« PreviousContinue »
He, against this right sagely would advise,
And old examples set before my eyes;
Tell how the Roman matrons led their life,
Of Gracchus' mother, and Duilius' wife;
And close the sermon, as beseemed his wit,
With some grave sentence out of Holy Writ.
Oft would he say, who builds his house on sands,
Pricks his blind horse across the fallow lands,
Or lets his wife abroad with pilgrims roam,
Deserves a fool's-cap and long ears at home.
All this availed not; for whoe'er he be
That tells my faults, I hate him mortally:
And so do numbers more, I'll boldly say,
Men, women, clergy, regular and lay.
My spouse (who was, you know, to learning bred)
A certain treatise oft at evening read,
Where divers authors (whom the devil confound
For all their lies) were in one volume bound.
Valerius, whole; and of St. Jerome, part,
Chrysippus and Tertullian, Ovid's Art,
Solomon's Proverbs, Eloïsa's loves;
And many more than sure the Church approves.
More legends were there here, of wicked wives,
Than good, in all the Bible and saints' lives.
Who drew the lion vanquish'd? 'Twas a man!
But could we women write as scholars can,
Men should stand mark'd with far more wickedness
Than all the sons of Adam could redress.
Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies,
And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.
Those play the scholars who can't play the men,
And use that weapon which they have, their pen;
When old, and past the relish of delight,
Then down they sit, and in their dotage write,
That not one woman keeps her mariage-vow.
(This by the way, but to my purpose now.)
It chanced my husband, on a winter's night,
Read in this book, aloud, with strange delight,
How the first female (as the Scriptures show)
Brought her own spouse and all his race to woe.
How Samson fell; and he whom Dejanire
Wrapp'd in the envenom'd shirt, and set on fire
How cursed Eryphile her lord betray'd,
And the dire ambush Clytemnestra laid.
But what most pleased him was the Cretan dame,
And husband-bull-oh monstrous! fie for shame!
He had by heart, the whole detail of woe
Xantippe made her good man undergo;
How oft she scolded in a day, he knew,
How many jordens on the sage she threw;
Who took it patiently, and wiped his head;
"Rain follows thunder:" that was all he said.
He read, how Arius to his friend complain'd,
A fatal tree was growing in his land,
On which three wives successively had twined
A sliding noose, and wavered in the wind.
Where grows this plant (replied the friend), oh where?
For better fruit did never orchard bear.
Give me some slip of this most blissful tree,
And in my garden planted shall it be.
Then how two wives their lords' destruction prove,
Through hatred one, and one through too much love;
That for her husband.mix'd a poisonous draught,
And this for lust an amorous philtre bought:
The nimble juice soon seized his giddy head,
Frantic at night, and in the morning dead.
How some with swords their sleeping lords have slain, And some have hammer'd nails into their brain, And some have drench'd them with a deadly potion; All this he read, and read with great devotion.
Long time I heard, and swell'd, and blush'd, and But when no end of these vile tales I found, [frown'd; When still he read, and laugh'd, and read again, And half the night was thus consumed in vain; Provoked to vengeance, three large leaves I tore, And with one buffet fell'd him on the floor. With that my husband in a fury rose, And down he settled me with hearty blows. I groan'd, and lay extended on my side; Oh! thou hast slain me for my wealth (I cried); Yet I forgive thee-take my last embraceHe wept, kind soul! and stoop'd to kiss my face; I took him such a box as turn'd him blue, Then sigh'd and cried, Adieu, my dear, adieu! But after many a hearty struggle past, I condescended to be pleased at last. Soon as he said, My mistress and my wife, Do what you list, the term of all your life:
I took to heart the merits of the cause,
And stood content to rule by wholesome laws;
Received the reins of absolute command,
With all the government of house and land,
And empire o'er his tongue, and o'er his hand.
As for the volume that reviled the dames,
'Twas torn to fragments, and condemn'd to flames.
Now Heaven, on all my husbands gone, bestow
Pleasures above, for tortures felt below:
That rest they wish'd for, grant them in the grave,
And bless those souls my conduct help'd to save!
TRANSLATED IN THE YEAR MDCCIII.
ŒDIPUS, king of Thebes, having by mistake slain his father Laius, and married his mother Jocasta, put out his own eyes, and resigned his realm to his sons, Eteocles and Polynices. Being neglected by them, he makes his prayer to the fury Tisiphone, to sow debate betwixt the brothers. They agree at last to reign singly, each a year by turns, and the first lot is obtained by Eteocles. Jupiter, in a council of the gods, declares his resolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives also, by means of a marriage betwixt Polynices and one of the daughters of Adrastus king of Argos. Juno opposes, but to no effect; and Mercury is sent on a message to the Shades, to the ghost of Laius, who is to appear to Eteocles, and provoke him to break the agreement. Polynices in the meantime departs from Thebes by night, is overtaken by a storm, and arrives at Argos; where he meets with Tydeus, who had fled from Calydon, having killed his brother. Adrastus entertains them, having received an oracle from Apollo that his daughters should be married to a boar and a lion, which he understands to be meant of these strangers, by whom the hides of those beasts were worn, and whò arrived at the time when he kept an annual feast in honour of that god. The rise of this solemnity he relates to his guests, the loves of Phoebus and Psamathe, and the story of Chorobus. He inquires, and is made acquainted with their descent and quality: The sacrifice is renewed, and the book concludes with a hymn to Apollo.
The translator hopes he need not apologise for his choice of this piece, which was made almost in his childhood. But finding the version better than he expected, he gave it some correction a few years afterwards.
FRATERNAL rage, the guilty Thebes' alarms,
The alternate reign destroy'd by impious arms,
Demand our song; a sacred fury fires
My ravish'd breast, and all the muse inspires.
O goddess, say, shall I deduce my rhymes
From the dire nation in its early times,
Europa's rape, Agenor's stern decree,
And Cadmus searching round the spacious sea?
How with the serpent's teeth he sow'd the soil,
And reap'd an iron harvest of his toil?
Or how from joining stones the city sprung,
While to his harp divine Amphion sung?
Or shall I Juno's hate to Thebes resound,
Whose fatal rage the unhappy monarch found?
The sire against the son his arrows drew,
O'er the wide fields the furious mother flew,
And while her arms a second hope contain,
Sprung from the rocks and plunged into the main.
But waive whate'er to Cadmus may belong,
And fix, O Muse! the barrier of thy song.
At Edipus-from his disasters trace
The long confusions of his guilty race:
Nor yet attempt to stretch thy bolder wing,
And mighty Cæsar's conquering eagles sing;
How twice he tamed proud Ister's rapid flood, [blood;
While Dacian mountains stream'd with barbarous
Twice taught the Rhine beneath his laws to roll,
And stretch'd his empire to the frozen pole,
Or long before, with early valour strove,
In youthful arms to assert the cause of Jove.
And thou, great heir of all thy father's fame,
Increase of glory to the Latian name,
Oh! bless thy Rome with an eternal reign,
Nor let desiring worlds entreat in vain.
What though the stars contract their heavenly space,
And crowd their shining ranks to yield thee place;
Though all the skies, ambitious of thy sway,
Conspire to court thee from our world away;
Though Phoebus long to mix his rays with thine,
And in thy glories more serenely shine;
Though Jove himself no less content would be
To part his throne and share his heaven with thee;
Yet stay, great Cæsar! and vouchsafe to reign
O'er the wide earth, and o'er the watery main;
Resign to Jove his empire of the skies,
And people heaven with Roman deities.
The time will come, when a diviner flame
Shall warm my breast to sing of Cæsar's fame:
Meanwhile permit, that my preluding muse
In Theban wars an humbler theme may chuse:
Of furious hate surviving death, she sings,
A fatal throne to two contending kings,
And funeral flames, that, parting wide in air,
Express the discords of the souls they bear:
Of towns dispeopled, and the wandering ghosts
Of kings unburied in the wasted coasts;
When Dirce's fountain blush'd with Grecian blood,
And Thetis, near Ismenos' swelling flood,
With dread beheld the rolling surges sweep,
In heaps, his slaughter'd sons into the deep.
What Hero, Clio! wilt thou first relate?
The rage of Tydeus, or the Prophet's fate?
Or how, with hills of slain on every side,
Hippomedon repell'd the hostile tide ?
Or how the youth with every grace adorn'd,
Untimely fell, to be for ever mourn'd?
Then to fierce Capaneus thy verse extend,
And sing with horror his prodigious end.
Now wretched Edipus, deprived of sight,
Led a long death in everlasting night;
But while he dwells where not a cheerful ray
Can pierce the darkness, and abhors the day:
The clear reflecting mind presents his sin
In frightful views, and makes it day within ;
Returning thoughts in endless circles roll,
And thousand furies haunt his guilty soul.
The wretch then lifted to the unpitying skies
Those empty orbs from whence he tore his eyes,
Whose wounds, yet fresh, with bloody hands he strook,
While from his breast these dreadful accents broke.
Ye gods! that o'er the gloomy regions reign,
Where guilty spirits feel eternal pain;
Thou, sable Styx! whose livid streams are roll'd
Through dreary coasts, which I tho' blind behold:
Tisiphone, that oft hast heard my prayer,
Assist, if Edipus deserve thy care!
If you received me from Jocasta's womb,
And nursed the hope of mischiefs yet to come: