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with timid footsteps fled from his approach,
and left him to his murmurs and his pain.
Lovely the virgin seemed as the soft wind
exposed her limbs, and as the zephyrs fond
fluttered amid her garments, and the breeze
fanned lightly in her flowing hair. She seemed
most lovely to his fancy in her flight;
and mad with love he followed in her steps,
and silent hastened his increasing speed.
As when the greyhound sees the frightened hare
flit over the plain:—With eager nose outstretched,
impetuous, he rushes on his prey,
and gains upon her till he treads her feet,
and almost fastens in her side his fangs;
but she, whilst dreading that her end is near,
is suddenly delivered from her fright;
so was it with the god and virgin: one
with hope pursued, the other fled in fear;
and he who followed, borne on wings of love,
permitted her no rest and gained on her,
until his warm breath mingled in her hair.
Her strength spent, pale and faint, with pleading eyes
she gazed upon her father's waves and prayed,
“Help me my father, if thy flowing streams
have virtue! Cover me, O mother Earth!
Destroy the beauty that has injured me,
or change the body that destroys my life.”
Before her prayer was ended, torpor seized
on all her body, and a thin bark closed
around her gentle bosom, and her hair
became as moving leaves; her arms were changed
to waving branches, and her active feet
as clinging roots were fastened to the ground—
her face was hidden with encircling leaves.—
Phoebus admired and loved the graceful tree,
(For still, though changed, her slender form remained)
and with his right hand lingering on the trunk
he felt her bosom throbbing in the bark.
He clung to trunk and branch as though to twine.
His form with hers, and fondly kissed the wood
that shrank from every kiss.
And thus the God;
“Although thou canst not be my bride, thou shalt
be called my chosen tree, and thy green leaves,
O Laurel! shall forever crown my brows,
be wreathed around my quiver and my lyre;
the Roman heroes shall be crowned with thee,
as long processions climb the Capitol
and chanting throngs proclaim their victories;
and as a faithful warden thou shalt guard
the civic crown of oak leaves fixed between
thy branches, and before Augustan gates.
And as my youthful head is never shorn,
so, also, shalt thou ever bear thy leaves
unchanging to thy glory.,”
Here the God,
Phoebus Apollo, ended his lament,
and unto him the Laurel bent her boughs,
so lately fashioned; and it seemed to him
her graceful nod gave answer to his love.
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