directs her flight,
Aegeus Where Phineus, so renown'd for doing right;
Where Periphas, and Polyphemon's neece,
Soaring with sudden plumes amaz'd the towns of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 A dreadful plague from angry Juno came,
Ants chang'd To scourge the land, that bore her rival's name;
to Men 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Metamorphoses: Book The Ninth
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.
The Story of Perhaps you've heard of Deianira's name,
Achelous and For all the country spoke her beauty's fame.
Hercules 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
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
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
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
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 This virgin too, thy love, O Nessus, found,
Nessus the To her alone you owe the fatal wound.
Centaur 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
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
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 Now a long interval of time succeeds,
Hercules When the great son of Jove's immortal deeds,
And step-dame's hate, had fill'd Earth's utmost
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
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'
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
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 The hero said; and with the torture stung,
Transformation Furious o'er Oete's lofty hills he sprung.
of Lychas Stuck with the shaft, thus scours the tyger round,
into a Rock 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 But now the hero of immortal birth
of Hercules 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
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 Atlas perceiv'd the load of Heav'n's new guest.
Transformation Revenge still rancour'd in Eurystheus' breast
of Galanthis 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
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
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
Nor shall she quit her long-frequented home,
But haunt those houses where she lov'd to roam.
The Fable of She said, and for her lost Galanthis sighs;
Dryope 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 While Iole the fatal change declares,
to Youth Alcmena's pitying hand oft wip'd her tears.
Grief too stream'd down her cheeks; soon sorrow
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 Now from her lips a solemn oath had past,
Themis 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
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 When Themis thus with prescient voice had spoke,
the Gods 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 Let the sad fate of wretched Byblis prove
of Byblis 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,
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
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
Ere I had trusted the unfaithful skies.
Now on the rouling billows I am tost,
And with extended sails, on the blind shelves am
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
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
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 The fame of this, perhaps, thro' Crete had flown:
Iphis and But Crete had newer wonders of her own,
Ianthe 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
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
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 b