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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Translations
Æsacus transformed into a Cormorant.
From the Eleventh Book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
 
  THESE 1 some old Man sees wanton in the Air,
And praises the unhappy constant Pair.
Then to his Friend the long-neck’d Corm’rant shews,
The former Tale reviving others Woes:
That sable Bird, he cries, which cuts the Flood        5
With slender Legs, was once of Royal Blood;
His Ancestors from mighty Tros proceed,
The brave Laomedon, and Ganymede,
(Whose Beauty tempted Jove to steal the Boy)
And Priam, hapless Prince! who fell with Troy.        10
Himself was Hector’s Brother, and (had Fate
But giv’n this hopeful Youth a longer Date)
Perhaps had rival’d warlike Hector’s Worth,
Tho’ on the Mother’s side of meaner Birth;
Fair Alyxothoe, 2 a Country Maid,        15
Bare Æsacus by stealth in Ida’s Shade.
He fled the noisy Town, and pompous Court,
Lov’d the lone Hills, and simple rural Sport,
And seldom to the City would resort.
Yet he no rustick Clownishness profest,        20
Nor was soft Love a Stranger to his Breast:
The Youth had long the Nymph Hesperie woo’d,
Oft thro’ the Thicket or the Mead pursu’d:
Her haply on her Father s Bank he spy’d,
While fearless she her silver Tresses dry’d;        25
Away she fled: Not Stags with half such Speed,
Before the prowling Wolf, scud o’er the Mead;
Not Ducks, when they the safer Flood forsake,
Pursu’d by Hawks, so swift regain the Lake.
As fast he follow’d in the hot Career;        30
Desire the Lover wing’d, the Virgin Fear.
A Snake unseen now pierc’d her heedless Foot;
Quick thro’ the Veins the venom’d Juices shoot:
She fell, and ’scaped by Death his fierce Pursuit.
Her lifeless Body, frighted, he embrac’d,        35
And cry’d, Not this I dreaded, but thy Haste:
O had my Love been less, or less thy Fear!
The Victory thus bought is far too dear.
Accursed Snake! Yet I more curs’d than he!
He gave the Wound; the Cause was giv’n by me.        40
Yet none shall say, that unreveng’d you dy’d.
He spoke; then climb’d a Cliff’s o’er-hanging Side
And, resolute, leap’d on the foaming Tide.
Tethys receiv’d him gently on the Wave;
The Death he sought deny’d, and Feathers gave.        45
Debarr’d the surest Remedy of Grief,
And forc’d to live, he curst th’ unask’d Relief.
Then on his airy Pinions upward flies,
And at a second Fall successless tries;
The downy Plume a quick Descent denies.        50
Enrag’d, he often dives beneath the Wave,
And there in vain expects to find a Grave.
His ceaseless Sorrow for th’ unhappy Maid
Meager’d his Look, and on his Spirits prey’d.
Still near the sounding Deep he lives; his Name        55
From frequent Diving and Emerging came.
 
Note 1. Text from Garth’s edition, 1717. [back]
Note 2. Alyxothoe] The editors mostly change to Alexirhoe. Saintsbury gives Alexirrhoe, a form impossible in hexameters. [back]
 
 
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