Page images











LOST in the gloomy horror of the night
We struck upon the coast where Ætna lies,
Horrid and waste, its entrails fraught with fire,
That now casts out dark fumes and pitchy clouds,
Vast showers of ashes hov'ring in the smoke;
Now belches molten stones and ruddy flame
Incens'd, or tears up mountains by the roots,
Or flings a broken rock aloft in air.

The bottom works with smother'd fire involv'd
In pestilential vapours, stench, and smoke.
"Tis said that thunder-struck Enceladus,
Groveling beneath th' incumbent mountain's weight,
Lies stretch'd supine, eternal prey of flames;
And when he heaves against the burning load,
Reluctant, to invert his broiling limbs,

A sudden earthquake shoots through all the isle,
And Ætna thunders dreadful under ground,
Then pours out smoke in wreathing curls convolv'd,
And shades the sun's bright orb, and blots out day.

Here in the shelter of the woods we lodg'd,
And frighted heard strange sounds and dismal yells,
Nor saw from whence they came; for all the night
A murky storm deep low'ring o'er our heads
Hung imminent, that with impervious gloom
Oppos'd itself to Cynthia's silver ray,

And shaded all beneath. But now the sun
With orient beams had chas'd the dewy night
From earth and heav'n; all nature stood disclos'd;
When looking on the neighb'ring woods we saw
The ghastly visage of a man unknown,

An uncouth feature, meager, pale, and wild;
Affliction's foul and terrible dismay

Sat in his looks, his face impair'd and worn
With marks of famine, speaking sore distress;
His locks were tangled, and his shaggy beard
Matted with filth; in all things else a Greek.

He first advanc'd in haste; but when he saw
Trojans and Trojan arms, in mid career
Stopp'd short, he back recoil'd as one surpris'd:
But soon recovering speed, he ran, he flew
Precipitant, and thus with piteous cries
Our ears assail'd: "By heaven's eternal fires,

"By ev'ry god that sits enthron'd on high,

[ocr errors]

By this good light, relieve a wretch forlorn, "And bear me hence to any distant shore, "So I may shun this savage race accurs'd. " "Tis true, I fought among the Greeks, that late "With sword and fire o'erturn'd Neptunian Troy, "And laid the labour of the gods in dust;

"For which, if so the sad offence deserves,

[ocr errors][merged small]

"Whelm'd under seas; if death must be my doom, “Let man inflict it, and I die well pleas'd."

He ended here, and now profuse of tears

In suppliant mood fell prostrate at our feet:
We bade him speak from whence, and what he was,
And how by stress of fortune sunk thus low;
Anchises too with friendly aspect mild
Gave him his hand, sure pledge of amity;
When, thus encourag'd, he began his tale:-
I'm one, says he, of poor descent, my name
Is Achæmenides, my country Greece,
Ulysses' sad compeer, who, whilst he fled
The raging Cyclops, left me here behind
Disconsolate, forlorn; within the cave
He left me, giant Polypheme's dark cave;
A dungeon wide and horrible, the walls
On all sides furr'd with mouldy damps, and hung
With clots of ropy gore; and human limbs
His dire repast: himself of mighty size,
Hoarse in his voice, and in his visage grim,
Intractable, that riots on the flesh

Of mortal men, and swills the vital blood.
Him did I see snatch up with horrid grasp
Two sprawling Greeks; in either hand a man;
I saw him when with huge tempestuous sway
He dash'd and broke them on the groundsel edge;
The pavement swam in blood, the walls around
Were spatter'd o'er with brains. He lapp'd the blood,
And chew'd the tender flesh still warm with life,
That swell'd and heav'd itself amidst his teeth
As sensible of pain. Not less meanwhile
Our chief incens'd, and studious of revenge,

« PreviousContinue »