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DAUGHTER of Pæon, queen of every joy,
Hygeia'; whose indulgent smile sustains
The various race luxuriant Nature pours,
And on the immortal essences bestows
Immortal youth ; auspicious, 0 descend !
Thou cheerful guardian of the rolling year,
Whether thou wantonest on the western gale,
Or shakest the rigid pinions of the north,
Diffusest life and vigour through the tracts
Of air, through earth, and ocean's deep domain.
When through the blue serenity of heaven
Thy power approaches, all the wasteful host
Of Pain and Sickness, squalid and deform'd,
Hygeia, the goddess of health, was, according to the genealogy of the heathen deities, the daughter of Æsculapius ; who, as well as Apollo, was distinguished by the name of Pæon.
Confounded sink into the loathsome gloom,
Where, in deep Erebus involved, the fiends
Grow more profane. Whatever shapes of death,
Shook from the hideous chambers of the globe,
Swarm through the shuddering air; whatever
Or meagre famine breeds, or with slow wings
Rise from the putrid watery element,
The damp waste forest, motionless and rank,
That smothers earth and all the breathless winds,
Or the vile carnage of the inhuman field;
Whatever baneful breathes the rotten south;
Whatever ills the extremes or sudden change
Of cold and hot, or moist and dry produce ;
They fly thy pure effulgence: they, and all
The secret poisons of avenging Heaven,
And all the pale tribes halting in the train
Of Vice and heedless Pleasure: or if aught
The comet's glare amid the burning sky,
Mournful eclipse, or planets ill-combined,
Portend disastrous to the vital world;
Thy salutary power averts their rage,
Averts the general bane: and but for thee
Nature would sicken, Nature soon would die.
Without thy cheerful active energy
No rapture swells the breast, no poet sings,
No more the maids of Helicon delight.
Come then with me, O goddess, heavenly gay!
Begin the song; and let it sweetly flow,
And let it wisely teach thy wholesome laws :
How best the fickle fabric to support
Of mortal man; in healthful body how
A healthful mind the longest to maintain.'
"Tis hard, in such a strife of rules, to choose
The best, and those of most extensive use;
Harder, in clear and animated song,
Dry philosophic precepts to convey.
Yet with thy aid the secret wilds I trace
Of Nature, and with daring steps proceed
Through paths the Muses never trod before.
Nor should I wander doubtful of my way,
Had I the lights of that sagacious mind
Which taught to check the pestilential fire,
And quell the deadly Python of the Nile.
O thou beloved by all the graceful arts,
Thou long the favourite of the healing powers,
Indulge, 0 Mead! a well-design'd essay,
Howe'er imperfect: and permit that I
My little knowledge with my country share,
Till you the rich Asclepian stores unlock,
And with new graces dignify the theme.
Ye who amid this feverish world would wear
A body free of pain, of cares a mind;
Fly the rank city, shun its turbid air ;
Breathe not the chaos of eternal smoke
And volatile corruption, from the dead,
The dying, sickening, and the living world
Exhaled, to sully heaven's transparent dome
With dim mortality. It is not air
That from a thousand lungs reeks back to thine,
Sated with exhalations rank and fell,
The spoil of dunghills, and the putrid thaw
Of Nature; when from shape and texture she
Relapses into fighting elements ::
It is not air, but floats a nauseous mass
Of all obscene, corrupt, offensive things.
Much moisture hurts; but here a sordid bath,
With oily rancour fraught, relaxes more