« PreviousContinue »
Pois'd on their arms, in silent wonder gaze.
The fight commences.
Soon the Grecian spear,
Which all the day in constant battle worn,
Unnumber'd shields and corselets had transfix'd,
Against the Persian buckler, shiv'ring, breaks,
Its master's hand disarming. Then began
The sense of honour, and the dread of shame
To swell in Dithyrambus. Undismay'd,
He grappled with his foe, and instant seiz'd
His threat'ning spear, before th' uplifted arm
Could execute the meditated wound.
The weapon burst between their struggling grasp.
Their hold they loosen, bare their shining swords.
With equal swiftness to defend or charge,
Each active youth advances and recedes.
On ev'ry side they traverse. Now direct,
Obliquely now the wheeling blades descend.
Still is the conflict dubious; when the Greek,
Dissembling, points his falchion to the ground,
His arm depressing, as o'ercome by toil:
While with his buckler cautious he repels
The blows, repeated by his active foe.'
Greece trembles for her hero. Joy pervades.
The ranks of Asia. Hyperanthes strides
Before the line, preparing to receive
His friend triumphant: while the wary Greek,
Calm and defensive, bears th' assault. At last,
As by th' incautious fury of his strokes,
The Persian swung his covering shield aside,
The fatal moment Dithyrambus seiz'd.
Light darting forward with his feet outstretch'd,
Between th' unguarded ribs he plung'd his steel.
Affection, grief, and terror, wing the speed
Of Hyperanthes. From his bleeding foe
The Greek retires, not distant, and awaits
The Persian prince. But he with wat'ry cheeks
In speechless anguish clasps his dying friend;
Prom whose cold lip, with interrupted phrase,
These accents break: O dearest, best of men!
Ten thousand thoughts of gratitude and love
Are struggling in my heart-O'erpow'ring fate
Denies my voice the utt'rance-o my friend!
O Hyperanthes ! Hear my tongue unfold
What, had I liv'd, thou never should'st have known.
I lov'd thy sister. With despair I lov'd.
Soliciting this honourable doom,
Without regret in Persia's sight and thine
I fall. Th’ inexorable hand of fate
Weighs down his eyelids, and the gloom of death
His fleeting light eternally o'ershades.
Him on Choaspes o'er the blooming verge
A frantic mother shall bewail; shall strew
Her silver tresses in the crystal wave:
While all the shores re-echo to the name
Of Teribazus lost.
In sable vesture, spangled o'er with stars,
The Night assum'd her throne. Recall'd from war,
Their toil, protracted long, the Greeks forget,
Dissolv'd in silent slumber, all but those
Who watch th' uncertain perils of the dark,
A hundred warriors. Agis was their chief.
High on the wall intent the hero sat.
Fresh winds across the undulating bay
From Asia's host the various din convey'd
In one deep murmur, swelling on his ear.
When by the sound of footsteps down the pass
Alarm’d, he calls aloud. What feet are these
Which beat the echoing pavement of the rock?
Reply, nor tempt inevitable fate.
A voice replied. No enemies we come,
But crave admittance in an humble tone.
The Spartan answers. Through the midnight
shade What purpose draws your wand'ring steps abroad?
To whom the stranger. We are friends to Greece.
Through thy assistance we implore access
To Lacedemon's king. The cautious Greek
Still hesitates; when musically sweet
A tender voice his wond'ring ear allures.
O gen'rous warrior, listen to the pray'r
Of one distress'd, whom grief alone hath led
Through midnight shades to these victorious tents,
A wretched woman, innocent of fraud.
The chief, descending, through th' unfolded gates
Upheld a flaming torch. The light disclos'd
One first in servile garments. Near his side
A woman graceful and majestic stood,
Not with an aspect, rivalling the pow'r
Of fatal Helen, or th' ensnaring charms
Of love's soft queen, but such as far surpass’d
Whate'er the lily, blending with the rose,
Spreads on the cheek of beauty soon to fade;
Such as express'd a mind by wisdom rul'd,
By sweetness temper’d; virtue's purest light
Illumining the countenance divine:
Yet could not soften rig'rous fate, nor charm
Malignant fortune to revere the good;
Which oft with anguish rends a spotless heart,
And oft associates wisdom with despair.
In courteous phrase began the chief humane.
Exalted fair, whose form adorns the night,
Forbear to blame the vigilance of war.
My slow compliance to the rigid laws
Of Mars impute. In me no longer pause
Shall from the presence of our king withhold
This thy apparent dignity and worth.
Here ending, he conducts her. At the call
Of his lov'd brother, from his couch arose
Leonidas. In wonder he survey'd
Th' illustrious virgin, whom his presence aw'd.
Her eye submissive to the ground declin'd
In veneration of the godlike man.
His mien, his voice, her anxious dread dispel,
Benevolent and hospitable thus.
Thy looks, fair stranger, amiable and great,
A mind delineate, which from all commands
Supreme regard. Relate, thou noble dame,
By what relentless destiny compellid,
Thy tender feet the paths of darkness tread;
Rehearse th' afflictions whence thy virtue mourns.
On her wan cheek, a sudden blush arose
Like day, first dawning on the twilight pale;
When, wrapt in grief, these words a passage found.
If to be most unhappy, and to know
That hope is irrecoverably fled;
If to be great and wretched may
Commiseration from the brave; behold,
Thou glorious leader of unconquer'd bands,
Behold, descended from Darius' loins,
Th' afflicted. Ariana ; and my pray'r
Accept with pity, nor my tears disdain.
First, that I lov'd the best of human race,
Heroic, wise, adorn'd by ev'ry art,
Of shame unconscious doth my heart reveal.
This day, in Grecian arms conspicuous clad,
He fought, he fell. A passion, long conceald,
For me, alas! within
brother's arıns His dying breath resigning, he disclos'd. Oh! I will stay, my sorrows! will forbid My eyes to stream before thee, and my breast, O'erwhelm'd by anguish, will from sighs restrain!