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Avenging Phoebus bent his deadly bow,
And hissing flew the feather'd fates below:
A night of sultry clouds involved 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.
Blest 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, Phoebus, find a suppliant here. Thy monster's death to me was owed alone, And 'tis a deed too glorious to disown. Behold him here, for whom, so many days, Impervious clouds concealed thy sullen rays; For whom, as Man no longer claimed thy care, Such numbers fell by pestilential air! But if the abandoned race of human kind From gods above no more compassion find; If such inclemency in heaven 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 Heaven relieves: Unwelcome life relenting Phœbus gives; For not the vengeful power, that glow'd with rage, With such amazing virtue durst engage.
The clouds dispersed, Apollo's wrath expired,
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.
But say, illustrious guest, (adjoined 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, Confused, and sadly thus at length replies: Before these altars how shall I proclaim (O gen'rous prince) my nation, or my name, Or through what veins our ancient blood has roil'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;
E'en 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 Syrtis 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 ancestor's 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.
Oh father Phoebus! whether Lycia's coast
And snowy mountain thy bright presence boast;
Whether to sweet Castalia thou repair,
And bathe in silver dews thy yellow hair;
Or pleased 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 raised 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 future 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 avenged 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 prayer, O power 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 Mithras, to whose beams the Persian bows,
And pays, in hollow rocks, his awful vows;
Mithras, whose head the blaze of light adorns,
Who grasps the struggling heifer's lunar horns.
FROM THE NINTH BOOK OF OVID'S METAMORPHOSES.
Upon occasion of the death of Hercules, his mother Alcmena recounts her misfortunes to Iole, who answers with a relation of those of her own family, in particular the transformation of her sister Dryope, which is the subject of the ensuing fable.
Iole was a daughter of Eurytus, King of Echalis. Her father promised her in marriage to Hercules, but refusing to perform his engagements, Iole was carried away by force. It was to extinguish the love of Hercules for Iole, that Dejanira sent him the poisoned tunic, which caused his death. After the death of Hercules, Iole married his son Hylius.
SHE said, and for her lost Galanthis sighs,
When the fair consort of her son replies:
Since you a servant's ravish'd form bemoan,
And kindly sigh for sorrows not your own,
Let me (if tears and grief permit) relate
A nearer woe, a sister's stranger fate.
No nymph of all Echalia could compare
For beauteous form with Dryope the fair,
Her tender mother's only hope and pride,
(Myself the offspring of a second bride.)
This nymph compress'd by him who rules the day,
Whom Delphi and the Delian isle obey,
Andræmon loved; and, bless'd in all those charms
That pleased a god, succeeded to her arms.
A lake there was, with shelving banks around,
Whose verdant summit fragrant myrtles crown'd:
These shades, unknowing of the fates, she sought,
And to the Naiads flowery garlands brought;
Her smiling babe (a pleasing charge) she prest
Within her arms, and nourish'd at her breast.
Not distant far a watery lotos grows,
The spring was new, and all the verdant boughs
Adorn'd with blossoms promised fruits that vie
In glowing colours with the Tyrian dye:
Of these she cropp'd, to please her infant son,
And I myself the same rash act had done:
But lo! I saw (as near her side I stood)
The violated blossoms drop with blood;
Upon the tree I cast a frightful look;
The trembling tree with sudden horror shook.
Lotis the nymph (if rural tales be true)
As from Priapus' lawless lust she flew,
Forsook her form; and fixing here became
A flowery plant, which still preserves her name.
This change unknown, astonish'd at the sight,
My trembling sister strove to urge her flight:
And first the pardon of the nymphs implored,
And those offended silvan powers adored:
But when she backward would have fled, she found
Her stiffening feet were rooted in the ground:
In vain to free her fastened feet she strove,
And as she struggles, only moves above;
She feels the encroaching bark around her grow
By quick degrees, and cover all below:
Surprised at this, her trembling hand she heaves
To rend her hair; her hand is fill'd with leaves:
Where late was hair the shooting leaves are seen
To rise, and shade her with a sudden green.
The child Amphissus, to her bosom prest,
Perceived a colder and a harder breast,
And found the springs, that ne'er till then denied
Their milky moisture, on a sudden dried.
I saw, unhappy! what I now relate,
And stood the helpless witness of thy fate,
Embraced thy boughs, thy rising bark delay'd,
There wish'd to grow, and mingle shade with shade.
Behold Andræmon and the unhappy sire
Appear, and for their Dryope inquire:
A springing tree for Dryope they find,
And print warm kisses on the panting rind.
Prostrate 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 every leaf distils a trickling tear,
And straight a voice, while yet a voice remains,
Thus through the trembling boughs in sighs complains.