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Thus, long ago,
Ere heaving bellows learn'd to blow,

While organs yet were mute;
Timotheus, to his breathing flute,

And sounding lyre,
Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.

At last divine Cecilia came,

Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,

Enlarg'd the former narrow bounds,

And added length to solemn sounds,
With Nature's mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
Let old Timotheus yield the prize,

Or both divide the crown ;
He rais'd a mortal to the skies ;

She drew an angel down.


At last divine Cecilia came,

Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,

Enlarg'd the former narrow bounds,

And added length to solemn sounds, With Nature's mother-wit, and arts unknown before. Let old Timotheus yield the prize,

Or both divide the crown; He rais'd a mortal to the skies;

She drew an angel down.




Book I.

In days of old, there liv’d, of mighty fame,
A valiant prince, and Theseus was his name:
A chief, who more in feats of arms excell’d,
The rising nor the setting Sun beheld.
Of Athens he was lord; much land he won,
And added foreign countries to his crown.
In Scythia with the warrior queen he strove,
Whom first by force he conquered, then by love;
He brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide,
And his victorious army at his side.

their warlike pomp, their proud array,
Their shouts, their songs, their welcome on the way:
But, were it not too long, I would recite
The feats of Amazons, the fatal fight
Betwixt the hardy queen and hero knight;
The town besieg'd, and how much blood it cost
The female army and th’ Athenian host;
The spousals of Hippolita, the queen ;
What tilts and turneys at the feast were seen;
The storm at their return, the ladies' fear :
But these, and other things, I must forbear.
The field is spacious I design to sow,
With oxen far unfit to draw the plow :

The remnant of my tale is of a length
To tire your patience, and to waste my strength;
And trivial accidents shall be forborn,
That others may have time to take their turn;
As was at first enjoin'd us by mine host,
That he whose tale is best, and pleases most,
Should win his supper at our common cost.

And therefore where I left, I will pursue
This ancient story, whether false or true,
In hope it may be mended with a new.
The prince I mentioned, full of high renown,
In this array drew near th' Athenian town ;
When, in his pomp and utmost of his pride,
Marching, he chanc'd to cast his eye aside,
And saw a choir of mourning dames, who lay
By two and two across the common way:
At his approach they rais'd a rueful cry,
And beat their breasts, and held their hands on high,
Creeping and crying, till they seiz'd at last
His courser's bridle, and his feet embrac'd.
“ Tell me,” said Theseus, “ what and whence

you are,
And why this funeral pageant you prepare ?
Is this the welcome of my worthy deeds,
To meet my triumph in ill-omen'd weeds ?
Or envy you my praise, and would destroy
With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy?
Or are you injur'd, and demand relief?
Name your request, and I will ease your grief.”

The most in years of all the mourning train
Began (but swooned first away for pain);
Then scarce recover'd spoke : “ Nor envy we
Thv grest renown, nor grudge thy victory;

'Tis thine, O king, th' afflicted to redress,
And Fame has fill’d the world with thy success :
We, wretched women, sue for that alone,
Which of thy goodness is refus'd to none;
Let fall some drops of pity on our grief,
If what we beg be just, and we deserve relief :
For none of us, who now thy grace implore,
But held the rank of sovereign queen before ;
Till, thanks to giddy Chance, which never bears,
That mortal bliss should last for length of years,
She cast us headlong from our high estate,
And here in hope of thy return we wait :
And long have waited in the temple nigh,
Built to the gracious goddess Clemency.
But reverence thou the power whose name it bears,
Relieve th' oppress'd, and wipe the widow's tears.
I, wretched I, have other fortune seen,
The wife of Capaneus, and once a queen:
At Thebes he fell, curst be the fatal day!
And all the rest thou seest in this array
To make their moan, their lords in battle lost
Before that town, besieg'd by our confederate host :
But Creon, old and impious, who commands
The Theban city, and usurps the lands,
Denies the rites of funeral fires to those
Whose breathless bodies yet he calls his foes.
Unburn'd, unbury'd, on a heap they, lie;
Such is their fate, and such his tyranny;
No friend has leave to bear away the dead,
But with their lifeless limbs his hounds are fed.”.
At this she shriek'd aloud ; the mournful train
Echo'd her grief, and, groveling on the plain,

With groans, and hands upheld, to move his mind, Besought his pity to their helpless kind!

The prince was touch'd, his tears began to flow, And, as his tender heart would break in two, He sigh'd, and could not but their fate deplore, So wretched now, so fortunate before. Then lightly from his lofty steed he flew, And raising, one by one, the suppliant crew, To comfort each, full solemnly he swore, That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore, And whate'er else to chivalry belongs, He would not cease, till he reveng'd their wrongs : That Greece should see perform'd what he declar'd; And cruel Creon find his just reward. He said no more, but, shunning all delay, Rode on; nor enter'd Athens on his way: But left his sister and his queen behind, And wav'd his royal banner in the wind : Where in an argent field the god of war Was drawn triumphant on his iron car ; Red was his sword, and shield, and whole attire, And all the godhead seem'd to glow with fire ; Ev'n the ground glitter'd where the standard flew, And the green grass was dy'd to sanguine hue. High on his pointed lance his pennon bore His Cretan fight, the conquer'd Minotaur : The soldiers shout around with generous rage, And in that victory their own presage. He prais'd their ardour ; inly pleas'd to see His host the flower of Grecian chivalry. All day he march'd; and all th’ ensuing night ; And saw the city with returning light.

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