Page images




Now reddenning from the dawn, the morning ray
Glow'd in the front of heaven, and gave the day.
The youthful hero, with returning light,
Rose anxious from th' inquietudes of night.
A royal robe he wore with graceful pride,
A two-edg'd falchion threaten'd by his side,
Embroider'd sandals glitter'd as he trod,
And forth he mov'd majestic as a god.
Then by his heralds, restless of delay,
To council calls the peers: the peers obey.
Soon as in solemn form th' assembly sate,
From his high dome himself descends in state.
Bright in his hand a ponderous javelin shin'd;
Two dogs, a faithful guard, attend behind;
Pallas with grace divine his form improves,
And gazing crowds admire him as he moves.
His father's throne he fill'd: while distant stood
The hoary peers, and aged wisdom bow'd.

'Twas silence all. At last Egyptius spoke ; Egyptius, by his age and sorrows broke:

A length of days his soul with prudence crown'd, A length of days had bent him to the ground.


His eldest hope in arms to Ilion came,

By great Ulysses taught the path to fame;

But (hapless youth) the hideous Cyclops tore

His quivering limbs, and quaff'd his spouting gore Three sons remain'd: to climb with haughty fires

The royal bed, Eurynomus aspires;

The rest with duteous love his griefs assuage,

And ease the sire of half the cares of age.
Yet still his Antiphus he loves, he mourns,
And, as he stood, he spoke and wept by turns.
Since great Ulysses sought the Phrygian plains,
Within these walls inglorious silence reigns.
Say then, ye peers! by whose commands we meet ?
Why here once more in solemn council sit ?
Ye young, ye old, the weighty cause disclose :
Arrives some message of invading foes?
Or say, does high necessity of state
Inspire some patriot, and demand debate?
The present synod speaks its author wise;
Assist him, Jove, thou regent of the skies!

He spoke. Telemachus with transport glows,
Embrac'd the omen, and majestic rose

(His royal hand th' imperial sceptre sway'd); Then thus, addressing to Ægyptius, said:

Reverend old man! lo here confest he stands By whom ye meet; my grief your care demands. No story I unfold of public woes,

Nor bear advices of impending foes:

Peace the blest land, and joys incessant crown:
Of all this happy realm, I grieve alone.
For my lost sire continual sorrows spring,
The great, the good; your father and your king.
Yet more; our house from its foundation bows,
Our foes are powerful, and your sons the foes:

* Antiphus.

Hither, unwelcome to the queenthey come ;
Why seek they not the rich Icarian dome?
If she must wed, from other hands require
The dowry: is Telemachus her sire?

Yet through my court the noise of revel rings,
And wastes the wise frugality of kings.

Scarce all my herds their luxury suffice;
Scarce all my wine their midnight hours supplies.
Safe in my youth, in riot still they grow,
Nor in the helpless orphan dread a foe.

But come it will, the time when manhood grants
More powerful advocates than vain complaints.
Approach that hour! insufferable wrong

Cries to the gods, and vengeance sleeps too long.
Rise then, ye peers! with virtuous anger rise;
Your fame revere, but most th' avenging skies.
By all the deathless powers that reign above,
By righteous Themis and by thundering Jove
(Themis, who gives to councils, or denies
Success; and humbles, or confirms the wise),
Rise in my aid! suffice the tears that flow
For my lost sire, nor add new woe to woe.
If e'er he bore the sword to strengthen ill,
Or, having power to wrong, betray'd the will,
On me, on me your kindled wrath assuage,
And bid the voice of lawless riot rage.
If ruin to your royal race ye doom,
Be you the spoilers, and our wealth consume.
Then might we hope redress from juster laws,
And raise all Ithaca to aid our cause:

But while your sons commit th' unpunish'd wrong,
You make the arm of violence too strong.

While thus he spoke, with rage and grief he frown'd, And dash'd th' imperial sceptre to the ground. The big round tear hung trembling in his eye: The synod griev'd, and gave a pitying sigh,

Then silent sateat length Antinous burns
With haughty rage, and sternly thus returns :
O insolence of youth! whose tongue affords
Such railing eloquence, and war of words.
Studious thy country's worthies to defame,
Thy erring voice displays thy mother's shame.
Elusive of the bridal day, she gives

Fond hopes to all, and all with hopes deceives.
Did not the sun, through heaven's wide azure roll'd,
For three long years the royal fraud behold?
While she, laborious in delusion, spread

The spacious loom, and mix'd the various thread;
Where as to life the wondrous figures rise,

Thus spoke th' inventive queen, with artful sighs:


Though cold in death Ulysses breathes no more, Cease yet awhile to urge the bridal hour:

Cease, till to great Laërtes I bequeath
A task of grief, his ornaments of death.
Lest when the Fates his royal ashes claim,
The Grecian matrons taint my spotless fame;
When he, whom living mighty realms obey'd,
Shall want in death a shroud to grace his shade.'
Thus she at once the generous train complies,
Nor fraud mistrusts in virtue's fair disguise.
The work she plied; but, studious of delay,
By night revers'd the labours of the day.
While thrice the sun his annual journey made,
The conscious lamp the midnight fraud survey'd ;
Unheard, unseen, three years her arts prevail;
The fourth, her maid unfolds th' amazing tale.
We saw, as unperceiv'd we took our stand,
The backward labours of her faithless hand.
Then urg'd, she perfects her illustrious toils;
A wondrous monument of female wiles !

But you, oh peers! and thou, oh prince! give ear (I speak aloud, that every Greek may hear);

[ocr errors]

Dismiss the queen; and if her sire approves,
Let him espouse her to the peer she loves:
Bid instant to prepare the bridal train,
Nor let a race of princes wait in vain.

Though with a grace divine her soul is blest,
And all Minerva breathes within her breast,

In wondrous arts than woman more renown'd,
And more than woman with deep wisdom crown'd;
Though Tyro nor Mycenè match her name,

Nor great Alcmena (the proud boasts of fame);
Yet thus by Heaven adorn'd, by Heaven's decree
She shines with fatal excellence, to thee:

With thee, the bowl we drain, indulge the feast,
Till righteous Heaven reclaim her stubborn breast.
What though from pole to pole resounds her name!
The son's destruction waits the mother's fame:
For, till she leaves thy court, it is decreed,
Thy bowl to empty, and thy flock to bleed.
While yet he speaks, Telemachus replies:
Ev'n nature starts, and what ye ask denies.
Thus, shall I thus repay a mother's cares,
Who gave me life, and nurs'd my infant years?
While sad on foreign shores Ulysses treads,
Or glides a ghost with unapparent shades;
How to Icarius in the bridal hour

Shall I, by waste undone, refund the dower?
How from my father should I vengeance dread!
How would my mother curse my hated head!
And while in wrath to vengeful fiends she cries,
How from their hell would vengeful fiends arise!
Abhorr'd by all, accurs'd my name would grow,
The earth's disgrace, and human-kind my foe.
If this displease, why urge ye here your stay?
Haste from the court, ye spoilers, haste away:
Waste in wild riot what your land allows,
There ply the early feast, and late carouse.


« PreviousContinue »