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THE CHOICE OF HERCULES,
From the Greek of Prodicus.
By BISHOP LOWTH.
OW had the son of Jove, mature, attain’d
The joyful prime ; when youth, clate 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 impreft, The gen'rous purpose fill fall warm the manly brealt.
As on a day, rellcēting on his age
For highest deeds now ripe, Alcides fought Retirement, nurse of contemplation l'age,
Step following step, and thought succeeding thought ; Musing, with seady pace the youth pursued
His walk, and lost in meditation stray'd Far in a lonely vale, with solitude
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 se to softer 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 sleps they seem to bear ; Both large and tall, exceeding human size ;
Both, far exceeding human beauty, fair. Graceful, yet each with diff'rent grace they 'move ; This itriking facred awe"; that, fofter winning love.
The first in native dignity surpafs'd';
Artless and u'nadorn’d she pleas'd the more ; Health o'er her looks a genuine luftre cast';
A vest more white than new-fallen snow fhe wore : August the trod, yet modest 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 infpire Pleasure corre&ted with an awful fear; Majestically sweet, and amiably severe.
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
Ligbtly 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'di adown, so loose and thin, Her ftature shew'd more tall, more snowy white her skin,
Oft with a smile lhe view'd herself askance ;
Even on her shade a conscious look ihe 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 she press’d. With hafty step; nor of repulse afraid,
With freedom bland the wond'ring youth address’d; With winning fondncís on his neck she hung ; Sweet as the honey-des flow'd her enchanting tongue :
“ Dear Hercules, whence this unk ind delay ?
Dear youth, what doubts can thus diftract by mind? Securely follow where I lead the way,
, And range thro' wilds of pleasure unconlin'd. With me retire from noise, and pain, and care,
Embath'd in bliss, and wrapt in endless cale : 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.
Thien will I grant thee all thy soul's desire ;
All that may charm thine ear, and please thy fight; All that the thought can frame, or wish require, : . ||
To steep thy ravish'd senses in delight:
Fittest to tune the melting foul to love,
The fragrant baw'r, cool fountain, flady grove ; Tresh flow’rs to ilrew thy couch, and crown thy head: Joy fall a:tend thy steps, and ease shall smooth thy bed.
These will I freely, constantly fupply,
Pleasures not earn’d with toil, nor inix'd with woes Far from thy rest repining want ihall fly,
Nor labour bathe in sweat thy careful brow. Mature the copious harvet shall be thine,
Let the laborious hind subdue the foil ; Leave the rash soldier spoils of war to win,
Won by the soldier thou shalt share the fpoil: These fofter cares my best allics employ,
New pleasures to invent, to wish, and to enjoy.".
Her winning voice the youth attentive caught ;
He gaz'd impatient on the smiling maid;
“ My name, fair youth, is Happiness," the faid: 64 Well can my friends this envied truth maintain;
They share my bliss, they best can speak my praise: Tho' Slander call mne Sloth:(detraction vain !)
Heed not what Slander, vain detra&ter, fay's ; Slander, ftill 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. Rise, youth! exalt 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 mult 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 stand stern before her throne,
And guard (so Jove commands) the sacred place : Who seeks her muft the mighty coft fuftain, And pay the price of fame-labour, and care, and pain,