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The Story of Perseus (continued)
While Perseus entertain’d with this report
His father Cepheus, and the list’ning court,
Within the palace walls was heard aloud
The roaring noise of some unruly crowd;
Not like the songs which chearful friends prepare
For nuptial days, but sounds that threaten’d war;
And all the pleasures of this happy feast,
To tumult turn’d, in wild disorder ceas’d:
So, when the sea is calm, we often find
A storm rais’d sudden by some furious wind.
Chief in the riot Phineus first appear’d,
The rash ringleader of this boist’rous herd,
And brandishing his brazen-pointed lance,
Behold, he said, an injur’d man advance,
Stung with resentment for his ravish’d wife,
Nor shall thy wings, o Perseus, save thy life;
Nor Jove himself; tho’ we’ve been often told
Who got thee in the form of tempting gold.
His lance was aim’d, when Cepheus ran, and said,
Hold, brother, hold; what brutal rage has made
Your frantick mind so black a crime conceive?
Are these the thanks that you to Perseus give?
This the reward that to his worth you pay,
Whose timely valour sav’d Andromeda?
Nor was it he, if you would reason right,
That forc’d her from you, but the jealous spight
Of envious Nereids, and Jove’s high decree;
And that devouring monster of the sea,
That ready with his jaws wide gaping stood
To eat my child, the fairest of my blood.
You lost her then, when she seem’d past relief,
And wish’d perhaps her death, to ease your grief
With my afflictions: not content to view
Andromeda in chains, unhelp’d by you,
Her spouse, and uncle; will you grieve that he
Expos’d his life the dying maid to free?
And shall you claim his merit? Had you thought
Her charms so great, you shou’d have bravely sought
That blessing on the rocks, where fix’d she lay:
But now let Perseus bear his prize away,
By service gain’d, by promis’d faith possess’d;
To him I owe it, that my age is bless’d
Still with a child: Nor think that I prefer
Perseus to thee, but to the loss of her.
Phineus on him, and Perseus, roul’d about
His eyes in silent rage, and seem’d to doubt
Which to destroy; ’till, resolute at length,
He threw his spear with the redoubled strength
His fury gave him, and at Perseus struck;
But missing Perseus, in his seat it stuck.
Who, springing nimbly up, return’d the dart,
And almost plung’d it in his rival’s heart;
But he for safety to the altar ran,
Unfit protection for so vile a man;
Yet was the stroke not vain, as Rhaetus found,
Who in his brow receiv’d a mortal wound;
Headlong he tumbled, when his skull was broke,
From which his friends the fatal weapon took,
While he lay trembling, and his gushing blood
In crimson streams around the table flow’d.
But this provok’d th’ unruly rabble worse,
They flung their darts, and some in loud discourse
To death young Perseus, and the monarch doom;
But Cepheus left before the guilty room,
With grief appealing to the Gods above,
Who laws of hospitality approve,
Who faith protect, and succour injur’d right,
That he was guiltless of this barb’rous fight.
Pallas her brother Perseus close attends,
And with her ample shield from harm defends,
Raising a sprightly courage in his heart:
But Indian Athis took the weaker part,
Born in the chrystal grottoes of the sea,
Limnate’s son, a fenny nymph, and she
Daughter of Ganges; graceful was his mein,
His person lovely, and his age sixteen.
His habit made his native beauty more;
A purple mantle fring’d with gold he wore;
His neck well-turn’d with golden chains was grac’d,
His hair with myrrh perfum’d, was nicely dress’d.
Tho’ with just aim he cou’d the javelin throw,
Yet with more skill he drew the bending bow;
And now was drawing it with artful hand,
When Perseus snatching up a flaming brand,
Whirl’d sudden at his face the burning wood,
Crush’d his eyes in, and quench’d the fire with blood;
Thro’ the soft skin the splinter’d bones appear,
And spoil’d the face that lately was so fair.
When Lycabas his Athis thus beheld,
How was his heart with friendly horror fill’d!
A youth so noble, to his soul so dear,
To see his shapeless look, his dying groans to hear!
He snatch’d the bow the boy was us’d to bend,
And cry’d, With me, false traytor, dare contend;
Boast not a conquest o’er a child, but try
Thy strength with me, who all thy pow’rs defy;
Nor think so mean an act a victory.
While yet he spoke he flung the whizzing dart,
Which pierc’d the plaited robe, but miss’d his heart:
Perseus defy’d, upon him fiercely press’d
With sword, unsheath’d, and plung’d it in his breast;
His eyes o’erwhelm’d with night, he stumbling falls,
And with his latest breath on Athis calls;
Pleas’d that so near the lovely youth he lies,
He sinks his head upon his friend, and dies.
Next eager Phorbas, old Methion’s son,
Came rushing forward with Amphimedon;
When the smooth pavement, slippery made with gore,
Trip’d up their feet, and flung ’em on the floor;
The sword of Perseus, who by chance was nigh,
Prevents their rise, and where they fall, they lye:
Full in his ribs Amphimedon he smote,
And then stuck fiery Phorbas in the throat.
Eurythus lifting up his ax, the blow
Was thus prevented by his nimble foe;
A golden cup he seizes, high embost,
And at his head the massy goblet tost:
It hits, and from his forehead bruis’d rebounds,
And blood, and brains he vomits from his wounds;
With his slain fellows on the floor he lies,
And death for ever shuts his swimming eyes.
Then Polydaemon fell, a Goddess-born;
Phlegias, and Elycen with locks unshorn
Next follow’d; next, the stroke of death he gave
To Clytus, Abanis, and Lycetus brave;
While o’er unnumber’d heaps of ghastly dead,
The Argive heroe’s feet triumphant tread.
But Phineus stands aloof, and dreads to feel
His rival’s force, and flies his pointed steel:
Yet threw a dart from far; by chance it lights
On Idas, who for neither party fights;
But wounded, sternly thus to Phineus said,
Since of a neuter thou a foe hast made,
This I return thee, drawing from his side
The dart; which, as he strove to fling, he dy’d.
Odites fell by Clymenus’s sword,
The Cephen court had not a greater lord.
Hypseus his blade does in Protenor sheath,
But brave Lyncides soon reveng’d his death.
Here too was old Emathion, one that fear’d
The Gods, and in the cause of Heav’n appear’d,
Who only wishing the success of right,
And, by his age, exempted from the fight,
Both sides alike condemns: This impious war
Cease, cease, he cries; these bloody broils forbear.
This scarce the sage with high concern had said,
When Chromis at a blow struck off his head,
Which dropping, on the royal altar roul’d,
Still staring on the crowd with aspect bold;
And still it seem’d their horrid strife to blame,
In life and death, his pious zeal the same;
While clinging to the horns, the trunk expires,
The sever’d head consumes amidst the fires.
Then Phineus, who from far his javelin threw,
Broteas and Ammon, twins and brothers, slew;
For knotted gauntlets matchless in the field;
But gauntlets must to swords and javelins yield.
Ampycus next, with hallow’d fillets bound,
As Ceres’ priest, and with a mitre crown’d,
His spear transfix’d, and struck him to the ground.
O Iapetides, with pain I tell
How you, sweet lyrist, in the riot fell;
What worse than brutal rage his breast could fill,
Who did thy blood, o bard celestial! spill?
Kindly you press’d amid the princely throng,
To crown the feast, and give the nuptial song:
Discord abhorr’d the musick of thy lyre,
Whose notes did gentle peace so well inspire;
Thee, when fierce Pettalus far off espy’d,
Defenceless with thy harp, he scoffing cry’d,
Go; to the ghosts thy soothing lessons play;
We loath thy lyre, and scorn thy peaceful lay:
And, as again he fiercely bid him go,
He pierc’d his temples with a mortal blow.
His harp he held, tho’ sinking on the ground,
Whose strings in death his trembling fingers found
By chance, and tun’d by chance a dying sound.
With grief Lycormas saw him fall, from far,
And, wresting from the door a massy bar,
Full in his poll lays on a load of knocks,
Which stun him, and he falls like a devoted ox.
Another bar Pelates would have snach’d,
But Corynthus his motions slily watch’d;
He darts his weapon from a private stand,
And rivets to the post his veiny hand:
When strait a missive spear transfix’d his side,
By Abas thrown, and as he hung, he dy’d.
Melaneus on the prince’s side was slain;
And Dorylas, who own’d a fertile plain,
Of Nasamonia’s fields the wealthy lord,
Whose crowded barns, could scarce contain their board.
A whizzing spear obliquely gave a blow,
Stuck in his groin, and pierc’d the nerves below;
His foe behld his eyes convulsive roul,
His ebbing veins, and his departing soul;
Then taunting said, Of all thy spacious plain,
This spot thy only property remains.
He left him thus; but had no sooner left,
Than Perseus in revenge his nostrils cleft;
From his friend’s breast the murd’ring dart he drew,
And the same weapon at the murderer threw;
His head in halves the darted javelin cut,
And on each side the brain came issuing out.
Fortune his friend, in deaths around he deals,
And this his lance, and that his faulchion feels:
Now Clytius dies; and by a diff’rent wound,
The twin, his brother Clanis, bites the ground.
In his rent jaw the bearded weapon sticks,
And the steel’d dart does Clytius’ thigh transfix.
With these Mendesian Celadon he slew:
And Astreus next, whose mother was a Jew,
His sire uncertain: then by Perseus fell
Aethion, who cou’d things to come foretell;
But now he knows not whence the javelin flies
That wounds his breast, nor by whose arm he dies.
The squire to Phineus next his valour try’d,
And fierce Agyrtes stain’d with paricide.
As these are slain, fresh numbers still appear,
And wage with Perseus an unequal war;
To rob him of his right, the maid he won,
By honour, promise, and desert his own.
With him, the father of the beauteous bride,
The mother, and the frighted virgin side;
With shrieks, and doleful cries they rend the air:
Their shrieks confounded with the din of war,
With dashing arms, and groanings of the slain,
They grieve unpitied, and unheard complain.
The floor with ruddy streams Bellona stains,
And Phineus a new war with double rage maintains.
Perseus begirt, from all around they pour
Their lances on him, a tempestuous show’r,
Aim’d all at him; a cloud of darts, and spears,
Or blind his eyes, or whistle round his ears.
Their numbers to resist, against the wall
He guards his back secure, and dares them all.
Here from the left Molpeus renews the fight,
And bold Ethemon presses on the right:
As when a hungry tyger near him hears
Two lowing herds, a-while he both forbears;
Nor can his hopes of this, or that renounce,
So strong he lusts to prey on both at once;
Thus Perseus now with that, or this is loth
To war distinct:, but fain would fall on both.
And first Chaonian Molpeus felt his blow,
And fled, and never after fac’d his foe;
Then fierce Ethemon, as he turn’d his back,
Hurried with fury, aiming at his neck,
His brandish’d sword against the marble struck
With all his might; the brittle weapon broke,
And in his throat the point rebounding stuck.
Too slight the wound for life to issue thence,
And yet too great for battel, or defence;
His arms extended in this piteous state,
For mercy he wou’d sue, but sues too late;
Perseus has in his bosom plung’d the sword,
And, ere he speaks, the wound prevents the word.
The crowds encreasing, and his friends distress’d,
Himself by warring multitudes oppress’d:
Since thus unequally you fight, ’tis time,
He cry’d, to punish your presumptuous crime;
Beware, my friends; his friends were soon prepar’d,
Their sight averting, high the head he rear’d,
And Gorgon on his foes severely star’d.
Vain shift! says Thescelus, with aspect bold,
Thee, and thy bugbear monster, I behold
With scorn; he lifts his arm, but ere he threw
The dart, the heroe to a statue grew.
In the same posture still the marble stands,
And holds the warrior’s weapons in its hands.
Amphyx, whom yet this wonder can’t alarm,
Heaves at Lyncides’ breast his impious arm;
But, while thus daringly he presses on,
His weapon and his arm are turn’d to stone.
Next Nileus, he who vainly said he ow’d
His origin to Nile’s prolifick flood;
Who on his shield seven silver rivers bore,
His birth to witness by the arms he wore;
Full of his sev’n-fold father, thus express’d
His boast to Perseus, and his pride confess’d:
See whence we sprung; let this thy comfort be
In thy sure death, that thou didst die by me.
While yet he spoke, the dying accents hung
In sounds imperfect on his marble tongue;
Tho’ chang’d to stone, his lips he seem’d to stretch,
And thro’ th’ insensate rock wou’d force a speech.
This Eryx saw, but seeing wou’d not own;
The mischief by your selves, he cries, is done,
‘Tis your cold courage turns your hearts to stone.
Come, follow me; fall on the stripling boy,
Kill him, and you his magick arms destroy.
Then rushing on, his arm to strike he rear’d,
And marbled o’er his varied frame appear’d.
These for affronting Pallas were chastis’d,
And justly met the death they had despis’d.
But brave Aconteus, Perseus’ friend, by chance
Look’d back, and met the Gorgon’s fatal glance:
A statue now become, he ghastly stares,
And still the foe to mortal combat dares.
Astyages the living likeness knew,
On the dead stone with vengeful fury flew;
But impotent his rage, the jarring blade
No print upon the solid marble made:
Again, as with redoubled might he struck,
Himself astonish’d in the quarry stuck.
The vulgar deaths ’twere tedious to rehearse,
And fates below the dignity of verse;
Their safety in their flight two hundred found,
Two hundred, by Medusa’s head were ston’d.
Fierce Phineus now repents the wrongful fight,
And views his varied friends, a dreadful sight;
He knows their faces, for their help he sues,
And thinks, not hearing him, that they refuse:
By name he begs their succour, one by one,
Then doubts their life, and feels the friendly stone.
Struck with remorse, and conscious of his pride,
Convict of sin, he turn’d his eyes aside;
With suppliant mein to Perseus thus he prays,
Hence with the head, as far as winds and seas
Can bear thee; hence, o quit the Cephen shore,
And never curse us with Medusa more,
That horrid head, which stiffens into stone
Those impious men who, daring death, look on.
I warr’d not with thee out of hate or strife,
My honest cause was to defend my wife,
First pledg’d to me; what crime cou’d I suppose,
To arm my friends, and vindicate my spouse?
But vain, too late I see, was our design;
Mine was the title, but the merit thine.
Contending made me guilty, I confess;
But penitence shou’d make that guilt the less:
‘Twas thine to conquer by Minerva’s pow’r;
Favour’d of Heav’n, thy mercy I implore;
For life I sue; the rest to thee I yield;
In pity, from my sight remove the shield.
He suing said; nor durst revert his eyes
On the grim head: and Perseus thus replies:
Coward, what is in me to grant, I will,
Nor blood, unworthy of my valour spill:
Fear not to perish by my vengeful sword,
From that secure; ’tis all the Fates afford.
Where I now see thee, thou shalt still be seen,
A lasting monument to please our queen;
There still shall thy betroth’d behold her spouse,
And find his image in her father’s house.
This said; where Phineus turn’d to shun the shield
Full in his face the staring head he held;
As here and there he strove to turn aside,
The wonder wrought, the man was petrify’d:
All marble was his frame, his humid eyes
Drop’d tears, which hung upon the stone like ice.
In suppliant posture, with uplifted hands,
And fearful look, the guilty statue stands.
Hence Perseus to his native city hies,
Victorious, and rewarded with his prize.
Conquest, o’er Praetus the usurper, won,
He re-instates his grandsire in the throne.
Praetus, his brother dispossess’d by might,
His realm enjoy’d, and still detain’d his right:
But Perseus pull’d the haughty tyrant down,
And to the rightful king restor’d the throne.
Weak was th’ usurper, as his cause was wrong;
Where Gorgon’s head appears, what arms are strong?
When Perseus to his host the monster held,
They soon were statues, and their king expell’d.
Thence, to Seriphus with the head he sails,
Whose prince his story treats as idle tales:
Lord of a little isle, he scorns to seem
Too credulous, but laughs at that, and him.
Yet did he not so much suspect the truth,
As out of pride, or envy, hate the youth.
The Argive prince, at his contempt enrag’d,
To force his faith by fatal proof engag’d.
Friends, shut your eyes, he cries; his shield he takes,
And to the king expos’d Medusa’s snakes.
The monarch felt the pow’r he wou’d not own,
And stood convict of folly in the stone.
Minerva’s Interview with the Muses
Thus far Minerva was content to rove
With Perseus, offspring of her father Jove:
Now, hid in clouds, Seriphus she forsook;
And to the Theban tow’rs her journey took.
Cythnos and Gyaros lying to the right,
She pass’d unheeded in her eager flight;
And chusing first on Helicon to rest,
The virgin Muses in these words address’d:
Me, the strange tidings of a new-found spring,
Ye learned sisters, to this mountain bring.
If all be true that Fame’s wide rumours tell,
‘Twas Pegasus discover’d first your well;
Whose piercing hoof gave the soft earth a blow,
Which broke the surface where these waters flow.
I saw that horse by miracle obtain
Life, from the blood of dire Medusa slain;
And now, this equal prodigy to view,
From distant isles to fam’d Boeotia flew.
The Muse Urania said, Whatever cause
So great a Goddess to this mansion draws;
Our shades are happy with so bright a guest,
You, Queen, are welcome, and we Muses blest.
What Fame has publish’d of our spring is true,
Thanks for our spring to Pegasus are due.
Then, with becoming courtesy, she led
The curious stranger to their fountain’s head;
Who long survey’d, with wonder, and delight,
Their sacred water, charming to the sight;
Their ancient groves, dark grottos, shady bow’rs,
And smiling plains adorn’d with various flow’rs.
O happy Muses! she with rapture cry’d,
Who, safe from cares, on this fair hill reside;
Blest in your seat, and free your selves to please
With joys of study, and with glorious ease.
The Fate of Pyreneus
Then one replies: O Goddess, fit to guide
Our humble works, and in our choir preside,
Who sure wou’d wisely to these fields repair,
To taste our pleasures, and our labours share,
Were not your virtue, and superior mind
To higher arts, and nobler deeds inclin’d;
Justly you praise our works, and pleasing seat,
Which all might envy in this soft retreat,
Were we secur’d from dangers, and from harms;
But maids are frighten’d with the least alarms,
And none are safe in this licentious time;
Still fierce Pyreneus, and his daring crime,
With lasting horror strikes my feeble sight,
Nor is my mind recover’d from the fright.
With Thracian arms this bold usurper gain’d
Daulis, and Phocis, where he proudly reign’d:
It happen’d once, as thro’ his lands we went,
For the bright temple of Parnassus bent,
He met us there, and in his artful mind
Hiding the faithless action he design’d,
Confer’d on us (whom, oh! too well he knew)
All honours that to Goddesses are due.
Stop, stop, ye Muses, ’tis your friend who calls,
The tyrant said; behold the rain that falls
On ev’ry side, and that ill-boding sky,
Whose lowring face portends more storms are nigh.
Pray make my house your own, and void of fear,
While this bad weather lasts, take shelter here.
Gods have made meaner places their resort,
And, for a cottage, left their shining court.
Oblig’d to stop, by the united force
Of pouring rains, and complaisant discourse,
His courteous invitation we obey,
And in his hall resolve a-while to stay.
Soon it clear’d up; the clouds began to fly,
The driving north refin’d the show’ry sky;
Then to pursue our journey we began:
But the false traitor to his portal ran,
Stopt our escape, the door securely barr’d,
And to our honour, violence prepar’d.
But we, transform’d to birds, avoid his snare,
On pinions rising in the yielding air.
But he, by lust and indignation fir’d,
Up to his highest tow’r with speed retir’d,
And cries, In vain you from my arms withdrew,
The way you go your lover will pursue.
Then, in a flying posture wildly plac’d,
And daring from that height himself to cast,
The wretch fell headlong, and the ground bestrew’d
With broken bones, and stains of guilty blood.
The Story of the Pierides
The Muse yet spoke; when they began to hear
A noise of wings that flutter’d in the air;
And strait a voice, from some high-spreading bough,
Seem’d to salute the company below.
The Goddess wonder’d, and inquir’d from whence
That tongue was heard, that spoke so plainly sense
(It seem’d to her a human voice to be,
But prov’d a bird’s; for in a shady tree
Nine magpies perch’d lament their alter’d state,
And, what they hear, are skilful to repeat).
The sister to the wondring Goddess said,
These, foil’d by us, by us were thus repaid.
These did Evippe of Paeonia bring
With nine hard labour-pangs to Pella’s king.
The foolish virgins of their number proud,
And puff’d with praises of the senseless crowd,
Thro’ all Achaia, and th’ Aemonian plains
Defy’d us thus, to match their artless strains;
No more, ye Thespian girls, your notes repeat,
Nor with false harmony the vulgar cheat;
In voice or skill, if you with us will vye,
As many we, in voice or skill will try.
Surrender you to us, if we excell,
Fam’d Aganippe, and Medusa’s well.
The conquest yours, your prize from us shall be
The Aemathian plains to snowy Paeone;
The nymphs our judges. To dispute the field,
We thought a shame; but greater shame to yield.
On seats of living stone the sisters sit,
And by the rivers swear to judge aright.
The Song of the Pierides
Then rises one of the presumptuous throng,
Steps rudely forth, and first begins the song;
With vain address describes the giants’ wars,
And to the Gods their fabled acts prefers.
She sings, from Earth’s dark womb how Typhon rose,
And struck with mortal fear his heav’nly foes.
How the Gods fled to Egypt’s slimy soil,
And hid their heads beneath the banks of Nile:
How Typhon, from the conquer’d skies, pursu’d
Their routed godheads to the sev’n-mouth’d flood;
Forc’d every God, his fury to escape,
Some beastly form to take, or earthly shape.
Jove (so she sung) was chang’d into a ram,
From whence the horns of Libyan Ammon came.
Bacchus a goat, Apollo was a crow,
Phaebe a cat; die wife of Jove a cow,
Whose hue was whiter than the falling snow.
Mercury to a nasty Ibis turn’d,
The change obscene, afraid of Typhon, mourn’d;
While Venus from a fish protection craves,
And once more plunges in her native waves.
She sung, and to her harp her voice apply’d;
Then us again to match her they defy’d.
But our poor song, perhaps, for you to hear,
Nor leisure serves, nor is it worth your ear.
That causeless doubt remove, O Muse rehearse,
The Goddess cry’d, your ever-grateful verse.
Beneath a chequer’d shade she takes her seat,
And bids the sister her whole song repeat.
The sister thus: Calliope we chose
For the performance. The sweet virgin rose,
With ivy crown’d she tunes her golden strings,
And to her harp this composition sings.
The Song of the Muses
First Ceres taught the lab’ring hind to plow
The pregnant Earth, and quickning seed to sow.
She first for Man did wholsome food provide,
And with just laws the wicked world supply’d:
All good from her deriv’d, to her belong
The grateful tributes of the Muse’s song.
Her more than worthy of our verse we deem,
Oh! were our verse more worthy of the theme.
Jove on the giant fair Trinacria hurl’d,
And with one bolt reveng’d his starry world.
Beneath her burning hills Tiphaeus lies,
And, strugling always, strives in vain to rise.
Down does Pelorus his right hand suppress
Tow’rd Latium, on the left Pachyne weighs.
His legs are under Lilybaeum spread,
And Aetna presses hard his horrid head.
On his broad back he there extended lies,
And vomits clouds of ashes to the skies.
Oft lab’ring with his load, at last he tires,
And spews out in revenge a flood of fires.
Mountains he struggles to o’erwhelm, and towns;
Earth’s inmost bowels quake, and Nature groans.
His terrors reach the direful king of Hell;
He fears his throws will to the day reveal
The realms of night, and fright his trembling ghosts.
This to prevent, he quits the Stygian coasts,
In his black carr, by sooty horses drawn,
Fair Sicily he seeks, and dreads the dawn.
Around her plains he casts his eager eyes,
And ev’ry mountain to the bottom tries.
But when, in all the careful search, he saw
No cause of fear, no ill-suspected flaw;
Secure from harm, and wand’ring on at will,
Venus beheld him from her flow’ry hill:
When strait the dame her little Cupid prest
With secret rapture to her snowy breast,
And in these words the flutt’ring boy addrest.
O thou, my arms, my glory, and my pow’r,
My son, whom men, and deathless Gods adore;
Bend thy sure bow, whose arrows never miss’d,
No longer let Hell’s king thy sway resist;
Take him, while stragling from his dark abodes
He coasts the kingdoms of superior Gods.
If sovereign Jove, if Gods who rule the waves,
And Neptune, who rules them, have been thy slaves;
Shall Hell be free? The tyrant strike, my son,
Enlarge thy mother’s empire, and thy own.
Let not our Heav’n be made the mock of Hell,
But Pluto to confess thy pow’r compel.
Our rule is slighted in our native skies,
See Pallas, see Diana too defies
Thy darts, which Ceres’ daughter wou’d despise.
She too our empire treats with aukward scorn;
Such insolence no longer’s to be born.
Revenge our slighted reign, and with thy dart
Transfix the virgin’s to the uncle’s heart.
She said; and from his quiver strait he drew
A dart that surely wou’d the business do.
She guides his hand, she makes her touch the test,
And of a thousand arrows chose the best:
No feather better pois’d, a sharper head
None had, and sooner none, and surer sped.
He bends his bow, he draws it to his ear,
Thro’ Pluto’s heart it drives, and fixes there.
The Rape of Proserpine
Near Enna’s walls a spacious lake is spread,
Fam’d for the sweetly-singing swans it bred;
Pergusa is its name: and never more
Were heard, or sweeter on Cayster’s shore.
Woods crown the lake; and Phoebus ne’er invades
The tufted fences, or offends the shades:
Fresh fragrant breezes fan the verdant bow’rs,
And the moist ground smiles with enamel’d flow’rs
The chearful birds their airy carols sing,
And the whole year is one eternal spring.
Here, while young Proserpine, among the maids,
Diverts herself in these delicious shades;
While like a child with busy speed and care
She gathers lillies here, and vi’lets there;
While first to fill her little lap she strives,
Hell’s grizly monarch at the shade arrives;
Sees her thus sporting on the flow’ry green,
And loves the blooming maid, as soon as seen.
His urgent flame impatient of delay,
Swift as his thought he seiz’d the beauteous prey,
And bore her in his sooty carr away.
The frighted Goddess to her mother cries,
But all in vain, for now far off she flies;
Far she behind her leaves her virgin train;
To them too cries, and cries to them in vain,
And, while with passion she repeats her call,
The vi’lets from her lap, and lillies fall:
She misses ’em, poor heart! and makes new moan;
Her lillies, ah! are lost, her vi’lets gone.
O’er hills, the ravisher, and vallies speeds,
By name encouraging his foamy steeds;
He rattles o’er their necks the rusty reins,
And ruffles with the stroke their shaggy manes.
O’er lakes he whirls his flying wheels, and comes
To the Palici breathing sulph’rous fumes.
And thence to where the Bacchiads of renown
Between unequal havens built their town;
Where Arethusa, round th’ imprison’d sea,
Extends her crooked coast to Cyane;
The nymph who gave the neighb’ring lake a name,
Of all Sicilian nymphs the first in fame,
She from the waves advanc’d her beauteous head,
The Goddess knew, and thus to Pluto said:
Farther thou shalt not with the virgin run;
Ceres unwilling, canst thou be her son?
The maid shou’d be by sweet perswasion won.
Force suits not with the softness of the fair;
For, if great things with small I may compare,
Me Anapis once lov’d; a milder course
He took, and won me by his words, not force.
Then, stretching out her arms, she stopt his way;
But he, impatient of the shortest stay,
Throws to his dreadful steeds the slacken’d rein,
And strikes his iron sceptre thro’ the main;
The depths profound thro’ yielding waves he cleaves,
And to Hell’s center a free passage leaves;
Down sinks his chariot, and his realms of night
The God soon reaches with a rapid flight.
Cyane dissolves to a Fountain
But still does Cyane the rape bemoan,
And with the Goddess’ wrongs laments her own;
For the stoln maid, and for her injur’d spring,
Time to her trouble no relief can bring.
In her sad heart a heavy load she bears,
‘Till the dumb sorrow turns her all to tears.
Her mingling waters with that fountain pass,
Of which she late immortal Goddess was;
Her varied members to a fluid melt,
A pliant softness in her bones is felt;
Her wavy locks first drop away in dew,
And liquid next her slender fingers grew.
The body’s change soon seizes its extreme,
Her legs dissolve, and feet flow off in stream.
Her arms, her back, her shoulders, and her side,
Her swelling breasts in little currents glide,
A silver liquor only now remains
Within the channel of her purple veins;
Nothing to fill love’s grasp; her husband chaste
Bathes in that bosom he before embrac’d.
A Boy transform’d to an Eft
Thus, while thro’ all the Earth, and all the main,
Her daughter mournful Ceres sought in vain;
Aurora, when with dewy looks she rose,
Nor burnish’d Vesper found her in repose,
At Aetna’s flaming mouth two pitchy pines
To light her in her search at length she tines.
Restless, with these, thro’ frosty night she goes,
Nor fears the cutting winds, nor heeds the snows;
And, when the morning-star the day renews,
From east to west her absent child pursues.
Thirsty at last by long fatigue she grows,
But meets no spring, no riv’let near her flows.
Then looking round, a lowly cottage spies,
Smoaking among the trees, and thither hies.
The Goddess knocking at the little door,
‘Twas open’d by a woman old and poor,
Who, when she begg’d for water, gave her ale
Brew’d long, but well preserv’d from being stale.
The Goddess drank; a chuffy lad was by,
Who saw the liquor with a grutching eye,
And grinning cries, She’s greedy more than dry.
Ceres, offended at his foul grimace,
Flung what she had not drunk into his face,
The sprinklings speckle where they hit the skin,
And a long tail does from his body spin;
His arms are turn’d to legs, and lest his size
Shou’d make him mischievous, and he might rise
Against mankind, diminutives his frame,
Less than a lizzard, but in shape the same.
Amaz’d the dame the wondrous sight beheld,
And weeps, and fain wou’d touch her quondam child.
Yet her approach th’ affrighted vermin shuns,
And fast into the greatest crevice runs.
A name they gave him, which the spots exprest,
That rose like stars, and varied all his breast.
What lands, what seas the Goddess wander’d o’er,
Were long to tell; for there remain’d no more.
Searching all round, her fruitless toil she mourns,
And with regret to Sicily returns.
At length, where Cyane now flows, she came,
Who cou’d have told her, were she still the same
As when she saw her daughter sink to Hell;
But what she knows she wants a tongue to tell.
Yet this plain signal manifestly gave,
The virgin’s girdle floating on a wave,
As late she dropt it from her slender waste,
When with her uncle thro’ the deep she past.
Ceres the token by her grief confest,
And tore her golden hair, and beat her breast.
She knows not on what land her curse shou’d fall,
But, as ingrate, alike upbraids them all,
Unworthy of her gifts; Trinacria most,
Where the last steps she found of what she lost.
The plough for this the vengeful Goddess broke,
And with one death the ox, and owner struck,
In vain the fallow fields the peasant tills,
The seed, corrupted ere ’tis sown, she kills.
The fruitful soil, that once such harvests bore,
Now mocks the farmer’s care, and teems no more.
And the rich grain which fills the furrow’d glade,
Rots in the seed, or shrivels in the blade;
Or too much sun burns up, or too much rain
Drowns, or black blights destroy the blasted plain;
Or greedy birds the new-sown seed devour,
Or darnel, thistles, and a crop impure
Of knotted grass along the acres stand,
And spread their thriving roots thro’ all the land.
Then from the waves soft Arethusa rears
Her head, and back she flings her dropping hairs.
O mother of the maid, whom thou so far
Hast sought, of whom thou canst no tidings hear;
O thou, she cry’d, who art to life a friend,
Cease here thy search, and let thy labour end.
Thy faithful Sicily’s a guiltless clime,
And shou’d not suffer for another’s crime;
She neither knew, nor cou’d prevent the deed;
Nor think that for my country thus I plead;
My country’s Pisa, I’m an alien here,
Yet these abodes to Elis I prefer,
No clime to me so sweet, no place so dear.
These springs I Arethusa now possess,
And this my seat, o gracious Goddess, bless:
This island why I love, and why I crost
Such spacious seas to reach Ortygia’s coast,
To you I shall impart, when, void of care,
Your heart’s at ease, and you’re more fit to hear;
When on your brow no pressing sorrow sits,
For gay content alone such tales admits.
When thro’ Earth’s caverns I a-while have roul’d
My waves, I rise, and here again behold
The long-lost stars; and, as I late did glide
Near Styx, Proserpina there I espy’d.
Fear still with grief might in her face be seen;
She still her rape laments; yet, made a queen,
Beneath those gloomy shades her sceptre sways,
And ev’n th’ infernal king her will obeys.
This heard, the Goddess like a statue stood,
Stupid with grief; and in that musing mood
Continu’d long; new cares a-while supprest
The reigning of her immortal breast.
At last to Jove her daughter’s sire she flies,
And with her chariot cuts the chrystal skies;
She comes in clouds, and with dishevel’d hair,
Standing before his throne, prefers her pray’r.
King of the Gods, defend my blood and thine,
And use it not the worse for being mine.
If I no more am gracious in thy sight,
Be just, o Jove, and do thy daughter right.
In vain I sought her the wide world around,
And, when I most despair’d to find her, found.
But how can I the fatal finding boast,
By which I know she is for ever lost?
Without her father’s aid, what other Pow’r
Can to my arms the ravish’d maid restore?
Let him restore her, I’ll the crime forgive;
My child, tho’ ravish’d, I’d with joy receive.
Pity, your daughter with a thief shou’d wed,
Tho’ mine, you think, deserves no better bed.
Jove thus replies: It equally belongs
To both, to guard our common pledge from wrongs.
But if to things we proper names apply,
This hardly can be call’d an injury.
The theft is love; nor need we blush to own
The thief, if I can judge, to be our son.
Had you of his desert no other proof,
To be Jove’s brother is methinks enough.
Nor was my throne by worth superior got,
Heav’n fell to me, as Hell to him, by lot:
If you are still resolv’d her loss to mourn,
And nothing less will serve than her return;
Upon these terms she may again be yours
(Th’ irrevocable terms of fate, not ours),
Of Stygian food if she did never taste,
Hell’s bounds may then, and only then, be past.
The Transformation of Ascalaphus into an Owl
The Goddess now, resolving to succeed,
Down to the gloomy shades descends with speed;
But adverse fate had otherwise decreed.
For, long before, her giddy thoughtless child
Had broke her fast, and all her projects spoil’d.
As in the garden’s shady walk she stray’d,
A fair pomegranate charm’d the simple maid,
Hung in her way, and tempting her to taste,
She pluck’d the fruit, and took a short repast.
Seven times, a seed at once, she eat the food;
The fact Ascalaphus had only view’d;
Whom Acheron begot in Stygian shades
On Orphne, fam’d among Avernal maids;
He saw what past, and by discov’ring all,
Detain’d the ravish’d nymph in cruel thrall.
But now a queen, she with resentment heard,
And chang’d the vile informer to a bird.
In Phlegeton’s black stream her hand she dips,
Sprinkles his head, and wets his babling lips.
Soon on his face, bedropt with magick dew,
A change appear’d, and gawdy feathers grew.
A crooked beak the place of nose supplies,
Rounder his head, and larger are his eyes.
His arms and body waste, but are supply’d
With yellow pinions flagging on each side.
His nails grow crooked, and are turn’d to claws,
And lazily along his heavy wings he draws.
Ill-omen’d in his form, the unlucky fowl,
Abhorr’d by men, and call’d a scrieching owl.
The Daughters of Achelous transform’d to Sirens
Justly this punishment was due to him,
And less had been too little for his crime;
But, o ye nymphs that from the flood descend,
What fault of yours the Gods cou’d so offend,
With wings and claws your beauteous forms to spoil,
Yet save your maiden face, and winning smile?
Were you not with her in Pergusa’s bow’rs,
When Proserpine went forth to gather flow’rs?
Since Pluto in his carr the Goddess caught,
Have you not for her in each climate sought?
And when on land you long had search’d in vain,
You wish’d for wings to cross the pathless main;
That Earth and Sea might witness to your care:
The Gods were easy, and return’d your pray’r;
With golden wing o’er foamy waves you fled,
And to the sun your plumy glories spread.
But, lest the soft enchantment of your songs,
And the sweet musick of your flat’ring tongues
Shou’d quite be lost (as courteous fates ordain),
Your voice and virgin beauty still remain.
Jove some amends for Ceres lost to make,
Yet willing Pluto shou’d the joy partake,
Gives ’em of Proserpine an equal share,
Who, claim’d by both, with both divides the year.
The Goddess now in either empire sways,
Six moons in Hell, and six with Ceres stays.
Her peevish temper’s chang’d; that sullen mind,
Which made ev’n Hell uneasy, now is kind,
Her voice refines, her mein more sweet appears,
Her forehead free from frowns, her eyes from tears,
As when, with golden light, the conqu’ring day
Thro’ dusky exhalations clears a way.
Ceres her daughter’s rape no longer mourn’d,
But back to Arethusa’s spring return’d;
And sitting on the margin, bid her tell
From whence she came, and why a sacred well.
The Story of Arethusa
Still were the purling waters, and the maid
From the smooth surface rais’d her beauteous head,
Wipes off the drops that from her tresses ran,
And thus to tell Alpheus’ loves began.
In Elis first I breath’d the living air,
The chase was all my pleasure, all my care.
None lov’d like me the forest to explore,
To pitch the toils, and drive the bristled boar.
Of fair, tho’ masculine, I had the name,
But gladly wou’d to that have quitted claim:
It less my pride than indignation rais’d,
To hear the beauty I neglected, prais’d;
Such compliments I loath’d, such charms as these
I scorn’d, and thought it infamy to please.
Once, I remember, in the summer’s heat,
Tir’d with the chase, I sought a cool retreat;
And, walking on, a silent current found,
Which gently glided o’er the grav’ly ground.
The chrystal water was so smooth, so clear,
My eye distinguish’d ev’ry pebble there.
So soft its motion, that I scarce perceiv’d
The running stream, or what I saw believ’d.
The hoary willow, and the poplar, made
Along the shelving bank a grateful shade.
In the cool rivulet my feet I dipt,
Then waded to the knee, and then I stript;
My robe I careless on an osier threw,
That near the place commodiously grew;
Nor long upon the border naked stood,
But plung’d with speed into the silver flood.
My arms a thousand ways I mov’d, and try’d
To quicken, if I cou’d, the lazy tide;
Where, while I play’d my swimming gambols o’er,
I heard a murm’ring voice, and frighted sprung to shore.
Oh! whither, Arethusa, dost thou fly?
From the brook’s bottom did Alpheus cry;
Again, I heard him, in a hollow tone,
Oh! whither, Arethusa, dost thou run?
Naked I flew, nor cou’d I stay to hide
My limbs, my robe was on the other side;
Alpheus follow’d fast, th’ inflaming sight
Quicken’d his speed, and made his labour light;
He sees me ready for his eager arms,
And with a greedy glance devours my charms.
As trembling doves from pressing danger fly,
When the fierce hawk comes sousing from the sky;
And, as fierce hawks the trembling doves pursue,
From him I fled, and after me he flew.
First by Orchomenus I took my flight,
And soon had Psophis and Cyllene in sight;
Behind me then high Maenalus I lost,
And craggy Erimanthus scal’d with frost;
Elis was next; thus far the ground I trod
With nimble feet, before the distanc’d God.
But here I lagg’d, unable to sustain
The labour longer, and my flight maintain;
While he more strong, more patient of the toil,
And fir’d with hopes of beauty’s speedy spoil,
Gain’d my lost ground, and by redoubled pace,
Now left between us but a narrow space.
Unweary’d I ’till now o’er hills, and plains,
O’er rocks, and rivers ran, and felt no pains:
The sun behind me, and the God I kept,
But, when I fastest shou’d have run, I stept.
Before my feet his shadow now appear’d;
As what I saw, or rather what I fear’d.
Yet there I could not be deceiv’d by fear,
Who felt his breath pant on my braided hair,
And heard his sounding tread, and knew him to be near.
Tir’d, and despairing, O celestial maid,
I’m caught, I cry’d, without thy heav’nly aid.
Help me, Diana, help a nymph forlorn,
Devoted to the woods, who long has worn
Thy livery, and long thy quiver born.
The Goddess heard; my pious pray’r prevail’d;
In muffling clouds my virgin head was veil’d,
The am’rous God, deluded of his hopes,
Searches the gloom, and thro’ the darkness gropes;
Twice, where Diana did her servant hide
He came, and twice, O Arethusa! cry’d.
How shaken was my soul, how sunk my heart!
The terror seiz’d on ev’ry trembling part.
Thus when the wolf about the mountain prowls
For prey, the lambkin hears his horrid howls:
The tim’rous hare, the pack approaching nigh,
Thus hearkens to the hounds, and trembles at the cry;
Nor dares she stir, for fear her scented breath
Direct the dogs, and guide the threaten’d death.
Alpheus in the cloud no traces found
To mark my way, yet stays to guard the ground,
The God so near, a chilly sweat possest
My fainting limbs, at ev’ry pore exprest;
My strength distill’d in drops, my hair in dew,
My form was chang’d, and all my substance new.
Each motion was a stream, and my whole frame
Turn’d to a fount, which still preserves my name.
Resolv’d I shou’d not his embrace escape,
Again the God resumes his fluid shape;
To mix his streams with mine he fondly tries,
But still Diana his attempt denies.
She cleaves the ground; thro’ caverns dark I run
A diff’rent current, while he keeps his own.
To dear Ortygia she conducts my way,
And here I first review the welcome day.
Here Arethusa stopt; then Ceres takes
Her golden carr, and yokes her fiery snakes;
With a just rein, along mid-heaven she flies
O’er Earth, and seas, and cuts the yielding skies.
She halts at Athens, dropping like a star,
And to Triptolemus resigns her carr.
Parent of seed, she gave him fruitful grain,
And bad him teach to till and plough the plain;
The seed to sow, as well in fallow fields,
As where the soil manur’d a richer harvest yields.
The Transformation of Lyncus
The youth o’er Europe and o’er Asia drives,
‘Till at the court of Lyncus he arrives.
The tyrant Scythia’s barb’rous empire sway’d;
And, when he saw Triptolemus, he said,
How cam’st thou, stranger, to our court, and why?
Thy country, and thy name? The youth did thus reply:
Triptolemus my name; my country’s known
O’er all the world, Minerva’s fav’rite town,
Athens, the first of cities in renown.
By land I neither walk’d, nor sail’d by sea,
But hither thro’ the Aether made my way.
By me, the Goddess who the fields befriends,
These gifts, the greatest of all blessings, sends.
The grain she gives if in your soil you sow,
Thence wholsom food in golden crops shall grow.
Soon as the secret to the king was known,
He grudg’d the glory of the service done,
And wickedly resolv’d to make it all his own.
To hide his purpose, he invites his guest,
The friend of Ceres, to a royal feast,
And when sweet sleep his heavy eyes had seiz’d,
The tyrant with his steel attempts his breast.
Him strait a lynx’s shape the Goddess gives,
And home the youth her sacred dragons drives.
The Pierides transform’d to Magpies
The chosen Muse here ends her sacred lays;
The nymphs unanimous decree the bays,
And give the Heliconian Goddesses the praise.
Then, far from vain that we shou’d thus prevail,
But much provok’d to hear the vanquish’d rail,
Calliope resumes: Too long we’ve born
Your daring taunts, and your affronting scorn;
Your challenge justly merited a curse,
And this unmanner’d railing makes it worse.
Since you refuse us calmly to enjoy
Our patience, next our passions we’ll employ;
The dictates of a mind enrag’d pursue,
And, what our just resentment bids us, do.
The railers laugh, our threats and wrath despise,
And clap their hands, and make a scolding noise:
But in the fact they’re seiz’d; beneath their nails
Feathers they feel, and on their faces scales;
Their horny beaks at once each other scare,
Their arms are plum’d, and on their backs they bear
Py’d wings, and flutter in the fleeting air.
Chatt’ring, the scandal of the woods they fly,
And there continue still their clam’rous cry:
The same their eloquence, as maids, or birds,
Now only noise, and nothing then but words.