Nought Phineus answer'd, but his furious eyes Now Perseus, now the king alternate view; Doubtful or this to pierce, or that: his pause Was short; his powerful arm, by fury nerv'd, At Perseus hurl'd the quivering spear,—in vain! Fixt in the couch it stood. Quick bounded up Th' indignant youth, and deep in Phineus' breast, Had plung'd the point returning, but he shrunk Behind an altar; which, O shame! preserv'd The impious villain. Yet not harmless sped The weapon;—full in Rhaetus' front it stuck; Who lifeless dropp'd; broke in the bone the steel; He spurn'd, and sprinkled all the feast with gore. Then rag'd with ire ungovern'd all the crowd, And hurl'd in showers their weapons; some fierce cry'd, Cepheus, no less than Perseus, death deserv'd. But Cepheus left the hall, adjuring loud, The hospitable gods; justice; and faith; That he was guiltless of the sanguine fray.
Minerva comes; her sheltering AEgis shields Her brother's body; in his breast she breathes Redoubled valor. Atys, Indian bred, Whom fair Limnate, Ganges' daughter, bore, 'Tis told, amid the waters' crystal caves, Scarce sixteen years had seen. His beauteous form, In gorgeous dress more beauteous still appear'd. A purple garment fring'd around with gold, Enwrapp'd him; round his neck were golden beads; And pins and combs of gold his lovely locks, With myrrh sweet-smelling, held. Well skill'd the youth To hurl the javelin to its distant mark; But more to bend the bow. Him Perseus smote, The flexile bow just bending, with a brand Snatch'd flaming from the altar; crush'd, his face A horrid mass of fractur'd bones appears. His beauteous features Lycabas beheld In blood convuls'd: his dearest comrade he, And one who proud his ardent love display'd. Griev'd to behold the last expiring breath, Of Atys parting from the furious wound, He seiz'd the bow the youth had bent, and cry'd;— "The battle try with me!—not long thy boast "Of conquest o'er a boy; a conquest more "By hate than fame attended." Railing thus, The piercing weapon darted from the string.
Now Phineus, fearful hand to hand to meet The foe, his javelin hurl'd, the point ill-aim'd On Idas glanc'd, who vainly kept aloof With neutral weapon. Phineus, stern he view'd, "With threatening frown, exclaiming;—"though no share "In this mad broil I took, now, Phineus, feel "The power of him whom thou hast forc'd a foe; "And take reciprocally wound for wound." Then from his side the weapon tore to hurl; But fast the life-stream gush'd, he instant fell. Here, by the sword of Clymenus was slain, Odites, noblest lord in Cepheus' court; Protenor fell by Hypseus; Hypseus sunk Beneath Lyncides' arm. Amid the throng Was old Emathion too, friend to the just, And fearer of the gods; though ancient years Forbade his wielding arms, what aid his words Could give, he spar'd not: curs'd the impious war, In loud upbraidings. As with trembling arms, He grasp'd the altar, Chromis' gory sword His neck divided; on the altar dropp'd The head; and there the trembling, dying tongue, Faint imprecations utter'd; 'midst the flames He breath'd his spirit forth. By Phineus' hand, Broteas and Ammon fell: the brother-twins Unconquer'd in the fight, the caestus shower'd; Could but the caestus make the falchion yield: But Perseus felt it not,—its point hung fixt Amidst his garments' folds. On him he turn'd, The falchion, glutted with Medusa's gore, And plung'd it in his breast. Dying, he looks Around, with eyes rolling in endless night, For Atys, and upon him drops: then pleas'd, Thus join'd in death, he seeks the shades below. Methion's son, Syenian Phorbas, now And fierce Amphimedon, in Lybia born, Rush in the fight to mingle; both fall prone, The slippery earth wide spread with smoking blood. The sword attacks them rising; in his throat Phorbas receives it, and the other's side. But Erythis, of Actor born, whd rear'd An axe tremendous, not the waving sword Of Perseus meets: a cup of massive bulk, With both his hands high-heaving, fierce he hurls Full on his foe: he vomits gory floods; Falls back, and strikes with dying head the earth. Then Polydaemon falls, sprung from the blood Of queen Semiramis; Lycetes brave, The son of Spercheus; Abaris, who dwelt On frozen Caucasus; and Helicen With unshorn tresses; Phlegias; Clitus too; Those with the rest beneath his weapon fall; And on the rising heaps of dead he stands. And fell Ampycus; Ceres' sacred priest, His temples with a snow-white fillet bound. Thou, O, Japetides! whose string to sound Such discord knew not; but whose harp still tun'd, The works of peace, in concord with thy voice; Wast bidden here to celebrate the feast: And cheer the nuptial banquet with thy song! Him, when at distance Pettalus beheld, Handling his peaceful instrument, he cry'd In mocking laughter;—"go, and end thy song, "Amid the Stygian ghosts,"—and instant plung'd Through his left temple, his too deadly sword. Sinking, his dying fingers caught the strings, And, chance-directed, gave a mournful sound. Not long the fierce Lycormas saw his fall Without revenge: a massy bar of oak From the right gate he tore, and on the bones Behind the neck, the furious blow was aim'd: Prone on the earth, like a crush'd ox he fell. Pelates of Cinypheus, strove to rend A like strong fastening from th' opposing door; The dart of Corythus his tugging hand Transfix'd, and nail'd him to the wood confin'd: Here Abas, with his spear, deep pierc'd his side: Nor dying fell he;—by the hand retain'd, Firm to the post he hung. Melaneus fell. The arms of Perseus aiding; Dorilas, The wealthiest lord in Nasamonia's land, Fell too beside him: rich was he in fields; In wide extent no lands with his could vie; Nor equal his in hoarded heaps of grain. Obliquely in his groin, the missive spear Stuck deep,—a mortal spot: his Bactrian foe His rolling eyes beheld, and dying breath In sobs convulsive flitting, and exclaim'd;— "This spot thou pressest, now of all thy lands, "Possess,"—and turning left the lifeless corse. Avenging Perseus hurls at him the spear, Torn from the smoking wound; the point, receiv'd Full in the nostrils, pierces through the neck: Before, behind, expos'd the weapon stands.
Now fortune aids his blows, the brother pair, Clanis, and Clytius fall, by different wounds. Hurl'd by his nervous arm, the ashen spear Transfix'd the thighs of Clytius: Clanis dy'd Biting the steel that pierc'd his mouth. Now fell Mendesian Celadon; and Astreus borne By Hebrew mother, to a doubtful sire. Now dy'd Ethion, once deep skill'd to see The future fates; now by his skill deceiv'd. Thoactes, who the monarch's armor bore; And base Agyrtes, murderer of his sire. Crowds though he conquers, thickening crowds remain; For all united wage on him the war. In every quarter fight the press, conspir'd To aid a cause to worth and faith oppos'd. The sire, with useless piety,—the queen, And new-made bride, the hero's party take; And fill the hall with screams. The clang of arms, And groans of dying men their screamings drown. The houshold deities, polluted once, The fierce Bellona bathes with gore again; With double fury lighting up the war.
Now Phineus, followed by a furious throng Surrounds him single; thicker fly their darts Than wintry hail, on every side; his sight They cloud, and deafening, whiz his ears around. By crowds opprest, retreating, Perseus leans His shoulders 'gainst a massive pillar's height; And, safe behind, dares all the furious fight. Chaonian Molpeus rushes on his left; Ethemon, Nabathaean, on his right: Thus a fierce tiger, urg'd by famine, hears Combin'd the lowings of two different herds, Far distant in the vale; in doubt he stands, On this, or that to rush; and furious burns On both at once to thunder. Perseus so, To left and right inclin'd at once to bear, Plerc'd first the thigh of Molpeus,—straight he fled Unfollow'd; for Ethemon fiercely press'd. He, furious aiming at the hero's neck, With ill-directed strength, his weapon broke Against a column;—back the shiver'd point Sprung, and his throat transfix'd: slight was the wound; To doom to death unable. Perseus plung'd His mortal falchion, as the trembling wretch His helpless arms extended, in his breast. But now his valor Perseus found oppress'd By crowds unequal, and aloud exclaim'd;— "Since thus you force me, from my very foe "More aid I'll ask;—my friends avert your eyes!" Then shew'd the Gorgon's head. "Go, elsewhere seek," Said Thescelus,—"for those such sights may move:"— The deadly javelin poising in his hand, In act to throw, a marble form he stands, In the same posture. Near him Ampyx rear'd, Against the brave Lyncides' breast his sword; His uprais'd hand was harden'd; here, or there, To wave unable. Nileus now display'd Seven argent streams upon a shield of gold; False boasting offspring from the seven-mouth'd Nile; And cry'd;—"Lo! Perseus, whence my race deriv'd; "Down to the silent shades this solace bear "By such a hand to die." The final words Were lost; his sounding voice abrupt was stay'd; His open'd mouth still seem'd the words to form, Incapable to utter. Eryx storm'd At these, exclaiming;—-"not the Gorgon's hairs "Freeze ye, but your own trembling, dastard souls: "Rush forth with me, and on the earth lay low, "The youth who battles thus with magic arms." Fierce had he rush'd, but firmly fixt his feet Held him to earth, a rigid, fasten'd stone; A statue arm'd. These well their fate deserv'd, But one, Aconteus, while in aid he fought Of Perseus, sudden stood to stone congeal'd; As star'd the Gorgon luckless in his face. Him saw Astyages, but thought he liv'd; And fierce attack'd him with a mighty sword. Shrill tinkling sounds the blow: astonish'd stands Astyages;—astonish'd seems the stone; For while he stares, he too to marble turns. Long were the tale, of each plebeian death To tell; two hundred still unhurt remain; By Gorgon's head two hundred stiffen'd stand: When Phineus seems the strife unjust to mourn. But what to act remains? Around him crowd, The forms of numerous friends: his friends he knows, Their aid intreats, and calls on each by name: Still doubting, seizes those his grasp can reach And finds them stone! Averse he turns his eyes; Raises his conscious arms and hands oblique, And suppliant begs;—"go Perseus,—conqueror, go! "Remove that dreadful monster,—bear away "That stone-creating visage, Gorgon's head! "Whate'er it be, I pray thee bear it hence. "Nor hate, nor lust of empire, rais'd our arms "Against thee;—for my wife alone we warr'd. "Thy cause, by merit best; mine, but by time. "Bravest of men, me much it grieves I e'er, "Thy claim oppos'd: existence only give, "All else be thine." To him, as thus he begg'd, Fearing his eyes, to whom he suppliant spoke To turn;—"thou dastard, Phineus!" Perseus cry'd,— "What I can grant, I will; and what I grant "To souls like thine a mighty boon must seem. "Dispel thy terror; rest from steel secure. "Yet must a during monument remain, "Still in the dwelling of my spouse's sire, "Conspicuous. So my bride may daily see "Her imag'd husband." Speaking thus, he held The Gorgon's head, where pallid, Phineus turn'd; So turning stiffen'd stood the neck; so turn'd Appear'd th' inverted eyes; the humid balls To stone concreted. Still the timid look, And suppliant face, and tame-petitioning arms, And guilty awe-struck look, in stone remain'd.
Now victor, Abantiades re-seeks His soil paternal, with his well-earn'd bride: And in his undeserving grandsire's aid, Avenging war on Proetus he declares. Proetus then all Acrisius' cities held; From each possession forc'd, his brother fled. But arms, and battled towns, like ill-possess'd, The head snake-curl'd, oblig'd at once to stoop. Yet not the youth's bold valor, amply prov'd, By all his brave atchievements; nor his toils Thee, Polydectes, mov'd; who rul'd the isle, The paltry isle, Seriphus; stubborn still, Inexorable hatred thou maintain'st: Endless against him burns thy rage unjust. Nay, from his true deserts, thou would'st detract; And swear'st Medusa's death a fiction form'd. Then Perseus;—"thus if true I speak, or no, "Experience. Close, my friends, your eyes!"—as forth, He held the Gorgon;—bloodless stood the face Of Polydectes, turn'd a marble form.
Thus far, Minerva aided side by side, Her brother golden-born; then swiftly flew, Wrapt in a cloud opaque; and distant left Seriphus. On she flies, to right she leaves Cythnos, and Gyaros; and cross the main The shortest route she hastens; speeds to Thebes, And seeks the Heliconian nymphs, whose mount Alighting feels her first: the learned nine, Thus she bespeaks;—"fame tells, a new-made spring, "Burst from a blow the swift-wing'd horse's hoof "Inflicted; lo! the cause I hither come. "That steed I saw spring from his mother's blood: "Fain would I this new prodigy behold." Urania gave reply. "O, maid divine! "What cause soe'er has with thy presence grac'd. "Our dwelling, proves to us a grateful boon. "Fame speaks not false. Our fountain surely sprung "Sole from Pegasus." Speaking thus, she leads The virgin goddess to the sacred streams: Who long the spring admir'd;—the spring produc'd From the hoof's blow:—around surveying views The groves of ancient trees, the grots, the plants Of ever-vary'd tint; and happy calls The learned nymphs, who such a spot possess'd. Then thus a sister;—"O, divinest maid! "Our choir to join most worthy, did not aims "Of loftier import tempt thy warlike soul, "Right hast thou spoke; our habitation well, "And well our arts thy highest praises claim. "Blest were our lot, if still from danger free: "But nought a villain's daring power restrains, "And terror soon our virgin minds appals. "Ev'n now the dread Pyreneus to my eyes "Stands present: to its wonted calm not yet "Restor'd my mind. With furious Thracian bands "Daulis he conquer'd, and the Phocian fields; "And held the sway unjust. Parnassus' fane "We sought; th' usurper there beheld us pass, "And feigning reverence for our power divine "Worshipp'd, and then address'd us, whom he knew. "Here, O! ye Muses, rest, nor dubious stand "But straight beneath my sheltering roof avoid "The cloudy heaven, and rain (for fast it shower'd) "Oft mighty deities have enter'd roofs "Less pompous.—By his invitation urg'd, "And by the tempest, we accede and step "Within the hall. The pelting showers now ceas'd, "Auster by Boreas vanquish'd; fled the clouds "Black lowering, and the face of heaven left clear: "Anxious we wish to go: Pyreneus fast "His dwelling closes, and rough force prepares: "Wings we assume, and from his force escape. "He, standing on the loftiest turret's top, "Like us his flight about to wing, exclaims— "A path you lead, that path will I pursue. "Then madly from the tower's most lofty wall, "Dash'd on his face he fell, and dying strew'd "His shatter'd bones upon the blood-stain'd ground."
As spoke the muse thus, loud and strong was heard, Of fluttering pinions in the air the sound; And hailing voices from high branches came. Jove's daughter then around enquiring look'd (The sounds she hears, so like the human voice, From human voice she deems them) birds the sound Emitted: magpies were they;—magpies nine: Their doom lamenting, on the boughs they sate, Aping in voice their neighbours all around. Then to the wondering goddess, thus the muse Explain'd: "These vanquish'd in the arduous strife "Of song, to us submitting, swell the crowd "Of feather'd fliers. In Pellenian lands "Most rich was Pierus their sire; to him "Evippe of Paeonia bore the nymphs; "Nine times invoking great Lucina's aid. "Vain of their number, proud the sister-crew, "In folly journey'd through Thessalia's towns, "And through the towns of Greece; when here arriv'd "Thus to the test of power their words provoke:— "At length desist to cheat the senseless crowd "With harmony pretended, Thespian maids! "With us contend, if faith your talents give "For such a trial. Ye in voice and skill "Surpass us not,—our numbers are the same. "If vanquish'd, yield the Medusaean fount, "And Hyantean Aganippe,—we "If conquer'd, all Emanthaea's regions cede, "Far as Paeonia's snows. The nymphs around "The contest shall decide. Deep shame we felt "Thus to contend, but deeper shame appear'd "To yield without contention to their boast. "The nymphs elected to adjudge the prize "Swear by the floods; and on the living rock "Seated, await to hear the rival songs.
"Then one, impatient who should first commence, "Or we, or they, arises;—sings the war "Of gods and giants; to the rebels gives "False praises; and the high celestials' power "Much under-rating, tells how Typhon, rais'd. "From earth's most deep recesses, struck with fear "All heaven: each god betook him straight to flight "Far distant, till th' Egyptian land receiv'd "Each weary'd foot, where Nile's dissever'd stream "Pours in seven mouths. How earth-born Typhon here, "They tell, pursu'd them; and each god, conceal'd "In feign'd resemblance, cheated there his power. "Jove, (so she sung) a leading ram became; "(Whence still the Lybians form their Ammon horn'd) "The crow Apollo hid: a goat the son "Of Semele became: Diana skulk'd "In shape a cat: a snow-white cow conceal'd "The form of Juno: Venus seem'd a fish: "And 'neath an Ibis Hermes safely crouch'd.
"Thus far she mov'd her vocal lips; thus far "Her lyre her voice attended: then they call "For our Aoenian song. But that to hear, "Perchance your leisure suits not; pressing deeds "Unlike our songs must more your time demand." Pallas replies;—"be hesitation far, "And all your song from first commence relate." So saying, in the forest's pleasing shade She rested; while the Muse proceeding, spoke.
"To one the sole contending task we give, "Calliope;—she rises, neatly bound, "Her flowing tresses with an ivy wreath. "With dexterous thumb the trembling strings she tries, "Then to their quivering sounds this song subjoins. "Ceres at first with crooked plough upturn'd "The glebe; she first mild fruits and milder corn "Gave to the earth; and rules to tend them gave: "All gifts from her proceed. To her the song "I raise. Would that my best exerted power, "A song to suit thy least deserts could form, "O, goddess! worthy of our loftiest praise.
"The vast Sicilian isle, with pressure huge "Thrown o'er them, deep the limbs gigantic weighs "Of huge Typhoeus, who the heavenly throne "Had dar'd to hope for: struggling oft he tries, "His efforts, daily bent to lift his load: "But hard Pelorus on his right hand lies, "Ausonia facing; while Pachyne rests "Heavy to left: wide o'er his giant thighs "Spreads Lilyboeum: Etna presses down "His head; beneath whose crater, laid supine, "From his hot mouth he ashes sends, and flames. "Thus with his body labouring to remove "The ponderous load of earth;—whole towns o'erwhelm; "And lofty hills o'erturn; trembles the ground; "And Hell's dread monarch fears a chasm should gape: "And through the opening wide his realm display: "The trembling ghosts with light un'custom'd scar'd. "The shock to meet expecting, starts the king "Quick from his cloudy throne; and in his car "Borne by his sable steeds, with care surveys "Sicilia's deep foundations; wide around "Exploring all; then with his toils content, "No ruin'd part detected, flings aside "Each apprehension. Strolling now at ease, "Him Venus from the Erycinian hill "Espy'd; and to her feather'd son, who lay "Clasp'd in her arms, exclaim'd;—O, Cupid! son! "My sole assistant! sole defence and aid! "Seize now that weapon which o'er all has sway, "That piercing dart,—and deep within the breast "Of the dark god whose lot was given to rule "The nether regions of the triple realm, "Bury it. All the gods thy might confess; "Ev'n Jove himself. The ocean powers allow "Thy rule, and he whom Ocean's powers obey. "Why then should Tartarus alone evade "Thy thrall? Why not my empire and thine own "With that complete? Of all the world's extent "A third is stak'd. Nay more, our utmost power, "Heaven our own seat contemns;—thy potent sway, "And mine alike impair'd. Behold'st thou not "Minerva, with the quiver-bearing maid "Deserting me? Thus will the blooming child "Of Ceres, if we grant it, still remain "Inviolate a virgin;—thither tend "Her anxious hopes. But thou, if dear thou hold'st "Our mutual realm, the virgin goddess link "In union with her uncle.—Venus spoke: "His quiver he unlooses; from the heap "Of darts, by her directed, one selects, "Than which none bore a keener point; than which, "None flew more certain,—trusty to the string. "Bends to his knee the yielding horn, then sends "Through Pluto's heart the bearded arrow sure. "Not far from Enna's walls, a lake expands "Profound in watery stores, Pergusa nam'd: "Not ev'n Caisters' murmuring stream e'er heard "The songster-swans more frequent. Woods o'ertop "The waters, rising round on every side; "And veil from Phoebus' rays the surface cool. "A shade the branches form; the moist earth round, "Produces purple flowers: perpetual spring "Here reigns. While straying sportive in this grove "Here Proserpine the violet cropp'd, and here "The lily fair; with childish ardor warm'd "Her bosom filling, and her basket high: "Proud to surpass her comrades all around "In skilful culling, she herself was seen; "Was chosen, and by Dis was snatch'd away. "Love urg'd him to the deed. Th' affrighted maid, "Loud on her mother, and her comrades call'd; "But chief her mother, with lamenting shrieks. "Then as her robe she rent, the well-cull'd flowers "Slipp'd through the loosen'd folds: e'en this (so great "Her girlish innocence) her tears increas'd. "Swiftly the robber speeds his car along "Urging his steeds' exertions each by name; "'Bove their high manes and necks the rusty reins "Rattling, as o'er the wide Palician lake, "Where the cleft earth with sulphur boils, he whirls: "And where the Bacchiads, from the double sea "Of Corinth wandering, rais'd their lofty walls; "'Twixt two unequal havens. Midst, the stream, "Pisaean Arethusa, and the lake "Of Cyane are seen, close round embrac'd "By narrowing horns. This Cyane was once, "Of all Sicilia's nymphs, the fairest deem'd; "Who gave the lake her name. She to the waist "Uprais'd, amidst the waters stood, and knew "The god, and,—here thy speed must stay,—exclaim'd; "Nor e'er of Ceres hope the son-in-law "'Gainst her consent to be: beseechings bland, "Not rugged rape, thy purpos'd hope might gain. "If lofty things with low I durst compare, "Anapis lov'd me; but the nuptial couch, "I press'd, entreated,—not as thus in dread. "She said;—her arms extended wide, and stopp'd "His course. The angry son of Saturn flames "Swelling with rage; exhorts his furious steeds; "Throws with a forceful arm, and buries deep "His regal sceptre in the lowest gulph: "Wide gapes the stricken earth; an opening gives "To hell, and headlong down, the car descends.
Now equal Cyane the goddess mourns, "So forc'd; and her own sacred stream despis'd; "A cureless wound her silent breast contains; "And all in tears she wastes: lost in those waves, "Where lately sovereign goddess she had rul'd. "Soft grow her limbs, and flexile seem her bones; "Her nails their hardness lose. The tenderest parts. "Melt into water long before the rest: "Her tresses green; her fingers, legs, and feet. "Quickly this change the smaller limbs perceive, "To cooling rills transform'd. Next after these, "Her back, her shoulders, breasts, and sides dissolve, "And vanish all in streams. A limpid flood "Now fills the veins that once in purple flow'd; "Nought of the nymph to fill the grasp remains.
"Meantime the trembling mother through the earth, "And o'er the main, the goddess vainly sought. "Aurora rising, with her locks of gold; "Nor Hesper sinking, saw her labors cease. "With either hand at Etna's flaming mouth, "A torch she lighted, restless these she bore "In dewy darkness. Then renew'd again "Her labor, till fair day made blunt the stars; "From Sol's first rising till his evening fall. "Weary'd at length, and parch'd with thirst,—no stream "Her lips to moisten nigh, by chance she spy'd "A straw-thatch'd cot, and knock'd the humble door. "An ancient dame thence stepp'd,—the goddess saw, "And brought her, (who for water simply crav'd) "A pleasing draught where roasted grain had boil'd. "Swallowing the gift presented, rudely came "A brazen-fronted boy, and facing stood: "Then laughing mock'd to see her greedy drink. "Angry grew Ceres, all the offer'd draught, "Yet unconsum'd, she drench'd him as he jeer'd, "With barley mixt with liquid: straight his face "The spots imbib'd; and what but now as arms "He bore, as legs he carries; to his limbs "Thus chang'd, a tail is added; shrunk in size, "Small is his power to harm; shorter he seems "Than the small lizard. Swift away he fled "(As, wondering, weeping, try'd the dame to clasp "His changing form) and gain'd a sheltering hole. "Well suits his star-like skin the name he bears.
"Long were the tale to tell, what tracts of land "What tracts of sea, the wandering goddess pass'd. "Earth now no spot unsearch'd affording, back "To Sicily she turns; with close research "Each part exploring, till at length she comes "To Cyane; who all the tale had told "If still unchang'd: much as she wish'd to speak "Nor lips, nor tongue can aid her; nought remains "Speech to afford. Yet plain a sign she gives, "The zone of Proserpine upon her waves "Light floating; in the sacred stream it fell;— "Dropt as she pass'd the place. Well Ceres knew "The sight, and then—as then her loss first known, "Tore her dishevell'd tresses, beat her breast "With blows on blows redoubled. Still unknown "The spot that holds her, every part of earth "Blaming, ungrateful, worthless of her fruits. "But chief Trinacria, in whose isle was found "The vestige of her loss. For this she breaks "With furious hand the glebe up-turning plough: "And angry, to an equal death she dooms, "The tiller and his ox: forbids the fields "Back to return th' entrusted grain; the seeds "All rotting. Now that fertile land, renown'd "Through the wide earth, lies useless; all the grain "Dies in the earliest shoots: now scorching rays; "Now floods of rain destroy it: noxious stars "Now harm; now blighting winds: and hungry birds "The scatter'd seed devour: the darnel springs, "The thistle, and the knot-grass thick, which choke "The sprouting wheat, and make the harvest void.
"Now Arethusa from th' Eleian waves "Exalts her head; her dropping tresses flung "Back from her forehead, parting shade her ears: "And thus;—O goddess! mother of the maid, "So sought through earth, mother of all earth's fruits! "Cease now thy toilsome labor; cease thine ire, "Against the land that prov'd to thee so true: "Thine ire unmerited; unwilling she, "Op'd for the spoil a passage. Hither I "No suppliant for my native isle approach; "An alien here sojourning. Pisa's land "My country; there near Elis first I sprung: "A stranger now in Sicily I dwell. "This soil, more grateful far than is my own; "This soil, where I my houshold gods have plac'd; "I, Arethusa, and have fix'd my seat, "Preserve, mild goddess! Why I chang'd my land, "Why to Ortygia, through the wide waves borne, "I came, a more appropriate hour will ask; "When you, from care reliev'd, can grant your ear "With brow unclouded. Through the opening earth "I flow; and borne through subterraneous depths, "Here lift again my head, again behold "The long-lost stars. Hence was my lot to see, "As pass'd my stream close by the Stygian gulph, "Your Proserpine;—sad still her face appear'd, "Nor fear had wholly left it. Yet she reigns "A queen; the mightiest in the realm of shade, "The powerful consort of th' infernal king.
"Like marble at the words the mother stands, "Stupid with grief; and long astounded seems: "Sorrow by heavier sorrow now surpass'd. "Then in her chariot mounts th' ethereal sky, "And stands indignant at th' imperial throne; "Her locks wild flowing, and her face in clouds. "Lo! here a suppliant, Jove,—she cry'd,—I come, "To beg for her, my daughter and thine own; "For if no favor may the mother find, "The daughter's claim may move. Let not thy child "Deserve thy care the less, as born of me. "Lo! my lost maid, so long, so vainly sought "At length is found; if finding we may call "A surer loss; if finding we may call "The knowledge where she is. Her ravish'd charms "I'll pardon; let him but my child restore. "What though a robber might my daughter wed, "Thine sure is worthy of a different mate! "Then Jove;—our daughter, our dear mutual pledge, "As yours, so mine, demands our mutual care. "But rightly still affairs if we design, "What you lament will no injustice prove; "Love only. Sure, a son-in-law like him, "Can ne'er degrade, will you consent but yield. "Grant nought beyond,—'tis no such trivial boast, "Jove's brother to be call'd! How then, if more "I claim pre-eminence from chance alone! "Still, if so obstinate your wish remains "For separation, go,—let Proserpine "To heaven return, on this condition strict, "Her lips no food have touch'd. So will the fates. "He ceas'd.—Glad Ceres, certain to regain "Her daughter, knew not what the fates forbade. "Her fast was broken; thoughtless as she stray'd "Around the garden, from a bending tree "She pluck'd a fair pomegranate, and seven seeds "From the pale rind she pick'd, and ate. None saw "Save one, Ascalaphus, the luckless deed; "Whom Orphne, fam'd Avernus' nymphs among, "To Acheron, long since, 'tis said, produc'd "Beneath a dusky cave. He, cruel, told; "And his discovery stay'd the hop'd return.
"Much wept the queen of Pluto, but she chang'd "The vile informer to an hideous shape: "Sprinkled with streams of Phlegethon, his head "Feather'd appears, with beak, and monstrous eyes; "Spoil'd of his shape, with yellow feathers cloth'd: "Large grows his head; bent are his lengthen'd nails; "Scarcely he moves the pinions which are shot "Light from his lazy arms. A filthy bird "Becoming;—constant presager of woe; "An owl inactive; omen dire to man.
"Well he by his informing tongue deserv'd, "His doom, but Acheloides, from whence "Your wings, and bird-like feet, whilst still you bear "Your virgin features? Was it that you mix'd, "When Proserpine the vernal flowers would cull, "Amidst her numerous train? The nymph you sought "Through earth's extent in vain; that ocean too "Your anxious search might scape not, straight you pray'd "For waving wings to winnow o'er the deep; "And favouring gods you found. Of golden hue "Quick-shooting wings your arms you saw bespread; "But lest your inbred song, which every ear "Had charm'd; and lest your highly-gifted voice, "Your tongue should fail to use;—a virgin face, "And speech yet human are indulg'd you still.
"Now Jove as umpire 'twixt the angry pair "His mourning sister, and his brother, bids "The year revolving either side oblige: "Now will the goddess, mutual in each realm, "Six months with Ceres dwell in heaven; and six "Reign with her spouse in hell. Straight were perceiv'd "The goddess' countenance, and demeanour chang'd. "For now her forehead, which had still retain'd, "(To Pluto even) a sad and sorrowing gloom, "Gladden'd: so Phoebus long in cloudy shade "Envelop'd, shines, their umbrous veil dispers'd. "Now Ceres calm, her daughter safe regain'd, "Enquires:—O Arethusa! say the cause, "Which hither brought thee; why a sacred fount? "Hush'd were the waves; and from the lowest depths "The goddess rais'd her head; and as she told, "The old amours the flood of Elis knew, "Press'd out the water from her tresses green.
"Once with the nymphs, that on Achaia's hills "Rove, was I seen; none closer beat than I "The thickets; none than I more skilful spread "Th' ensnaring net. Yet though no fame I sought "For beauty; though robust, I bore the name "Of beauteous. Whilst the constant theme of praise, "My features fair, to me no pleasure gave; "What other nymphs inspire with joyful pride, "Corporeal charms, did but my blushes raise. "To please I thought a crime. Once tir'd with sport, "The Stymphalidian forest I had left: "Warm was the day; I with redoubled heat, "Glow'd from my toil. A gliding stream I found "By ripplings undisturb'd; silent and smooth "It flow'd; so clear, that every stone was seen "On the deep bottom; gently crept the waves; "To creep scarce seeming; o'er the shelving banks "The stream-fed poplar, and the willow hoar, "A grateful shadow cast. The brink I reach'd "Dipp'd first my feet, then waded to my knee; "Not yet content, I loos'd my zone, and hung "Upon a bending osier my soft robe: "Then naked plung'd amid the stream; the waves "Beating, and sporting in a thousand shapes; "My arms around in every posture flung; "A strange unusual murmur seem'd to sound, "Deep from the bottom; terror-struck I gain'd "The nearest brink;—when,—whither dost thou fly? "O, Arethusa? whither dost thou fly? "Alphaeus, from his waters, hoarse exclaim'd! "Vestless I fled, for on th' opposing bank "My garment hung. Fiercer the god pursu'd; "Fiercer he burn'd, all naked as I ran: "Prepar'd more ready for his force I seem'd. "Such was my flight, and such was his pursuit; "As when on trembling wings, before the hawk "Fly the mild doves: as when the hawk fierce drives "The trembling doves before him. Long the chase "I bore; Orchomenus, and Psophis soon "I pass'd, and pass'd Cyllene, and the caves "Of Maenalus, and Erymanthus' frosts, "To Elis, ere his speed could cope with mine. "In strength unequal, I sustain'd no more "The toilsome race; he stouter flagg'd less soon. "But still o'er plains I ran; o'er mountains thick "With forests clad; o'er stones, and rugged rocks; "And pathless spots. Behind me Phoebus shone. "I saw, if fear deceiv'd me not, far spread "His shade before me. What could less deceive, "I heard his footsteps; and his breath full strong "Blew on my banded tresses. Weary'd, faint "With the long flight, I cry'd;—Dictynna, chaste! "Lost am I,—help a quiver-bearing nymph, "One who thy bow has oft entrusted borne; "And oft thy quiver, loaded full with darts. "Mov'd was the goddess; from the darkest clouds "She one selected, and around me threw. "The river-god, about the misty veil "Pry'd anxious; and unwitting deeply grop'd "Within the hollow cloud! Unconscious, twice "The spot he compass'd, where Diana thought "My safety surest; twice he then aloud "Ho! Arethusa,—Arethusa! call'd:— "What terror seiz'd my soul! not less the dread "Of lambs, when round the sheltering fold they hear "The wolves loud howling: or the trembling hare "Close in a bramble hid, who sees approach "The wide-mouth'd, hostile hounds, and fears to move. "Further he pass'd not, for beyond the place "No footsteps he discern'd, but guarding watch'd "Around the mist. So closely thus besieg'd, "My limbs a cold sweat seiz'd; cerulean drops "Fell from my body; when my feet I mov'd, "A pool remain'd; fast dropp'd my hair in dew; "And speedier than the wonderous tale I tell, "Chang'd to a stream I flow'd. But soon the god, "Knew his lov'd waters; laid the man aside, "And straight assum'd his proper watery form; "With mine to mingle. Dian' cleft the ground; "Sinking, through caverns dark I held my way; "And reach'd Ortygia, from the goddess nam'd; "There first ascending view'd the upper skies.
"Here Arethusa ceas'd. Then Ceres yokes "The coupled dragons to her car, their mouths "Curb'd by the reins; and through the air is borne, "Midway 'twixt heaven and earth. At Pallas' town "Arriv'd, Triptolemus the car ascends, "By her commission'd;—bade to spread the seed "Entrusted: part on ground untill'd before; "And part on land which long had fallow laid. "O'er Europe now, and Asia's lands, the youth "Sublimely sails, and reaches Scythia's clime, "Where Lyncus rul'd. Beneath the monarch's roof, "Here enter'd; and to him, who curious sought "How there he journey'd; what his journey's cause; "His name, and country; thus the youth reply'd.— "Athens the fam'd, my country; and my name "Triptolemus: but neither o'er the main, "Borne in a ship, nor travelling slow by land, "I hither came; my path was through the air. "I bring the gift of Ceres; scatter'd wide "Through all your spacious fields, quickly restor'd "In fruitful crops the wholesome food will spring. "The barbarous monarch, envious he should bear "So great a blessing, takes him for his guest, "And when with sleep weigh'd down attacks him. Rais'd "To pierce his bosom, was the sword;—just then "The wretch, by Ceres, to a lynx was turn'd. "Then mounts again the youth, and through the air "Bids him once more the sacred dragons steer.
"Our chosen champion ended here her lays, "And all the nymphs unanimous, exclaim'd;— "The Heliconian goddesses have gain'd. "Vanquish'd, the others rail'd. When she resum'd:— "Is not your punishment enough deserv'd? "Foil'd in the contest, must you swell your crime, "With base revilings? Patient now no more, "To punish we begin; what anger bids, "We now perform.—Loud laugh'd the scornful maids, "Our threatening words despis'd, and strove to speak, "And clapp'd with outcries menacing, their hands. "When from their fingers shooting plumes they spy; "And feathers shade their arms; her sister's face, "Each sees to harden in an horny beak; "To beat their bosoms trying with rais'd arms, "In air suspended, on those arms they move; "The new-shap'd birds the sylvan tribes increase: "Magpies, the scandal of the grove. Thus chang'd, "Their former eloquence they still maintain, "In hoarse garrulity, and empty noise."
*The Sixth Book.*
Trial of skill betwixt Pallas and Arachne. Transformation of Arachne to a spider. Pride of Niobe. Her children slain by Apollo and Diana. Her change to marble. The Lycian peasants changed to frogs. Fate of Marsyas. Pelops. Story of Tereus, Procne, and Philomela. Their change to birds. Boreas and Orithyia. Birth of Zethes and Calais.
THE *Sixth Book* OF THE METAMORPHOSES OF OVID.
Minerva pleas'd attention to the muse, While thus she spoke afforded; prais'd the song, And prais'd the just resentment of the maids. Then to herself;—"the vengeance others take, "Merely to praise were mean. I too should claim "Like praise, for like revenge; nor longer bear "My power contemn'd, by who unpunish'd live." And on Arachne, fair Maeoenian maid, She turns her vengeful mind; whose skill she heard Rivall'd her own in labors of the loom. No fame her natal town, no fame her sire On her bestow'd; her skill conferr'd renown. Idmon of Colophon, her humble sire Soak'd in the Phocian dye the spongy wool. Her mother, late deceas'd, from lowest stock, Had sprung; and wedded with an equal mate. Yet had she gain'd through all the Lydian towns For skill a mighty fame. Though born so low, Though small Hypaepe was her sole abode, Oft would the nymphs the vine-clad Tmolus leave To view her wonderous work. Oft would the nymphs In admiration quit Pactolus' waves. Nor pleasure only gave the finish'd robe, When view'd; but while she work'd she gave delight; Such comely grace in every turn appear'd. Whether she rounded into balls the wool; Or with her fingers mollify'd the fleece; And comb'd it floating light in cloudy waves; Or her smooth spindle twirl'd with agile thumb; Or with her needle painted: plain was seen Her skill from Pallas learnt. This to concede Unwilling, she ev'n such a tutor scorn'd Exclaiming:—"come let her the contest try; "If vanquish'd, let her fix my well-earn'd fate."
Pallas, an ancient matron's form conceals; Grey hairs thin strew her temples, and a staff Supports her tottering limbs; while thus she speaks:— "Old age though little priz'd, much good attends; "Experience always grows with lengthen'd years: "Spurn not my admonition. Great thy fame, "Midst mortals, for the wonders of the loom. "Great may it be, but to immortals yield: "Bold nymph retract, and pardon for thy words, "With suppliant voice require; Pallas will grant." Sternly the damsel views her; quits the threads Unfinish'd; scarce her hand from force restrains: And rage in all her features flushing fierce, Thus to the goddess, well-disguis'd, she speaks:— "Weak dotard, spent with too great gift of years, "Curst with too long existence, hence, begone! "Such admonition to thy daughters give, "If daughters hast thou; or thy sons have wives: "Enough for me my inbred wisdom serves. "Hope not, that ought thy vain advice has sway'd "My purpose; still my challenge holds the same. "Why comes your goddess not? why shuns she still "The trying contest?" Then the goddess,—"Lo! "She comes,"—and flung her aged form aside, Minerva's form displaying. Every nymph, And every dame Mygdonian, lowly bent In veneration. While Arachne sole Stood stedfast, unalarm'd; but yet she blush'd. A sudden flush her angry face deep ting'd, But sudden faded pale. A ruddy glow Thus teints the early sky, when first the morn Arises; quickly from the solar ray Paling to brightness. On her purpos'd boast Still stubborn bent, she obstinately courts Her sure destruction, for the empty hope Of conquest in the strife so madly urg'd. No more Jove's maid refuses, gives no more Her empty admonitions, nor delays The contest: each her station straight assumes, Tighten each web; each slender thread prepare. Firm to the beam the cloth is fix'd; the reed The warp divides, with pointed shuttle, swift Gliding between; which quick their fingers throw, Quick extricate, and with the toothy comb Firm press'd between the warp, the threads unite. Both hasten now; their garments round them girt, Their skilful hands they ply: their toil forgot In anxious wish for conquest. There appear'd, The wool of Tyrian dye, and softening teints Lost imperceptible. So seems the arch Coloring a spacious portion of the sky; Struck by the rays of Phoebus, when the showers Recede, a thousand varying tinges shine; The soft transition mocks the straining eye, So like the shades which join, though far distinct Their distant teints. In slender threads they twist The pliant gold, and in the web display, Each as she works, an ancient story fair. Minerva paints the rock of Mars so fam'd In Cecrops' city, and the well-known strife To name the town. Twice six celestials sate On their high thrones, great Jupiter around In gravity majestic; every god Bore his celestial features. Jove appear'd In royal dignity. The Ocean power Standing she pictur'd, with his trident huge Smiting the rugged rock; from the cleft stone Leap'd forth a steed; and thence the town to name The privilege he claim'd. Herself she paints Shielded, and arm'd with keenly-pointed spear. Helm'd was her head; her breast the AEgis bore. Struck by her spear, the earth a hoary tree She shews producing, loaded thick with fruit. The wondering gods the gift admire; the prize To her awarded, ends the glorious work.
More, that the daring rival of her art, Should learn experimental, what reward Her mad attempt might hope, four parts she adds; And every part a test of power presents: Bright the small figures in her colors shine. This angle Thracian Rhodope contains, With Haemus; both their mortal bodies now, To frozen mountains chang'd; whose lofty pride Assum'd the titles of celestial powers. Another corner held the wretched fate Felt by Pygmaea's matron; Juno bade Her vanquish'd rival soar aloft a crane; And on her people wage continual war. Antigone, she paints;—audacious she With Jove's imperial consort durst contend; By Jove's imperial queen she flits a bird: Nor aids her Ilium ought; nor aids her sire, Laoemedon;—upborne on snowy wings, A stork she rises; loud with chattering bill She noises. In the sole remaining part, Was childless Cynaras, in close embrace, Grasping the temple's steps, his daughters once; And as he lies extended on the stone, In marble seems to weep. Around the piece She spreads the peaceful olive: all complete Her work is ended with her favorite tree.
Arachne paints Europa, by a bull Deceiv'd; the god a real bull appears; And real seem the waves. She, backward turn'd, Views the receding shore, and seems to shriek Loud to her lost companions; seems to dread The dashing waves, and timid shrinks her feet. She draws Asteria, by the god o'er-power'd, Cloth'd in an eagle. Leda, fair she lays Beneath his wings, when he a swan appears. She adds how Jove beneath a Satyr's shape Conceal'd, the beauteous child of Nycteus fill'd, With a twin-offspring. In Amphytrion's form Alcmena, thou wert press'd. A golden shower Danae deceiv'd. A flame AEgina caught. A shepherd's shape Mnemosyne beguil'd. And fair Deoeis trusts a speckled snake. Thee, Neptune, too she painted, for the maid AEolian, to a threatening bull transform'd. Thou, as Enipeus, didst the Aloid twins Beget. Beneath the semblance of a ram, Theophane was cheated. Ceres mild, Of grain inventress, with her yellow locks, In shape a courser felt thy ardent love. Medusa, mother of the flying steed, Nymph of the snaky tresses, in a bird Conceal'd, you forc'd. Melantho in a fish. To these the damsel, all well-suiting forms Dispens'd, and all well-suiting scenes attend. And there Apollo in a herdsman's guise Wanders. And now he soars a plumy hawk: Now stalks a lordly lion. As a swain Macarean Isse, felt his amorous guile, Erigone to Bacchus' flame was dup'd Beneath a well-seem'd grape. Saturn produc'd The Centaur doubly-shap'd, in form a steed. Her web's extremes a slender border girt, Where flowery wreathes, and twining ivy blend.
Not Pallas,—not even envy's rankling soul Could blame the work. The bright immortal griev'd To view her rival's merit, angry tore The picture glowing with celestial crimes. A boxen shuttle, grasping in her hand, Thrice on the forehead of th' Idmonian maid She struck. No more Arachne, hapless bore, But twisted round her neck with desperate pride A cord. The deed Minerva pitying saw And check'd her rash suspension.—"Impious wretch! "Still live," she cry'd, "but still suspended hang; "Curs'd to futurity, for all thy race, "Thy sons and grandsons, to the latest day "Alike shall feel the sentence." Speaking thus, The juice of Hecat's baleful plant she throws: Instant besprinkled by the noxious drops, Her tresses fall; her nose and ears are lost; Her body shrinks; her head is lessen'd more; Her slender fingers root within her sides, Serving as legs; her belly forms the rest; From whence her thread she still derives and spins: Her art pursuing in the spider's shape.
All Lydia rung; the wonderous rumor spread Through every Phrygian town; the tale employ'd The tongues of all mankind. The nymph was known, Ere yet Amphion's nuptial bed she press'd, To Niobe. She, when a virgin dwelt In Lydian Sipylus. She still unmov'd, Arachne's neighboring fate not heeded, still Proudly refus'd before the gods to bend; And spoke in haughty boasting. Much her pride By favoring gifts was swol'n. Not the fine skill Amphion practis'd; not the lofty birth Each claim'd; not all their mighty kingdom's power, So rais'd her soul (of all though justly proud) As her bright offspring. Justly were she call'd Most blest of mothers; but her bliss too great Seem'd to herself, and caus'd a dread reverse.
Now Manto, sprung from old Tiresias, skill'd In future fate, impell'd by power divine, In every street with wild prophetic tongue Exclaim'd;—"Ye Theban matrons, haste in crowds, "Your incense offer, and your pious prayers, "To great Latona, and the heavenly twins, "Latona's offspring; all your temples bound "With laurel garlands. This the goddess bids; "Through me commands it." All of Thebes obey, And gird their foreheads with the order'd leaves; The incense burn, and with the sacred flames Their pious prayers ascend. Lo! 'midst a crowd Of nymphs attendant, far conspicuous seen; Comes Niobe, in gorgeous Phrygian robe, Inwrought with gold, attir'd. Beauteous her form, Beauteous, as rage permitted. Angry shook Her graceful head; and angry shook the locks That o'er each shoulder wav'd. Proudly she tower'd. Her haughty eyes, round from her lofty stand Wide darting, cry'd;—"What madness this to place "Reported gods above the gods you see! "Why to Latona's altars bend ye low, "Nor incense burn before my power divine? "My sire, was Tantalus: of mortals sole, "Celestial feasts he shar'd. A Pleiaed nymph "Me bore. My grandsire is the mighty king, "Whose shoulders all the load of heaven sustain. "Jove is my father's parent: him I boast "As sire-in-law too. All the Phrygian towns "Bend to my sway. The hall of Cadmus owns "Me sovereign mistress. Thebes' high towering walls, "Rais'd by my consort's lute; and all the crowd "Who dwell inclos'd, his rule and mine obey. "Where'er within my palace turn mine eyes, "Treasures immense I view. Brightness divine "I boast: to all seven blooming daughters add, "And seven fair sons; through whom I soon expect, "If Hymen favors, seven more sons to see, "And seven more daughters. Need ye further seek "Whence I have cause for boasting. Dare ye still "Latona, from Titanian Caeus sprung,— "The unknown Caeus,—she to whom all earth "In bearing pangs the smallest space deny'd:— "This wretch to my divinity prefer? "Not heaven your goddess would receive; not earth; "Not ocean: exil'd from the world, she weep'd, "Till Delos sorrowing,—wanderer like herself, "Exclaim'd;—thou dreary wanderest o'er the earth, "I, o'er the main;—and sympathizing thus, "A resting spot afforded. There become "Of two the mother, only—can she vie "With one whose womb, has sevenfold hers surpass'd? "Blest am I. Who can slightly e'er arraign "To happiness my claim? Blest will I still "Continue. Who my bliss can ever doubt? "Abundance guards its surety. Far beyond "The power of fortune is my lot uprais'd: "Snatch them in numbers from me, crowds more great "Must still remain. My happy state contemns "Even now, the threats of danger. Grant the power "Of fate this nation of my womb to thin,— "Of part depriv'd, impossible I shrink "To poor Latona's two. How scant remov'd "From mothers childless! Quit your rites;—quick haste "And tear those garlands from your flowing hair."
Aside the garlands thrown, and incomplete, The rites relinquish'd, what the Thebans could They gave: their whispering prayers the matron dame Address'd. With ire the angry goddess flam'd, And thus on Cynthus' lofty top bespoke Her double offspring:—"O, my children! see, "Your parent, proud your parent to be call'd,— "To no celestial yielding, save the queen "Of Jove supreme. Lo! doubted is my claim "To rites divine; and from the altars, burnt "To me from endless ages, driven, I go; "Save by my children succour'd. Nor this grief "Alone me irks, for Niobe me mocks!— "Her daring crime increasing, proud she sets "Her offspring far 'bove you. Me too she spurns,— "To her in number yielding; childless calls "My bed, and proves the impious stock which gave "Her tongue first utterance." More Latona felt Prepar'd to utter; more beseechings bland For her young offspring, when Apollo, cry'd: "Enough, desist to plain;—delay is long "Till vengeance." Dian' join'd him in his ire. Swift gliding down the sky, and veil'd in clouds, On Cadmus' roof they lighted. Wide was spread, A level plain, by constant hoofs well beat, The city's walls adjoining; crowding wheels, And coursers' feet the rolling dust upturn'd. Here of Amphion's offspring daily some Mount their fleet steeds; their trappings gaily press Of Tyrian dye: heavy with gold, the rens They guide. 'Mid these Ismenos, primal born Of Niobe, as round the circling course, His well-train'd steed he sped, and strenuous curb'd His foaming mouth,—loudly "Ah, me!" exclaim'd, As through his bosom deep the dart was driv'n: Dropp'd from his dying hands the slacken'd reins; Slowly, and sidelong from his courser's back He tumbled. Sipylus, gave uncheck'd scope To his, when through the empty air he heard, The rattling quiver sound: thus speeding clouds Beheld, the guider of the ruling helm, A threatening tempest fearing, looses wide His every sail to catch the lightest breeze. Loose flow'd his reins. Th' inevitable dart The flowing reins quick follow'd. Quivering shook, Fixt in his upper neck, the naked steel, Far through his throat protruding. Prone he fell O'er his high courser's head; his smoking gore, The ground defiling. Hapless Phoedimas, And Tantalus, his grandsire's name who bore, Their 'custom'd sport laborious ended, strove With youthful vigor in the wrestling toil. Now breast to breast they strain'd with nervous grasp, When the swift arrow from the bended horn, Both bodies pierc'd, as close both bodies join'd; At once they groan'd; at once their limbs they threw, With agonies convuls'd, prone on the earth; At once their rolling eyes the light forsook; At once their souls were yielded forth to air. Alphenor saw, and smote his grieving breast; Flew to their pallid limbs, and as he rais'd, Their bodies, in the pious office fell: For Phoebus drove his fate-wing'd arrow deep Through what his heart inclos'd. Sudden withdrawn, On the barb'd head the mangled lungs were stuck; And high in air his soul gush'd forth in blood. But beardless Damasichthon, by a wound Not single fell, as those; struck where the leg To form begins, and where the nervous ham A yielding joint supplies. The deadly dart To draw essaying, in his throat, full driven, Up to the feather'd head, another came: The sanguine flood expell'd it, gushing high, Cutting the distant air. With outstretcht arms Ilioneus, the last, besought in vain; Exclaiming,—"spare me, spare me, all ye gods!" Witless that all not join'd to cause his woe. The god was touch'd with pity, touch'd too late,— Already shot th' irrevocable dart: Yet light the blow was given, and mild the wound That pierc'd his heart, and sent his soul aloft.
The rumor'd ill; the mourning people's groans; The servant's tears, soon made the mother know, The sudden ruin: wondering first she stands, To see so great heaven's power, then angry flames Indignant, that such power they dare to use. The sire Amphion, in his bosom plung'd His sword, and ended life at once, and woe. Heavens! how remov'd this Niobe, from her Who drove so lately from Latona's fane, The pious crowds; who march'd in lofty state, Through every street of Thebes, an envy'd sight! Now to be wept by even her bitterest foes. Prostrate upon their gelid limbs she lies; Now this, now that, her trembling kisses press; Her livid arms high-stretching unto heaven, Exclaims,—"Enjoy Latona, cruel dame, "My sorrows; feed on all my wretched woes; "Glut with my load of grief thy savage soul; "Feast thy fell heart with seven funereal scenes; "Triumph, victorious foe! conqueror, exult! "Victorious! said I?—How? To wretched me, "Still more are left, than joyful thou canst boast: "Superior I 'midst all this loss remain."
She spoke;—the twanging bowstring sounded loud! Terrific noise,—save Niobe, to all: She stood audacious, callous in her crime. In mourning vesture clad, with tresses loose, Around the funeral couches of the slain, The weeping sisters stood. One strives to pluck The deep-stuck arrow from her bowels,—falls, And fainting dies; her brother's clay-cold corse, Prest with her lips. Another's soothing words Her hapless parent strive to cheer,—struck dumb, She bends beneath an unseen wound; her words Reach not her parent, till her life is fled. This, vainly flying, falls: that drops in death Upon her sister's body. One to hide Attempts: another pale and trembling dies. Six now lie breathless, each by vary'd wounds; One sole remaining, whom the mother shields, Wrapt in her vest; her body o'er her flung, Exclaiming,—"leave me this, my youngest,—last, "Least of my mighty numbers,—one alone!" But while she prays, the damsel pray'd for dies.
Of all depriv'd, the solitary dame, Amid the lifeless bodies of her sons, Her daughters, and her spouse, by sorrows steel'd, Sits harden'd: no light gale her tresses moves; No blood her redden'd cheeks contain; her eyes Motionless glare upon her mournful face; Life quits the statue: even her tongue congeals, Within her stony palate; vital floods Cease in her veins to flow; her neck to bow Resists; her arms to move in graceful guise; Her feet to step; and even to stone are turn'd Her inmost bowels. Still to weep she seems. Wrapt in a furious whirlwind, distant far Her natal soil receives her. There fixt high On a hill's utmost summit, still she melts; Still does the rigid marble flow in tears.
Now every Theban, male and female, all, Dread the fierce anger of the powers of heaven; And with redoubled fervor lowly bend, And own the twin-producing goddess' power. Then, as oft seen, they ancient tales recount, Reminded by events of recent date. Thus one relates.—"Long since some clowns, who till'd "The fertile fields of Lycia, felt the ire "Of this high goddess, whom they durst despise. "Obscure the fact itself, for low the race "Who suffer'd; yet most wonderous was the deed. "Myself have seen the marsh; the lake have seen "Fam'd for the prodigy. My aged sire, "To toil unable on the lengthen'd road, "Me thither sent; an herd of choicest beeves "Thence to conduct; to my unpractis'd steps "A guiding native of the land he gave. "While we the pastures travers'd, lo! we found "An ancient altar, 'midst a spacious lake "Erected; black with sacrificing dust; "With waving reeds surrounded. Here my guide "Halted, and softly whisper'd,—bless me, power! "And I, like softly whispering,—bless me!—cry'd. "Then ask'd, if nymph, or fawn, or native god "The altar own'd?—when thus my guide reply'd. "No mountain god, O, youth! this altar claims, "But her whom once imperial Juno's rage, "Stern interdicted from firm earth's extent: "Whom scarce the wandering Delos would receive, "Ardent beseeching, when the buoyant isle "Light floated. There at length, Latona, laid "Betwixt a palm, and bright Minerva's tree, "Spite of their fierce opposing step-dame's power, "Her twins produc'd. Even hence, in child-bed driven, "She fled from Juno; in her bosom bore, "'Tis said, the twin-celestials. Now the sun "With fervid rays, had scorch'd the arid meads, "When faint with lengthen'd toil, the goddess gain'd "The edge of Lycia's monster-breeding clime; "Parch'd and exhausted, from the solar heat, "And infants milking her exhausted breast. "By chance a lake, far distant she espy'd, "Deep in a vale's recess, of waters pure. "There clowns the bulrush gather'd; there they pluck'd "The shrubby osier, and the marsh-fond grass. "Approach'd the goddess; on her knees low bent, "The earth she press'd, and forward lean'd to drink "The cooling liquid. This the rustic mob "Forbade. When she to those who thus oppos'd,— "Water withhold? Water whose use is free? "Nature to all unsparing gives to take, "Of light, of air, and of the flowing stream. "I claim but public gifts: yet suppliant beg "Those public gifts to share. Not here I come, "My weary'd arms and limbs within the waves "To lave: my thirst alone I wish to slake. "Even now my speaking lips their moisture want; "Scarce my parch'd throat, a passage to my words "Can yield. As nectar were the limpid draught. "Life with the water give me; for to me, "Water is life; with water life I seek. "Let these too move you, who their tender hands "Stretch to your bosoms,—for by chance the babes "Their little hands held forth. The goddess' words, "Thus bland-beseeching, who could e'er withstand? "Yet these persisted;—obstinate refus'd "To grant her wish, and with opprobrious speech "And threats revil'd her, should she there remain. "Nor rested thus,—the lake with hands and feet "Muddy they trouble; with malicious leaps "They agitate the pool, and upward stir "From the deep bottom clouds of slimy ooze. "Anger her thirst diverted. Rage deny'd "More supplication from th' indignant dame. "Their threatening words, no more the goddess brook'd; "But raising high to heaven her hands, she cry'd,— "Be this your home for ever!—Gracious heard, "Her prayer was granted. Now they joy to plunge, "Beneath the waters; now they deep immerge "Their bodies in the hollow fen; now raise "Their heads, and skim the surface of the pool, "Often they rest upon the margin's brink, "And oft light-springing, in the cool lake plunge. "Now still their rude contentious tongues they use, "Still squabbling, lost to shame beneath the waves: "Beneath the waves they still abusings strive "To utter. Hoarsely still their voice is heard, "Through their wide-bloated throats. Their railing words, "Their jaws more wide dilate. Depriv'd of neck, "Their head and back in junction seem to meet; "Green shine their backs; their bellies, hugely swol'n "Are white; and frogs they plunge within the pool."
Thus as the man, the fate destructive told Of Lycia's clowns, to mind another call'd The satyr's fate, who vanquish'd in the strife Of skill, on Pallas' pipe, Latona's son Severely punish'd.—"Wherefore thus,"—he cries, "Rent from myself? O, penitent I bow. "The pipe," he shrieks, "should not such rage provoke." Exclaiming thus, o'er his extremest limbs Stript was his skin; he one continuous wound! Blood flow'd from every part; the naked nerves Bare started; and the trembling veins full throbb'd, By skin uncover'd. Every beating part Inward, the breast's translucent fibres plain Display'd to sight. Him every forest fawn; Each brother satyr; and each sylvan god; And every nymph, with fam'd Olympus wept: And every swain, the woolly flock who fed; Or on the mountain watch'd the horned herd. Wash'd by their falling tears, the fertile earth Is soak'd,—absorbs them in her inmost veins; Then form'd to water, spouts them high in air. Rapid 'twixt banks declivitous, they seek The ocean. Marsya, is the river call'd; The clearest stream through Phrygia's land which flows.
Thus far the crowd;—and then lamenting turn To present griefs:—Amphion's race extinct, Unanimous they wail; but hated still Remains the mother's pride. For her alone Weep'd Pelops;—rent his garments, bare expos'd His breast and shoulders lay, and fair display'd The ivory joint. This shoulder at his birth In fleshy substance, and carnation tinge, Equall'd the right. When by his sire his limbs Disjointed lay, the gods, 'tis said, quick join'd The sever'd members: every fragment found, Save what combin'd the neck and upper arm; The part destroy'd, with ivory they replace; And Pelops perfect from the gift became.
The neighbouring lords assemble;—every town Their kings intreat condolence to bestow, And all to Thebes repair. First Argos sends; Sparta; Mycene; Calydon, not yet By stern Diana hated; Corinth, fam'd For beauteous brass; Orchomenus the fierce; Messene fertile; Patrae; Pylos, rul'd By Neleus; Troezen, yet unus'd to own The sway of Pittheus; Cleona the low; And all those towns the two-sea'd isthmus holds; And all those towns the isthmus views without. Athens, incredible! was absent sole. War all her energy demanded. Borne O'er ocean, fierce barbarian troops, the walls Mopsopian threaten'd. Thracian Tereus, these With arms auxiliar routed; bright his name Shone from the conquest. Him in riches great, Mighty in power, and from the god-like Mars, His lineage tracing, Procne's nuptial hand Close to Pandion bound. Their marriage bed Nor Grace, nor Hymen, nor the nuptial queen Attended. Furies held the torches, snatch'd From biers funereal. Furies spread the couch: And all night long an owl, ill-omen'd bird, Perch'd on the roof that crown'd the marriage dome. Join'd with such omens, with such omens bore Procne a son to Tereus. Wide through Thrace Congratulations sound: glad thanks to heaven The parents give, and hail the happy day Which gave Pandion's daughter to the king; And gave the pair a son. So ignorant still Mankind of real happiness remain!
Now through five autumns had the cheerful sun The whirling year renew'd. When Procne, bland Her spouse besought.—"If grace within thy sight "Claim my deserts,—or suffer me to see "In her own clime my sister, or to ours "My sister bring: a quick return thou well "Our sire may'st promise. This high boon obtain'd, "My sister's presence,—to my sight thou'lt seem, "A deity in goodness."—On the main He bids them launch the vessel; in the port Cecropian enters, urg'd by oar and sail; And treads Piraeus' shore. Soon as he gain'd His audience; soon as hand with hand was clasp'd, His ill-presaging speech he open'd. First The journey's cause narrating; fond desire Of Procne; and the promis'd quick return Of Philomela, should the sire comply. Lo! Philomela enters, splendid robes Attire her; still more splendid shine her charms: Such they describe within the forests rove Dryad, and Naiaed nymphs; such would they seem Their shape like hers adorn'd, like hers attir'd. Instant was Tereus at the sight inflam'd; So instant would the hoary harvest burn, The torch apply'd: so burn the wither'd leaves; Or hoarded hay. Well might her charms inspire Such love in any;—him his inbred lust More goaded, more his country's warmth which burns Intense; he flames from nature, and from clime. First to corrupt th' attendants he designs, And faithful nurse; and Philomel' to tempt With gifts immense,—his kingdom's mighty price. Or forceful snatch her, and the rape defend, With all the powers of war. Nought but he dares. Impell'd by love's unbridled power; his breast The raging fire contains not. Irksome seems Delay:—and eager to the anxious wish Of Procne, turns his converse; her desires His wishes aiding. Eloquent he spoke; For love inspir'd him. Often as he press'd More close than prudent, all his earnest speech, Procne, he said, dictated. Heavens! how dark The gloom that blinds the view of human souls. Tereus for tenderest piety esteem'd, More as for vice he labors: praise he gains, for every crime. Now Philomela begs, His prayer assisting; flings her winning arms Around Pandion's neck, and suppliant sues A sight of Procne; for her woe she begs, But deems she begs delight. Her Tereus views;— Anticipates his joys; her every kiss, Her arms around her parent's neck entwin'd, But goad his passion: fuel fresh they add; Food for his flame. And when her sire she clasps, He longs that sire to be. Parent, not more His impious purpose would the wretch delay! The king by both their warm beseechings won, Consents;—she joyful to her father gives Glad thanks;—and hapless, deems completely blest, Herself and sister, both most deeply curst;
Now Phoebus' toil nigh spent, his coursers' feet Sweep'd down the slope of heaven. The royal feast, And golden goblets, fill'd with Bacchus' gift, The board bespread. From hence in slumbers soft, Each sought repose. All but the Thracian king, Though far remov'd, still burning; all her face, Her hands and gesture he recals, and paints At pleasure all her beauties yet unseen: Feeding his flame, and sleep repelling far.
'Twas morn;—Pandion, pressing warm the hand Of Tereus, as they parted, while the tears Gush'd sudden, thus bespeaks his friendly care. "Dear son, to thee I give her, pious claims "Compel me: suppliant let me thee adjure "By faith, by kindred, and by all the gods, "Thy care paternal, shall protect the maid; "And the soft solace of my anxious years, "Speedy restore, for each delay is long. "Quick, Philomela, quick my child, rejoin "Thy sire, if filial duty sways thee. Much "Thy sister's absence pains me."—Speaking thus He press'd with kisses soft, the maiden's lips, And dripping tears with each behest let fall. Their hands he asks as pledge of faith, and joins Their hands in his presented; tender begs His salutations to his daughter dear; And his young grandson. Scarce the last adieu, Chok'd with deep sighs, he breathes: his boding mind Foreseeing future woes.
Now Philomel' Safely on board the painted vessel plac'd, The land far left, as with their laboring oars The surges move;—exulting Tereus, cry'd, "Victorious,—lo! my utmost wishes borne Safe with me."—Scarce his burning soul defers His hop'd-for joys. His eyes are never turn'd From the lov'd face. Thus Jove's protected bird Rapacious bears, with his sharp talons pierc'd, An hare defenceless to his lofty nest: No flight remains, the spoiler calmly views His prey. Now ended is their voyage, now Weary'd they quit their ship, and joyful touch Their native beach; and now the Thracian king Pandion's daughter to a lofty stall Conducts; by ancient trees the spot well screen'd. There he inclos'd the pale, the trembling maid, Of all things fearful, as with tears she press'd Her sister's face to see: his purpose dire Disclosing,—force the helpless maid o'ercame, Loudly exclaiming to her sire; and loud Her sister's help invoking, equal vain: But chief she begs celestial powers to aid. Trembling she lies; so seems a shuddering lamb Wounded, and from the hoary wolf's fierce jaws Just 'scap'd, not sure his safety yet he deems: So seems a dove, her plumes in blood deep-drench'd, With fear still shivering; still the hungry claws Dreading, that lately pierc'd her. Soon restor'd Her mental powers, while scatter'd hung the locks Rent in her anguish, high her arms she rais'd, Livid with blows, as those that mourn the dead; Exclaiming,—"O, barbarian! wretch supreme! "In cruelty and vice; whom not the charge "Parental, seal'd with pious tears could move; "A sister's charge entrusted: not her state, "Virgin defenceless; not the sacred vows, "Conjugal plighted. In confusion all "Commixt, by thee, adulteress here I lie, "Against my sister. Thou a double spouse, "To both. This scourge is sure to me not due. "Why, villain, not my hated life destroy? "Perfect in deeds atrocious; would my breath "Before the horrid act supprest had been: "Then had I guiltless sought the shades. But still "If powers celestial view this act; if sway "On earth they hold; if all not sinks with me, "Thy fate hence-forward from me dread; myself "Shall unabash'd, thy acts proclaim. If power "Is granted, when in public walks I roam: "If here in woods imprison'd, all the woods "Shall with my plaints resound; the conscious rocks "I'll move. May heaven me hear! and if in heaven "A god abides, me hear!"—Rous'd by her words, The fierce king's anger burns; no less his fear Than anger moves him: strongly spurr'd by each, His weapon from the pendent sheath he drew: Dragg'd by the hair, her limbs he forc'd to yield To fetters; twisting rough her arms behind. Glad Philomel' to him her throat presents, Death from the glittering sword expecting. Grasp'd In pincers, fierce her tongue he tore away; Griev'd, and indignant, as her father's name She strove to utter: trembling still appear'd The bloody root; trembling the tongue itself Murmur'd as on the gore-stain'd earth it lay: As leaps the serpent's sever'd tail, the tongue, Quivering in death, still to her feet advanc'd. This deed of horror done, 'tis said that oft (Incredible the fact) repeated force Upon her mangled form the wretch employ'd.
Now dares he, all those acts atrocious done, Return to Procne. Eager as he comes, For Philomel' she asks. False tears and groans He gives: the hapless nymph he feigns deceas'd: His tears convince. Now from her shoulders torn, Her robes with gold bright-glittering, sable vests Her limbs enfolded. High an empty tomb She rais'd, and pious obsequies perform'd To manes pretended: for her sister's fate She mourn'd, whose fate such mourning ill deserv'd.
Through twice six signs had Phoebus journey'd on, The year completing. What, alas! remains For Philomela? Guards prevent her flight. Of stone erected, high the massive walls Circle her round. Her lips so mute, refuse The deed to blazon. Keen the sense of grief Sharpens the soul:—in misery the mind Ingenious sparkles. Skillful she extends The Thracian web, and on the snow-white threads, In purple letters, weaves the dreadful tale. Complete, a servant with expressive signs, The present to the queen she bids to bear. To Procne was it borne, witless the slave Of what he carry'd. Savage Tereus' spouse The web unfolded; read the mournful tale Her hapless sister told, and wonderous! sate In silence; grief her rising words repress'd: Indignant, chok'd, her throat refus'd to breathe, The angry accents to her plaining tongue. To weep she waits not, in turmoil confus'd, Justice and flagrance undistinguished lie; Her mind sole bent for vengeance on her spouse.
Now was the time Sithonia's matrons wont, The rites triennial of the jovial god To tend. Those rites to conscious shade alone Confided. Rhodope, the brazen sound Shrill tinkling, hears by night;—by night the queen The palace quits, attir'd as Bacchus' rites Demand; and weapon'd with the Bacchant arms. A vine her forehead girds; the nimble deer Clothes with his skin her sides; her shoulder bears A slender spear. Thus maddening, Procne seeks The woods in ire terrific, crowded round By all her followers: rack'd by inward pangs, The furious rant of Bacchus veils her woes. The lonely stable seen at length, she howls Aloud,—"Evoe, ho!"—and bursts the door; Drags thence her sister;—her thence dragg'd, invests I In Bacchanalian robes; her face inshrouds In ivy foliage; and astonish'd leads The trembling damsel o'er the palace steps. The horrid dome when Philomela saw, Perforce she enter'd; through her frame she shook; The blood her face deserted. Procne sought A spot retir'd, and from her features flung The sacred trappings, and her sister's face, Sorrowing and blushing, to the light unveil'd; Then ran to clasp her. She the sight not bore; Her eyes she rais'd not; her dejected brows Bent to the ground; thus by her sister seen, Encroacher on her bed. Her hands still spoke, When oaths she wish'd to utter, and to call Th' attesting gods, her foul disgrace by force To prove accomplish'd. Furious, Procne burns, Nor curbs her ire; her sister's streaming tears Reproving checks, and cries;—"no period now "For tears, we ask the sword! But if than sword "Vengeance more keen thou hop'st for, sister dear, "Behold me for most horrid deeds prepar'd. "Shall I with flaming torches blaze on high "His hall imperial, and the villain king "Heave in the conflagration? Shall I rend "As thine his tongue? or from his sockets tear, "His eye-balls? or what other member maim? "Or this, or instant send his guilty soul "Thro' thousand wounds to judgment? What thou speak'st "Be mighty. I for mightiest acts prepare. "To fix I hesitate." As Procne speaks, Lo! infant Itys to his mother runs; His sight her mind determines; cruel turn Her eyes, exclaiming;—"See, how like his sire's "Appear his features!"—More she spoke not, fixt Was straight her dread resolve: now fiercer burn'd Within her smother'd rage;—yet when the boy Approach'd, and round her neck his infant arms Threw, and his kisses printed on her lips, With bland caresses mingled, even the soul Of Procne melted. Mollify'd her rage, Tears hard constrain'd flow'd from unwilling eyes. Soon as the mother's feelings softening seem To melt in extreme fondness; Procne quits The sight, and to her sister's face reverts Again her visage; then on each in turn Full bent her view, she cries;—"Must one me melt "With blandish'd soothings? Must the other mute, "With tongue dismember'd stand? Must he exclaim "O, mother!—she, O, sister! never more? "To what a spouse, Pandion's daughter, see "Art thou, degenerate wife, conjoin'd! Thy sin "A spouse like Tereus to have us'd too well." More she delays not, infant Itys drags, Swift as the Indian tiger sweeps the fawn Through shady forests. Then the lofty dome, For rooms remote well search'd, in one arrives, Where she the infant pierces; 'twixt the breast And side the weapon enters, while his hands, Suppliant, his fate foreseeing, he extends, And,—"mother! O, my mother!"—loudly cries. Nor mov'd her countenance fell;—the single wound Was deadly. Philomela, with her steel The throat divided, and the quivering limbs Dissever'd, whilst of animation still Some glimmering sparks remain'd. Of these, they part In brazen cauldrons boil: part on the spit Crackling they turn: with gore the secret rooms Offensive float. Her unsuspecting spouse Procne to feast invites; delusive feigns Her country's customs,—where 'twas given, but one The husband should be nigh; all menial slaves Far distant. On his ancestorial seat High-lifted, Tereus sate, and feasted there: And in his bowels deep he there entomb'd Bowels his own. So blind are human souls,— "Call Itys to the feast,"—he cries. No more Could Procne veil her savage joy;—full bent The slaughter to announce, she loud proclaim'd "Thou seek'st who with thee rests!"—Around he looks. Wondering where rests he. Philomela rush'd, Her tresses sprinkled with the ireful blood, As griev'd he, Itys calling loud, and flung, With savage fury Itys' gory head Full in his father's face; nor ever mourn'd Lost speech so much; her well-earn'd joy to show, More griev'd lost power. With outcry loud the king O'er-turn'd the table; from the Stygian vale, Invok'd the viper'd sisters: hard he strove To tear his bosom, and from thence disgorge The dire repast, the half-digested mass Of Itys' limbs. Now weeping, wild he mourns, Himself his offspring's tomb. Now fierce pursues Pandion's daughters with his unsheath'd sword. From him escaping, on light wings upborne Th' Athenians seem'd; light wings their limbs upbore! One sheltering in the woods: protecting roofs The other seeking; still the murderous deed, Mark'd on her breast remains; still on her plumes The teint of blood is seen. Rapid in rage And hope of vengeance, Tereus too is chang'd, And flits a bird; a plumy crest he bears, High on his head: the lengthen'd sword he bore, A beak enormous grows. A lapwing now With fierce-arm'd face he flies.
Untimely sought Pandion, when the mournful tale he heard, The Stygian shades, ere yet the lengthen'd date Of years commanded. Next th' Athenian realm Erechtheus rul'd, the sceptre dubious held By right or forceful arms. Proud could he boast Four sons;—and daughters four to him were given. Beauteous the maids; in beauty equal two: Of these AEoelian Cephalus was bless'd With thee as spouse, O, Procris!—Tereus long, Boreas withstanding, with the power of Thrace, Long Orithyia, by the god belov'd, Was lov'd in vain; while soft beseechings more And prayers, the power to strenuous force preferr'd. But now those soothings bland so vainly try'd, Fierce swol'n with rage, his most accustom'd feel (Too much that passion knows this wind) he cries;— "Well I deserve it, all my proper arms "Relinquish'd: savage fierceness, strength, stern rage, "And threatening force. With humble softening prayers "Fool have I su'd; in each attempt have fail'd. "More apt to me is force! by force I drive "The lowering clouds before me: Ocean's waves "Forceful I turn; forceful the knotted oak "Root from its deep foundation; hard the frost "I bind; and beat the sounding earth with hail: "I when in open sky, for there our field "Lies in display, my blustering brethren meet, "Oppose such might, that midmost sky resounds "Echoing our forceful conflict; flashing flames "From the cleft bodies of the hollow clouds, "Elicited: I too, earth's secret womb "Fierce entering, in her deepest caverns strain "My strength, 'till trembling wide through all her frame, "The ghosts below are troubled. These the aid "My nuptial wish should seek; no longer pray "Erechtheus for my sire;—my sire by force, "The monarch shall be made."—So spoke the god, Or thus, or more in fury, as he shook His plumes, whose motion sweep'd through earth's extent, And made the wide main tremble. Lofty hills His dusty mantle covers; as the plains Rapid he brushes; shrouded deep in mist, In his dark wings the furious lover clasps His Orithyia, trembling, pale with fear: Flying his flames were fann'd, and fiercer blaz'd. Nor check'd the ravisher his lofty flight, Till seen the town of Cicones, whose walls Receiv'd him. There th' Athenian nymph became The freezing monarch's bride: a mother there, A double birth she brought, whose shoulders bear The father's pinions; all their semblance else Their mother's. Not at first, 'tis said, appear'd The feathers: Calais and Zethes, boys Were yet unplum'd; when yet with ruddy hair, Their beards appear'd not. From each shoulder shot The feathers bird-like, at the self-same time, Their manly cheeks were thick with yellow down. Now when their youth matur'd to man appear'd, Through seas unplough'd before, they sought the fleece Splendid with glittering wool; with all the train Of Minyae, in the first-built vessel borne.
*The Seventh Book.*
Expedition of the Argonauts. Jason obtains the golden fleece, by the assistance of Medea. AEson restored to youth by her magic powers. Murder of Pelias by his daughters. Medea's flight to Corinth. Murder of her rival and infants. Marriage with AEgeus. Adventures of Theseus. War with Minos. Plague in AEgina. Change of ants into Myrmidons. Cephalus and Procris.
THE *Seventh Book* OF THE METAMORPHOSES OF OVID.
Now in the Pagasaean vessel borne, Plough'd the wide sea the Argonauts, and saw The fate of Phineus; whose old age the curse Of hunger felt, and felt perpetual night. The youths from Boreas sprung, quick sped to flight The virgin-featur'd birds, his hapless face, Far distant. 'Neath great Jason's rule much toil They bore ere on the oozy banks they stay'd Of rapid Phasis. Here the king they seek; And here demand the golden fleece; and here An answer big with fearful labors learn The Grecian crew. Meantime the royal maid Burns with fierce fires: with reason struggling long, Still her hot flame to quench unable, cries Aloud Medea;—"vainly I oppose! "Some unknown god controls. Perhaps 'tis love! "If love 'tis not, no sentiment more near "To love can come. Why else my sire's commands "So harsh appear? But harsh in truth they are. "But why his failing dread? Why dread his death, "But barely seen? What cause such fear can give? "O, hapless maid! would from my virgin breast "Those flames to fling were given. If mine the power "More wisdom would I use. But me this force, "Before unknown, unwilling drags; this love "Persuades, oppos'd to reason: plain I see "The better track,—approve it most, yet swerv'd, "I tread the worse. Why, royal virgin, burn "Thus for a stranger guest? Why long'st thou thus, "A foreign partner in the marriage bed "To clasp? Thy country well can thee supply "What e'er thou lovest. In the gods' decree "His death or safety rests. Yet may he live! "Pray may'st thou for him sure,—love unconcern'd. "But what has Jason done? Savage, indeed! "Were those his youth, his birth, and brilliant deeds "Not touch'd: how savage too the soul must be "His beauty touch'd not, were there nought beside; "My bosom sure it moves. But were my aid "Deny'd, the furious bulls with flaming breath "His fate would compass; or the foes that spring "From earth, his harvest, slay him in the fight; "Or last, he'd fall the ravenous dragon's prey. "If this I suffer, from the tiger sprung "Believe me; steel and marble in my breast, "Deem me to wear. Why not his death behold? "Why not mine eyes with the dread sight pollute! "Why not the bulls, the earth-born foes incite, "And sleepless dragon, with redoubled ire? "Heaven wills it better. But let deeds, not prayers "My time employ. How! shall I then betray "My parent's realm? an unknown stranger aid "With all my power? who by my power preserv'd, "Loos'd to the wind his sails, another's spouse "Becomes,—me left for punishment behind? "If this to do,—another nymph to me "Born to prefer, let him, ingrate! be slain. "But no! his face denies it; his great soul, "And graceful form forbid the fear of fraud; "Or benefits forgot. Yet shall he plight "His solemn faith first, call th' attesting gods "To witness what he vows. What fear I more? "All's safe. Medea, hasten, spurn delay,— "Jason, remaining life to thee shall owe; "Join'd to his state, the annual torch shall flame "To thee, preserver! through the Grecian towns "By crowds of mothers hail'd. Shall I for this "My sister leave, my brother, and my sire; "My gods, and natal land? Yes,—fierce my sire; "My country barbarous; and my brother young: "With all my wishes, warm my sister joins; "And dwells within my breast the mightiest god. "Much I relinquish not, but much I seek. "The glorious title of the Grecian youth "Deliverer! gain'd; the sight of lands and towns "Whose fame even here has journey'd; manners mild, "And cultur'd arts; and Jason for my spouse, "For whom all earth's possessions were too small "To change. His spouse become, supremely blest, "Dear to the gods, the loftiest stars I'll reach. "What are those rocks, they tell, which 'mid the waves "Meet in encounter? Fell Charybdis what,— "Hostile to ships, now sucking in the tide, "Now fierce discharging? What the savage bounds, "Which compass greedy Scylla 'mid the main "Sicilian? O'er the wide-spread ocean borne, "Him whom I love embracing; sheltering close "In Jason's bosom; clasp'd by him, no fear "My soul could harbor. Or if fear I felt, "For him alone I'd