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Hippocrene. Pierides.


Through all these mighty deeds
Pallas, Minerva, had availed to guide
her gold-begotten brother. Now she sped,
surrounded in a cloud, from Seriphus,
while Cynthus on the right, and Gyarus
far faded from her view. And where a path,
high over the deep sea, leads the near way,
she winged the air for Thebes, and Helicon
haunt of the Virgin Nine.

High on that mount
she stayed her flight, and with these words bespoke
those well-taught sisters; “Fame has given to me
the knowledge of a new-made fountain—gift
of Pegasus, that fleet steed, from the blood
of dread Medusa sprung—it opened when
his hard hoof struck the ground.—It is the cause
that brought me.—For my longing to have seen
this fount, miraculous and wonderful,
grows not the less in that myself did see
the swift steed, nascent from maternal blood.”

To which Urania thus; “Whatever the cause
that brings thee to our habitation, thou,
O goddess, art to us the greatest joy.
And now, to answer thee, reports are true;
this fountain is the work of Pegasus,”

And having said these words, she gladly thence
conducted Pallas to the sacred streams.

And Pallas, after she had long admired
that fountain, flowing where the hoof had struck,
turned round to view the groves of ancient trees;
the grottoes and the grass bespangled, rich
with flowers unnumbered—all so beautiful
she deemed the charm of that locality
a fair surrounding for the studious days
of those Mnemonian Maids.


But one of them
addressed her thus; “O thou whose valour gave
thy mind to greater deeds! if thou hadst stooped
to us, Minerva, we had welcomed thee
most worthy of our choir! Thy words are true;
and well hast thou approved the joys of art,
and this retreat. Most happy would we be
if only we were safe; but wickedness
admits of no restraint, and everything
affrights our virgin minds; and everywhere
the dreadful Pyrenaeus haunts our sight;—
scarcely have we recovered from the shock.

“That savage, with his troops of Thrace. had seized
the lands of Daulis and of Phocis, where
he ruled in tyranny; and when we sought
the Temples of Parnassus, he observed
us on our way;—and knowing our estate,
pretending to revere our sacred lives,
he said; ‘O Muses, I beseech you pause!
Choose now the shelter of my roof and shun
the heavy stars that teem with pouring rain;
nor hesitate, for often the glorious Gods
have entered humbler homes.’

“Moved by his words,
and by the growing storm, we gave assent,
and entered his first house. But presently
the storm abated, and the southern wind
was conquered by the north; the black clouds fled,
and soon the skies were clear.

“At once we sought
to quit the house, but Pyrenaeus closed
all means of exit,—and prepared to force
our virtue. Instantly we spread our wings,
and so escaped; but on a lofty tower
he stood, as if to follow, and exclaimed;
‘A path for you marks out a way for me.,
and quite insane, he leaped down from the top
of that high tower.—Falling on his face,
the bones were crushed, and as his life ebbed out
the ground was crimsoned with his wicked blood.”


So spoke the Muse. And now was heard the sound
of pennons in the air, and voices, too,
gave salutations from the lofty trees.

Minerva, thinking they were human tongues,
looked up in question whence the perfect words;
but on the boughs, nine ugly magpies perched,
those mockers of all sounds, which now complained
their hapless fate. And as she wondering stood,
Urania, goddess of the Muse, rejoined;—

“Look, those but lately worsted in dispute
augment the number of unnumbered birds.—
Pierus was their father, very rich
in lands of Pella; and their mother (called
Evippe of Paeonia) when she brought
them forth, nine times evoked, in labours nine,
Lucina's aid.—Unduly puffed with pride,
because it chanced their number equalled ours,
these stupid sisters, hither to engage
in wordy contest, fared through many towns;—
through all Haemonia and Achaia came
to us, and said;—
‘Oh, cease your empty songs,
attuned to dulcet numbers, that deceive
the vulgar, untaught throng. If aught is yours
of confidence, O Thespian Deities
contend with us: our number equals yours.
We will not be defeated by your arts;
nor shall your songs prevail.—Then, conquered, give
Hyantean Aganippe; yield to us
the Medusean Fount;—and should we fail,
we grant Emathia's plains, to where uprise
Paeonia's peaks of snow.—Let chosen Nymphs
award the prize—.’ 'Twas shameful to contend;
it seemed more shameful to submit. At once,
the chosen Nymphs swore justice by their streams,
and sat in judgment on their thrones of rock.

“At once, although the lot had not been cast,
the leading sister hastened to begin.—
She chanted of celestial wars; she gave
the Giants false renown; she gave the Gods
small credit for great deeds.—She droned out, ‘Forth,
those deepest realms of earth, Typhoeus came,
and filled the Gods with fear. They turned their backs
in flight to Egypt; and the wearied rout,
where Great Nile spreads his seven-channeled mouth,
were there received.—Thither the earth-begot
Typhoeus hastened: but the Gods of Heaven
deceptive shapes assumed.—Lo, Jupiter,
(As Libyan Ammon's crooked horns attest)
was hidden in the leader of a flock;
Apollo in a crow; Bacchus in a goat;
Diana in a cat; Venus in a fish;
Saturnian Juno in a snow-white cow;
Cyllenian Hermes in an Ibis' wings.’—
Such stuff she droned out from her noisy mouth:
and then they summoned us; but, haply, time
permits thee not, nor leisure thee permits,
that thou shouldst hearken to our melodies.”
“Nay doubt it not,” quoth Pallas, “but relate
your melodies in order.” And she sat
beneath the pleasant shadows of the grove.

And thus again Urania; “On our side
we trusted all to one.” Which having said,
Calliope arose. Her glorious hair
was bound with ivy. She attuned the chords,
and chanted as she struck the sounding strings:—

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