Tereus and Philomela - Canto the Fifth


She catches in her grasp the shuddering prey,
And bears her in the multitude away;
Upon her lovely form wild habits thrown,
To none was the despairing Sister known;
Her features, in the ivy's leaf conceal'd,
No trace of the affinity reveal'd,
Home to a secret chamber Progne led
The Sister of her undivided bed
When playful Innocence their habits knew,
And Virtue's robe on their endearments threw.
But Philomela , waking from her dream,
Saw the lov'd presence on her vision gleam;
Pale, at her Sister's eye, she hung the head,
And from her sympathizing bosom fled;
Shunn'd her embrace with fear, and with despair,
As if suspecting an accuser there: —
Dejected, and asham'd, she courts the earth,
And gives to Eloquence a shifted birth;
With hands uplifted emulates the word,
Home to the heart, resistless, though unheard.
Her grief indignant Progne's vengeance blam'd;
" You must not weep , " the furious Queen exclaim'd;
" 'Tis not with tears enervating the heart
That you and I must play the woman's part;
Revenge alone must brace the manly nerve,
Nor must the coward sex from honour swerve.
The sword is one expedient — or, if you
Can prompt a better to the Furies due,
Oh, tell me, I am arm'd with deadly Hate;
Thine be the sentence; and the word is Fate.
Shall he not burn to ashes on his throne,
In flames imprison'd, helpless and alone;
Or shall we tear his eye-balls from their seat;
Or shall his tongue be sever'd at your feet? —
A thousand wounds — a thousand shapes of death,
Shall curse with lingering pain his tortur'd breath;
An aweful and a memorable doom
Shall curse him living, and pollute his tomb. "
At this ill-fated moment Itis came,
Endearment was the little darling's aim;
His frolick suit rehears'd — the Mother cries,
A curse on the resemblance till he dies.
To Murder she devotes the guiltless Child,
And is no Parent, though her infant smil'd.
But when the Boy, with eager Love's embrace,
Clung to her neck, and kiss'd the burning face,
A Mother she resum'd — and Spleen withheld,
A momentary doubt the balance held;
With tears that forc'd their way into the cheek,
It seem'd that Nature and the heart could speak.
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