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Pleased with the form and coolness of the place,1
And over-heated by the morning chase,
Narcissus on the grassy verdure lies:
But whilst within the crystal fount he tries
To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise.
For as his own bright image he surveyed,
He fell in love with the fantastic shade;
And o'er the fair resemblance hung unmoved,
Nor knew, fond youth! it was himself he loved.
The well-turned neck and shoulders he descries,
The spacious forehead, and the sparkling eyes;
The hands that Bacchus might not scorn to show,
And hair that round Apollo's head might flow,
With all the purple youthfulness of face,
That gently blushes in the watery glass.
By his own flames consumed the lover lies,
And gives himself the wound by which he dies.
To the cold water oft he joins his lips,
Oft catching at the beauteous shade he dips
His arms, as often from himself he slips.
Nor knows he who it is his arms pursue
With eager clasps, but loves he knows not who.
What could, fond youth, this helpless passion move?
What kindle in thee this unpitied love?
Thy own warm blush within the water glows,
With thee the coloured shadow comes and goes,
Its empty being on thyself relies;
Step thou aside, and the frail charmer dies.
Still o'er the fountain's watery gleam he stood,
Mindless of sleep, and negligent of food;
Still viewed his face, and languished as he viewed.
At length he raised his head, and thus began
To vent his griefs, and tell the woods his pain.
"You trees," says he, "and thou surrounding grove,
Who oft have been the kindly scenes of love,
Tell me, if e'er within your shades did lie
A youth so tortured, so perplexed as I?
I who before me see the charming fair,
Whilst there he stands, and yet he stands not there:
1 Pleased with the form and coolness of the place.] Easier and better than the original,—"faciemque loci, fontemque secutus;" yet without losing the Ovidian turn of expression.
In such a maze of love my thoughts are lost;
And yet no bulwarked town, nor distant coast,
Preserves the beauteous youth from being seen,
No mountains rise, nor oceans flow between.
A shallow water hinders my embrace;
And yet the lovely mimic wears a face
That kindly smiles, and when I bend to join
My lips to his, he fondly bends to mine.
Hear, gentle youth, and pity my complaint,
Come from thy well, thou fair inhabitant.
My charms an easy conquest have obtained
O'er other hearts, by thee alone disdained.
But why should I despair? I'm sure he burns
With equal flames, and languishes by turns.
Whene'er I stoop he offers at a kiss,
And when my arms I stretch, he stretches his.
His eye with pleasure on my face he keeps,
He smiles my smiles, and when I weep he weeps.
Whene'er I speak, his moving lips appear
To utter something, which I cannot hear.
"Ah wretched me! I now begin too late
To find out all the long-perplexed deceit ;
It is myself I love, myself I see;
The gay delusion is a part of me.
I kindle up the fires by which I burn,
And my own beauties from the well return.
Whom should I court? how utter my complaint?
Enjoyment but produces my restraint,
And too much plenty makes me die for want.
How gladly would I from myself remove!
And at a distance set the thing I love.
My breast is warmed with such unusual fire, I wish him absent whom I most desire. And now I faint with grief; my fate draws nigh; In all the pride of blooming youth I die. Death will the sorrows of my heart relieve. * Oh, might the visionary youth survive, I should with joy my latest breath resign! But oh! I see his fate involved in mine."
This said, the weeping youth again returned To the clear fountain, where again he burned;
His tears defaced the surface of the well
With circle after circle, as they fell:
And now the lovely face but half appears,
O'errun with wrinkles, and deformed with tears.
"Ah whither," cries Narcissus, "dost thou fly?
Let me still feed the flame by which I die;
Let me still see, though I'm no further blest."
Then rends his garment off, and beats his breast:
His naked bosom reddened with the blow,
In such a blush as purple clusters show,
Ere yet the sun's autumnal heats refine
Their sprightly juice, and mellow it to wine.
The glowing beauties of his breast he spies,
And with a new redoubled passion dies.
As wax dissolves, as ice begins to run,
And trickle into drops before the sun;
So melts the youth, and languishes away,
His beauty withers, and his limbs decay;
And none of those attractive charms remain,
To which the slighted Echo sued in vain.
She saw him in his present misery,
Whom, spite of all her wrongs, she grieved to see.
She answered sadly to the lover's moan,
Sighed back his sighs, and groaned to every groan:
"Ah youth! beloved in vain," Narcissus cries;
"Ah youth! beloved in vain," the nymph replies.
Farewell," says he; the parting sound scarce fell
From his faint lips, but she replied, "Farewell."
Then on the unwholesome earth he gasping lies,
Till death shuts up those self-admiring eyes.
To the cold shades his flitting ghost retires,
And in the Stygian waves itself admires.
For him the Naiads and the Dryads mourn,
Whom the sad Echo answers in her turn;
And now the sister-nymphs prepare his urn:
When, looking for his corpse, they only found
A rising stalk, with yellow blossoms crowned.
This sad event gave blind Tiresias fame, Through Greece established in a prophet's name.
The unhallowed Pentheus only durst deride
The cheated people, and their eyeless guide,
To whom the prophet in his fury said,
Shaking the hoary honours of his head;
""Twere well, presumptuous man, 'twere well for thee
If thou wert eyeless too, and blind, like me :
For the time comes, nay, 'tis already here,
When the young god's solemnities appear;
Which, if thou dost not with just rites adorn,
Thy impious carcass, into pieces torn,
Shall strew the woods, and hang on every thorn.
Then, then, remember what I now foretell,
And own the blind Tiresias saw too well."
Still Pentheus scorns him, and derides his skill,
But time did all the promised threats fulfil.
For now through prostrate Greece young Bacchus rode,
Whilst howling matrons celebrate the god.
All ranks and sexes to his orgies ran,
To mingle in the pomps, and fill the train.
When Pentheus thus his wicked rage express'd;
"What madness, Thebans, has your soul possess'd?
Can hollow timbrels, can a drunken shout,
And the lewd clamours of a beastly rout,
Thus quell your courage? can the weak alarm
Of women's yells those stubborn souls disarm,
Whom nor the sword nor trumpet e'er could fright,
Nor the loud din and horror of a fight?
And you, our sires, who left your old abodes,
And fixed in foreign earth your country gods
Will you without a stroke your city yield,
And poorly quit an undisputed field ?
But you, whose youth and vigour should inspire
Heroic warmth, and kindle martial fire,
Whom burnished arms and crested helmets grace,
Not flowery garlands and a painted face;
Remember him to whom you stand allied:
The serpent for his well of waters died.
He fought the strong; do you his courage show,
And gain a conquest o'er a feeble foe.
If Thebes must fall, oh might the Fates afford
A nobler doom from famine, fire, or sword!
Then might the Thebans perish with renown:
But now a beardless victor sacks the town;
Whom nor the prancing steed, nor ponderous shield,
Nor the hacked helmet, nor the dusty field,
But the soft joys of luxury and ease,
The purple vests, and flowery garlands, please.
Stand then aside, I'll make the counterfeit
Renounce his godhead, and confess the cheat.
Acrisius from the Grecian walls repelled
This boasted power; why then should Pentheus yield?
Go quickly, drag the audacious boy to me;
I'll try the force of his divinity."
Thus did the audacious wretch those rites profane;
His friends dissuade the audacious wretch in vain;
In vain his grandsire urged him to give o'er
His impious threats; the wretch but raves the more.
So have I seen a river gently glide,
In a smooth course and inoffensive tide;
But if with dams its current we restrain,
It bears down all, and foams along the plain.
But now his servants came besmeared with blood, Sent by their haughty prince to seize the god; The god they found not in the frantic throng, But dragged a zealous votary along.
THE MARINERS TRANSFORMED TO DOLPHINS.
Him Pentheus viewed with fury in his look, And scarce withheld his hands, while thus he spoke : "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, armed 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 ploughed
His fruitful fields, nor in his pastures lowed.
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 bequeathed to me: