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Ovid Metamorphoses Book IV


Source: Internet Archive Ovid's Metamorphoses (1826)

Metamorphoses Contents

The story of Alcithoe and her sisters. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe. The story of Leueothoe and the sun. The transformation of Clytie. The story of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. Alcithoe and her sisters transformed to bats. The transformation of Ino and Melicerta to sea-gods. The transformation of the Theban matrons. Cadmus and his queen transformed to serpents. The story of Perseus. Atlas transformed to a mountain. Andromeda rescued from the sea-monster. The story of Medusa's head [Continues in Book V].

The Story of Alcithoe and her Sisters

Yet still Alcithoe perverse remains,
And Bacchus still, and all his rites disdains.
Too rash and madly bold, she bids him prove
Himself a god; nor owns the son of Jove.
Her sisters, too, unanimous agree, S
Faithful associates in impiety.
Be this a solemn feast, the priest had said;
Be, with each mistress, unemploy'd each maid:
With skins of beasts your tender limbs inclose,
And with an ivy crown adorn your brows; 10
The leafy Thyrsus high in triumph bear,
And give your locks to wanton in the air.
These rites profan'd, the holy seer foreshew'd
A mourning people, and a vengeful god.
Matrons and pious wives obedience shew, 15
Distaffs, and wool, half-spun, away they throw:
Then incense burn, and, Bacchus, thee adore,
Or lov'st thou Nyseus, or Lyaeus more ?
O! doubly got, O! doubly born, they sung,
Thou mighty Bromius, hail, from lightning sprung! 20
Hail, Thyon! Eleleus! each name is thine:
Or listen, Parent of the genial Vine!
Iacchus! Evan! loudly they repeat,
And not one Grecian attribute forget,
Which to thy praise, great deity, belong, 25
Styl'd justly Liber in the Roman song.
Eternity of youth is thine! enjoy
Years roll'd on years, yet still a blooming boy.
In heav'n thou shin'st with a superior grace;
Conceal thy horns, and 'tis a virgin's face. 30
Thou taught'st the tawny Indian to obey,
And Ganges, smoothly flowing, own'd thy sway.
Lycurgus, Pentheus, equally profane,
By thy just vengeance equally were slain.
By thee the Tuscans, who conspir'd to keep 35
Thee captive, plung'd, and cut with fins the deep;
With painted reins, all-glittering from afar,
The spotted lynxes proudly draw thy car;
Around, the Bacchse, and the Satyrs throng;
Behind, Silenus, drunk, lags slow along; 40
On his dull ass he nods from side to side,
Forbears to fall, yet half forgets to ride.
Still, at thy near approach, applauses loud
Are heard, with yellings of the female crowd.
Timbrels, and boxen pipes, with mingled cries, 45
Swell up in sounds confus'd, and rend the skies.
Come, Bacchus, come propitious, all implore,
And act thy sacred orgies o'er and o'er!
But Mineus' daughters, while these rites were paid,
At home, impertinently busy, staid; 50
Their wicked tasks they ply with various art,
And through the loom the sliding shuttle dart;
Or at the fire to comb the wool they stand,
Or twirl the spindle with a dext'rous hand.
Guilty themselves, they force the guiltless in; 5;1
Their maids, who share the labour, share the sin .
At last one sister cries, who nimbly knew,
To draw nice threads, and wind the finest clue:
While others idly rove, and gods revere,
Their fancy'd gods! they know not who, or where;
Let us whom Pallas taught her better arts, 61
Still working, cheer with mirthful chat our hearts,
And to deceive the time, let me prevail
With each by turns, to tell some antique tale.
She said; her sisters lik'd the humour well, 63
And smiling, bade her the first story tell.
But she awhile profoundly seem'd to muse,
Perplex'd amid variety to choose:
And knew not, whether she would first relate
The poor Dircetis, and her wondrous fate; 70
The Palestines believe it to a man,
And shew the lake, in which her scales began:
Or if she rather should the daughter sing,
Who in the hoary verge of life took wing;
Who soar'd from earth, and dwelt in tow'rs on high,
And now a dove she flits along the sky: - 76
Or how lewd Na'is, when her lust was cloy'd,
To fishes turns the youths she had enjoy'd,
By pow'rful verse, and herbs; effect most strange!
At last the changer shar'd herself the change: - 80
Or how the tree, which once white berries bore,
Still crimson bears, since stain'd with crimson gore.
The tree was new; she likes it, and begins
To tell the tale, and as she tells, she spins.

The Story of Pyramus and Thisbe

In Babylon, where first her queen, for state, 85
Rais'd walls of brick magnificently great,
Liv'd Pyramus, and Thisbe, lovely pair:
He found no eastern youth his equal there,
And she beyond the fairest nymph was fair.
A closer neighbourhood was never known, 90
Though two the houses, yet the roof was one.
Acquaintance grew: th' acquaintance they improve
To friendship; friendship ripen'd into love:
Love had been crown'd, but impotently mad,
What parents could not hinder, they forbade: 95
For with fierce flames young Pyramus still burn'd,
And grateful Thisbe flames as fierce return'd.
Alcud in words their thoughts they dare not break,
But silent stand (and silent looks can speak);
The fire of love, the more it is supprest, 100
The more it glows and rages in the breast.
When the division-wall was built, a chink
Was left, the cement unobserv'd to shrink.
So slight the cranny, that it still had been
For centuries unclos'd, because unseen. 105
But, oh! what thing so small, so secret lies,
Which 'scapes, if form'd for love, a lover's eyes?
Ev'n in this narrow chink they quickly found
A friendly passage for a trackless sound;
Safely they told their sorrows and their joys, 110
In whisper'd murmurs, and a dying noise:
By turns to catch each other's breath they strove,
And suck'd in all the balmy breeze of love.
Oft, as on diff'rent sides they stood, they cry'd:
Malicious wall, thus lovers to divide! 115
Suppose, thou should'st awhile to us give place,
To lock and fasten in a close embrace:
But if too much to grant so sweet a bliss,
Indulge, at least, the pleasure of a kiss.
We scorn ingratitude: To thee, we know, 120
This safe conveyance of our minds we owe.
Thus they their vain petition did renew
Till night, and then they softly sigh'd, adieu!
But first they strove to kiss, and that was all;
Their kisses dy'd untasted on the wall. 125
Soon as the morn had o'er the stars prevail'd,
And, warm'd by Phoebus, flow'rs their dews exhal'd,
The lovers to their well-known place return,
Alike they suffer, and alike they mourn.
At last their parents they resolve to cheat 130
(If to deceive in love be call'd deceit),
To steal by night from home, and thence unknown
To seek the fields, and quit th' unfaithful town.
But, to prevent their wand'ring in the dark,
They both agree to fix upon a mark; 1 35
A mark that could not their designs expose:
The tomb of Ninus was the mark they chose;
There they might rest secure beneath the shade,
Which boughs, with snowy fruit incumber'd, made:
A wide-spread mulberry its rise had took 140
Just on the margin of a gurgling brook.
Impatient for the friendly dusk they stay;
And chide the slowness of departing day.
In western seas down sunk at last the light,
From western seas up-rose the shades of night. 145
The loving Thisbe ev'n prevents the hour;
With cautious silence she unlocks the door,
And veils her face, and, marching through the gloom,
Swiftly arrives at th' assignation tomb
(For still the fearful sex oan fearless prove; - 150
Boldly they act, if spirited by love);
When, lo! a lioness rush'd o'er the plain,
Grimly besmear'd with blood of oxen slain:
And what to the dire sight new horrors brought, 154
To slake her thirst the neighb'ring spring she sought.
Which, by the moon, when trembling Thisbe spies,
Wing'd with her fear, swift as the wind she flies;
And in a cave recovers from her fright,
But dropp'd her veil confounded in her flight.
When sated with repeated draughts, again 160
The queen of beasts scour'd back along the plain,
She found the veil, and, mouthing it all o'er,
With bloody jaws, the lifeless prey she tore.
The youth, who could not cheat his guards so soon,
Late came, and noted, by the glimm'ring moon, 165
Some savage feet new printed on the ground;
His cheeks turn'd pale, his limbs no vigour found:
But when, advancing on, the veil he spied,
Distain'd with blood, and ghastly torn, he cried:
One night shall death to two young lovers give, 170
But she deserv'd unnumber'd years to live!
'Tis I am guilty, I have thee betray'd,
Who came not early as my charming maid.
Whatever slew thee, I the cause remain;
I nam'd, and fix'd the place, where thou wast slain.
Ye lions, from your neighb'ring dens repair, 176
Pity the wretch, this impious body tear!
But cowards thus for death can idly cry;
The brave still have it in their pow'r to die.
Then to th' appointed tree he hastes away, 180
The veil first gather'd, though all rent it lay;
The veil all rent, yet still itself endears;
He kiss'd, and kissing, washed it with his tears.
Though rich (he cry'd) with many a precious stain,
Still from my blood a deeper tincture gain. 1S&
Then in his breast his shining sword he drown'd,
And fell supine, extended on the ground.
As out again the blade he dying drew,
Out spun the blood, and streaming upwards flew.
So if a conduit pipe e'er burst you saw, 190
Swift spring the gushing waters through the flaw;
Then spouting in a bow, they rise on high,
And a new fountain plays amid the sky.
The berries, stain'd with blood, began to shew
A dark complexion, and forgot their snow; 195
While fatten'd with the flowing gore, the root
Was doom'd for ever to a purple fruit.
Meantime poor Thisbe fear'd, so long she staid,
Her lover might suspect a perjur'd maid.
Her fright scarce o'er, she strove the youth to find,
With ardent eyes, which spoke an ardent mind. 201
Already in his arms, she hears him sigh
At her destruction, which was once so nigh.
The tomb, the tree, but not the fruit, she knew;
The fruit she doubted for its alter'd hue. 205
Still as she doubts, her eyes a body found
Quiv'ring in death, and gasping on the ground.
She started back; the red her cheeks forsook,
And ev'ry nerve with thrilling horrors shook.
So trembles the smooth surface of the seas, 210
If brush'd o'er gently with a rising breeze.
But when her view her bleeding love confess'd,
She shriek'd, 3he tore her hair, she beat her breast,
She rais'd the body, and embrac'd it round,
And bath'd with tears unfeign'd the gaping wound;
Then her warm lips to the cold face apply'd, 216
And is it thus, ah! thus we meet! she cry'd:
My Pyramus! whence sprang thy cruel fate?
My Pyramus; - ah! speak, ere 'tis too late:
I, thy own Thisbe, but one word implore, 220
One word thy Thisbe never ask'd before.
At Thisbe's name, awak'd, he open'd wide
His dying eyes; with dying eyes he try'd
On her to dwell, but clos'd them slow and died.
The fatal cause was now at last explor'd, 225
Her veil she knew, and saw his sheathless sword: -
From thy own hand thy ruin thou hast found,
She said; but love first taught that hand to wound.
Ev'n I for thee as bold a hand can shew,
And love, which shall as true direct the blow, 230
I will against the woman's weakness strive,
And never thee, lamented youth, survive.
The world may say, I caus'd, alas! thy death,
But saw thee breathless, and resign'd my breath.
Fate, though it conquers, shall no triumph gain, 235
Fate, that divides us, still divides in vain.
Now, both our cruel parents, hear my pray'r;
My pray'r to offer for us both I dare:
O! see our ashes in one urn confin'd,
Whom love at first, and fate at last has join'd. '240
The bliss you envy'd, is not oar request;
Lovers, when dead, may sure together rest.
Thou, tree, where now one lifeless lump is laid,
Ere long o'er two shall cast a friendly shade.
Still let our loves from thee be understood, 245
Still witness in thy purple fruit our blood. -
She spoke, and in her bosom plung'd the sword,
All warm and reeking from its slaughter'd lord.
The pray'r, which dying Thisbe had preferr'd,
Both gods and parents with compassion heard. 250
The whiteness of the mulberry soon fled,
And rip'ning, sadden'd in a dusky red:
While both their parents their lost children mourn,
And mix their ashes in one golden urn.
Thus did the melancholy tale conclude, 255
And a short, silent interval ensu'd.
The next in birth unloos'd her artful tongue,
And drew attentive all the sister throng.

The Story of Leucothoe and the Sun

The Sun, the source of light, by Beauty's pow'r
Once am'rous grew; then hear the Sun's amour. 260
Venus, and Mars, with his far-piercing eyes
This god first spy'd; this god first all things spies.
Stung at the sight, and swift on mischief bent,
To haughty Juno's shapeless son he went:
The goddess, and her god gallant betray'd, 265
And told the cuckold where their pranks were play'd.
Poor Vulcan soon desir'd to hear no more,
He dropp'd his hammer, and he shook all o'er:
Then courage takes, and full of vengeful ire,
He heaves the bellows, and blows fierce the fire, 270
From liquid brass, though sure, yet subtle snares
He forms, and next a wondrous net prepares,
Drawn with such curious art, so nicely sly,
Unseen the meshes cheat the searching eye.
Not half so thin their webs the spiders weave, 275
Which the most wary, buzzing prey deceive.
These chains, obedient to the touch, he spread
In secret foldings o'er the conscious bed:
The conscious bed again was quickly prest
By the fond pair, in lawless raptures blest. 280
Mars wonderM at his Cytherea's charms
More fast than ever lock'd within her arms;
While Vulcan th' iv'ry doors unbarr'd with care,
Then call'd the gods to view the sportive pair:
The gods throng'd in, and saw in open day, 285
Where Mars, and Beauty's queen, all naked lay.
O shameful sight! if shameful that we name,
Which gods with envy view'd, and could not blame,
But for the pleasure wish'd to bear the shame.
Each deity, with laughter tir*d, departs, 290
Yet all still laugh'd at Vulcan in their hearts.
Through heav'n the news of this surpriaal run,
But Venus did not thus forget the Sun.
He, who stol'n transports idly had betray'd,
By a betrayer was in kind repaid. 295
What now avails, great god, thy piercing blaze,
That youth, and beauty, and those golden rays 1
Thou, who canst warm this universe alone.
Feel'st now a warmth more pow'rful than thy own:
And those bright eyes, which all things should survey,
Know not from fair Leucothbe to stray: 301
The lamp of light, for human good design'd,
Is to one virgin niggardly confin'd.
Sometimes too early rise thy eastern beams,
Sometimes too late they set in western streams: 305
'Tis then her beauty thy swift course delays,
And gives to winter skies long summer days.
Now in thy face thy love-sick mind appears,
And spreads through impious nations empty fears:
For when thy beamless head is wrapt in night, 310
Poor mortals tremble in despair of light.
'Tis not the moon that o'er thee casts a veil,
'Tis love alone which makes thy looks so pale.
Leucothbe is grown thy only care,
Not Phaeton's fair mother now is fair: 315
The youthful Rhodos moves no tender thought,
And beauteous Porsa is at last forgot;
Fond Clytie scorn'd, yet lov'd, and sought thy bed,
Ev'n then thy heart for other virgins bled;
Leucoth'de has all thy soul possest,
And chas'd each rival passion from thy breast. 320
To this bright nymph, Eurynome gave birth
In the blest confines of the spicy earth;
Excelling others, she herself beheld
By her own blooming daughter far excell'd. 3?5
The sire was Orchamus, whose vast command,
The seventh from Belus, rul'd the Persian land.
Deep in cool vales, beneath th' Hesperian sky,
For the Sun's fiery steeds the pastures lie.
Ambrosia there they eat, and thence they gain 330
New vigour, and their daily toils sustain:
While thus on heav'nly food the coursers fed,
And night, around, her gloomy empire spread,
The god assum'd the mother's shape, and air,
And pass'd, unheeded, to his darling fair. 335
Close by a lamp, with maids encompass'd round,
The royal spinster, full employ'd, he found:
Then cry'd, Awhile from work, my daughter, rest;
And, like a mother, scarce her lips he press'd.
Servants, retire! nor secrets dare to hear, 340
Intrusted only to a daughter's ear.
They swift obey'd: Not one, suspicious, thought
The secret, which their mistress would be taught.
Then he: Since now no witnesses are near,
Behold the god, who guides the various year.' 345
The world's vast eye, of light the source serene,
Who all things sees, by whom are all things seen.
Believe me, nymph! (for I the truth have shew'd,)
Thy charms have pow'r to charm so great a god.
Confus'd she heard him his soft passion tell; 350
And on the floor, untwirl'd, the spindle fell:
Still from the sweet confusion some new grace
Blush'd out by stealth and languish'd in her face.
The lover now inflam'd, himself put on,
And out at once the god all radiant shone. 355
The virgin startled at his alter'd form,
Too weak to bear a god's impetuous storm:
No more against the dazzling youth she strove,
But silent yielded, and indulged his love.
This, Clytie knew, and knew she was undone, 360
Whose soul was fix'd, and doated on the Sun.
She rag'd to think on her neglected charms,
And Phoebus, panting in another's arms.
With envious madness fir'd, she flies in haste,
And tells the ting his daughter was unchaste. 365
The king, incens'd to hear his honour stain'd,
No more the father, nor the man retain'd,
In rain she stretch'd her arms, and turn'd her eyes
To her lov'd god, th' enlightner of the skies.
In vain she own'd it was a crime, yet still 370
It was a crime not acted by her will.
The brutal sire stood deaf to ev'ry pray'r,
And deep in earth entomb'd alive the fair.
What Phoebus could do was by Phoebus done,
Full on her grave with pointed beams he shone: 375
To pointed beams the gaping earth gave way;
Had the nymph eyes, her eyes had seen the day;
But lifeless now, yet lovely still she lay.
Not more the god wept, when the world was fir'd,
And in the wreck his blooming boy expir'd. 380
The vital flame he strives to light again,
And warm the frozen blood in ev'ry vein:
But since resistless fates denied that pow'r,
On the cold nymph he rain'd a nectar show'r.
Ah! undeserving thus (he said) to die, 385
Yet still in odours thou shalt reach the sky.
The body soon dissolv'd, and all around
Perfum'd with heav'nly fragrances the ground.
A sacrifice for gods up-rose from thence,
A sweet delightful tree of frankincense. 390

The Transformation of Clytie

Though guilty Clytie thus the Sun betray'd,
By too much passion she was guilty made:
Excess of love begot excess of grief,
Grief fondly bade her hence to hope relief.
But angry Phoebus hears, unmov'd, her sighs, 395
And scornful from her loath'd embraces flies.
All day, all night, in trackless wilds, alone
She pinM, and taught the list'ning rocks her moan.
On the bare earth she lies, her bosom bare,
Loose her attire, dishevell'd is her hair. 400
Nine times the morn unbarr'd the gates of light,
As oft were spread th' alternate shades of night;
So long no sustenance the mourner knew,
Unless she drank her tears, or suck'd the dew:
She turn'd about, but rose not from the ground, 405
Turn'd to the Sun, still as he roll'd his round:
On his bright face hung her desiring eyes,
Till fix'd to earth, she strove in vain to rise.
Her looks their paleness in a flow'r retain'd,
But here and there some purple streaks they gain'd.
Still the lov'd object the fond leafs pursue, 411
Still move their root, the moving sun to view,
And in the Heliotrope the nymph is true.
The sisters heard these wonders with surprise,
But part receiv'd them as romantic lies; 415
And partly rally'd, that they could not see
In pow'rs divine so vast an energy.
Part own'd, true gods such miracles might do,
But own'd not Bacchus one among the true.
At last a common, just request they make, 420
And beg Alcithoe her turn to take.
I will (she said) and please you, if I can,
Then shot her shuttle swift, and thus began:
The fate of Daphnis is a fate too known,
Whom an enamour'd nymph transform 'd to stone,
Because she fear'd another nymph might see 425
The lovely youth, and love as much as she:
So strange the madness is of jealousy I
Nor shall I tell, what changes Scython made,
And how he walk'd a man, or tripp'd a maid. 430
You too would peevish frown, and patience want
To hear how Celmis grew an adamant.
He once was dear to Jove, and saw of old
Jove, when a child, but what he saw he told.
Crocus, and Smilax, may be turn'd to flow'rs, 435
And the Curetes spring from bounteous show'rs;
I pass a hundred legends, stale as these,
And with sweet novelty your taste will please.

The Story of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus

How Salmacis, with weak enfeebling streams
Softens the body, and unnerves the limbs, 440
And what the secret cause, shall here be shewn;
The cause is secret, but th' effect is known.
The Naids nurs'd an infant heretofore,
That Cytherea once to Hermes bore:
From both th' illustrious authors of his race 445
The child was nam'd; nor was it hard to trace
Both the bright parents through the infant's face.
When fifteen years, in Ida's cool retreat,
The boy had told, he left his native seat,
And sought fresh fountains in a foreign soil: 450
The pleasure lessen'd the attending toil.
With eager steps the Lycian fields he cross'd,
And fields that border on the Lycian coast;
A river here he view'd so lovely bright,
It shew'd the bottom in a fairer light, 455
Nor kept a sand conceal'd from human sight.
The stream produc'd nor slimy ooze, nor weeds,
Nor miry rushes, nor the spiky reeds;
But dealt enriching moisture all around,
The fruitful banks with cheerful verdure crown'd, 460
And kept the spring eternal on the ground.
A nymph presides, nor practis'd in the chase,
Nor skilful at the bow, nor at the race;
Of all the blue-ey'd daughters of the main,
The only stranger to Diana's train: 465
Her sisters often, as 'tis said, would cry,
Fy, Salmacis, what always idle! fy;
Or taky the quiver, or thy arrows seize,
And mis. the toils of hunting with thy ease;
Nor quivers she nor arrows e'er would seize, 470
Nor mix the toils of hunting with her ease;
But oft would bathe her in the crystal tide,
Oft with a comb her dewy locks divide:
Now in the limpid streams she views her face,
And dress'd her image in the floating glass: 475
On beds of leaves she now repos'd her limbs;
Now gather'd flow'rs that grew about her streams,
And then by chance was gathering as she stood
To view the boy, and long'd for what she view'd.
Fain would she meet the youth with hasty feet, 480
She fain would meet him, but refus'd to meet.
Before her locks were set with nicest care,
And well deserv'd to be reputed fair.
Bright youth (she cries), whom all thy features prove
A god, and, if a god, the god of Love; 484
But if a mortal, blest thy nurse's breast,
Blest are thy parents, and thy sisters blest;
But oh, how blest! how more than blest thy bride,
Ally'd in bliss, if any yet ally'd.
If so, let mine the stol'n enjoyments be: 490
If not, behold a willing bride in me.
The boy knew nought of love , and,touch'd with shame ,
He strove and blush'd; but still the blush became:
In rising blushes still fresh beauties rose;
The sunny side of fruit such blushes shews; 495
And such the moon, when all her silver white
Turns, in eclipses, to a ruddy light.
The nymph still begs, if not a nobler bliss,
A cold salute at least, a sister's kiss;
And now prepares to take the lovely boy 500
Between her arms. He innocently coy,
Replies: Or leave me to myself alone,
You rude, uncivil nymph, or I'll begone,
Fair stranger, then (says she), it shall be so:
And, for she fear'd his threats, she feign'd to go; 505
But hid within a covert's neighb'ring green,
She kept him still in sight, herself unseen.
The boy now fancies all the danger o'er,
And innocently sports at the shore;
Playful and wanton, to the stream he trips, 510
And dips his foot, and shivers as he dips:
The coolness pleas'd him, and with eager haste,
His airy garments on the banks he cast;
His godlike features, and his heav'nly hue,
And all his beauties were expos'd to view. 515
His naked limbs the nymph with rapture spies,
While hotter passions in her bosom rise,
Flush in her cheeks, and sparkle in her eyes.
She longs, she burns to clasp him in her arms,
And looks, and sighs, and kindles at his charms. 520
Now all undrest upon the banks he stood,
And clapt his sides, and leapt into the flood:
His lovely limbs the silver waves divide,
His limbs appear more lovely through the tide;
As lilies shut within a crystal case, 525
Receive a glossy lustre from the glass. -
He's mine, he's all my own (the Is'a'id cries),
And flings off all, and after him she flies: -
And now she fastens on him as he swims,
And holds him close, and wraps about his limbs. 530
The more the boy resisted, and was coy,
The more she clasp'd and kiss'd the straggling boy.
So when the wriggling snake is snatch'd on high
In eagle's claws, and hisses in the sky;
Around the foe his twirling tail he flings, 535
A.nd twists her legs, and writhes about her wings.
The restless boy still obstinately strove
To free himself, and still refused her love.
Amidst his limbs she kept her limbs entwin'd:
And why r coy youth (she cries), why thus unkind ?
O, may the gods thus keep us ever join'd! 541
O may we never, never part again!
So pray'd the nymph, nor did she pray in vain:
For now now she finds him, as his limbs she press'd .
Grow nearer still, and nearer to her breast; 545
Till, piercing each the other's flesh they run
Together and incorporate in one:
Last, in one face are both their faces join'd,
As when the stock and grafted twig, combin'd,
Shoot up the same, and wear a common rind: 550
Both bodies in a single body mix,
A single body with a double sex.
The boy, thus lost in woman, now survey'd
The river's guilty stream, and thus he pray'd
(He pray'd, but wonder'd at his softer tone, 555
Surpris'd to hear a voice but half his own): -
You parent-gods, whose heav'nly names I bear,
Hear your Hermaprodite, and grant my pray'r;
O grant, that whomsoe'er these streams contain,
If man he enter'd, he may rise again 560
Supple, unsinew'd, and but half a man!
The heav'nly parents answer 'd, from on high,
Their two-shap'd son, the double votary;
Then gave a secret virtue to the flood,
And ting'd its source to make his wishes good. 565

Alcithoe and her Sisters transform'd to Bats

But Mineus' daughter still their tasks pursue,
To wickedness most obstinately true:
At Bacchus still they laugh; - when, all around,
Unseen, the timbrels hoarse were heard to sound:
Saffron, and myrrh, their fragrant odours shed, 570
And now the present deity they dread.
Strange to relate! here ivy first was seen,
Along the distaff crept the wondrous green:
Then sudden-springing vines began to bloom,
And the soft tendrils curl'd around the loom: 575
While purple clusters, dangling from on high,
Ting'd the wrought purple with a second die.
Now from the skies was shot a doubtful light,
The day declining to the bounds of night.
The fabric's firm foundations shake all o'er, 580
False tigers rage, and figur'd lions roar:
Torches, aloft, seen blazing in the air,
And angry flashes of red lightnings glare.
To dark recesses, the dire sight to shun,
Swift the pale sisters in confusion run: 585
Their arms were lost in pinions, as they fled,
And subtle films each slender limb o'erspread:
Their alter'd forms their senses soon reveal'd;
Their forms, how alter'd, darkness still conceal'd.
Close to the roof each, wond'ring, upwards springs,
Borne on unknown, transparent, plumeless wings. 591
They strove for words; their little bodies found
No words, but murmur'd in a fainting sound.
In towns, not woods, the sooty bats delight,
And never, till the dusk, begin their flight; 595
Till Vesper rises with his ev'ning flame;
From whom the Romans have deriv'd their name.

The Transformation of Ino and Melicerta to Sea-Gods

The pow'r of Bacchus now o'er Thebes had flown,
With awful rev'rence soon the god they own.
Proud Ino, all around, the wonder tells, 600
And on her nephew deity still dwells.
Of num'rous sisters, she alone yet knew
No grief, but grief which she from sisters drew.
Imperial Juno saw her, with disdain,
Vain in her offspring; in her consort vain, 605
Who rul'd the trembling Thebans with a nod;
But saw her vainest in her foster god. -
Could, then (she cry'd), a bastard boy have pow'r
To make a mother her own son devour?
Could he the Tuscan crew to fishes change, 610
And now three sisters damn to forms so strange?
Yet, shall the wife of Jove find no relief?
Shall she, still unreveng'd, disclose her grief t
Have I the mighty freedom to complain?
Is that my pow'r ? is that tu ease my pain ? CIS
A foe ha8 taught me vengeance; and who ought
To scorn that vengeance, which a foe has taught ?
What sure destruction frantic rage can throw,
The gaping wounds of slaughter'd Pentheus shew.
Why should not Ino, fir'd with madness stray ? 620
like her mad sisters, her own kindred slay ?
Why she not follow where they lead the way ?
Down a steep yawning cave, where yews display'd
In arches meet, and lend a baleful shade,
Through silent labyrinths a passage lies 625
To mournful regions and infernal skies:
Here Styx, exhales its noisome clouds: and here,
The fun'ral rites once paid, all souls appear.
Stiff cold, and horror with a ghastly face
And staring eyes, infest the dreary place. 630
Ghosts, new arriv'd, and strangers to these plains,
Know not the palace where grim Pluto reigns.
They journey doubtful, nor the road can tell,
Which leads to the metropolis of hell.
A thousand avenues those tow'rs command, 035
A thousand gates for ever open stand.
As all the rivers, disembogu'd, find room
For all their waters in old Ocean's womb:
So this vast city worlds of shades receives,
And space for millions still of worlds she leaves. 640
Th' unbodyM spectres freely rove, and shew,
Whate'er they lov'd on earth, they love below.
The lawyers, still, or right, or wrong, support,
The courtiers smoothly glide to Pluto's court.
Still airy heroes thoughts of glory fire; 645
Still the dead poet strings his deathless lyre;
And lovers still, with fancy'd darts, expire.
The queen of heav'n, to gratify her hate,
And soothe immortal wrath, forgets her state.
Down from the realms of day, to realms of night, 650
The goddess swift precipitates her flight.
At hell arriv'd, the noise hell's porter heard,
Th' enormous dog his triple head uprear'd:
Thrice from three grisly throats he howl'd profound,
Then suppliant couch'd, and stretch'd along the
ground. 655
The trembling threshold which Saturnia press'd,
The weight of such divinity confess'd.
Before a lofty, adamantine gate,
Which clos'd a tow'r of brass, the Furies sat;
Mis-shapen forms, tremendous to the sight, 660
Th' implacable, foul daughters of the Night.
A sounding whip each bloody sister shakes,
Or from her tresses combs the curling snakes.
But now, great Juno's majesty was known,
Thro' the thick gloom, all-heav'nly bright, she shone:
The hideous monsters their obedience shew'd, 666
And, rising from their seats, submissive bow'd.
This is the place of woe; here groan the dead;
Huge Tityus o'er nine acres here is spread:
Fruitful for pain, th' immortal liver bleeds, 670
Still grows, and still th' insatiate vulture feeds.
Poor Tantalus to taste the water tries,
But from his lips the faithless water flies:
Then thinks the bending tree he can command,
The tree starts backwards, and eludes his hand. 675
The labour too of Sisyphus is vain;
Up the steep mount he heaves the stone with pain ,
Down from the summit rolls the stone again.
The Belides their leaky vessels still
Are ever filling, and yet never fill: 6tw
Doom'd to this punishment for blood they shed,
For bridegrooms slaughter'd in the bridal bed.
Stretched on the rolling wheel Ixion lies;
Himself he follows, and himself he flies.
Ixion, tortur'd, Juno sternly ey'd, 085
Then turn'd, and toiling Sisyphus espy'd: -
And why (she said) so wretched is the fate
Of him, whose brother proudly reigns in state?
Yet still my altars unador'd have been
By Athamas, and his presumptuous queen. 690
What caus'd her hate, the goddess thus confess'd,
What caus'd her journey, now was more than guew»'d.
That hate, relentless, its revenge did want,
And that revenge the Furies soon could grant:
They could the glory of proud Thebes efface, 695
And hide, in nun, the Cadmean race.
For this she largely promises, intreats,
And to intreaties adds imperial threats.
Then fell Tisiphone with rage was stung,
And from her mouth th' untwisted serpents flung. 700
To gain this trifling boon, there is no need
(She cry'd) in formal speeches to proceed.
Whatever thou command'st to do, is done;
Believe it finish'd, though not yet begun.
But from these melancholy seats repair 705
To happier mansions, and to purer air.
She spoke: The goddess, darting upwards, flies,
And joyous re-ascends her native skies:
Nor enter'd there, till 'round her Iris threw
Ambrosial sweets, and pour'd celestial dew. 710
The faithful fury, guiltless of delays,
With cruel haste the dire command obeys.
Girt in a bloody gown, a torch she shakes,
And 'round her neck twines speckled wreaths of snakes;
Fear, and dismay, and agonizing pain, 715
With frantic rage, complete the loveless train.
To Thebes her flight she sped, and hell forsook:
At her approach the Theban turrets shook;
The sun shrunk back, thick clouds the day o'ercast,
And springing greens were wither'd, as she pass'd. 720
Now, dismal yellings heard, strange spectres seen,
Confound as much the monarch as the queen.
In vain to quit the palace they prepar'd;
Tisiphone was there, and kept the ward.
She wide-extended her unfriendly arms, 725
And all the fury lavish'd all her harms.
Part of her tresses loudly hiss, and part
Spread poison, as their forky tongues they dart.
Then from her middle locks two snakes she drew,
Whose merit from superior mischief grew: 730
Th' envenom'd ruin, thrown with spiteful care,
Clung to the bosoms of the hapless pair:
The hapless pair soon with wild thoughts were fir'd,
And madness, by a thousand ways inspir'd.
'Ti» true, th' nnwounded body still was sound, 735
But 'twas the soul which felt the deadly wound.
Nor did th' unsated monster here give o'er,
But dealt of plagues a fresh, unnumber'd store:
Each baneful juice too well she understood:
Foam, churn'd by Cerberus, and Hydra's blood. 740
Hot hemlock, and cold aconite she chose,
Delighted in variety of woes.
Whatever can untune th' harmonious soul,
And its mild, reas'ning faculties control;
Give false ideas, raise desires profane, 745
And whirl in eddies the tumultuous brain;
Mix'd with curs'd art, she direfully around
Through all their nerves diffus'd the sad compound:
Then toss'd her torch in circles still the same,
Improv'd their rage, and added flame to flame. 750
The grinning Fury her own conquest spy'd,
And to her rueful shades return'd with pride,
And threw th' exhausted, useless snakes aside.
Now Athamas cried out (his reason fled),
Here, fellow-hunters, let the toils be spread. 755
I saw a lioness, in quest of food,
With her two young, run roaring in this wood.
Again the fancy'd savages were seen,
As through his palace still he chas'd his queen;
Then tore Learchus from her breast: The child 760
Stretch'd little arms, and on its father smil'd:
A father now no more, who now begun
Around his head to whirl his giddy son,
And, quite insensible to nature's call,
The helpless infant flung against the wall. 765
The same mad poison in the mother wrought,
Young Melicerta in her arms she caught,
And with disorder'd tresses, howling, flies,
O! Bacchus, Evo'e, Bacchus! loud she cries.
The name of Bacchus, Juno laugh'd to hear, 770
And said, Thy foster-god has cost thee dear.
A rock there stood, whose side the beating waves
Had long consurn'd, and hollow'd into caves:
The head shot forwards in a bending steep,
And cast a dreadful covert o'er the deep. 775
The wretched Ino on destruction bent,
Climb'd up the cliff; such strength her fury lent:
Thence with her guiltless hoy, who wept in vain,
At one bold spring she plung'd into the main.
Her niece's fate touch'd Cytherea's breast, 780
And in soft sounds she Neptune thus address'd:
Great god of waters, whose extended sway
Is next to his, whom heav'n and earth obey:
Let not the suit of Venus thee displease,
Pity the floaters on th' Ionian seas. 785
Increase thy subject gods, nor yet disdain
To add my kindred to that glorious train.
If from the sea I may such honours claim,
If 'tis desert, that from the sea I came,
As Grecian poets artfully have sung, 790
And in the name confest, from whence I sprung.
Pleas'd Neptune nodded his assent; and free
Both soon became from frail mortality.
He gave them form, and majesty divine,
And bade them glide along the foamy brine. 795
For Melicerta, is Palaemon known;
And Ino once, Leucothbe is grown.

The Transformation of the Theban Matrons

The Theban matrons their lov'd queen pursu'd,
And, tracing to the rock, her footsteps view'd.
Too »ertain of her fate, they rend the skies 800
With piteous shrieks, and lamentable cries.
All beat their breasts, and Juno all upbraid,
Who still remember'd a deluded maid:
Who, still revengeful for one stol'n embrace,
Thus wreak'd her hate on the Cadmean race. 805
This Juno heard; - And shall such elfs (she cry'd)
Dispute my justice, or my pow'r deride?
You too shall feel my wrath, not idly spent;
A goddess never for insults was meant. 809
She, who lov'd most, and who most lov'd had been,
Said, Not the waves shall part me from my queen.
She strove to plunge into the roaring flood;
Fix'd to the stone, a stone herself she stood.
This, on her breast would fain her blows repeat;
Her stiffen'd hands refus'd her breast to beat: 815
That, stretch'd her arms unto the seas; in vain
Her arms she labour'd to unstretch again.
To tear her comely locks another try'd;
Both comely locks and fingers petrify'd.
Part thus: but Juno, -with a softer mind, 820
Part doom'd to mix among the feather'd kind.
Transform'd, the name of Theban birds they keep,
And skim the surface of that fatal deep.

Cadmus and his Queen transform'd to Serpents

Meantime, the wretched Cadmus mourns, nor knows
That they who mortal fell, immortal rose. 825
With a long series of new ills opprest,
He droops, and all the man forsakes his breast.
Strange prodigies confound his frighted eyes;
From the fair city, which he rais'd, he flies:
As if misfortune not pursu'd his race, 830
But only hung o'er that devoted place.
Resolv'd by sea to seek some distant land,
At last he safely gain'd th' Illyrian strand.
Cheerless himself, his consort still he cheers,
Hoary, and loaded both with woes and years. 835
Then to recount past sorrows they begin,
And trace them to the gloomy origin .
That serpent sure was hall ow'd (Cadmus cry'd)
Which once my spear transfix'd with foolish pride;
When the big teeth, a seed before unknown, 840
By me along the wond'ring glebe were sown,
And sprouting armies by themselves o'erthrown.
If thence the wrath of Heav'n on me is bent,
May Heav'n conclude it with one sad event;
To an extended serpent change the man; - 845
And, while he spoke, the wish'd-for change began.
His skin with sea-green spots was vary'd round,
And on his belly prone he press'd the ground:
He glitter'd soon with many a golden scale,
And his shrunk legs clos'd in a spiry tail; 850
Arms yet remain'd, remaining arms he spread
To his lov'd wife, and human tears yet shed.
Come, my Harmonia, come, thy face recline
Down to my face; still touch, what still is mine.
O, let these hands, while hands, be gently prest, 855
While yet the serpent has not all possest!
More he had spoke, but strove to speak, in vain.
The forky toogue refus'd to tell bis pain,
And learn'd in hissings only to complain. 859
Then shriek'd Harmonia, Stay, my Cadmus, stay!
Glide not in such a monstrous shape away!
Destruction, like impetuous waves, rolls on;
Where are thy feet, thy legs, thy shoulders gone ?
Ghang'd is thy visage, chang'd is all thy frame;
Cadmus is only Cadmus now in name. 8C5
Ye gods, my Cadmus to himself restore,
Or me like him transform; I ask no more.
The husband serpent shew'd he still had thought;
With wonted fondness an embrace he sought;
Play'd round her neck, in many a harmless twist,
And lick'd that bosom, which, a man, he kiss'd. 871
The lookers on (for lookers on there were),
Shock'd at the sight, half-dy'd away with fear.
The transformation was again renew'd,
And, like the husband, chang'd the wife they view'd.
Both, serpents now, with fold involv'd in fold, 876
To the next covert amicably roll'd:
There curl'd they lie, or wave along the green;
Fearless see men, by men are fearless seen, 879
Still mild, and conscious what they once have been.

The Story of Perseus

Yet though this harsh, inglorious fate they found,
Each in the deathless grandson liv'd renown'd:
Through conquer'd India, Bacchus nobly rode,
And Greece with temples hail'd the conqu'ring god.
In Argos only, proud Acrisius reign'd, 885
Who all the consecrated rites profan'd.
Audacious wretch! thus Bacchus to deny,
And the great Thunderer's great son defy!
Nor him alone, thy daughter vainly strove,
Brave Perseus of celestial stem to prove, 890
And herself pregnant by a golden Jove.
Yet this was true, and truth in time prevails;
Acrisius now his unbelief bewails.
His former thought, an impious thought he found,
And both the hero and the god were own'd. 895
He saw, already one in heav'n was plac'd,
And one with more than mortal triumphs grac'd.
The victor Perseus, with the Gorgon head,
O'er Libyan sands hi3 airy journey sped.
The gory drops distill'd, as swift he flew, 900
And from each drop envenom'd serpents grew.
The mischiefs brooded on the barren plains,
And still th' unhappy fruitfulness remains.

Atlas transform'd to a Mountain

Thence Perseus, like a cloud, by storms was driv'n.
Thro' all th' expanse beneath tbe cope of heav'n. 905
The jarring winds unable to control,
He saw the southern and the northern pole:
And eastward thrice*, and westward thrice was
And from the skies surveyd the nether world.
But when gray ev'ning shew'd the verge of night,
He fear'd in darkness to pursue his flight. 911
He pois'd his pinions, and forgot to soar,
And sinking, clos'd them on th' Hesperian shore:
Then begg'd to rest, till Lucifer begun
To wake the morn, the morn to wake the sun. 915
Here Atlas reign'd of more than human size,
And in his kingdom the world's limit lies.
Here Titan bids his wearied coursers sleep,
And cools the burning axle in the deep.
The mighty monarch, uncontroll'd, alone, 920
His sceptre sways; no neigh b'ring states are known.
A thousand flocks on shady mountains fed,
A. thousand herds o'er grassy plains were spread.
Here wondrous trees their shining stores unfold,
Their shining stores too wondrous to be told; 925
Their leaves, their branches, and their apples, gold.
Then Perseus the gigantic prince address'd,
Humbly implor'd a hospitable rest: -
If bold exploits thy admiration fire
(He said), I fancy, mine thou wilt admire: 930
Or if the glory of a race can move,
Not mean my glory, for I spring from Jove.
At this confession Atlas ghastly star'd,
Mindful of what an oracle declar'd,
That the dark womb of time conceal'd a day, 935
Which should, disclos'd, the gloomy gold betray:
All should at once be ravish'd from his eyes,
And Jove's own progeny enjoy the prize.
For this, the fruit he loftily immur'd,
And a fierce dragon the strait pass secur'd; 940
For this, all strangers he forbade to land,
And drove them from th' inhospitable strand.
To Perseus then: Fly quickly, fly this coast,
Nor falsely dare thy acts and race to boast.
In vain the hero for one night entreats; 945
Threat'ning he storms, and next adds force to threats.
By strength not Perseus could himself defend,
For who in strength with Atlas could contend 1 -
But since short rest to me thou wilt not give,
A gift of endless rest from me receive. - 950
He said, and backward turn'd, no more conceal'd
The present, and Medusa's head reveal'd.
Soon the high Atlas a high mountain stood:
His locks, and beard, became a leafy wood:
His hands and shoulders into ridges went, 955
The summit-head still crown'd the steep ascent:
His bones a solid, rocky hardness gain'd:
He thus immensely grown (as fate ordain'd),
The stars, the heav'ns, and all the gods sustain'd.

Andromeda rescu'd from the Sea Monster

Now AeoIus had with strong chains confin'd 960
And deep imprison'd every blust'ring wind;
The rising Phosphor, with a purple light,
Did sluggish mortals to new toils invite;
His feet again the valiant Perseus plumes,
And his keen sabre in his hand resumes; 905
Then nobly spurns the ground, and upwards springs,
And cuts the liquid air with sounding wings.
O'er various seas, and various lands he pass'd,
Till ./Ethiopia's shore appear'd at last.
Andromeda was there, doom'd to atone, 970
By her own nun, follies not her own:
And if injustice in a god can be,
Such was the Libyan god's unjust decree.
Chain'd to a rock she stood; young Perseus stay'd
His rapid flight, to view the beauteous maid. 975
So sweet her fame, so exquisitely fine,
She seem'd a statue by a hand divine,
Had not the wind her waving tresses shew'd,
And down her cheeks the melting sorrows flow'd.
Her faultless form the hero's bosom fires; 980
The more he looks, the more he still admires.
Th' admirer almost had forgot to fly,
And swift descended, flutt'ring from on high. -
O virgin, worthy no such chains to prove,
But pleasing chains in the soft folds of love; 985
Thy country, and thy name (he said) disclose,
And give a true rehearsal of thy woes.
A quick reply her bashfulness reftis'd,
To the free-converse of a man unus'd:
Her rising blushes had concealment found 990
From her spread hands, but that her hands, were
She acted to her full extent of pow'r, [bound.
And bath'd her face with a fresh, silent show'r.
But by degrees in innocence grown bold,
Her name, her country, and her birth she told: 995
And how she suffer'd for her mother's pride,
Who with the Nereids once in beauty vy'd.
Part yet untold, the seas began to roar,
And mounting billows tumbled to the shore:
Above the waves a monster rais'd his head, 1000
His body o'er the deep was widely spread:
Onward he flounc'd; aloud the virgin cries;
Each parent to her shrieks in shrieks replies;
But she had deepest cause to rend the skies.
Weeping, to her they cling; no sign appears 1005
Of help, they only lend their helpless tears*.
Too long you vent your sorrows (Perseus said);
Short is the hour, and swift the time of aid.
In me, the son of thund'ring Jove behold,
Got in a kindly shower of fruitful gold. 1010
Medusa's snaky head is now my prey,
And through the clouds I boldly wing my way.
If such desert be worthy of esteem,
And, if your daughter I from death redeem,
Shall she be mine? shall it not then he thought, 1015
A bride, so lovely, was too cheaply bought?
For her, my arms I willingly employ,
If I may beauties, which I save, enjoy.
The parents eagerly the terms embrace,
(For who would slight such terms in such a case?)
Nor her alone they promise, but beside, 1021
The dowry of a kingdom with the bride.
As well-rigg'd galleys, which slaves, sweating, row,
With their sharp beaks the whiten'd ocean plow:
So when the monster mov'd, still at his back 1025
The furrow'd waters left a foamy track.
Now to the rock he was advanc'd so nigh,
Whirl'd from a sling a stone the space would fly.
Then bounding, upwards the brave Perseus sprung,
And in mid air on hov'ring pinions hung. 1030
His shadow quickly floated on the main,
The monster could not his wild rage restrain,
But at the floating shadow leap'd in vain.
As when Jove's bird, a speckled serpent spies,
Which in the shine of Phosbus basking lies, 1035
Unseen, he souses down, and bears away,
Truss'd from behind, the vainly hissing prey.
To writhe his neck the labour nought avails,
Too deep th' imperial talons pierce his scales.
Thus the wing'd hero now descends, now soars, 1040
And at his pleasure, the vast monster gores.
Full in his back, swift stooping from above,
The crooked sabre to its hilt he drove.
The monster rag'd impatient of the pain,
First bounded high, and then sunk low again. 1045
Now, like a savage boar, when chaf'd with wounds,
And bay'd with op'ning mouths of hungry hounds,
He on the foe turns with collected might,
Who still eludes him with an airy flight;
And wheeling round, the scaly armour tries 1050
Of his thick sides: his thinner tail now plies:
Till, from repeated strokes, out gush'd a flood,
And the waves redden'd with the streaming blood.
At last, the dropping wings, befoam'd all o'er,
With flaggy heaviness their master bore: 1055
A rock he spy'd, whose humble head was low,
Bare at an ebb, but cover'd at a flow.
A ridgy hold, he, thither flying, gain'd,
And, with one hand, his bending weight sustain'd;
With th' other, vig'rous blows he dealt around, 1060
And the home-thrusts th' expiring monster own'd.
In deaf'ning shouts the glad applauses rise,
And peal on peal runs rattling through the skies,
The saviour youth the royal pair confess, [bless. 1065
And, with heav'd. hands, their daughter's bridegroom
The beauteous bride moves on, now loos'd from chains.
The cause, and sweet reward of all the hero's pains,
Meantime, on shore triumphant Perseus stood,
And purg'd his hands, smear'd with the monster's
Then in the windings of a sandy bed 1070
Compos'd Medusa's execrable head.
But, to prevent the roughness, leaves he threw,
And young, green twigs, which soft in waters grew:
There soft, and full of sap; but here, when laid,
Touch'd by the head, that softness soon decay'd. 1075
The wonted flexibility quite gone,
The tender scions ha'rden'd into stone.
Fresh, juicy twigs, surpris'd, the Nereids brought,
Fresh, juicy twigs the same contagion caught.
The nymphs the petrifying seeds still keep, 1080
And propagate the wonder through the deep.
The pliant sprays of coral yet declare
Tbeir stiff'ning nature, when expos'd to air.
Those sprays, which did, like bending osiers, move,
Snatch'd from their element, obdurate prove, 1085
And shrubs beneath the waves, grow stones above.
The great Immortals grateful Perseus prais'd,
And to three pow'rs three turfy altars rais'd.
To Hermes this, and that he did assign
To Pallas; the mid honours, Jove, were thine. 1090
He hastes for Pallas a white cow to cull,
A calf for Hermes, but for Jove a bull.
Then seiz'd the prize of his victorious fight,
Andromeda, and claim'd the nuptial rite:
Andromeda alone he gTeatly sought, 1095
The dowry kingdom was not worth his thought.
Pleas'd Hymen now his golden torch displays;
With rich oblations fragrant altars blaze.
Sweet wreaths of choicest flow'rs are hung on high,
And cloudless pleasure smiles in ev'ry eye. 1100
The melting music melting thoughts inspires,
And warbling songsters aid the warbling lyres.
The palace opens wide in pompous state,
And, by his peers surrounded, Cepheus sate.
A feast was serv'd, fit for a king to give, 1105
And fit for godlike heroes to receive.
The banquet ended, the gay, cheerful howl
Mov'd round, and brighten'd, and enlarg'd each soul.
Then Perseus ask'd, what customs there obtain'd,
And by what laws the people were restrain'd. 1110
Which told; the teller a like freedom takes,
And to the warrior his petition makes,
To know, what arts had won Medusa's snakes.

The Story of Medusa's Head

he hero with his just request complies;
Shews, how a vale beneath cold Atlas lies, l115
Where, with aspiring mountains, fenc'd around,
He the two daughters of old Phorcus found.
Fate had one common eye to both assign'd,
Each saw by turns, and each by turns was blind.
But while one strove to lend her sister sight, 1120
He stretch'd his hand, and stole their mutual light,
And left both eyeless, both involv'd in night.
Through devious wilds and trackless woods he pass'd,
And at the Gorgon seats arriv'd at last:
But as he journey'd, pensive he survey'd 1125
What wasteful havoc dire Medusa made.
Here, stood still breathing statues, men before;
There, rampant lions seem'd in stone to roar.
Nor did he yet, affrighted, quit the field,
But in the mirror of his polish'd shield 1130
Reflected saw Medusa slumbers take,
And not one serpent by good chance awake.
Then backward an unerring blow he sped,
And from her body lopp'd at once her head.
The gore prolific prov'd; with sudden force 1135
Sprung Pegasus, and wing'd his airy course.
The heav'n-born warrior faithfully went on,
And told the num'rous dangers which he run.
What subject seas, what lands he had in view,
And nigh what stars th' advent'rous hero flew. 1140
At last he silent sat; the list'ning throng
Sigh'd at the pause of his delightful tongue.
Some begg'd to know, why this alone should wear,
Of all the sisters, such destructive hair.
Great Perseus then: With me you shall prevail,
Worth the relation, to relate a tale. 1145
Medusa once had charms: to gain her love
A rival crowd of envious lovers strove.
They, who have seen her, own they ne'er did trace
More moving features in a sweeter face: 1150
Yet above all, her length of hair, they own,
In golden ringlets wav'd, and graceful shone.
Her, Neptune saw, and with such beauties fir'd,
Resolv'd to compass what his soul desir'd.
In chaste Minerva's fane, he, lustful, staid, 1155
And seiz'd, and rifled the young, blushing maid,
The bashful goddess turn'd her eyes away,
Nor durst such bold impurity survey;
But on the ravish'd virgin vengeance takes,
Her shining hair is chang'd to hissing snakes. 1160
These in her aegis, Pallas joys to bear,
The hissing snakes her foes more sure ensnare,
Than they did lovers once, when shining bair.

The story of Medusa's head [Continues in Book V]

N.S. Gill
About.com Ancient/Classical History

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