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A curl'd knot of embracing snakes, that kiss
The judge of torments, and the king of tears:
And to make up hell's majesty, each horn
Sev'n crested hydras horribly adorn.
His eyes, the sullen dens of death and night,
Startle the dull air with a dismal red:
Such his fell glances as the fatal light
Of staring comets, that look kingdoms dead:
From his black nostrils, and blew lips, in spight
Of hell's own stink, a worser stench is spread.
His breath hell's lightning is: and each deep groan
His flaming eyes dire exhalation,
The never-dying life of a long death.
* * » *
Three rigorous virgins waiting still behind,
Thus reigns the wrathful king, and while he reigns,
His scepter and himself both he disdains."
Much alarmed at "symptoms so deadly, unto death and him,"
"Fain would he have forgot what fatal strings
Air, with a dismal shade, but all in vain,
Of sturdy adamant is his strong chain.
While thus Heav'n's highest counsails, by the low
Ran trembling through the hollow vaults of night—
/ After " feeling the pulse of every prophecy," he, in some measure, foresees the nature of the " mighty babe" about to be born, but he cannot fully comprehend some of the mysterious circumstances of his birth—the incarnation, among other things, "poseth his proudest intellectual power."
"That he, whom the Sun serves, should faintly peep
That glorie's self should serve our griefs and fears,
And free eternity submit to years."
Feeling himself subdued and thwarted by the hand of the Almighty, and fearing farther punishment, he thus beautifully communes with himself, and asks, in the hearing of his subjects,
"Art thou not Lucifer 1 he to whom the droves
Such, and so rich, the flames that from thine eyes
Opprest the common-people of the skies.
Thus spoke th' impatient prince, and made a pause,
Be it thy part, hell's mighty lord, to lay
On us thy dread commands, ours to obey."
He selects Cruelty as a suitable agent for the purpose which he has been revolving in his mind: this allegorical personage and her habitation are conceived with a ghastly power of imagination, and no less awfully described: part of which we will transcribe.
"Fourth of the cursed knot of hags is she,
Or rather all the other three in one;
Hell's shop of slaughter she do's oversee,
And still assist the execution!
But chiefly there does she delight to be,
Where hell's capacious cauldron is set on:
And while the black souls boil in their own gore,
Thrice howl'd the caves of night, and thrice the sound,
Rebounding, through hell's inmost caverns came,
In answer to her formidable name.
'Mongst all the palaces in hell's command,
No one so merciless as this of hers.
The adamantine doors for ever stand
Impenetrable, both to pray'rs and tears;
The walls inexorable steel, no hand
Of Time, or teeth of hungry Ruine, fears.
There, has the purple Vengeance a proud seat,
For hangings and for curtains, all along
The walls, abominable ornaments!
Are tools of wrath, anvils of torments hung;
Fell executioners of foul intents,
Nails, hammers, hatchets sharp, and halters strong,
Swords, spears, with all the fatal instruments
The house is hers'd about with a black wood,
Which nods with many a heavy headed tree;
Each flower's a pregnant poyson, tried and good:
Each herb a plague: the wind's sighs timed be
By a black fount, which weeps into a flood.
Through the thick shades obscurely might you see
This horrific person is despatched to the upper regions, that she may appear to King Herod in a dream, and spur him on to the murder of the Innocents. The time of her arrival on earth is marked by these most melodious numbers.
"Now had the Night's companion from her den,
Of sorrow, with a soft and downy hand;
Sealing all breasts in a Lethaean band."
It is needless to add, that so accomplished a female completely effected her purpose. She appears to the sleeping king in the form of his deceased brother; and, after addressing him in a speech filled with the most taunting and stinging motives to action, she betakes herself back to her employer.
"So said, her richest snake, which to her wrist
For a beseeming bracelet she had tied,
(A special worm it was as ever kist
The foamy lips of Cerberus) she apply'd
To the king's heart; the snake no sooner hist,
But Vertue heard it, and away she hied,
Dire flames diffuse themselves through every vein:
He wakes, and with him (ne'er to sleep) new fears:
After this, the first book closes with anticipating the measures which Herod will pursue in the morning, and with a sort of address to him from the poet, which, however, he is not supposed to hear, on the futility of his suspicions.
Our quotations from this neglected poet have been so copious, that we have no space left for observing upon any of the other pieces of translation, except one; and that is so eminently beautiful in itself, and is translated with such a wonderful power over the resources of our language, that we hope to find favour in the eyes of our readers, by extracting the whole poem. The original is the Latin of Strada; the subject, the well-known contest of the musician and nightingale. Crashaw entitles it, "Music's Duel."
"Now westward Sol had spent the richest beams
Close in the covert of the leaves there stood
His nimble hand's instinct then taught each string