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Upon occafion of the death of Hercules, his mother Alcmena recounts her misfortunes to Iole, who anfwers with a relation of those of her own family; in particular the transformation of her fifter Dryope, which is the fubject of the enfuing fable.
HE faid, and for her loft Galanthis fighs,
When the fair confort of her fon replies,
Since you a fervant's ravifh'd form bemoan,
And kindly figh for forrows not your own ;
Let me, if tears and grief permit, relate
A nearer woe, a fifter's ftranger fate.
No nymph of all Oechalia could compare
For beauteous form with Dryope the fair,
Her tender mother's only hope and pride,
(My felf the offspring of a second bride.)
This nymph comprefs'd by him who rules the day,
Whom Delphi and the Delian ifle obey,
Andræmon lov'd; and blefs'd in all thofe charms
That pleas'd a God, fucceeded to her arms.
A lake there was, with fhelving banks around, Whofe verdant fummit fragrant myrtles crown'd; Thefe fhades, unknowing of the fates, she fought, And to the Naiads flow'ry garlands brought;
Her fmiling babe (a pleafing charge) fhe preft
Within her arms, and nourish'd at her breast.
Not diftant far, a wat'ry lotos grows,
The spring was new, and all the verdant boughs
Adorn'd with blossoms promis'd fruits that vie
In glowing colours with the Tyrian dye :
Of thefe'fhe crop'd, to please her infant fon,
And I myself the fame rash act had done :
But lo! I faw, as near her fide I ftood,
The violated blossoms drop with blood;
Upon the tree I caft a frightful look;
The trembling tree with fudden horror fhook.
Lotis the nymph, if rural tales be true,
As from Priapus' lawless luft fhe flew,
Forfook her form; and fixing here became
A flow'ry plant, which ftill preferves her name.
This change unknown, aftonish'd at the fight,
My trembling fifter ftrove to urge her flight,
And firft the pardon of the nymphs implor'd,
And those offended fylvan pow'rs ador'd:
But when the backward wou'd have fled, fhe found
Her ftiff'ning feet were rooted in the ground:
In vain to free her faften'd feet fhe ftrove,
And as fhe ftruggles, only moves above; spe
She feels th' encroaching bark around her grow
By quick degrees, and cover all below:
Surpriz'd at this, her trembling hand fhe heaves
To rend her hair; her hand is fill'd with leaves;
Where late was hair, the fhooting leaves are feen!
To rife, and fhade her with a fudden green.
The child Amphifus, to her bosom prest,
Perceiv'd a colder and a harder breaft,
And found the springs that ne'er till then deny'd
Their milky moisture, on a fudden dry'd.
I saw, unhappy! what I now relate,
And ftood the helpless witness of thy fate,
Embrac'd thy boughs, the rifing bark delay'd,
There wish'd to grow, and mingle fhade with fhade.
Behold Andræmon and th' unhappy fire
Appear, and for their Dryope enquire;
A springing tree for Dryope they find, ;
And print warm kiffes on the panting rind,
Proftrate, with tears their kindred plant bedew,
And close embrace, as to the roots they grew.
The face was all that now remain'd of thee,
No more a woman, nor yet quite a tree;
Thy branches hung with humid pearls appear,
From ev'ry leaf distills a trickling tear,
And ftrait a voice while yet a voice remains,
Thus thro' the trembling boughs in fighs complains.
If to the wretched any faith be giv'n,
I fwear by all th' unpitying pow'rs of heav'n,
No wilful crime this heavy vengeance bred;
In mutual innocence our lives we led:
If this be falfe, let these new greens decay,
Let founding axes lop my limbs away,
And crackling flames on all my honours prey.
But from my branching arms this infant bear,
Let fome kind nurse supply a mother's care:
And to his mother let him oft' be led,
Sport in her shades, and in her fhades be fed;
Teach him, when firft his infant voice fhall frame
Imperfect words, and lifp his mother's name,
To hail this tree; and fay, with weeping eyes,
Within this plant my hapless parent lies:
And when in youth he seeks the shady woods,
Oh, let him fly the crystal lakes and floods,
Nor touch the fatal flow'rs; but warn'd by me,
Believe a goddess fhrin'd in ev'ry tree.
My fire, my fifter, and my spouse farewell!
If in your breafts or love or pity dwell,
Protect your plant, nor let my branches feel
The browzing cattle or the piercing steel.
Farewell! and fince I cannot bend to join
My lips to yours, advance at least to mine.
My fon, thy mother's parting kiss receive,
While yet thy mother has a kifs to give.
I can no more; the creeping rind invades
My clofing lips, and hides my head in fhades
Remove your hands, the bark fhall foon fuffice
Without their aid to feal thefe dying eyes.
She ceas'd at once to speak, and ceas'd to be;
And all the nymph was loft within the tree:
Yet latent life thro' her new branches reign'd,
And long the plant a human heat retain'd.