« PreviousContinue »
THE CHOICE OF HERCULES.
From the Greek of Prodicuso
By BISHOP LOWTH.
OW had the son of Jove, mature, attain'd
The joyful prime ; when youth, elate and gay, Steps into life, and follows unrestrain'd
Where passion leads, or prudence points the way. In the pure mind, at those ambiguous years,
Or vice, rank weed, first frikes her pois’nous root ; Or haply virtue's op'ning bud appears
By just degrees, fair bloom of fairelt fruit ! For, if on youth's untainted thought imprest, The gen'rous purpose flill shall warm ihe manly breast.
As on a day, reflecting on his age
For highest deeds now ripe, Alcides fought Retirement, nurse of contemplation sage,
Step following step, and thought succeeding thought; Musing, with seady pace the youth pursued
His walk, and loft in meditation stray'd Far in a lonely vale, with folitude
Conversing ; while intent his mind survey'd The dubious path of life: before him lay, Here virtue's rough afcent, there pleasure's flow'ry way. Vol. VI. 22.
Much did the view divide his wav'ring mind :
Now glow'd his breast with gen'rous thirst of fame" ; Now love of ea fe lo fofter thoughts inclin'd
His yielding foul, and quench'd the rising flame : When, lo! far off two female forms he 'spies;
Direct to him their fteps they seem to bear ; Both large and tall, exceeding human fize ;
Both, far exceeding human beauty, fair. Graceful, yet each with diff'rent grace they move ; This striking sacred' awe"; that, softer winning Tove.
The first in native dignity furpafs'a;
Artless and unadorn’d she'pleas'd the more ; Health o'er her looks a genuine luftre caft';
A vest more white than new-fallen friow the wore : Auguft she trod, yet modeft was her air;
Serene her eye, yet darting heavenly fire. Still she drew near; and nearer ftill more fair,
More mild, appear'd : yet such as might inspire Pleasure corre&ted with an awful fear; Majestically sweet, and amiably fevere.
The other dame feem'd even of fairer hue;
But bold her mien, unguarded rov'd her eye, And her flush'd cheeks confefs'd at nearer view The borrow'd blushes of an artful dye.
All soft and delicate, with airy swim
Lightly she danc’d, along : her.robe betray'd, Thro’ the clear texture every tender limb,
Height'ning the charms it only seem'd to fh ade : And as it flow'd adown, so loose and thin, Her ftature shew'd more tall, more snowy white her skin,
Oft with a smile she view'd herself askance ;
Even on her shade a conscious look she threw : Then all around her call a careless glance,
To mark what gazing eyes her beauty drew. As they came near, before that other maid
Approaching decent, eagerly ihe press'd With hafty ftep ; nor of repulse afraid,
With freedom bland the wond'ring youth address’d; With winning fondness on his neck she hung; Sweet as the honey-dew liow'd her enchanting tongue :
" Dear Hercules, whence this unk ind delay ?
Dear youth, what doubts can thus distract chy mind ? Securely follow where I lead the way, And
range thro' wilds of pleasure unconhn'd. With me retire from noise, and pain, and care,
Embath'd in bliss, and wrapt in endless case : Rough is the road to fame, thro' blood and war :
Smooth is my way, and all my paths are peace. With me retire, from toils and perils free, Leave honour to the wretch! pleasures were made for thee.
Then will I grant thee all thy soul's desire ;
All that may charm thine ear, and please thy sight; All that the thought can frame, or with require,, 2011
To steep thy ravish'd senfes in delight:
Fitteft to tune the melting foul to love,
The fragrant bow'r, cool fountain, fhady grove' ; Tresh flow'rs to ilrew thy couch, and crown thy head: Joy fall attend thy flops, and care fhall smooth thy bed.
These will I freely, constantly supply,
Pleasures not earn'd with toil, nor inix'd with wos ; Far from thy rest repining want shall fly,
Nor labour bathe in sweat thy careful brow. Mature the copious harvest shall be thine,
Let the laborious hind subdue the foll; Leave the rush soldier spoils of war to win,
Won by the soldier thou shalt share the fpoil: These fofter cares my best allies employ,
New pleasures toinvent, to wish, and to enjoy."
Her winning voice the youth attentive caught ;
He gaz’d impatient on the smiling maid;
" My naine, fair youth, is Happiness," she faid: 64 Well can my friends this envied truth maintain;
They share my bliss, they beft can speak my praise : Tho' Slander call me Sloth (derraćtion vain !)
Heed not what Slander, vain detracter, say's ; Slander, still prompt true merit to defame, To blot the brightest worth, and blast the fairelt name.”
By this arriv'd the fair majestic maid";
She all the while, with the same modeft pace, Compos'd advanc'd: “Know, Hercules," she said,
With manly tone, " thy birth of heavenly race: Thy tender age, that lov’d instruction's voice,
Promis'd thee generous, patient, brave, and wise ; When manhood should confirm thy glorious choice,
Now expectation waits to see thee rise. Rife, yoath! exale thyself and me; approve Thy high descent from heaven, and dare be worthy Jove,
But what truth prompts, my tongue shall not disguise :
The steep ascent must be with toil subdued ; Watching and cares muft win the lofty prize
Propos’d by Heaven-true bliss and real good. Honour rewards the brave and bold alone' ;
She spurns the timorous, indolent, and base : Danger and toil ftand stern before her throne,
And guard (so Jove commands) the sacred place : , Who seeks her must the mighty cost sustaing. And pay the price of fame-labour, and care, and pain.