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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Translations
Of the Pythagorean Philosophy;
From the Fifteenth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
 
          The Fourteenth Book 1 concludes with the Death and Deification of Romulus; The Fifteenth begins with the Election of Numa to the Crown of Rome. On this Occasion, Ovid following the Opinion of some Authors, makes Numa the Schollar of Pythagoras; and to have begun his Acquaintance with that Philosopher at Crotona, a Town in Italy; from thence he makes a Digression to the Moral and Natural Philosophy of Pythagoras: On both which our Author enlarges; and which are the most learned and beautiful Parts of the Metamorphoses.

A KING is sought to guide the growing State,
One able to support the Publick Weight,
And fill the Throne where Romulus had sat.
Renown, which oft bespeaks the Publick Voice,
Had recommended Numa to their Choice:        5
A peaceful, pious Prince; who, not content
To know the Sabine Rites, 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 forsook,        10
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)        15
’Tis said, Alcides hither took his way
From Spain, and drove along his conquer’d Prey,
Then, leaving in the Fields his grazing Cows,
He sought himself some hospitable House.
Good Croton entertain’d his Godlike Guest;        20
While he repair’d his weary Limbs with rest.
The Hero, thence departing, bless’d the Place;
And here, he said, in Times revolving Race,
A rising Town shall take its Name from thee.
Revolving Time fulfill’d the Prophecy:        25
For Myscelos, the justest 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        30
Where Æsaris rowls down his rapid Flood.
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 shou’d he do? ’Twas Death to go away;        35
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.        40
Twice warn’d, he study’d Flight; but wou’d 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,        45
Against himself the Wretch was Evidence:
Condemn’d, and destitute of human Aid,
To him, for whom he suffer’d, thus he pray’d.
  O Pow’r, who hast deserv’d in Heav’n a Throne,
Not giv’n, but by thy Labours made thy own,        50
Pity thy Suppliant, and protect his Cause,
Whom thou hast made obnoxious to the Laws.
  A Custom was of old, and still remains,
Which Life or Death by Suffrages ordains;
White Stones and Black within an Urn are cast,        55
The first absolve, but Fate is in the last.
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 2 Hue of Innocence.        60
Thus Alemonides his Safety won,
Preserv’d from Death by Alcumena’s Son:
Then to his Kinsman-God his Vows he pays,
And cuts with prosp’rous Gales th’ Ionian Seas;
He leaves Tarentum, favour’d by the Wind,        65
And Thurine Bays, and Temises, behind;
Soft Sybaris, and all the Capes that stand
Along the Shore, he makes in sight of Land;
Still doubling, and still coasting, till he found
The Mouth of Æsaris, and promis’d Ground,        70
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        75
The sure Tradition of th’ Italian Town.
  Here dwelt the Man divine whom Samos bore,
But now Self-banish’d from his Native Shore,
Because he hated Tyrants, nor cou’d bear
The Chains which none but servile Souls will wear:        80
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 Sight:
And what he had observ’d, and learnt from thence,        85
Lov’d in familiar Language to dispence.
  The Crowd with silent Admiration stand,
And heard him, as they heard their God’s Command;
While he discours’d of Heav’ns mysterious Laws,
The World’s Original, and Nature’s Cause;        90
And what was God, and why the fleecy Snows
In silence fell, and rattling Winds arose;
What shook the stedfast Earth, and whence begun
The Dance of Planets round the radiant Sun;
If Thunder was the Voice of angry Jove,        95
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 first the tast of Flesh from Tables drove,
And argued well, if Arguments cou’d move.        100
O Mortals! from your Fellow’s 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 wholesom Herbs produce,        105
And teeming Vines afford their generous Juice:
Nor tardier Fruits of cruder Kind are lost,
But tam’d with Fire, or mellow’d by the Frost:
While Kine to Pails distended Udders bring,
And Bees their Hony redolent of Spring:        110
While Earth not only can your Needs supply.
But lavish of her Store, provides for Luxury;
A guiltless Feast administers with Ease,
And without Blood is prodigal to please.
Wild Beasts their Maws with their slain Brethren fill;        115
And yet not all, for some refuse to kill:
Sheep, Goats, and Oxen, and the nobler Steed,
On Browz and Corn, and flow’ry 3 Meadows feed.
Bears, Tygers, Wolves, the Lion’s angry Brood,
Whom Heaven endu’d with Principles of Blood,        120
He wisely sundred 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 Feasts delight.
  O impious use! to Nature’s Laws oppos’d,        125
Where Bowels are in other Bowels clos’d:
Where, fatten’d 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 she shows, and all she hides,        130
If Men with fleshy Morsels must be fed,
And chaw with bloody Teeth the breathing Bread:
What else is this but to devour our Guests,
And barbarously renew Cyclopean Feasts!
We, by destroying Life, our Life sustain;        135
And gorge th’ ungodly Maw with Meats obscene.
  Not so the Golden Age, who fed on Fruit,
Nor durst with bloody Meals their Mouths pollute.
Then Birds in airy space might safely move,
And timerous Hares on Heaths securely rove:        140
Nor needed Fish the guileful Hooks to fear,
For all was peaceful; and that Peace sincere.
Whoever was the Wretch (and curs’d be He)
That envy’d first our Food’s simplicity;
Th’ essay of bloody Feasts on Bruits began,        145
And after forg’d the Sword to murther 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 justify’d by Nature’s Laws,        150
And Self-defence: But who did Feasts begin
Of Flesh, he stretch’d Necessity to Sin.
To kill Man-killers, Man has lawful Pow’r,
But not th’ extended License, to devour.
  Ill Habits gather by unseen degrees,        155
As Brooks make Rivers, Rivers run to Seas.
The Sow, 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 cov’tous 4 Churl, of unforgiving kind,        160
Th’ Offender to the bloody Priest resign’d:
Her Hunger was no Plea: For that she dy’d.
The Goat came next in order, to be try’d:
The Goat had cropt the tendrills of the Vine:
In vengeance Laity and Clergy join,        165
Where one had lost his Profit, one his Wine.
Here was at least, some shadow of Offence:
The Sheep was sacrific’d on no pretence,
But meek, and unresisting Innocence.
A patient, useful Creature, born to bear        170
The warm and woolly Fleece, that cloath’d her Murderer,
And daily to give down the Milk she bred,
A Tribute for the Grass on which she fed.
Living, both Food and Rayment she supplies,
And is of least advantage when she dies.        175
  How did the toiling Oxe his Death deserve,
A downright simple Drudge, and born to serve?
O Tyrant! with what Justice canst thou hope
The Promise of the Year, a plenteous Crop;
When thou destroy’st thy lab’ring Steer, who till’d,        180
And plough’d with Pains, thy else ungrateful Field?
From his yet reeking Neck to draw the Yoke,
That Neck, with which the surly Clods he broke;
And to the Hatchet yield thy Husband-Man,
Who finish’d Autumn, and the Spring began!        185
  Nor this alone! but Heav’n it self to bribe,
We to the Gods our impious Acts ascribe:
First recompence with Death their Creatures Toil,
Then call the Bless’d above to share the Spoil:
The fairest Victim must the Pow’rs appease:        190
(So fatal ’tis sometimes too much to please!)
A purple Fillet his broad Brows adorns,
With flow’ry Garlands crown’d, and gilded Horns:
He hears the murd’rous Pray’r the Priest prefers,
But understands not, ’tis his Doom he hears:        195
Beholds the Meal betwixt his Temples cast,
(The Fruit and Product of his Labours past;)
And in the Water views perhaps the Knife
Uplifted, to deprive him of his Life;
Then broken up alive his Entrails sees,        200
Torn out for Priests t’ inspect the God’s Decrees.
  From whence, O mortal Men, this gust of Blood
Have you deriv’d, and interdicted Food?
Be taught by me this dire Delight to shun,
Warn’d by my Precepts, by my Practice won:        205
And when you eat the well deserving Beast,
Think, on the Lab’rer of your Field you feast!
  Now since the God inspires me to proceed,
Be that, whate’er inspiring Pow’r, obey’d.
For I will sing of mighty Mysteries,        210
Of Truths conceal’d before, from human Eyes,
Dark Oracles unveil, and open all the Skies.
Pleas’d as I am to walk along the Sphere
Of shining Stars, and travel with the Year,
To leave the heavy Earth, and scale the height        215
Of Atlas, who supports the heav’nly weight:
To look from upper Light, and thence survey
Mistaken Mortals wandring from the way,
And wanting Wisdom, fearful for the State
Of future Things, and trembling at their Fate;        220
  Those I would teach; and by right Reason bring
To think of Death, as but an idle Thing.
Why thus affrighted at an empty Name,
A Dream of Darkness, and fictitious Flame?
Vain Themes of Wit, which but in Poems Pass,        225
And Fables of a World, that never was!
What feels the Body when the Soul expires,
By time corrupted, or consum’d by Fires?
Nor dies the Spirit, but new Life repeats
In other Forms, and only changes Seats.        230
  Ev’n I, who these mysterious Truths declare,
Was once Euphorbus in the Trojan War;
My Name and Lineage I remember well,
And how in Fight by Sparta’s King I fell.
In Argive Juno’s Fane I late beheld        235
My Buckler hung on high, and own’d my former Shield.
  Then, Death, so call’d, is but old Matter dress’d
In some new Figure, and a vary’d Vest:
Thus all Things are but alter’d, nothing dies;
And here and there th’ unbodied Spirit flies,        240
By Time, or Force, or Sickness dispossest,
And lodges, where it lights, in Man or Beast;
Or hunts without, till ready Limbs it find,
And actuates those according to their kind;
From Tenement to Tenement is toss’d;        245
The Soul is still the same, the Figure only lost:
And, as the soften’d Wax new Seals receives,
This Face assumes, and that Impression leaves;
Now call’d by one, now by another Name;
The Form is only chang’d, the Wax is still the same:        250
So Death, so call’d, can but the Form deface,
Th’ immortal Soul flies out in empty space;
To seek her Fortune in some other Place.
  Then let not Piety be put to flight,
To please the taste of Glutton-Appetite;        255
But suffer inmate Souls secure to dwell,
Lest from their Seats your Parents you expel;
With rabid Hunger feed upon your kind,
Or from a Beast dislodge a Brother’s Mind.
  And since, like Tiphys parting from the Shore,        260
In ample Seas I sail, and Depths untry’d before,
This let me further add, that Nature knows
No stedfast Station, but, or Ebbs, or Flows:
Ever in motion; she destroys her old,
And casts new Figures in another Mold.        265
Ev’n Times are in perpetual Flux; and run,
Like Rivers from their Fountain rowling on;
For Time no more than Streams, is at a Stay:
The flying Hour is ever on her way;
And as the Fountain still supplies her store,        270
The Wave behind impels the Wave before;
Thus in successive Course the Minutes run,
And urge their Predecessor Minutes on,
Still moving, ever new: For former Things
Are set aside, like abdicated Kings:        275
And every moment alters what is done,
And innovates some Act till then unknown.
  Darkness we see emerges into Light,
And shining Suns descend to Sable Night;
Ev’n Heav’n it self receives another die,        280
When weari’d Animals in Slumbers lie,
Of Midnight Ease: Another when the gray
Of Morn preludes the Splendor of the Day.
The Disk of Phœbus when he climbs on high,
Appears at first but as a bloodshot Eye;        285
And when his Chariot downward drives to Bed,
His Ball is with the same Suffusion red;
But mounted high in his Meridian Race
All bright he shines, and with a better Face:
For there, pure Particles of Æther flow,        290
Far from th’ Infection of the World below.
  Nor equal Light th’ unequal Moon adorns,
Or in her wexing or her waning Horns.
For ev’ry Day she wanes, her Face is less,
But gath’ring into Globe, she fattens at increase.        295
  Perceiv’st thou not the process of the Year,
How the four Seasons in four Forms appear,
Resembling human Life in ev’ry Shape they wear?
Spring first, like Infancy, shoots out her Head,
With milky Juice requiring to be fed:        300
Helpless, tho’ fresh, and wanting to be led.
The green Stem grows in Stature and in Size,
But only feeds with hope the Farmer’s Eyes;
Then laughs the childish Year with Flourets crown’d,
And lavishly perfumes the Fields around,        305
But no substantial Nourishment receives,
Infirm the Stalks, unsolid are the Leaves.
  Proceeding onward whence the Year began
The Summer grows adult, and ripens into Man.
This Season, as in Men, is most repleat,        310
With kindly Moisture, and prolifick Heat.
  Autumn succeeds, a sober tepid Age,
Not froze with Fear, nor boiling into Rage;
More than mature, and tending to decay,
When our brown Locks repine to mix with odious Grey.        315
  Last Winter creeps along with tardy pace,
Sour is his Front, and furrow’d is his Face.
His Scalp if not dishonour’d quite of Hair,
The ragg’d Fleece is thin, and thin is worse than bare.
  Ev’n our own Bodies daily change receive,        320
Some part of what was theirs before, they leave;
Nor are to Day what Yesterday they were;
Nor the whole same to Morrow will appear.
  Time was, when we were sow’d, and just began
From some few fruitful Drops, the promise of a Man;        325
Then Nature’s Hand (fermented as it was)
Moulded to Shape the soft, coagulated Mass;
And when the little Man was fully form’d,
The breathless Embryo with a Spirit warm’d;
But when the Mothers Throws begin to come,        330
The Creature, pent within the narrow Room,
Breaks his blind Prison, pushing to repair
His stiffled Breath, and draw the living Air;
Cast on the Margin of the World he lies,
A helpless Babe, but by Instinct he cries.        335
He next essays to walk, but downward press’d,
On four Feet imitates his Brother Beast:
By slow degrees he gathers from the Ground
His Legs, and to the rowling Chair is bound;
Then walks alone; a Horseman now become,        340
He rides a Stick, and travels round the Room:
In time he vaunts among his Youthful Peers,
Strong-bon’d, and strung with Nerves, in pride of Years,
He runs with Mettle his first merry Stage,
Maintains the next, abated of his Rage,        345
But manages his Strength, and spares his Age.
Heavy the third, and stiff, he sinks apace,
And tho’ ’tis down-hill all, but creeps along the Race.
Now sapless on the verge of Death he stands,
Contemplating his former Feet, and Hands;        350
And Milo-like, his slacken’d Sinews sees,
And wither’d Arms, once fit to cope with Hercules,
Unable now to shake, much less to tear the Trees.
  So Helen wept, when her too faithful Glass
Reflected to her Eyes the ruins of her Face:        355
Wondring what Charms her Ravishers cou’d spy,
To force her twice, or ev’n but once enjoy!
  Thy Teeth, devouring Time, thine, envious Age,
On Things below still exercise your Rage:
With venom’d Grinders you corrupt your Meat,        360
And then at lingring Meals, the Morsels eat.
  Nor those, which Elements we call, abide,
Nor to this Figure, nor to that are ty’d;
For this eternal World is said of Old
But four prolifick Principles to hold,        365
Four different Bodies; two to Heaven ascend,
And other two down to the Center tend:
Fire first with Wings expanded mounts on high,
Pure, void of weight, and dwells in upper Sky;
Then Air, because unclogg’d in empty space,        370
Flies after Fire, and claims the second Place:
But weighty Water, as her Nature guides,
Lies on the Lap of Earth, and Mother Earth subsides.
  All things are mix’d of 5 these, which all contain,
And into these are all resolv’d again        375
Earth rarifies to Dew, expanded more
The subtil Dew in Air begins to soar;
Spreads as she flies, and weary of her Name
Extenuates still, and changes into Flame;
Thus having by Degrees Perfection won,        380
Restless they soon untwist the Web they spun,
And Fire begins to lose her radiant Hue,
Mix’d with gross Air, and Air descends to Dew;
And Dew condensing, does her Form forego.
And sinks, a heavy Lump of Earth below.        385
  Thus are their Figures never at a stand,
But chang’d by Nature’s innovating Hand;
All Things are alter’d, nothing is destroy’d,
The shifted Scene, for some new Show employ’d.
  Then to be born, is to begin to be,        390
Some other Thing we were not formerly:
And what we call to Die, is not t’ appear,
Or be the Thing that formerly we were.
Those very Elements, which we partake
Alive, when Dead some other Bodies make:        395
Translated grow, have Sense, or can discourse;
But Death on deathless Substance has no force.
  That Forms are chang’d, I grant, that nothing can
Continue in the Figure it began:
The Golden Age to Silver was debas’d:        400
To Copper that; our Mettal came at last.
  The Face of Places, and their Forms decay;
And that is solid Earth, that once was Sea:
Seas in their turn retreating from the Shore,
Make solid Land, what Ocean was before;        405
And far from Strands are Shells of Fishes found,
And rusty Anchors fix’d on Mountain-Ground:
And what were Fields before, now wash’d and worn
By falling Floods from high, to Valleys turn,
And crumbling still descend to level Lands;        410
And Lakes, and trembling Bogs are barren Sands:
And the parch’d Desart floats in Streams unknown;
Wondring to drink of Waters not her own.
  Here Nature living Fountains opes; and there,
Seals up the Wombs where living Fountains were;        415
Or Earthquakes stop their ancient Course, and bring
Diverted Streams to feed a distant Spring.
So Lycus, swallow’d up, is seen no more,
But far from thence knocks out another Door.
Thus Erasinus dives; and blind in Earth        420
Runs on, and gropes his way to second Birth.
Starts up in Argos Meads, and shakes his Locks
Around the Fields, and fattens all the Flocks.
So Mysus by another way is led,
And, grown a River now disdains his Head:        425
Forgets his humble Birth, his Name forsakes,
And the proud Title of Caicus takes.
Large Amenane, impure with yellow Sands,
Runs rapid often, and as often stands;
And here he threats the drunken Fields to drown,        430
And there his Dugs deny to give their Liquor down.
  Anigros once did wholesome Draughts afford,
But now his deadly Waters are abhorr’d:
Since, hurt by Hercules, as Fame resounds,
The Centaurs in his current wash’d their 6 Wounds.        435
The Streams of Hypanis are sweet no more,
But brackish lose the tast they had before.
Antissa, Pharos, Tyre in Seas were pent,
Once Isles, but now increase the Continent;
While the Leucadian Coast, main Land before,        440
By rushing Seas is sever’d from the Shore.
So Zancle to th’ Italian Earth was ty’d,
And Men once walk’d where Ships at Anchor ride;
Till Neptune overlook’d the narrow way,
And in disdain pour’d in the conqu’ring Sea.        445
  Two Cities that adorn’d th’ Achaian Ground,
Buris and Helice, no more are found,
But whelm’d beneath a Lake, are sunk and drown’d;
And Boatsmen through the Chrystal Water show
To wond’ring Passengers the Walls below.        450
  Near Træzen stands a Hill, expos’d in Air
To Winter-Winds, of leafy Shadows bare:
This once was level Ground: But (strange to tell)
Th’ included Vapors, that in Caverns dwell,
Lab’ring with Cholick Pangs, and close confin’d,        455
In vain sought issue for the rumbling Wind:
Yet still they heav’d for vent, and heaving still
Inlarg’d the Concave, and shot up the Hill;
As Breath extends a Bladder, or the Skins
Of Goats are blown t’ inclose the hoarded Wines:        460
The Mountain yet retains a Mountain’s Face,
And gather’d Rubbish heals the hollow space.
  Of many Wonders, which I heard or knew,
Retrenching most, I will relate but few:
What, are not Springs with Qualities oppos’d        465
Endu’d at Seasons, and at Seasons lost?
Thrice in a Day thine, Ammon, change their Form,
Cold at high Noon, at Morn and Evening warm:
Thine, Athaman, will kindle Wood, if thrown
On the pil’d Earth, and in the waning Moon.        470
The Thracians have a Stream, if any try
The tast, his harden’d Bowels petrify;
Whate’er it touches it converts to Stones,
And makes a Marble Pavement where it runs.
  Crathis, and Sybaris her Sister Flood,        475
That slide through our Calabrian Neighbour Wood,
With Gold and Amber die the shining Hair,
And thither Youth resort; (for who wou’d not be Fair?)
  But stranger Virtues yet in Streams we find,
Some change not only Bodies, but the Mind:        480
Who has not heard of Salmacis obscene.
Whose Waters into Women soften Men?
Of Æthyopian Lakes, which turn the Brain
To Madness, or in heavy Sleep constrain?
Clytorian Streams the Love of Wine expel,        485
(Such is the Virtue of th’ abstemious Well;)
Whether the colder Nymph that rules the Flood
Extinguishes, and balks the drunken God;
Or that Melampus (so have some assur’d)
When the mad Prætides with Charms he cur’d,        490
And pow’rful Herbs, both Charms and Simples cast
Into the sober Spring, where still their Virtues last.
  Unlike Effects Lyncestis will produce;
Who drinks his Waters, tho’ with moderate use,
Reels as with Wine, and sees with double Sight:        495
His Heels too heavy, and his Head too light.
Ladon, once Pheneos, an Arcadian Stream,
(Ambiguous in th’ Effects, as in the Name)
By Day is wholesom Bev’rage; but is thought
By Night infected, and a deadly Draught.        500
  Thus running Rivers, and the standing Lake
Now of these virtues, now of those partake:
Time was (and all Things Time and Fate obey)
When fast Ortygia floated on the Sea;
Such were Cyanean Isles, when Tiphys steer’d        505
Betwixt their Streights, and their Collision fear’d;
They swam where now they sit; and firmly join’d
Secure of rooting up, resist the Wind.
Nor Ætna vomiting sulphureous Fire
Will ever belch; for Sulphur will expire,        510
(The Veins exhausted of the liquid Store;)
Time was she cast no Flames; in time will cast no more.
  For whether Earth’s an Animal, and Air
Imbibes, her Lungs with Coolness to repair,
And what she sucks remits; she still requires        515
Inlets for Air, and Outlets for her Fires;
When tortur’d with convulsive Fits she shakes,
That Motion chokes the vent, till other vent she makes:
Or when the Winds in hollow Caves are clos’d,
And subtil Spirits find that way oppos’d,        520
They toss up Flints in Air; the Flints that hide
The Seeds of Fire, thus toss’d in Air, collide,
Kindling the Sulphur, till the Fewel spent
The Cave is cool’d, and the fierce Winds relent.
Or whether Sulphur, catching Fire, feeds on        525
Its unctuous Parts, till all the Matter gone,
The Flames no more ascend; for Earth supplies
The Fat that feeds them; and when Earth denies
That Food, by length of Time consum’d, the Fire
Famish’d for want of Fewel must expire.        530
  A Race of Men there are, as Fame has told,
Who shiv’ring suffer Hyperborean Cold,
Till nine times bathing in Minerva’s Lake,
Soft Feathers, to defend their naked Sides, they take.
’Tis said, the Scythian Wives (believe who will)        535
Transform themselves to Birds by Magick Skill;
Smear’d over with an Oil of wond’rous Might,
That adds new Pinions to their airy Flight.
  But this by sure Experiment we know,
That living Creatures from Corruption grow:        540
Hide in a hollow 7 Pit a slaughter’d Steer,
Bees from his putrid Bowels will appear;
Who like their Parents haunt the Fields, and bring
Their Hony-Harvest home, and hope another Spring.
The Warlike-Steed is multiply’d we find,        545
To Wasps and Hornets of the Warrior Kind.
Cut from a Crab his crooked Claws, and hide
The rest in Earth, a Scorpion thence will glide
And shoot his Sting, his Tail in Circles toss’d
Refers the Limbs his backward Father lost.        550
And Worms, that Stretch on Leaves their filmy Loom,
Crawl from their Bags, and Butterflies become
Ev’n Slime begets the Frog’s 8 loquacious Race:
Short of their Feet at first, in little Space
With Arms and Legs endu’d, long leaps they take,        555
Rais’d on their hinder part, and swim the Lake,
And waves repel: For Nature gives their Kind,
To that intent, a length of Legs behind.
  The Cubs of Bears a living lump appear,
When whelp’d, and no determin’d Figure wear.        560
Their Mother licks ’em into Shape, and gives
As much of Form, as she her self receives.
  The Grubs from their sexangular abode
Crawl out unfinish’d, like the Maggot’s Brood:
Trunks without Limbs; till time at Leisure brings        565
The Thighs they wanted, and their tardy Wings.
  The Bird who draws the Carr of Juno, vain
Of her crown’d Head, and of her Starry Train;
And he that bears th’ Artillery of Jove,
The strong-pounc’d Eagle; and the billing Dove;        570
And all the feather’d Kind, who cou’d suppose
(But that from sight the surest Sense he knows)
They from th’ included Yolk, not ambient White arose.
  There are who think the Marrow of a Man,
Which in the Spine, while he was living, ran;        575
When dead, the Pith corrupted will become
A Snake, and hiss within the hollow Tomb.
  All these receive their Birth from other Things;
But from himself the Phœnix only springs:
Self-born, begotten by the Parent Flame        580
In which he burn’d, another and the same:
Who not by Corn or Herbs his Life sustains,
But the sweet Essence of Amomum drains
And watches the rich Gums Arabia bears,
While yet in tender Dew they drop their Tears.        585
He, (his five Centuries of life fulfill’d)
His Nest on Oaken Boughs begins to build,
Or trembling tops of Palm: and first he draws
The Plan with his broad Bill, and crooked Claws,
Nature’s Artificers; on this the Pile        590
Is form’d, and rises round, then with the Spoil
Of Casia, Cynamon, and Stems of Nard,
(For Softness strew’d beneath,) his Fun’ral Bed is rear’d:
Fun’ral and Bridal both; and all around
The Borders with corruptless Myrrh are crown’d:        595
On this incumbent; till ætherial Flame
First catches, then consumes the costly Frame;
Consumes him too, as on the Pile he lies;
He liv’d on Odours, and in Odours dies.
  An Infant-Phœnix from the former springs,        600
His Father’s Heir, and from his tender Wings
Shakes off his Parent Dust; his Method he pursues,
And the same Lease of Life on the same Terms renews:
When grown to Manhood he begins his Reign,
And with stiff Pinions can his Flight sustain,        605
He lightens of its Load the Tree that bore
His Father’s Royal Sepulcher before,
And his own Cradle: This (with pious Care
Plac’d on his Back) he cuts the buxome Air,
Seeks the Sun’s City, and his sacred Church,        610
And decently lays down his Burden in the Porch.
  A Wonder more amazing wou’d we find?
Th’ Hyæna shows it, of a double kind,
Varying the Sexes in alternate Years,
In one begets, and in another bears.        615
The thin Camelion, fed with Air, receives
The colour of the Thing to which he cleaves.
  India when conquer’d, on the conqu’ring God
For planted Vines the sharp-ey’d Lynx bestow’d,
Whose Urine, shed before it touches Earth,        620
Congeals in Air, and gives to Gems their Birth.
So Coral soft and white in Oceans Bed,
Comes harden’d up in Air, and glows with Red.
  All changing Species should my Song recite;
Before I ceas’d, wou’d change the Day to Night.        625
Nations and Empires flourish and decay,
By turns command, and in their turns obey;
Time softens hardy People, Time again
Hardens to War a soft, unwarlike Train.
Thus Troy, for ten long Years, her Foes withstood,        630
And daily bleeding bore th’ expence of Blood:
Now for thick Streets it shows an empty Space,
Or only fill’d with Tombs of her own perish’d Race,
Her self becomes the Sepulcher of what she was.
  Mycene, Sparta, Thebes of mighty Fame,        635
Are vanish’d out of Substance into Name,
And Dardan Rome, that just begins to rise,
On Tiber’s Banks, in time shall mate the Skies;
Widening her Bounds, and working on her way,
Ev’n now she meditates Imperial Sway:        640
Yet this is change, but she by changing thrives,
Like Moons new-born, and in her Cradle strives
To fill her Infant-Horns; an Hour shall come
When the round World shall be contain’d in Rome.
  For thus old Saws fortel, and Helenus        645
Anchises drooping Son enliven’d thus,
When Ilium now was in a sinking State,
And he was doubtful of his future Fate:
O Goddess-born, with thy hard Fortune strive,
Troy never can be lost, and thou alive.        650
Thy Passage thou shalt free through Fire and Sword,
And Troy in Foreign Lands shall be restor’d.
In happier Fields a rising Town I see,
Greater than what e’er was, or is, or e’er shall be:
And Heav’n yet owes the World a Race deriv’d from Thee.        655
Sages, and Chiefs of other Lineage born,
The City shall extend, extended shall adorn:
But from Iulus he must draw his Birth, 9
By whom thy Rome shall rule the conquer’d Earth:
Whom Heav’n will lend Mankind on Earth to reign,        660
And late require the precious Pledge again.
This Helenus to great Æneas told,
Which I retain, e’er since in other Mould
My Soul was cloath’d; and now rejoice to view
My Country Walls rebuilt, and Troy reviv’d anew,        665
Rais’d by the fall: Decreed by Loss to Gain;
Enslav’d but to be free, and conquer’d but to reign.
  ’Tis time my hard-mouth’d Coursers to controul,
Apt to run Riot, and transgress the Goal:
And therefore I conclude, whatever lies        670
In Earth, or flits in Air, or fills the Skies,
All suffer change, and we, that are of Soul
And Body mix’d, are Members of the whole.
Then, when our Sires, or Grandsires shall forsake
The Forms of Men, and brutal Figures take,        675
Thus hous’d, securely let their Spirits rest,
Nor violate thy Father in the Beast,
Thy Friend, thy Brother, any of thy Kin;
If none of these, yet there’s a Man within:
O spare to make a Thyestæan Meal,        680
T’ inclose his Body, and his Soul expel.
  Ill Customs by degrees to Habits rise,
Ill Habits soon become exalted Vice:
What more Advance can Mortals make in Sin
So near Perfection, who with Blood begin?        685
Deaf to the Calf that lies beneath the Knife,
Looks up, and from her Butcher begs her Life:
Deaf to the harmless Kid, that, e’er he dies,
All Methods to procure thy Mercy tries,
And imitates in vain thy Children’s Cries.        690
Where will he stop, who feeds with Household Bread,
Then eats the Poultry which before he fed?
Let plough thy Steers; that when they lose their Breath,
To Nature, not to thee, they may impute their Death.
Let Goats for Food their loaded Udders lend,        695
And Sheep from Winter-cold thy Sides defend;
But neither Sprindges, Nets, nor Snares employ,
And be no more Ingenious to destroy.
Free as in Air, let Birds on Earth remain,
Not let insidious Glue their Wings constrain;        700
Nor opening Hounds the trembling Stag affright,
Nor purple Feathers intercept his Flight;
Nor Hooks conceal’d in Baits for Fish prepare,
Nor Lines to heave ’em twinkling up in Air.
  Take not away the Life you cannot give:        705
For all Things have an equal right to live.
Kill noxious Creatures, where ’tis Sin to save;
This only just Prerogative we have:
But nourish Life with vegetable Food,
And shun the sacrilegious tast of Blood.        710
  These Precepts by the Samian Sage were taught,
Which Godlike Numa to the Sabines brought,
And thence transferr’d to Rome, by Gift his own:
A willing People, and an offer’d Throne.
O happy Monarch, sent by Heav’n to bless        715
A Salvage Nation with soft Arts of Peace,
To teach Religion, Rapine to restrain,
Give Laws to Lust, and Sacrifice ordain:
Himself a Saint, a Goddess was his Bride,
And all the Muses o’er his Acts preside.        720
 
Note 1. Text from the original edition of 1700. The current texts have errors in ll. 118, 374, 435, and others. The alteration in l. 118 shows that the editors did not understand the text. On the other hand their substitution of ’Birth’ for ’Breath’ in l. 658 is probably right, as it improves the sense and gets rid of an intolerable rhyme. [back]
Note 2. forth, the] forth: The 1700. [back]
Note 3. and flow’ry] The editors, making nonsense, give the flowery. [back]
Note 4. cov’tous] covet’ous 1700. [back]
Note 5. of] The editors wrongly give with. [back]
Note 6. Centaurs … their] The editors, regardless of Dryden and Ovid, give Centaur … his. [back]
Note 7. hollow] hallow 1700. [back]
Note 8. Frog’s] The editors give Forgs’. [back]
Note 9. Iulus] Julus 1700. Birth] Breath 1700. [back]
 
 
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