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Elegy XIV: To his Mistress, who endeavoured to make herself miscarry.

What boots it that the fair are free from war,
And what that they're forbid the shield to bear,
Against themselves if they knew arms employ
And madly with new wounds their lives destroy?
The cruel mother who did first contrive
Her babe to butcher ere 'twas scarce alive,
Who thus from nature's tender dictates swerv'd,
To perish by her proper hands deserv'd.
Why do the sex forget their softness? why
Such projects for a foolish fancy try?
The belly must be smooth, no wrinkle there
To shock the lover's wanton glance appear;
His touch as well as sight they fain would please,
And the womb early of its burden ease.
Had woman sooner known this wicked trade,
Among the race of men what havock had they made.
Mankind had been extinct, and lost the seed,
Without a wonder to restore the breed,
As when Deucalion and his Purrha hurl'd
The stones that sow'd with men the delug'd world,
Had Thetis, goddess of the sea, refus'd
To bear the burden, and her fruit abus'd,
Who would have Priam's royal seat destroy'd?
Or had the vestal whom fierce Mars enjoy'd,
Stifled the twins within her pergnant womb,
What founder would have then been born to Rome?
Had Venus, when she with Aeneas teem'd,
To death, ere born, Anchises' son condemn'd,
The world had of the Caesars been depriv'd;
Augustus ne'er had reign'd, nor Julius liv'd.
And thou, whose beauty is the boast of fame,
Hadst perish'd, had thy mother done the same;
Nor had I liv'd love's faithful slave to be,
Had my own mother dealt as ill by me.
Ah, vile invention, ah, accurs'd design,
To rob of rip'ning fruit the loaded vine
Ah, let it grow for nature's use mature,
Ah, let it its full length of time endure;
'Twill of itself, alas! too soon decay,
And quickly fall, like autumn leaves, away
Why barb'rously dost thou thy bowels tear
To kill the human load that quickens there?
On venom'd drugs why venture, to destroy
The pledge of pleasure past, the promis'd boy?
Medea, guilty of her childrens' blood,
The mark of ev'ry age's curse has stood;
And Atys, murder'd by his mothers rage,
Been pitied since by each succeeding age;
Thy cruel parents by false lords abus'd,
Had yet some plea, tho' none their crime excus'd.
What, Jason, did your dire revenge provoke?
What, Tereus, urge you to the fatal stroke?
What rage your reason led so far away,
As furious hands upon yourself to lay?
The tigresses that haunt th' Armenian wood,
Will spare their proper young, though pinch'd for food;
Nor will the Libyan lionesses slay
Their whelps, -- but woman are more fierce than they;
More barb'rous to the tender fruit they bear,
Nor nature's call, tho' loud she cries, will hear.
But righteous vengeance oft their crimes pursues,
And they are lost themselves, who would their
children lose;
The pois'nous drugs with mortal juices fill
Their veins, and, undesign'd, themselves they kill
Themselves upon the bier are breathless borne,
With hair tied up that was in ringlets worn,
Thro' weeping crowds that on their course attend;
Well may they weep for their unhappy end.
Forbid it, heaven, that what I say may prove
Presaging to the fair I blame and love;
Thus let me ne'er, ye pow'rs, her death deplore,
'Twas her first fault, and she'll offend no more;
No pardon she'll deserve a second time,
But, without mercy, punish then her crime.

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load focus English (Christopher Marlowe)
load focus Latin (R. Ehwald, 1907)
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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), COTHURNUS
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