His vengeance, when Jove's son complete had seen, Due to her avarice, and her envious soul; He left Minerva's land, and up the sky On wafting pinions mounted. There his sire, Him from th' assembly drew; nor yet disclos'd, The object of his love:—"Son, quickly haste,— "Thou faithful messenger of my commands, "Urge rapid thy descending flight, and seek "The realm whose northern bounds thy mother star "O'erlooks,—the land by natives Sidon call'd. "There wilt thou pasturing find the royal herd, "'Neath hills not distant from the sea: turn down "This herd to meadows bordering on the beach." He said;—the cattle tow'rd the sea shore move, Where sported with her Tyrian maids as wont, The monarch's daughter. Ill majestic state And love agree; nor long combin'd remain. The sire and ruler of the gods resigns His weighty sceptre: he whose right hand bears The three-fork'd fires; whose nod creation shakes, Assumes a bull's appearance:—with the herd Mingles; and strolling lets the tender shrubs Brush his fair sides. Of snowy white his skin; Such snow as rugged feet has never soil'd, Nor southern showers dissolv'd: his brawny neck, Strong from his shoulders stands: beneath extends The dewlap pendulous: small are his horns; But smooth as polish'd by the workman's hand;— Pellucid as the brightest gems they shine: No threatenings wear his brow; no fire his eyes Flame fierce; but all his countenance peace proclaims. Him much Agenor's royal maid admir'd;— His form so beauteous, and his look so mild. Yet peaceful as he seem'd, she fear'd at first A close approach;—but nearer soon she drew, And to his shining mouth the flowery food Presented. Joy'd th' impatient lover stands, Her fingers kissing; and with sore restraint Defers his look'd for pleasures. Sportive now He wantons, frisking in the grass; now rolls His snowy sides upon the yellow sand. Her apprehensions chas'd, by slow degrees, The virgin's fingers playful stroke his breast; Then bind with wreaths his horns: more daring now Upon his back the royal maid ascends;— Witless a god she presses. From the fields, His steps deceitful gradual turn'd, he bends, And seeks the shore; then playful in the waves Just dips his feet;—thence plunging deep, he swims Through midmost ocean with his ravish'd prize. Trembling the nymph beholds the lessening shore;—— Firm grasps one hand his horn; upon his back, Secure the other resting: to the wind, Her fluttering garments floating as she sails.
*The Third Book.*
Unsuccessful search of Cadmus for his sister. Death of his companions by the dragon. Overthrow of the dragon, and production of armed men from his teeth. Thebes. Actaeon devoured by his hounds. Semele destroyed by lightening, and the birth of Bacchus. The prophet Tiresias. Echo: and the transformation of Narcissus. Impiety of Pentheus. Change of the Tyrrhenian sailors to dolphins. Massacre of Pentheus.
THE *Third Book* OF THE METAMORPHOSES OF OVID.
And now the god, his bestial form resign'd, Shone in his form celestial as he gain'd The Cretan shore. Meantime, the theft unknown, Mourn'd her sad sire, and Cadmus sent to seek The ravish'd maid; stern threatening as he went, Perpetual exile if his searching fail'd:— Parental love and cruelty combin'd! All earth explor'd in vain, (for who shall find The amorous thefts of Jove?) the exile shuns His father's anger, and paternal soil. A suppliant bends before Apollo's shrine, To ask his aid;—what region he should chuse To fix his habitation. Phoebus thus;— "A cow, whose neck the yoke has never prest, "Strange to the crooked plough, shall meet thy steps, "Lone in the desert fields: the way she leads "Chuse thou,—rand where upon the grass she rests, "Erect thy walls;—Boeotia call the place." Scarce had the cave Castalian Cadmus left, When he an heifer, gently pacing, spy'd Untended; one whose neck no mark betray'd Of galling service. Closely treads the youth, Slow moving in her footsteps, and adores In silence Phoebus, leader of his way. Now had he pass'd the Cephisidian stream, And meads of Panope, when stay'd the beast; Her broad front lifted to the sky; reverse Her lofty horns reclining, shook the air With lowings loud; back then her face she bent, And saw the comrades following close behind: Down low she couch'd, and press'd the yielding grass, Glad thanks to Phoebus, Cadmus gave, and kiss'd The foreign soil;—the unknown hills, and land Saluted. Then a sacrifice to Jove Preparing, sent his followers to explore Streams flowing from the living fountain clear.
An ancient forest hallow'd from the axe, Not far there stood; in whose dark bosom gloom'd A cavern:—twigs and branches thick inwove With rocky crags, a low arch'd entrance form'd; Where pure and copious, gush'd transparent waves. Deep hid within a monstrous serpent lay, Sacred to Mars. Bright shone his crested head; His eyeballs glow'd with fire; his body swell'd Bloated with poison; o'er a threefold row Of murderous teeth, three quivering tongues he shook. This grove the Tyrians with ill-fated feet Now enter'd; and now in the waters threw, With noisy dash, their urns. Uprears his head, The azure serpent from the cavern deep; And breathes forth hisses dire: their urns they drop; The blood forsakes their bodies; sudden fear Chills their astonish'd limbs. He writhing quick, Forms scaly circles; spiral twisting round, Bends in an arch immense to leap, and rears In the thin air erect, 'bove half his height; All the wide grove o'erlooking. Such his size, Could all be seen, than that vast snake no less, Whose huge bulk lies the Arctic bears between. The Tyrians quick he seizes; some their arms Vain grasping,—flying some,—and some through fear To fight or fly unable:—these his jaws Crash murderous; those his writhing tail surrounds; Others his breath, with poison loaded, kills.
Now loftiest Phoebus shorten'd shadows gave, When Cadmus, wondering much why still his friends Tarried so long, their parting footsteps trac'd. His robe an hide torn from a lion's back; A dart and spear of shining steel his arms; With courage, arms surpassing. Now the grove He enters, and their breathless limbs beholds;— Their victor foe's huge bulk upon them stretch'd; Licking with gory tongue their mournful wounds. "My faithful friends," he cry'd, "I will avenge "Your fate,—or perish with you." Straight a rock His right hand rais'd, and with impetuous force, Hurl'd it right on. A city's lofty walls With all its towers, to feel the blow had shook! Yet lay the beast unwounded; safely sheath'd With scaly armour, and his harden'd hide:— His skin alone the furious blow repell'd. Not so that hardness mocks the javelin,—fixt Firm in the bending of the pliant spine His weapon stood,—and all the iron head Deep in his entrails sunk. Mad with the pain, Reverse he writhes his head;—beholds the wound; Champs the fixt dart;—by many forceful tugs Loosen'd at length, he tears the shaft away; But deep the steel within his bones remains. Now to his wonted fury fiercer flames This torture adding, big with poison swells His throat; and flowing, round his venom'd jaws, White foam appears; deep harrow'd with his scales Loud sounds the earth; and vapours black, breath'd out His mouth infernal, taint with death the air. Now roll'd in spires, he forms an orb immense: Now stretch'd at length he seems a monstrous beam: Now rushing forward with impetuous force, As sweeps a torrent swell'd by rain, his breast Bears down th' opposing forest. Cadmus back A step recedes, and on his lion's hide The shock sustains;—then with protended spear Checks his approaching jaws. Furious he strives To wound the harden'd steel;—on the sharp point He grinds his teeth: now from his poisonous mouth, Began the blood to flow, and sprinkling ting'd The virid grass; but trivial still the hurt; For shrinking from the blow, and twisting back His wounded neck, the stroke he still prevents Deeper to pierce, by yielding to its force. But pushing arduous on, Agenor's son, Fix'd in his throat the steel;—and the sharp point Forc'd through his neck: an oak oppos'd behind;— The tree and neck the spear at once transfix'd. Dragg'd by the monster's weight low bends the tree, And groans and cracks, as lashing blows, his tail Immense, deals round. Now whilst the victor stands And wondering views the conquer'd serpent's size, Sudden a voice is heard, (from whence unknown,— But plain the words he hears) "Why view'st thou thus, "Agenor's son, the foe by thee destroy'd? "Thou one day like this serpent shalt be seen." Aghast he stood,—the warm blood fled his cheeks; His courage chang'd to terror; freezing fear Rais'd his stiff locks erect. Lo! Pallas comes, Pallas, the known protectress of the brave. Smooth sliding from the higher clouds she comes; Bids him remove the soil, and place beneath, The serpent's fangs, a future offspring's pledge. The prince obeys; and as with crooked share, The ground he opens, in the furrows throws The teeth directed. Thence, (beyond belief!) The clods of earth at once began to move; Then in the furrows glitter'd, first, the points Of spears: anon fair painted crests arose, Above bright helmets nodding: shoulders next; And breasts; and arms, with javelins loaded came: Thickening the harvest grew of shielded men. Thus shews the glad theatric curtain; rais'd The painted figures' faces first appear, Gradual display'd; and more by slow degrees; At length the whole stand forth, their feet all fix'd Firm on the lower margin. Wondering, he His new-made foe beheld; and grasp'd his arms. But one whom earth had just produc'd, exclaim'd;— "Arm not, nor meddle in our civil broils." He said,—an earth-born brother, hand to hand With sword keen-edg'd attacking; but from far, A javelin hurl'd, dispatch'd him. Short the boast Of him who sent it;—his death wound infix'd,— He breathes the air out he so late receiv'd. So rage the rest, and in the furious war The new-made brethren fall by mutual wounds: And on their blood-stain'd mother, dash, the youths To short existence born, their damp cold breasts. Five only stand unhurt,—Echion one,— Who threw, by Pallas prompted, down his arms And peace propos'd: his brethren took his pledge. These join the Tyrian prince, and social aid His efforts, when th' appointed walls he builds; Obedient to the Delphic god's commands.
The Theban walls now rais'd, thou, Cadmus seem'd Blest in thy exile. Mars and Venus gave Their daughter to thy wife. This spouse so fam'd, Thee daughters brought, and sons,—a numerous tribe; And grandsons, pledges dear of nuptial joys, Already risen to manhood. But too true That man should still his final day expect; Nor blest be deem'd till flames his funeral pyre. Thy grandson's fate, O, Cadmus! first with grief Thy bosom wrung, amid thy prosperous state: The alien horns which nodded o'er his brow; And ye, voracious hounds, with blood full-gorg'd, Your master's life-stream. Yet by close research, We find unlucky chance, not vice, his crime. What sin in error lies?
The hills were drench'd With blood of numerous slaughter'd savage beasts; And objects shorten'd shadows gave: the sun Exalted view'd each equi-distant goal; When the young Theban hunter thus address'd, His fellow sportsmen with a friendly call; As wide they rov'd the savage lairs among. "Our weapons, comrades, and our nets are moist "With blood of spoil; sufficient sport this day "Has given. But when Aurora next appears, "High on her saffron car, and light restores, "Then be our pleasing exercise resum'd. "Now Phoebus, distant far from west and east, "Cracks the parch'd ground with heat;—desist from toil, "And fold your knotted snares." His words obey, His men, and from their sportive labor cease.
Near stood a vale, where pointed cypress form'd With gloomy pines a grateful shade, and nam'd Gargaphie;—sacred to the girded maid: Its deep recess a shrubby cavern held, By nature modell'd,—but by nature, art Seem'd equall'd, or excell'd. A native arch Of pumice light, and tophus dry, was form'd; And from the right a stream transparent flow'd, Of trivial size, which spread a pool below; With grassy margin circled. Dian' here, The woodland goddess, weary'd with the chace, Had oft rejoic'd to bathe her virgin limbs. As wont she comes;—her quiver, and her dart, And unstrung bow, her armour-bearing nymph In charge receives. Disrob'd, another's arms Sustain her vest. Two from her feet unloose Her sandals. Crocale, Ismenian nymph, Than others more expert, her tresses binds, Loose o'er her shoulders floating, in a knot; Her own wild flowing still. Five more the streams In huge urns lifting; Hyale, and Niphe, Phiale, Rhanis, Psecas, lave her limbs. Here while the goddess in the limpid wave Washes as 'custom'd,—lo! Actaeon comes;— His sportive toil till morning dawn deferr'd: And roving through the vale with random steps, By hapless fate conducted, he arrives Close to the sacred grove. Within the grot Stream-pouring, when he stept, the naked nymphs,— Then first by man beheld,—their bosoms beat; Fill'd the deep grove with outcries loud; and round Diana crowded, screening as they could Her limbs with theirs. Yet high above them tower'd The goddess, and her neck their heads o'erlook'd. As blush the clouds by Phoebus' adverse rays Deep ting'd;—or as Aurora in the morn; So blush'd the virgin-goddess, seen unrob'd. Sideway she stood, though closely hemm'd around By clustering nymphs, and backward bent her face: Then anxious praying she could reach her darts, In vain,—she seiz'd the waters which she could, And dash'd them o'er his features:—as his locks, The vengeful drops besprinkled, thus in rage, She cry'd,—"Now tell thou hast Diana seen "Disrob'd;—go tell it, if thou canst,"—no more, With threatenings storm'd, but on his sprinkled head, The antlers of the long-liv'd stag are plac'd. His neck is lengthen'd; with a sharpen'd point, His upright ears are form'd; to feet his hands,— To long and slender legs his arms are chang'd; And round his body clings a dappled coat. Fear in his bosom she instils: the youth, The bold Actaeon flies, and wondering feels His bounding feet so rapid in the race. But soon the waters shew'd his branching horns; And,—"ah unhappy me!" he strove to cry: His voice he found not; sighs and sobs were all; And tears fast streaming down his alter'd face. Still human sense remains. Where shall he turn? His royal palace seek,—or in the woods Secluded hide?—To tarry fear forbids, And shame prevents returning. While he doubts His hounds espy him. Quick-nos'd Tracer first, And Blackfoot give the signal by their yell: Tracer of Crete, and Blackfoot Spartan bred. Swifter than air the noisy pack rush on; Arcadian Quicksight; Glutton; Ranger, stout; Strong Killbuck; Whirlwind, furious; Hunter, fierce; Flyer, swift-footed; and quick-scented Snap: Ringwood, late wounded by a furious bear; And Forester, by savage wolf begot: Flock-tending Shepherdess; with Ravener fierce, And her two whelps; and Sicyonian Catch: The thin flank'd greyhound, Racer; Yelper; Patch; Tiger; Robust; Milkwhite, with snowy coat; And coalblack Soot. First in the race, fleet Storm; Courageous Spartan Swift; and rapid Wolf; Join'd with his Cyprian brother, Snatch, well mark'd With sable forehead on a coat of white: Blackcoat: and thickhair'd Shag: Worrier; and Wild,— Twins from a dam Laconian sprung, their sire Dictaean: Babbler with his noisy throat:— But all to name were endless. Urg'd by hope Of prey they crowd; down precipices rush; O'er rocks, and crags; through rugged paths, and ways Unpass'd before. His hounds he flies, where oft His hounds he had pursu'd. Poor wretch! he flies His own domestics, striving hard to call, "Actaeon am I!—villains, know your lord." Words aid him not: loud rings the air with yells, Howlings, and barkings:—Blackhair first, his teeth Fix'd in his back; staunch Tamer fasten'd next; And Rover seiz'd his shoulder: tardy these, The rest far left behind, but o'er the hills Athwart, the chase they shorten'd. Now the pack, Join'd them their lord retaining; join'd their teeth Their victim seizing:—now his body bleeds, A wound continuous: deep he utters groans, Not human, yet unlike a dying deer; And fills the well-known mountains with his plaint. Prone on his knees in suppliant form he bends; And low beseeching waves his silent head, As he would wave his hands. His witless friends, The savage pack with joyous outcries urge; Actaeon anxious seeking: echoing loud Eager his name as absent. At the name, His head he turns. His absence irks them sore, As lazy loitering, not the noble prey Obtain'd, beholding. Joyful could he be, At distance now,—but hapless is too near: Glad would he see the furious dogs their fangs, On other prey than his torn limbs infix. On every side they crowd; their dying lord, A well-seem'd deer, they rend; their ravenous teeth Deep tear his members. With a thousand wounds, (Dian's insatiate anger less despis'd) The hapless hunter yielded forth his breath.
Report flies dubious; some the goddess blame For disproportion'd vengeance; others warm Applaud the deed as worthy one so pure; And reasons weighty either party urge: Jove's consort only silent: she nor blames The action, nor approves; but inward joys, Agenor's house should such misfortune feel. The hatred nourish'd for the Tyrian maid, Her brother's offspring visits. Now fresh cause Of wrath succeeds; enrag'd the goddess learns That Semele, embrac'd by mighty Jove, Is pregnant. Straight broke loose her angry tongue, And loud she storm'd:—"Advantage much I gain "By endless railing at unfaithful Jove! "This harlot will I find,—and, if with truth "They potent Juno stile me, she shall die. "Destruction shall o'erwhelm her, if beseems "My hand the sparkling sceptre of the sky: "If queen I am to Jove;—if sister;—wife:— "His sister doubtless am I, if no more. "Content perchance is Semele to joy "In pleasures briefly tasted; and my wrongs "Though deep, not lasting. No!—she must conceive "Foul aggravation of her shameless deed! "Her swelling womb unblushing proves her crime: "By Jove she longs to be a mother hail'd; "Which scarcely I can boast. Such faith her pride, "In conscious beauty places. Trust me not, "Or she mistaken proves. As I am child "Of hoary Saturn, she shall sink o'erwhelm'd "By her own Jove; and dip in Stygian waves."
She said, and starting from her regal throne, Wrapt in a dusky cloud descended; o'er The threshold stepp'd of Semele, nor chas'd Her darkening veil, till like an ancient dame She stood display'd. White hairs her temples strew'd; Deep furrows plough'd her skin; her bending limbs Quiver'd beneath her weight; her tremulous voice Exhausted age betray'd: she stood to view Old Beroe, from Epidaurus come, The nurse of Semele. With tedious tales She garrulous amus'd:—when in her turn Listening, the name of Jupiter she heard She sigh'd, and said,—"May he be truly Jove! "But age is still suspicious. Chastest beds "Have been by these pretended gods defil'd: "For if the deity supreme he be, "Why comes he thus disguis'd? If true his love, "Why prove it not? Urge thou an anxious wish "To clasp him in his might, in such a sort, "As lofty Juno he embraces;—round "Begirt with all the ensigns of his power." Thus Juno artful, Semele's desires Apt moulded to her mind. From Jove she prays A nameless boon: the ready god consents;— "Chuse what thou wilt, nor least denial dread: "To prove my faith, I call the Stygian streams "To witness, terror of the god of gods." Joy'd at her fatal prayer's too large success; And by her lover's prompt compliance, doom'd To sure destruction;—"This," said she, "I wish;— "When with me next you love's delights enjoy, "Appear as when Saturnia fills your arms." Fain would the god have stopp'd her mouth:—too soon The hasty words found entrance to his ears. Deep mourn'd he. Equal now the fates forbid, The wish retracted, or the oath absolv'd. Sorrowing he seeks the lofty heaven: his nod Dark rolling clouds collects: here form black showers; And hurricanes; and flashing lightenings mixt; Thunders; and his inevitable bolt: Anxious he strives with all his power to damp, The fierceness of his flames: nor arm'd him now, With those dread fires that to the earth dash'd down The hundred-handed foe:—too powerful they. He chose a milder thunder;—less of rage, Of fire, and fury, had the Cyclops given The mass when forg'd; a second-rated bolt. Clad in mild glory thus, the dome he seeks Of Semele;—her mortal frame too weak, To bear th' ethereal shock, fierce scorcht she sunk, Beneath the nuptial grant. Th' imperfect babe, Snatcht from his mother's smoking womb, was sew'd (If faith the tale deserves) within his thigh; There to complete the period of his growth. Ino, his aunt maternal, then receiv'd The boy; in private rear'd him, till the nymphs Of Nysa's mountains, in their secret caves Shelter'd, and fed with milk, th' entrusted charge.
While the rash promise caus'd on earth those deeds, And twice-born Bacchus' cradle safe was hid; 'Tis said that Jove with heavenly nectar flush'd, All serious cares dismiss'd. With sportive jests, At ease conversing, he and Juno sate: When he:—"The thrilling ecstasies of love, "Are surely strongest on the female side." She differs,—and the question both agree Tiresias, who each sex had prov'd, shall judge. Two mighty snakes he spy'd upon the grass, Twisted in Venus' wreaths; and with his staff Hard smote them;—instant alter'd was his sex. Wonderous! he woman of a man became, Seven winters so he liv'd:—the eight, again He spy'd the same; and cry'd,—"If such your power, "That whoso strikes you must their gender change, "Once more I'll try the spell." Straight as the blow The snakes receiv'd, his pristine form return'd: Hence was he chosen, in the strife jocose, As umpire; and the words of Jove confirm'd.
Much, say they, Juno rag'd; more than beseem'd The trivial cause, or sentence justly given; And veil'd the judge's eyes in endless night. But Jove omnipotent, him gave to know, (For fate forbids to cancel others' deeds) What future times conceal; a light divine; An honor'd gift to mitigate his pain.
Fam'd far and wide through all Boeotia's towns, Unerring answers still the prophet gave, To all who sought him. Blue Liriope, First prov'd his faith, and ne'er-deceiving words. Her once Cephisus, in his winding stream Entwin'd, and forceful in his waves enjoy'd. The beauteous nymph's full womb, in time produc'd A babe, whose features ev'n from birth inspir'd Th' attendant nymphs with love; Narcissus nam'd. For him enquiring, whether doom'd to see, The peaceful period of maturest age, The fate-foretelling prophet thus reply'd:— "Yes,—if himself he never knows." The words Were long absurd esteem'd: but well th' event Their justice prov'd; his strange unheard of death; And love of object never lov'd before.
Now sixteen summers had Narcissus seen, A boy in beauty, but in growth a man; And crowds of youths his friendship sought, and crowds Of damsels sought his love: but fiercely pride Swell'd in his snowy bosom; and he spurn'd His friends' advances, and the love-sick maids. A chattering nymph, resounding Echo, saw The youth, when in his toils the trembling deer He drove;—a nymph who ne'er her words retain'd, Nor dialogue commenc'd. But then she bore A body palpable; and not, as now, Merely a voice:—yet garrulous, she then That voice, nor other us'd; 'twas all she could, The closing words of speakers to repeat. Juno had this ordain'd: for oft the dame The frailer nymphs upon the hills had caught, In trespass with her Jove; but Echo sly With lengthen'd speech the goddess kept amus'd, Till all by flight were sav'd. Soon Juno saw The trick:—"The power of that delusive tongue,"— She cry'd, "I'll lessen, and make brief thy words;" Nor stay'd, but straight her threaten'd vengeance took. Now she redoubles (all she can) the words Which end another's speech; reporting back, But only what she hears.
Through pathless woods As roves Narcissus, Echo sees, and burns; Steals in his footsteps, following close, but flames More fierce, more near approaching. Sudden thus, The sulphurous daubing o'er the torches spread, Snatches th' approaching flame. How oft she wish'd With bland and soothing words to hail the youth; But nature harsh forbids, nor grants to make The first commencement; what she grants she takes, And anxious waits to catch the wish'd-for sounds; And speak responsive. Chance the youth had led Far from his social troop, and loud he cry'd,— "Who's he that hither comes?" Attentive she,— Reply'd, "O hither come!" Amaz'd he stood, Round searching whence the voice; and louder still, "Here come!" exclaim'd,—and Echo answer'd,—"Come!" To every part his eyes in vain are bent; And, "why," laments he, "dost thou me avoid?" Again he hears her,—"dost thou me avoid?" Still he persists; th' alternate voice deceives,— And,—"come, approach, together let us join," Impatient now he utters: ardent she Exclaims, in joyful accents,—"let us join!" Her wish in person urging, from the grove She springs, and wide extends her arms to clasp His neck:—Narcissus flies, and flying calls,— "Desist!—hold off thy hands;—may sooner death "Me seize, than thou enjoy me." Nought the maid Re-echoes, but,—"enjoy me." Close conceal'd, By him disdain'd, amid the groves she hides Her blushing forehead, where the leaves bud thick; And dwells in lonely caverns. Still her flame Clings close around her heart; and sharper pangs Repulse occasions: cares unceasing waste Her wretched form: gaunt famine shrivels up Her skin; and all the moistening juice which fed Her body, flies in air: her voice and bones Alone are left: her voice, unchang'd;—her bones To craggy stones are harden'd. Still in groves She hides secluded; nor on hills appears: Heard frequent; only heard, and nought but sound.
Thus slighted he the nymph; nor her alone, But numbers else who o'er the mountains rov'd; Or sported in the waves. Nor less his pride, When more mature: keen smarting from his scorn, To heaven one rais'd her hands, and ardent pray'd;— "Ordain that he may love, but love like me "One ne'er to be enjoy'd!" Rhamnusia grants To prayers so just, th' assenting nod. There stood, A mudless pool, whose waters silvery bright, The shepherds touch'd not,—nor the mountain goats, Nor lowing herds: which birds, and fierce wild beasts, Dabbling disturb'd not:—nor a wither'd branch, Dropt from a tree o'erhanging. Round the brink, Fed by the moisture, virid grass arose; And trees impervious to the solar beam, Screen'd the cool surface. Weary'd with the chase, And faint with heat, here laid Narcissus down; Charm'd with the place, and tempted by the pool. Here as he seeks to quench his burning thirst, He burns with other fires: and while he drinks, Caught by the image of his beauteous face, He loves th' unbody'd form: a substance thinks The shadow:—loves enraptur'd,—loves himself! Fixes with eager gaze upon the sight As on a face in Parian marble wrought. Stretcht on the ground, his own bright eyes he views, Twin stars;—his fingers, such as Bacchus grace; His tresses like Apollo's;—downy cheeks, Unbearded yet; his neck as ivory white; The roseate blooming fading into snow: Each trait admiring which the hapless nymphs, In him admir'd. Unwitting youth, himself He wants;—at once beloving, and belov'd: Himself desiring, by himself desir'd: Burning with love, while by himself he burns. Oft, stooping, were his fruitless kisses given: Oft were his arms outstretch'd to clasp the neck So plainly seen beneath the waters. No!— Himself he could not clasp. Whom he beholds, He knows not; but for whom he sees he burns. The error that his eye deceives, provokes His rage. O, foolish youth! why vainly grasp A fleeting shadow? What thou seek'st is not:— And what thou lov'st thou now destroy'st:—thou see'st A semblance only;—a reflected shade— Nought of itself: with thee it came;—with thee It stays;—and with thee, if thou could'st, would go. Not hunger's power has force to drag him thence; Nor cares of sleep oppress him. Thrown along The shaded grass, he bends insatiate eyes Tow'rds the fallacious beauty;—by those eyes He perishes. Now half-uprais'd, his arms Outspread, to all the groves around he cry'd:— "Ye woods, whose darken'd shades so oft have given "Convenient privacies to lovers, say, "Saw you e'er one so cruelly who lov'd? "In ages heap'd on ages you have stood, "Remember ye a youth who pin'd as I? "Pleas'd with the object, I its form behold; "But what I see, and what so pleases flies. "I find it not: in such bewilder'd maze "The lover stands. And what my grief augments, "No mighty seas divide us; lengthen'd roads; "Nor lofty hills; nor high embattled walls, "With portals clos'd: asunder are we held "By trivial drops of water. It no less "Than I, would give th' embrace; for when I bend "My lips to kiss it in the limpid stream; "With rising lips to meet, it anxious strives: "Then might you think we touch, so faint a line "Sunders us lovers. Come! whate'er thou art, "Come hither! why thus mock me, dearest form? "Why fly my wooing thus? My beauty sure, "Nor youth are such as should provoke thy flight: "For numerous nymphs for me have burn'd. Some hope "Thy kindly sympathizing face affords; "And when my anxious arms I stretch,—thy arms "Advance to clasp me:—when I smile, thou smil'st: "And often have I noted, when the tears "Stream'd down my cheeks, a rivulet on thine: "I nod,—thou, answering, noddest: and those lips, "Those beauteous lips, whose movements plain I see, "Words utter sure to mine,—though I forbid, "The sounds to hear. In thee am I!—no more "My shadow me deceives: I see the whole; "Love for myself consumes me:—flames self-rais'd, "Myself torment. What hope? be woo'd,—or woo? "Wooing, or being woo'd, where is my gain? "Myself I wish, and plenty makes me poor. "Would that my body from itself could part! "Strange wish for lovers, what most dear they love, "Absent to pray. Grief undermines my strength; "Nor long my life can linger;—immature, "In youth I perish: but in me no fears, "Can death infuse, of all my woes the end; "Might I but leave this lovely object, still "Existing: now two images, alas! "Sink with one soul in death." Narcissus wails; And raving turns to view the face again. His tears the waters trouble; and the face So beauteous, scarce is seen. Griev'd, he exclaims, When disappearing,—"Whither fly'st thou? stay— "Stay, I beseech thee; cruel, fly me not,— "Thy lover: grant me still to view the form, "To touch forbidden:—food, at least, afford "To this unhappy flame." Lamenting thus, He from his shoulders tore his robe, and beat With snow-white hands his bosom; at the blow His bosom redden'd: so the cherry seems, Here ruddy blushing, there as fair as snow: Or grapes unripe, part purpling to the sun, In vary'd clusters. This he soon espy'd, Reflected in the placid pool; no more He bore it, but as gentle fire dissolves The yellow wax: as Phoebus' morning beams Melt the light hoar;—so wasted he,—by love Gradual consum'd, as by a secret fire. No more the ruddy teints appear, with white Soft blended. All his active strength decays; And all that pleas'd so lately. Ev'n his form So much by Echo lov'd, no more remains.
All Echo saw; and though of former slights Still mindful, griev'd; and when the hapless youth "Alas!" exclaim'd; responsive sigh'd, "Alas!" When on his breast the blows resounded; blows Loud answering his were heard. His final words, Gazing still earnest on the wonted wave, Were,—"dearest form, belov'd in vain!"—the words Resounded from the grove: "farewel," he cry'd, And Echo cry'd, "farewel." Weary'd he threw, On the green turf his head. Night clos'd his eyes; Their owner fond admiring. Now retir'd To regions far beneath, the Stygian lake Reflects his form. The Naiaed sisters wail, Shorn of their tresses, which to him they throw: The Dryads also mourn; their bosoms beat; And Echo answers every tearful groan. A pile they build; the high-tost torches bring; And funeral bier; but, lo! the corpse is gone: A saffron-teinted flower alone is found, Rising encircled with its snowy leaves.
Th' adventure spread through all the Achaian towns, And much repute th' unerring augur gain'd. Great now his prophesying fame. Alone, Pentheus despis'd him;—(he the gods despis'd) And only he;—he mock'd each holy word Sagely prophetic:—with his rayless eyes Reproach'd him. Angrily, his temples hoar With reverend locks, the prophet shook, and said;— "Happy for thee, if thus of light bereft, "The Bacchanalian orgies ne'er to see! "The day approaches, nor far distant now; "My sight prophetic tells,—when here will come "Bacchus new-born, of Semele the son, "Whose rites, if thou with honor due, not tend'st "In temples worthy,—scatter'd far and wide, "Thy limbs dismember'd shall the ground bestrew: "Thy blood the forests shall distain;—thy gore "Thy aunts,—nay e'en thy mother, shall pollute: "For thou such honors, as immortals claim, "Shalt to the god deny; then wilt thou find "Beneath this darkness I but see too well." Thus speaking, Echion's son the prophet push'd Harshly away; but his too faithful words Time prov'd;—the threaten'd deeds accomplish'd all.
Lo! Bacchus comes, and all the country rings With joyous outcries; crowds on crowds thick swarm;— Matrons, and wives new-wedded, mixt with men; Nobles, and commons; all the impulse bears, To join the stranger's rites. But Pentheus thus;— "Offspring of Mars! O nation, serpent born! "What madness fills your minds? Can piercing sounds "Of brass from brass rebounding; winding horns, "And magic cheatings, then possess such power? "You whom the warlike sword, the trumpet's clang, "And battle's edge, dread bristling close with arms, "Appal not; yield ye thus to female howls; "Wine's maddening fumes; a filthy shameless crowd; "And empty cymbals? In amaze, I see, "You venerable men who plough'd the seas, "And here, a refuge for your exil'd gods, "This second Tyre have built,—without a blow, "Yield it a spoil! Ye too, robuster youths, "Of hardier age, and years more near my own;— "Whom warlike arms, than Thyrsi more become; "And brows with helmets than with leaves comprest: "Think whence you sprang, and let the thought inspire "Your souls with all the dragon's fierceness: he Singly slew hosts: he for his fountain fell; You for your honor vanquish. He destroy'd The valiant; you th' effeminate expel; And all the glory of your sire regain. "If fate to Thebes a speedy fall decrees, "May heroes, O, ye gods! with battering force "O'erturn her walls;—may the sword rage, and flames "Crackling, devour her. Wretched though our lot; "Not criminal: our fate, though much bemoan'd, "Would need concealment not: tears then might flow, "But not from shame. Now unresisting Thebes, "Yields to a boy unarm'd; who never joys "In armies, steeds, nor swords;—but more in locks "With myrrh moist-dropping, garlands soft, and robes "Of various teints, with gold and purple gay. "Rest ye but tranquil, and without delay, "Him will I force to own his boasted sire "Untrue; and forg'd those new invented rites. "Had not Acrisius bravery to despise "The counterfeited deity, and close "The gates of Argos on him? And must now "This wanderer come, and Pentheus terrify, "With all the power of Thebes! Haste, quickly haste,"— He bade his servants,—"hither drag, firm chain'd, "This leader. Quick, nor brook my words delay!" His grandsire, Athamas, and all the crowd Reprove;—while thus he rails, with fruitless toil Labor to stop him. Obstinate he stands, More raging at remonstrance; and his ire Restrain'd, increases; goading more and more; Restraint itself enkindling more his rage. So may be seen a river rolling smooth, With murmuring nearly silent, while unchecked; But when by rocks, or bulky trees oppos'd, Foaming and boiling furious, on it sweeps Impetuous raging; fiercer, more withstood.
With blood besmear'd, his men return;—their lord For Bacchus anxious asks;—but Bacchus they, To find, arriv'd too late;—"but here," they cry,— "Here have we seiz'd his comrade;—one who joins "His train, and joins his rites." (The Tuscans once The Bacchanalian orgies follow'd.) Bound Behind, his hands, their prisoner they present. Pentheus survey'd the stranger, while his eyes Sparkled with rage terrific: with constraint His torture so deferring, thus he spoke;— "Wretch! ere thou sufferest,—ere thy death shall give "A public warning,—tell thy name;—confess "Thy sire; declare thy country; and the cause "Those rites thou celebratest in a mode "Diverse from others." Fearless, he reply'd;— "Acoetes is my name: my natal land, "Tyrrhenia: from an humble stock I spring. "Lands by strong oxen plough'd, or wool-clad flocks, "Or lowing herds my father left me none: "For poor was he;—his daily toil to catch "With nets and lines the fish, and as they leap'd, "Draw with his bending rod the prey to land: "His skill his sole estate. When unto me "This art he taught,—receive, said he, my wealth; "Such wealth as I possess; heir to my toil, "And to my toil successor: dying, he "To me bequeath'd the waters;—nothing more: "These only as paternal wealth I claim. "But soon, disliking on the self-same rock "To dwell, I learn'd the art to rule the track "Plough'd by the keel, with skilful guiding hand; "And learn'd th' Olenian sign, the showery goat; "Taygete; and the Hyaedes; the Bear; "The dwellings of the winds; and every port "Where ships could shelter. Once for Delos bound, "By chance, the shore of Chios' isle we near'd; "And when our starboard oars the beach had touch'd, "Lightly I leap'd, and rested on the land. "Now, night expir'd, Aurora warmly glow'd, "And rousing up from sleep, my men I bade "Supplies of living waters bring; and shew'd "What path the fountain led to. I meanwhile, "A lofty hill ascending, careful mark'd "The wish'd-for wind approaching;—loud I call'd "My fellows, and with haste the vessel gain'd. "Lo! cry'd Opheltes, chief of all my crew,— "Lo! here we come;—and from the desart fields, "(A prize obtain'd, he thought),—he dragg'd along "A boy of virgin beauty tow'rd the sands: "Staggering, the youth, with wine and sleep opprest, "With difficulty follow'd. Closely I "His dress, his countenance, and his gait remark; "And all I see, displays no mortal man. "Conscious, I speak my comrades thus:—Unknown "To me, what deity before us stands, "But sure I am, that form conceals a god. "O thou! whoe'er thou art, assist us;—aid "Our undertakings;—who have seiz'd thee, spare, "Unknowing what they did. Bold Dictys cries,— "Than whom none swifter gain'd the topmost yards, "Nor on the cordage slid more agile down;— "Prayers offer not for us. Him Lybis joins; "And brown Melanthus, ruler of the helm; "Alcimedon unites; Epopeus too, "Who rul'd the rowers, and their restings mark'd; "(Arduous they urg'd their sinews by his voice)— "Nay all Opheltes join,—the lust of gain, "So blinded all their judgments. Still I cry;— "Ne'er will I yield my vessel to behold "Burthen'd with such a sacrilegious load: "Pre-eminent is here my right. I stand "To those who strive to hoist him in, oppos'd. "Bold and outrageous, far beyond the rest, "Was Lycabas; from Tuscan shore exil'd "For deeds of murderous violence: he grasp'd "My throat with force athletic, as I stood, "And in the waves had flung me; but sore stunn'd, "A cable caught, and sav'd me. Loud the crew "The impious deed applauded. Bacchus rose, "(The boy was Bacchus!) with the tumult loud "Rous'd from his sleep;—the fumes of wine dispell'd, "His senses seem'd restor'd. What is't you do? "What noise is this? he cry'd;—What brought me here? "O, mariners! inform me;—tell me where "You carry me! Fear not,—the pilot said,— "Say but the port, where most thou'dst chuse to land;— "Thither we straight will steer. The god reply'd;— "To Naxos then your course direct; that isle "My native soil I call:—to you that isle "A friendly shore shall prove. False men, they swear, "By ocean, and by all the sacred gods, "This to perform; and order me to loose, "The painted vessel's sails. Full on the right "Stood Naxos. Loudly one to me exclaims; "As tow'rd the right I trim the sails to steer;— "What now, Acoetes? madman! fool! what now? "Art thou distracted? to the left we sail.— "Most nod significant their wishes: some "Soft whisper in my ear. Astounded, I "Let others guide!—exclaim,—and quit the helm; "Guiltless of aiding in their treacherous guile. "Loud murmurings sound from all; and loudly one, "Ethalion, cries;—in thee alone is plac'd "Our safety, doubtless!—forward steps himself;— "My station seizes; and a different course "Directs the vessel, Naxos left behind. "The feigning god, as though but then, the fraud "To him perceptible, the waves beholds "From the curv'd poop, and tears pretending, cries;— "Not this, O, seamen! is the promis'd shore: "Not this the wish'd-for land! What deed of mine "This cruel treatment merits? Where the fame "Of men, a child deceiving; numbers leagu'd "Misleading one? Fast flow'd my tears with his; "Our tears the impious mob deride, and press "The ocean with their strong-propelling oars. "Now by the god himself, I swear, (and none "To vows more ready listens) that the tale, "Though in appearance credence far beyond, "Is strictly true. Firm fixt amid the waves "The vessel stands, as in a harbour laid "Dry from the ocean! Wondering, they their oars, "With strokes redoubled ply; loose to the wind "More sails; and with this double aid essay "Onward to urge. Their oars with ivy twin'd, "Are clogg'd; the curving tendrils crooked spread; "The sails with clustering berries loaded hang. "His temples girded with a branchy crown, "Whence grapes hang dangling, stands the god, and shakes "A spear entwisted with the curling vine. "Round seem to prowl the tiger, and the lynx, "And savage forms of panthers, various mark'd. "Up leap'd the men, by sudden madness mov'd; "Or terror only: Medon first appear'd "Blackening to grow, with shooting fins; his form "Flatten'd; and in a curve was bent his spine. "Him Lycabas address'd;—what wonderous shape "Art thou receiving?—speaking, wide his jaws "Expanded; flatten'd down, his nose appear'd; "A scaly covering cloth'd his harden'd skin. "Lybis to turn the firm fixt oars attempts, "But while he tries, perceives his fingers shrink; "And hands, now hands no longer, fins he sees. "Another round the cordage strives his arms "To clasp,—but arms he has not,—down he leaps "Broad on his crooked back, and seeks the waves. "Forkt is their new-made tail; like Luna's form "Bent in the skies, ere half her orb is fill'd. "Bounding all round they leap;—now down they dash, "Besprinkling wide the foamy drops; now 'merge; "And now re-diving, plunge in playful sport: "As chorus regular they act, and move "Their forms in shapes lascivious; spouting high, "The briny waters through their nostrils wide. "Of twenty now, (our ship so many bore) "I only stand unchang'd; with trembling limbs, "And petrify'd with fear. The god himself, "Scarce courage in my mind inspires; when thus,— "Pale terror from thy bosom drive, and seek "The isle of Naxos.—Thither come, I tend "On smoking altars, Bacchus' sacred rites."
Him Pentheus angry stopp'd. "Thy tedious tale, "Form'd to divert my rage, in vain is told. "Here, men, swift drag him hence!—dispatch his soul, "Driven from his body, down to Stygian night; "By pangs excruciating." Straight close pent, In solid dungeon is Acoetes thrown, While they the instruments of death prepare; The cruel steel; the flames;—spontaneous fly Wide ope the dungeon doors; spontaneous fall The fetters from his arms, and freed he goes. Stubborn, the son of Echion still persists; But sends no messenger: himself proceeds, To where Cythaeron, for the sacred rites Selected, rings with Bacchanalian songs, And outcries shrill. As foams an high-bred steed, When through the speaking brass the warlike trump, Sounds the glad signal; and with ardor burns For battle: so the air, with howlings loud Re-echoing, Pentheus moves, and doubly flames His rage, to hear the clangor. Clear'd from trees, A plain extends, from every part fair seen, And near the mountain's centre: round its skirt, Thick groves grow shady. Here his mother saw His eye unhallow'd view the sacred rites; And first,—by frantic madness urg'd,—she first Furious the Thyrsus at her Pentheus flung: Exclaiming loud;—"Ho, sisters! hither haste! "Here stands the furious boar that wastes our grounds: "My hand has smote him." Raging rush the crowd, In one united body. All close join, And all pursue the now pale trembling wretch. No longer fierce he storms; but grieving blames His rashness, and his obstinacy owns. Wounded,—"dear aunt, Autonoe!"—he cries, "Help me!—O, let your own Actaeon's ghost "Move you to pity!" She, Actaeon's name Nought heeding, tears his outstretcht arm away; The other, Ino from his body drags! And when his arms, unhappy wretch, he tries To lift unto his mother, arms to lift Were none;—but stretching forth his mangled trunk Of limbs bereft;—"look, mother!"—he exclaims. Loud howl'd Agave at the sight; his neck Fierce grasping,—toss'd on high his streaming locks, Her bloody fingers twisted in his hair. Then clamor'd loudly;—"joy, my comrades, joy! "The victory is mine!" Not swifter sweep The winds those leaves which early frosts have nipp'd, And lightly to the boughs attach'd remain, Than scatter'd flew his limbs by furious hands.
*The Fourth Book.*
Feast of Bacchus. Impiety and infidelity of Alcithoe and her sisters. Story of Pyramus and Thisbe. Amour of Mars and Venus. The lovers caught by Vulcan in a net. Sol's love for Leucothoe, and her change to a tree of frankincense. Clytie transformed to a sunflower. Tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. Transformation of Alcithoe and her sisters to bats. Juno's fury. Madness of Athamas; and deification of Ino and Melicertes. Change of the Theban women to rocks and birds. Cadmus and Hermione changed to serpents. Perseus. Transformation of Atlas to a mountain. Andromeda saved from the sea monster. Story of Medusa.
THE *Fourth Book* OF THE METAMORPHOSES OF OVID.
Warn'd by the dreadful admonition, all Of Thebes the new solemnities approve; Bring incense, and to Bacchus' altars bend. Alcithoe only, Minyaes' daughter, views His orgies still with unbelieving eyes. Boldly, herself and sisters, partners all In impious guilt, refuse the god to own, The progeny of Jove. The prophet bids Each mistress with her maids, to join the feast: (Sacred the day from toil). Their breasts to clothe In skins; the fillets from their heads to loose; With ivy wreathe their brows; and in their hands The leafy Thyrsus grasp. Threatening, he spoke, In words prophetic, how th' affronted god Would wreak his ire. Matrons and virgins haste; Throw by their baskets; quit the loom, and leave Th' unfinish'd threads: sweet incense they supply Invoking Bacchus by his various names. Bromius! Lyaeus! power in flames produc'd!— Produc'd a second time! god doubly born! Born of two mothers! Nyseus! they exclaim; Long-hair'd Thyoneus!—and the planter fam'd Of genial grapes! Lenaeus! too, they sing; Nyctelius! Elelcus! and aloud Iaecchus! Evan! with the numerous names, O Liber! in the Grecian land thou hold'st. Unwaning youth is thine, eternal boy! Most beauteous form in heaven! a virgin's face Thou seem'st to bear, when seen without thy horns. Stoops to thy arms the East, where Ganges bounds The dusky India:—Deity rever'd! Thou impious Pentheus sacrific'd; and thou, The mad Lycurgus punish'd with his axe: By thee the Tyrrhene traitors, in the main Were flung: Adorn'd with painted reins, thou curb'st The lynxes in thy chariot yok'd abreast: Thy steps the Satyrs and Bacchantes tread; And old Silenus; who with wine o'ercharg'd, With a long staff his tottering steps sustains: Or on a crooked ass, unsteady sits: Where'er thou enterest shout the joyous youth, Females and males immingled: loud the drums Struck by their hands resound;—and loudly clash The brazen cymbals: soft the boxen flutes Deep and melodious sound!
Now prays all Thebes The god's approach in mildness; and perform His sacred rites as bidden. Sole remain At home secluded, Minyaes' daughters,—they With ill-tim'd industry the feast prophane. Busy, they form the wool, and twirl the thread; Or to the loom stick close, and all their maids Urge to strict labor. One with dexterous thumb The slender thread extending, cries;—"while all, "Idly, those rites imaginary tend, "Let us, whom Pallas, deity more great, "Detains, our useful labors lighter make "By vary'd converse. Each in turn relate "Her tale, while others listen; thus the time "Less tedious shall appear." All pleas'd applaud The proposition; and her sisters beg That she the tales commence. Long she demurs, What story first, of those she knew, to tell; For numerous was her store. In doubt, thy tale, Dercetis Babylonian, to relate, Whose form, the Syrians think, with scales is cloth'd; The stagnant pools frequenting: or describe Thy daughter's change, on waving pinions borne; Who lengthen'd age obtain'd, on lofty towers Safe dwelling: or of Nais, who the youths With magic works, and potent witching words To silent fishes turn'd; till she the same Vile transformation suffer'd: or the tree, Which once in clusters white its berries bore, Now blood besprinkled, growing black. This tale Most novel, pleas'd the most: and as she spun Her slender thread, the nymph the tale began.
"Thisbe, the brightest of the eastern maids; "And Pyramus, the pride of all the youths, "Contiguous dwellings held, in that fam'd town, "Where lofty walls of stone, we learn were rais'd, "By bold Semiramis. Their neighbouring scite, "Acquaintance first encourag'd,—primal step "To further intimacy: love, in time, "Grew from this chance connection; and they long'd "To join by lawful rites: but harsh forbade, "Their rigid sires the union fate had doom'd. "With equal ardor both their minds inflam'd, "Burnt fierce; and absent every watchful spy "By nods and signs they spoke; for close their love "Conceal'd they kept;—conceal'd it burn'd more fierce. "The severing wall a narrow chink contain'd, "Form'd when first rear'd;—what will not love espy? "This chink, by all for ages past unseen, "The lovers first espy'd.—This opening gave "A passage for their voices; safely through, "Their tender words were breath'd in whisperings soft. "Oft punctual at their posts,—on this side she, "And Pyramus on that;—each breathing sighs,— "By turns inhaling, have they mutual cry'd;— "Invidious wall! why lovers thus divide? "Much were it, did thy parts more wide recede, "And suffer us to join? were that too much "A little opening more, and we might meet "With lips at least. Yet grateful still we own "Thy kind indulgence, which a passage gives, "And amorous words conveys to loving ears. "Thus they loquacious, though on sides diverse, "Till night their converse stay'd;—then cry'd, adieu! "And each imprinted kisses, which the stones "Forbade to taste. Soon as Aurora's fires "Remov'd the shades of night, and Phoebus' rays "From the moist earth the dew exhal'd, they meet "As 'custom'd at the wall: lamenting deep, "As wont in murmuring whispers: bold they plan, "Their guards evading in the silent night, "To pass the outer gates. Then, when escap'd "From home, to leave the city's dangerous shade; "But lest, in wandering o'er the spacious plains "They miss to meet, at Ninus' sacred tomb "They fix their assignation,—hid conceal'd "Beneath th' umbrageous leaves. There grew a tree, "Close bordering on a cooling fountain's brink; "A stately mulberry;—snow-white fruit hung thick "On every branch. The plot pleas'd well the pair.
"And now slow seems the car of Sol to sink; "Slow from the ocean seems the night to rise; "Till Thisbe, cautious, by the darkness veil'd, "Soft turns the hinges, and her guards beguiles. "Her features veil'd, the tomb she reaches,—sits "Beneath th' appointed tree: love makes her bold. "Lo! comes a lioness,—her jaws besmear'd "With gory foam, fresh from the slaughter'd herd, "Deep in th' adjoining fount her thirst to slake. "Far off the Babylonian maid beheld "By Luna's rays the horrid foe,—quick fled "With trembling feet, and gain'd a darksome cave: "Flying, she dropp'd, and left her robe behind.
"Now had the savage beast her drought allay'd, "And backward to the forest roaming, found "The veiling robe;—its tender texture rent, "And smear'd the spoil with bloody jaws. The youth "(With later fortune his strict watch escap'd) "Spy'd the plain footsteps of a monster huge "Deep in the sand indented!—O'er his face "Pale terror spread: but when the robe he saw, "With blood besmear'd, and mangled; loud he cry'd,— "One night shall close two lovers' eyes in death! "She most deserving of a longer date. "Mine is the fault alone. Dear luckless maid! "I have destroy'd thee;—I, who bade thee keep "Nocturnal meetings in this dangerous place, "And came not first to shield thy steps from harm. "Ye lions, wheresoe'er within those caves "Ye lurk! haste hither,—tear me limb from limb! "Fierce ravaging devour, and make my tomb "Your horrid entrails. But for death to wish "A coward's turn may serve. The robe he takes, "Once Thisbe's, and beneath th' appointed tree "Bearing it, bath'd in tears; with ardent lips "Oft fondly kissing, thus he desperate cries;— "Now with my blood be also bath'd!—drink deep! "And in his body plung'd the sword, that round "His loins hung ready girt: then as he dy'd, "Hasty withdrew, hot reeking from the wound, "The steel; and backwards falling, press'd the earth. "High spouts the sanguine flood! thus forth a pipe, "(The lead decay'd, or damag'd) sends a stream "Contracted from the breach; upspringing high, "And loudly hissing, as the air it breaks "With jets repeated. Sprinkled with the blood, "The tree's white fruit a purple tinge receiv'd; "Deep soak'd with blood the roots convey the stain "Inly, and tinge each bough with Tyrian dye.
"Now Thisbe comes, with terror trembling still, "Fearful, she Pyramus expecting waits: "Him seek her beating bosom, and her eyes; "Anxious the peril she escap'd to tell. "Well mark'd her eyes the place,—and well the tree; "The berries chang'd in color, long she doubts "The same or no. While hesitating thus, "The panting members quivering she beholds, "Upon the sanguin'd turf; and back recoils! "Paler than box her features grow; her limbs "More tremble than when ocean fretful sounds, "Its surface briskly by the breezes swept. "Nor long the pause, her lover soon is known; "And now her harmless breast with furious blows "She punishes; her tresses wild she rends; "Clasps the lov'd body; and the gaping wound "Fills with her tears,—their droppings with the blood "Immingling. On his clay-cold face she press'd "Her kisses, crying;—Pyramus! what chance "Has torn thee from me thus? My Pyramus! "Answer me,—'tis thy dearest Thisbe speaks! "She calls thee,—hear me,—raise that dying face! "At Thisbe's name, his lids, with death hard weigh'd, "He rais'd—beheld her,—and forever clos'd.
"Him dying thus,—her lacerated veil; "The ivory scabbard empty'd of its sword; "She saw,—at once the truth upon her mind "Flash'd quick. Alas! thy hand, by love impell'd, "Has wrought thy ruin: but to me the hand, "In this, at least, shall equal force display, "For equal was my love; and love will grant "Sufficient strength the deadly wound to give. "In death I'll follow thee; with justice call'd "Thy ruin's wretched cause,—but comrade too. "Thou whom, but death seem'd capable to part "From me, shalt find ev'n death too weak will prove. "Ye wretched mourning parents, his and mine! "The dying prayers respect of him,—of me: "Grant that, entomb'd together, both may rest; "A pair by faithful love conjoined,—by death "United close. And thou fair tree which shad'st "Of one the miserable corse; and two "Soon with thy boughs wilt cover,—bear the mark "Of the sad deed eternal;—ting'd thy fruit "With mournful coloring: monumental type "Of double slaughter. Speaking thus, she plac'd "The steely point, while yet with blood it smok'd, "Beneath her swelling breast; and forward fell. "Her final prayer reach'd heaven; her parents reach'd: "Purple the berries blush, when ripen'd full; "And in one urn the lovers' ashes rest."
She ceas'd: a silent interval, but short, Ensu'd; and next Leuconoe thus address'd Her listening sisters:—"Ev'n the sun himself, "Whose heavenly light so universal shines, "To love is subject: his amours I tell. "This deity's keen sight the first espy'd— "(For all things penetrating first he sees) "The crime of Mars and Venus; sore chagrin'd, "To Vulcan he th' adulterous theft display'd, "And told him where they lay. Appall'd he heard,— "And dropp'd the tools his dexterous hand contain'd; "But soon recover'd. Slender chains of brass, "And nets, and traps he form'd; so wonderous fine, "They mock'd the power of sight: for far less fine, "The smallest thread the distaff forms; or line, "Spun by the spider, pendent from the roof. "Curious he form'd it; at the lightest touch "It yielded; each momentum, slight howe'er, "Caus'd its recession: this he artful hung, "The couch enfolding. When the faithless wife, "And paramour upon the bed embrac'd, "Both in the lewd conjunction were ensnar'd; "Caught by the husband's skill, whose art the chains "In novel form had fram'd. The Lemnian god "Instant wide threw the ivory doors, and gave "Admittance free to every curious eye: "In shameful guise together bound they laid. "But some light gods, not blaming much the sight, "Would wish thus sham'd to lie: loud laugh'd the whole, "And long in heaven the tale jocose was told.
"The well-remember'd deed, the Cyprian queen "Retorting, made the god remember too: "And him who her conceal'd amours disclos'd, "In turn betray'd. What now, Hyperion's son, "Avails thy beauty!—or thy radiant flames? "For thou, whose fires warm all the wide-spread world, "Burn'st with a new-felt heat! Thou, whose wide view, "Should every object grasp, with partial ken "Leucothoe only see'st! that nymph alone, "Attracts those eyes, whose lustre all the world "Expect to view. Oft in the eastern skies, "More early rising, art thou seen; and oft "More tardy 'neath the waves thou sinkest: long "The wintry days thou stretchest, with delay "Thy object lov'd to see. Meantime pale gloom "O'ercasts thy orb; the dullness of thy mind "Obstructs thy brightness; and thy rays obscure, "Terror in mortal breasts inspire. Not pale "Thou fadest, as, when nearer whirl'd to earth, "Faint Luna's shadow o'er thy surface glooms: "But love, and only love the paleness gives. "Her only, now thy amorous soul pursues; "Rhodos, nor Clymene, nor Perse fair, "Of Colchian Circe mother, tempt thee now; "Nor Clytie, whom thy cold neglect still spurns; "Yet still she burns to clasp thee: deep she mourns, "Stung more acutely by this fresh amour. "Now in Leucothoe, every former love "Is lost. Leucothoe, whom the beauteous nymph, "Eurynome, in odoriferous climes "Of Araby brought forth. Full-grown, matur'd, "Leucothoe's beauteous form no less surpass'd "Her mother's, than her mother's all beside. "Her sire, the royal Orchamus (who claim'd "A seventh descent from ancient Belus) rul'd "The Achaemenian towns. The rapid steeds "Of Phoebus pasture 'neath the western sky; "Not grass, ambrosia, eating; heavenly food, "Which nerves their limbs, faint with diurnal toil, "Restoring all their ardor. Whilst the steeds, "This their celestial nourishment enjoy; "And night, as 'custom'd, governs in her turn; "The god the close apartments of his nymph "Beloved, enters;—form'd to outward view, "Eurynome her mother. Her he saw "The slender threads from spindle twirling fine, "Illumin'd by the lamp; and circled round "By twice six female helpers. Warm he gave "As a lov'd daughter, his maternal kiss, "And said;—our converse secrecy demands.— "Th' attendant maids depart,—nor hinderance give, "Loitering, a mother's secret words to hear. "When he, the chamber free from spy or guard, "Exclaims,—no female I! behold the god, "The lengthen'd year who spaces! who beholds "Each object earth contains! the world's great eye "By which it all surveys. My tender words "Believe, I dearly love thee. Pale she look'd, "While thus he spoke;—started, and trembling dropp'd "Her distaff, and her spindle from her hand "Nerveless. But ev'n her terror seem'd to add "Fresh beauty to her features. Longer he "Delay'd not, but his wonted form assum'd; "In heavenly splendor shining. Mild the maid, "Won by his beauteous brightness, (though at first, "His sudden shape surpriz'd her) sunk beneath "The force he urg'd, with unresisting power.
"The jealous Clytie (who with amorous flame "Burn'd for Apollo) urg'd by harlot's rage, "Straight to the sire, Leucothoe's crime betray'd; "Painting the nymph's misdeed with heighten'd glow. "Fierce rag'd the father,—merciless inhum'd "Her living body deep in earth! Outstretcht "High to the sun her arms, and praying warm "For mercy;—he by force, she cry'd, prevail'd! "O'er her untimely grave a lofty mound "Of sand, her sire uprear'd. Hyperion's son "Through this an opening with his beams quick form'd, "Full wide for her, her head intomb'd to lift, "Once to the light again. Thy bury'd corse "No more thou now couldst raise; the ponderous load "Of earth prevents thee; and a bloodless mass, "Exanimate, thou ly'st! Not deeper grief "'Tis said, the ruler of the swift-wing'd steeds, "Display'd, when o'er the earth the hapless flames "By Phaeton were thrown. Arduous he strives, "Her gelid limbs, with all his powerful rays "To vivid heat recal: stern fate withstands "His utmost urg'd endeavours: bathing then "Her pallid corse, and all the earth around "With odorous nectar, sorrowing sad he cries;— "Yet, shalt thou reach the heavens! And soon began "Her limbs, soft melting in celestial dew, "With moistening drops of strong perfume to flow: "Slowly a frankincense's rooted twigs "Spread in the earth,—its top the hillock burst.
"Angry the god (though violent love the pain "Of jealousy might well excuse,—the pain "Of jealousy the tale) from Clytie now "Abstains; no more in amorous mood they meet. "Rash now the deed her burning love had caus'd, "Too late she found;—she flies her sister-nymphs; "And pining, on the cold bare turf she sits; "By day,—by night,—sole shelter'd by the sky; "Her dripping tresses matted round her brows: "Food,—drink, abhorring. Nine long days she bore "Sharp famine, bath'd with dew, bath'd with her tears; "Still on the ground prone lying. Yet the god "In circling motion still she ardent view'd; "Turning her face to his. Tradition tells, "Her limbs to earth grew fasten'd: ghastly pale "Her color; chang'd to bloodless leaves she stood, "Streak'd ruddy here and there;—a violet flower "Her face o'erspreading. Still that face she turns, "To meet the sun;—though binding roots retain "Her feet, her love unalter'd still remains."
She ended; all their listening ears, well pleas'd, The wonderous story heard. Some hard of faith Its truth, its probability deny. To true divinities such power some grant; And power to compass more;—to Bacchus none Such potence own. The sisters, silent now, Alcithoe beg to speak: she shooting swift Her shuttle through th' extended threads, exclaims;— "Of Daphnis' love, so known, on Ida's hill, "His flocks who tended, whom his angry nymph, "To stone transform'd (such fury fires the breast "Of those who desperate love!) I shall not tell: "Nor yet of Scython, of ambiguous form, "Now male, now female; nature's wonted laws "Inconstant proving: thee, O Celmis! too "I pass; once faithful nurse to infant Jove, "Now chang'd to adamant: Curetes! sprung "From showery floods: Crocus, and Smilax, both "To blooming flowers transform'd: unnotic'd these, "My tale from novelty itself shall please: "How Salmacis so infamous became, "Then list; whose potent waves, the luckless limbs "Enerve, of those they bathe. Conceal'd the cause; "Yet far and wide the fountain's power is known.
"Deep in the sheltering caves of Ida's hill, "The Naiaed nymphs a beauteous infant nurs'd; "Whom Cyprus' goddess unto Hermes bore. "His father's beauty, and his mother's, shone "In every feature; in his name conjoin'd "He bore their appellations. When matur'd "By fifteen summers, from paternal hills "Straying, he wander'd from his nursing Ide: "In lands unknown he joy'd, and joy'd to see "Strange rivers,—pleasure lessening every toil. "Through Lycia's towns he stray'd; and further still, "To bordering Caria, where a pool he spy'd, "Whose lowest depth a gleam transparent shew'd: "No marshy canes,—no filthy barren weeds, "Nor pointed bulrush near the margin grew: "Full on the eye the water shone, yet round "Its brink a border smil'd of verdant turf, "And plants forever green. Here dwelt a nymph, "But one who never join'd the active chace; "The bow who never bent; who never strove "To conquer in the race: of all the nymphs, "Alone no comrade of Diana fleet. "Oft, as 'tis said, her sister-nymphs exclaim'd;— "Come, Salmacis, thy painted quiver take; "Or take thy javelin;—with soft pleasures mix "Laborious sporting: but nor javelin she, "Nor painted quiver took;—with sportive toil, "Soft pleasures mingling: sole intent to bathe, "Her beauteous limbs amidst her own clear waves; "And through her flowing tresses oft to draw "The boxen comb, while o'er the fountain bent, "She studies all her graces: now, her form "Clad in a robe transparent, stretcht she lies, "Or on the yielding leaves, or bending grass; "Now flowers she culls;—and so it chanc'd to fall, "Flowers she was gathering, when she first beheld "The charming youth; no sooner seen than lov'd. "Not forth she rush'd at first, though strongly urg'd, "Forward to spring, but all adjusted fair: "Closely survey'd her robe; her features form'd; "And every part in beauteous shape compos'd. "Then thus address'd him;—O, most godlike youth! "And if a god, the lovely Cupid sure! "But if of mortal mould, blest is thy sire! "Blest is thy brother! and thy sister blest!— "If sister hast thou;—and the fostering breast "Which fed thy infant growth: but far 'bove all "In rapturous bliss, is she who calls thee spouse; "Should nymph exist thou deem'st that bliss deserves! "If wedded, grant a stol'n embrace to me; "If not, let me thy nuptial couch ascend. "The Naiaed ceas'd: a bashful glow suffus'd "His face, for nought of love to him was known: "Yet blushing seem'd he lovely: thus warm glows "The apple, to the ripening sun expos'd; "Or teinted ivory; or the redden'd moon, "Whom brazen cymbals clash to help in vain. "To her, warm praying for at least a kiss, "A chaste, a sister's kiss,—her arms firm claspt "Around his ivory neck;—desist! he cries, "Desist! or sole to thee the place I'll leave. "His flight she dreaded, and reply'd,—I go, "Dear youth, and freely yield the spot to thee. "And seems indeed, her steps from him to turn; "But still in sight she kept him; lurking close "Shelter'd by shadowy shrubs, on bended knees. "Of spy unconscious, he in boyish play "Frisks sportive here and there; dips first his feet, "Then ancles deeper in the wantoning waves; "Pleas'd with the temper of the lucid pool: "Till hasty stript from off his tender limbs "His garments soft he flings. More deeply struck "Stood Salmacis; more fiercely flam'd her love, "His naked beauty seen. Her gloating eyes "Sparkled no less than seem bright Phoebus' rays, "When shining splendid, midst a cloudless sky, "A mirror's face reflecting gives them back. "Delay ill brooking, hardly she contains "Her swelling joy; frantic for his embrace, "She pants, and hard from rushing forth refrains. "His sides he claps, and agile in the steam "Quick plunges, moving with alternate arms. "Bright through the waves he shines; thus white appears "The sculptur'd ivory, or the lily fair, "Seen through a crystal veil. The Naiaed cries;— "Lo! here I come;—he's mine,—the youth's my own! "And instant far was every garment flung. "Midst of the waves she leaps;—the struggling youth "Clasps close; and on his cold reluctant lips, "Forces her kisses; down she girds his arms; "And close to hers hugs his unwilling breast: "Final, around the youth who arduous strives "In opposition, and escape essays, "Her limbs she twines: so twines a serpent huge, "Seiz'd by the bird of Jove, and borne on high, "Twisting his head, the feet close-bracing holds; "The wide-spread wings entangled with his tail: "So twines the ivy round the lengthen'd bough: "So numerous Polypus his foe confines, "Seiz'd in the deep, with claws on every side "Firm graspt. But Hermes' son persisting still, "The Naiaed's wish denies; she presses close, "And as she cleaves, their every limb close join'd "Exclaims;—ungallant boy! but strive thy most, "Thou shalt not fly me. Grant me, O ye gods! "No time may ever sunder him from me, "Or me from him.—Her prayer was granted straight;— "For now, commingling, both their bodies join'd; "And both their faces melted into one. "So, when in growth we boughs ingrafted see, "The bark inclosing both at once, they sprout. "Thus were their limbs, in strong embrace comprest, "Wrapp'd close; no longer two in form, yet two "In feature; nor a nymph-like face remain'd, "Nor yet a boy's: it both and neither seem'd.
"When Hermes' son beheld the liquid stream, "Where masculine he plung'd, the power possess "To enervate his body, and his limbs "Effeminately soften; high he rais'd "His arms, and pray'd (but not with manly voice) "O, sire! O, mother dear! indulge your son, "Your double appellation bearing, this "Sole-urg'd petition. Whoso in these waves "In strong virility, like me, shall plunge, "Hence let him go, like me enervate made; "Spoilt by the stream his strength. Each parent god "Nodding, confirm'd their alter'd son's request; "And ting'd the fountain with the changing power."
She ceas'd: the nymphs Minyeian still persist Their toil to urge, despising still the god; His festival prophaning. Sudden heard, The rattling sounds of unseen timbrels burst Full on their ears! the pipe; the crooked horn; And brazen cymbals loudly clash; perfumes Of myrrh and saffron blended smell:—but more, And what belief surpasses, straight their looms Virid to sprout begin; the pendent threads Branch into shoots like ivy: part becomes The vine: what now were threads, curl'd tendrils seem: Shot from the folded web, the branches climb; And the bright red in purpling grapes appears.
Now was the sun declining, and approach'd The twilight season, when nor day it seems, Nor night confirm'd; but a gray mixture forms; Of each an indetermin'd compound. Deep The roof appear'd to shade; the oily lamps, Ardent to glow; the torches bright to burn, With reddening flames; while round them seem'd to howl, Figures of beast ferocious. Fill'd with smoke The room,—th' affrighted maidens seek to hide; And each in different corners tries to shun The fires and flaming light. But while they seek A lurking shelter, o'er their shorten'd limbs A webby membrane spreading, binds their arms In waving wings. The gloom conceal'd the mode, Of transformation from their former shape. Light plumage bears them not aloft,—yet rais'd On wings transparent, through the air they skim, To speak they strive, but utter forth a sound Feeble and weak; then, screeching shrill, they plain: Men's dwellings they frequent,—nor try the woods; And, cheerful day avoiding, skim by night; Their name from that untimely hour deriv'd.
Now were the deeds of heaven-born Bacchus fam'd Through every part of Thebes; and all around, His aunt proud boasts the new-made god's great power: She, of the sisters all, from sorrow spar'd, Save what to view her sisters' sorrowing gave. Juno beheld her lofty thus, her breast Elate to view her sons; her nuptial fruits With Athamas; and her great foster child, The mighty Bacchus. More the furious queen Bore not, but thus exclaim'd;—"Has the whore's son "Power to transform the Tyrrhene crew, and plunge "Them headlong in the deep? Can he impel "The mother's hands to seize her bleeding son "And tear his entrails? Dares he then to clothe "The Minyeid sisters with un'custom'd wings? "And is Saturnia's utmost power confin'd "Wrongs unreveng'd to weep? Suffices such "For me? Is this a goddess' utmost might? "But he instructs me;—wisdom may be taught "Ev'n by a foe. The wretched Pentheus' fate, "Shews all-sufficient, what may madness do. "Why should not Ino, stung with frantic rage, "The well-known track her sisters trode pursue?"
A path declivitous, with baleful yew Dark shaded, leads, a dreary silent road, Down to th' infernal regions: sluggish Styx Dank mists exhales: here travel new-made ghosts, With rites funereal blest: pale winter's gloom Wide rules the squalid place: the stranger shades Wander, unknowing which the path to tread, Straight to the infernal city, where is held Black Pluto's savage court. A thousand gates, Wide ope, surround the town on every side. As boundless ocean every stream receives, From earth pour'd numerous,—so each wandering soul Flocks to this city; whose capacious bounds Full space for all affords; nor ever feels Th' increasing crowd: of flesh depriv'd, and bones, The bloodless shadows wander. Some frequent The forum; some th' infernal monarch's court; Some various arts employ, resembling much Their former daily actions; numbers groan In punishments severe. Here Juno came, Braving the region's horrors, from her throne Celestial,—so did ire and hatred goad Her bosom with their stings! Sacred she press'd The groaning threshold,—instant as she stepp'd, Fierce Cerberus his triple head uprais'd, And howl'd with triple throat. The goddess calls The night-born sisters, fierce, implacable: Before the close-barr'd adamantine gates They sit; their tresses twisting round with snakes. The queen through clouds of midnight gloom they see, And instant rise. Here dwell the suffering damn'd. Here Tityus, stretcht o'er nine wide acres, yields His entrails to be torn. Thou, Tantalus, Art seen, the stream forbid to taste;—the fruit Thy lips o'erhanging, flies! Thou, Sisyphus, Thy stone pursuing downwards; or its weight Straining aloft, with oft exerted power! Ixion whirling, too; with swift pursuit, Thou follow'st, and art follow'd! Belides! Your husband-cousins who in death dar'd steep, And ceaseless draw the unavailing streams! All Juno view'd with unrelenting brow; But, view'd Ixion sterner far than all: And when on Sisyphus again she cast Her eyes, behind Ixion, angry cry'd;— "What justice this?—of all the brethren he "Sharp torture suffers! Shall proud Athamas "A regal dwelling boast,—whose scornful taunts, "And scornful spouse have still my power contemn'd?" Then straight her hatred's cause disclos'd. They see Her journey's object, and revenge's aim. This her desire, that Cadmus' regal house Perish'd should sink; and Athamas, fierce urg'd By madness should some dreadful vengeance claim. Commands, solicitations, prayers,—at once The goddesses besiege: and as she speaks, Angrily mov'd, Tisiphone replies,— (Shaking her hoary locks,—the twining snakes Back from her mouth repelling) hasty thus;— "A tedious tale we need not; what thou wilt "Believe accomplish'd. Fly this hateful gloom;— "Up to the wholesome breeze of heaven repair." Glad, Juno left the spot;—when near approach'd Heaven's entrance, there Thaumantian Iris met, And with her sprinklings purify'd the queen.
Quick now Tisiphone, the savage fiend, Seizes her torch, with gory droppings wet; Flings round her limbs a garment, deeply dy'd With streaming blood; a twisting snake supplies A girdle:—thus array'd she sallies forth, Follow'd by loud lament, by terror, fear, And quivering-featur'd madness. When she press'd The threshold, fame declares the pillars shook; The maple doors, with terror mov'd, grew pale: Back shrunk the sun! Ino, with trembling dread Beheld these wonders;—Athamas beheld; And both prepar'd the haunted place to fly. Escape the fury hinders: fierce she stands, Blocking the entrance: wide her arms she spreads, With viperous twistings bound; and threatening shakes Her tresses: loud the serpents noise, disturb'd; Sprawl o'er her shoulders some; some, lower fall'n, Twine hissing round her breasts, with brandish'd tongue, Black poison vomiting. With furious gripe, Two from her locks she tore;—her deadly hand Hurl'd them straight on; the breasts of Athamas, And Ino, hungry, with their fangs they seiz'd; Fierce pains infixing, but external wounds Their limbs betray'd not: mental was the blow, So direly struck. Venoms most mortal, too, From Tartarus she bore:—the foam high-churn'd From jaws of Cerberus; the poisonous juice Of Hydra; urgent wish for roaming wide; Oblivion mental-blinded; wicked deeds; Weeping; and furious fierceness, slaughter fond. On these commingled, fresh-drawn gore she pour'd, And warm'd them bubbling in a brazen vase; Stirr'd by a sprouting hemlock. Trembling, they Shudder, while in their breasts the poison fierce She pours: both bosoms feel it deep instill'd;— Their inmost vitals feel it. Then her torch, Whirl'd flaming round and round, in triumph glares, Fires from the circling gathering. Powerful thus; Victorious in her aims, and deeds desir'd, To mighty Pluto's shadowy realm she speeds; And from her loins untwists the girding snakes.
Mad bounded Athamas amid the hall, "Ho! friends," exclaiming;—"here spread wide your toils, "Here, in this thicket, where ev'n now I saw "With young twin cubs, a lioness!"—and mad, Pursu'd his consort for a savage beast; Snatching Learchus, who with playful smile, Outstretch'd his infant hands to meet him. Torne Rough from his mother's bosom, round in air And round, sling-like he whirl'd; then savage dash'd Upon a rugged rock the tender bones.
Loud howls the frantic mother; frantic made By grief, or by the scatter'd poison's power: And, raving, with dishevell'd tresses spread Wide o'er her shoulders, flies. Her naked arms Young Melicertes bear; madly she shrieks;— "Evoe, Bacchus!"—Loud at Bacchus' name Revengeful Juno laugh'd, and said;—"Such boon "Thy foster-son upon his nurse confers!" A lofty rock the foaming waves o'erhangs, Whose dashing force deep in its base have scoop'd A cavern, safely sheltering from the showers: The adamantine summit high extends, And o'er the wide main stretches. Swift this height, Active and strong with madness, Ino gain'd And fearless, with the infant in her arms, Sprung from the cliff, and sunk beneath the waves. White foam'd the surge around her!
Venus, griev'd, Such sufferings, undeserv'd, her race should bear, Thus with bland coaxings Ocean's god address'd: "Lord of the azure deep, whose high command "Sways next to heaven's,—a vast demand I ask;— "But pity my poor offspring, whom thou see'st "Plung'd in th' Ionian billows;—with their forms "Thy deities increase. Some influence sure, "In ocean I should hold, from thence produc'd; "Sprung from the froth that on the deep main swims: "Whence Grecian poets name me." Neptune nods, Assenting to her prayer; and from their limbs Abstracts the mortal portion; on their forms Breathes majesty; and with their alter'd mien, Their names he changes too; Palaemon he, Now stil'd, his mother as Leucothoe known.
The princess' anxious comrades trac'd her steps With care; the last with arduous search they found, Just on the giddy brink, nor dubious deem'd Her fate a moment. Cadmus' house they wail; With beating hands their tresses tear, and robes; And highly Juno blame, as one unjust: Too ireful for the hapless sister's fault. Juno, fierce flaming, these reproaches stung;— "Ye too," she cry'd, "shall monuments become "Of the fierce ire ye blame!" Deeds words pursu'd. The nymph who most her hapless queen held dear, Exclaim'd;—"deep in the roaring main I'll plunge, "To join her fate,"—and sprung to take the leap; But motionless she stood,—fixt to the rock! Her wounding blows, upon her bosom one Strives to renew, as wont; her striving arms Stiffen'd to stone she sees. This tow'rd the waves Her hands extends; a rocky mass she stands, In the same waves far stretching. Lifted high, The locks to rend, the fingers might be seen Stiffen'd, and rigid with the hair become. In posture whatsoever caught, each nymph, In that same posture stands. Thus part are chang'd: The rest, to birds transform'd, by wings upborne, Skim o'er the surface of the neighbouring sea.
Cadmus, the wond'rous change which rais'd his child, And his young grandson to the rank of gods, Yet knew not. By his load of grief o'erwhelm'd; A chain of woes; and supernatural scenes, So numerous which he sees; the founder quits His town, suspicious that the city's fate, And not his own, misfortune on him showers. Borne o'er the main, his lengthen'd wanderings end, When with his exil'd consort, safe he gains Illyria's shores. Opprest with grief and age, The primal fortunes of their house, with care They scan, and in their converse all their woes Again recounting, Cadmus thus exclaims;— "Was then that serpent, by my javelin pierc'd, "When driven from Tyre; whose numerous teeth I sow'd, "Sacred to some divinity?—If he "Thus, vengeful for the deed, his anger pours, "May I a serpent stretcht at length become." He said,—and serpent-like extended lies! Scales he perceives, upon his harden'd skin; And sees green spots on his black body form; Prone on his breast he falls; together twin'd, His legs commingling stretch, and gradual end Lessen'd in rounded point; his arms remain Still, and those arms remaining he extends; While down his face yet human tears flow fast. "O, hapless wife! approach," he cries, "approach, "And touch me now, while ought of me remains; "Receive my hand, while yet a hand I bear; "Ere to a serpent wholly turns my form."— More he prepar'd to utter, but his tongue, Cleft sudden, to his wishes words refus'd: And often when his sorrows sad he try'd To wail anew, he hiss'd!—that sound alone, Nature permitted. While her naked breast With blows resounded, loud his wife exclaim'd;— "Stay,—O, my Cadmus! hapless man, shake off "This monstrous figure! Cadmus what is this? "Where are thy feet,—and where thy arms and hands? "Where are thy features,—thy complexion? Where, "Whilst I bewail, art thou? Celestial powers! "Why not this transformation work on me?" She ended; he advancing, lick'd her face, And creep'd, as custom'd, to her bosom dear, And round her wonted neck embracing twin'd. Now draw their servants nigh, and as they come With terror start. The crested serpents play, Smooth on their necks,—now two; and cordial slide, In spires conjoin'd; then in the darksome shades Th' adjoining woods afford them, close they hide. Mankind they fly not, nor deep wounds inflict; Harmless, their pristine form is ne'er forgot.
Still, though in alter'd shapes, the pair rejoic'd Their grandson's fame to hear; whom vanquish'd Ind' Low bending worshipp'd; Greece adoring prais'd, In lofty temples. Sole Acrisius stands, Like Bacchus sprung from Jove's celestial seed, Opposing; and from Argos' gates propels The god;—his birth deny'd, against him arms. Nor Perseus would he own from heaven deriv'd; Conceiv'd by Danae, from a golden shower: Yet soon,—so mighty is the force of truth,— Acrisius grieves he e'er so rashly brav'd The god; his grandson driving from his court, Disown'd. Now one in heaven is glorious plac'd; The other, laden with the well-known spoil Of the fierce snaky monster, cleaves the air, On sounding pinions. High the victor sails O'er Lybia's desarts, and the gory drops Fall from the gorgon's head; the Ground receives The blood, and warms it into writhing snakes. Hence does the country with the pest still swarm.
Thence borne by adverse winds, he sweeps along, Through boundless ether driven; now here, now there, As watery clouds are swept. From lofty skies, The earth far distant viewing, round the globe He skimm'd: three times he saw the Arctic pole And thrice the warmer Crab. Oft to the west, Th' adventurous youth was borne; back to the east, As often. Now the day in darkness sank, When he, nocturnal flight mistrusting, lights In Atlas' kingdom 'neath th' Hesperian sky; A short repose requests, till Phosphor' bright, Should call Aurora forth;—she ushering in The chariot of the day. Japetus' son All men in huge corporeal bulk surpass'd. He to th' extremest confines of the land, And o'er the ocean sway'd, whose waves receive Apollo's panting steeds, and weary'd car. A thousand bleating flocks; a thousand herds, Stray'd through the royal pastures. Neighbouring lords Not near him plough'd their lands. Trees grew, whose leaves With splendor glittering, threw a golden shade O'er golden branches, and o'er fruit of gold. Thus Perseus;—"Friendly host, if glorious birth "Thee pleases, here one born of Jove behold. "If deeds of merit more attraction move, "Mine thy applause may claim. At present grant "An hospitable shelter here, and rest." But Atlas, fearing these oraculous words,— (Long since by Themis on Parnassus given) "The time, O king! will come, thy golden tree "Shall lose its fruit. The glory of the spoil "A son of Jove shall boast:" and dreading sore; Around his orchards massy walls he rears; A dragon huge and fierce the guard maintains. "Whatever strangers to his realm approach, Far thence he drives; and thus to Perseus too;— "Haste, quickly haste from hence, lest soon I prove "Thy glorious deeds but feign'd,—feign'd as thy birth." Then force to threats he added,—strove to thrust The hero forth; who struggling, efforts urg'd Resisting, while he begg'd with softening words. Proving in strength inferior (who in strength Could vie with Atlas?) "Since my fame," he cries, "Such small desert obtains, a gift accept." And, back his face averting, holds display'd, On his left side Medusa's ghastly head. A mountain now the mighty Atlas stands! His hair and beard as lofty forests wave; His arms and hands high hilly summits rear; O'er-topp'd above, by what was once his head: His bones are rocks; then, so the gods decree, Enlarg'd to size immense in every part, The weight of heaven, and all the stars he bears.
His blustering vassals AEolus had pent, In ever-during prisons. Phosphor' bright, Most splendid 'midst the starry host of heaven; Admonitor of labor, now was risen; When Perseus bound again on either foot, His winnowing wings; girt on his crooked sword; And cleft the air, on waving pinions borne. O'er numerous nations, far beneath him spread, He sail'd, till Ethiopia's realms he saw; Where Cepheus rul'd. There Ammon, power unjust, Andromeda had sentenc'd,—guiltless maid, To what her mother's boastful tongue deserv'd. Her soon as Perseus spy'd, fast by the arms Chain'd to the rugged rock;—where but her locks Wav'd lightly to the breeze; and but her eyes Trickled a tepid stream; she might be deem'd A sculptur'd marble: him the unknown sight Astonish'd, dazzled, and enflam'd with love. His senses in the beauteous view sole wrapt, Scarce he remembers on his wings to wave:— Alights, exclaiming;—"O, whom chains like these "Should never bind, nor other chains than such, "As lovers intertwist! declare thy name; "Thy country tell; and why thou bear'st those bonds." Silent awhile the virgin stood; abash'd, Converse with man to hold: her blushing face, Her hands, if free, had long before conceal'd. Quick starting tears, 'twas all she could, her eyes Veil'd swimming: then her name and country told; And all the conscious pride her mother's charms Inspir'd, in full acknowledg'd; lest for crimes Her own, just suffering, Perseus might conceive. All yet untold, when loud the billows roar'd; Upheav'd the monster's bulk: far 'bove the waves He stood uprear'd, and then right onward plung'd; His ample bosom covering half the main.
Loud shrieks the virgin! Sad her father comes; And sad her raving mother, wretched both, The mother most deserv'dly. Help in vain From them she seeks; with tears, and bosoms torn, Her fetter'd limbs they clasp, they can no more. Then Perseus thus;—"for tears and loud laments, "Long may the time be: but effective aid "To give, the time is short. Suppose the nymph "I ask;—I, Perseus! sprung from mighty Jove, "By her whose prison in a golden shower "Fecundative, he enter'd. Perseus, who "The Gorgon snaky-hair'd o'ercame; who bold "On waving pinions winnows through the air. "Him for a son in preference should ye chuse, "Arduous he'll strive to these high claims to add, "If heaven permits, some merits more his own. "Agree she's mine, if by my arm preserv'd." The parents promise;—(who in such a case Would waver) beg his help; and promise, more, That all their kingdom shall her dower become. Lo! as a vessel's sharpen'd prow quick cleaves The waves, by strenuous sweating arms impell'd, The monster comes! his mighty bosom wide The waters sideway breasting; distant now, Not more than what the Balearic sling Could with the bullet gain, when high in air, The sod repelling, upward springs the youth. Soon as the main reflected Perseus' form, The ocean-savage rag'd: as Jove's swift bird When in the open fields a snake he spies Basking, his livid back to Phoebus' rays Expos'd, behind attacks him; plunges deep, His hungry talons in his scaly neck, To curb the twisting of his sanguine teeth. With rapid flight, thus Perseus shooting cleaves The empty air; lights on the monster's back; Burying his weapon to the crooked hilt, Full in the shoulder of the raging beast. Mad with the deepen'd wound, now rears aloft The savage high in air; now plunges low, Beneath the waters; now he furious turns, As turns the boar ferocious, when the crowd Of barking dogs beset him fiercely round. With rapid waft the venturous hero shuns His greedy jaws: now on his back, thick-arm'd With shells, he strikes where opening space he sees; Now on his sides; now where his tapering tail In fish-like form is finish'd, bites the steel. High spouts the wounded monster from his mouth; The waves with gore deep purpling: drench'd, the wings Droop nagging; and no longer Perseus dares To trust their dripping aid. A rock he spies Whose summit o'er the peaceful waters rose, But deep was hid when tempests mov'd the main. Supported here, his left hand firmly grasps The craggy edge; while through his sides, and through, The dying savage feels the weapon drove.
Loud shouts and plaudits fill the shore, the noise Resounding echoes to the heavenly thrones. Cassiope and Cepheus joyful greet Their son, and grateful own him chief support, And saviour. From her rugged fetters freed, The virgin walks; the cause, the great reward Of all his toil. His victor hands he laves In the pure stream: then with soft leaves defends A spot, to rest the serpent-bearing head, Lest the bare sand should harm it. Twigs marine He likewise strews, and rests Medusa there. The fresh green twigs as though with life endow'd, Felt the dire Gorgon's power; their spongy pith Hard to the touch became, the stiffness spread Through every twig and leaf. The Nereid nymphs More branches bring, and try the wonderous change On all, and joy to see the change succeed: Spreading the transformation from the seeds, With them throughout the waves. This nature still Retains the coral: hardness still assumes From contact with the air; beneath the waves A bending twig; an harden'd stone above.
Three turfy altars to three heavenly gods He builds: to Hermes sacred stands the left; The right to warlike Pallas; in the midst The mighty Jove's is rear'd: (To Pallas bleeds An heifer: to the plume-heel'd god a calf: Almighty Jove accepts a lordly bull) Then claims Andromeda, the rich reward, without a dower, of all his valorous toil.
Now Love and Hymen wave their torches high, Precursive of their joys: each hearth is heap'd With odorous incense: every roof is hung With flowery garlands: pipes, and harps, and lyres, And songs which indicate their festive souls, Resound aloud. Each portal open thrown, Display'd appears the golden palace wide. By every lord of Cepheus' court, array'd In splendid pomp, the nuptial feast is grac'd. The banquet ended, while the generous gift Of Bacchus circles; and each soul dilates, Perseus, the modes and customs of the land Curious enquires. Lyncides full relates The habits, laws, and manners of the clime. His information ended;—"now,"—he cry'd,— "Relate, O Perseus! boldest of mankind,— "By what fierce courage, and what skilful arts," "The snaky locks in thy possession came." Then Perseus tells, how lies a lonely vale Beneath cold Atlas; every side strong fenc'd By lofty hills, whose only pass is held, By Phorcus' twin-born daughters. Mutual they One eye possess'd, in turns by either us'd. His hand deceiving seiz'd it, as it pass'd 'Twixt them alternate; dexterous was the wile. Through devious paths, and deep-sunk ways he went; And craggy woods, dark-frowning, till he reach'd The Gorgon's dwelling: passing then the fields, And beaten roads, there forms of men he saw, And shapes of savage beasts; but all to stone By dire Medusa's petrifying face Transform'd. He then the horrid countenance mark'd, Bright from the brazen targe his left arm bore, Reflected. While deep slumber safe weigh'd down, The Gorgon and her serpents, he divorc'd Her shoulders from her head. He adds how sprung, Chrysaoer, and wing'd Pegasus the swift, From the prolific Gorgon's streaming gore. Relates the perils of his lengthen'd flight; What seas, what kingdoms from the lofty sky, Beneath him he had view'd; what sparkling stars His waving wings had brush'd;—thus ceas'd his tale: All more desiring. Then uprose a peer,— And why Medusa, of the sisters sole The serpent-twisted tresses wore, enquir'd. The youth:—"The story that you ask, full well "Attention claims;—I what you seek recite. "For matchless beauty fam'd, with envying hope "Her, crowds of suitors follow'd: nought surpass'd "'Mongst all her beauties, her bright lovely hair: "Those who had seen her thus, have this averr'd. "But in Minerva's temple Ocean's god "The maid defil'd. The virgin goddess shock'd, "Her eyes averted, and her forehead chaste "Veil'd with the AEgis. Then with vengeful power "Chang'd the Gorgonian locks to writhing snakes. "The snakes, thus form'd, fixt on her shield she bears; "The horrid sight her trembling foes appals."
*The Fifth Book.*
Attack of Phineus and his friends on Perseus. Defeat of the former, and their change to statues. Atchievements of Perseus in Argos, and Seriphus. Minerva's visit to the Muses. Fate of Pyreneus. Song of the Pierides. Song of the Muses. Rape of Proserpine. Change of Cyane, to a fountain. Search of Ceres. Transformation of a boy to an eft. Of Ascalaphus to an owl. Change of the companions of Proserpine to Sirens. Story of Arethusa. Journey of Triptolemus. Transformation of Lyncus to a lynx. The Pierides transformed to magpies.
THE *Fifth Book* OF THE METAMORPHOSES OF OVID.
These wonders, while the son of Danae tells, Circled around by Cepheus' noble troop; Sudden th' imperial hall with tumults loud Resounds. Not clamor such as oft we hear, The bridal feasts, in songs of joy attend: But what stern war announces. Much the change, (The peaceful feast to instant riot turn'd) Seem'd like the placid main, when the fierce rage Of sudden tempests lash its surges high.
First Phineus stepp'd, the leader of the crowd; Soul of the riot; and his ashen spear, Arm'd with a brazen point, he brandish'd high;— "Lo, here!" he shouts, "lo, here I vengeful come "On him who claims my spouse! Not thy swift wings; "Nor cheating Jove, chang'd to a golden shower, "Shall save thee from my arm,"—and pois'd to fling, The dart was held, but Cepheus loud exclaim'd,— "Brother! what dost thou? what dire madness sways "To wicked acts thy soul? Is this the meed "His gallant deeds deserve? Is this the dower, "We for the valued life he sav'd bestow? "List but to truth,—not Perseus of thy wife "Bereft thee, but the angry Nereid nymphs,— "The horned Ammon,—and the monster huge! "Prepar'd to glut his hunger with my child. "Then was thy spouse snatch'd from thee, when remain'd "Of help no hope; to all she lost appear'd. "Thy savage heart perhaps had ev'n rejoic'd "To see her perish, that our greater grief "Might lighten part of thine. Couldst thou her see "Fast chain'd before thee? uncle! spouse betroth'd! "And yet no aid afford! And storm'st thou thus? "She to another now her safety owes; "And would'st thou snatch the prize? So high if seems "To thee her precious value, thy bold arm "Should on the rock where chain'd she lay, have sought "And have deserv'd her. Now permit that he "Who sought her there; through whom my failing age "Is not now childless, grant that he enjoy "Peaceful, what through his merits he no less, "Than our firm compact claims: not him to thee, "But him to certain loss I preference gave."