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No voice, but thine, O Agis, broke the air !
“ Inhabitants of Sparta, Persia's arms “ Shall lay your proud and ancient seat in dust; “ Unless a king, from Hercules deriv'd, “ Cause Lacedemon for his death to mourn."
As when the hand of Perseus had disclos'd The snakes of dire Medusa, all who view'd The Gorgon features were congeal'd to stone, With ghastly eyeballs on the hero bent, And horror, living in their marble form; Thus with amazement rooted, where they stood, In speechless terror frozen, on their kings The Spartans gaz'd: but soon their anxious looks All on the great Leonidas unite, Long known his country's refuge. He alone Remains unshaken. Rising, he displays His godlike presence. Dignity and grace Adorn his frame, where manly beauty joins With strength Herculean. On his aspect shine Sublimest virtue, and desire of fame, Where justice gives the laurel, in his eye . The inextinguishable spark, which fires The souls of patriots ; while his brow supports Undaunted valour, and contempt of death. Serene he cast his looks around, and spake :
Why this astonishment on ev'ry face, Ye men of Sparta? Does the name of death Create this fear and wonder? O my friends, Why do we labour through the arduous paths, Which lead to virtue ? Fruitless were the toil, Above the reach of human feet were plac'd The distant summit, if the fear of death Could intercept our passage. But a frown Of unavailing terror he assumes, To shake the firmness of a mind, which knows That, wanting virtue, life is pain and woe, That, wanting liberty, ev'n virtue mourns, And looks around for happiness in vain. Then speak, 0 Sparta, and demand my life! My heart, exulting, answers to thy call, And smiles on glorious fate. To live with fame, The gods allow to many; but to die With equal lustre is a blessing, Jove Among the choicest of his boons reserves, Which but on few his sparing hand bestows.
Salvation thus to Sparta he proclaim'd. Joy, wrapt awhile in admiration, paus’d, Suspending praise; nor praise at last resounds In high acclaim to rend the arch of heav'n: A reverential murmur breathes applause. So were the pupils of Lycurgus train'd To bridle nature. Public fear was dumb Before their senate, ephori, and kings, Nor exultation into clamour broke. Amidst them rose Dieneces, and thus :
Haste to Thermopylæ." To Xerxes show
Bold Alpheus next. Command my swift return
Description of the Dwelling of Oileus, at which the Spartan Army
halt on their march to Thermopylæ.
FROM BOOK II. The moon rode high and clear. Her light benign To their pleas'd eyes a rural dwelling show'd, All unadorn'd, but seemly. Either side Was fenc'd by trees high-shadowing. The front Look'd on a crystal pool, by feather'd tribes At ev'ry dawn frequented. From the springs A small redundance fed a shallow brook, O’er smoothest pebbles rippling just to wake, Not startle silence, and the ear of night
Entice to listen undisturb’d. Around
The warriors stopp'd, contemplating the seat
wealth Collected. Thither soon the swain arriv'd, Whom, by the name of Melibæus hail'd, A peasant throng surrounded. As their chief, He nigh the altar to his rural friends Address'd these words: 0 sent from diff'rent lords With contribution to the public wants, Time presses. God of peasants, bless our course! Speed to the slow-pac'd ox for once impart! That o'er these valleys, cool’d by dewy night,.. We to our summons true, ere noon-tide blaze, May join Oileus, and his praise obtain.
He ceas'd.' To rustic madrigals and pipes, is
Combin'd.with bleating notes and tinkling bells,
The Spartan answers: Ravage, sword, and fire,