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Yee Muses whoo to Poets are the present springs of grace,
Now shewe (for you knowe, neyther are you dulld by tyme or space)
How Aesculapius in the Ile that is in Tyber deepe
Among the sacred sayncts of Rome had fortune for to creepe.
A cruell plage did heertofore infect the Latian aire,
And peoples bodyes pyning pale the murreine did appayre.
When tyred with the buriall of theyr freends, they did perceyve
Themselves no helpe at mannes hand nor by Phisicke to receyve.
Then seeking help from heaven, they sent to Delphos (which dooth stand
Amid the world) for counsell to bee had at Phebus hand.
Beseeching him with helthfull ayd to succour theyr distresse,
And of the myghtye Citie Rome the mischeef to redresse.
The quivers which Apollo bryght himself was woont to beare,
The Baytrees, and the place itself togither shaken were.
And by and by the table from the furthest part of all
The Chauncell spake theis woords, which did theyr harts with feare appal:
The thing yee Romanes seeke for heere, yee should have sought more ny
Your countrye. Yea and neerer home go seeke it now. Not I,
Apollo, but Apollos sonne is hee that must redresse
Your sorrowes. Take your journey with good handsell of successe,
And fetch my sonne among you. When Apollos hest was told
Among the prudent Senators, they sercht what towne did hold
His sonne, and unto Epidawre a Gallye for him sent.
Assoone as that th'Ambassadours arryved there they went
Unto the counsell and the Lordes of Greekland: whom they pray
To have the God the present plages of Romanes for to stay,
And for themselves the Oracle of Phebus foorth they lay.
The Counsell were of sundry mynds and could not well agree.
Sum thought that succour in such neede denyed should not bee.
And divers did perswade to keepe theyr helpe, and not to send
Theyr Goddes away sith they themselves myght neede them in the end.
Whyle dowtfully they off and on debate this curious cace,
The evening twylyght utterly the day away did chace,
And on the world the shadowe of the earth had darknesse brought.
That nyght the Lord Ambassadour as sleepe uppon him wrought,
Did dreame he saw before him stand the God whose help he sought,
In shape as in his chappell he was woonted for to stand,
With ryght hand stroking downe his herd, and staffe in tother hand,
And meekely saying: Feare not, I will comme and leave my shryne.
This serpent which dooth wreath with knottes about this staffe of mine
Mark well, and take good heede therof: that when thou shalt it see,
Thou mayst it knowe. For into it transformed will I bee.
But bigger I will bee, for I will seeme of such a syse,
As may celestiall bodyes well to turne into suffise.
Streyght with the voyce, the God, and with the voyce and God, away
Went sleepe: and after sleepe was gone ensewed cheerfull day.
Next morning having cleerely put the fyrye starres to flyght,
The Lordes not knowing what to doo, assembled all foorthryght
Within the sumptuous temple of the God that was requyrde,
And of his mynd by heavenly signe sum knowledge they desyrde.
They scarce had doone theyr prayers, when the God in shape of snake
With loftye crest of gold, began a hissing for to make,
Which was a warning given. And with his presence he did shake
The Altar, shryne, doores, marble floore, and roofe all layd with gold,
And vauncing up his brest he stayd ryght stately to behold
Amid the Church, and round about his fyrye eyes he rold.
The syght did fray the people. But the wyvelesse preest (whoose heare
Was trussed in a fayre whyght Call) did know the God was there.
And sayd: Behold, tiz God, tiz God. As many as bee heere
Pray both with mouth and mynd. O thou our glorious God, appeere
To our beehoofe, and helpe thy folke that keepe thy hallowes ryght.
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