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Where the king's daughter, with a lovely train
Of fellow-nymphs, was sporting on the plain.
The dignity of empire laid aside,
(For love but ill agrees with kingly pride,)
The ruler of the skies, the thundering god,
Who shakes the world's foundations with a nod,
Among a herd of lowing heifers ran,
Frisk'd in a bull, and bellow'd o'er the plain.
Large rolls of fat about his shoulders clung,
And from his neck the double dewlap hung.
His skin was whiter than the snow that lies
Unsullied by the breath of southern skies;
Small shining horns on his curl'd forehead stand,
As turn'd and polish'd by the workman's hand:
His eyeballs roll'd, not formidably bright,
But gaz'd and languish'd with a gentle light.
His every look was peaceful, and exprest
The softness of the lover in the beast.
Agenor's royal daughter, as she play'd
Among the fields, the milkwhite bull survey'd,
And view'd his spotless body with delight,
And at a distance kept him in her sight.
At length she pluck'd the rising flowers, and fed
The gentle beast, and fondly strok'd his head.
He stood well pleas'd to touch the charming fair,
But hardly could confine his pleasure there,
And now he wantons o'er the neighb'ring strand,
Now rolls his body on the yellow sand;
And now, perceiving all her fears decay'd,
Comes tossing forward to the royal maid;
Gives her his breast to stroke, and downward turns His grisly brow, and gently stoops his horns.
In flow'ry wreaths the royal virgin drest
His bending horns, and kindly clapp'd his breast.
Till now grown wanton, and devoid of fear,
Not knowing that she press'd the thunderer,
She plac'd herself upon his back, and rode
O'er fields and meadows, seated on the god.
He gently march'd along, and by degrees
Left the dry meadow, and approach'd the seas;
Where now he dips his hoofs, and wets his thighs,
Now plunges in, and carries off the prize.
The frighted nymph looks backward on the shore,
And hears the tumbling billows round her roar;
But still she holds him fast: one hand is borne
Upon his back; the other grasps a horn:
Her train of ruffling garments flies behind,
Swells in the air, and hovers in the wind.
Through storms and tempests he the virgin bore,
And lands her safe on the Dictean shore;
Where now, in his divinest form array'd,
In his true shape he captivates the maid :
Who gazes on him, and with wond'ring eyes
Beholds the new majestic figure rise,
His glowing features, and celestial light,
And all the god discover'd to her sight.
WHEN now Agenor had his daughter lost,
He sent his son to search on every coast;
And sternly bid him to his arms restore
The darling maid, or see his face no more,
But live an exile in a foreign clime;
Thus was the father pious to a crime.
The restless youth search'd all the world around;
But how can Jove in his amours be found?
When tir'd at length with unsuccessful toil,
To shun his angry sire and native soil,
He goes a suppliant to the Delphic dome,
There asks the god what new appointed home
Should end his wand'rings, and his toils relieve.
The Delphic oracles this answer give :
"Behold among the fields a lonely cow, "Unworn with yokes, unbroken to the plough; "Mark well the place where first she lays her down,
"There measure out thy walls, and build thy town,
"And from thy guide Boeotia call the land,
"In which the destin'd walls and town shall stand."
No sooner had he left the dark abode,
Big with the promise of the Delphic god,
When in the fields the fatal cow he view'd,
Nor gall'd with yokes nor worn with servitude:
Her gently at a distance he pursued;
And as he walk'd aloof, in silence pray'd
To the great power whose counsels he obey'd.
Her way through flow'ry Panopè she took,
And now, Cephisus, cross'd thy silver brook;
When to the heavens her spacious front she rais'd,
And bellow'd thrice, then backward turning gaz'd
On those behind, till on the destin'd place
She stoop'd, and couch'd amid the rising grass.
Cadmus salutes the soil, and gladly hails
The new-found mountains, and the nameless vales,
And thanks the gods, and turns about his eye
To see his new dominions round him lie;
Then sends his servants to a neighb'ring grove
For living streams, a sacrifice to Jove.
O'er the wide plain there rose a shady wood
Of aged trees; in its dark bosom stood
A bushy thicket, pathless and unworn,
O'errun with brambles, and perplex'd with thorn:
Amidst the brake a hollow den was found,
With rocks and shelving arches vaulted round.
Deep in the dreary den, conceal'd from day,
Sacred to Mars, a mighty dragon lay,
Bloated with poison to a monstrous size;
Fire broke in flashes when he glanc'd his eyes:
His tow'ring crest was glorious to behold,
His shoulders and his sides were scal'd with gold;
Three tongues he brandish'd when he charg'd his foes;
His teeth stood jaggy in three dreadful rows.
The Tyrians in the den for water sought,
And with their urns explor'd the hollow vault:
From side to side their empty urns rebound,
And rouse the sleepy serpent with the sound.
Straight he bestirs him, and is seen to rise;
And now with dreadful hissings fills the skies,
And darts his forky tongues, and rolls his glaring eyes.
The Tyrians drop their vessels in the fright,
All pale and trembling at the hideous sight.
Spire above spire uprear'd in air he stood,
And gazing round him, overlook'd the wood:
Then floating on the ground, in circles roll'd;
Then leap'd upon them in a mighty fold.
Of such a bulk, and such a monstrous size,
The serpent in the polar circle lies,
That stretches over half the northern skies.
In vain the Tyrians on their arms rely,
In vain attempt to fight, in vain to fly :
All their endeavours and their hopes are vain ;
Some die entangled in the winding train;
Some are devour'd; or feel a loathsome death,
Swoln up with blasts of pestilential breath.
And now the scorching sun was mounted high,
In all its lustre, to the noonday sky;
When, anxious for his friends, and fill'd with cares,
To search the woods the impatient chief prepares.
A lion's hide around his loins he wore,
The well-pois'd jav'lin to the field he bore,