Pastorals Epistles Odes (1748)/Fable of Thule

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An unfinished poem about the mythical Thule.

2235244Pastorals, epistles, odes, and other original poems, with translations from Pindar, Anacreon, and Sappho — The Fable of Thule1748Ambrose Philips




FAR northward as the Dane extends his sway,
Where the sun glances but a sloping ray,
Beneath the sharpest rigour of the skies,
Disdainful Thule's wintry island lies. 4
Unhappy maid! thy tale, forgotten long,
Shall virgins learn from my instructive song,
And every youth, who lingers in despair,
By thy example warn the cruel fair. 8

In Cyprus, sacred to the queen of love,
(Where stands her temple, and her myrtle grove,)
Was Thule born, uncertain how: 'tis said
Once Venus won Adonis to her bed, 12
And pregnant grew, the birth to chance assign'd
In woods, and foster'd by the feather'd kind.
With flowers some strew the helpless orphan round,
With downy moss some spread the carpet ground, 16
Some ripened fruits, some fragrant honey, bring;
And some fetch water from the running spring;
While others warble from the boughs, to cheer
Their infant charge, and tune her tender ear. 20
Soon as the sun forsakes the evening skies,
And hid in shades the gloomy forest lies,
The nightingales their tuneful vigils keep,
And lull her, with their gentler strains, to sleep. 24

This the prevailing rumour: as she grew,
No dubious tokens spoke the rumour true.
In every forming feature might be seen
Some bright resemblance of the Cyprian queen: 28
Nor was it hard the hunter youth to trace,
In all her early passion for the chace:
And when, on springing flowers reclin'd, she sung,
The birds upon the bending branches hung, 32
While, warbling, she express'd their various strains,
And, at a distance, charm'd the listening swains:
So sweet her voice resounded through the wood,
They thought the nymph some Siren from the flood. 36

Half human thus by lineage, half divine,
In forests did the lonely beauty shine,
Like wood-land flowers, which paint the desert glades,
And waste their sweets in unfrequented shades. 40
No human face she saw, and rarely seen
By human face: a solitary queen
She rul'd, and rang'd, her shady empire round.
No horn the silent huntress bears; no hound, 44
With noisy cry, disturbs her solemn chace,
Swift, as the bounding stag, she wings her pace;
And, bend when-e'er she will her ebon bow,
A speedy death arrests the flying foe. 48
The bow the hunting goddess first supply'd,
And ivory quiver cross her shoulders ty'd.

The imperious queen of heaven, with jealous eyes,
Beholds the blooming virgin from the skies, 52
At once admires, and dreads, her growing charms,
And sees the god already in her arms:
In vain, she finds, her bitter tongue reproves
His broken vows, and his clandestine loves: 56
Jove still continues frail: and all in vain
Does Thule, in obscurest shades remain,
While Maja's son, the thunderer's winged spy,
Informs him where the lurking beauties ly. 60
What sure expedient then shall Juno find,
To calm her fears, and ease her boding mind?
Delays to jealous minds a torment prove;
And Thule ripens every day for love. 64

She mounts her car, and shakes the silken reins;
The harness'd peacocks spread their painted trains,
And smooth their glossy necks against the sun:
The wheels along the level Azure run. 68
Eastward the goddess guides her gaudy team,
And perfects, as she rides, her forming scheme.

The various orbs now pass'd, adown the steep
Of heaven the chariot whirls, and plunges deep 72
In fleecy clouds, which o'er the mid-land main
Hang pois'd in air, to bless the isles with rain:
And here the panting birds repose a-while;
Not so their queen; she gains the Cyprian isle, 76
By speedy Zephyrs borne in thickned air:
Unseen she seeks, unseen she finds, the fair.

Now o'er the mountain tops the rising sun
Shot purple rays: now Thule had begun 80
Her morning chace, and printed in the dews
Her fleeting steps. The goddess now pursues,
Now over-takes her in the full career,
And flings a javelin at the flying deer. 84
Amaz'd, the virgin huntress turns her eyes;
When Juno, (now Diana in disguise,)
Let no vain terrours discompose thy mind;
My second visit, like my first, is kind. 88
Thy ivory quiver, and thy ebon bow,
Did not I give?——Here sudden blushes glow
On Thule's cheeks: her busy eyes survey
The dress, the crescent, and her doubts give way. 92

I own thee, goddess bright, the nymph replies,
Goddess, I own thee, and thy favours prize:
Goddess of woods, and lawns, and level plains,
Fresh in my mind thine image still remains. 96

Then Juno, beauteous ranger of the grove,
My darling care, fair object of my love,
Hither I come, urg'd by no trivial fears,
To guard thy bloom, and warn thy tender years. 100