This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
his daughter, while he wept. Then did he join
their hands in pledge of their fidelity,
and, as he gave his blessing, cautioned them
to kiss his absent daughter and her son
for his dear sake. Then as he spoke a last
farewell, his trembling voice was filled with sobs.
And he could hardly speak;—for a great fear
from some vague intuition of his mind,
surged over him, and he was left forlorn.
So soon as Philomela was safe aboard
the painted ship and as the sailors urged
the swiftly gliding keel across the deep
and the dim land fast-faded from their view,
then Tereus, in exultant humor, thought,
“Now all is well, the object of my love
sails with me while the sailors ply the oars.”,
He scarcely could control his barbarous
desire—with difficulty stayed his lust,
he followed all her actions with hot eyes. —
So, when the ravenous bird of Jupiter
has caught with crooked talons the poor hare,
and dropped it—ruthless,—in his lofty nest,
where there is no escape, his cruel eyes
gloat on the victim he anticipates.
And now, as Tereus reached his journey's end,
they landed from the travel-wearied ship,
safe on the shores of his own kingdom. Then
he hastened with the frightened Philomela
into most wild and silent solitudes
of an old forest; where, concealed among
deep thickets a forbidding old house stood:
there he immured the pale and trembling maid,
who, vainly in her fright, began to call
upon her absent sister,—and her tears
implored his pity. His obdurate mind
could not be softened by such piteous cries;
but even while her agonizing screams
implored her sister's and her father's aid,
and while she vainly called upon the Gods,
he overmastered her with brutal force.—
The poor child trembled as a frightened lamb,
which, just delivered from the frothing jaws
of a gaunt wolf, dreads every moving twig.
She trembled as a timid injured dove,
(her feathers dripping with her own life-blood)
that dreads the ravening talons of a hawk
from which some fortune has delivered her.
But presently, as consciousness returned,
she tore her streaming hair and beat her arms,
and, stretching forth her hands in frenzied grief,
cried out, “Oh, barbarous and brutal wretch!
Unnatural monster of abhorrent deeds!
Could not my anxious father's parting words,
nor his foreboding tears restrain your lust?
Have you no slight regard for your chaste wife,
my dearest sister, and are you without
all honor, so to spoil virginity
now making me invade my sister's claim,
you have befouled the sacred fount of life,—
you are a lawless bond of double sin!
“Oh, this dark punishment was not my due!
Come, finish with my murder your black deed,
so nothing wicked may remain undone.
But oh, if you had only slaughtered me
before your criminal embrace befouled
my purity, I should have had a shade
entirely pure, and free from any stain!
Oh, if there is a Majesty in Heaven,
and if my ruin has not wrecked the world,
then, you shall suffer for this grievous wrong
and time shall hasten to avenge my wreck.
“I shall declare your sin before the world,
and publish my own shame to punish you!
And if I'm prisoned in the solitudes,
my voice will wake the echoes in the wood
and move the conscious rocks. Hear me, O Heaven!
And let my imprecations rouse the Gods—
ah-h-h, if there can be a god in Heaven!”
Her cries aroused the dastard tyrant's wrath,
and frightened him, lest ever his foul deed
might shock his kingdom: and, roused at once
by rage and guilty fear; he seized her hair,
forced her weak arms against her back, and bound
them fast with brazen chains, then drew his sword.
When she first saw his sword above her head.
Flashing and sharp, she wished only for death,
and offered her bare throat: but while she screamed,
and, struggling, called upon her father's name,
he caught her tongue with pincers, pitiless,
And cut it with his sword.—The mangled root
still quivered, but the bleeding tongue itself,
fell murmuring on the blood-stained floor. As the tail
of a slain snake still writhes upon the ground,
so did the throbbing tongue; and, while it died,
moved up to her, as if to seek her feet.—
And, it is said that after this foul crime,
the monster violated her again.
And after these vile deeds, that wicked king
returned to Procne, who, when she first met
her brutal husband, anxiously inquired
for tidings of her sister; but with sighs
and tears, he told a false tale of her death,
and with such woe that all believed it true.
Then Procne, full of lamentation, took
her royal robe, bordered with purest gold,
and putting it away, assumed instead
garments of sable mourning; and she built
a noble sepulchre, and offered there
her pious gifts to an imagined shade;—
lamenting the sad death of her who lived.
A year had passed by since that awful date—
the sun had coursed the Zodiac's twelve signs.
But what could Philomela hope or do?
For like a jail the strong walls of the house
were built of massive stone, and guards around
prevented flight; and mutilated, she
could not communicate with anyone
to tell her injuries and tragic woe.
But even in despair and utmost grief,
there is an ingenuity which gives
inventive genius to protect from harm:
and now, the grief-distracted Philomela
wove in a warp with purple marks and white,
a story of the crime; and when 'twas done
she gave it to her one attendant there
and begged her by appropriate signs to take
it secretly to Procne. She took the web,
she carried it to Procne, with no thought
of words or messages by art conveyed.
The wife of that inhuman tyrant took
the cloth, and after she unwrapped it saw
and understood the mournful record sent.
She pondered it in silence and her tongue
could find no words to utter her despair;—
her grief and frenzy were too great for tears.—
In a mad rage her rapid mind counfounded
the right and wrong—intent upon revenge.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.