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The fourteenth book concludes with the death and deification
of Romulus: the fifteenth begins with the election of Numa to the crown of Rome. On this occafion, Ovid, following the opinion of some authors, makes Numa the scholar of Pythagoras ; and to have begun his acquaintance with that philosopher at Crotona, a town in Italy; from thence be makes a digreffion to the moral and natural philofophy of Pythagoras : on both which our author enlarges; and which are the most learned and beautiful parts of the Metamorphoses.
King is fought to guide the growing state,
One able to support the publick weight,
And fill the throne where Romulus had fate.
Renown, which oft bespeaks the publick voice,
Had recommended Numa to their choice:
A peaceful, pious prince; who, not content
To know the Sabine rights, his study bent
To cultivate his mind : to learn the laws
Of nature, and explore their hidden cause.
Urg’d by this care, his country he forfook,
And to Crotona thence his journey took.
Arriv'd, he first enquir'd the founder's name
Of this new colony; and whence he came.
Then thus a senior of the place replies,
(Well read, and curious of antiquities)
'Tis faid, Alcides hither took his way
From Spain, and drove along his conquer'd prey ;
Then, leaving in the fields his grazing cows,
He fought himself some hospitable house :
Good Croton entertain's his godlike guest ;
While he repair'd his weary limbs with reft.
The hero, thence departing, bless'd the place;
And here, he said, in Time's revolving race,
A rising town hall take its name from thee ;
Revolving Time fulfill'd the prophecy :
For Myfcelos, the juftest man on earth,
Alemon's son, at Argos had his birth :
Him Hercules, arm'd with his club of oak,
O'ershadow'd in a dream, and thus bespoke ;
Go, leave thy native soil, and make abode
Where Æsaris rolls down his rapid food;
He said ; and sleep forsook him, and the God.
Trembling he wak’d, and rose with anxious heart;
His country laws forbad him to depart:
What should he do? 'Twas death to go away ;
And the God menac'd if he dar'd to stay :
All day he doubted, and when night came on,
Sleep, and the same forewarning dream, begun :
Once more the God stood threatning o'er his head ;
With added curses if he disobey'd.
Twice warn'd, he study'd fight; but would convey,
At once, his person and his wealth away :
Thus while he linger'd, his design was heard ;
A speedy process form'd, and death declar'd.
Witness there needed none of his offence,
Against himself the wretch was evidence :
Condemn'd, and deftitute of human aid,
To him, for whom he suffer'd, thus he pray'd.
O Pow'r, who haft deserv'd in heav'n a throne
Not giv'n, but by thy labours made thy own,
Pity thy suppliant, and protect his cause,
Whom thou hast made obnoxious to the laws.
A custom was of old, and still remains, Wbich life or death by suffrages ordains; White stones and black within an urn are caft, The first abfolve, but fate is in the laft. The judges to the common urn bequeath Their votes, and drop the sable signs of death ; The box receives all black; but pour'd from thence The stones came candid forth, the hue of innocence. Thus Alimonides his safety won, Preserv'd from death by Alcumena's fon : Then to his kinsman God his vows he pays, And cuts with prosp'rous gales th’ Ionian feas: He leaves Tarentum, favour'd by the wind, And Thurine bays, and Temises, behind; Soft Sibaris, and all the capes that stand Along the more, he makes in fight of land; Still doubling, and still coafting, till he found The inoath of Æfaris, and promis'd ground: Then saw where, on the margin of the flood, The tomb that held the bones of Croton stood : Here, by the God's command, he built and wall'd The place predicted ; and Crotona call'd: Thus fame, from time to time, delivers down The fure tradition of th' Italian town.
Here dwelt the man divine whom Samos bore, Bat now self-banilh'd from his native shore, Because he hated tyrants, nor could bear The chains which none but fervile souls will wear': He, tho' from heav'n remote, to heav'n could move, With strength of mind, and tread th’abyss above; And penetrate, with his interiour light, Those upper depths, which Nature hid from fight: And what he had obferv’d, and learnt from thence, Lov'd in familiar language to dispense.
The crowd with silent admiration stand, And heard him, as they heard their God's command ;
While he discours’d of heav'n's mysterious laws,
The world's original, and nature's cause;
And what was God, and why the fleecy snows
In filence fell, and rattling winds arole ;
What shook the stedfast earth, and whence begun
The dance of planets round the radiant sun;
If thunder was the voice of angry Jove,
Or clouds, with nitre pregnant, burst above :
Of these, and things beyond the common reach,
He spoke, and charm’d his audience with his speech.
He firit the taste of flesh from tables drove,
And argu'd well, if arguments could move.
O mortals ! from your fellows blood abstain,
Nor taint your bodies with a food profane :
While corn and pulse by nature are bestow'd,
And planted orchards bend their willing load ;
While labour'd gardens wholsome herbs produce,
And teeming vines afford their gen'rous juice ;
Nor tardier fruits of cruder kind are lost,
But tam'd with fire, or mellow'd by the frost;
While kine to pails diftended udders bring,
And bees their honey redolent of spring;
While earth not only can your needs supply,
But, lavish of her store, provides for luxury ;
A guiltless feast adminifters with ease,
And without blood is prodigal to please.
Wild beasts their maws with their slain brethren fill,
And yet not all, for some refuse to kill:
Sheep, goats, and oxen, and the nobler steed,
On browse, and corn, the flow'ry meadows feed.
Bears, tigers, wolves, the lion's angry brood,
Whom heav'n endu'd with principles of blood,
He wisely funder'd from the rest, to yell
In forests, and in lonely caves to dwell,
Where stronger beasts oppress the weak by might,
And all in prey and purple feats delight.
O impious use! to Nature's laws oppos'd,
Where bowels are in other bowels clos'd:
Where, fattend by their fellow's fat, they thrive;
Maintain'd by murder, and by death they live.
'Tis then for nought that mother-earth provides
The stores of all the shows, and all the hides,
If men with Aleshy morsels must be fed,
And chaw with bloody teeth the breathing bread;
What else is this but to devour our guests,
And barb'rously renew Cyclopean feafts !
We, by destroying life, our life sustain ;
And gorge th’ungodly maw with meats obscene.
Not so the golden age, who fed on fruit,
Nor durft with bloody meals their mouths pollute.
Then birds in airy space might safely move,
And tim'rous hares on heaths securely rove :
Nor needed fish the guileful hooks to fear,
For all was peaceful, and that peace fincere.
Whoever was the wretch (and curs'd be he)
That envy'd firft our food's fimplicity ;
Th'essay of bloody feasts on brutes began,
And after forg'd the sword to murder man.
Had he the sharpen’d steel alone employ'd
On beasts of prey that other beasts destroy'd,
Or men invaded with their fangs and paws,
This had been juftify'd by Nature's laws,
And self-defence : but who did feasts begin
Of flesh, he stretch'd necessity to fin.
To kill man-killers, man has lawful pow'r,
But not th' extended licence, to devour.
Ill habits gather by unseen degrees,
As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas.
The fow, with her broad snout for rooting up
Th’intrusted seed, was judg'd to spoil the crop, '
And intercept the sweating farmer's hope :
The covetous churl, of unforgiving kind,
Th' offender to the bloody priest refign'd: