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From Strymon's lake, Cäyster's plashy meads,
And fens of Scythia, green with rustling reeds,
From where the Danube winds through many a land,
And Mareotis laves th’Egyptian strand,
To rendezvous they waft on eager wing,
And wait assembled the returning spring.
Meanwhile they trim their plumes for length of flight,
Whet their keen beaks and twisting claws, for fight;
Each Crane the Pigmy-power in thought o'erturns,
And every bosom for the battle burns.
When genial gales the frozen air unbind,
The screaming legions wheel, and mount the wind;
Far in the sky they form their long array,
And land and ocean stretched immense survey
Deep, deep beneath; and, triumphing in pride,
With clouds and winds commixed, innumerous ride :
'Tis wild obstreperous clangour all, and heaven
Whirls, in tempestuous undulation driven.
Nor less th' alarm that shook the world below, Where marched in pomp of war th' embattled foe; Where mannikins with haughty step advance, And
grasp the shield, and couch the quivering lance : To right and left the lengthening lines they form, And ranked in deep array await the storm.
High in the midst the chieftain-dwarf was seen, Of giant stature and imperial mien : Full twenty inches tall he strode along, And viewed with lofty eye the wondering throng; And while with many a scar his visage frowned, Bared his broad bosom, rough with many a wound Of beaks and claws, disclosing to their sight The glorious meed of high heroic might. For with insatiate vengeance he pursued, And never-ending hate, the feathery brood. Unhappy they, confiding in the length Of horny beak or talon's crooked strength, Who durst abide his rage; the blade descends, And from the panting trunk the pinion rends: Laid low in dust the pinion waves no more, The trunk disfigured stiffens in its gore. What hosts of heroes fell beneath his force! What heaps of chicken carnage marked his course! How oft, 0 Strymon, thy lone banks along, Did wailing Echo waft the funeral song!
And now from far the mingling clamours rise, Loud and more loud rebounding through the skies. From skirt to skirt of heaven, with stormy sway, A cloud rolls on and darkens all the day.
Near and more near descends the dreadful shade,
And now in battailous array displayed,
On sounding wings, and screaming in their ire,
The Cranes rush onward and the fight require.
The Pigmy-warriors eye with fearless glare
The host thick swarming o'er the burdened air ;
Thick swarming now, but to their native land
Doomed to return a scanty straggling band.-
When sudden, darting down the depth of heaven,
Fierce on th' expecting foe the Cranes are driven:
The kindling frenzy every bosom warms,
The region echoes to the crash of arms:
Loose feathers from th’ encountering armies fly,
And in careering whirlwinds mount the sky.
To breathe from toil upsprings the panting Crane,
Then with fresh vigour downward darts again.
Success in equal balance hovering hangs.
Here, on the sharp spear, mad with mortal pangs,
The bird transfixed in bloody vortex whirls,
Yet fierce in death the threatening talon curls :
There, while the life-blood bubbles from his wound,
With little feet the Pigmy beats the ground;
Deep from his breast the short, short sob he draws,
And dying curses the keen-pointed claws.
Trembles the thundering field, thick covered o'er
With falchions, mangled wings, and streaming gore,
And Pigmy-arms, and beaks of ample size,
And here a claw and there a finger lies.
Encompassed round with heaps of slaughtered foes,
All grim in blood the Pigmy-champion glows.
And on th' assailing host impetuous springs,
Careless of nibbling bills and flapping wings;
And midst the tumult wheresoe'er he turns,
The battle with redoubled fury burns ;
From every side th' avenging Cranes amain
Throng, to o'erwhelm this terror of the plain.
When suddenly (for such the will of Jove)
A fowl enormous, sousing from above,
The gallant chieftain clutched, and, soaring high,
(Sad chance of battle !) bore him up the sky.
The Cranes pursue, and clustering in a ring,
Chatter triumphant round the captive king.
But ah! what pangs each Pigmy-bosom wrung,
When, now to Cranes a prey, on talons hung,
High in the clouds they saw their helpless lord,
His wriggling form still lessening as he soared.
Lo! yet again, with unabated rage,
In mortal strife the mingling hosts engage.
The Crane with darted bill assaults the foe, Hovering; then wheels aloft to 'scape the blow : The Dwarf in anguish aims the vengeful wound; But whirls in empty air the falchion round.
Such was the scene, when midst the loud alarms Sublime th’ eternal Thunderer rose in arms; When Briareus, by mad ambition driven, Heaved Pelion huge, and hurled it high at heaven. Jove rolled redoubling thunders from on high, Mountains and bolts encountered in the sky; Till one stupendous ruin whelmed the crew, Their vast limbs weltering wide in brimstone blue.
But now at length the Pygmy legions yield,
And winged with terror fly the fatal field.
They raise a weak and melancholy wail,
All in distraction scattering o'er the vale.
Prone on their routed rear the Cranes descend;
Their bills bite furious, and their talons rend :
With unrelenting ire they urge the chase,
Sworn to exterminate the hated race.
'Twas thus the Pygmy name, once great in war,
For spoils of conquered Cranes renowned afar,
Perished. For, by the dread decree of Heaven,
Short is the date to earthly grandeur given,
And vain are all attempts to roam beyond
Where fate has fixed the everlasting bound.
Fallen are the trophies of Assyrian power,
And Persia's proud dominion is no more ;
Yea, though to both superior far in fame,
Thine empire, Latium, is an empty name.
And now, with lofty chiefs of ancient time,
The Pygmy heroes roam th’ Elysian clime.
Or, if belief to matron-tales be due,
Full oft, in the belated shepherd's view,
Their frisking forms, in gentle green arrayed
Gambol secure amid the moonlight glade :
Secure, for no alarming Cranes molest,
And all their woes in long oblivion rest :
Down the deep vale and narrow winding way
They foot it featly, ranged in ringlets gay:
'Tis joy and frolic all, where'er they rove,
And Fairy-people is the name they love.
TRANSLATED BY MR. NICHOLAS AMHURST. [The translator in a short preface says, " These lines (the Latin) are esteemed by the best judges to be the finest sketch of the Resurrection that any age or language has produced. Nor does their only excellence consist in being an accurate poem; but also in being an exact copy of the painter's original upon the altar in Magdalen College ; but so much improved with all the strongest figures, and most lively embellishments of a poetical description, that the reader receives a double satisfaction in seeing the two sister arts so useful to each other, in borrowing mutual helps and mutual advantages.
" It is indeed,” continues he, “wonderful to find, in the narrow compass of a few pages, all the most dreadful circumstances of that last terrible crisis of time. The poem is a beautiful and succinct epitome of all that has or can ever be said on that important subject; the very text which the ingenious Dr. Young has so largely and elegantly paraphrased in his excellent poem on the Last Day.”]
THE pencil's glowing lines and vast command,
And mankind rising from the painter's hand,
The awful Judge arrayed in beamy light,
And spectres trembling at the dreadful sight,
To sing, O muse, the pious bard inspire,
And waken in his breast the sacred fire.
The hallowed field, a bare white wall of late,
Now clothed in gaudy colours, shines in state;
And lest some little interval confess
Its ancient simple form and homely dress,
The skilful artist laid o'er every part
The first foundation of his future art:
O’er the wide frame his ductile colours led,
And with strong primings all the wall o’erspread.
As ere yon spangling orbs were hung on high,
Lest one great blank should yawn through boundless sky,
Through the wide heavenly arch and trackless road
In azure volumes the pure Æther flowed ;
The sun at length burns out intensely bright,
And the pale Crescent sheds her borrowed light ;
With thick-sown stars the radiant pole is crowned,
Of milky glories a long track is found,
O’erflows and whitens all the heavens around.
So when the ground-work of the piece was laid ;
Nor yet the painter had his art displayed, 1 Resurrectio delineata ad altare Coll. Magd. Oxon. Vol. i. p. 243.
With slower hand, and pencil more divine,
He blends each colour, heightens every line;
Till various forms the breathing picture wears,
And a mute group of images appears.
Celestial guards the topmost height attend,
And crowds of angels o'er the wall descend;
With their big cheeks the deafening clarions wind,
Whose dreadful clangours startle all mankind :
E'en the dead hear; the labouring graves conceive,
And the swoln clod in picture seems to heave.
Ten thousand worlds revive to better skies,
And from their tombs the thronging corses rise.
So when famed Cadmus sowed the fruitful field,
With pregnant throes the quickened furrow swelled ;
From the warm soil sprung up a warlike train,
And human harvests covered all the plain.
And now from every corner of the earth
The scattered dust is called to second birth ;
Whether in mines it formed the ripening mass,
Or humbly mixed, and flourished in the grass.
The severed body now unites again,
And kindred atoms rally into men.
The various joints resume their ancient seats,
And every limb its former task repeats.
Here, an imperfect form returns to light,
Not half renewed, dishonest to the sight;
Maimed of his nose appears his blotted face,
And scarce the image of a man we trace:
Here, by degrees infused, the vital ray
Gives the first motion to the panting clay:
Slow to new life, the thawing fluids creep,
And the stiff joints wake heavily from sleep.
Here, on the guilty brow pale horrors glare,
And all the figure labours with despair.
From scenes like these now turn thy wondering sight,
And if thou canst withstand such floods of light,
Look! where thy Saviour fills the middle space,
The Son of God, true image of his face,
Himself eternal God, ere time began her race.
See! what mild beams their gracious influence shed,
And how the pointed radiance crowns his head !
Around his temples lambent glories shine,
And on his brow sits majesty divine;
His eye-balls lighten with celestial fires,
And every grace to speak the God conspires !
But, ah! how charged! ah! how unlike the same From him who patient wore the mortal frame!