The HISTORY of PORSENNA, King of RUSSIA
IN TWO BOOKS.
Petamus arva, divites et insulas.
HOR. Epod, 16
1 IN Russia's frozen clime some ages since
2 There dwelt, historians say, a worthy prince,
3 Who to his people's good confin'd his care,
4 And fix'd the basis of his empire there;
5 Inlarg'd their trade, the lib'ral arts improv'd,
6 Made nations happy, and himself belov'd;
7 To all the neighb'ring states a terror grown,
8 The dear delight, and glory of his own.
9 Not like those kings who vainly seek renown
10 From countries ruin'd, and from battles won;
11 Those mighty Nimrods, who mean laws despise,
12 Call murder but a princely exercise,
13 And if one bloodless sun shou'd steal away,
14 Cry out with Titus, they have lost a day;[Page 179]
15 Who, to be more than men, themselves debase
16 Beneath the brute, their Maker's form deface,
17 Raising their titles by their God's disgrace.
18 Like fame to bold Erostratus we give,
19 Who scorn'd by less than sacrilege to live;
20 On holy ruins rais'd a lasting name,
21 And in the temple's fire diffus'd his shame.
22 Far diff'rent praises, and a brighter fame,
23 The virtues of the young Porsenna claim;
24 For by that name the Russian king was known,
25 And sure a nobler ne'er adorn'd the throne.
26 In war he knew the deathful sword to wield,
27 And sought the thickest dangers of the field,
28 A bold commander; but, the storm o'erblown,
29 He seem'd as he were made for peace alone;
30 Then was the golden age again restor'd,
31 Nor less his justice honour'd than his sword.
32 All needless pomp, and outward grandeur spar'd,
33 The deeds that grac'd him were his only guard;
34 No private views beneath a borrow'd name;
35 His and the publick interest were the same.
36 In wealth and pleasure let the subject live,
37 But virtue is the king's prerogative;
38 Porsenna there without a rival stood,
39 And wou'd maintain his right of doing good.
40 Nor did his person less attraction wear,
41 Such majesty and sweetness mingled there;[Page 180]
42 Heav'n with uncommon art the clay refin'd,
43 A proper mansion for so fair a mind;
44 Each look, each action bore peculiar grace,
45 And love itself was painted on his face.
46 In peaceful time he suffer'd not his mind
47 To rust in sloth, tho' much to peace inclin'd;
48 Nor wanton in the lap of pleasure lay,
49 And lost to glory loiter'd life away;
50 But active rising ere the prime of day,
51 Thro' woods and lonely desarts lov'd to stray;
52 With hounds and horns to wake the furious bear,
53 Or rouze the tawny lion from his laire;
54 To rid the forest of the savage brood,
55 And whet his courage for his country's good.
56 One day, as he pursued the dang'rous sport,
57 Attended by the nobles of his court,
58 It chanced a beast of more than common speed
59 Sprang from the brake, and thro' the desart fled.
60 The ardent prince impetuous as the wind
61 Rush'd on, and left his lagging train behind.
62 Fir'd with the chace, and full of youthful blood,
63 O'er plains, and vales, and woodland wilds he rode,
64 Urging his courser's speed, nor thought the day
65 How wasted, nor how intricate the way;
66 Nor, till the night in dusky clouds came on,
67 Restrain'd his pace, or found himself alone.
68 Missing his train, he strove to measure back
69 The road he came, but cou'd not find the track;[Page 181]
70 Still turning to the place he left before,
71 And only lab'ring to be lost the more.
72 The bugle horn, which o'er his shoulders hung,
73 So loud he winded, that the forest rung;
74 In vain, no voice but Echo from the ground,
75 And vocal woods, made mock'ry of the sound.
76 And now the gath'ring clouds began to spread
77 O'er the dun face of night a deeper shade;
78 And the hoarse thunder growling from afar,
79 With herald voice proclaim'd th' approaching war;
80 Silence awhile ensued, — then by degrees
81 A hollow wind came mutt'ring thro' the trees.
82 Sudden the full-fraught sky discharg'd its store,
83 Of rain and rattling hail a mingled show'r;
84 The active lightning ran along the ground;
85 The fiery bolts by fits were hurl'd around,
86 And the wide forests trembled at the sound.
87 Amazement seiz'd the prince; — where cou'd he fly?
88 No guide to lead, no friendly cottage nigh.
89 Pensive and unresolv'd awhile he stood,
90 Beneath the scanty covert of the wood;
91 But drove from thence soon sallied forth again,
92 As chance directed, on the dreary plain;
93 Constrain'd his melancholy way to take
94 Thro' many a loathsome bog, and thorny brake,
95 Caught in the thicket, flound'ring in the lake.
96 Wet with the storm, and wearied with the way,
97 By hunger pinch'd, himself to beasts a prey;[Page 182]
98 Nor wine to cheer his heart, nor fire to burn,
99 Nor place to rest, nor prospect to return.
100 Drooping and spiritless, at life's despair,
101 He bade it pass, not worth his farther care;
102 When suddenly he spied a distant light,
103 That faintly twinkled thro' the gloom of night,
104 And his heart leap'd for joy, and bless'd the welcome sight.
105 Oft-times he doubted, it appear'd so far,
106 And hung so high, 'twas nothing but a star,
107 Or kindled vapour wand'ring thro' the sky,
108 But still press'd on his steed, still kept it in his eye;
109 Till, much fatigue, and many dangers past,
110 At a huge mountain he arriv'd at last.
111 There lighting from his horse, on hands and knees
112 Grop'd out the darksome road, by slow degrees,
113 Crawling or clamb'ring o'er the rugged way;
114 The thunder rolls above, the flames around him play.
115 Joyful at length he gain'd the steepy height,
116 And found the rift whence sprang the friendly light.
117 And here he stopp'd to rest his wearied feet,
118 And weigh the perils he had still to meet;
119 Unsheath'd his trusty sword, and dealt his eyes
120 With caution round him to prevent surprize;
121 Then summon'd all the forces of his mind,
122 And ent'ring boldly cast his fears behind:
123 Resolv'd to push his way, whate'er withstood,
124 Or perish bravely as a monarch shou'd.
125 While he the wonders of the place survey'd,
126 And thro' the various cells at random stray'd,
127 In a dark corner of the cave he view'd
128 Somewhat, that in the shape of woman stood;
129 But more deform'd than dreams can represent
130 The midnight hag, or poet's fancy paint
131 The Lapland witch, when she her broom bestrides,
132 And scatters storms and tempests as she rides.
133 She look'd as nature made her to disgrace
134 Her kind, and cast a blot on all the race;
135 Her shrivel'd skin with yellow spots besmear'd
136 Like mouldy records seem'd; her eyes were blear'd;
137 Her feeble limbs with age and palsy shook;
138 Bent was her body, haggard was her look.
139 From the dark nook outcrept the filthy crone,
140 And propp'd upon her crutch came tott'ring on.
141 The prince in civil guise approach'd the dame,
142 Told her his piteous case, and whence he came,
143 And till Aurora shou'd the shades expel,
144 Implor'd a lodging in her friendly cell.
145 Mortal, whoe'er thou art, the fiend began,
146 And as she spake a deadly horror ran
147 Thro' all his frame; his cheeks the blood forsook,
148 Chatter'd his teeth, his knees together struck.
149 Whoe'er thou art, that with presumption rude
150 Dar'st on her sacred privacy intrude,
151 And without licence in our court appear,
152 Know, thou'rt the first that ever enter'd here.[Page 184]
153 But since thou plead'st excuse, thou'rt hither brought
154 More by thy fortune than thy own default,
155 Thy crime, tho' great, an easy pardon finds,
156 For mercy ever dwells in royal minds;
157 And wou'd you learn from whose indulgent hand
158 You live, and in whose aweful presence stand,
159 Know farther, thro' yon wide extended plains
160 Great Eolus the king of tempests reigns,
161 And in this lofty palace makes abode,
162 Well suited to his state, and worthy of the God.
163 The various elements his empire own,
164 And pay their humble homage at his throne;
165 And hither all the storms and clouds resort,
166 Proud to increase the splendor of his court.
167 His queen am I, from whom the beauteous race
168 Of winds arose, sweet fruit of our embrace!
169 She scarce had ended, when, with wild uproar,
170 And horrid din, her sons impetuous pour
171 Around the cave; came rushing in amain
172 Lybs, Eurus, Boreas, all the boist'rous train;
173 And close behind them on a whirlwind rode
174 In clouded majesty the blust'ring God.
175 Their locks a thousand ways were blown about;
176 Their cheeks like full-blown bladders strutted out;
177 Their boasting talk was of the feats th' had done,
178 Of trees uprooted, and of towns o'erthrown;
179 And when they kindly turn'd them to accost
180 The prince, they almost pierc'd him with their frost.
181 The gaping hag in fix'd attention stood,
182 And at the close of ev'ry tale cried — good,
183 Blessing with outstretch'd arms each darling son,
184 In due proportion to the mischief done.
185 And where, said she, does little Zephyr stray?
186 Know ye, my sons, your brother's rout to-day?
187 In what bold deeds does he his hours employ?
188 Grant heav'n no evil has befall'n my boy!
189 Ne'er was he known to linger thus before.
190 Scarce had she spoke, when at the cavern door
191 Came lightly tripping in a form more fair
192 Than the young poet's fond ideas are,
193 When fir'd with love, he tries his utmost art
194 To paint the beauteous tyrant of his heart.
195 A satin vest his slender shape confin'd,
196 Embroider'd o'er with flow'rs of ev'ry kind,
197 Flora's own work, when first the goddess strove
198 To win the little wanderer to her love.
199 Of burnish'd silver were his sandals made,
200 Silver his buskins, and with gems o'erlaid;
201 A saffron-colour'd robe behind him flow'd,
202 And added grace and grandeur as he trod.
203 His wings than lillies whiter to behold,
204 Sprinkled with azure spots, and streak'd with gold;
205 So thin their form, and of so light a kind,
206 That they for ever danc'd, and flutter'd in the wind.
207 Around his temples with becoming air,
208 In wanton ringlets curl'd his auburn hair,[Page 186]
209 And o'er his shoulders negligently spread;
210 A wreath of fragrant roses crown'd his head.
211 Such his attire, but O! no pen can trace,
212 No words can shew the beauties of his face;
213 So kind! so winning! so divinely fair!
214 Eternal youth and pleasure flourish there;
215 There all the little loves and graces meet,
216 And ev'ry thing that's soft, and ev'ry thing that's sweet.
217 Thou vagrant, cried the dame in angry tone,
218 Where could'st thou loiter thus so long alone?
219 Little thou car'st what anxious thoughts molest,
220 What pangs are lab'ring in a mother's breast.
221 Well do you shew your duty by your haste,
222 For thou of all my sons are always last;
223 A child less fondled wou'd have fled more fast.
224 Sure 'tis a curse on mothers, doom'd to mourn,
225 Where best they love, the least and worst return.
226 My dear mamma, the gentle youth replied,
227 And made a low obeisance, cease to chide,
228 Nor wound me with your words, for well you know,
229 Your Zephyr bears a part in all your woe;
230 How great must be his sorrow then to learn
231 That he himself's the cause of your concern!
232 Nor had I loiter'd thus had I been free,
233 But the fair princess of Felicity,
234 Intreated me to make some short delay,
235 And ask'd by her who cou'd refuse to stay?
236 Surrounded by the damsels of her court
237 She sought the shady grove, her lov'd resort;
238 Fresh rose the grass, the flow'rs were mix'd between,
239 Like rich embroid'ry on a ground of green,
240 And in the midst, protected by the shade,
241 A crystal stream in wild meanders play'd;
242 While in its banks, the trembling leaves among,
243 A thousand little birds in concert sung.
244 Close by a mount with fragrant shrubs o'ergrown,
245 On a cool mossy couch she laid her down;
246 Her air, her posture, all conspir'd to please;
247 Her head, upon her snowy arm at ease
248 Reclin'd, a studied carelessness express'd;
249 Loose lay her robe, and naked heav'd her breast.
250 Eager I flew to that delightful place,
251 And pour'd a show'r of kisses on her face;
252 Now hover'd o'er her neck, her breast, her arms,
253 Like bees o'er flow'rs, and tasted all her charms;
254 And then her lips, and then her cheeks I tried,
255 And fann'd, and wanton'd round on ev'ry side.
256 O Zephyr, cried the fair, thou charming boy,
257 Thy presence only can create me joy;
258 To me thou art beyond expression dear,
259 Nor can I quit the place while thou art here.
260 Excuse my weakness, madam, when I swear
261 Such gentle words join'd with so soft an air,
262 Pronounc'd so sweetly from a mouth so fair,[Page 188]
263 Quite ravish'd all my sense, nor did I know
264 How long I staid; or when, or where to go.
265 Mean while the damsels debonnair and gay,
266 Prattled around, and laugh'd the time away:
267 These in soft notes address'd the ravish'd ear,
268 And warbled out so sweet, 'twas heav'n to hear;
269 And those in rings, beneath the greenwood shade,
270 Danc'd to the melody their fellows made.
271 Some studious of themselves, employ'd their care
272 In weaving flow'ry wreaths to deck their hair;
273 While others to some fav'rite plant convey'd
274 Refreshing show'rs, and cheer'd its drooping head.
275 A joy so general spread thro' all the place,
276 Such satisfaction dwelt on ev'ry face,
277 The nymphs so kind, so lovely look'd the queen,
278 That never eye beheld a sweeter scene.
279 Porsenna, like a statue fix'd appear'd,
280 And, wrapp'd in silent wonder, gaz'd and heard;
281 Much he admir'd the speech, the speaker more,
282 And dwelt on ev'ry word, and griev'd to find it o'er.
283 O gentle youth, he cried, proceed to tell,
284 In what fair country does this princess dwell;
285 What regions unexplor'd, what hidden coast
286 Can so much goodness, so much beauty boast?
287 To whom the winged god with gracious look,
288 Numberless sweets diffusing while he spoke,
289 Thus answer'd kind — These happy gardens lie
290 Far hence remov'd, beneath a milder sky;
291 Their name — The kingdom of Felicity.[Page 189]
292 Sweet scenes of endless bliss, enchanted ground,
293 A soil for ever sought, but seldom found;
294 Tho' in the search all human kind in vain
295 Weary their wits, and waste their lives in pain.
296 In diff'rent parties, diff'rent paths they tread,
297 As reason guides them, or as follies lead;
298 These wrangling for the place they ne'er shall see,
299 Debating those, if such a place there be;
300 But not the wisest, nor the best can say
301 Where lies the point, or mark the certain way.
302 Some few, by Fortune favour'd for her sport,
303 Have sail'd in sight of this delightful port;
304 In thought already seiz'd the bless'd abodes,
305 And in their fond delirium rank'd with gods.
306 Fruitless attempt! all avenues are kept
307 By dreadful foes, sentry that never slept.
308 Here fell Detraction darts her pois'nous breath
309 Fraught with a thousand stings, and scatters death;
310 Sharp-sighted Envy there maintains her post,
311 And shakes her flaming brand, and stalks around the coast.
312 These on the helpless bark their fury pour,
313 Plunge in the waves, or dash against the shore;
314 Teach wretched mortals they were doom'd to mourn,
315 And ne'er must rest but in the silent urn.
316 But say, young monarch, for what name you bear
317 Your mien, your dress, your person, all declare;
318 And tho' I seldom fan the frozen north,
319 Yet I have heard of brave Porsenna's worth.[Page 190]
320 My brother Boreas thro' the world has flown,
321 Swelling his breath to spread forth your renown;
322 Say, wou'd you choose to visit this retreat,
323 And view the world where all these wonders meet?
324 Wish you some friend o'er that tempestuous sea
325 To bear you safe! behold that friend in me.
326 My active wings shall all their force employ,
327 And nimbly waft you to the realms of joy;
328 As once, to gratify the god of Love,
329 I bore fair Psyche to the Cyprian grove;
330 Or as Jove's bird, descending from on high,
331 Snatch'd the young Trojan trembling to the sky.
332 There perfect bliss thou may'st for ever share,
333 'Scap'd from the busy world, and all its care;
334 There in the lovely princess shalt thou find
335 A mistress ever blooming, ever kind.
336 All ecstacy on air Porsenna trod,
337 And to his bosom strain'd the little god;
338 With grateful sentiments his heart o'erflow'd,
339 And in the warmest words millions of thanks bestow'd.
340 When Aeolus in surly humour broke
341 Their strict embrace, and thus abruptly spoke.
342 Enough of compliment; I hate the sport
343 Of meanless words; this is no human court;
344 Where plain and honest are discarded quite,
345 For the more modish title of polite;
346 Where in soft speeches hypocrites impart
347 The venom'd ills that lurk beneath the heart;[Page 191]
348 In friendship's holy guise their guilt improve,
349 And kindly kill with specious shew of love.
350 For us, — may subjects are not us'd to wait,
351 And waste their hours to hear a mortal prate;
352 They must abroad before the rising sun,
353 And hie 'em to the seas: there's mischief to be done.
354 Excuse my plainness, Sir, but business stands,
355 And we have storms and shipwrecks on our hands.
356 He ended frowning, and the noisy rout,
357 Each to his several cell went puffing out.
358 But Zephyr, far more courteous than the rest,
359 To his own bow'r convey'd the royal guest;
360 There on a bed of roses neatly laid,
361 Beneath the fragrance of a myrtle shade,
362 His limbs to needful rest the prince applied,
363 His sweet companion slumb'ring by his side.
1 NO sooner in her silver chariot rose
2 The ruddy morn, than sated with repose
3 The prince address'd his host; the God awoke,
4 And leaping from his couch, thus kindly spoke.
5 This early call, my lord, that chides my stay,
6 Requires my thanks, and I with joy obey.
7 Like you I long to reach the blissful coast,
8 Hate the slow night, and mourn the moments lost.[Page 192]
9 The bright Rosinda, loveliest of the fair
10 That crowd the princess' court, demands my care;
11 Ev'n now with fears and jealousies o'erborn
12 Upbraids, and calls me cruel and forsworn.
13 What sweet rewards on all my toils attend,
14 Serving at once my mistress and my friend;
15 Just to my love and to my duty too,
16 Well paid in her, well pleas'd in pleasing you.
17 This said, he led him to the cavern gate,
18 And clasp'd him in his arms, and pois'd his weight;
19 Then ballancing his body here and there,
20 Stretch'd forth his agile wings, and launch'd in air;
21 Swift as the fiery meteor from on high
22 Shoots to its goal, and gleams athwart the sky.
23 Here with quick fan his lab'ring pinions play;
24 There glide at ease along the liquid way;
25 Now lightly skim the plain with even flight;
26 Now proudly soar above the mountain's height.
27 Spiteful Detraction, whose envenom'd hate
28 Sports with the suff'rings of the good and great,
29 Spares not our prince, but with opprobrious sneer
30 Arraigns him of the heinous sin of fear;
31 That he, so tried in arms, whose very name
32 Infus'd a secret panic where it came,
33 Ev'n he, as high above the clouds he flew,
34 And spied the mountains less'ning to the view,
35 Nought round him but the wide expanded air,
36 Helpless, abandon'd to a stripling's care,[Page 193]
37 Struck with the rapid whirl, and dreadful height,
38 Confess'd some faint alarm, some little fright.
39 The friendly God, who instantly divin'd
40 The terrors that possess'd his fellow's mind,
41 To calm his troubled thoughts, and cheat the way,
42 Describ'd the nations that beneath them lay,
43 The name, the climate, and the soil's increase,
44 Their arms in war, their government in peace;
45 Shew'd their domestic arts, their foreign trade,
46 What int'rest they pursued, what leagues they made.
47 The sweet discourse so charm'd Porsenna's ear,
48 That lost in joy he had no time for fear.
49 From Scandinavia's cold inclement waste
50 O'er wide Germania's various realms they past,
51 And now on Albion's fields suspend their toil,
52 And hover for awhile, and bless the soil.
53 O'er the gay scene the prince delighted hung,
54 And gaz'd in rapture, and forgot his tongue;
55 Till bursting forth at length. Behold, cried he,
56 The promis'd isle, the land I long'd to see;
57 Those plains, those vales, and fruitful hills declare
58 My queen, my charmer must inhabit there.
59 Thus rav'd the monarch, and the gentle guide,
60 Pleas'd with his error, thus in smiles replied.
61 I must applaud, my lord, the lucky thought;
62 Ev'n I, who know th' original, am caught,
63 And doubt my senses, when I view the draught,[Page 194]
64 The slow-ascending hill, the lofty wood
65 That mantles o'er its brow, the silver flood
66 Wand'ring in mazes thro' the flow'ry mead,
67 The herd that in the plenteous pastures feed,
68 And ev'ry object, every scene excites
69 Fresh wonder in my soul, and fills with new delights:
70 Dwells cheerful Plenty there, and learned Ease,
71 And Art with Nature seems at strife to please.
72 There Liberty, delightful goddess, reigns,
73 Gladdens each heart, and gilds the fertile plains;
74 There firmly seated may she ever smile,
75 And show'r her blessings o'er her fav'rite isle!
76 But see, the rising sun reproves our stay.
77 He said, and to the ocean wing'd his way,
78 Stretching his course to climates then unknown,
79 Nations that swelter in the burning zone.
80 There in Peruvian vales a moment staid,
81 And smooth'd his wings beneath the citron shade;
82 Then swift his oary pinions plied again,
83 Cross'd the new world, and sought the Southern main;
84 Where many a wet and weary league o'erpast,
85 The wish'd for paradise appear'd at last.
86 With force abated now they gently sweep
87 O'er the smooth surface of the shining deep;
88 The Dryads hail'd them from the distant shore,
89 The Nereids play'd around, the Tritons swam before,
90 While soft Favonius their arrival greets,
91 And breathes his welcome in a thousand sweets.
92 Nor pale disease, nor health-consuming care,
93 Nor wrath, nor foul revenge can enter there;
94 No vapour's foggy gloom imbrowns the sky;
95 No tempests rage, no angry lightnings fly;
96 But dews, and soft-refreshing airs are found,
97 And pure aetherial azure shines around.
98 Whate'er the sweet Sabaean soil can boast,
99 Or Mecca's plains, or India's spicy coast;
100 What Hybla's hills, or rich Oebalia's fields,
101 Or flow'ry vale of fam'd Hymettus yields;
102 Or what of old th' Hesperian orchard grac'd;
103 All that was e'er delicious to the taste,
104 Sweet to the smell, or lovely to the view,
105 Collected there with added beauty grew.
106 High-tow'ring to the heav'ns the trees are seen,
107 Their bulk immense, their leaf for ever green;
108 So closely interwove, the tell-tale sun
109 Can ne'er descry the deeds beneath them done,
110 But where by fits the sportive gales divide
111 Their tender tops, and fan the leaves aside.
112 Like a smooth carpet at their feet lies spread
113 The matted grass, by bubbling fountains fed;
114 And on each bough the feather'd choir employ
115 Their melting notes, and nought is heard but joy.
116 The painted flow'rs exhale a rich perfume,
117 The fruits are mingled with eternal bloom,
118 And Spring and Autumn hand in hand appear,
119 Lead on the merry months, and join to cloath the year.[Page 196]
120 Here, o'er the mountain's shaggy summit pour'd,
121 From rock to rock the tumbling torrent roar'd,
122 While beauteous Iris in the vale below
123 Paints on the rising fumes her radiant bow.
124 Now through the meads the mazy current stray'd,
125 Now hid its wand'rings in the myrtle shade;
126 Or in a thousand veins divides its store,
127 Visits each plant, refreshes ev'ry flow'r;
128 O'er gems and golden sands in murmurs flows,
129 And sweetly soothes the soul, and lulls to soft repose.
130 If hunger call, no sooner can the mind
131 Express her will to needful food inclin'd,
132 But in some cool recess, or op'ning glade,
133 The seats are plac'd, the tables neatly laid,
134 And instantly convey'd by magic hand
135 In comely rows the costly dishes stand;
136 Meats of all kinds that nature can impart,
137 Prepar'd in all the nicest forms of art.
138 A troop of sprightly nymphs array'd in green,
139 With flow'ry chaplets crown'd, come scudding in;
140 With fragrant blossoms these adorn the feast,
141 Those with officious zeal attend the guest;
142 Beneath his feet the silken carpet spread,
143 Or sprinkle liquid odours o'er his head.
144 Others in ruby cups with roses bound
145 Delightful! deal the sparkling nectar round;
146 Or weave the dance, or tune the vocal lay;
147 The lyres resound, the merry minstrels play,[Page 197]
148 Gay health, and youthful joys o'erspread the place,
149 And swell each heart, and triumph in each face.
150 So when embolden'd by the vernal air,
151 The busy bees to blooming fields repair;
152 For various use employ their chymic pow'r;
153 One culls the snowy pounce, one sucks the flow'r;
154 Again to diff'rent works returning home,
* Or stive, stipant.steeve the honey, some erect the comb;
156 All for the general good in concert strive,
157 And ev'ry soul's in motion, ev'ry limb's alive.
158 And now descending from his flight, the God
159 On the green turf releas'd his precious load;
160 There, after mutual salutations past,
161 And endless friendship vow'd, they part in haste;
162 Zephyr impatient to behold his love,
163 The prince in raptures wand'ring thro' the grove;
164 Now skipping on, and singing as he went,
165 Now stopping short to give his transports vent;
166 With sudden gusts of happiness oppress'd,
167 Or stands entranc'd, or raves like one possess'd;
168 His mind afloat, his wand'ring senses quite
169 O'ercome with charms, and frantic with delight;
170 From scene to scene by random steps conveyed,
171 Admires the distant views, explores the secret shade,
172 Dwells on each spot, with eager eye devours
173 The woods, the lawns, the buildings, and the bow'rs;
174 New sweets, new joys at every glance arise,
175 And ev'ry turn creates a fresh surprize.
176 Close by the borders of a rising wood,
177 In a green vale a crystal grotto stood;
178 And o'er its side, beneath a beechen shade,
179 In broken falls a silver fountain play'd.
180 Hither, attracted by the murm'ring stream,
181 And cool recess, the pleas'd Porsenna came,
182 And on the tender grass reclining chose
183 To wave his joys awhile, and take a short repose.
184 The scene invites him, and the wanton breeze
185 That whispers thro' the vale, the dancing trees,
186 The warbling birds, and rills that gently creep,
187 All join their music to prolong his sleep.
188 The princess for her morning walk prepar'd;
189 The female troops attend, a beauteous guard.
190 Array'd in all her charms appear'd the fair;
191 Tall was her stature, unconfin'd her air;
192 Proportion deck'd her limbs, and in her face
193 Lay love inshrin'd, lay sweet attractive grace
194 Temp'ring the aweful beams her eyes convey'd,
195 And like a lambent flame around her play'd.
196 No foreign aids, by mortal ladies worn,
197 From shells and rocks her artless charms adorn;
198 For grant that beauty were by gems increas'd,
199 'Tis render'd more suspected at the least;
200 And foul defects, that wou'd escape the sight,
201 Start from the piece, and take a stronger light.
202 Her chesnut hair in careless rings around
203 Her temples wav'd, with pinks and jes'mine crown'd,[Page 199]
204 And, gather'd in a silken cord behind,
205 Curl'd to the waist, and floated in the wind;
206 O'er these a veil of yellow gause she wore,
207 With amaranths and gold embroider'd o'er.
208 Her snowy neck half naked to the view
209 Gracefully fell; a robe of purple hue
210 Hung loosely o'er her slender shape, and tried
211 To shade those beauties, that it cou'd not hide.
212 The damsels of her train with mirth and song
213 Frolick behind, and laugh and sport along.
214 The birds proclaim their queen from ev'ry tree;
215 The beasts run frisking thro' the groves to see;
216 The Loves, the Pleasures, and the Graces meet
217 In antic rounds, and dance before her feet.
218 By whate'er fancy led, it chanc'd that day
219 They thro' the secret valley took their way,
220 And to the crystal grot advancing spied
221 The prince extended by the fountain's side.
222 He look'd as, by some skilful hand express'd,
223 Apollo's youthful form retir'd to rest;
224 When with the chace fatigued he quits the wood
225 For Pindus' vale, and Aganippe's flood;
226 There sleeps secure, his careless limbs display'd
227 At ease, encircled by the laurel shade;
228 Beneath his head his sheaf of arrows lie,
229 His bow unbent hangs negligently by.
230 The slumb'ring prince might boast an equal grace,
231 So turn'd his limbs, so beautiful his face.
232 Waking he started from the ground in haste,
233 And saw the beauteous choir around him plac'd;
234 Then, summoning his senses, ran to meet
235 The queen, and laid him humbly at her feet.
236 Deign, lovely princess, to behold, said he,
237 One, who has travers'd all the world to see
238 Those charms, and worship thy divinity:
239 Accept thy slave, and with a gracious smile
240 Excuse his rashness, and reward his toil.
241 Stood motionless the fair with mute surprize,
242 And read him over with admiring eyes;
243 And while she stedfast gaz'd, a pleasing smart
244 Ran thrilling thro' her veins, and reach'd her heart.
245 Each limb she scann'd, consider'd ev'ry grace,
246 And sagely judg'd him of the phoenix' race.
247 An animal like this she ne'er had known,
248 And thence concluded there could be but one;
249 The creature too had all the phoenix' air;
250 None but the phoenix cou'd appear so fair.
251 The more she look'd, the more she thought it true,
252 And call'd him by that name, to shew she knew.
253 O handsome phoenix, for that such you are
254 We know; your beauty does your breed declare;
255 And I with sorrow own thro' all my coast
256 No other bird can such perfection boast;
257 For Nature form'd you single and alone:
258 Alas! what pity 'tis there is but one![Page 201]
259 Were there a queen so fortunate to shew
260 An aviary of charming birds like you,
261 What envy wou'd her happiness create
262 In all, who saw the glories of her state!
263 The prince laugh'd inwardly, surpriz'd to find
264 So strange a speech, so innocent a mind.
265 The compliment indeed did some offence
266 To reason, and a little wrong'd her sense;
267 He cou'd not let it pass, but told his name,
268 And what he was, and whence, and why he came;
269 And hinted other things of high concern
270 For him to mention, and for her to learn;
271 And she'ad a piercing wit, of wond'rous reach
272 To comprehend whatever he cou'd teach.
273 Thus hand in hand they to the palace walk,
274 Pleas'd and instructed with each other's talk.
275 Here, shou'd I tell the furniture's expence,
276 And all the structure's vast magnificence,
277 Describe the walls of shining saphire made,
278 With emerald and pearl the floors inlaid,
279 And how the vaulted canopies unfold
280 A mimic heav'n, and flame with gems and gold;
281 Or how Felicity regales her guest,
282 The wit, the mirth, the music, and the feast;
283 And on each part bestow the praises due,
284 'Twould tire the writer, and the reader too.
285 My amorous tale a softer path pursues:
286 Love and the happy pair demand my Muse.[Page 202]
287 O cou'd her art in equal terms express
288 The lives they lead, the pleasures they possess!
289 Fortune had ne'er so plenteously before
290 Bestow'd her gifts, nor can she lavish more.
291 'Tis heav'n itself, 'tis ecstacy of bliss,
292 Uninterrupted joy, untir'd excess;
293 Mirth following mirth the moments dance away;
294 Love claims the night, and friendship rules the day.
295 Their tender care no cold indiff'rence knows;
296 No jealousies disturb their sweet repose;
297 No sickness, no decay; but youthful grace,
298 And constant beauty shines in either face.
299 Benumming age may mortal charms invade,
300 Flow'rs of a day that do but bloom and fade;
301 Far diff'rent here, on them it only blows
302 The lilly's white, and spreads the blushing rose;
303 No conquest o'er those radiant eyes can boast;
304 They like the stars shine brighter in its frost;
305 Nor fear its rigour, nor its rule obey;
306 All seasons are the fame, and ev'ry month is May.
307 Alas! how vain is happiness below!
308 Man soon or late must have his share of woe;
309 Slight are his joys, and fleeting as the wind;
310 His griefs wound home, and leave a sting behind.
311 His lot distinguish'd from the brute appears
312 Less certain by his laughter than his tears;
313 For ignorance too oft our pleasure breeds,
314 But sorrow from the reas'ning soul proceeds.
315 If man on earth in endless bliss cou'd be,
316 The boon, young prince, had been bestow'd on thee.
317 Bright shone thy stars, thy Fortune flourish'd fair,
318 And seem'd secure beyond the reach of care,
319 And so might still have been, but anxious thought
320 Has dash'd thy cup, and thou must taste the draught.
321 It so befel, as on a certain day
322 This happy couple toy'd their time away,
323 He ask'd how many charming hours were flown,
324 Since on her slave her heav'n of beauty shone.
325 Should I consult my heart, cried he, the rate
326 Were small, a week wou'd be the utmost date:
327 But when my mind reflects on actions past,
328 And counts its joys, time must have fled more fast.
329 Perhaps I might have said, three months are gone.
330 Three months! replied the fair, three months alone!
331 Know that three hundred years have roll'd away,
332 Since at my feet the lovely phoenix lay.
333 Three hundred years! re-echo'd back the prince,
334 A whole three hundred years compleated since
335 I landed here! O! whither then are flown
336 My dearest friends, my subjects, and my throne?
337 How strange, alas! how alter'd shall I find
338 Each earthly thing, each scene I left behind!
339 Who knows me now? on whom shall I depend
340 To gain my rights? where shall I find a friend?
341 My crown perhaps may grace a foreign line,
342 A race of kings, that know not me nor mine;[Page 204]
343 Who reigns may wish my death, his subjects treat
344 My claim with scorn, and call their prince a cheat.
345 Oh had my life been ended as begun!
346 My destin'd stage, my race of glory run,
347 I shou'd have died well pleas'd; my honour'd name
348 Had liv'd, had flourish'd in the list of fame;
349 Reflecting now my mind with horror sees
350 The sad survey, a scene of shameful ease,
351 The odious blot, the scandal of my race,
352 Scarce known, and only mention'd with disgrace.
353 The fair beheld him with impatient eye,
354 And red with anger made this warm reply.
355 Ungrateful man! is this the kind return
356 My love deserves; and can you thus with scorn
357 Reject what once you priz'd, what once you swore
358 Surpass'd all charms, and made ev'n glory poor?
359 What gifts have I bestow'd, what favours shewn!
360 Made you partaker of my bed and throne;
361 Three centuries preserv'd in youthful prime,
362 Safe from the rage of death, and injuries of time,
363 Weak arguments! for glory reigns above
364 The feeble ties of gratitude and love,
365 I urge them not, nor wou'd request your stay;
366 The phantom glory calls, and I obey;
367 All other virtues are regardless quite,
368 Sunk and absorb'd in that superior light.
369 Go then, barbarian, to thy realms return,
370 And shew thyself unworthy my concern;[Page 205]
371 Go, tell the world, your tender heart cou'd give
372 Death to the princess, by whose care you live.
373 At this a deadly pale her cheeks o'erspread,
374 Cold trembling seiz'd her limbs, her spirits fled;
375 She sunk into his arms: the prince was mov'd,
376 Felt all her griefs, for still he greatly lov'd.
377 He sigh'd, he wish'd he could forget his throne;
378 Confine his thoughts, and live for her alone;
379 But glory shot him deep, the venom'd dart
380 Was fix'd within, and rankled at his heart;
381 He cou'd not hide its wounds, but pin'd away
382 Like a sick flow'r, and languish'd in decay.
383 An age no longer like a month appears,
384 But ev'ry month becomes a hundred years.
385 Felicity was griev'd, and cou'd not bear
386 A scene so chang'd, a sight of so much care.
387 She told him with a look of cold disdain,
388 And seeming ease, as women well can feign,
389 He might depart at will; a milder air
390 Wou'd mend his health; he was no pris'ner there;
391 She kept him not, and wish'd he ne'er might find
392 Cause to regret the place he left behind;
393 Which once he lov'd, and where he still must own,
394 He had at least some little pleasure known.
395 If these prophetic words awhile destroy
396 His peace, the former ballance it in joy.
397 He thank'd her for her kind concern, but chose
398 To quit the place, the rest let heav'n dispose.[Page 206]
399 For Fate, on mischiefs bent, perverts the will,
400 And first infatuates whom it means to kill.
401 Aurora now, not, as she wont to rise,
402 In gay attire ting'd with a thousand dies,
403 But sober-sad in solemn state appears,
404 Clad in a dusky veil bedew'd with tears.
405 Thick mantling clouds beneath her chariot spread,
406 A faded wreath hangs drooping from her head.
407 The sick'ning sun emits a feeble ray,
408 Half drown'd in fogs, and struggling into day.
409 Some black event the threat'ning skies foretel.
410 Porsenna rose to take his last farewel.
411 A curious vest the mournful princess brought,
412 And armour by the Lemnian artist wrought;
413 A shining lance with secret virtue stor'd,
414 And of resistless force a magic sword;
415 Caparisons and gems of wond'rous price,
416 And loaded him with gifts and good advice;
417 But chief she gave, and what he most wou'd need,
418 The fleetest of her stud, a flying steed.
419 The swift Grifippo, said th' afflicted fair,
420 (Such was the courser's name) with speed shall bear,
421 And place you safely in your native air;
422 Assist against the foe, with matchless might
423 Ravage the field, and turn the doubtful fight;
424 With care protect you till the danger cease,
425 Your trust in war, your ornament in peace.[Page 207]
426 But this, I warn, beware; whate'er shall lay
427 To intercept your course, or tempt your stay,
428 Quit not your saddle, nor your speed abate,
429 Till safely landed at your palace gate.
430 On this alone depends your weal or woe;
431 Such is the will of Fate, and so the Gods foreshew.
432 He in the softest terms repaid her love,
433 And vow'd, nor age, nor absence shou'd remove
434 His constant faith, and sure she cou'd not blame
435 A short divorce due to his injur'd fame.
436 The debt discharg'd, then shou'd her soldier come
437 Gay from the field, and flush'd with conquest, home;
438 With equal ardour her affection meet,
439 And lay his laurels at his mistress' feet.
440 He ceas'd, and sighing took a kind adieu;
441 Then urg'd his steed; the fierce Grifippo flew;
442 With rapid force outstripp'd the lagging wind,
443 And left the blissful shores, and weeping fair behind;
444 Now o'er the seas pursued his airy flight,
445 Now scower'd the plains, and climb'd the mountain's height.
446 Thus driving on at speed the prince had run
447 Near half his course, when, with the setting sun,
448 As thro' a lonely lane he chanc'd to ride,
449 With rocks and bushes fenc'd on either side,
450 He spied a waggon full of wings, that lay
451 Broke and o'erturn'd across the narrow way.
452 The helpless driver on the dirty road
453 Lay struggling, crush'd beneath th' incumbent load.[Page 208]
454 Never in human shape was seen before
455 A wight so pale, so feeble, and so poor.
456 Comparisons of age would do him wrong,
457 For Nestor's self, if plac'd by him, were young.
458 His limbs were naked all, and worn so thin,
459 The bones seem'd starting thro' the parchment skin,
460 His eyes half drown'd in rheum, his accents weak,
461 Bald was his head; and furrow'd was his cheek.
462 The conscious steed stopp'd short in deadly fright,
463 And back recoiling stretch'd his wings for flight.
464 When thus the wretch with supplicating tone,
465 And rueful face, began his piteous moan,
466 And, as he spake, the tears ran trickling down.
467 O gentle youth, if pity e'er inclin'd
468 Thy soul to gen'rous deeds, if e'er thy mind
469 Was touch'd with soft distress, extend thy care
470 To save an old man's life, and ease the load I bear.
471 So may propitious heav'n your journey speed,
472 Prolong your days, and all your vows succeed.
473 Mov'd with the pray'r the kind Porsenna staid,
474 Too nobly-minded to refuse his aid,
475 And, prudence yielding to superior grief,
476 Leap'd from his steed, and ran to his relief;
477 Remov'd the weight, and gave the pris'ner breath,
478 Just choak'd, and gasping on the verge of death.
479 Then reach'd his hand, when lightly with a bound
480 The grizly spectre vaulting from the ground,[Page 209]
481 Seiz'd him with sudden gripe, th' astonish'd prince
482 Stood horror-struck, and thoughtless of defence.
483 O king of Russia, with a thund'ring sound
484 Bellow'd the ghastly fiend, at length thou'rt found.
485 Receive the ruler of mankind, and know,
486 My name is Time, thy ever-dreaded foe.
487 These feet are founder'd, and the wings you see
488 Worn to the pinions in pursuit of thee;
489 Thro' all the world in vain for ages sought,
490 But Fate has doom'd thee now; and thou art caught.
491 Then round his neck his arms he nimbly cast,
492 And seiz'd him by the throat, and grasp'd him fast;
493 Till forc'd at length the soul forsook its seat,
494 And the pale breathless corse fell bleeding at his feet.
495 Scarce had the cursed spoiler left his prey,
496 When, so it chanc'd, young Zephyr pass'd that way;
497 Too late his presence to assist his friend,
498 A sad, but helpless witness of his end.
499 He chases, and fans, and strives in vain to cure
500 His streaming wounds; the work was done too sure.
501 Now lightly with a soft embrace uprears
502 The lifeless load, and bathes it in his tears;
503 Then to the blissful seats with speed conveys,
504 And graceful on the mossy carpet lays
505 With decent care, close by the fountain's side,
506 Where first the princess had her phoenix spied.
507 There with sweet flow'rs his lovely limbs he strew'd,
508 And gave a parting kiss, and sighs and tears bestow'd.
509 To that sad solitude the weeping dame,
510 Wild with her loss, and swoln with sorrow, came.
511 There was she wont to vent her griefs, and mourn
512 Those dear delights that must no more return.
513 Thither that morn with more than usual care
514 She sped, but O what joy to find him there!
515 As just arriv'd, and weary with the way,
516 Retir'd to soft repose her hero lay.
517 Now near approaching she began to creep
518 With careful steps, loth to disturb his sleep;
519 Till quite o'ercome with tenderness she flew,
520 And round his neck her arms in transport threw.
521 But, when she found him dead, no tongue can tell
522 The pangs she felt; she shriek'd, and swooning fell.
523 Waking, with loud laments she pierc'd the skies,
524 And fill'd th' affrighted forest with her cries.
525 That fatal hour the palace gates she barr'd,
526 And fix'd around the coast a stronger guard;
527 Now rare appearing, and at distance seen,
528 With crowds of black misfortunes plac'd between;
529 Mischiefs of ev'ry kind, corroding care,
530 And fears, and jealousies, and dark despair.
531 And since that day (the wretched world must own
532 These mournful truths by sad experience known)
533 No mortal e'er enjoy'd that happy clime,
534 And ev'ry thing on earth submits to Time.
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About this text
Title (in Source Edition): The HISTORY of PORSENNA, King of RUSSIA IN TWO BOOKS.
Author: Thomas Lisle
Themes: sex; relations between the sexes; history; other countries
Genres: heroic couplet
References: DMI 27850
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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.
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