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That herbs for cattle daily I renew,
And food for man, and frankincense for you?
Put grant me guilty; what has Neptune done?
Why are his waters boiling in the sun?
The wavy empire, which by lot was given,
Why does it waste, and further shrink from heaven?
If I nor he your pity can provoke,
See you own heav'ns, the heav'ns begin to smoke!
Should once the sparkles catch those bright abodes,
Destruction seizes on the heav'ns and gods;
Atlas becomes unequal to his freight,
And almost faints beneath the glowing weight.
If heav'n, and earth, and sea, together burn,
All must again into their chaos turn.
Apply some speedy cure, prevent our fate,
And succour nature, ere it be too late.”
She ceas’d; for chok'd with vapours round her spread,
Down to the deepest shades she sunk her head.
Jove call'd to witness every power above,
And ev’n the god, whose son the chariot drove,
That what he acts he is compell’d to do,
Or universal ruin must ensue.
Straight he ascends the high ethereal throne,
From whence he us'd to dart his thunder down,
From whence his showers and storins he us'd to pour,
But now could meet with neither storm nor shower.
Then, aiming at the youth, with lifted hand,
Full at his head he hurl’d the forky brand,
In dreadful thund'rings. Thus th' almighty sire
Suppress'd the raging of the fires with fire.
At once from life, and from the chariot driven,
Th' ambitious boy fell thunder-struck from heaven.
The horses started with a sudden bound,
And flung the reins and chariot to the ground:
The studded harness from their necks they broke,
Here fell a wheel, and here a silver spoke,
the beam And scatter'd o'er the earth, the shining fragments lay.
The breathless Phaëton, with flaming hair,
Shot from the chariot, like a falling star,
That in a summer's ev'ning from the top
Of heav'n drops down, or seems at least to drop;
Till on the Po his blasted corpse was hurl'd,
Far from his country, in the western world.
PHAETON'S SISTERS TRANSFORMED INTO TRELS.
The Latian nymphs came round him, and amaz'd
On the dead youth, transfix'd with thunder, gaz'd;
And, whilst yet smoking from the bolt he lay,
His shatter'd body to a tomb convey,
And o'er the tomb an epitaph devise:
“Here he who drove the sun's bright chariot lies;
His father's fiery steeds he could not guide,
But in the glorious enterprise he dy'd.”
Apollo hid his face and pin'd for grief,
And, if the story may deserve belief,
The space of one whole day is said to run,
From morn to wonted ev'n, without a sun:
The burning ruins, with a fainter ray,
Supply the sun, and counterfeit a day,
A day that still did nature's face disclose:
This comfort from the mighty mischief rose.
But Clymene, enrag'd with grief, laments,
And, as her grief inspires, her passion vents :
Wild for her son, and frantic in her woes,
With hair dishevellid, round the world she goes,
To seek where'er his body might be cast;
Till, on the borders of the Po, at last
The name inscrib'd on the new tomb appears:
The dear, dear name she bathes in flowing tears,
Hangs o'er the tomb, unable to depart,
And hugs the marble to her throbbing heart.
Her daughters too lament, and sigh, and mourn,
(A fruitless tribute to their brother's urn,)
Ànd beat their naked bosoms, and complain,
And call aloud for Phaëton in vain:
All the long night their mournful watch they keep,
And all the day stand round the tomb, and weep.
Four times, revolving, the full moon return'd;
So long the mother and the daughters mourn’d;
When now the eldest, Phaëthusa, strove
To rest her weary limbs, but could not move;
Lampetia would have help'd her, but she found
Herself withheld, and rooted to the ground:
A third in wild affliction, as she grieves,
Would rend her hair, but fills her hand with leaves;
One sees her thighs transform’d, another views
Her arms shot out, and branching into boughs.
And now their legs, and breasts, and bodies stood
Crusted with bark, and hard’ning into wood;
But still above were female heads display'd,
And mouths, that calld their mother to their aid.
What could, alas! the weeping mother do?
From this to that with eager haste she flew,
And kiss'd her sprouting daughters as they grew.
She tears the bark that to each body cleaves,
And from their verdant fingers strips the leaves :
The blood came trickling, where she tore away
The leaves and bark: the maids were heard to say,
“Forbear, mistaken parent, oh! forbear;
A wounded daughter in each tree you tear;
Farewell for ever." Here the bark increas’d,
Clos'd on their faces, and their words suppress’d.
The new-made trees in tears of amber run,
Which, harden'd into value by the sun,
Distil for ever on the streams below:
The limpid streams their radiant treasure show,
Mixt in the sand; whence the rich drops convey'd
Shine in the dress of the bright Latian maid.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF CYCNUS INTO A SWAN.
Cycnus beheld the nymphs transform’d, ally'd To their dead brother on the mortal side,
In friendship and affection nearer bound;
He left the cities and the realms he own'd,
Through pathless fields and lonely shores to range,
And woods, made thicker by the sister's change.
Whilst here, within the dismal gloom, alone,
The melancholy monarch made his moan,
His voice was lessen'd, as he try'd to speak,
And issu'd through a long extended neck;
His hair transforms to down, his fingers meet
In skinny films, and shape his oary feet;
From both his sides the wings and feathers break;
And from his mouth proceeds a blunted beak:
All Cycnus now into a swan was turn'd,
Who, still rememb’ring how his kinsman burn'd,
To solitary pools and lakes retires,
And loves the waters as oppos’d to fires.
Mean while Apollo in a gloomy shade
(The native lustre of his brows decay’d)
Indulging sorrow, sickens at the sight
Of his own sunshine, and abhors the light:
The hidden griefs, that in his bosom rise,
Sadden his looks, and overcast his eyes,
As when some dusky orb obstructs his ray,
And sullies, in a dim eclipse, the day.
Now secretly with inward griefs he pin’d,
Now warm resentments to his grief he join'd,
And now renounc'd his office to mankind.
“E'er since the birth of time,” said he, “I've borre
A long ungrateful toil without return;
Let now some other manage, if he dare,
The fiery steeds, and mount the burning car;
Or, if none else, let Jove his fortune try,
And learn to lay his murd'ring thunder by;
Then will he own, perhaps but own too late,
My son deserv'd not so severe a fate.”
The gods stand round him, as he mourns, and pray He would resume the conduct of the day, Nor let the world be lost in endless night: Jove too himself, descending from his height,
Excuses what had happen'd, and entréats,
Majestically mixing pray’rs and threats.
Prevail'd upon, at length, again he took
The harness'd steeds, that still with horror shook,
And plies them with the lash, and whips them on,
And, as he whips, upbraids them with his son.
The day was settled in its course; and Jove Walk'd the wide circuit of the heav'ns above, To search if any cracks or flaws were made; But all was safe: the earth he then survey'd, And cast an eye on every diff'rent coast, And every land; but on Arcadia most, Her fields he cloth’d, and chear'd her blasted face With running fountains and with springing grass. No tracks of heav'n's destructive fire remain, The fields and woods revive and nature smiles again.
But as the god walk'd to and fro the earth, And rais’d the plants, and gave the spring its birth, By chance a fair Arcadian nymph he view'd, And felt the lovely charmer in his blood. The nymph nor spun, nor dress’d with artful pride; Her vest was gather'd up, her hair was ty’d; Now in her hand a slender spear she bore, Now a light quiver on her shoulders wore; To chaste Diana from her youth inclin'd The sprightly warriors of the wood she join'd. Diana too the gentle huntress lov'd, Nor was there one of all the nymphs that rov'd O’er Mænalus, amid the maiden throng, More favour'd once; but favour lasts not long.
The sun now shone in all its strength, and drove The heated virgin panting to a grove; The grove around a grateful shadow cast: She dropt her arrows, and her bow unbrac’d; She flung herself on the cool grassy bed; And on the painted quiver rais'd her head.