Tereus and Philomela - Canto the First


A Hero came, their troops to reinforce;
Mars of his high-born lineage was the source;
Rich in his wealth, but richer in his fame, —
Applauding Nations hung upon his name;
Their cry was " Tereus " — and his regal sway
The arms of Thrace were zealous to obey.
The foes, like chaff dispers'd, of pride bereft,
Behind them all their " blushing honours " left;
Him, Attica's lov'd Prince, no more oppress'd,
Pandion with his grateful heart caress'd;
Love prompts the recompence — a daughter's charms,
With Hymen's tribute, grac'd the conquering arms.
Those baneful rites, nor Juno's favour bless'd,
Nor Loves nor Graces had the Virgin dress'd;
The Furies wav'd the banner of despair,
The hissing snakes and flaming brands were there.
Flush'd was their conquest from a scene of death,
And gave the curse they bore a deeper breath:
No other bridemaids had prepar'd the bed;
The owl was heard, Night's herald of the dead.
Wrapt in these auguries their nuptials came;
Lucina fann'd the desolating flame;
A lovely Boy was to the Parents born,
Pledg'd, though a child, the sceptre to adorn;
The Gods with scorn receiv'd a Nation's thanks,
Pour'd in a current that o'erleap'd the banks.
The Parents, wild for joy, with pride of heart,
Their anniversaries had set apart;
Bless'd, and made holy, was the nuptial bower;
Bless'd was the period of the teeming hour;
So lurks, unseen, futurity of ill
In cups of bliss, enchanting, as they kill.
Five Autumns flew, unsullied with a tear,
When Progne sooth'd a Husband's partial ear.
" If in my sight the charm can still be found,
The Lover's passion that my nuptials crown'd,
Oh, send me to the Sister of my heart,
Or tempt the Parent with his joy to part,
With Philomela , pillar of his age,
And the last refuge of its nodding stage.
If he resigns her, you can pledge the word,
By Kings rever'd, by Heaven attesting heard,
That soon to love and faith so rich a loan
Shall be recover'd, and again his own.
Could I but see that form, to hope endear'd,
And which to fancy never disappear'd,
The boon, engrav'd on tablets of the heart,
Should from its living temple never part:
I 'd bless thee as a God, for such a debt,
Which none but Heaven's offenders could forget. "
Prompt at the voice he lov'd, in time's delay
To him the very minute seem'd a day;
Love in the air, propitious to his will,
Rose on the Zephyr's wing the sail to fill.
With zeal the mariners their office ply,
Till the Athenian Port salutes their eye;
The Regal Parent his adopted Son
Folds in his arms, like treasure newly won;
With a fond speed the hurried questions flew,
To the young Parents, and their offspring due.
Rich in apparel Philomela came,
But more enrich'd in dazzling beauty's flame;
Such as, in habit less adorn'd, would rove
A Nymph or Grace of the Arcadian grove,
Smooth without step: — at this ill-omen'd sight
The heart of Tereus , frantic with delight,
Abjur'd the partner of his bed and throne,
As if no other passion he had known.
Behind him throwing conscience, truth, and shame,
Burnt with unhallow'd love's impassion'd flame.
So ripen'd corn, or leaves, if set on fire,
In the ascending pyramid expire.
Prone at her feet the Loves in homage knelt,
And the chaste Virtues in her bosom dwelt.
In him the Passions rear'd their impious throne,
They were his Nation's fever, and his own.
With subtle web he forg'd a silken chain,
To bind apart the virgins of her train;
Or, to corrupt the nurse, a gift prepar'd; —
At last, no more of peril he despair'd,
And swore, that all his troops, in arm'd array,
To the rich prize, withheld, should fight their way.
From this to that resolve his councils wav'd;
The Virtues fled, the Passions were enslav'd;
The bosom swell'd, impatient of its load;
The wishes had no rest in their abode;
Each had a wing too rapid for delay,
To each new snare the serpent found its way.
His longing Wife's request, a veil abus'd,
With joy the Husband for his treason us'd;
Love — a dishonour'd name in guilt's pursuit —
With eloquence of art is never mute.
Again the message, and again impress'd,
With tears at will the Parent he address'd,
As if the tears in embassy he bore
From his own Sovereign to the Attic shore.
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