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TO HIERO OF SYRACUSE, VICTOR IN
THE HORSE RACE.
Can earth, or fire, or liquid air,
With water's sacred stream compare ?
Can aught that wealthy tyrants hold
Surpass the lordly blaze of gold ?-
Or lives there one, whose restless eye
Would seek along the empty sky,
Beneath the sun's meridian ray,
A warmer star, a purer day?
O thou, my soul, whose choral song
Would tell of contests sharp and strong,
Extol not other lists above
The circus of Olympian Jove;
Whence borne on many a tuneful tongue,
To Saturn's seed the anthem sung,
With harp, and flute and trumpet's call,
Hath sped to Hiero's festival.
Over sheep clad Sicily
Who the righteous sceptre beareth,
Every flower of virtue's tree
Wove in various wreath he weareth,--
But the bud of poesy
Is the fairest flower of all;
Which the bards, in social glee,
Strow round Hiero's wealthy hall.-
The harp on yonder pin suspended,
Sieze it, boy, for Pisa's sake,
And that good steed's, whose thought will wake
A joy with anxious fondness blended :-
No sounding lash his sleek side rended :
By Alpheus' bride, with feet of flame,
Self-driven to the goal he tended :
And earned the olive wreath of fame
For that dear lord, whose righteous name
The sons of Syracusa tell :-
Who loves the generous courser well :
Beloved himself by all who dwell
In Pelop’s Lydian colony.--
-Of earth-embracing Neptune, he
The darling, when, in days of yore,
All lovely from the caldron red
By Clotho's spell delivered,
The youth an ivory shoulder bore.-
-Well, these are tales of mystery! And many a das kly woven lie With men will easy credence gain; While truth, calm truth, may speak in vain ; For eloquence, whose honeyed sway Our frailer mortal wits obey, Can honor give to actions ill, And faith to deeds incredible ;And bitter blame, and praises high, Fall truest from posterity.
But if we dare the deeds rehearse
Of those that aye endure, ’T were meet that in such dangerous verse
Our every word were pure.
Then, son of Tantalus, receive
A plain unvarnished lay.
My song shall elder fables leave,
And of thy parent say,
That when in heaven a favored guest,
He called the gods in turns to feast
On Sipylus, his inountain home :-
The sovereign of the ocean foam,
-Can mortal form such favor prove
Rapt thee on golden car above
To highest house of mighty Jove ;
To which, in after day,
Came golden-baired Ganymede,
As bard in ancient story read,
The dark-winged eagle's prey.
And when no earthly tongue could tell
The fate of thee, invisible ;-
Nor friends, who sought thee wide in vain,
To soothe thy weeping mother's pain,
Could bring the wanderer home again ;
Some envious neighbor's spleen,
In distant hints, and darkly, said,
That in the caldron hissing ved,
And on the god's great table spread,
Thy mangled limbs were seen.
But who shall tax, I dare not, I,
The blessed gods with gluttony ?
Full oft the slanderous tongue has felt
By their high wrath the thunder dealt;-
if ever mortal head Heaven's holy watchers honored,
That head was Lydia's lord. Yet, could not mortal heart digest The wonders of that heavenly feast; Elate with pride, a thought unblest
Above his nature soared. And now, condemned to endless dread, (Such is the righteous doom of fate,)
He eyes, above his guilty head,
The shadowy rocks' impending weight:
The fourth with that tormented three
In horrible society!
For that, in frantic theft,
The nectar cup he reft,
And to his mortal peers in feasting poured
For whom a sin it were
With mortal life to share
The mystic dainties of th' inmortal board :
And who by policy
Can hope to 'scape the eye Of him who sits above by men and gods adored ?
For such offence, a doom severe,
Sent down the sun to sojourn here
Among the fleeting race of man;
Who when the curly down began
To clothe his cheek in darker shade,
To car-borne Pisa's royal maid
A lover's tender service paid.
But, in the darkness first he stood
Alone, by ocean's hoary flood,
And raised to him the suppliant cry,
The hoarse earth-shaking deity.