« PreviousContinue »
"Bless'd be thy dust, and let eternal fame
Attend thy manes, and preserve thy name,
Undaunted hero! who, divinely brave,
In such a cause disdain'd thy life to save,
But view'd the shrine with a superior look,
And its upbraided godhead thus bespoke:"
With piety, the soul's securest guard,
And conscious virtue, still its own reward,
Willing I come, unknowing how to fear,
Nor shalt thou, Phœbus, find a suppliant here:
Thy monster's death to me was ow'd alone,
And 'tis a deed too glorious to disown,
Behold him here, for whom, so many days,
Impervious clouds conceal'd thy sullen rays;
For whom, as man no longer claim'd thy care,
Such numbers fell by pestilential air!
But if the' abandon'd race of human kind
From gods above no more compassion find;
If such inclemency in heav'n can dwell,
Yet why must unoffending Argos feel
The vengeance due to this unlucky steel?
On me, on me, let all thy fury fall,
Nor err from me, since I deserve it all,
Unless our desert cities please thy sight,
Or funeral flames reflect a grateful light.
Discharge thy shafts, this ready bosom rend,
And to the shades a ghost triumphant send;
But for my country let my fate atone;
Be mine the vengeance, as the crime my own.'
"Merit distress'd impartial heav'n relieves :
Unwelcome life relenting Phoebus gives;
For not the vengeful pow'r, that glow'd with rage, With such amazing virtue durst engage.
The clouds dispers'd, Apollo's wrath expir'd,
And from the wondering god the' unwilling youth
Thence we these altars in his temple raise,
And offer annual honours, feasts and praise;
These solemn feasts propitious Phoebus please;
These honours, still renew'd, his ancient wrath appease.
16 But say, illustrious guest! (adjoin'd the king) What name you bear, from what high race you spring? The noble Tydeus stands confess'd, and known Our neighbour prince, and heir of Calydon: Relate your fortunes, while the friendly night And silent hours to various talk invite."
The Theban bends on earth his gloomy eyes, Confus'd, and sadly thus at length replies :
Before these altars how shall I proclaim
(0 generous prince!) my nation or my name,
Or thro' what veins our ancient blood has roll'd?
Let the sad tale for ever rest untold!
Yet if, propitious to a wretch unknown,
You seek to share in sorrows not your own,
Know then from Cadmus I derive my race,
Jocasta's son, and Thebes my native place."
To whom the king (who felt his generous breast
Touch'd with concern for his unhappy guest)
Replies "Ah! why forbears the son to name
His wretched father, known too well by fame?
Fame, that delights around the world to stray,
Scorns not to take our Argos in her way.
Ev'n those who dwell where suns at distance roll,
In northern wilds, and freeze beneath the pole,
And those who tread the burning Libyan lands,
The faithless syrtes, and the moving sands;
Who view the western sea's extremest bounds,
Or drink of Ganges in their eastern grounds;
All these the woes of Edipus have known,
Your fates, your furies, and your haunted town.
If on the sons the parents' crimes descend,
What prince from those his lineage can defend?
Be this thy comfort, that 'tis thine to' efface,
With virtuous acts, thy ancestors' disgrace,
And be thyself the honour of thy race.
But see! the stars begin to steal away,
And shine more faintly at approaching day;
Now pour the wine; and in your tuneful lays
Once more resound the great Apollo's praise.”
O father Phoebus! whether Lycia's coast
And snowy mountains thy bright presence boast:
Whether to sweet Castalia thou repair,
And bathe in silver dews thy yellow hair;
Or pleas'd to find fair Delos float no more,
Delight in Cynthus and the shady shore;
Or choose thy seat in Ilion's proud abodes,
The shining structures rais'd by labouring gods:
By thee the bow and mortal shafts are borne;
Eternal charms thy blooming youth adorn :
Skill'd in the laws of secret fate above,
And the dark counsels of almighty Jove,
'Tis thine the seeds of futu e war to know,
The change of sceptres and impending woe,
When direful meteors spread through glowing air
Long trails of light, and shake their blazing hair.
Thy rage the Phrygian felt, who durst aspire
To' excel the music of thy heavenly lyre;
Thy shafts aveng'd lewd Tityus' guilty flame,
The' immortal victim of thy mother's fame;
Thy hand slew Python, and the dame who lost
Her numerous offspring for a fatal boast.
In Phlegyas' doom thy just revenge appears,
Condemn'd to furies and eternal fears;
He views his food, but dreads, with lifted eye,
The mouldering rock that trembles from on high.
Propitious hear our pray'r, O pow'r divine!
And on thy hospitable Argos shine;
Whether the style of Titan please thee more,
Whose purple rays the' Achæmenes adore ;
Or great Osiris, who first taught the swain
In Pharian fields to sow the golden grain ;
Or Mithra, to whose beams the Persian bows,
And pays, in hollow rocks, his awful vows;
Mithra! whose head the blaze of light adorns,
Who grasps the struggling heifer's lunar horns."
HE said, and past with sad presaging heart
To seek his spouse, his soul's far dearer part; At home he sought her, but he sought in vain ; She, with one maid of all her menial train, Had thence retir'd; and with her second joy, The young Astyanax, the hope of Troy, Pensive she stood on Ilion's towery height, Bebeld the war, and sicken'd at the sight; There her sad eyes in vain her lord explore, Or weep the wounds her bleeding country bore. But he who found not whom his soul desir'd, Whose virtue charm'd him as her beauty fir'd, Stood in the gates, and ask'd what way she bent Her parting step? If to the fane she went, Where late the mourning matrons made resort; Or sought her sisters in the Trojan court? Not to the court (reply'd the' attendant train,) Nor, mix'd with matrons, to Minerva's fane; To Ilion's steepy tower she bent her way, To mark the fortunes of the doubtful day. Troy fled, she heard, before the Grecian sword; She heard, and trembled for her absent lord; Distracted with surprise, she seem'd to fly, Fear on her cheek, and sorrow in her eye. The nurse attended with her infant boy, The young Astyanax, the hope of Troy. Hector, this heard, return'd without delay: Swift through the town he trod his former way, Through streets of palaces, and walks of state; And met the mourner at the Scæan gate. With haste to meet him sprung the joyful fair, His blameless wife, Aetion's wealthy heir,
(Cicilian Thebe great Aetion sway'd,
And Hippoplacus' wide extended shade ;)
The nurse stood near, in whose embraces prest
His only hope hung smiling at her breast,
Whom each soft charm and early grace adorn,
Fair as the new-born star that gilds the morn.
To this lov'd infant Hector gave the name
Scamandrius, from Scamander's honour'd stream;
Astyanax the Trojans call'd the boy,
From his great father, the defence of Troy.
Silent the warrior smil'd, and, pleas'd, resign'd
To tender passions all his mighty mind.
His beauteous princess cast a mournful look,
Hung on his hand, and then dejected spoke ;
Her bosom labour'd with a boding sigh,
And the big tear stood trembling in her eye.
Too daring prince! ah, whither dost thou run?
Ah, too forgetful of thy wife and son!
And think'st thou not how wretched we shall be,
A widow I, an helpless orphan he!
For sure such courage length of life denies,
And thou must fall, thy virtue's sacrifice.
Greece in her single heroes strove in vain ;
Now hosts oppose thee, and thou must be slain!
O, grant me, God! ere
ector meets his doom, All I can ask of Heav'n, an early tomb!
So shall my days in one sad tenour run, And end with sorrows as they first begun. No parent now remains my griefs to share, No father's aid, no mother's tender care. The fierce Achilles wrapt our walls in fire, Laid Thebè waste, and slew my warlike sire! His sate compassion in the victor bred; Stern as he was, he yet rever'd the dead, His radiant arms preserv'd from hostile spoil, And laid him decent on the funeral pile; Then rais'd a mountain where his bones were burn'd: The mountain nymphs the rural tomb adorn'd, Jove's silvan daughters bade their elms bestow A barren shade, and in his honour grow.