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And bit the spear, and wrenched the wood away;
The point still buried in the marrow lay.
And now his rage, increasing with his pain,
Reddens his eyes, and beats in every vein;
Churned in his teeth the foamy venom rose,
Whilst from his mouth a blast of vapours flows,
Such as the infernal Stygian waters cast;
The plants around him wither in the blast.
Now in a maze of rings he lies enrolled,
Now all unravelled, and without a fold;
Now, like a torrent, with a mighty force,
Bears down the forest in his boisterous course.
Cadmus gave back, and on the lion's spoil
Sustained the shock, then forced him to recoil;
The pointed javelin warded off his rage:
Mad with his pains, and furious to engage,
The serpent champs the steel, and bites the spear,
Till blood and venom all the point besmear.
But still the hurt he yet received was slight;
For, whilst the champion with redoubled might
Strikes home the javelin, his retiring foe
Shrinks from the wound, and disappoints the blow.
The dauntless hero still pursues his stroke,
And presses forward, till a knotty oak
Retards his foe, and stops him in the rear;
Full in his throat he plunged the fatal spear,
That in the extended neck a passage found,
And pierced the solid timber through the wound.
Fixed to the reeling trunk, with many a stroke
Of his huge tail, he lashed the sturdy oak;
Till spent with toil, and labouring hard for breath,
He now lay twisting in the pangs of death.
Cadmus beheld him wallow in a flood
Of swimming poison, intermixed with blood;
When suddenly a speech was heard from high,
(The speech was heard, nor was the speaker nigh,)
Why dost thou thus with secret pleasure see,
Insulting man! what thou thyself shalt be?"
Astonished at the voice, he stood amazed,
And all around with inward horror gazed:
When Pallas, swift descending from the skies,
Pallas, the guardian of the bold and wise,
Bids him plough up the field, and scatter round
The dragon's teeth o'er all the furrowed ground;
Then tells the youth how to his wondering eyes
Embattled armies from the field should rise.
He sows the teeth at Pallas's command,
And flings the future people from his hand.
The clods grow warm, and crumble where he sows;
And now the pointed spears advance in rows;
Now nodding plumes appear, and shining crests,
Now the broad shoulders and the rising breasts;
O'er all the field the breathing harvest swarms,
A growing host, a crop of men and arms.
So through the parting stage a figure rears
Its body up, and limb by limb appears
By just degrees; till all the man arise,
And in his full proportion strikes the eyes.
Cadmus surprised, and startled at the sight
Of his new foes, prepared himself for fight:
When one cried out, "Forbear, fond man,
To mingle in a blind, promiscuous war."
This said, he struck his brother to the ground,
Himself expiring by another's wound;
Nor did the third his conquest long survive,
Dying ere scarce he had begun to live.
The dire example ran through all the field,
Till heaps of brothers were by brothers killed;
The furrows swam in blood: and only five
Of all the vast increase were left alive.
Echion one, at Pallas's command,
Let fall the guiltless weapon from his hand;
And with the rest a peaceful treaty makes,
Whom Cadmus as his friends and partners takes :
So founds a city on the promised earth,
And gives his new Boeotian empire birth.
Here Cadmus reigned; and now one would have guessed The royal founder in his exile blest: Long did he live within his new abodes, Allied by marriage to the deathless gods; And, in a fruitful wife's embraces old, A long increase of children's children told: But no frail man, however great or high, Can be concluded blest before he die.
Acteon was the first of all his race,
Who grieved his grandsire in his borrowed face;
Condemned by stern Diana to bemoan
The branching horns, and visage not his own;
To shun his once-loved dogs, to bound away,
And from their huntsman to become their prey.
And yet consider why the change was wrought,
You'll find it his misfortune, not his fault;
Or if a fault, it was the fault of chance :
For how can guilt proceed from ignorance?
THE TRANSFORMATION OF ACTÆON INTO A STAG.
In a fair chase a shady mountain stood,
Well stored with game, and marked with trails of blood.
Here did the huntsmen till the heat of day
Pursue the stag, and load themselves with prey;
When thus Acteon calling to the rest:
"My friends," says he, "our sport is at the best.
The sun is high advanced, and downward sheds
His burning beams directly on our heads;
Then by consent abstain from further spoils,
Call off the dogs, and gather up the toils;
And ere to-morrow's sun begins his race,
Take the cool morning to renew the chase."
They all consent, and in a cheerful train
The jolly huntsmen, loaden with the slain,
Return in triumph from the sultry plain.
Down in a vale with pine and cypress clad,
Refreshed with gentle winds, and brown with shade,
The chaste Diana's private haunt, there stood
Full in the centre of the darksome wood
A spacious grotto, all around o'ergrown
With hoary moss, and arched with pumice-stone.
From out its rocky clefts the waters flow,
And trickling swell into a lake below.
Nature had everywhere so played her part,
That everywhere she seemed to vie with art.
Here the bright goddess, toiled and chafed with heat,
Was wont to bathe her in the cool retreat.
Here did she now with all her train resort, Panting with heat, and breathless from the sport;
Her armour-bearer laid her bow aside,
Some loosed her sandals, some her veil untied;
Each busy nymph her proper part undrest;
While Crocale, more handy than the rest,
Gathered her flowing hair, and in a noose
Bound it together, whilst her own hung loose.
Five of the more ignoble sort by turns
the water, and unlade their urns.
Now all undrest the shining goddess stood,
When young Acton, wildered in the wood,
To the cool grot by his hard fate betrayed,
The fountains filled with naked nymphs surveyed.
The frighted virgins shrieked at the surprise,
(The forest echoed with their piercing cries,)
Then in a huddle round their goddess prest:
She, proudly eminent above the rest,
With blushes glowed; such blushes as adorn
The ruddy welkin, or the purple morn;
And though the crowding nymphs her body hide,
Half backward shrunk, and viewed him from aside.
Surprised, at first she would have snatched her bow,
But sees the circling waters round her flow;
These in the hollow of her hand she took,
And dashed 'em in his face, while thus she spoke : "Tell if thou canst the wondrous sight disclosed, A goddess naked to thy view exposed."
This said, the man began to disappear
By slow degrees, and ended in a deer.
A rising horn on either brow he wears,
And stretches out his neck, and pricks his ears;
Rough is his skin, with sudden hairs o'ergrown,
His bosom pants with fears before unknown.
Transformed at length, he flies away in haste,
And wonders why he flies away so fast.
But as by chance, within a neighbouring brook,
He saw his branching horns and altered look,
Wretched Acteon! in a doleful tone
He tried to speak, but only gave a groan;
And as he wept, within the watery glass
He saw the big round drops, with silent pace,
Run trickling down a savage hairy face.
What should he do? Or seek his old abodes,
Or herd among the deer, and skulk in woods?
Here shame dissuades him, there his fear prevails,
And each by turns his aching heart assails.
As he thus ponders, he behind him spies
His opening hounds, and now he hears their cries:
A generous pack, or to maintain the chase,
Or snuff the vapour from the scented
He bounded off with fear, and swiftly ran O'er craggy mountains, and the flowery plain; Through brakes and thickets forced his way, and flew Through many a ring, where once he did pursue. In vain he oft endeavoured to proclaim His new misfortune, and to tell his name; Nor voice nor words the brutal tongue supplies; From shouting men, and horns, and dogs he flies, Deafened and stunned with their promiscuous cries. When now the fleetest of the pack, that prest Close at his heels, and sprung before the rest, Had fastened on him, straight another pair Hung on his wounded haunch, and held him there, Till all the pack came up, and every hound Tore the sad huntsman, grovelling on the ground, Who now appeared but one continued wound. With dropping tears his bitter fate he moans, And fills the mountain with his dying groans. His servants with a piteous look he spies, And turns about his supplicating eyes. His servants, ignorant of what had chanced, With eager haste and joyful shouts advanced, And called their lord Actæon to the game: He shook his head in answer to the name; He heard, but wished he had indeed been gone, Or only to have stood a looker-on. But, to his grief, he finds himself too near, And feels his ravenous dogs with fury tear Their wretched master, panting in a deer.
THE BIRTH OF BACCHUS.
Acteon's sufferings, and Diana's rage,
Did all the thoughts of men and gods engage;