Helen's Tripod

W HEN Troy no tears were to deplore,
When all its ruins were no more,
The gentle Spartan's pleasant wife
Resum'd the joys of married life.
Though lame excuses now and then
By him were made — for jealous men; —
And she , sometimes, a little pouted —
That such a wife he ever doubted;
But griev'd that lives and buildings fell,
The victims of — a bagatelle .
It chanc'd one day that he and she
Were pleasure-boat-ing on the sea:
A tempest rose: — " Be calm! be tam'd!
Capricious Neptune! " she exclaim'd .
But, in a confidential tone,
That Neptune was to hear alone:
" Inconstant as the lovely sex,
That 's born its tyrants to perplex,
None of the Gods can change like thee,
No belle has more gallants than me ,
Your likeness in the fair protect!
Accept this tribute of respect. "
She rose, and quick (as lightning flew)
Away her golden tripod threw; —
A gift well-tim'd — the culprit saves,
Ev'n though his judges are the waves .
A calm ensued — and Madam Helen
This incident was fond of telling,
But left untold , upon the shelf,
Her frank allusion to herself.
Time older by six-hundred years ,
A boat on that same coast appears;
The men are in the act of rowing,
Another boat the net is throwing;
The men of oars have stak'd a sum,
To buy whatever up should come.
The net, pull'd in upon the shore,
This Antiquary's jewel bore;
A suit commenc'd, and law's debate,
The net became a point of state .
An oracle the golden prize
" Gives to the wisest of the wise. "
" But who is he? direct us, Heaven!
At least we 'll go and ask the seven:
Thales just now is at Miletus ,
Prepar'd with open arms to meet us. "
Committees of the naval crew
Away to the Milesian flew:
" Accept, " they said, " this tripod here!
'Tis you the Oracles revere:
If Greece is wise, your wisdom taught her
That Nature's element is water;
That soul and form adhere together,
As man to wife, or shoe to leather;
That intersected thus, and curl'd,
They form that complex mass, the world. "
" Alas, good gentlemen, " he said,
" The gift, I fear, must go to bed;
My sectaries their master follow —
But who can tamper with Apollo?
I lost fair Truth before I caught her,
And made no light in making water;
Nay, cannot for my soul conceive
The sun can thence one spark receive.
My other whim — " The world's a soul " —
Eludes the reasoning mind's controul;
Where man should wait , and should adore , —
'Tis impious folly thus to soar;
And yet I hope, though self-reprov'd,
The veil in time will be remov'd —
And, through my own rejected sample,
I give to others an example
To animate the hope — that soon
We may have castles in the moon .
" To Solon's hand your offering bear,
The oracle — be sure — is there:
For wisdom is in Solon's plan,
His rules are felt — his book is man;
His object, stripp'd of all disguise,
To make us happy, good, and wise. "
For Athens they unfurl the sail,
And reach the Port with happy gale;
At Solon's feet the gold is laid,
And his benign acceptance pray'd.
" The moment and your offer chime,
You 've caught, " he said, " the nick of time.
I 'm a Judicial Legislator —
Each party is the other's hater:
Because my aim is right and peace,
They all accuse me of caprice .
" But these debates, perhaps, would close,
If the domestic would repose:
Mark that fair slave! in youth a child
Her airs and charms make justice wild:
You see her pouting in a corner,
But airs become, and pouts adorn her;
She tells me, " rules are folly's treason ,"
And claims herself the palm of reason. "
" I do, " she said, " for I am just ,
But you I serve because I must;
The heart is due to love alone,
And power is not affection's throne.
My lover's young , nay handsome too,
But no forbearance meets from you . "
" Retire! " exclaim'd the doating Sage,
" Nor thus affront your master's rage!
The boy, " said he, " that plagues me thus
We Attics call Pisistratus;
In vain his passions I have check'd,
And claim unqualified respect;
He binds me to a despot's will,
And swears " that I must love him still:"
Can Solon to the gold succeed,
When boys and girls like those can lead?
Go to Miletus! there you 'll find
In Thales crown'd — a peaceful mind. "
" We have been there — but he, like you ,
Derang'd appears on closer view. "
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