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Great was the cause ; our old solemnities
From no blind zeal or fond tradition rise ;
But, saved 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 poison with his triple tongue,)
To Argo's 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 proved,
Were she less beautiful, or less beloved !
But Phæbus loved, and on the flowery side
Of Nemea's stream the yielding fair enjoy'd:
Now, ere ten moons their orb with light adorn,
The 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 slumbers on his infant eyes. Yet e'en in those obscure abodes to live, Was more, alas ! than cruel fate would give ; For on the grassy verdure as he lay, And breathed the freshness of the early day, Devouring dogs the helpless infant tore, Fed on his trembling limbs, and lapp'd the gore The astonish'd mother, when the ruinour 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 late, The raging god prepares to avenge her fate. He sends a monster, horrible and fell, Begot by furies in the depths of hell. The pest a virgin's face and bosom bears; High on a crown a rising snake appears, Guards her black front, and hisses in her hairs; About the realm she walks her dreadful round, When night with sable wings o'erspreads the ground Devours young babes before their parents' eyes, And feeds and thrives on public miseries.
‘But generous rage the bold Choræbus warms. Choræbus, famed for virtue, as for arms; Some few like him, inspired with martial flame, Thought a short life well lost for endless fame. These, where two ways in equal parts divide, The direful monster from afar descried, Two bleeding babes depending at her side, Whose panting vitals, warm with life, she draws, And in their hearts imbrues her cruel claws. The youths surround her with extended spears ; But brave Choræbus in the front appears, Deep in her breast he plunged his shining sword, And hell's dire monster back to hell restored. The Inachians view the slain with vast surprise, Her twisting volumes, and her rolling eyes, Her spotted breast, and gaping womb imbrued With livid poison, and our children's blood. The crowd in stupid wonder fix'd appear, Pale e'en in joy, nor yet forget to fear. Some with vast beams the squalid corpse engage And weary all the wild efforts of rage. The birds obscene, that nightly flock'd to taste, With hollow screeches fled the dire repast;
And ravenous dogs, allured by scented blood,
And starving wolves ran howling to the wood.
'But, fired with rage, from cleft Parnassus' brow
Avenging Phæbus bent his deadly bow,
And bissing 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 Phæbus, 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.
'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, Phæbus, 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 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 heaven can dwell,
Yet why must unoffending Argos feel
The vengeance due to this unlucky steel !
On me, on me, let all thy fury iall,
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 Phæbus gives :
For not the vengeful power that glow'd with rage,
With such amazing virtue durst er gage.
The clouds dispersed, Apollo's wrath expired,
And from the wondering god the unwilling youth re-
Thence we these altars in his temple raise, (tired.
And offer annual honours, feasts, and praise;
Those solemn feasts propitious Phæbus please;
These honours still renew'd, his ancient wrath ap-
pease. '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, Confused, and sadly thus at length replies;
Before these altars how shall I proclaim (Oh generous prince !) my nation or my name, Or through what veins our ancient blood has rolld i 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 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 ancestor's disgrace,
And be thyself the honour of thy race.
But see! the stars begin to steal away,
And shine inore faintly at approaching day.
Now pour the wine; and in your tuneful lays
Once more resound the great Apollo's praise.'
Oh, father Phæbus! 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, 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 furies and eter fears :