Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of Heaven, like Edipus ; and yet, malign,
The all-powerful gods visit my life's decline
With darkness, exile, and want, as if their crimes were mine.”

.“ Take, and may soon thy destiny be changed !”
They said ; and drawing what they had arranged
Within a goat's-skin, for their day's repast,
Out from the black and shining hairs they cast
(Emulous to serve him) on his heavy knees
Bread of pure wheat, sweet almonds, cream-white cheese,
Rich oily olives—figs so honey-sweet-
Nor was his dog, lying between his feet,
Without his share. Languid and wet he lay,
For, by the sailors, being borne away,
He, out at sea, escaped the pirate band,
And, swimming from the ship, rejoined him on the strand.

. Not always iron is the rod of Fate,"
The old man said. “ With heart almost elate,
I thank ye, gentle children, sent from Jove ;
Happy the parents whose heaven-favoured love
Gave birth to such as you! But come, draw near,
My hands, at least, shall know you : bright and clear
Again I almost dream that I can see !
Ah! ye are beautiful as young, all three :
Sweet are your faces, for your voice is sweet!
How fair the forms where grace and virtue meet!
Grow, as I've seen Latona's palm-tree grow,
When o'er the waves I wandered, long ago,
To holy Delos, ere my sight had flown;
There, by Apollo's sacred altar-stone
These eyes beheld the beauteous palm-trees stand,
The gift of Heaven—the glory of the land-
Grow tall, revered, and fruitful, like that tree,
Since you have honoured misery in me.
Scarce have you seen your thirteenth birth-day morn-
Scarcely, my children, were your mothers born,
When I was almost old: Sit near to me
Thou who dost seem the eldest: unto thee
I trust me.

Thou wilt tend with anxious care
The blind old man." “Oh, father, tell us where
Thou wanderest, and whence: for all around
Our stormy coasts bellow the waves profound.”

.“ With merchants bound from Cumae, came I o'er
The dark blue billows from the Carian shore ;
Wishing to see if Greece had yet for me
A home and Fate a better destiny.
Less jealous gods, and days more gladsome bright,
For hope will shine, till death conceals its light-
But poor, and without money for my fare,
They threw me on the shore-I know not where.”

“O sweet-voiced old man, then thou didst not sing-
Such tones as thine could purchase everything."

L“ Children ! the nightingale's pure spirit strain
Falls on the bloody vulture's ear in vain :
The rich, the coarse, the grasping, and the strong
Ne'er ope their souls, nor feel the power of song:
Alone, in silence, on the slippery strand,

Beside the roaring sea, with staff in hand,
VOL. XXXII.-NO. CXCII.

3 A

I walked along, and heard from the near grass
The bleating flocks shaking their bells of brass.
Then I had ta'en this lyre, the flexile cords,
Even though my hand be weak, with fitting words,
Had sung the praises of the gods above,
And above all the hospitable Jove,
Had not enormous dogs, with baying throats,
Assailed me; then were hushed my rising notes.
And I was wretched_heaving fearful sighs
Until you drove them off with stones and cries.”

“ Alas! my father, then the world has grown
Worse than it was. There was a time, the tone
Of a rich, eloquent lyre_divinely sweet
Like thine—had drawn the wolf from his retreat,
And with the vanquished tiger, humbled him at thy feet.”

_” The barbarians !_I was seated near the poop-
• Blind vagabond,' exclaimed the mocking troop,

Sing—if thy wit has still survived thine eyes
Amuse our languor—thank the favouring skies.'
I, to confound them, though my heart was wrung,
Silenced its throbbings, and constrained my tongue.
They heard me not-my curbing hand represt
The angry god that struggled in my breast :
And thou, 0 Cumæ ! since 'twas sons of thine
Outraged Mnemosyne, the nymph divine,
May dark oblivion hide their whole career,
And may thy very name vanish and disappear!"

_" Come to our village, father, it is near,
And loveth those who to the Muse are dear;
A chair with silver nails—beneath the tree
Where hangs an ivory lyre, we'll place for thee;
And then with wine and honey, every day,
We'll drive the memory of thy ills away ;
And, if thou wilt, О rhapsodist divine !
Sing some celestial melody of thine,
Upon the way ; we'll own Apollo near,
And
say

'tis he who breathes the enchantment on our ear."

“ Yes, I will go;

but stay, my children, stayWhat happy land is this through which we stray ?"

-“This happy isle is Sicos-the most blest”

“ Hail, lovely Sicos !_twice am I thy guest ; For once before, the happiest of men, I trod thy shores. Your fathers knew me then. They grew like you; mine eyes could then behold The Sun, the Spring, the Morning's rosy gold ; Then I was young, and bold, and took my place First in the dance, the combat, and the race. I have seen Corinth, Argos, Crete, and the hundred towns, And the rich fertile plains the Egyptian river drowns : But sea, and land, and age, and woes, at length Have sapped away this aching body's strength : My voice remains'tis thus, with folded wings, The small cicada sits_consoles herself, and sings. Let us begin with heaven. Hail! sovereign Jove, And thou, O Sun, that from thy throné above,

Seest and hearest all things! Mighty Seas,
Rivers, and Lands, and ye dark Deities,
Too slow for needed vengeance-hail! all hail !
Come all ye dwellers in the Olympian vale-
Muses! who look mysterious Nature through
While we, poor mortals, know nothing except from you."

He sings, while trees with boughs of shadowy brown,
In gentle cadence bend their branches down-
And shepherds, heedless how their flocks may stray,
And travellers, abandoning their way,
Run towards him. He their many steps doth hear
Round his young guide and him. With greedy ear,
Thronging in crowds, and bearing many a wreath,
Wood-nymphs, and sylvan gods, listen and scarcely breathe.
For in wild, wandering strains, he sweetly sings
The fruitful seeds of all created things-
Water and fire—the earth—the air above-
The rivers flowing from the breast of Jove-
The banded cities-oracles and arts-
And Love, the immortal fruit of human hearts.
The King divine-Olympus and the skies-
And the world shaken by his angry eyes-
And gods, who other gods in fight withstood —
And the earth, red with more than mortal blood.
The assembled kings—the dust that hides the stars-
Raised by the warrior's feet and murderous cars -
The steel-clad heroes, flashing through the fight,
Like a vast fire upon a mountain's height-
The long.maned courser, spurning all controul,
And, with a human voice, stirring the warrior's soul.
From these his song the peaceful town regains,
And laws, and orators, and fertile plains.
But soon he sings the ramparts, warrior-filled-
The porch wherein the victim's blood is spilled-
The siege, that makes the plaintive wife afraid
The mourning mother and the captive maid.
He sings the corn, the flocks that roam the meads
Bleating or bellowing—the rustic reeds
The frolic crowds that to the vintage throng,
The flute, the lyre, the dancing notes of song.
Then, too, the winds he wakens from their sleep,
And sinks the struggling sailor in the deep.
Or, on an azure rock, melodiously,
He calls in crowds the Daughters of the Sea ;
Who with loud cries emerge from out the tide,
And to the Trojan shore the vessel guide.
Then he lays bare the Stygian shores of Hell-
The demigods—the fields of Asphodel-
The countless shades—the old men's lonely sighs
The young men ravished from their parents' eyes--
The child, whose cradle terminates its life-
The virgin struck by death, ere she becomes a wife.
But, woods! and streams! hard rocks, and mountains tall !
What gentle horror trembles through you all,
When, soon, at Lemnos, on the forge divine,
He welds the wondrous woof, so strong and finé
(Such subtle net Arachne never wove),
And chains within the rosy Queen of Love !
And when he girdles with a marble zone,
And sudden turns proud Niobe to stone.

And when his song repeats the mournful strain
Of Aedon—who weeps, and weeps in vain,
Her rash revenge-her son unconscious slain-
Then flies away, and ends her piteous tale
Amid the lonely woods—a nightingale !
Then with rich wine his skilful hands distil
The strong Nepenthes-antidote of ill.
He culls the Moly-flower of human craft-
And with the peaceful Lotus blends the draught.
Charmed by the philtre, men forget to feel
Love for their kindred, or their country's weal ;
Then saw they Ossa, and thy crimsoned wood,
Peneus: and Olympus, red with blood,
What time unto the bridal-feast did crowd
As guests, the monstrous children of the cloud.
That fatal night when Theseus' friend was wed-
When Theseus' self, midst the great feast outspread,
Midst wine, and joy, and late-spoke bridal vows,
Was forced to snatch his friend's half-naked spouse
Out of the drunken arms of savage Eurytus-
Suddenly, sword in hand, cried hot Pirithous,

_" Stay! traitor, here my wrath must be appeased."
But, ere he reached the Centaur, Dryas seized
Upon a mighty torch-branched iron tree,
Bristling and red with flaming hair-which he
Hurled on the impious quadruped ; it falls,
Crushing him down-in vain the monster calls
For pity. Vainly too, amid the gloom,
Strikes with his hoof the ground about to be his tomb.
The banquet-table crushes on the grass
Evagrus,

Cymele, and Periphas, Impelled by Nessus. Then Pirithous Slaughters Petræus and Antimachus And Cyllarus, with feet so white and fair, And swarthy Macareus, who doth wear Three lions'-skins_his own great spoil—the rest Hides his four sides, and arms his double breast; Bending beneath a rock's stupendous weight, Raised for revenge, Bianor meets his fate. Struck by an antique vase of wondrous size, Hurled from Alcides' band, the monster dies. Alcides and his club in triumph pile Clanis, Demoleon, and Lycothas vile And golden-haired Ripheus, who doth wear Shades of his native clouds amid his hair. Eurynomus doth seek a second fight, For with his feet, moving in rapid flight, He strikes at Nestor's shield. As Helops flies (Four-footed monster) agile Crantor tries To reach him—but Eurynomus is first, And with a knotty maple-tree had burst Upon him—had not mighty Theseus seen The flying monster—with a conqueror's mien, And smeared with blood, a burning oak he sweeps From off the altar. On his haunch he leaps, Drags backs his head, even by his dreadful hair And as the monster gapes in wild despair, And opes his mouth to gasp and pant for breath, Plunges at once therein the burning tree and death! The altar is despoiled--the flames ariseThe woods are filled with shrieks and woman's cries;

Hoofs strike the earth, and corses strew the ground,
And broken vases lie, and wailing shrieks resound !
Thus the great sage, in Figures bold and strong,
Unfolds the tissue of his holy song.
His three young guides, moved by the noble sight,
Look on his face with wonder and delight;
See from his lips the words of wisdom flow,
As from the mountain's top the winter's snow
While round about, with boughs in every hand,
Men, women, children, dance, a varied band,
Virgins and youths the quiet hamlet's pride-
Sing as they dance :

-O father, here reside,
Stay with us, great blind prophet, sweet-voiced sage,
Friend of the gods, and glory of the age.
Games for five years will mark the day as blest,
On which we first received great Homer as our guest.”

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

To the sound of the waters moving,

The birds mid the bright flowers sing.
Oh! sweet is the bliss of loving,

And sharp is jealousy's sting.
Through these woods where tranquillity reigneth,
To the sound of the streams sonorous,
The birds, in musical chorus
Sing of the bliss that paineth ;
The water that never remaineth,
But runneth in crystal glidings,
Whispereth ever the tidings
That never the heart disdaineth.

To the sound of the waters moving,

The birds mid the bright flowers sing,
Oh! sweet is the bliss of loving,

And sharp is jealousy's sting.

II.

The narcissus, in summer hours,
Loves splendour and glory weareth ;
Dark jealousy never neareth
The pansy and violet flowers ;
The waves by the sloping shores
Mingle in mute embraces,
And the sands, like bright-eyed faces,
Look up through the crystal pores!

To the sound of the waters moving.

The birds mid the bright flowers sing,
Oh! sweet is the bliss of loving,

And sharp is jealousy's sting.

« PreviousContinue »