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Much they resent, yet much their monarch blame
Who, rising, spake to clear his tainted fame:
"O friends! I never forced the mouse to death,
Nor saw the gaspings of his latest breath.
He, vain of youth, our art of swimming tried;
And venturous in the lake the wanton died.
To vengeance now by false appearance led,
They point their anger at our guiltless head.
Then where the dancing feather joins the crest,
Let each brave frog his obvious mouse arrest;
Each strongly grasping, headlong plunge a foe,
Till countless circles whirl the lake below.
Down sink the mice in yielding waters drowned;
Loud plash the waters; echoing shores resound."
He spake no more. His prudent scheme imparts
Redoubled ardor to the boldest hearts;
And dressed for war, they take the appointed height,
Poise the long arms, and urge the promised fight.
But now where Jove's irradiate spires arise,
With stars surrounded in ethereal skies,
The sire, superior, leans, and points to show
What wondrous combats mortals wage below.
This seen, the power his sacred visage wears,
He casts a pitying smile on worldly cares,
And asks what heavenly guardians take the list,
Or who the mice, or who the frogs assist?
Then, thus to Pallas: "If my daughter's mind
Have joined, why stays she still behind?"
The maid replies: "In vain, my father, all their dangers plead;
To such thy Pallas never grants her aid.
My flowery wreaths they petulantly spoil,
And rob my crystal lamps of feeding oil;
(Ills following ills) but what affects me more,
My veil, that idle race profanely tore.
Nor let the frogs to gain my succor sue,
Those clamorous fools have lost my favor too.
Let all like me from either host forbear,
Nor tempt the flying furies of the spear.
Let heavenly blood (or what for blood may flow)
Adorn the conquest of a meaner foe."
So moved the blue-eyed queen; her words persuade,
Great Jove assented, and the rest obeyed.
Now front to front, the marching armies shine,
Halt ere they meet, and form the lengthening line.
The chiefs, conspicuous, seen and heard afar,
Give the loud sign to loose the rushing war;
Their dreadful trumpets deep-mouthed hornets sound,
The sounded charge remurmurs o'er the ground;
Even Jove proclaims a field of horror nigh,
And rolls low thunder through the troubled sky.
Now nobly towering o'er the rest appears
A gallant prince that far transcends his years;
Pride of his sire, and glory of his house,
And more a Mars in combat than a mouse;
His action bold, robust his ample frame,
And Meridarpax his resounding name.
The warrior, singled from the fighting crowd,
Boasts the dire honors of his arms aloud;
Then strutting near the lake, with looks elate,
Threats all its nations with approaching fate.
And such his strength, the silver lakes around
Might roll their waters o'er unpeopled ground.
But powerful Jove, who shows no less his grace
To frogs that perish than to human race,
Felt soft compassion rising in his soul
And shook his sacred head, that shook the pole.
Then thus to all the gazing powers began,
The sire of gods and frogs and mouse and man:
"How fierce his javelin o'er the trembling lakes
The black-furred hero, Meridarpax, shakes!
Unless some favoring deity descend,
Soon will the frogs' loquacious empire end.
While Mars, refulgent on his rattling car,
Arrests his raging rival of the war."
He ceased, reclining with attentive head,
When thus the glorious god of combats said:
"Nor Pallas, Jove! though Pallas take the field
With all the terrors of her hissing shield;
Nor Mars himself, though Mars in armor bright
Ascend his car, and wheel amidst the flight;
Nor these can drive the desperate mouse afar,
And change the fortunes of the bleeding war.
Let all go forth, all heaven in arms arise,
Or launch thy own red thunder from the skies."
'Twas thus the omnipotent advised the gods.
When from his throne the cloud-compeller nods;
When swift he hurls the brandished bolt around,
And headlong darts it at the distant ground.
Yet still the mice advance their dread design,
And the last danger threats the croaking line;
Till Jove, that inly mourned the loss they bore,
With strange assistance filled the frighted shore.
Poured from the neighb'ring strand, deformed to view,
They march, a sudden, unexpected crew.
Strong suits of armor round their bodies close,
Which like thick anvils blunt the force of blows;
On eight long feet the wondrous warriors tread,
And either end supplies the head.
The mortal wits to call them crabs agree;
The gods have other names for things than we.
Mice short of feet, have lost the power to fly,
Or without hands upon the fields they lie.
Helpless amazement, fear pursuing fear,
In mad confusion through their host appear;
O'er the wild waste with headlong flight they go,
Or creep concealed in vaulted holes below.
But down Olympus to the western seas,
Far-shooting Phoebus drove with fainter rays,
And a whole war (before ordained) begun,
And fought, and ceased, in one revolving sun.
E children of man, whose life is a span,
Attend to the words of the sovereign birds,
Who survey from on high, with a critical eye,
Your struggles of misery, labor and care.
Whence you may learn and clearly discern
Such truths as attract your inquisitive turn,
Which is busied of late with a mighty debate,
A profound speculation about the creation
And organical life and chaotical strife;
With various notions of heavenly motions,
And rivers and oceans, and valleys and mountains,
And sources of fountains and meteors on high,
And stars in the sky, we propose, by and by,
(If you listen and hear) to make it all clear.
Before the creation of æther and light,
Chaos and night together were plight,
In the dungeon of Erebus, foully bedight;
Nor ocean, nor air, a substance was there,
Or solid or rare, or figure or form,
But horrible Tartarus ruled in the storm.
At length in the dreary chaotical closet
Of Erebus old was a certain deposit
By Night, the primeval, in secrecy laid—
A mysterious egg, that in silence and shade,
Was brooded and hatched, till time came about
And Love, the delightful, in glory flew out,
Sparkling and florid, with stars in his forehead,
His forehead and hair, and a flutter and flare,
As he rose in the air triumphantly furnished
To range his dominions on glittering pinions.
He soon in the murky Tartarean recesses,
With a hurricane might, in his fiery caresses,
Impregnated Chaos, and hastily snatched
To being and life, begotten and hatched,
The primitive birds.
The celestial lights, the terrestrial ball
Were later of birth, with the dwellers on earth.
Our antiquity proved, it remains to be shown
That Love is our author and master alone.
And all, the world over, were friends of the lover.
All lessons of primary daily concern
You have learnt from the birds and continue to learn
From best benefactors and early instructors.
We give you the warning of seasons returning
When the Cranes are arranged and muster afloat;
In the middle air, with a croaking note,
Steering away to the Libyan sands,
Where careful farmers sow their lands.
The shepherd is warned, by the Kite reappearing,
To muster his flocks, and be ready for shearing.
You quit your old cloak at the Swallows' behest,
In assurance of summer and purchase a vest.
For Delphi, for Ammon, Dodona, in fine,
For every oracular temple and shrine,