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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 found
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 bedew1
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 complains:
'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.
These cares alone her virgin breast employ, Averse from Venus and the nuptial joy. Her private orchards, wall'd on every side, To lawless sylvans all access denied. How oft the satyrs and the wanton fauns, Who haunt the forests, or frequent the lawns, The god whose ensigns scares the birds of prey And old Silenus, youthful in decay,
Employ'd their wiles and unavailing care,
To pass the fences, and surprise the fair!
Like these, Vertumnus own'd his faithful flame,
Like these, rejected by the scornful dame.
To gain her sight, a thousand forms he wears;
And first a reaper from the field appears,
Sweating he walks, while loads of golden grain
O'ercharge the shoulders of the seeming swain.
Oft o'er his back a crooked scythe is laid,
And wreaths of hay his sun-burnt temples shade
Oft in his harden'd hand a goad he bears,
Like one who late unyoked the sweating steers,
Sometimes his pruning-hook corrects the vines,
And the loose stragglers to their ranks confines.
Now gathering what the bounteous year allows,
He pulls ripe apples from the bending boughs.
A soldier now, he with his sword appears;
A fisher next, his trembling angle bears.
Each shape he varies, and each art he tries,
On her bright charms to feast his longing eyes.
A female form at last Vertumnus wears,
With all the marks of reverend age appears,
His temples thinly spread with silver hairs:
Propp'd on his staff, and stooping as he goes,
A painted mitre shades his furrow'd brows.
The god, in this decrepit form array'd,
The gardens entered, and the fruit survey'd ;
And 'Happy you!' he thus address'd the maid,
'Whose charms as far all other nymphs out-shine,
As other gardens are excell'd by thine!'
Then kiss'd the fair (his kisses warmer grow
Than such as women on their sex bestow ;)
Then, placed beside her on the flowery ground,
Beheld the trees with autumn's bounty crown'd.
An elm was near, to whose embraces led,
The curling vine her swelling clusters spread :
He view'd her twining branches with delight,
And praised the beauty of the pleasing sight.
'Yet this tall elm, but for his vine,' he said, 'Had stood neglected, and a barren shade; And this fair vine, but that her arms surround Her married elm, had crept along the ground. Ah beauteous maid! let this example move Your mind, averse from all the joys of love. Deign to be loved, and every heart subdue : What nymph could e'er attract such crowds you?
Not she whose beauty urged the Centaur's arms, Ulysses' queen, nor Helen's fatal charms.
E'en now, when silent scorn is all they gain,
A thousand court you, though they court in vain.
A thousand sylvans, demigods, and gods,
That haunt our mountains, and our Alban woods.
But if you'll prosper, mark what I advise,
Whom age and long experience render wise,
And one whose tender care is far above
All that these lovers ever felt for love;
(Far more than e'er can by yourself be guess'd ;)
Fix on Vertumnus, and reject the rest.
For his firm faith I dare engage my own;
Scarce to himself, himself is better known.
To distant lands Vertumnus never roves ;
Like you, contented with his native groves;
Nor at first sight, like most, admires the fair;
For you he lives: and you alone shall share
His last affection, as his early care.
Besides, he's lovely far above the rest,
With youth immortal, and with beauty bless'd.