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Lo, hapless Tydeus! whose ill-fated hand
Had slain his brother, leaves his native land,
And, seiz'd with horror in the shades of night,
Thro' the thick deserts headlong urg'd his flight:
Now by the fury of the tempest driv❜n,
He seeks a shelter from the' inclement heav'n,
Till, led by fate, the Theban's steps he treads,
And to fair Argos' open courts succeeds.
When thus the chiefs from different lands resort
To' Adrastus' realms and hospitable court,
The king surveys his guests with curious eyes,
And views their arms and habit with surprise.
A lion's yellow skin the Theban wears,
Horrid his mane, and rough with curling hairs;
Such once employ'd Alcides' youthful toils,
Ere yet adorn'd with Nemea's dreadful spoils.
A boar's stiff hide, of Calydonian breed,
Oenides' manly shoulders overspread;
Oblique his tusks, erect his bristles stood,
Alive the pride and terror of the wood.
Struck with the sight, and fix'd in deep amaze,
The king the' accomplish'd oracle surveys,
Reveres Apollo's vocal caves, and owns
The guiding godhead and his future sons;
O'er all his bosom secret transports reign,
And a glad horror shoots through every vein:
To heav'n he lifts his hands, erects his sight,
And thus invokes the silent queen of night:-
"Goddess of shades! beneath whose gloomy reign
Yon spangled arch glows with the starry train ;"
You who the cares of heav'n and earth allay,
Till nature, quicken'd by the' inspiring ray,
Wakes to new vigour with the rising day:
O thou! who freest me from my doubtful state,
Long lost and wilder'd in the maze of fate,
Be present still, O goddess! in our aid;
Proceed, and 'firm those omens thou hast made.
We to thy name our annual rites will pay,
And on thy altars sacrifices lay;
The sable flock shall fall beneath the stroke,
And fill thy temples with a grateful smoke.
Hail! faithful Tripos! hail! ye dark abodes
Of awful Phœbus; I confess the gods!"
Thus, seiz'd with sacred fear, the monarch pray'd ;
Then to his inner court the guests convey'd,
Where yet thin fumes from dying sparks arise,
And dust yet white upon each altar lies,
The relics of a former sacrifice.
The king once more the solemn rites requires,
And bids renew the feasts and wake the fires.
His train obey; while all the courts around
With noisy care and various tumult sound.
Embroider'd purple clothes the golden beds;
This slave the floor, and that the table spreads;
A third dispels the darkness of the night,
And fills depending lamps with beams of light;
Here loaves in canisters are pil'd on high,
And there in flames the slaughter'd victims fly.
Sublime in regal state Adrastus shone,
Stretch'd on rich carpets on his ivory throne;
A lofty couch receives each princely guest;
Around, at awful distance, wait the rest.
And now the king, his royal feast to grace,
Acestis calls, the guardian of his race,
Who first their youth in arts of virtue train'd,
And their ripe years in modest grace maintain'd;
Then softly whisper'd in her faithful ear,
And bade his daughters at the rites appear.
When from the close apartments of the night
The royal nymphs approach divinely bright,
Such was Diana's, such Minerva's face,
Nor shine their beauties with superior grace,
But that in these a milder charm endears,
And less of terror in their looks appears.
As on the heroes first they cast their eyes,
O'er their fair cheeks the glowing blushes rise;
Their downcast looks a decent shame confest,
Then on their father's reverend features rest.
The banquet done, the monarch gives the sign To fill the goblet high with sparkling wine, Which Danaus us'd in sacred rites of old,
With sculpture grac'd, and rough with rising gold:
Here to the clouds victorious Perseus flies,
Medusa seems to move her languid eyes,
And, ev'n in gold, turns paler as she dies:
There from the chase Jove's towering eagle bears,
On golden wings, the Phrygian to the stars;
Still as he rises in the' etherial height,
His native mountains lessen to his sight,
While all his sad companions upward gaze,
Fix'd on the glorious scene in wild amaze,
And the swift hounds, affrighted as he flies,
Run to the shade, and bark against the skies.
This golden bowl with generous juice was crown'd,
The first libation sprinkled on the ground,
By turns on each celestial pow'r they call;
With Phoebus' name resounds the vaulted hall.
The courtly train, the strangers, and the rest,
Crown'd with chaste-laurel, and with garlands drest,
While with rich gums the fuming altars blaze,
Salute the god in numerous hymns of praise.
Then thus the king: "Perhaps, my noble guests!
These honour'd altars, and these annual feasts
To bright Apollo's awful name design'd,
Unknown, with wonder may perplex your mind.
Great was the cause: our old solemnities
From no blind zeal or fond tradition rise;
But sav'd from death, our Argives yearly pay
These grateful honours to the god of day.
"When by a thousand darts the Python slain
With orbs unroll'd lay covering all the plain,
(Transfix'd as o'er Castalia's streams he hung,
And suck'd new poisons with his triple tongue)
To Argos' realms the victor god resorts,
And enters old Crotopos' humble courts.
This rural prince one only daughter bless'd,
That all the charms of blooming youth possess'd;
Fair was her face, and spotless was her mind,
Where filial love with virgin sweetness join'd:
Happy! and happy still she might have prov'd,
Were she less beautiful, or less belov'd!
But Phœbus lov'd, and on the flowery side
Of Nemea's stream the yielding fair enjoy'd.
Now ere ten moons their orb with light adorn,
The' illustrious offspring of the god was born;
The nymph, her father's anger to evade,
Retires from Argos to the silvan shade;
To woods and wilds the pleasing burden bears,
And trusts her infant to a shepherd's cares.
"How mean a fate, unhappy child! is thine?
Ah! how unworthy those of race divine!
On flowery herbs in some green covert laid,
His bed the ground, his canopy the shade,
He mixes with the bleating lambs his cries,
While the rude swain his rural music tries,
To call soft slumbers on his infant eyes.
Yet ev'n in those obscure abodes to live
Was more, alas! than cruel fate would give;
For on the grassy verdure as he lay,
And breath'd the freshness of the early day,
Devouring dogs the helpless infant tore,
Fed on his trembling limbs, and lapp'd the gore.
The' astonish'd mother, when the rumour came,
Forgets her father, and neglects her fame;
With loud complaints she fills the yielding air,
And beats her breast, and rends her flowing hair;
Then wild with anguish to her sire she flies,
Demands the sentence, and contented dies.
"But touch'd with sorrow for the deed too late,
The raging god prepares to' avenge her fate.
He sends a monster, horrible and fell,
Begot by furies in the depths of hell.
The pest a virgin's face and bosom bears;
High on her crown a rising snake appears,
Guards her black front, and hisses in her hairs:
About the realm she walks her dreadful round,
When night with sable wings o'erspreads the ground,
Devours young babes before their parents' eyes, And feeds and thrives on public miseries.
"But generous rage the bold Chorœbus warms, Chorœbus! fam'd for virtue as for arms;
Some few like him, inspir'd with martial flame,
Thought a short life well lost for endless fame.
These, where two ways in equal parts divide,
The direful monster from afar descry'd,
Two bleeding babes depending at her side;
Whose panting vitals, warm with life, she draws,
And in their hearts imbrues her cruel claws.
The youths surround her with extended spears;
But brave Chorobus in the front appears;
Deep in her breast he plung'd his shining sword,
And hell's dire monster back to hell restor❜d.
The' Inachians view the slain with vast surprise,
Her twisting volumes, and her rolling eyes,
Her spotted breast and gaping womb imbrued
With livid poison and our children's blood.
The crowd in stupid wonder fix'd appear,
Pale ev'n in joy, nor yet forget to fear.
Some with vast beams the squalid corse engage,
And weary all the wild efforts of rage.
The birds obscene, that nightly flock'd to taste,
With hollow screeches fled the dire repast;
And ravenous dogs, allur'd by scented blood,
And starving wolves, ran howling to the wood.
"But fir'd with rage, from cleft Parnassus' brow
Avenging Phœbus bent his deadly bow,
And hissing flew the feather'd fates below:
A night of sultry clouds involv'd around
The towers, the fields, and the devoted ground:
And now a thousand lives together fled,
Death with his scythe cut off the fatal thread,
And a whole province in his triumph led.
"But Phoebus ask'd why noxious fires appear,
And raging Sirius blasts the sickly year?
Demands their lives by whom his monster fell,
And dooms a dreadful sacrifice to hell.