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That, driven by storms, and pouring o'er the plain,
Swept herds, and hinds, and houses to the main.
Through the brown horrors of the night he fled,
Nor knows, amaz'd, what doubtful path to tread;
"His brother's image to his mind appears,
Inflames his heart with rage, and wings his feet with fears.
So fares a sailor on the stormy main, When clouds conceal Boötes golden wain, When not a star its friendly lustre keeps, Nor trembling Cynthia glimmers on the deeps; He dreads the rocks, and shoals, and seas, and skies, While thunder roars, and lightning round him flies. Thus strove the chief, on every side distress'd, Thus still his courage with his toils increas'd; With his broad shield oppos'd he forc'd his way Through thickest woods, and rous'd the beasts of prey.
Till he beheld, where from Larissa's height
The shelving walls reflect a glancing light:
Thither with haste the Theban hero flies
On this side Lerna's poisonous water lies,
On that Prosymna's grove and temple rise:
He pass'd the gates, which then unguarded lay,
And to the regal palace bent his way; <
On the cold marble, spent with toil, he lies,
And waits till pleasing slumbers seal his eyes.
Adrastus here his happy people sways,
Blest with calm peace in his declining days.
By both his parents of descent divine,
Great Jove and Phoebus grac'd his noble line:
Heaven had not crown'd his wishes with a son,
But two fair daughters heir'd his state and throne.
To him Apollo (wondrous to relate!
But who can pierce into the depths of Fate ?)
Had sung. Expect thy sons on Argos' shore,
A yellow lion, and a bristly boar.'
This long revolv'd in his paternal breast,
Sat heavy on his heart, and broke his rest;
This, great Amphiarus, lay hid from thee,
Though skill'd in fate, and dark futurity.
The father's care and prophet's art were vain,
For thus did the predicting god ordain.
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,
Through the thick deserts headlong urg'd his flight.
Now by the fury of the tempest driven,
He seeks a shelter from th' inclement heaven,
Till, led by fate, the Theban's steps he treads,
And to fair Argos' open court succeeds.
When thus the chiefs from different lands resort
T' 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,
Enides' 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 th' 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 Heaven 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 Heaven and Earth allay Till nature, quicken'd by th' 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: oh goddess! in our aid
Proceed, and 'firm those omeus 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 Phoebus: 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 confess'd,
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 th' ethereal 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 power 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
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 Crotopus' 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 Phoebus 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,
Th' illustrious offspring of the god was born;
The nymph, her father's anger to evade,
Retires from Argos to the sylvan shade;
To woods and wilds the pleasing burthen 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 slumber 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.
Th' 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 dead too
The raging god prepares t' avenge her fate.
He sends a monster, horrible and fell,
Begot by furies in the depths of hell.