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The shining fleeces: hence their gorgeous wealtii; 210
And hence arose the walls of ancient Tyre.
Next busy Colchis, bless'd with frequent rains,
And lively verdure (who the lucid stream
Of Phasis boasted, and a portly race
Of fair inhabitants) improved the fleece;
When, o'er the deep by flying Phryxus brought,
The famed Thessalian ram enriched her plains.
This rising Greece with indignation viewed,
And youthful Jason an attempt conceived
Lofty and bold: along Peneus' banks,
Around Olympus' brows, the Muses' haunts,
He roused the brave to redemand the fleece.
Attend, ye British swains, the ancient song.
From every region of Ægea's shore
The brave assembled; those illustrious twins,
Castor and Pollux; Orpheus, tuneful bard!
Zetes and Calais, as the wind in speed;
Strong Hercules; and many a chief renown'd.
On deep Iolcos' sandy shore they throng'd,
Gleaming in armour, ardent of exploits;
And soon, the laurel cord and the huge stone
Up-lifting to the deck, unmoored the bark;
Whose keel, of wondrous length, the skilful hand
Of Argus fashioned for the proud attempt;
And in th' extended keel a lofty mast
Up-raised, and sails full-swelling; to the chiefs
Unwonted objects; now first, now they learned
Their bolder steerage over ocean wave,
Led by the golden stars, as Chiron's art
Had marked the sphere celestial. Wide abroad
Expands the purple deep: the cloudy isles,
Scyros and Scopelos and Icos rise,
And Halonesos: soon huge Lemnos heaves
Hor azure head above the level brine,
Shakes off her mists, and brightens all her cliffs:
While they, her flattering creeks and opening bowers
Cautious approaching, in Myrina's port
Cast out the cabled stone upon the strand.
Next to the Mysian shore they shape their course,
But with too eager haste: in the white foam
His oar Alcides breaks; howe'er, not long
The chase detains; he springs upon the shore,
And, rifting from the roots a tapering pine,
Renews his stroke. Between the threatening towers
Of Hellespont they ply the rugged surge,
Of Hero's and Leander's ardent love
Fatal: then smooth Propontis' widening wave,
That like a glassy lake expands, with hills;
Hills above hills, and gloomy woods, begirt.
And now the Thracian Bosphorus they dare,
Till the Symplegades, tremendous rocks,
Threaten approach; but they, unterrified,
Through the sharp-pointed cliffs and thundering floods
Cleave their bold passage: nathless by the crags
And torrents sorely shattered: as the strong
Eagle or vulture, in th' entangling net
Involved, breaks through, yet leaves his plumes behind.
Thus, through the wide waves, their slow way they force
To Thynia's hospitable isle. The brave
Pass many perils, and to fame by such
Experience rise. Refreshed, again they speed
From cape to cape, and view unnumbered streams,
Halys, with hoary Lycus, and the mouths
Of Asparus and Glaucus, rolling swift
To the broad deep their tributary waves;
Till in the long-sought harbour they arrive
Of golden Phasis. Foremost on the strand
Jason advanced: the deep capacious bay,
The crumbling terrace of the marble port,
Wondering he viewed, and stately palace-domes,
Pavilions proud of luxury: around,
In every glittering hall, within, without,
O'er all the timbrel-sounding squares and streets,
Nothing appeared but luxury, and crowds
Sunk deep in riot. To the public weal
Attentive none he found: for he, their chief
Of shepherds, proud Æétes, by the name
Sometimes of king distinguished, 'gan to slight
The shepherd's trade, and turn to song and dance:
Even Hydrus ceased to watch; Medea's songs
Of joy and rosy youth and beauty's charms,
With magic sweetness lulled his cares asleep,
Till the bold heroes grasped the golden fleece.
Nimbly they winged the bark, surrounded soon
By Neptune's friendly waves: secure they speed
O'er the known seas, by every guiding cape,
With prosperous return. The myrtle shores,
And glassy mirror of Iolcos' lake,
With loud acclaim received them. Every vale,
And every hillock, touched the tuneful stops
Of pipes unnumbered, for the ram regained.
Thus Phasis lost his pride: his slighted nymphs Along the withering dales and pastures mourned; The trade-ship left his streams; the merchant
His desert borders; each ingenious art,
Trade, liberty, and affluence, all retired,
And left to want and servitude their seats;
Vile successors! and gloomy ignorance
Following, like dreary night, whose sable hand
Hangs on the purple skirts of flying day.
Sithence, the fleeces of Arcadian plains,
And Attic, and Thessalian, bore esteem;
And those in Grecian colonies dispersed,
Caria, and Doris, and Ionia's coast,
And famed Tarentum, where Galesus' tide,
Rolling by ruins hoar of ancient towns,
Through solitary valleys seeks the sea.
Or green Altinum, by an hundred Alps
High-crowned, whose woods and snowy peaks aloft.
Shield her low plains from the rough northern blast.
Those too of Bætica's delicious fields,
With golden fruitage bless'd of highest taste,
What need I name? The Turdetanian tract,
Or rich Coraxus, whose wide looms unrolled
The finest webs? where scarce a talent weighed
A ram's equivalent. Then only tin
To late-improved Brittania gave renown.
Lo! the revolving course of mighty Time,
Who loftiness abases, tumbles down
Olympus' brow, and lifts the lowly vale.
Where is the majesty of ancient Rome,
The throng of heroes in her splendid streets,
The snowy vest of peace, or purple robe,
Slow trailed triumphal? Where the Attic fleece,
And Tarentine, in warmest littered cotes,
Or sunny meadows, clothed with costly care?
All in the solitude of ruin lost,
War's horrid carnage, vain ambition's dust.
Long lay the mournful realms of elder fame
In gloomy desolation, till appeared
Beauteous Venetia, first of all the nymphs,
Who from the melancholy waste emerged:
In Adria's gulf her clotted locks she laved,
And rose another Venus: each soft joy,
Each aid of life, her busy wit restored;
Science revived, with all the lovely arts,
And all the graces. Restituted trade
To every virtue lent his helping stores,
And cheered the vales around; again the pipe,
And bleating flocks, awaked the cheerful lawn.
The glossy fleeces now of prime esteem
Soft Asia boasts, where lovely Casimere
Within a lofty mound of circling hills,
Spreads her delicious stores; woods, rocks, caves, lakes,
Hills, lawns, and winding streams; a region termed
The paradise of Indus. Next, the plains
Of Lahore, by that arbour stretched immense,
Through many a realm, to Agra, the proud throne
Of India's worshipped prince, whose lust is law:
Remote dominions; nor to ancient fame
Nor modern known, till public-hearted Roe,
Faithful, sagacious, active, patient, brave,
Led to their distant climes adventurous trade.
Add too the silky wool of Lybian lands,
Of Caza's bowery dales, and brooky Caus,
Where lofty Atlas spreads his verdant feet,
While in the clouds his hoary shoulders bend.
Next proud Iberia glories in the growth
Of high Castile, and mild Segovian glades.
And beauteous Albion, since great Edgar chased The prowling wolf, with many a lock appears Of silky lustre; chief, Siluria, thine; Thine, Vaga, favoured stream; from sheep minute On Cambria bred: a pound o'erweighs a fleece. Gay Epsom's too, and Banstead's, and what gleams On Vecta's isle, that shelters Albion's fleet, With all its thunders: or Salopian stores,