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There was a certaine firebrand which when Oenies wife did lie
In childebed of Meleager, she chaunced to espie
The Destnies putting in the fire: and in the putting in,
She heard them speake these words, as they his fatall threede did spin:
O lately borne, like time we give to thee and to this brand.
And when they so had spoken, they departed out of hand.
Immediatly the mother caught the blazing bough away,
And quenched it. This bough she kept full charely many a day:
And in the keeping of the same she kept hir sonne alive.
But now intending of his life him clearly to deprive,
She brought it forth, and causing all the coales and shivers to
Be layed by, she like a foe did kindle fire thereto.
Fowre times she was about to cast the firebrand in the flame:
Fowre times she pulled backe hir hand from doing of the same.
As mother and as sister both she strove what way to go:
The divers names drew diversly hir stomacke to and fro.
Hir face waxt often pale for feare of mischiefe to ensue:
And often red about the eies through heate of ire she grew.
One while hir looke resembled one that threatned cruelnesse:
Another while ye would have thought she minded pitiousnesse.
And though the cruell burning of hir heart did drie hir teares,
Yet burst out some. And as a Boate which tide contrarie beares
Against the winde, feeles double force, and is compeld to yeelde
To both, so Thesties daughter now unable for to weelde
Hir doubtful passions, diversly is caried off and on,
And chaungeably she waxes calme, and stormes againe anon.
But better sister ginneth she than mother for to be.
And to th'intent hir brothers ghostes with bloud to honor, she
In meaning to be one way kinde, doth worke another way
Against kinde. When the plagie fire waxt strong she thus did say:
Let this same fire my bowels burne. And as in cursed hands
The fatall wood she holding at the Hellish Altar stands:
She said: Ye triple Goddesses of wreake, ye Helhounds three
Beholde ye all this furious fact and sacrifice of mee.
I wreake, and do against all right: with death must death be payde:
In mischiefe mischiefe must be heapt: on corse must corse be laide.
Confounded let this wicked house with heaped sorrowes bee.
Shall Oenie joy his happy sonne in honor for to see
And Thestie mourne bereft of his? Nay: better yet it were,
That eche with other companie in mourning you should beare.
Ye brothers Ghostes and soules new dead I wish no more, but you
To feele the solemne obsequies which I prepare as now:
And that mine offring you accept, which dearly I have bought
The yssue of my wretched wombe. Alas, alas what thought
I for to doe? O brothers, I besech you beare with me.
I am his mother: so to doe my hands unable be.
His trespasse I confesse deserves the stopping of his breath:
But yet I doe not like that I be Author of his death.
And shall he then with life and limme, and honor too, scape free?
And vaunting in his good successe the King of Calidon bee?
And you deare soules lie raked up but in a little dust?
I will not surely suffer it. But let the villaine trust
That he shall die, and draw with him to ruine and decay
His Kingdome, Countrie and his Sire that doth upon him stay.
Why where is now the mothers heart and pitie that should raigne
In Parents? and the ten Monthes paines that once I did sustaine?
O would to God thou burned had a babie in this brand,
And that I had not tane it out and quencht it with my hand.
That all this while thou lived hast, my goodnesse is the cause.
And now most justly unto death thine owne desert thee drawes.
Receive the guerdon of thy deede: and render thou agen
Thy twice given life, by bearing first, and secondarly when
I caught this firebrand from the flame: or else come deale with me
As with my brothers, and with them let me entumbed be.
I would, and cannot. What then shall I stand to in this case?
One while my brothers corses seeme to prease before my face
With lively Image of their deaths. Another while my minde
Doth yeelde to pitie, and the name of mother doth me blinde.
Now wo is me. To let you have the upper hand is sinne:
But nerethelesse the upper hand O brothers doe you win.
Condicionly that when that I to comfort you withall
Have wrought this feate, my selfe to you resort in person shall.
This sed, she turnde away hir face, and with a trembling hand
Did cast the deathfull brand amid the burning fire. The brand
Did eyther sigh, or seeme to sigh in burning in the flame,
Which sorie and unwilling was to fasten on the same.
Meleager being absent and not knowing ought at all
Was burned with this flame: and felt his bowels to appall
With secret fire. He bare out long the paine with courage stout.
But yet it grieved him to die so cowardly without
The shedding of his bloud. He thought Anceus for to be
A happie man that dide of wound. With sighing called he
Upon his aged father, and his sisters, and his brother,
And lastly on his wife too, and by chaunce upon his mother.
His paine encreased with the fire, and fell therewith againe:
And at the selfe same instant quight extinguisht were both twaine.
And as the ashes soft and hore by leysure overgrew
The glowing coales: so leysurly his spirit from him drew.
Then drouped stately Calydon. Both yong and olde did mourne,
The Lords and Commons did lament, and maried wives with tome
And tattred haire did crie alas. His father did beray
His horie head and face with dust, and on the earth flat lay,
Lamenting that he lived had to see that wofull day
For now his mothers giltie hand had for that cursed crime
Done execution on hir selfe by sword before hir time.
If God to me a hundred mouthes with sounding tongues should send,
And reason able to conceyve, and thereunto should lend
Me all the grace of eloquence that ere the Muses had,
I could not shew the wo wherewith his sisters were bestad.
Unmindfull of their high estate, their naked brests they smit,
Untill they made them blacke and blew. And while his bodie yit
Remained, they did cherish it, and cherish it againe.
They kist his bodie: yea they kist the chist that did containe
His corse. And after that the corse was burnt to ashes, they
Did presse his ashes with their brests: and downe along they lay
Upon his tumb, and there embraste his name upon the stone,
And filde the letters of the same with teares that from them gone.
At length Diana satisfide with slaughter brought upon
The house of Oenie, lifts them up with fethers everichone,
(Save Gorgee and the daughtrinlaw of noble Alcmene) and
Makes wings to stretch along their sides, and horned nebs to stand
Upon their mouthes. And finally she altring quight their faire
And native shape, in shape of Birds dooth sent them through the Aire.
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