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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 more faintly at approaching day.
Now pour the wine; and in your tuneful laye
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 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 field to sow the golden grain ;
Or Mithra, to whose beams the Persian bows,
And pays, in hollow rocks, his awful vows;
Mithra, whose head the blaze of light adorns,
Who grasps the struggling heifer's lunar horns.
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 press'd
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 sylvan powers adored :
But when she backward would have fled, she founo
Her stiffening feet were rooted in the ground;
In vain to free her fasten'd 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 press’d,
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 com
plains : 'If to the wretched any faith be given, I swear by all the unpitying powers of heaven, No wilful crime this heavy vengeance bred ; In mutual innocence our lives we led : If this be false, let these new greens decay, Let sounding axes lop my limbs away, And crackling flames on all my honours prey! But from my branching arms this infant bear, Let some kind nurse supply a mother's care : And to his mother let him oft be led, Sport in her shades, and in her shades be fed ; Teach him, when first his infant voice shall frame Imperfect words, and lisp his mother's name, To hail this tree; and say with weeping eyes, Within this plant my hapless parent lies : And when in youth he seeks the shady woods, Oh, let him fly the crystal lakes and floods, Nor touch the fatal flowers; but, warn’d by me, Believe a goddess shrined in every tree. My sire, my sister, and my spouse, farewell! If in your breast or love or pity dwell, Protect your plant, nor let my branches feel The browsing cattle, or the piercing steel.
Farewell! and since I cannot bend to join
My lips to yours, advance at least to mine.
My son, thy mother's parting kiss receive
While yet thy mother has a kiss to give.
I can no more; the creeping rind invades
My closing lips, and hides my head in shades
Remove your hands; the bark shall soon suffice
Without their aid to seal these dying eyes.'
She ceased at once to speak, and ceased to be
And all the nymph was lost within the tree;
Yet latent life through her new branches reign'd,
And long the plant a human heat retain'd.
The fair Pomona flourish'd in his reign :
Of all the virgins of the sylvan train,
None taught the trees a nobler race to bear,
Or more improved the vegetable care.
To her the shady grove, the flowery field,
The streams and fountains, no delights could yield :
'Twas all her joy the ripening fruits to tend,
And see the boughs with happy burthens bend.
The hook she bore instead of Cynthia's spear,
To lop the growth of the luxuriant year,
To decent form the lawless shoots to bring,
And teach the obedient branches where to spring.
Now the cleft rind inserted graffs receives,
And yields an offspring more than nature gives ;
Now sliding streams the thirsty plants renew,
And feed their fibres with reviving dew.