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Words to her dumb complaint a pause supplies,
And breath, to waste in unavailing cries.
Around their sovereign wept the menial fair,
To whom she thus address'd her deep despair—
‘Behold a wretch whom all the gods consign
To woes Did ever sorrows equal mine !
Long to my joys my dearest lord is lost,
His country's buckler, and the Grecian boast:
Now from my fond embrace, by tempests torn,
Our other column of the state is borne:
Nor took a kind adieu, nor sought consent!—
Unkind confederates in his dire intent!
Ill suits it with your shows of duteous zeal,
From me the purposed voyage to conceal:
Though at the solemn midnight hour he rose,
Why did you fear to trouble my repose?
He either had obey'd my fond desire,
Or seen his mother pierced with grief expire.
Bid Dolius quick attend, the faithful slave
Whom to my nuptial train Icarius gave,
To attend the fruit-groves: with incessant speed
He shall this violence of death decreed,
To good Laertes tell. Experienced age
May timely intercept the ruffian rage,
Convene the tribes, the murderous plot reveal,
And to their power to save his race appeal.”
Then Euryclea thus—‘My dearest dread!
Though to the sword I bow this hoary head,
Or if a dungeon be the pain decreed,
I own me conscious of the unpleasing deed:
Auxiliar to his flight, my aid implored,
With wine and viands I the vessel stored;
A solemn oath imposed, the secret seal’d,
Till the twelfth dawn the light of heaven reveal’d.
Dreading the effect of a fond mother's fear,
He dared not violate your royal ear.
But bathe, and, in imperial robes array'd,
Pay due devotions to the martial maid,
And rest affianced in her guardian aid.
Send not to good Laertes, nor engage
In toils of state the miseries of age :
'Tis impious to surmise, the powers divine
To ruin doom the Jove-descended line:
Long shall the race of just Arcesius reign,
And isles remote enlarge his old domain.”
The queen her speech with calm attention hears,
Her eyes restrain the silver-streaming tears:
She bathes, and, robed, the sacred dome ascends:
Her pious speed a female train attends:
The salted cakes in canisters are laid,
And thus the queen invokes Minerva's aid:
“Daughter divine of Jove! whose arm can wield
The avenging bolt, and shake the dreadful shield!
If e'er Ulysses to thy fane preferr'd
The best and choicest of his flock and herd;
Hear, goddess, hear, by those oblations won;
And for the pious sire preserve the son:
His wish’d return with happy power befriend,
And on the suitors let thy wrath descend!'
She ceased; shrill ecstasies of joy declare
The favouring goddess present to the prayer:
The suitors heard, and deem'd the mirthful voice
A signal of her hymeneal choice;
Whilst one most jovial thus accosts the board—
‘Too late the queen selects a second lord;
In evil hour the nuptial rite intends,
When o'er her son disastrous death impends.’
Thus he unskill'd of what the Fates provide. But with severe rebuke Antinois cried: “These empty vaunts will make the voyage vain; Alarm not with discourse the menial train: The great event with silent hope attend; Our deeds alone our counsel must commend.” His speech thus ended short, he frowning rose, And twenty chiefs renown'd for valour chose: Downto the strand he speeds with haughty strides, Where anchor'd in the bay the vessel rides, Replete with mail and military store, In all her tackle trim to quit the shore. The desperate crew ascend, unfurl the sails (The seaward prow invites the tardy gales); Then take repast, till Hesperus display'd His golden circlet in the western shade. Meantime the queen without refection due, Heart-wounded, to the bed of state withdrew : In her sad breast the prince's fortunes roll, And hope and doubt alternate seize her soul. So when the woodman's toil her cave surrounds, And with the hunter's cry the grove resounds; With grief and rage the mother-lion stung, Fearless herself, yet trembles for her young. While pensive in the silent slumberous shade, Sleep's gentle powers her drooping eyes invade; Minerva, lifelike, on embodied air Impress'd the form of Iphthima the fair (Icarius' daughter she, whose blooming charms Allured Eumelus to her virgin arms; A sceptred lord, who o'er the fruitful plain Of Thessaly, wide stretch'd his ample reign): As Pallas will’d, along the sable skies To calm the queen the phantom sister flies,
Swift on the regal dome descending right,
The bolted valves are pervious to her flight.
Close to her head the pleasing vision stands,
And thus performs Minerva’s high commands—
“O why, Penelope, this causeless fear,
To render sleep's soft blessing insincere?
Alike devote to sorrow’s dire extreme
The day reflection, and the midnight dream!
Thy son, the gods propitious will restore,
And bid thee cease his absence to deplore.”
To whom the queen, whilst yetherpensive mind
Was in the silent gates of sleep confined—
“O sister, to my soul for ever dear,
Why this first visit to reprove my fear?
How in a realm so distant should you know
From what deep source my ceaseless sorrows
To all my hope my royal lord is lost, [flow?
His country’s buckler, and the Grecian boast;
And with consummate woe to weigh me down,
The heir of all his honours, and his crown,
My darling son is fled! an easy prey [they;
To the fierce storms, or men more fierce than
Who, in a league of blood associates sworn,
Will intercept the unwary youth's return.'
‘Courage resume (the shadowy form replied),
In the protecting care of Heaven confide:
On him attends the blue-eyed martial maid;
What earthly can implore a surer aid?
Me now the guardian goddess deigns to send,
To bid thee patient his return attend.”
The queen replies—“If in the bless'd abodes,
A goddess, thou hast commerce with the gods;
Say, breathes my lord the blissful realm of light,
Or lies he wrapp'd in everduring night?”