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He sees horrific wonders scattered round,
and images of hideous animals.—
and there's a spot where Scorpion bends his claws
in double circles, and with tail and arms
on either side, stretches his limbs throughout
the space of two Celestial Signs; and when
the lad beheld him, steeped in oozing slime
of venom, swart, and threatening to strike
grim wounds with jagged spear-points, he was lost;
and, fixed in chills of horror, dropped the reins.

When these they felt upon their rising backs,
the startled steeds sprang forthwith; and, unchecked,
through atmospheres of regions unexplored,
thence goaded by their unchecked violence,
broke through the lawful bounds, and rushed upon
the high fixed stars. They dragged the chariot
through devious ways, and soared amid the heights;
dashed down deep pathways, far, precipitous,
and gained a level near the scorching earth.

Phoebe is wondering that her brother's steeds
run lower than her own, and sees the smoke
of scorching clouds. The highest altitudes
are caught in flames, and as their moistures dry
they crack in chasms. The grass is blighted; trees
are burnt up with their leaves; the ripe brown crops
give fuel for self destruction—Oh what small
complaints! Great cities perish with their walls,
and peopled nations are consumed to dust—
the forests and the mountains are destroyed.

Cilician Taurus, Athos and Tmolus,
and Oeta are burning; and the far-famed Ida
and all her cooling rills are dry and burning,
and virgin Helicon, and Hoemos—later
Oeagrius called—and Aetna with tremendous,
redoubled flames, and double-peaked Parnassus,
Sicilian Eryx, Cynthus—Othrys, pine-clad,
and Rhodope, deprived his snowy mantle,
and Dindyma and Mycale and Mimas,
and Mount Cithaeron, famed for sacred rites:
and Scythia, though a land of frost, is burning,
and Caucasus,—and Ossa burns with Pindus,—
and greater than those two Olympus burns—
the lofty Alps, the cloud-topped Apennines.

And Phaethon, as he inhaled the air,
burning and scorching as a furnace blast,
and saw destruction on the flaming world,
and his great chariot wreathed in quenchless fires,
was suddenly unable to endure the heat,
the smoke and cinders, and he swooned away.—
if he had known the way, those winged steeds
would rush as wild unguided.—

then the skin
of Ethiopians took a swarthy hue,
the hot blood tingling to the surface: then
the heat dried up the land of Libya;
dishevelled, the lorn Nymphs, lamenting, sought
for all their emptied springs and lakes in vain;
Boeotia wailed for Dirce's cooling wave,
and Argos wailed for Amymone's stream—
and even Corinth for the clear Pyrene.

Not safer from the flames were distant streams;—
the Tanais in middle stream was steaming
and old Peneus and Teuthrantian Caicus,
Ismenus, rapid and Arcadian Erymanthus;
and even Xanthus destined for a second burning,
and tawny-waved Lycormas, and Meander,
turning and twisting, and Thracian Melas burns,
and the Laconian Eurotas burns,
the mighty Babylonian Euphrates,
Orontes and the Ganges, swift Thermodon,
Ister and Phasis and Alpheus boil.
The banks of Spercheus burn, the gold of Tagus
is melting in the flames. The swans whose songs

enhanced the beauties of Maeonian banks
are scalded in the Cayster's middle wave.
The Nile affrighted fled to parts remote,
and hid his head forever from the world:
now empty are his seven mouths, and dry
without or wave or stream; and also dry
Ismenian Hebrus, Strymon and the streams
of Hesper-Land, the rivers Rhine and Rhone,
and Po, and Tiber, ruler of the world.

And even as the ground asunder burst,
the light amazed in gloomy Tartarus
the King Infernal and his Spouse. The sea
contracted and his level waste became
a sandy desert. The huge mountain tops,
once covered by the ocean's waves, reared up,
by which the scattered Cyclades increased.
Even the fishes sought for deeper pools;—
the crooked dolphins dared not skip the waves;
the lifeless sea-calves floated on the top;
and it is even famed that Nereus hid
with Doris and her daughters, deep below
in seething caverns. With a dauntless mien
thrice Neptune tried to thrust his arms above
the waters;—thrice the heated air overcame
his courage.

Then the genial Earth, although
surrounded by the waters of the sea,
was parched and dry; for all her streams had hid
deep in the darkness of her winding caves.—
she lifted her productive countenance,
up to her rounded neck, and held her palms
on her sad brows; and as the mountains huge
trembled and tottered, beneath her wonted plane
declined she for a space—and thus began,
with parched voice;
“If this is thy decree,
O, Highest of the Gods,—if I have sinned
why do thy lightnings linger? For if doomed
by fires consuming I to perish must,
let me now die in thy celestial flames—
hurled by thine arm—and thus alleviate,
by thine omnipotence, this agony.
“How difficult to open my parched mouth,
and speak these words! (the vapours choking her),
behold my scorching hair, and see the clouds
of ashes falling on my blinded eyes,
and on my features! What a recompense
for my fertility! How often I
have suffered from the wounds of crooked plows
and rending harrows—tortured year by year!
For this I give to cattle juicy leaves
and fruits to man and frankincense to thee!
“Suppose destruction is my just award
what have the waters and thy brother done?
Why should thy brother's cooling waves decrease
and thus recede so distant from the skies?
If not thy brother's good nor mine may touch
thy mercy, let the pity of thy Heaven,
for lo, the smoking poles on either side
attest, if flames consume them or destroy,
the ruin of thy palace. Atlas, huge,
with restive shoulders hardly can support
the burning heavens. If the seas and lands
together perish and thy palace fall,
the universe confused will plunge once more
to ancient Chaos. Save it from this wreck—
if anything survive the fury of the flames.”

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