NIOBE in Distress for her Children slain by
Metamorphoses, Book VI. and from a view of the Painting of Mr.
APOLLO's wrath to man the dreadful
Of ills innum'rous, tuneful goddess, sing!
Thou who did'st first th' ideal pencil give,
And taught'st the painter in his works to live,
Inspire with glowing energy of thought,
painted, and what
Muse! lend thy aid, nor let me sue in vain,
Tho' last and meanest of the rhyming train!
O guide my pen in lofty strains to show
queen, all beautiful in woe.
spreads her wide domain
dwelt, and held her potent reign;
See in her hand the regal sceptre shine,
The wealthy heir of
102He most distinguish'd by
To approach the tables of the gods above:
, who with mighty pains
Th' ethereal axis on his neck sustains:
Her other gran sire on the throne on high
Rolls the loud-pealing thunder thro' the sky.
, who from
Divinely taught to sweep the sounding strings.
Seven sprightly sons the royal bed adorn,
Seven daughters beauteous as the op'ning morn,
fills the ravish'd sight,
And decks the orient realms with rosy light
From their bright eyes the living splendors play,
Nor can beholders bear the flashing ray.
, thou turn'st thine eyes,
New beauties kindle, and new joys arise!
But thou had'st far the happier mother prov'd,
If this fair offspring had been less belov'd:
103What if their charms exceed
No words could tell them, and no pencil paint,
Thy love too vehement hastens to destroy
Each blooming maid, and each celestial boy.
comes, endu'd with mighty skill,
The past to explore, the future to reveal.
mandate to proclaim:
The Theban maids to hear the orders ran,
"And pious tribute at her altars pay:
"With rights divine, the goddess be implor'd,
"Nor be her sacred offspring unador'd."
And pious tribute to the goddess pay.
The rich perfumes ascend in waving spires,
And altars blaze with consecrated fires;
The fair assembly moves with graceful air,
And leaves of laurel bind the flowing hair.
comes with all her royal race,
With charms unnumber'd, and superior grace:
garments of delightful hue,
In wove with gold, refulgent to the view,
Beyond description beautiful she moves
, 'midst her smiles and loves:
She views around the supplicating train,
And shakes her graceful head with stern dis-
Proudly she turns around her lofty eyes,
And thus reviles celestial deities:
"What madness drives the
"To give their incense to surrounding air?
"Say why this new sprung deity preferr'd?
"Why vainly fancy your petitions heard?
"Or say why
offspring is obey'd,
"While to my goddesship no tribute's paid?
"For me no altars blaze with living fires,
"No bullock bleeds, no frankincense transpires,
palace, not unknown to fame,
nations all revere my name.
105"Where'er I turn my eyes vast wealth I find.
"Lo! here an empress with a goddess join'd.
"What, shall a
"To whom the spacious earth a couch deny'd?
"Nor heav'n, nor earth, nor sea receiv'd your
took the wand'rer in.
"Round me what a large progeny is spread!
"No frowns of fortune has my soul to dread.
"What if indignant she decrease my train
number will remain?
"Then hence, ye
dames, hence haste
"Nor longer off'rings to
"Regard the orders of
"And take the leaves of laurel from your brows."
Their brows unbound, and left the rights un-
The angry goddess heard, then silence broke
summit, and indignant spoke;
behold, thy mother in disgrace,
"Who to no goddess yields the prior place
self, who reigns above,
"The spouse and sister of the thund'ring
bosom with rebellious fires;
"No reason her imperious temper quells,
"But all her father in her tongue rebels;
"Wrap her own sons for her blaspheming breath,
wrap them in the shades of death."
ceas'd, and ardent thus replies,
The God, whose glory decks th'expanded skies;
"Cease thy complaints, mine be the task as-
"To punish pride, and scourge the rebel mind."
join'd,-- They wing their instant
trembled as th' immortal pow'rs alight.
With clouds incompass'd glorious
The feather'd vengeance quiv'ring in his hands.
walls a plain extended lay,
young princes pass'd in sport the
There the bold coursers bounded o'er the plains,
While their great masters held the golden reins.
first the racing pastime led,
And rul'd the fury of his flying steed.
"Ah me," he sudden cries, with shrieking
While in his breast he feels the shaft of death;
He drops the bridle on his courser's mane,
Before his eyes in shadows swims the plain,
He, the first-born of great
Was struck the first, first mingled with the
Then didst thou,
the language hear
Of fate portentous whistling in the air:
As when th' impending storm the sailor sees
He spreads his canvas to the fav'ring breeze,
108So to thine horse thou gav'st the golden reins,
Gav'st him to rush impetuous o'er the plains:
But ah! a fatal shaft from
Smites through thy neck, and sinks thee on the
Two other brothers were at
And in their pastime claspt each other round:
A shaft that instant from
Transfixt them both, and stretcht them on the
Together they their cruel fate bemoan'd
Together languish'd, and together groan'd:
Together too th' unbodied spirits fled,
And fought the gloomy mansions of the dead.
saw, and trembling at the view,
Beat his torn breast, that chang'd its snowy hue.
He flies to raise them in a kind embrace;
A brother's fondness triumphs in his face:
fails in this fraternal deed,
A dart dispatch'd him (so the fates decreed:)
109Soon as the arrow left the deadly wound,
His issuing entrails smoak'd upon the ground.
What woes on blooming
His sighs portend his near impending fate.
Just where the well-made leg begins to be,
And the soft sinews form the supple knee,
The youth sore wounded by the
Attempts to extract the crime-avenging rod,
But, whilst he strives the will of fate t' avert,
sends a second dart;
Swift thro' his throat the feather'd mischref flies,
Bereft of sense, he drops his head, and dies.
, the last, directs his pray'r,
And cries, "My life, ye gods celestial! spare."
heard, and pity touch'd his heart,
But ah! too late, for he had sent the dart:
Thou too, O
are doom'd to fall,
The fates refuse that arrow to recal.
On the swift wings of ever-flying
palace soon the tidings came:
heard, and with indignant eyes
She thus express'd her anger and surprize:
"Why is such privilege to them allow'd?
"Why thus insulted by the
"Dwells there such mischief in the pow'rs above?
"Why sleeps the vengeance of immortal Jove?"
too, with grief oppress'd
Had plung'd the deadly dagger in his breast.
now, less haughty than before,
With lofty head directs her steps no more.
She, who late told her pedigree divine,
And drove the
How strangely chang'd--yet beautiful in
She weeps, nor weeps unpity'd by the foe.
On each pale corse the wretched mother spread
Lay overwhelm'd with grief, and kiss'd her dead.
Then rais'd her arms, and thus, in accents slow,
"Be sated cruel
with my woe;
111"If I've offended, let these streaming eyes,
"And let this sev'nfold funeral suffice:
"Ah! take this wretched life you deign'd to save,
"With them I too am carried to the grave.
"Rejoice triumphant, my victorious foe,
"But show the cause from whence your triumphs
"The" I unhappy mourn these children slain,
"Yet greater numbers to my lot remain."
She ceas'd, the bow-string twang'd with awful
Which struck with terror all th' assembly round,
Except the queen, who stood unmov'd alone,
By her distresses more presumptuous grown.
Near the pale corses stood their sisters fair
In sable vestures and dishevell'd hair;
One, while the draws the fatal shaft away,
Faints, falls, and sickens at the light of day.
To sooth her mother, lo! another flies,
And blames the fury of inclement skies,
And, while her words a filial pity show,
Struck dumb-- indignant seeks the shades
Now from the fatal place another flies,
Falls in her flight, and languishes, and dies.
Another on her sister drops in death;
A fifth in trembling terrors yields her breath;
While the sixth seeks some gloomy cave in
Struck with the rest, and mingl'd with the slain.
One only daughter lives, and she the least;
The queen close calsp the daughter to her breast:
"Ye heav'nly pow'rs, ah spare me one," she cry'd,
"Ah! spare me one," the vocal hills reply'd:
In vain the begs, the Fates her suit deny,
In her embrace she sees her daughter die.
(*) This Verse to the End is the Work of another Hand.
queen of all her family bereft,
"Without or husband, son, or daughter left,
"Grew stupid at the shock. The passing air
"Made no impression on her stiff'ning hair.
"The blood forsook her face: amidst the flood
"Pour'd from her cheeks, quite fix'd her eye-balls
"Her tongue, her palate both obdurate grew,
"Her curdled veins no longer motion knew;
"The use of neck, and arms, and feet was gone,
"And ev'n her bowels hard'ned into stone;
"A marble statue now the queen appears,
"But from the marble steal the silent tears."