He ceas'd: the deed and author all admire, But Theseus most; whom anxious still to hear More wondrous actions of the mighty gods, The stream of Calydon, as on his arm Reclin'd, he rested, in these words address'd:— "There are, O, valiant youth! of those once chang'd, "Still in the new-form'd figures who remain: "Others there are whose power more wide extends "To many shapes to alter.—Proteus, thou "Art one; thou 'habitant of those wide waves "Which earth begird: now thou a youth appear'st; "And now a lion; then a furious boar; "A serpent next we tremble to approach; "And then with threatening horns thou seem'st a bull. "Oft as a stone thou ly'st; oft stand'st a tree: "Sometimes thy countenance veil'd in fluid streams, "Thou flow'st a river; sometimes mount'st in flames. "Nor less of power had Erisichthon's maid, "Spouse of Autolycus. Her impious sire "All the divinities of heaven despis'd, "Nor on their slighted altars offerings burn'd. "He too, 'tis said, the Cerealean grove "With axe prophan'd: his violating steel "The ancient trees attacking. 'Mid the rest, "A huge-grown oak, in yearly strength robust, "Itself a wood, uprose: garlands hung round, "And wreaths, and grateful tablets, proofs of vows "For prospering favors paid. The Dryad nymphs "Oft in its shade their festal dances held; "Oft would they, clasping hand in hand, surround "The mighty trunk: its girth around to mete, "Full thrice five cubits ask'd. To every tree "Lofty it seem'd; as every tree appear'd "Lofty, when measur'd with the plants below. "Yet not for that, did Erisichthon hold "The biting steel; but bade his servants fell "The sacred oak; lingering he saw them stand, "His orders unobey'd; impious he snatch'd "From one his weapon, and in rage, exclaim'd;— "What though it be the goddess' favorite care! "Were it the goddess' self, down should it fall, "And bow its leafy summit to the ground. "He said;—and pois'd his axe, and aim'd oblique. "Deep shudderings shook the Cerealian tree, "And groans were utter'd; all the leaves grew pale, "And pale the acorns; while the wide-spread boughs "Cold sweats bedew'd. When in the solid trunk "His blow ungodly pierc'd, blood flow'd in streams "From out the shatter'd bark: not flows more full, "From the deep wound in the divided throat, "The gore, when at the sacred altar's foot "A mighty bull, an offer'd victim drops. "Dread seizes all; and one most bold attempts "To check his horrid wickedness, and check "The murderous weapon: him the villain saw, "And,—take,—he cries,—the boon thy pious soul "Merits so well.—And from the trunk the steel "Turns on the man, and strikes his head away: "Then with redoubled blows the tree assails. "Deep from the oak, these words were heard to sound:— "A nymph am I, within this trunk enclos'd, "Most dear to Ceres; in my dying hours, "Prophetic I foresee the keen revenge "Which will thy deed pursue; and this solace "Grants comfort ev'n in death.—He, undismay'd, "His fierce design still follows: now the tree, "Tottering with numerous blows, by straining cords, "He drags to earth; and half the wood below, "Crush'd by its weight, lies prostrate. All astound, "Of her depriv'd, and at their own sad loss, "The sister Dryads, clad in sable robes, "To Ceres hasten; and for vengeance call, "On Erisichthon. To their urgent prayers "The beauteous goddess gave assent, and shook "Her locks; the motion shook the yellow ears, "Which fill'd the loaded fields; and straight conceiv'd "A torture piteous, if for pity he "For acts like these might look:—to tear his form "By Famine's power pestiferous. There, herself "Approach forbidden (fate long since had doom'd "Ceres and Famine far remov'd should dwell) "A mountain-nymph she calls, and thus directs;— "A region stretches on th' extremest bounds "Of icy Scythia; dreary seems the place; "Sterile the soil; nor trees, nor fruits are seen; "But sluggish cold, and pale affright, and fear: "Still-craving Famine, there her dwelling holds. "Bid her within the inmost vitals hide "Of this most daring, and most impious wretch. "The proudest plenty shall not make her yield: "For in the contest, all the power I boast "To her shall stoop: nor let the lengthen'd way "Appal thy mind; my car receive; receive "My dragons; through the air their course direct "By these long reins.—Speaking, the reins she gave. "She, borne through ether in the granted car, "To Scythia's realm is carried: on the ridge "A rugged mountain offer'd, first she eas'd "The dragons' necks; as Caucasus 'twas known. "There she the sought-for Famine soon espy'd, "Eagerly searching on the stony fields, "At once with teeth and fangs, for thin-sown herbs. "Rough matted were her locks; deep sunk her eyes; "Pale bleach'd her face; her lips with whiten'd slime "O'erspread; with furry crust her mouth was rough: "Hard was her skin; and through it might be seen "Her inwards: 'bove her hollow loins, upstood "The arid bones: a belly's place supply'd "A belly's form: her breasts to hang appear'd "Held only by the chine: her fleshless shape "Each joint in bulk increas'd: rigidly large "The knees were swol'n, and each protruding part "Immod'rately was big. Then as the nymph "From far beheld her,—for a nigh approach "She dreaded, what the goddess bade she told. "Though brief her stay; though distant far she stood; "Though instant there arriv'd; she felt the power "Of Famine at the sight, and turning quick "Her reins, she urg'd her dragons to their speed "In retrogade direction; still on high, "Till Thessaly they gain'd. Famine performs "The wish of Ceres (though her anxious aim "Is still to thwart her power) and borne on winds "Swift through the air, the fated house she finds "And instant enters, where the inmost walls "The sacrilegious wretch inclose; in sleep "Deep bury'd, for night reign'd; and with her wings "Him clasping close, in all the man she breath'd "Her inspiration: in his throat, his mouth, "His chest, and in his unreplenish'd veins, "Her hunger she infus'd. The bidden deed "Complete, she vanish'd from those verdant fields, "And turn'd her to the needy roofs again, "And well-accustom'd caverns. Gentle sleep "Fann'd Erisichthon still with soothing wings. "Ev'n in his sleep imagin'd food he craves, "And vainly moves his mouth; tires jaw on jaw "With grinding; his deluded throat with stores "Impalpable he crams; the empty air "Greedy devouring, for more solid food. "But soon his slumbers vanish'd, then fierce rag'd "Insatiate hunger; ruling through his throat, "And ever-craving stomach. Instant he "Demands what produce, ocean, earth, and air "Can furnish: still of hunger he complains, "Before the full-spread tables: still he seeks "Victuals to heap on victuals. What might serve "A city's population, seems for him "Too scant; whose stomach when it loads had gorg'd, "For loads still crav'd. The ocean thus receives "From all earth's regions every stream; all streams "United, still requiring; greedy fire "On every offer'd aliment thus feeds, "Countless supplies of wood consuming;—more "Nutrition craving, still the more it gains; "More greedy growing from its large increase. "So Erisichthon's jaws prophane, rich feasts "At once devour, at once still more demand. "All food but stimulates his gust for food "In added heaps; and eating only seems "To leave his maw more empty. Lessen'd now, "In the deep abyss of his stomach huge, "Were all the riches which his sire's bequest "Had given: the direful torment still remain'd "In undiminish'd strength; his belly's fire "Implacable still rag'd. Exhausted now "On the curst craving all his wealth was spent. "One daughter sole remaining; of a sire "Less impious, worthy: her the pauper sold. "Her free-born soul, a master's sway disclaim'd. "Her hands extending, to the neighbouring main, "O thou!—she cry'd—who gain'd my virgin spoil "Snatch me from bondage.—Neptune had the maid "Previous enjoy'd: nor spurn'd her earnest prayer. "She whom her master following close, had seen "In her own shape but now, in manly guise "Appears,—in garments such as fishers clothe. "The master sees, and speaks:—O, thou! who rul'st "The trembling reed; whose bending wire thy baits "Conceal; so may thy wiles the water aid; "So may the fish deceiv'd, beneath the waves, "Thy hooks detect not, till too firmly fixt. "Say thou but where she is, who stood but now "Upon this beach, in humble robes array'd, "With locks disorder'd; on this shore she stood; "I saw her,—but no further mark her feet.— "The aid of Neptune well the maid perceiv'd, "And joys that of herself herself is sought, "Thus his enquiries answering;—Whom thou art "I know not; studious bent, the deep alone, "And care to drag my prey, my eyes employ. "More to remove thy doubts, so may the god "Who rules the ocean, aid my toiling art, "As here I swear, no man upon this shore, "Nor female, I excepted, has appear'd. "These words the owner credits, and the sand "Treads with returning steps; deluded goes, "And as he goes, her former shape returns. "Soon as this changing power the sire perceiv'd, "The damsel oft he sold. Now she escapes "Beneath a mare's resemblance: now a bird, "An heifer now, and now a deer she seem'd. "Her greedy parent's maw with food ill-gain'd "Supplying. When at last his forceful plague "Had every aid consum'd, and every aid "Fresh food afforded to his fierce disease, "Then he commenc'd with furious fangs to tear "For nurture his own limbs; life to support, "By what his body and his life destroy'd.
"But why on others' transformations dwell? "Myself, O youths! enjoy a power, my form "To alter; not unlimited my range. "Now in the shape at present I assume; "Anon I writhe beneath a serpent's form; "Or take the figure of a lordly bull, "And wear my strength in horns, while horns I had: "Disfigur'd now, my forehead's side laments "One weapon ravish'd, as you well may see."— He spoke, and heavy sighs his words pursu'd.
*The Ninth Book.*
Combat of Acheloues and Hercules for Dejanira. Death of Nessus. Torments and death of Hercules. His deification. Story of the change of Galanthis to a weasel. Of Dryope to a Lotus-tree. Ioelaues restored to youth. Murmuring of the Gods. The incestuous love of Byblis. Her transformation to a fountain. Story of Iphis and Iaenthe.
THE *Ninth Book* OF THE METAMORPHOSES OF OVID.
The son of AEgeus begs the cause to know Whence spring those groans, and whence that wounded front? And thus the stream of Calydon replies;— (His uncomb'd locks with marshy reeds entwin'd). "A mournful task, O, warrior! you impose;— "For who, when vanquish'd, joys to tell the fight "Where he was worsted? yet will I relate "In order all: vanquish'd, the shame was small; "The honor great, for such a prize to strive: "And such a conqueror more the mind relieves. "Has e'er the beauteous Dejanira's name "Reach'd to your ears? her charms the envy'd hope "Of numerous wooers form'd; mine with the rest. "As o'er the threshold of my wish'd-for sire "I stepp'd, I hail'd him.—O, Parthaoen's son, "For thine accept me.—So Alcides spoke, "And all the rest to our pretensions bow'd. "Of Jove, his sire, he boasts; and all the fame "His acts deserv'd; and stepdame's cruel laws "Final completed. I (who shameful thought "That gods should yield to mortals; then a god "Alcides was not) thus his claim oppos'd:— "A king of floods behold me; floods which roll "With winding current through the land you sway; "A son in me accept, no stranger sent "From distant regions; of your country one, "Part of your rule. Let it not hurt my claim, "That Juno hates me not; that all the toil "Of slavish orders I have ne'er perform'd. "Alcmena was his mother, let him boast! "Jove is a sire but feign'd, or if one true, "Is criminally so. He claims a sire "To prove his mother's infamy: then chuse— "Say feign'd thy origin from Jove, or fruit "Of intercourse adulterous, own thou art.— "Me, speaking thus, with furious eyes he view'd, "Nor rul'd his swelling rage, replying fierce;— "More than my tongue I on my arm depend: "Whilst I in fighting gain the palm, be thou "Victor in talking.—Furious on he rush'd. "So proudly boasting, to submit I scorn'd; "But stript my sea-green robe, my arms oppos'd, "And held my firm-clench'd hands before my breast; "For stout resistance every limb prepar'd, "To meet the fight. He in his hollow palms "The dust collecting, sprinkled me all o'er, "And then the yellow sand upon me threw. "Now on my neck he seizes; now he grasps "My slippery thighs: but only thinks to hold, "In every part assailing. Still secure "In bulk I stand, and he assails in vain. "Thus stands a rock, which waves with thundering roar "Surround; it stands unhurt in all its strength. "A little we recede, then rush again "To join the war: stoutly our ground we hold, "Steady resolv'd to yield not. Foot to foot "Fixt firm: I prone press with my ample breast, "And hand with hand, with forehead forehead joins. "So have I seen two mighty bulls contend, "When each the fairest heifer of the grove "Expects the arduous struggle to reward: "The herds behold and tremble, witless which "The powerful contest shall successful gain. "Thrice while I clasp'd him close, Alcides strove "To throw me from his breast, in vain,—the fourth "He shook me from him, and my clasping arms "Unloosing, instant turn'd me with his hand; "(Truth must I speak,) and heavy on my back "He hung. If credence may my words demand, "Nor seek I fame through tales of false deceit, "A mighty mountain on me seem'd to weigh: "Scarce were my arms, with trickling sweat bedew'd, "Loos'd from his grasp; scarce was my body freed "From his hard gripe, when panting hard for breath, "Ere I could strength regain, my throat he seiz'd. "Then on the earth my knee was press'd; my mouth "Then bit the sand. Inferior prov'd in strength, "To arts I next betook me. Slipp'd his hands "In form a long round serpent; while I roll'd "In winding spires my body; while I shook "My forked tongue with hisses dire, he laugh'd, "And mock'd my arts; exclaiming,—snakes to kill "I in my cradle knew; grant thou excel'st, "O, Acheloues! others far in size, "What art thou mated with the Hydra's bulk? "He fertile from his wounds, his hundred heads "Ne'er felt diminish'd, for straightway his neck, "With two successors, brav'd the stroke again: "Yet him I vanquish'd with his branching heads "From blood produc'd: from every loss more stout, "Him prostrate I o'erthrew. What hope hast thou, "In form fallacious, who with borrow'd arms "Now threaten'st? whom a form precarious hides? "He said, and fast about my throat he squeez'd "His nervous fingers; choaking, hard I strove, "As pincer-like he press'd me, to unloose "From his tight grasp my neck. Conquer'd in this, "Still a third shape, the furious bull remain'd: "Chang'd to a bull, again I wag'd the war. "Around my brawny neck his arms he threw "To left, and spite of every effort try'd "To 'scape, he dragg'd me down; the solid earth "Deep with my horn he pierc'd, and stretch'd me prone "On the wide sand. Unsated yet his rage, "His fierce hand seiz'd my stubborn horn, and broke "From my maim'd front the weapon. Naiaed nymphs "This consecrated, fill'd with fruits, and flowers "Of odorous fragrance, and the horn is priz'd "By Plenty's goddess as her favorite care."
He spoke, a nymph close-girt like Dian's train, Her ample tresses o'er each shoulder spread, Enter'd, supporting all of Autumn's fruit In the rich horn, and mellowest apples came The second course to grace. Now day appear'd: The youths when light the loftiest summits touch'd Of the high hills, departed; waiting not Till the rough floods in peaceful channels flow'd; The troubled currents smooth'd. Profound his head Of rustic semblance, Acheloues hides 'Reft of his horn, beneath his deepest waves. His forehead's honor lost sore gall'd him: all Save that was perfect. Ev'n his forehead's loss With willow boughs and marshy reeds was hid.
Thou too, rash Nessus, through thy furious love, Of the same virgin, thy destruction met; Pierc'd through thy body with the feather'd dart! Jove's son returning to his natal soil, Companion'd by his new-made bride, approach'd Evenus' rapid flood. Swol'n was the stream With wintry showers as wont, and raging whirls Unfordable proclaim'd it; him, himself Fearless, yet anxious for his spouse's care, Nessus approach'd, in strength of limbs secure, And knowledge of the fords, and thus he spoke; "Her, O Alcides! will I safely bear "To yonder bank; thou all thy efforts use "In swimming." Straight the Theban hero gives The pallid Calydonian to his care, Shivering with dread; no less the centaur frights Than the rough flood. The mighty warrior, prest With his large quiver, and the lion's hide, For on the bank opposing had he flung His club and curved bow, exclaim'd—"the stream "My arms will vanquish, soon as I essay."— Nor dubious waits, but in the torrent leaps, Not heeding where most tranquil flows the stream, But stemming furious all its utmost rage. Now had he reach'd the bank, now held again The bow flung o'er, when loud his spouse's shrieks Assail'd his ear. To Nessus, whom he saw His trust about betraying, loud he cry'd;— "What vain reliance on thy rapid speed "Tempts thee to violence? O, double-shap'd! "I speak, regard me,—to respect my rights, "Should deference to me not move thee, think "How whirls thy sire, and that thy rage may check "For wishes unallow'd. Yet hope thou not "With courser's speed to 'scape me: with my dart, "Not feet, will I pursue thee."—His last words With deeds he guarantees, and through and through The flying culprit felt the javelin driv'n; Out through his breast the forked weapon stood: Withdrawn, from either wound gush'd forth the gore, Mixt with the venom of Lernaea's pest. This be preserv'd.—"Nor will I unreveng'd "Expire,"—he murmur'd faintly to himself; And gave his raiment, in the warm blood dipt, A present to the nymph whose spoil he sought; To wake again her husband's dormant love.
Long was the intermediate time, the deeds, Of great Alcides, and his step-dame's hate, Fill'd all the world meanwhile. Victor return'd From out OEchalia, when the promis'd rites, To Jove Caenean, he prepar'd to pay, Tattling report, who joys in falshood mixt With circumstantial truth, and still the least Swells with her lies, had in thine ears instill'd, O Dejanira! that Alcmena's son, With Ioele was smitten. Ardent love Sway'd her belief, and terror-struck to hear Of this new flame, she melted into tears; With them her weeping grief first flow'd away: But soon she bursted forth.—"Why weep I so? "The harlot will but gladden in my tears! "But ere she here arrives, it me behoves "Each effort to employ, while time now serves, "To hinder what he seeks; whilst yet my couch "Another presses not. Shall I complain, "Or rest in silence? Shall I Calydon "Re-seek, or here remain? Shall I abscond "His habitation, or, if nought else serves, "Strenuous oppose him? Or if truly bent, "O, Meleager! with a sister's pride, "Thy wicked deeds t' outvie, a witness leave, "The harlot's throat divided, what the rage "Of woman may accomplish, when so wrong'd."— In whirls her agitated mind is toss'd; Determining last to send to him the robe, In Nessus' blood imbu'd, and so restore His waning love. Witless of what she sends, Herself to Lychas' unsuspecting hands The cause of future grief delivers. Wretch Most pitiable! she, with warm-coaxing words, Instructs the boy to bear her spouse the gift. Th' unwitting warrior takes it, and straight clothes His shoulders with Echidna's poisonous gore. Incense he sprinkles in the primal flames He kindles,—with the flames his prayers ascend. As from the goblet he the vintage pours On marble altars; hapless by the heat The poison more was quicken'd; by the flame Melted, it grew more potent; wide diffus'd, Through all the limbs of Hercules it spread. Still while he could, his fortitude, as wont His groans suppress'd; at last his patience spent, Fierce from the altar flinging, OEte's mount So woody, with his plaintive shrieks he fills, And instant from his limbs the deadly robe Essays to tear: that, where he strips, the skin, Stript also, follows; dreadful to describe! Or to his limbs, his utmost struggling vain, It clings: or bare his lacerated joints And huge bones stand. With hissing noise his blood Burns, as when glowing iron in a pool Is dipp'd, so boils it with the venom fierce. Nor hope of help remain'd, the greedy fires, His utmost vitals waste; and purple sweat Bedews his every limb; his scorch'd nerves crack; And whilst his marrow, with the latent pest, Runs fluid, high tow'rd heaven his arms he holds, Exclaiming;—"now Saturnia, feast thy soul "With my destruction; joy, O savage!—view "From lofty heaven my tortures; satiate now "Thy rancorous soul:—but if a foe may move "Commiseration, (for thy foe I am) "Take hence this life, grievous, through direful pains: "Hateful to thee, and destin'd first for toils. "Death now would be a boon; and such a boon "A step-dame might confer. Have I for this, "Busiris slain, who drench'd the temples deep "With travellers' blood? For this Antaeus robb'd "Of nutriment parental? Did thy bulk, "Of triple-form, swain of Iberia, fright? "Or thou, three-headed Cerberus, me move? "Wrought I for this in Elis? at the lake "Of Stymphalis? and in Parthenian woods? "Did not my valor seize the golden belt "Of Thermodon's brave queen? the apples gain, "Ill-guarded by th' unsleeping dragon's care? "Could the fierce Centaur me resist? or could "The mighty boar that laid Arcadia waste? "And what avail'd the Hydra, that he grew "From every loss, in double strength reviv'd? "How? Saw I not the Thracian coursers gorg'd "With human gore! whose stalls with mangled limbs "Crowded, I overthrew, and slew their lord "On his slain coursers? Strangled by these hands "Nemaea's monster lies. Heaven I upbore "Upon these shoulders. The fierce wife of Jove "Weary'd at length with bidding, I untir'd "Still was of acting. But at length behold "A new-found plague, which not the bravest soul, "Nor arms, nor darts can aught resist. Fierce fire, "Darts through my deepest inwards; all my limbs "Greedy devouring. Yet Eurystheus lives! "Still are there who the deities believe?"— He said, and o'er high OEte tortur'd rov'd Like a mad tiger, when the hunter's dart Stands in his body, and the wounder flies. Oft would you see him groaning; storming oft; Oft straining from his limbs again to fling The vest; trees rooting up; against the hills Fierce railing; next up to his father's skies His arms extending. Lo! he Lychas spies, Where trembling in a hollow rock he hides! Then, all his fury in its utmost strength, Raging, he cry'd;—"Thou, Lychas, thou supply'd "This deadly gift. Thou art the author then "Of my destruction."—Shuddering he, and pale, In timid accents strove excuse to plead: Speaking, and round his knees prepar'd to cling, Alcides seiz'd him, with an engine's force Whirl'd round and round, and hurl'd him in the waves, Which by Eubaea roll. He, as he shot Through air, was harden'd. As the falling showers Concrete by freezing winds, whence snow is form'd: As snows by rolling, their soft bodies join, Conglomerating into solid hail: So ancient times believ'd, the boy thus flung, Through empty air, by strong Alcides' arm, Bloodless through fear, and all his moisture drain'd, Chang'd to a flinty rock. A rock e'en now High in Eubaea's gulph exalts its head, Which still of human form the marks retains. Which, as though still of consciousness possess'd, The sailors fear to tread, and Lychas call.
Thou, Jove's renowned offspring, fell'd the trees Which lofty OEte bore, and built a pile: Then bade the son of Paean bear thy bow, Thy mighty quiver, and thy darts, to view Once more the realm of Troy; and through his aid The flames were plac'd below, whose greedy spires Seiz'd on the structure. On the woody top Thou laid'st the hide Nemaean, and thy head, Supported with thy club, with brow serene As though with garlands circled, at a feast Thou laid'st, 'mid goblets fill'd with sparkling wine.
Now the strong fires spread wide o'er every part, Crackling, and seizing his regardless limbs, Who them despis'd. The gods beheld with fear The earth's avenger. Jove, who saw their care With joyous countenance, thus the powers address'd: "This fear, O deities! makes glad my heart; "And lively pleasure swells in all my breast, "That sire and sovereign o'er such grateful minds "I hold my sway; since to my offspring too "Your favoring care extends. No less, 'tis true, "His deeds stupendous claim. Still I'm oblig'd. "But from your anxious breasts banish vain fear; "Despise those flames of OEte; he who all "O'ercame, shall conquer even the flames you see: "Nor shall the power of Vulcan ought consume, "Save his maternal part: what he deriv'd "From me, is ever-during; safe from death; "And never vanquish'd by the force of fire. "That we'll receive, his earthly race compleat, "Amidst the heavenly host; and all I trust "My actions gladly will approve. Should one "Haply, with grief see Hercules a god, "And grudge the high reward; ev'n he shall grant "His great deserts demand it; and allow "Unwilling approbation." All assent; Not even his royal spouse's forehead wore, A frown at ought he said; his final words Irk'd her at length, to be so plainly mark'd. Vulcan meantime each corruptible part Bore off in flames, nor could Alcides' form Remaining, now be known; nought he retain'd Of what his mother gave; Jove's share alone. A serpent revels thus in glittering scales, His age and former skin thrown off at once. So when Tirynthius from his mortal limbs Departed, in his better part he shone, Increas'd in stature; and majestic grace Augustly deck'd his venerable brow. Veil'd in a hollow cloud, and borne along By four swift steeds, in a high car, the sire Him plac'd in glory 'mid the radiant stars. Atlas perceiv'd his load increas'd. Nor yet Eurystheus 'bated in his rancorous hate, But cruel exercis'd his savage rage, Against the offspring of the sire abhorr'd.
But now Alcmena, worn with constant cares, In Argolis, to Ioele confides Her aged plaints, to her the labors tells Her son atchiev'd, o'er all the wide world known; And her own griefs beside. Alcides' words Caus'd Hyllus to his couch to take, and take Ioele, cordial to his inmost heart: And now with generous fruit, the nymph was large. Alcmena, thus to her commenc'd her tale.—
"May thee, at least, the favoring gods indulge; "And all delay diminish, when matur'd, "Thou to Ilithyiae shalt have need to call, "Who o'er travailing mothers bears the rule; "Whom Juno's influence made so hard to me. "Of Hercules toil-bearing, now the birth, "Approach'd, and in the tenth sign rul'd the sun. "A mighty bulk swell'd out my womb, so huge, "Well might you know that Jove the load had caus'd: "Nor could I longer bear my throes (my limbs "Cold rigors seize, while now I speak; my pains "Part ev'n in memory now I seem to feel) "Through seven long nights, and seven long days with pangs "Incessant was I rack'd: my arms to heaven "Stretching, I call'd Lucina, and the powers, "With outcries mighty. True Lucina came, "But came by Juno prepossest, and bent "My life to sacrifice to Juno's rage. "Soon as my groans she hearken'd, down she sate "Upon the altar, plac'd without the gates: "'Neath her right ham, her left knee pressing; join'd "Fingers with fingers cross'd upon her breast "My labor stay'd; and spellful words she spoke "In whispering tone; the spellful words delay'd "Th' approaching birth. I strain, and madly rave "With vain upbraidings to ungrateful Jove, "And crave for death; in such expressions 'plain "As hardest flints might move. The Theban dames "Around me throng; assist me with their prayers; "And me my trying pains exhort to bear. "Galanthis, one who tended me, of race "Plebeian; yellow-hair'd; and sedulous "What order'd to perform; and much esteem'd "For courteous deeds;—she first suspected, (what, "I know not) somewhat, form'd by Juno's pique: "And while she constant pass'd; now to, now fro, "She saw the goddess on the altar sit, "Girding her arms, with close-knit fingers o'er "Her knees, and said;—O dame, whoe'er thou art, "Our mistress gratulate. Alcmena now "Argolican, is lighten'd. Now the prayers "Of the child-bearer meet her hopes.—The dame "Who rules the womb, straight from her station leap'd, "And all astounded, her clench'd fingers loos'd: "I in that moment felt my bonds undone. "Galanthis, they report, the goddess mock'd "Thus cheated, by her laughter. Savage, she "Dragg'd her so laughing, by the tresses seiz'd, "And forc'd her down to earth, as up she strove "Erect to rise; and to forefeet her arms "Transform'd. The same agility remains; "Her back its colour keeps; her form alone "Is diverse. She, 'cause then her lying mouth "My birth assisted, by her mouth still bears: "And round my house she harbors as before."—
She said, and by the memory mov'd, she mourn'd For her lost servant, whom, lamenting, thus Her child-in-law address'd.—"If then the form "Alter'd, of one an alien to your blood, "O mother! thus affects you, let me tell "The wond'rous fortune which my sister met: "Though grief and tears will frequent choke my words.
"Her mother, Dryope alone could boast, "(Me to my sire another bore) her charms "OEthalia all confess'd; whom (rifled first "Of virgin charms, when passively she felt "His force, who Delphos, and who Delos rules) "Andraemon took, and held a happy spouse. "A lake expands with steep and shelving shores "Encompass'd; myrtles crown the rising bank. "Here Dryope, of fate unconscious came, "And what must more commiseration move, "Came to weave chaplets for the Naiad nymphs; "Her arms sustain'd her boy, a pleasing load, "His first year scarce complete, as with warm milk "She nourish'd him. The watery Lotus there, "For promis'd fruit in Tyrian splendor bright, "Grew flowering near. The flowers my sister cropp'd, "And held them to delight her boy; and I, "(For there I stood,) the same prepar'd to do; "But from the flowers red flowing drops I saw, "And all the boughs with tremulous shuddering shook. "Doubtless it is, (but far too late we learn'd "By the rough swains,) nymph Lotis, when she fled "From Priapus obscene, her shape transform'd "Into this tree which still retains her name. "My sister witless of this change, in fright "Would back retreat, and leave the nymphs ador'd, "But roots her feet retain: these from the ground "She strains to rend; but save her upper limbs "Nought can she move; a tender bark grows o'er "The lower parts, and her mid limbs invades. "This seeing, and her locks to rend away "Attempting; her rais'd hand with leaves was fill'd. "Leaves cover'd all her head. Amphyssus found, "(His grandsire had the child Amphyssus nam'd) "His mother's breasts grow hard; nor when he suck'd "Lacteal fluid gain'd he. I there stood, "Of her sad fate spectator: loud I cry'd— "But, O my sister! aid I could not bring; "Yet what I could I urg'd; the growing trunk, "And growing boughs, my close embraces staid: "In the same bark I glad had been enclos'd. "Lo! come her spouse Andraemon, and her sire "So wretched; and for Dryope they seek: "A Lotus, as for Dryope they ask, "I shew them; to the yet warm wood salutes "Ardent they give; and prostrate spread, the roots "They clasp of their own tree. Now, sister dear! "Nought save thy face but what a tree becomes. "Thy tears, the leaves thy body form'd, bedew. "And now, whilst able, while her mouth yet gives "To words a passage, such like plaints as these "She breathes;—If faith th' unhappy e'er can claim, "I swear by all the deities, this deed "I never merited: without a crime "My punishment I suffer. Innocent "My life has been. If I deceive, may drought "Parch those new leaves; and, by the hatchet fell'd, "May fire consume me. Yet this infant bear "From those maternal branches; to a nurse "Transfer him; but contrive that oft he comes "And 'neath my boughs let him his milk imbibe; "And 'neath my boughs sport playful. When with words "Able to hail me, let him me salute, "And sorrowing say;—Within that trunk lies hid "My mother—But the lakes, O! let him dread, "Nor dare from any tree to snatch a flower; "But think each shrub he sees a god contains. "Adieu! dear husband; sister dear, adieu! "Father, farewel! if pious cares you feel, "From the sharp axe defend my boughs, and from "The browsing flocks. And now, as fate denies "To lean my arms to yours,—your arms advance; "Approach my lips, whilst you my lips may touch: "And to them lift my infant boy. More words "I may not;—now the tender bark my neck, "So white, invades; my utmost summit hid. "Move from my lids your fingers, for the bark, "So rapid growing, will my dying eyes "Without assistance close.—Her lips to speak "Cease, and existence ceases: the fresh boughs "Long in the alter'd body warm were felt."
While Ioele the mournful fact relates; And while Alcmena, from Eurytus' maid, With ready fingers dry'd the tears; herself Still weeping, lo! a novel deed assuag'd Their grief—for Ioelaues, scarcely youth, His cheeks with tender down just cover'd, stands Within the porch; to early years restor'd.
Junonian Hebe, by her husband's prayers O'ercome, to Ioelaues gave the boon. Who, when to vow she went, that future times Should none such gift enjoying, e'er perceive, Was check'd by Themis. "Now all Thebes,"—she said, "Discordant warfare moves. Through Jove alone "Capaneus can be conquer'd. Mutual wounds "Shall slay the brothers. In the yawning earth "A living prophet his own tomb shall see. "A son avenger of his parent's death "Upon his parent: impious for the deed, "At once, and pious: at the action stunn'd, "Exil'd from home, and from his senses driv'n, "The furies' faces, and his mother's shade "Shall haunt him; till his wife the fatal gold "Shall ask: and till the Phegian sword shall pierce "Their kinsman's side. Callirhoe then, the nymph "From Acheloues sprung, suppliant shall seek "From Jove, her infants years mature may gain. "Mov'd by her prayers, Jove will from thee demand, "Son's spouse, and daughter of his wife, the boon "And unripe men thou'lt make the youths become."
While Themis thus, with fate-foretelling lips, This spoke; the gods in murmuring grudgings mourn'd, Angry why others might not grant the gift. Aurora mourn'd her husband's aged years: Mild Ceres 'plain'd that Jason's hairs were white: Vulcan, for Erichthonius pray'd an age Renew'd. E'en Venus future cares employ'd, Anxious for promise that Anchises' years Replenishment might find: And every god Had whom he lov'd; and dark sedition grew From special favor; till the mighty sire The silence broke.—"If reverence I may claim, "Where rashly rush ye? Which of you the power, "Fate to control, possesses? Fate it was "Gave Ioelaues youth restor'd again: "By Fate Callirhoe's sons ere long shall spring "To manhood, prematurely; nor can arms "Nor yet ambition gain this gift. With souls "More tranquil bear this; since you see the fates "Me also rule. Could I the fates once change, "Old age should never bend AEaecus down; "And Rhadamanthus had perpetual spring "Of youth enjoy'd, with Minos, now despis'd "Through load of bitter years, nor reigns as wont."
Jove's words the deities all mov'd; not one Longer complain'd, when heavy press'd with years They AEaecus, and Rhadamanthus saw; And Minos: who, when in his prime of age, Made mightiest nations tremble at his name. He, feeble then, at Deione's son Miletus, trembled, who with youthful strength, And Phoebus' origin proud swol'n, and known About to rise against his rule:—yet him He dar'd not from his household roof to drive. But thou, Miletus, fled'st spontaneous, thou Th' AEgean waves in thy swift ship didst pass, And on the Asian land the walls didst found Which bear the builder's name. Cyance here, Maeander's daughter, whose recurving banks She often trode: (whose stream itself reseeks So oft) in beauteous form, by thee was known, And, claspt by thee, a double offspring came, Byblis and Caunus, from the warm embrace.
Let Byblis warn, that nymphs should ne'er indulge Illicit warmth. Her brother Byblis lov'd; Not as she ought; not with a sister's soul. No fires at first the maid suspected; nought Of sin: the thought that oft her lips to his She wish'd to join, and clasp her arms around His neck fraternal, long herself deceiv'd, Beneath the semblance of a duteous love. Love gradual bends to him her soul; she comes Fully adorn'd to see him, anxious pants Beauteous to seem; if one more beauteous there She sees, invidious she that face beholds. Still to herself unconscious was her love: No wish she form'd beneath that burning flame, Yet all within was fire. She call'd him lord, Now kindred's name detesting; anxious more, Byblis, than sister he should call her still. Yet waking, ne'er her soul durst entertain Lascivious wishes. When relax'd in sleep, Then the lov'd object oft her fancy saw; Oft seem'd her bosom to his bosom join'd: Yet blush'd she, tranc'd in sleep. Her slumbers fly, She lies awhile in silence, and revolves Her dream: and thus in doubting accents speaks; "Ah, wretch! what means this dream of silent night, "Which yet I oft would wish? Why have I known "This vision? Envy's eyes must own him fair, "And but his sister am I, all my love "He might possess; worthy of all my love. "A sister's claim then hurts me! O! at least "(While tempted thus I wakeful nought commit) "Let sleep oft visit with such luscious dreams: "No witness sees my sleeping joys; my joys, "Though sleeping, yet are sweet. O, Venus! O, "Thou feather'd Cupid, with thy tender dame! "What transports I enjoy'd! what true delight "Me thrill'd! how lay I, all my soul dissolv'd! "How joys it me to trace in mind again "The pleasure though so brief: for flying night "Invidious check'd enjoyment in the bud. "O Caunus! that an alter'd name might join "Us closely; that thy sire a sire-in-law "To me might be: O, Caunus, how I'd joy "Wert thou not son, but son-in-law to mine. "Would that the gods had all in common given, "Save parents only. Thou in lofty birth "I would should me excel. O beauteous youth! "A mother whom thou'lt make I know not; I "Ne'er can thee know but with a sister's love: "Parents the same as thine my hapless lot. "All that I have, me only pains the more. "What are to me my visions? Weight have dreams? "How much more happy are th' immortal gods! "The gods embrace their sisters. Saturn clasps "Ops, join'd to him by blood; Ocean enjoys "His sister Tethys; and Olympus' king "His Juno. Gods peculiar laws possess. "Why seek I then celestial rites to bring "Diverse, with human ord'nance to compare? "Forbidden love shall from my breast be driv'n, "Or that impossible, may death me seize "Instant, and cold upon my couch outstretch'd, "My brother then may kiss me as I lie. "Yet still my wish double consent requires. "Grant I should yield, still might the deed to him "Seem execrable. Yet th' AEolian youth "A sister's nuptial couch ne'er dreaded. Why, "O, why! on this so dwell? Why thus recal "Examples to my view? Where am I borne? "Hence, flames obscene! hence far! a sister's love, "And that alone my brother shall enjoy. "But had his soul first burn'd for me, perchance "I had indulg'd his passion. Surely then "I may demand, who would not, ask'd, refuse. "What couldst thou speak? Couldst thou confess thy flame? "Love forces, and I can. If shame my lips "Close binds; yet secret letters may disclose "The hidden flame."—With this idea pleas'd, These words her hesitating mind resolv'd, Rais'd on her side, supported by her arm.— "He shall"—she said—"now know it; all my love "Preposterous confess'd. Alas! what depth "Now rush I to? What fire has seiz'd my soul?"— And then with tremulous hand the words compos'd. Her right hand grasps the style, the left sustains The waxen tablet smooth; and then begins. She doubts; she writes; condemns what now she wrote; Corrects; erases; alters; now dislikes; And now approves. Now throws the tablet by, Then seizes it again. Irres'lute what She would; whate'er is done displeases, all. Shame and audacious boldness in her face Are mingled. Sister, once her hand had wrote, But sister, soon as seen, her hand eras'd; And her fair tablet bore such words as these.— "To thee, a lover salutation sends, "And health, which only thou to her canst give: "Asham'd, she blushes to disclose her name. "For should I press to gain my wish'd desire, "Without my name, my cause I trust would find "Successful aid. Let Byblis not be known "Till certain hopes of bliss her mind shall cheer. "Yet faded color, leanness, and pale face, "With constant dripping eye, and rising sobs "Shew my unhidden grief. Well might these prove "To thee an index of a wounded heart. "My constant clasping, numerous fond salutes, "If e'er thou'st mark'd, thou well might have perceiv'd "Not sister-like embracings. In my soul "Though this deep wound I bear; though in my breast "This fire consuming burns, yet strive I all, "(Witness, ye gods! my truth) all to suppress, "And act with wiser conduct: hapless war "Long have I wag'd 'gainst Cupid's furious rule "More pressure have I borne, than what a maid "Could e'er be thought to bear. At length o'ercome, "And forc'd to yield, thy help I must implore "With trembling voice: thou only canst preserve, "Thou only canst the loving nymph destroy. "With thee the choice remains. No foe thus sues, "But one by nearest ties to thee conjoin'd, "Pants to be join'd more nearly; link'd to thee "With closest bands. Let aged seniors learn "Our laws, and seek what moral codes permit. "What is permitted, and what is deny'd, "Let them enquire, and closely search the laws: "A bolder love more suits our growing years. "As yet we know not what the laws allow; "And judge for all things we free leave enjoy; "Th' example following of the mighty gods. "Nor parent stern, nor strict regard for fame, "Nor timid thoughts should check us; absent all "Should be each cause of fear. The dear sweet theft "Beneath fraternal love may be conceal'd; "With thee in secret converse I may speak, "Embrace thee, kiss thee in the open crowd; "How little then remains! Pity, forgive, "The declaration of this love, ne'er told "Had raging fire not urg'd it, nor allow "Upon my tomb this cause of death to stand.—"
Here the fill'd tablet check'd her hand, in vain Thus writing, at the utmost edge the lines, But stay'd. Her crime straightway she firmly press'd, With her carv'd gem, and moisten'd it with tears: Her tears of utterance robb'd her. Bashful then She call'd a page, and blandishing in fear Exclaim'd.—"Thou faithful boy, this billet bear—" And hesitated long ere more she said, Ere—"to my brother, bear it."—As she gave The tablet, from her trembling hand it fell; The omen deep disturb'd her. Yet she sent.
A chosen hour the servant sought, went forth And gave the secret message. Sudden rage me youth Maeandrian petrify'd; and down The half-read lines upon the ground he flung. His hand scarce holding from the trembling face Of the pale messenger. "Quick, fly!" he cry'd, "Thou wicked pander of forbidden lust! "Fly while thou may'st; and know, had not thy fate "Involv'd our modest name, death hadst thou found.—" He terrify'd escapes, and backward bears, To his young mistress all fierce Caunus spoke.
Pale, thou, O Byblis! heardst the rough repulse; Thy breast with frigid chills beset. But soon Her spirits rally, and her furious love Returns: scarce to the trembling air her tongue Can utterance give in these indignant words;— "Deserv'dly mourn I, who so rashly gave "Him of my wounds the conscious tale to learn. "Why trust so soon to words, what still might hid "Remain, on tablets hastily compos'd? "Why were not first the wishes of my soul "Try'd in ambiguous hints? First, sure I ought "Whence the wind blew have mark'd; nor loos'd my sails, "Him flying, to pursue, and the wide main "In all directions plough: now bellies out "My canvas; not a single course explor'd. "Hence am I borne against the rocks; hence 'whelm'd "In the wide depth of ocean; nor my sails "Know I to tack returning. Did not heaven "Check the indulgence of my love, by marks "Obvious to all? when from my hand down dropp'd "The tablet, which the boy was bade to bear. "Mark'd that my falling hopes not? More deferr'd "Thy wishes, or the day should sure have been; "Surely the day. For heaven itself me warn'd, "And certain signs me gave; but those my mind "Stupid neglected. Personal my words "Should I have urg'd, nor trusted to the wax. "In person should my love have been display'd. "Then had my tears been seen; then had he view'd "My raptur'd countenance; then had I spoke "Far more than power of letters can convey. "My arms around his neck I then had thrown "Howe'er unwilling; and, had he been coy, "In dying posture I his feet had clasp'd; "And stretch'd before him life demanding, all "Had I achiev'd. Perchance though, by the boy, "My messenger commission'd, I have fail'd: "Aptly perhaps he enter'd not; perhaps, "And much I fear, improper hours he chose; "Nor sought a vacant time, when nought his mind "Disturb'd. This has, alas! my hopes destroy'd: "For from a tiger Caunus sprung not; round "His heart not solid steel, nor rigid flint, "Nor adamant is girt; nor has he suck'd "The lioness's milk. He shall be bent, "And gain'd his heart shall be; nor will I brook "The smallest bar to what I undertake, "While now this spirit holds. My primal wish "(If it were given I might revoke my deeds) "Is, I had ne'er commenc'd: my second now "Is, that I persevere in what's begun. "For should I now my wishes not pursue, "Still must he of those daring wishes think; "And should I now desist, well might he judge "Form'd lightly my desires: or plann'd to try "His virtue, and involve in snares his fame: "Or, (dreadful!) think me not by love o'ercome, "(Who burns and rages fiercely in my breast) "But by hot lust. For now conceal'd no more "My guilty act can be; I've written once, "Once have I ask'd; corrupted all my soul. "Should further no depravity ensue, "Guilty I must be call'd. What more remains, "In crime is little, but in hope immense."—
She said, and such the wavering of her breast, That, whilst the trial grieves her which she made, Farther to try she wishes; every bound O'erpassing; and, with luckless fate, her suit Still meets repulsion. He, when endless seem'd Her pressing, fled his country, and the crime; And in a foreign region rais'd new walls.
Then, daughter of Miletus, they report, Forsook thee all thy senses; then in truth Thou rent thy garments from thy breast; thy breast Thy furious hands hard smote. Now to the world Madly she raves; now to the world displays Her wish'd-for love, deny'd: all hope—despair! She too forsook her country, and the roof So hated; and the vagrant steps pursu'd Her flying brother trode. As Thracia's dames O, son of Semele! thy Thyrsus shake When celebrating thy triennial rites, So did the Carian matrons, Byblis see Fly o'er the wide-spread fields, with shrieks and howls: These left behind, o'er Caria's plains she runs, And through the warlike Leleges, and through The Lycian realms. Now Cragos had she left, And Lymire, and Xanthus' waves behind; With the high ridge Chimaera lifts, who burns Central with flames; his breast and front fierce arm'd A lion—tow'rd his tail a serpent form'd. Now all the forests past; thou Byblis, faint With long pursuit, fall'st flat; on the hard ground Thy locks are spread; dumb now thou ly'st; thy face Presses the fallen leaves. Oft in their arms So delicate, the Lelegeian nymphs To raise thee up attempted. Oft they strove To give advice that might thy love control, And offer solace to thy deafen'd ear. Still silent Byblis lies; and with her nails Rends the green herbage; moistens all the grass With rivulets of tears. And here, they say, The Naiaed nymphs their bubbling art supply'd. Ne'er drought to know: more to afford, their power Sure could not. Straightway, as the pitchy drops Flow from the fir's cleft bark; from solid earth As stiff bitumen oozes; or as streams, By cold congeal'd, thaw with the southern wind And warming sun: Phoebean Byblis so By her own tears exhausted, was transform'd, A fount becoming; which still in that vale, 'Neath a dark ilex springing, keeps her name.
Now had the rumor of this wond'rous change Spread rapid through the hundred towns of Crete, But Crete had lately seen a wond'rous change In her own clime, in Iphis' alter'd form. There in the Phestian land, near Gnossus' realm Was Lygdus born: a man of unknown fame, But a plebeian of unblemish'd worth: Nor had he, more than noble stock, estate; Yet unimpeach'd for honesty his life. He thus the ears of his then pregnant spouse Address'd, when near her bearing time approach'd:— "Two things my wishes bound; first that thy pains "May lightly press, next that a male thou bring'st: "More burdensome are females; strength to them "Nature denies. Then if by fate ordain'd "To give a female birth, which I detest, "Unwilling I command,—O piety! "Excuse it,—let the babe to death be given."— He said, and tears profuse the cheeks bedew Of him who bade, and her who heard his words. Still Telethusa to the latest hour, With vain petitions strives her spouse to move, That thus he should not straighten so his hopes. Firm to his purpose Lygdus stood. And now Scarce could the heavy weight her womb sustain; When in the silent space of night, in sleep Entranc'd; or Isis stood before her bed, Or seem'd to stand; surrounded by the pomp To her belonging. On her forehead shone The lunar horns, and yellow wheat them bound In golden radiance, with a regal crown. With her Anubis, barker came; and came Bubastis holy; Apis various-mark'd; He who the voice suppresses, and directs To silence with his finger; timbrels loud; Osiris never sought enough; and snakes Of foreign lands full of somniferous gall. To her the goddess thus, as rais'd from sleep She seem'd, and manifest each object stood:— "O vot'ry, Telethusa! fling aside "Thy weighty cares; thy husband's mandates cheat; "Nor waver, when Lucina helps thy pains: "Save it whate'er it be. A goddess I, "Assisting, still give aid when rightly claim'd: "Nor will it e'er thee grieve to have ador'd "An ingrate goddess."—Thus as she advis'd, She vanish'd from the bed. The Cretan dame Rose from the couch o'erjoy'd; and raising high To heaven her guiltless hands, pray'd that her dream On truth was founded. Now her pains increas'd; And now her burthen forc'd itself to air: A daughter came, but to the sire unknown. The mother bade them rear it as a boy, And all a boy believ'd it; none the truth, The nurse excepted, knew. Glad prayers the sire Offers, and from its grandsire is it nam'd: (Iphis, the grandsire's appellation.) Joy'd The mother hears the name, which either sex May claim; and none, in that at least, deceiv'd; The lie lay hid beneath a pious fraud. The robes were masculine, the face was such As beauteous boy, or beauteous girl might own.
And now three annual suns the tenth had pass'd, Thy father, Iphis, had to thee betroth'd Iaenthe, yellow-hair'd; nymph most admir'd 'Mongst all the Phestians, for her beauteous charms: Telestes of Dictaea was her sire. Equal in age, and equal in fair form; The self-same masters taught the early arts, Suiting their years. Their unsuspecting minds Were both by love thus touch'd, in both was fix'd An equal wound: but far unlike their hopes. Iaenthe, for a spouse impatient looks, With nuptial torches. Whom a man she thinks, That spouse she hopes will be. Iphis too loves, Despairing what she loves e'er to enjoy: This still the more her love augments, and burns A virgin for a virgin. Scarce from tears Refraining;—"What,"—she cries,—"for me remains? "What will the issue be? What cure for this "New love, unknown to all, who prodigies "Possess in this desire? If the high gods "Me wish to spare, straight should they me destroy. "Yet would they me destroy, they should have given "A curse more natural; a more usual fate. "Love for an heifer ne'er an heifer moves; "Nor burns the mare for mares: rams follow ewes; "The stag pursues his female; birds thus join: "Nor animal creation female shews "With love of female seiz'd. Would none were I! "But lest all monstrous loves Crete might not shew; "Sol's daughter chose a bull; even that was male "With female. Yet, if candidly I speak, "My passion wilder far than hers appears. "She hop'd-for love pursu'd; by fraud enjoy'd; "Beneath an heifer's form, th' adulterous spark "Deceiving. Be from every part of earth "Assembled here the skill: let Daedalus "Hither, on waxen wings rebend his flight, "What could all aid? Could all their learned art "Change me from maid to youth? or alter thee "Iaenthe? But why resolute, thy mind "Not fix? Why Iphis thus thyself forget, "These stupid wishes driving hence, and thoughts "So unavailing? Lo! what thou wast born, "(Save thou would'st also thine own breast deceive) "What is allow'd behold, and as a maid "May love, love only. Hope, first snatch'd by love, "Love feeds on still. From thee all hope is borne. "No guardians thee debar the dear embrace; "Nor watchful husband's care; no sire severe; "Nor she herself denies thy pressing prayers, "Yet art thou still forbid, though all agree; "To reap the bliss, though gods and men unite. "Behold, too, all my votive prayers succeed: "The favoring gods whate'er I pray'd have given. "My sire and hers, and even herself comply, "But nature far more strong denies, alone "Me irking with refusal. Lo! arrives "The wish'd-for hour; the matrimonial light "Approaches; when Iaenthe will be mine; "And yet far from me. In the midst of waves "For thirst I perish. Nuptial Juno, why "Com'st thou, or Hymen to these rites; where none "Leads to the altar, but where both are led?"—
Here staid her speech; nor less the other nymph Burn'd; and O, Hymen, pray'd thy quick approach. But what she wishes Telethusa dreads, And searches for delays; feign'd sickness oft Prolongs the time; oft omens dire, and dreams. Now all her artful fictions are consum'd; And now the long protracted period came, For nuptial rites; and, but one day remain'd. She from her own and daughter's head unbinds The fillets; and with locks dishevell'd, clasps The altar, crying;—"Isis, thou who dwell'st "In Paraetonium; Mareotis' fields; "In Pharos; and the sev'nfold mouths of Nile. "Help me I pray! relieve my trembling dread. "Thee, goddess, once I saw; and with thee all "Those images beheld; them all I know: "Thy train, thy torches, and thy timbrels loud. "And with a mindful soul thy words I mark'd. "That she enjoys the light, that I myself, "Not sinful suffer, to thy counsels, we, "And admonitions owe. Pity us both; "Grant us thy helping aid."—Tears follow'd words. Straight seem'd the goddess' altars all to shake; (And shake they did) trembled the temple's doors; The lunar horns blaz'd bright; the timbrels rung.
Forth goes the mother, of the omen glad, Yet not in faith secure. Iphis pursues His mother with a step more large than wont: The snow-like whiteness quits his face; his strength Increases; fiercer frowns his forehead wears: Shorten'd his uncomb'd locks: more vigor now Than as a nymph he felt. For thou, a boy Now art—so late a female! Bear thy gifts Straight to the temple; and in faith rejoice. Straight to the temple they their offerings bore, And on them this short poem was inscrib'd.— "Iphis a boy, the offerings pays, which maid, "Iphis had vow'd."—The following sun illum'd The wide world with his rays; when Venus came, Juno, and Hymen, to the genial fires; And the boy Iphis his Iaenthe clasp'd.
*The Tenth Book.*
Marriage of Orpheus and Eurydice. Her death. Descent of Orpheus to Hell, to recover her. Her second loss. His mournful music on mount Haemus draws the trees, birds, and beasts around him. Change of Cyparissus to a cypress-tree. Song of Orpheus. Ganymede. Hyacinth changed to a flower. The Amanthians to oxen. The Propaetides to flints. Pygmalion's statue to a woman. Myrrha's incestuous love, and transformation to a tree. Venus' love for Adonis. Story of Atalanta and Hippomenes. Adonis changed to an anemone.
THE *Tenth Book* OF THE METAMORPHOSES OF OVID.
Thence Hymen, in his saffron vesture clad, Through the vast air departs; and seeks the land Ciconian; by the voice of Orpheus call'd Vainly. He came indeed, but with him brought No wonted gratulations, no glad face, Nor happy omen. And the torch he bore Crackled in hissing smoke; nor gather'd flame From whirling motion. Still more dire th' event Prov'd, than the presage. As the new-made bride, Attended by a train of Naiad nymphs, Rov'd through the grass, a serpent's fangs her heel Pierc'd, and she instant dy'd. Her, when long-mourn'd In upper air, the Rhodopeian bard Ventur'd to seek in shades, and dar'd descend Through the Taenarian cave to Stygia's realms. 'Mid shadowy crowds, and bury'd ghosts he goes, To Proserpine, and him who rules the shades With sway ungrateful. There he strikes the strings Responsive to his words, and this his song.— "Gods of this subterraneous world, where all "Of mortal origin must come, permit "That I the truth declare; no tedious tales "Of falshood will I tell. Here came I not "Your dusky Hell to view: nor to o'ercome "The triple-throated Medusaean beast "Snake-hair'd;—my wife alone my journey caus'd, "Whose heel a trampled serpent venom'd stung: "Snatch'd in her bloom of years. Much did I wish, "My loss to bear; nor ought forbore to strive; "But love o'ercame. Well do the upper gods "That deity confess. In doubt I stand "If here too he is known; but here I judge "His power is felt: the ancient rape, if true, "Proves love ev'n you first join'd. You I implore, "By all those regions fill'd with dread; by this "Chaos immense; your ample realm, all fill'd "With silence; once again the thread renew "Eurydice too hasty lost. To you "We all belong; a little while we stay, "Then soon or late to one repose we haste: "All hither tend; this is our final home. "You hold o'er human kind a lengthen'd reign. "She too, when once her years mature are fill'd, "To you again, must by just right belong. "I then request her only as a loan: "But should the fates this favor me refuse, "Certain I'll ne'er return. Two deaths enjoy."— The bloodless shadows wept as thus he sung, And struck the strings in concord with his words. Nor Tantalus at flying waters caught; Nor roll'd Ixion's wheel: the liver gnaw'd The birds not: rested on their empty urns The Belides: and Sisyphus, thou sat'st Upon thy stone. Nay fame declares, then first, Vanquish'd by song, the furies felt their cheeks Wetted with tears. Nor could the royal spouse, Nor he who rules deep darkness, him withstand Thus praying; and Eurydice is call'd. Amid the recent dead she walk'd, and still Halted with tardy steps from her late wound. Her, when the bard of Thrace receiv'd, this law Receiv'd he also: that his eyes reverse He should not bend, till past Avernus' realms; Else he'd the granted favor useless find. In silence mute, through the steep path they climb Dark, difficult, and thick with pitchy mist; Nor far earth's surface wanted they to gain: The lover here, in dread lest she should stray, And anxious to behold, bent back his sight, And instant back she sunk. As forth his arms He stretch'd, to clasp expecting, and be clasp'd: Unhappy! nought but fleeting air he held. Twice dying, she can nought her spouse condemn; For how blame him because too much he lov'd? She gives her last farewel; which scarce his ears Receive, then sinks again to shades below.
Orpheus, thus doubly of his spouse despoil'd, All stunn'd appear'd: not less than he who saw In wild affright the triple-headed dog, Chain'd by the midmost: fear him never fled, Till fled his former nature: sudden stone On all his body seizing. Or than he, Olenus, when the crime upon himself He took, and guilty wish'd to seem; with thee Hapless Lethaea, confident in charms. Once breast to breast you join'd, now join as stones, Which watery Ida bears. Beseeching vain, And wishing once again the stream to pass, The ferryman denies. Then on the bank In squalid guise he sate, nor tasted food For seven long days; his cares, and grieving soul, And tears were all the sustenance he knew. Cruel he call'd the gods of Erebus, And to high Rhodope himself betook, And lofty Haemus by the north-wind beat.
Thrice had the sun the year completed, each By watery Pisces ended. Orpheus still Fled every female's love: or his deep woe Made him so cold; or faithful promise giv'n. Yet crowds there were, who wish'd the bard's embrace: And crowds with sorrow saw their love repuls'd. A hill there rose, and on its summit spread A wide extended plain, with herbage green: Shade to the place was wanting; hither came The heaven-born poet; seated him, and touch'd His sounding strings, and straight a shade approach'd. Nor wanted there Chaoenian trees; nor groves Of poplars; nor the acorn's spacious leaves: The linden soft, the beech, the virgin bay, The brittle hazle, and spear-forming ash; The knotless fir; ilex with fruit low-bow'd; The genial plane; the maple various stain'd; Stream-loving willow; and the watery lote; Box of perpetual green; slight tamarisk; Two-teinted myrtle; and the laurustine With purple berries. Thou too, ivy, cam'st Hither with flexile feet: together flock'd Grape-bearing vines; and elms with vines entwin'd: Wild ash, and pitch tree; and arbutus, bent With loads of ruddy fruit; the pliant palm, Meed of the conqueror; the pine close bound About its boughs, but at its summit shagg'd: Dear to the mother of celestial powers, Since Atys Cybeleian was transform'd, And in the trunk a rigid tree became.
In form pyramidal, amid the crowd, The cypress came; now tree, but once a boy; Dear to the god who rules the lyre's fine chords, And rules the bowstring. Once was known a stag Sacred to nymphs that own Carthaea's fields, Who bore upon his head a lofty shade From his wide-spreading horns; his horns bright shone With gold; his collar, with bright gems bedeck'd, Fell o'er his shoulders from his round neck hung; A silver boss, by slender reins control'd Mov'd o'er his brow; a brazen pair the same, Shone o'er his temples hanging from his ears: Devoid of fear, his nature's timid dread Relinquish'd, oft the houses would he seek; And oft would gently fondling stoop his neck, Heedless who strok'd him. Cyparissus, thou Beyond all others priz'd the sacred beast: Thou, fairest far amongst the Caean youths. Thou to fresh pastures led'st the stag; to streams Of cooling fountains: oft his horns entwin'd With variegated garlands. Horseman-like Now on his back thou pressest; and now here, Now there, thou rul'st his soft jaws with the reins Of purple tinge. 'Twas once in mid-day heat, When burnt the bent claws of the sea-shore crab, In Sol's fierce vapor; on the grassy earth The weary stag repos'd his limbs, and drew Cool breezes from the trees umbrageous shades. Here the boy Cyparissus careless flung His painted dart, and fix'd it in his side. Who, when he from the cruel wound beheld Him dying, instant bent his mind to die. What consolation did not Phoebus speak? Urging the loss far slighter grief deserv'd: Yet mourn'd he still, and from the gods supreme Begg'd this last gift, to latest times to mourn. His blood in constant tears exhausted, now His limbs a green hue take; his locks which late Hung o'er his snowy forehead, rough become In frightful bushiness; and hardening quick, Shoot up to heaven in form a slender spire. The mourning god, in grief exclaim'd—"By me "Bemoan'd, thou shalt with others always grieve; "And henceforth mourners shalt thou still attend."— Thus did the bard a wood collect around; And in the midst he sate of thronging beasts, And crowding birds. The chords he amply try'd With his impulsive thumb, and vary'd much In sound, he found their notes concordant still; Then to this song rais'd his melodious voice.—
"O parent muse! from Jove derive my song: "All yield to Jove's dominion. Oft my verse "Before the mightiness of Jove has sung. "I sung the giants, in a strain sublime, "And vengeful thunders, o'er Phlegraea's plain "Scatter'd; a tender theme now claims my lyre: "I sing of youths by deities belov'd; "And nymphs who with forbidden wishes burn'd, "And met the doom their sensual lusts deserv'd. "The king of gods made Phrygian Ganymede "His favorite, but some other form possess'd. "Jove must in shape be something else than Jove. "He deems no form becomes him, save the bird "That bears his thunder. Instant all is done; "The Phrygian borne away: the air he beats "With his feign'd wing. And now this youth the cup "Of nectar hands, in Juno's spite, to Jove.
"Son of Amycla, thee had Phoebus plac'd "Also the skies amidst, had fate allow'd "For such position place; yet still thou hold'st "Eternal, what fate grants: oft as the spring "Winter repulses, and the ram succeeds "The watery fishes, thou spring'st forth in flower "'Mid the green sward. Beyond all else my sire "Thee lov'd, and Delphos, plac'd in midmost earth, "Wanted its ruling power, whilst now the god "Eurotas lov'd, and Sparta un-intrench'd. "Nor lyre, nor darts attention claim'd as wont; "Of dignity unmindful, he not spurns "To bear the nets; to curb the hounds; to climb "With the full train the steepest mountain's ridge: "And every toil augments his pleasure more. "Now had the sun the midmost point near gain'd "'Twixt flying night, and night approaching, each "Distant in equal space; when from their limbs "They flung their robes; with the fat olive's juice "Their bodies shone; they enter'd in the lists "Of the broad disk, which Phoebus first well pois'd, "Then flung through lofty air; opposing clouds "Flying it cleft; at length on solid earth "It pitch'd, displaying skill with strength combin'd. "Instant the rash Taenarian boy, impell'd "By love of sport, sprung on to snatch the orb, "But the hard ground repulsive in thy face, "O, Hyacinth! it flung. Pale as the boy "The god appear'd: he rais'd his fainting limbs, "And in his arms now cherishes, now wipes "The fatal wound, now stays his fleeting breath, "With herbs apply'd; but all his arts are vain; "Incurable the hurt. Just so, when broke, "The violet, poppy, or the lily hang, "Whose dark stems in a water'd garden spring; "Flaccid they instant droop; the weighty head "No longer upright rais'd, but bent to earth. "So bent his dying face; his neck, bereft "Of vigor, heavy on his shoulder laid. "Phoebus exclaim'd;—Fall'st thou, OEbalian youth, "Depriv'd of life in prime? and must I see "Thy death my fault? thou art my grief, my crime; "My hand the charge of thy destruction bears: "I am the cause of thy untimely fate! "But what my crime? unless with him to sport; "Unless a fault it were too much to love. "Would I could life for thee, or with thee quit; "But fatal laws restrain me: yet shalt thou "Be with me still; dwell ever on my lips; "My hand shall sound thee on the lyre I touch; "My songs of thee shall tell: a new-found flower "Shall bear the letters which my griefs resound: "And time shall come, when a most valiant chief "Shall join him to thy flower; in the same leaf "His name too shall be read.—As words like these "The truth-predicting lips of Phoebus spoke, "Behold! the blood which flow'd along the ground, "And all the herbage ting'd, is blood no more; "But springs a flower than Tyrian red more bright, "A form assuming such as lilies wear: "Like it, save purple this, that silvery white. "Nor yet content was Phoebus; for from him "The honor was deriv'd. Upon its leaves "He trac'd his groans: ai, ai, on every flower "In mournful characters is fair inscrib'd. "Nor blush the Spartans, Hyacinth to own: "His honors still the present age attend; "And annual are the Hyacinthian feasts, "In pomp surpassing aught of ancient days.
"Should you by chance of Amathus enquire, "If williang the Propoetides it bore, "Denying nods would equally disclaim "Them, and the race whose foreheads once were rough "With double horns; Cerastae, hence their name. "Jove's hospitable altar at their gates "Of mournful wickedness was rear'd: who saw "This stain'd with gore, if stranger, might conceive "That sucking calves, or two-year's sheep there bled. "There bled the guest! Mild Venus griev'd "At these most impious rites, at first prepar'd "To quit her cities, and her Cyprian fields:— "But how,—she said,—can my beloved clime? "How can my towns have given offence? what fault "Abides in them? Rather the impious race, "Shall vengeance feel in exile, or in death; "Save death and exile medium may allow: "How may that be, unless their shape is chang'd?— "Then while she doubts what shape they shall assume, "Their horns attract her eyes; struck by the hint, "Their mighty horns she leaves them, and transforms "To savage oxen all their lusty limbs.
"Still dar'd th' obscene Propoetides deny "Venus a goddess' power; for which, fame says "They first, so forc'd the deity's revenge, "Their bodies prostituted, and their charms. "As shame them left, the blood which ting'd their cheeks "Harden'd, and soon they rigid stone became.
"These saw Pygmalion, and the age beheld "With crimes o'er-run; the shameful vice abhorr'd "Which lavish nature gave their female souls. "Single, and spouseless liv'd he; long a mate "Press'd not his couch. Meantime the ivory white "With happy skill, and wond'rous art he carv'd; "And form'd a beauteous figure; never maid "So perfect yet was born, and his own work "With love inspir'd him. Of a nymph her face "Was such, you must believe the form to live, "And move, if not by bashfulness restrain'd. "Thus art his art conceal'd. Pygmalion stares "In admiration; and his breast draws flames "From the feign'd body: oft his hands his work "Approach, if ivory or if flesh to judge; "Nor ivory then will he confess the form. "Kisses he gives, and thinks each kiss return'd: "He speaks, he grasps her; where he grasps, he thinks "His hands impression leave; and fears to see "On the prest limbs some marks of livid blue. "Now blandish'd words he uses; now he bears "Those gifts so grateful to a girlish mind; "Pearls, and smooth-polish'd gems, and smallest birds, "With variegated flowers, and lilies fair, "And painted figures, and the Heliads' tears, "Dropt from the weeping tree: with garments gay "Her limbs too he adorns, and jewels gives "To deck her fingers; while a necklace large "Hangs round her neck: her ears light pearls suspend; "And a bright zone is circled round her waist. "All well became her, yet most beauteous far "She unattir'd appear'd. Her on a couch, "Ting'd with the shell Sidonian, then he laid, "And call'd her partner of his bed; and plac'd "Her head reclin'd, as if with sense endu'd, "On the soft pillow. Now the feast approach'd "Of Venus, through all Cyprus' isle so fam'd, "And snowy-chested heifers, whose bent horns "With gold were gay, receiv'd the deadly blow; "And incense burnt in clouds. Pygmalion stood "Before the altar, with his offer'd gifts: "Timid he spoke,—O ye all-potent gods! "Give me a spouse just like my ivory nymph,— "Give me my ivory nymph—he blush'd to say. "Bright Venus then, as present at her feast, "Perceiv'd the inmost wishes of his soul; "And gave the omen of a friendly power. "Thrice blaz'd the fire, and thrice the flame leap'd high.
"Returning, he the darling statue seeks "Of his fair nymph; extends him on the couch; "Kisses, and thinks he feels her lips grow warm: "Applies his lips again, and with his hand "Presses her bosom: prest the ivory yields, "Softening beneath his fingers; nor remains "Its rigid harshness. So Hymettus' wax "Yields to the heat, when tempering thumbs it mould "In various forms; and fit for future use. "Astonish'd now he joys with trembling soul, "But fears deception; then he loves again, "And with his hands again his wishes proves: "'Twas flesh, the prest pulse leap'd beneath his thumb. "Then did the Cyprian youth, in words most full "Of gratitude and love, to Venus pray. "Then to her living lips his lips he join'd, "And then the damsel felt his warm salute: "Blushing she felt it, and her timid eyes "Op'd to the light, and with the light beheld "Her lover. Venus bless'd the match she made; "And when nine times the moon's full orb was seen "Sharpen'd to horns, the damsel Paphos bore; "Whose appellation oft the isle receives.
"She Cinyras too bore; if childless he "A place amongst the happiest might he claim. "A direful song I sing! be distant far "Ye daughters; distant far, O, parents be! "Or if of pleasure to your minds my verse "Aught gives, in this at least my truth suspect. "Believe the deed not: if you must believe, "Mark well the punishment the crime deserv'd. "Since nature could such heinous deeds permit; "The Thracian realms, my land, I 'gratulate; "And joy this clime at such a distance lies, "From that which could such monstrous acts produce. "Let Araby be in amomum rich; "And cinnamon, and zedoary produce; "Incense which through the wood exudes; and flowers "Of vary'd teints,—while Myrrha too it bears: "Too great the price which this new tree procur'd. "Cupid denies, O Myrrha! that his darts "Thee wounded; vindicating from that crime "His weapons. Thee, with Stygian torch most fierce, "And viperous venom furies did enflame. "Wicked to hate thy parent sure had been, "But thus to love is worse than bitterest hate. "The choicest nobles come from every part "To gain thee; youths from all the East arrive, "To struggle for thy hand. Chuse, Myrrha, chuse "One from the crowd: one only in the world "Whom chuse thou may'st not. She herself perceiv'd, "And curb'd the baneful passion in her mind; "Communing thus:—Ah! whither rove my thoughts? "What meditate I? O, ye gods! I pray, "O piety, O parents' sacred laws, "Forbid this wicked act; oppose a deed "So full of horrid guilt,—if guilt it be! "But pious nature ne'er such love condemns. "All animals in undistinguish'd form "Cohabit: shame the heifer never feels "Join'd with her sire; the steed his daughter takes "As partner; with the female flock, who ow'd "To him their being, couples oft the goat; "And birds bring forth to birds who them produc'd. "Blest those who thus enjoy; but human race "Perversest laws invents: vexatious rules "Forbid what nature grants. Yet am I told, "Nations exist, where mother joins with son, "And daughter with her sire; their pious love "Increas'd more strongly by the double bond. "Ah, me! unhappy, in such glorious climes "Begotten not; I suffer but from place. "But why on these ideas dwell? hence far "Forbidden hopes. Well he deserves thy love, "But as a father love him. Wert thou not "Of mighty Cinyras the daughter, then "Thou might'st the couch of Cinyras ascend. "Now mine he is so much, he is not mine; "Our very nearness is my greatest curse: "More close, a perfect stranger had I been. "Far hence I would depart; my country leave, "This mischief flying; but curs'd love restrains. "For, present, Cinyras I may behold; "Touch, speak, my kisses to his face apply, "If nought he'll grant beyond. How! impious maid, "Dar'st thou hope ought beyond? perceiv'st thou not "What laws, what names thou would'st confound? would'st thou "The mother's rival be?—thy father's whore? "Thy offspring's sister would'st thou then be call'd? "Thy brother's parent? Fear'st thou not the three, "Whose locks with sable serpents horrid curl? "Who conscious bosoms pierce with searching eyes, "And hurl their furious torches in the face? "While yet thy body can resist, no more "Cherish the heinous guilt thus in thy mind; "Nor violate great Nature's sacred law "With lust forbidden. Grant I should consent, "The king would me deny: too pious he, "Too dear to him the law. O, that in him "Such furious passion rag'd as burns in me!—
"She ended; Cinyras, the worthy crowd "Of suitors held in doubt; herself he ask'd, "As name by name he counted, which as spouse "She most would wish. Silent at first she stood, "Then burning gaz'd on his paternal face, "As the warm tears gush'd in her shining eyes. "These, Cinyras effects of virgin fear "Believing, chid her and forbade to weep. "Drying her cheeks, he on them press'd a kiss; "With too much pleasure she the kiss receiv'd: "And when consulted what the spouse must be "She would prefer, she answer'd,—one like you.— "He witless of her meaning, prais'd her words, "And said,—be such thy pious duty still— "The sound of piety the virgin's eyes, "With sense of guilt, cast conscious to the ground.
"'Twas now deep night when sleep sooth'd all the cares "Of mortal breasts. But Myrrha wakeful laid "Consum'd with raging fires; and rolling deep "Her frantic wishes in her wandering mind. "Despairing now, and now resolv'd to try; "Now shame o'ercomes her, and anon desire: "And undetermin'd how to act she rests. "A mighty tree thus, wounded by the axe, "Ere yet it feels the final blow, in doubt "Seems where to fall; they fear on every side: "Thus did her stagger'd mind from vary'd force "Waver now here, now there; press'd hard by each, "No ease for love, no rest but death appears. "Death pleas'd. She rose, and round her throat prepar'd "The cord to fasten; from the topmost beam "She ty'd her girdle, and—farewel!—exclaim'd— "Dear Cinyras! guess whence my fatal end.— "Then drew the noose around her pallid neck. "'Tis said, th' imperfect murmuring of her words, "Reach'd to the faithful nurse's ears, who laid "Before the threshold of her foster-child. "The matron rose, threw wide the door, and saw "Prepar'd the instrument of death. At once "She scream'd aloud, her bosom tore, deep blows "Gave her own limbs, and from the rescu'd neck "Tore the tight noose. Then had she time to weep, "Then to embrace, then to inquire the cause "Of the dread cord. But dumb the virgin sate "And motionless, her eyes to earth were fix'd; "Griev'd that so check'd her efforts were for death. "More the nurse presses, bares her silver'd hairs "And wither'd bosom; by the cradle begs, "And the first food she tasted, to confess "To her the cause of sorrow. Myrrha sighs, "But turns her eyes aside as thus she begs. "Determin'd still to know, the nurse persists "And not content her secrecy alone "To promise, says—yet tell me, and my aid "Allow me to afford thee. Not yet slow, "Though aged. Is it love? with charms and plants "I know thy love to cure. Have envious eyes "Thee harm'd? with magic rites their charm I'll spoil. "Are the gods angry? with appeasing rites "Their anger we will soothe. What ill beside "Can be conjectur'd? Lo! thy house secure, "And safe thy fortune; both in prosperous train. "Yet lives thy mother, and thy father lives.— "Her father's name when Myrrha heard she drew "Deep from her breast a mournful sigh; nor yet "The nurse suspected guilt was in her soul: "But saw that love disturb'd her. In her aim "Inflexible; again she urg'd to know "The grief whate'er it prov'd; and lull'd her head "Upon her aged lap, and clasp'd her form "In her own feeble arms, as thus she spoke;— "I see thou lovest; banish far thy fear, "My diligence in this shall aid thee; nay "Not e'en thy father shall the secret know.— "Madly she bounded from the lap, and cry'd, "While press'd the couch her face,—I beg thee go! "And spare my grievous shame.—More pressing still— "Or go—she said—or ask not why I mourn: "What thou so seek'st to know is shameful guilt.— "With horror struck, the ancient dame holds forth "Her hands, which equal shook with fear and age; "Then suppliant at her foster-daughter's feet "Fell. Now she coaxes; now she threatens loud; "If not made privy, threatens to declare "The cord's adventure, and half-finish'd death: "And offers aid once more her love to gain. "She rais'd her head, and fill'd her nurse's breast "With sudden gushing tears. And oft she strove "All to confess; as oft her tongue was mute; "And in her garments hid her blushing face.— "Then,—happy mother in thy spouse!—she said; "No more, but groan'd. Through her cold limbs and bones, "The ancient nurse a shivering tremor felt, "And her white hairs all o'er her head, erect "Like bristles stood; for all the truth she saw. "Much did she urge the direful flame to drive "Far from her soul, if that could be. The maid "Knows all is just she argues, yet is fix'd "For death, unless her lover is obtain'd. "Then she;—O live, enjoy thy—silent there, "Enjoy thy parent—she not dar'd to say: "Yet by a sacred oath her promise bound.
"Now Ceres' annual feast, the pious dames "All solemniz'd: in snowy robes enwrapt, "They offer'd wheaten wreaths, and primal fruits. "The rites of Venus, and the touch of man, "For thrice three nights forbidden things they held. "The monarch's spouse Cenchreis, 'mid the crowd "Forth went to celebrate the secret feast: "And while the couch its legal partner lack'd, "The ill-officious nurse the king espy'd "Oppress'd with wine, and told the tale of love, "Beneath a fictious name, and prais'd her charms. "The virgin's years he asks.—Equal her age "To Myrrha's—she replies.—Desir'd to bring "The damsel, she returns:—Rejoice!—she cries, "Rejoice! our point is gain'd.—The hapless nymph "Felt not a general joy; presaging pangs "Shot through her bosom; still she joy'd: her mind "Such discord tore. Now was the silent hour; "Booetes 'mid the Trioenes had bent "His wain with sloping pole; when Myrrha came "To her flagitious crime. Bright Luna fled "The skies; black clouds the lurking stars o'erspread; "The night saw not its fires. Thou, Icarus, "Thy face first hidst; and thou, Erigone "Hallow'd for thy parental love so pure. "Thrice was she warn'd by stumbling feet, and thrice "The owl funereal utter'd her death-note. "Yet on she went; darkness and sable night "Her shame diminish'd. Fast her left hand grasps "Her nurse, the other waves t'explore the way. "The threshold of the nuptial chamber now "She touches; now she gently opes the door; "Now enters. Then her trembling knees loose shook "Beneath her bending hams; her color fled: "Her blood flow'd back; and all her wishes sunk. "The nearer was her crime approach'd, the more "With horror she beheld it, and sore mourn'd "Her daring; anxious to return unknown. "The hoary dame, her, lingering thus, dragg'd on, "And when presented at the lofty couch, "Said—Cinyras receive her, she's thine own!— "And the devoted bodies gave to join. "The sire his proper bowels, on the bed "Obscene, receiv'd; her virgin terrors calm'd, "And sooth'd her trembling. Haply too, he said— "My daughter,—from her age; and haply she— "My sire,—lest names were wanting to their crime. "Fill'd with her father from the bed she rose, "Bearing in her dire womb the impious fruit; "Carrying her crime conceiv'd. Th' ensuing night "Her incest she repeats, nor ends she here. "But Cinyras eager at length to know, "After such frequent converse, who him lov'd; "At once his daughter and his sin beheld, "By lamps brought sudden. Grief repress'd all words; "But from the sheath he snatch'd his glittering sword. "Quick Myrrha fled; darkness and favoring night "Sav'd her from death. O'er wide-spread fields she roam'd; "Through Araby palm-bearing, and the lands "Panchaea holds. Nine times returning light "Had fill'd the horns of Luna, still she stray'd: "Then weary rested in Sabaea's fields; "While scarce she bore the burden of her womb. "Then what to ask uncertain, 'twixt the fear "Of death and weariness of hated life; "In words like these she utter'd forth her prayers,— "Ye powers, if those who guilt confess are heard, "A punishment exemplar I deserve; "I shrink not from it. Yet the living race "Lest I contaminate, if left to live; "Or lest I mix prophane with shades below, "Drive me from either realm; from life and death "Debar me, into some new shape transform'd.— "The penitent some god propitious heard; "Her final prayer at least success obtain'd: "For as she spoke rose round her legs the earth; "The lofty tree's foundation, crooked roots "Shot from her spreading toes; hard wood her bones "Became; the marrow in the midst remain'd "As pith; as sappy juice still flow'd her blood: "Her arms large boughs were spread; her fingers chang'd "To slender twigs; rough bark her skin became. "The growing tree press'd hard the gravid womb; "Invested next her breast, and o'er her neck "Threaten'd to spread. Impatient of delay "She shrunk below to meet th' approaching wood, "And hid beneath the rising bark her face. "Human sensation with her change of shape "She lost, yet still she weeps; and from the tree "Warm drops yet fall, and much the tears are priz'd. "The myrrh which oozes from the bark still holds "Its mistress' name, well known in every age.
"Meantime the misbegotten infant grew "Within the trunk, and press'd to find a way "To push to light, and leave the parent womb. "Within the tree the gravid womb swell'd large, "Stretch'd was the mother with the load, but mute "Were all her woes; nor in travailing voice "Lucina could she call. Yet hard to strain "She seem'd; thick groans oft gave the bending bole, "And tears flow'd copious. Mild Lucina came, "And stood before the groaning boughs, and gave "Assisting help, and spoke the spellful words. "Cleft is the tree, and through the fissur'd bark "A living burthen comes: the infant cries, "Who on soft grass plac'd. The Naiad nymphs "Him bathe in tears maternal: such a face "Ev'n Envy could not blame. As painters form "The naked Cupid's beauty, such had he; "And that their dress no help to guess may give, "This the light quiver take, or that resign. "Quick passing time unheeded glides along "Deceiving: nought than years more quickly flies. "The child, of sister and of grandsire born, "Late in the tree confin'd, late thence reliev'd; "Just seen most beauteous of the infant tribe, "Now youth, now man appears, more beauteous still: "Now Venus charm'd, his mother's pangs aveng'd.
"As kisses sweet the quiver-bearing boy "Press'd on his mother's lips, he witless raz'd "Slightly her bosom, with a dart that stood "Protruding. Venus, wounded, angry push'd "Her son far from her; light the wound appear'd; "At first even her deceiving. With the blaze "Of manly beauty caught, she now contemns "The Cythereian shores; nor Paphos seeks, "Girt by profoundest seas; Cnidos, so fam'd "For fish; nor Amathus with metals rich. "Heaven too, she quits, to heaven she now prefers "Adonis: him she follows, him attends; "Whose sole employ was loitering in the shade, "In anxious study to increase her charms. "Bare to the knee, her robe, like Dian's train "High-girt, o'er hills, through woods, and brambly rocks "She roves: exhorts the dogs, and drives such game "As threaten not with danger; fearful hares, "High-antler'd stags, and rapid-flying deer. "Fierce boars she shuns, and shuns the robber-wolf, "Strong-talon'd bears, and lions slaughter-gorg'd.
"Thou too, Adonis, admonition heardst "These to avoid, if admonition ought "With thee could weigh:—Be brave,—the goddess said— "To those who fly thee; courage 'gainst the bold "To danger drags. Dear youth, thy heart is brave; "Indulge not to my hazard, nor provoke "Fierce beasts by nature arm'd, nor seek for fame. "Nor youth nor beauty, such as Venus move, "Will move the lion, or the bristly boar: "Their eyes and breasts untouch'd by brightest charms. "Thunder and lightning in his bended tusks "The fierce boar carries; rapid is the force "The tawny lion, (hated race!) exerts: "My cause of hatred when to thee disclos'd, "Will raise thy wonder at the monstrous crime, "In days of yore committed. Now hard toil "Unwonted tires me. Lo! the poplar's shade "So opportune invites; and the green turf "A couch presents. Upon the ground with thee "I'll rest:—she spoke, and as she stretch'd along, "She press'd the grass, and press'd the lovely youth: "Smiling, her head upon his breast reclin'd, "'Midst intermingling kisses, thus she spoke.—
"Perhaps thou'st heard of that renowned maid, "Whose fleetness in the race the swiftest man's "Surpass'd. Not fabulous the tale you heard: "She vanquish'd all. And hard it was to say, "If praise for swiftness, or for beauteous form, "She most deserv'd. To her, who once enquir'd "Of marriage, fate-predicting Phoebus said— "A spouse would, Atalanta, be thy bane; "Avoid an husband's couch. Yet wilt thou not "An husband's couch avoid; but lose thyself, "Thyself yet living.—Terror-struck to hear "The sentence of the god, maiden she lives "Amid the thickest woods; driving severe "The throngs of pressing suitors from her far, "By hard conditions.—Ne'er can I be gain'd— "She said—till vanquish'd in the race. With me "Your swiftness try: the conqueror in the strife, "Shall gain me spouse, and gain a genial couch; "But death must him who lags behind reward. "Such be the laws of trial.—Pitiless "The law appear'd; but (such is beauty's power) "Crowds of rash lovers to the law agreed. "There sat Hippomenes to view the race "Unequal; and exclaim'd,—are there so mad, "As seek a wife through peril so immense?— "And the blind love of all the youths condemn'd. "But when her face he saw, and saw her limbs "Bar'd for the contest, (limbs like mine, or thine, "Were thine of female mould,) amaz'd he look'd "With uprais'd hands, and cry'd;—forgive my fault, "Ye whom but now I blam'd; the great reward "For which you labor, then to me unknown!— "Thus praising, fire he feels, and hopes no youth "More swift will run, and envious fears their speed— "But why the fortune of this contest leave, "Untry'd—he said,—myself? Heaven helps the bold.— "While musing thus Hippomenes remarks "The virgin's flying pace. Though not less swift "Th' Aoenian youth beheld her, than the dart "Shot from the Scythian bow; her beauty more "Ravish'd his eyes, and speed her charms increas'd. "Th' opposing breeze, which met her rapid feet, "Blew back the ribbons which her sandals bound; "Her tresses floated down her ivory back; "And loosely flow'd her garment o'er her knees, "With painted border gay: a purple bloom "With virgin whiteness mixt, her body shew'd; "As when the snow-white hall a deepen'd tinge "From purple curtains shews. While this the guest "Intently notes, the utmost goal is pass'd: "Victorious Atalanta with the wreath "Is crown'd: the vanquish'd sigh, and meet the doom "Agreed. He, by the youths' untimely fate "Deterr'd not, forward stood, and on the nymph "Fix'd full his eyes, and said;—Why seek you thus "An easy conquest, vanquishing the weak? "With me contend. So potent am I born "You need not blush to such high rank to yield. "Megareus was my sire, Onchestius his, "Grandson to Neptune; thus the fourth I boast "From Ocean's sovereign. Nor beneath my race "Stoops aught my valor; should success me crown, "A lofty and an everlasting fame, "Hippomenes your conqueror, would you gain.— "As thus he spoke, with softening eyes the maid "Beheld him, doubtful which 'twere best to wish, "To vanquish or be vanquish'd. While she thus "Utter'd her thoughts—What god, an envious foe "To beauty would destroy him: urg'd to seek "My bed, by risking thus his own dear life? "I cannot sure so great a prize be thought! "His beauty melts me not; though yet I own "Such beauty well might melt. But such a youth "He seems, he moves me not but from his years. "What courage in him reigns! his soul unaw'd "By death. He springs the fourth from Ocean's king! "Then how he loves! and prizes so my hand, "That should hard fortune keep me from his arms, "He'd perish. Stranger, while thou may'st, depart; "Avoid the bloody nuptials. Marriage, I "Too cruel make. No maid would thee refuse; "And soon may'st thou a wiser nymph select. "But why for him this care? from me who see "So many die, whom he too has beheld? "Then let him perish; since the numerous train "Of slaughter'd lovers warns him not: he spurns "An hated life. How! should he then be slain "Because with me to live he wishes? Death "Inglorious must he gain, reward of love? "Hatred would such a conquest still attend. "Still is not mine the fault. Do thou desist; "Or if thy madness holds, O, that thy feet "More swift may be! See in his youthful face "What virgin beauties! Ah! Hippomenes, "Would Atalanta thou had'st never seen. "Well worthy thou of life. Were I more blest; "Had rugged fate not me a spouse forbade, "Thou, sole art he, by whom to Hymen's couch "With joy I would be led.—Thus spoke the nymph, "In fond simplicity, first touch'd by love, "Unknowing what she felt: ardent she lov'd, "Yet knew the passion not which rul'd her soul.
"Now loud the people, and the king demand, "The wonted race. To me with anxious words "Hippomenes, great Neptune's offspring pray'd— "O Cytherea! I adjure thee, aid "My bold attempt; from thee those flames I felt, "Grant them thy succour.—Gales auspicious waft "To me the tender prayers, my soul is mov'd: "Nor long the aid so needful I delay. "A tract there lies in Cyprus' richest lands, "Nam'd Tamasene by those who dwell around, "This ancient times made sacred unto me: "And with this gift my temples were endow'd. "'Midst of the field appears a shining tree; "Yellow its leaves, its crackling branches gold. "By chance there straying, from the boughs I pluck'd "Three golden apples, bore them in my hand, "And seen by none, except the favor'd youth, "Approach'd Hippomenes, and taught their use. "The trumpets gave the sign, each ready sprung— "Shot from the barrier, and with rapid feet "Skimm'd lightly o'er the sand. O'er the wide main "With feet unwetted, they might seem to fly; "Or sweep th' unbending ears of hoary grain. "Loud shouts encouraging, and cheering words, "On every side a stimulus afford, "To urge the youth's exertions.—Now,—they cry,— "Now, now, Hippomenes, the time to press! "On, on! exert thy vigor—flag not now,— "The race is thine.—The grateful sounds both heard, "Megareus' son, and Schoeneus' daughter; hard "Which joy'd the most to judge. How oft her pace "She slacken'd, when with ease she might have pass'd, "And ceas'd unwilling on his face to gaze. "Tir'd now, parch'd breathings from the mouth ascends "Of Neptune's son, and far remote the goal. "Then, as his last resource, he distant flung "One of the tree's bright produce. In amaze "The virgin saw it roll; and from the course "Swerv'd, tempted to obtain the glittering fruit. "Hippomenes o'ershoots her; all around "Applauses ring. She soon corrects delay, "And wasted moments, with more rapid speed, "And leaves again the youth behind. Again, "Delay'd to catch the second flying fruit, "The youth is follow'd, and again o'erpass'd. "Now near the goal they come,—O, goddess! now "Who gave the boon assist; he said, and flung "With youthful force obliquely o'er the plain, "More to detain, the last bright glittering gold. "In doubt the virgin saw it fly: I urg'd "That she should follow; and fresh weight I gave "The apple when obtain'd; thus by the load "Her course impeding, and obtain'd delay. "But lest my tale, in length surpass the race, "The vanquish'd virgin was the victor's prize.
"Think'st thou Adonis, did I not deserve "Most grateful thanks in smoking incense paid? "Mindless, nor thanks, nor incense yielded he; "And sudden anger in my bosom rag'd. "Irk'd at the slight, I instantly provide "That future times with less contempt behave: "And 'gainst them both my raging bosom burns. "Now pass'd they near a temple, long since rais'd "By fam'd Echion, in a shady wood, "To the great mother of the heavenly gods, "When the long journey tempted to repose; "And there, inspir'd by me, ill-tim'd desire "Hippomenes excited. Near the fane "A cave-like close recess dim-lighted stood, "With native pumice roof'd, hallow'd of old; "Where priests the numerous images had plac'd, "Of ancient deities. They enter'd here, "And with forbidden lust the place defil'd. "The wooden images their eyes avert: "The tower-crown'd goddess dubious stands to plunge, "The guilty couple in the Stygian wave. "Too light that sentence seems: straight yellow manes "Cover their soft smooth necks; their fingers curve "To mighty claws; their arms to fore-legs turn; "And new-form'd tails sweep lightly o'er the sand: "Angry their countenance glares; for speech they roar; "They haunt the forests for their nuptial dome. "Transform'd to lions, and by others fear'd, "Their tam'd mouths champ the Cybeleian reins. "Do thou, O dearest boy! their rage avoid; "Not theirs alone, but all the savage tribe, "That stubborn meet with breasts the furious war; "Not turn their backs for flight: lest bold too much, "Thou and myself, have cause too much too mourn.—