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My hands to beat my naked bosom try;
Nor naked bosom now nor hands had I.
Lightly I tript, nor weary as before
Sunk in the sand, but skimm'd along the shore;
Till, rising on my wings, I was preferr'd
To be the chaste Minerva's virgin bird:
Preferr'd in vain! I now am in disgrace:
Nyctimene, the owl, enjoys my place.
"On her incestuous life I need not dwell,
(In Lesbos still the horrid tale they tell)
And of her dire amours you must have heard,
For which she now does penance in a bird,
That, conscious of her shame, avoids the light,
And loves the gloomy cov'ring of the night;
The birds, where'er she flutters, scare away
The hooting wretch, and drive her from the day."
The raven, urg'd by such impertinence,
Grew passionate, it seems, and took offence,
And curst the harmless daw; the daw withdrew:
The raven to her injur'd patron flew,
And found him out, and told the fatal truth
Of false Coronis and the favour'd youth.
The god was wroth; the colour left his look, The wreath his head, the harp his hand forsook : His silver bow and feather'd shafts he took, And lodg'd an arrow in the tender breast, That had so often to his own been prest. Down fell the wounded nymph, and sadly groan'd, And pull'd his arrow reeking from the wound; And welt'ring in her blood, thus faintly cry'd, "Ah cruel god! tho' I have justly dy'd,
What has, alas! my unborn infant done,
That he should fall, and two expire in one?"
This said, in agonies she fetch'd her breath.
The god dissolves in pity at her death;
He hates the bird that made her falsehood known,
And hates himself for what himself had done
The feather'd shaft, that sent her to the fates,
And his own hand, that sent the shaft, he hates.
Fain would he heal the wound, and ease her pain,
And tries the compass of his art in vain.
Soon as he saw the lovely nymph expire,
The pile made ready, and the kindling fire,
With sighs and groans her obsequies he kept,
And, if a god could weep, the god had wept.
Her corpse he kiss'd, and heavenly incense brought,
And solemniz'd the death himself had wrought.
But, lest his offspring should her fate partake, Spite of th' immortal mixture in his make, He ript her womb, and set the child at large, And gave him to the centaur Chiron's charge : Then in his fury black'd the raven o'er, And bid him prate in his white plumes no more.
OCYRRHOE TRANSFORMED TO A MARE.
Old Chiron took the babe with secret joy,
Proud of the charge of the celestial boy.
His daughter too, whom on the sandy shore
The nymph Chariclo to the centaur bore,
With hair dishevel'd on her shoulders came
To see the child, Ocyrrhöe was her name;
She knew her father's arts, and could rehearse
The depths of prophecy in sounding verse.
Once, as the sacred infant she survey'd,
The god was kindled in the raving maid,
And thus she utter'd her prophetic tale;
"Hail, great physician of the world, all hail;
Hail, mighty infant, who in years to come
Shalt heal the nations and defraud the tomb;
Swift be thy growth! thy triumphs unconfin'd!
Make kingdoms thicker, and increase mankind.
Thy daring art shall animate the dead,
And draw the thunder on thy guilty head:
Then shalt thou die; but from the dark abode
Rise up victorious, and be twice a god.
And thou, my sire, not destin'd by thy birth
To turn to dust, and mix with common earth,
How wilt thou toss, and rave, and long to die,
And quit thy claim to immortality ;
When thou shalt feel, enrag'd with inward pains,
The Hydra's venom rankling in thy veins?
The gods, in pity, shall contract thy date,
And give thee over to the power of Fate."
Thus, entering into destiny, the maid
The secrets of offended Jove betray'd:
More had she still to say; but now appears
Oppress'd with sobs and sighs, and drown'd in tears.
"My voice," says she, "is gone, my language fails; Through every limb my kindred shape prevails: Why did the god this fatal gift impart, And with prophetic raptures swell my heart! What new desires are these? I long to pace O'er flowery meadows, and to feed on grass; I hasten to a brute, a maid no more; But why, alas! am I transform'd all o'er?
My sire does half a human shape retain,
And in his upper parts preserves the man."
Her tongue no more distinct complaints affords,
But in shrill accents and mis-shapen words
Pours forth such hideous wailings, as declare
The human form confounded in the mare:
'Till by degrees accomplish'd in the beast,
She neigh'd outright, and all the steed exprest.
Her stooping body on her hands is borne,
Her hands are turn'd to hoofs, and shod in horn;
Her yellow tresses ruffle in a mane,
And in a flowing tail she frisks her train.
The mare was finish'd in her voice and look,
And a new name from the new figure took.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF BATTUS TO A TOUCH-STONE,
Sore wept the centaur, and to Phoebus pray'd; But how could Phoebus give the centaur aid? Degraded of his power by angry Jove,
In Elis then a herd of beeves he drove;
And wielded in his hand a staff of oak,
And o'er his shoulders threw the shepherd's cloak;
On seven compacted reeds he us'd to play,
And on his rural pipe to waste the day.
As once, attentive to his pipe, he play'd, The crafty Hermes from the god convey'd A drove, that sep'rate from their fellows stray'd. The theft an old insidious peasant view'd, (They called him Battus in the neighbourhood) Hir'd by a wealthy Pylian prince to feed His favourite mares, and watch the generous breed.
The thievish god suspected him, and took
The hind aside, and thus in whispers spoke:
"Discover not the theft, whoe'er thou be,
And take that milk-white heifer for thy fee.”
Go, stranger," cries the clown, "securely on, That stone shall sooner tell;" and show'd a stone. The god withdrew, but straight return'd again, In speech and habit like a country swain;
And cries out, "Neighbour, hast thou seen a stray
Of bullocks and of heifers pass this way?
In the recovery of my cattle join,
A bullock and a heifer shall be thine."
The peasant quick replies, "You'll find 'em there
In yon dark vale" and in the vale they were.
The double bribe had his false heart beguil'd:
The god, successful in the trial, smil’d;
"And dost thou thus betray myself to me?
Me to myself dost thou betray?" says
says he :
Then to a touch-stone turns the faithless spy,
And in his name records his infamy.
THE STORY OF AGLAUROS, TRANSFORMED INTO A STATUE.
This done, the god flew up on high, and pass'd
O'er lofty Athens, by Minerva grac'd,
And wide Munichia, whilst his eyes survey
All the vast region that beneath him lay.
'Twas now the feast, when each Athenian maid Her yearly homage to Minerva paid;
In canisters, with garlands cover'd o'er,
High on their heads their mystic gifts they bore;
And now, returning in a solemn train,
The troop of shining virgins fill'd the plain.