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Helen her name, to Beauty's queen allied; 360
And well I know that Græcia's ample coast
He said: on earth her sparkling eyes she cast; Embarrass'd paused a while, and spoke at last: 'To visit Ilion, and her towers survey, Rear'd by the god of ocean and of day (Stupendous labours by celestials wrought), Hath oft, illustrious guest, employ'd my thought; Oft have I wish'd to saunter o'er the vales, Whose flowery pasture Phoebus flocks regales; Where, beneath Ilion's walls, along the meads The shepherd god his lowing oxen feeds. To Ilion I'll attend thee; haste, away; For beauty's queen forbids our long delay. No husband's threats, no husband's search I dread, Though he to Troy suspect his Helen fled.'
The Spartan dame, of matchless charms possess'd,
Proffer'd these terms to her consenting guest.
ere the ray
But through the ivory gate incessant troop
At morning's dawn Hermione appears, 400 With tresses discomposed and bathed in tears; She roused her menial train, and thus express'd The boding sorrows of her troubled breast
'Where, fair attendants, is my mother fled, Who left me sleeping in her lonely bed? For yesternight she took her trusty key, Turn'd the strong bolt, and slept secure with me.' Her hapless fate the pensive train deplore, And in thick circles gather round the door; Here all contend to moderate her grief, And by their kind condolence give relief: Unhappy princess, check the rising tear; Thy mother, absent now, will soon appear: Soon as thy sorrow's bitter source she knows, Her speedy presence will dispel thy woes. The virgin cheek, with sorrow's weight o'ercome, Sinks languid down, and loses half its bloom: Deep in the head the tearful eye retires, There sullen sits, nor darts its wonted fires. 419 Eager, perchance, the band of nymphs to meet, She saunters devious from her favourite seat, And, of some flowery mead at length possess'd, Sinks on the dew-bespangled lawn to rest: Or to some kindred stream perchance she strays, Bathes in Eurotas' streams, and round its margin plays.'
'Why talk ye thus? (the pensive maid replies, The tears of anguish trickling from her eyes)
She knows each roseate bower, each vale and hill,
She knows the course of every winding rill.
Or art thou fallen from some steep mountain's brow,
Thy corse conceal'd in dreary dells below?
Beneath each shrivel'd leaf that strews the ground,
Thus spoke she sorrowing, and reclined her head,
And, sleeping, seem'd to mingle with the dead;
'Last night, far distant from your daughter fled, You left me slumbering in my father's bed.
What dangerous steeps have I not strove to gain! And stroll'd o'er hills and dales for thee in vain !' Condemn me not (replied the wandering dame),
Pity my sufferings, nor augment my shame. 461
She said: her voice the sleeping maid alarms; She springs to clasp her mother in her arms. In vain no mother meets her wistful eyes; And now her tears redouble and her cries: 'Ye feathery race, inhabitants of light, To Crete's famed isle direct your rapid flight: There to my sire the' unwelcome truth proclaim, How yesterday a desperate vagrant came, Tore all he dotes on from his bridal bed, And with his beauteous queen abruptly fled.' The restless fair, her mother to regain, Thus to the winds bewail'd and wept in vain.
The Thracian town diminish'd from their view, And fleet o'er Helle's strait the vessel flew ; The bridegroom now his natal coast descried, And to the Trojan port conducts his bride. Cassandra from her tower beheld them sail, And tore her locks, and rent her golden veil; But hospitable Troy unbars her gate, Receives her citizen, and seals her fate,
NOTES ON THE RAPE OF HELEN.
COLUTHUS LYCOPOLITES, a Theban poet, flourished in the reign of the emperor Anastasius, about five hundred years after Christ. He is said to have been the author of several poems; none of which have come down to us except this, which in many passages is corrupt and mutilated. There is an excellent edition of this poem by Lennep. There is also an old translation of it by Sir Edward Sherburne; to whom I acknowledge myself indebted for some of his useful annotations.
Did the insertion of this little poem stand in need of an apology, it might be made by observing, that the subjects of the two poems are not wholly dissimilar. In the one is celebrated the rape of Medea, in the other the rape of Helen; two events of equal celebrity in ancient story.
On the title of this poem, Sir Edward Sherburne makes the following not unpleasant remark: The word rape must not be taken in the common acceptation of the expression: for Paris was more courtly than to offer, and Helen more kindhearted than to suffer, such a violence. It must be taken rather for a transporting of her with her consent from her own country to Troy: which Virgil seems to insinuate in the first book of his Eneid, where, speaking of Helen, he says,
Pergama cum peteret.