Tereus and Philomela - Canto the Third


'Tis past — and though his mind presag'd the worst,
In dreams or visions of the night rehears'd,
His Child he saw no more: — She wept at heart —
In her the tear was innocent of art —
But soon it vanish'd, and the mirrour play'd
That Fancy bore, in wings of Hope array'd.
The Port is out of sight; — in open sea
The mask was useless, and the guilt was free.
" Thus far, 'tis prize and conquest , " he exclaim'd,
Nor she his triumph or his rapture blam'd.
Scarce at his heart the outrage he deferr'd,
Or melted at the simple notes he heard;
His eye was not a moment unemploy'd,
It half unfolded what his thoughts enjoy'd.
So when Jove's bird has laid upon the nest
A captive hare, within his talons press'd,
With keen delight contemplating his prey,
Before the life that 's doom'd is torn away,
Suspends the lifted plume, that beats the air,
With hovering beak, and murder's jealous care.
Upon a desert shore they disembark;
The subtle Guide misleads her in the dark;
Till in a deep recess, that shunn'd the light,
With terror he unveil'd his impious right.
She , pale with dread, a Sister's home demands,
But, shrieking, falls into polluted hands;
Force the reply: in that unhallow'd hour,
It rifled all the beauty in its power;
But the firm spirit , that would never yield,
With rage oppos'd — with dignity appeal'd;
On the avenging Gods her claim it threw,
Or at the Ruffian, like a dart, it flew,
Then at his feet with agony she knelt;
But he no visitings of Mercy felt;
Keen was the fury of his impious love,
Deaf as the hawk to musick of the dove;
Torn are its wings — the talon's gripe is near,
His flaming eye insults the helpless fear;
Or as the lamb, escaping, not redeem'd,
Nor life, nor hope, that interval has deem'd,
Bleeds in her crippled feet, and shatter'd head, —
The shepherd is away — the sheep are fled.
In Sorrow's pride she tore her flowing hair,
And rent her clothes, a maniac of Despair —
Half murder'd by the conflict she had pass'd,
With a heart-rending eye she look'd aghast;
Nor into vice, nor abject spirit bow'd,
" Oh, impious Traitor! " — she exclaim'd aloud,
" What has thy passion, merciless and coarse,
On me inflicted, with its brutal force?
A deed that robs a Parent of his Child,
And makes affliction desperately wild!
A deed that braves the Ever-present Eye,
That sure Avenger of the perjur'd lie;
That crushes, and that kills the virgin power,
By the same act that stains the nuptial bower!
What is its name? — oh, shudder at the word!
But it ascends, and will in clouds be heard.
Am I to live? — Redeem the tortur'd prey;
In mercy, take its lingering breath away!
Kill the accusing relicks of the doom,
And bury all their vengeance in the tomb.
Oh, had my death, anticipating worse,
Arrested, ere it fell, the venom'd curse;
Then pure, and spotless, in the shades below
A virgin's blooming honours I should know;
But, if the Gods to injury attend,
With eyes that open, or with ears that bend;
If their impending thunder, now at rest,
Can strike at last with doom that impious breast;
If all of me, dishonour has not claim'd,
If any thing is mine that 's not asham'd;
It shall inflict the hell that waits for thee,
Nor Modesty itself shall silence me .
I 'll rush into assembled crowds, and there
Devote the Fiend they worship to despair;
If here imprison'd as a coward's prize,
I'll wake the Echoes with my piercing cries;
The azure vault shall hear me, and the air
Shall to the listening Gods my vengeance bear. "
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