Page images

"Vile slave! whom speedy vengeance shall pursue, "And terrify thy base seditious crew:

"Thy country and thy parentage reveal,

"And why thou join'st in these mad orgies, tell."
The captive views him with undaunted eyes,
And, arm'd with inward innocence, replies.
"From high Meonia's rocky shores I came,
"Of poor descent, Acœtes is my name:
"My sire was meanly born; no oxen plough'd
"His fruitful fields, nor in his pastures low'd.
"His whole estate within the waters lay;
“With lines and hooks he caught the finny prey.
"His art was all his livelihood; which he
"Thus with his dying lips bequeath'd to me:
"In streams, my boy, and rivers take thy chance;
"There swims,' said he, 'thy whole inheritance.'
"Long did I live on this poor legacy;
"Till tir'd with rocks, and my own native sky,
"To arts of navigation I inclin'd;

"Observ'd the turns and changes of the wind:
"Learn'd the fit havens, and began to note
"The stormy Hyades, the rainy Goat,
"The bright Taygete, and the shining Bears,
"With all the sailor's catalogue of stars.

"Once, as by chance for Delos I design'd, "My vessel, driv'n by a strong gust of wind, "Moor'd in a Chian creek; ashore I went, "And all the following night in Chios spent. "When morning rose, I sent my mates to bring "Supplies of water from a neighb'ring spring, "Whilst I the motion of the winds explor'd; "Then summon'd in my crew, and went aboard.

“ Opheltes heard my summons, and with joy
"Brought to the shore a soft and lovely boy,
"With more than female sweetness in his look,
"Whom straggling in the neighb'ring fields he took.
"With fumes of wine the little captive glows,
"And nods with sleep, and staggers as he goes.
"I view'd him nicely, and began to trace
"Each heavenly feature, each immortal grace,
"And saw divinity in all his face.

"I know not who,' said I, 'this god should be ;
"But that he is a god I plainly see:

"And thou, whoe'er thou art, excuse the force

“ These men have us'd; and oh! befriend our course!' "Pray not for us,' the nimble Dictys cried; "Dictys, that could the main top-mast bestride, "And down the ropes with active vigour slide. "To the same purpose old Epopeus spoke, "Who overlook'd the oars, and timed the stroke; "The same the pilot, and the same the rest; "Such impious avarice their souls possest. 666 Nay, heaven forbid that I should bear away "Within my vessel so divine a prey,'

"Said I; and stood to hinder their intent:
"When Lycabas, a wretch for murder sent
"From Tuscany, to suffer banishment,

"With his clench'd fist had struck me overboard,
"Had not my hands in falling grasp'd a cord.
"His base confederates the fact approve;

"When Bacchus (for 'twas he) began to move,
"Wak'd by the noise and clamours which they rais'd;
"And shook his drowsy limbs, and round him gaz'd:

"What means this noise?' he cries; 'am I betray'd? “Ah! whither, whither must I be convey'd?'

"Fear not,' said Proreus, 'child, but tell us where
"You wish to land, and trust our friendly care.'
""To Naxos then direct your course,' said he;
"Naxos a hospitable port shall be

"To each of you, a joyful home to me.'

[ocr errors]

By every god, that rules the sea or sky, "The perjur'd villains promise to comply, "And bid me hasten to unmoor the ship. “With eager joy I launch into the deep; "And, heedless of the fraud, for Naxos stand: "They whisper oft, and beckon with the hand, "And give me signs, all anxious for their "To tack about, and steer another way. "Then let some other to my post succeed,' "Said I, 'I'm guiltless of so foul a deed.'


"What,' says Ethalion, 'must the ship's whole crew "Follow your humour, and depend on you?' "And straight himself he seated at the prore, "And tack'd about, and sought another shore. "The beauteous youth now found himself betray'd, "And from the deck the rising waves survey'd, "And seem'd to weep, and as he wept he said; 666 And do you thus my easy faith beguile? "Thus do you bear me to my native isle? "Will such a multitude of men employ "Their strength against a weak defenceless boy?' "In vain did I the godlike youth deplore, "The more I begg’d they thwarted me the more. "And now by all the gods in heaven that hear "This solemn oath, by Bacchus' self, I swear,

"The mighty miracle that did ensue,

"Although it seems beyond belief, is true.
"The vessel, fix'd and rooted in the flood,
"Unmov'd by all the beating billows stood.
"In vain the mariners would plough the main
"With sails unfurl'd, and strike their oars in vain;
"Around their oars a twining ivy cleaves,

“ And climbs the mast, and hides the cords in leaves : "The sails are cover'd with a cheerful green,

"And berries in the fruitful canvas seen.
"Amidst the waves a sudden forest rears
"Its verdant head, and a new spring appears.
"The god we now behold with open eyes;
"A herd of spotted panthers round him lies
"In glaring forms; the grapy clusters spread
"On his fair brows, and dangle on his head.
"And whilst he frowns, and brandishes his spear,


My mates, surpris'd with madness or with fear, "Leap'd overboard; first perjur'd Madon found "Rough scales and fins his stiff'ning sides surround; “Ah what,' cries one, ‘has thus tranform'd thy look ?” "Straight his own mouth grew wider as he spoke ; "And now himself he views with like surprise. "Still at his oar th' industrious Libys plies; "But, as he plies, each busy arm shrinks in, "And by degrees is fashion'd to a fin. "Another, as he catches at a cord, "Misses his arms, and, tumbling overboard, "With his broad fins and forky tail he laves "The rising surge, and flounces in the waves. "Thus all my crew transform'd around the ship, "Or dive below, or on the surface leap,

"And spout the waves, and wanton in the deep.

"Full nineteen sailors did the ship convey,
"A shoal of nineteen dolphins round her play.
"I only in my proper shape appear,

[ocr errors]

Speechless with wonder, and half dead with fear, "Till Bacchus kindly bid me fear no more.

"With him I landed on the Chian shore, “And him shall ever gratefully adore."

"This forging slave," says Pentheus, "would prevail, "O'er our just fury by a far-fetch'd tale: "Go, let him feel the whips, the swords, the fire, "And in the tortures of the rack expire." Th' officious servants hurry him away, And the poor captive in a dungeon lay. But, whilst the whips and tortures are prepar'd, The gates fly open, of themselves unbarr'd; At liberty th' unfetter'd captive stands,

And flings the loosen'd shackles from his hands.


BUT Pentheus, grown more furious than before,
Resolv'd to send his messengers no more,
But went himself to the distracted throng,
Where high Citharon echoed with their song.
And as the fiery warhorse paws the ground,
And snorts and trembles at the trumpet's sound;
Transported thus he heard the frantic rout,
And rav'd and madden'd at the distant shout.

A spacious circuit on the hill there stood,
Level and wide, and skirted round with wood;
Here the rash Pentheus, with unhallow'd eyes,
The howling dames and mystic orgies spies.

« PreviousContinue »