Icarios and Erigone

I MPROVIDENT were once the Attic youths,
As (if we may believe the credulous
And testy) various youths have been elsewhere.
But truly such was their improvidence,
Ere Pallas in compassion was their guide,
They never stowed away the fruits of earth
For winter use; nor knew they how to press
Olive or grape: yet hospitality
Sate at the hearth, and there was mirth and song.
Wealthy and generous in the Attic land,
Icarios! wert thou; and Erigone,
Thy daughter, gave with hearty glee the milk,
Buzzing in froth beneath unsteady goat,
To many who stopt near her; some for thirst,
And some to see upon its back that hand
So white and small and taper, and await
Until she should arise and show her face.
The father wisht her not to leave his house,
Nor she to leave her father; yet there sued
From all the country round both brave and rich.
Some, nor the wealthier of her wooers, drove
Full fifty slant-brow'd kingly-hearted swine,
Reluctant ever to be led aright,
Race autocratical, autochthon race,
Lords of the woods, fed by the tree of Jove.
Some had three ploughs; some had eight oxen; some
Had vines, on oak, on maple, and on elm,
In long and strait and gleamy avenues,
Which would have tired you had you reacht the end
Without the unshapen steps that led beyond
Up the steep hill to where they leaned on poles.
Yet kind the father was, and kind the maid.
And now when winter blew the chaff about,
And hens pursued the grain into the house,
Quarrelsome and indignant at repulse,
And rushing back again with ruffled neck,
They and their brood; and kids blinkt at the brand,
And bee-nosed oxen, with damp nostrils lowered
Against the threshold, stampt the dogs away;
Icarios, viewing these with thoughtful mind,
Said to Erigone, " Not scantily
The Gods have given us these birds and these
Short-bleating kids, and these loose-hided steers.
The Gods have given: to them will we devote
A portion of their benefits, and bid
The youths who love and honour us partake:
So shall their hearts, and so shall ours, rejoice."
The youths were bidden to the feast: the flesh
Of kid and crested bird was plentiful:
The steam hung on the rafters, where were nail'd
Bushes of savory herbs, and figs and dates;
And yellow-pointed pears sent down long stalks
Through nets wide-mesht, work of Erigone
When night was long and lamp yet unsupplied.
Choice grapes Icarios had; and these, alone
Of all men in the country, he preserved
For festive days; nor better day than this
To bring them from beneath his reed-thatcht roof.
He mounted the twelve stairs with hearty pride,
And soon was heard he, breathing hard: he now
Descended, holding in both arms a cask,
Fictile, capacious, bulging: cork-tree bark
Secured the treasure; wax above the mouth,
And pitch above the wax. The pitch he brake,
The wax he scraped away, and laid them by.
Wrenching up carefully the cork-tree bark,
A hum was heard. " What! are there bees within?"
Euphorbas cried. " They came then with the grapes,"
Replied the elder, and pour'd out clear juice
Fragrant as flowers, and wrinkled husks anon.
" The ghosts of grapes!" cried Phanor, fond of jokes
Within the house, but ever abstinent
Of such as that, in woodland and alone,
Where any sylvan God might overhear.
No few were sadden'd at the ill-omen'd word,
But sniffing the sweet odour, bent their heads,
Tasted, sipt, drank, ingurgitated: fear
Flew from them all, joy rusht to every breast,
Friendship grew warmer, hands were join'd, vows sworn.
From cups of every size, from cups two-ear'd,
From ivy-twisted and from smooth alike,
They dash the water; they pour in the wine;
(For wine it was,) until that hour unseen.
They emptied the whole cask; and they alone;
For both the father and the daughter sate
Enjoying their delight. But when they saw
Flusht faces, and when angry words arose
As one more fondly glanced against the cheek
Of the fair maiden on her seat apart,
And she lookt down, or lookt another way
Where other eyes caught hers, and did the like,
Sadly the sire, the daughter fearfully,
Upon each other fixt wide-open eyes.
This did the men remark, and, bearing signs
Different, as were their tempers, of the wine,
But feeling each the floor reel under him,
Each raging, with more thirst at every draught,
Acastor first (sidelong his step) arose,
Then Phanor, then Antyllos:
" Zeus above
Confound thee, cursed wretch!" aloud they cried,
" Is this thy hospitality? must all
Who loved thy daughter perish at a blow?
Not at a blow, but like the flies and wasps."
Madness had seiz'd them all. Erigone
Ran out for help: what help? Before her sprang
Maera, and howl'd and barkt, and then return'd
Presaging. They had dragg'd the old man out
And murdered him. Again flew Maera forth,
Faithful, compassionate, and seized her vest,
And drew her where the body lay, unclosed
The eyes, and rais'd toward the stars of heaven.

Raise thine, for thou hast heard enough, raise thine
And view Bootes bright among those stars,
Brighter the Virgin: Maera too shines there.
But where were the Eumenides? Repress
Thy anger. If the clear calm stars above
Appease it not, and blood must flow for blood,
Listen, and hear the sequel of the tale.
Wide-seeing Zeus lookt down; as mortals knew
By the woods bending under his dark eye,
And huge towers shuddering on the mountain tops,
And stillness in the valley, in the wold,
And over the deep waters all round earth.
He lifted up his arm, but struck them not
In their abasement: by each other's blow
They fell; some suddenly; but more beneath
The desperate gasp of long-enduring wounds.
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