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In pomp of numbers live the toils of fight;
And endless pæans echo through the lines.
The youth of Greece fill the wide mouth of fame;
Theseus and stern Achilles triumph still;
Pious Æneas charms the listening age;
And Boyne preserves immortal William's name;
The Theban brothers, and great Pompey's fall,
Command a mighty tribute of our tears.
I first turn devious from the beaten track
Averse, on higher argument intent;
Standards not yet unfurled in song display,
And tune a shriller trumpet's mimic notes;
Draw little champions vibrating the spear,
And long-winged warriors rushing from the clouds.
Where the sun's genial rays mature the east,
And India glows with the first blush of day,
(Surrounded with inhospitable rocks,)
In a green vale, approached by few, there stood,
While fate propitious smiled, the glowing empire
Of the Pygmean race. The plain then thronged
With thick inhabitants, a well-ordered state;
Each studious to promote the common weal,
And cultivate the little arts of life.
If haply now the curious traveller
Over the rocky mound pursues his way,
A dreary desert waste and wild he sees,
Whitened with little bones of heroes slain,
Half-ruined palaces and nodding towers,
Wide desolation! strike the wondering sight,
A region dolorous; th' obscene abode
Of the exulting Crane: securely now
She weaves her nest, and plumes her callow young. Not so while the small progeny possessed
The seat of empire, which long, long gave laws
To the remotest corner of the plain.
Then if the venturous foe with inroads pierced,
On ravages intent, the little corps,
Still upon guard, rush vigorous to the field,
With hostile blood revenge their country's wrongs,
And strew the ground with slaughtered carcasses:
Returning from the field, each loaded chief
Triumphant drags along the indignant prey,
Which roasted crowns the victor's genial board.
Oft was the unwary bird in ambush slain,
Oft were their nests demolished; on their young
Was wreaked the rage due to the parents' crimes.
For when, with wondrous toil and care, they'd raised
The artful structure for the future fowl,
Sudden the active infantry alarmed
Rush down upon them in a storm of war.
Razed are their works; the fatal sword cuts short
The springing life, while yet the half-formed foe
Lies hid in the frail orb's defenceless round.
War, fatal war, for these dire seeds arose;
Bands breathing slaughter, men and birds in arms,
And grisly deaths in different forms confused.
Far less the bloody fights which once engaged,
In mock sublime, the bold Mæonian bard,
When noisy war disturbed the marshy realms.
(Dreadful to see!) Here lay the mangled trunk
Of an expiring mouse, with hostile rushes gored;
There a maimed frog in hoarser murmurs croaks.
With one leg lopped he creeps along the field,
Disabled to essay the active leap.
O little mortals, blind in fate! alas,
In an ill hour ye sought those hostile tents.
Now dawns the day that ye shall wish untouched
The eggs and offspring of th' offended fowl.
For with repeated wrongs provoked, the Cranes
Convene a council to consult revenge.
The fierce inhabitants of Strymon's flood,
Of lakey Mareotis, and the banks
Of distant Caister's well-watered meads,
Throng to the general Diet: with them came,
In league offensive and defensive joined,
The borderers of Scythia's frozen shores,
And the remotest Ister's mighty stream.
Slaughters and threatened wounds they meditate;
Sharpen the talons, and their pinions plume;
And whet the fatal beak for future fight:
So great their thirst of blood, so mighty their revenge.
The spring now opens the campaign; aloft
The brave confederated nations rise.
O'er distant tracts of lands and seas disjoined,
Borne on expanded wings, they steer their course.
And now they penetrate the clouds; through storms
And northern snows now force their desperate way.
Air labours with th' unusual waste of plumes,
And the loud cackling fills the concave round.
The din of war no less disturbed the plains,
For there their country's cause provokes to arms
The active Pygmy troops, militiaed out,
In fronted brigades marshalled to the charge.
Two flanking wings secure th' embodied war,
And thick battalions scour the hostile ground.
Impatient for the charge they shake the dart,
And silent meet the horrid front of death.
Full in the centre stalks their haughty chief,
Advancing onward; and above the rest,
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a giant ;-half a yard in height.
Most gloomy was his stare: his honest face
Deep scars of hostile talons had intrenched :
Nor less his manly breast, wide spread, declared
True princely worth, fresh mark with cruel beaks.
For he was born to wage against the Crane
Eternal battles and immortal hate.
And dearly he repaid the wounds they lent.
When comet-like his dreadful blade he waved,
Before its lightning flew the blasted foe,
Or in a moment lost his power to fly.
What heaps of slaughter has it made! how oft
Has th' unfletched infant fallen before its edge!
Alas! how oft has widowed Strymon mourned
Her husband's and her son's untimely fate!
From a black cloud, surcharged with war and foes,
Loud shouts proceed, frightful to mortal ears,
Which still increase reechoing from the field.
Till near advanced a mighty host of birds
Appear, whose front, of hideous depth and length,
Vexes the troubled air from pole to pole;
While a disastrous darkness veils the camp.
Now numberless; but to revisit soon,
In thinner ranks and more contracted bands,
Their native shores, in an ill hour forsook.
Thus braved, the Pygmy loud requires the fight,
And with impatience eyes the hovering storm.
Long need he not, for soon the vengeful fowl
Rush down precipitant with horrid shouts
On the firm troops, collected in their might.
Wild uproar rages; dire is the noise
Of conflict; scattered plumes fly all around.
Spent with long toil the bold Strymonians rise,
High soaring on main wing; then breathe awhile,
And with redoubled rage the fight renew.
Long time in equal scale the battle hung.
A daring Crane, by the brave foe transfixed,
Here furious raves and whirls in bloody orbs ;
While feebly he attempts the last home push,
He falls, he gathers up his claws, and dies.
There a stabbed Pygmy, weltering in his blood,
With thick and heavy groans sighs out his soul,
Which curses as it goes the fatal beak:
Thick patters with his little heels the ground.
Noisy confusion fills the frighted field,
Which blushes with the blood of prostrate chiefs;
Fingers and claws, dismembered arms and wings,
And broken swords and beaks lie scattered round the plain.
Where the thick battle raged, the Pygmy king
Prodigious power had shown; around him rose
A rampart of the bodies of the slain.
Dauntless 'midst deaths he stood, like fate, unmoved,
Nor aught availed the united flap of wings
Or ported beaks; where'er he turned they fled.
And now the fortune of the day is lodged
In his right arm alone; when, sad to tell!
A formidable fowl, with outstretched wing,
Sudden from all his conquests snatched the prince,
(So willed the gods,) and bore amid the clouds.
Pendant he hung; glad clamours fill the sky,
While his sad people helpless mourn below
Their wriggling captive monarch, doomed to feast
The savage conqueror's insatiate maw.
Now its most frightful visage war puts on.
Th' infernal Crane, still soaring in his flight,
Tears with remorseless claws the wretched chief;
Impatient of the wound, he flings, he raves,
And beats the air, in dying pangs convulsed.
Such was the dreadful scene when fell Briareus,
Titanian, or earth-born, raging fierce,
Threw shaggy Pelion to the throne of heaven;
And struck th' almighty thunderer from his seat.
Rocks through mid air encountered fiery bolts,
Hurled to and fro with jaculation dire.
Winged with forked lightning the hoarse thunder flies
From Jove's red arm, thick on the rebel crew;
Till overthrown the giant carnage lay
Involved in smoke, and hot with sulphurous wounds.
Their mightiest quelled, the fainting battle swerves,
With many an inroad torn; o'erpowered at length,
Disorder enters, and foul rout ensues.
Part fly outright, part suppliant fall before
Th' insulting victors pressing on the rear.
The vengeful bird, alas! no quarter gives,
Bent on entire destruction of the race.
Thus the Pygmean empire, that had stood
Triumphant 'midst innumerable wars,
So glorious to herself, so fatal to the Crane,
Now saw her towering structures laid in dust,
Her throne subverted, and her name no more.
For earthly states have all determined periods,
Beyond whose date they're not to be prolonged.
So ended once proud Babylon's domain;
Then Persia, next in power, so next in fate,
And Rome immortal, last and greatest, fell.
Now on Elysian plains the happy shades
Dwell undisturbed. Perspicuous in the throng
Rise the old heroes' more majestic forms.
If credit we may give to ancient tale,
Full oft has the belated peasant seen
The jocund elves, by shady grove, or fount,
Or forest lawn, their moonlight revels keep;
While, safe from dire alarm of Cranes, and lost
To former toil, on mirth and dance intent,
They mark fine ringlets in distinguished green;
Now by the name of Fairies better known.
THE BATTLE OF THE PYGMIES AND CRANES.
TRANSLATED FROM THE PYGMEO-GERANO-MACHIA OF ADDISON,
BY JAMES BEATTIE, LL.D. 1762.
THE Pygmy-people and the feathered train,
Mingling in mortal combat on the plain,
I sing. Ye muses, favour my designs,
Lead on my squadrons, and arrange the lines;
The flashing swords and fluttering wings display,
And long bills nibbling in the bloody fray;
Cranes darting with disdain on tiny foes,
Conflicting birds and men, and war's unnumbered woes.
The wars and woes of heroes six feet long
Have oft resounded in Pierian song.
Who has not heard of Colchos' golden fleece,
And Argo manned with all the flower of Greece ?
Of Thebes' fell brethren; Theseus stern of face ;
And Peleus' son, unrivalled in the race;
Eneas, founder of the Roman line,
And William, glorious on the banks of Boyne ?
Who has not learned to weep at Pompey's woes,
And over Blackmore's epic page to doze?
'Tis I, who dare attempt unusual strains,
Of hosts unsung, and unfrequented plains;
The small shrill trump, and chiefs of little size,
And armies rushing down the darkened skies.
Where India reddens to the early dawn,
Winds a deep vale from vulgar eye withdrawn:
Bosomed in groves the lowly region lies,
And rocky mountains round the border rise.
Here, till the doom of fate its fall decreed,
The empire flourished of the Pygmy-breed ;