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John Dryden (1631–1700). The Poems of John Dryden. 1913.


The Fable of Acis, Polyphemus, and Galatea. From the Thirteenth Book of the Metamorphoses

GALATEA relates the Story
Acis, the Lovely Youth, whose loss I mourn,

From Faunus and the Nymph Symethis born,

Was both his Parents pleasure: but to me

Was all that Love cou’d make a Lover be.

The Gods our Minds in mutual Bands did joyn:

I was his only Joy, and he was mine.

Now sixteen Summers the sweet Youth had seen;

And doubtful Down began to shade his Chin:

When Polyphemus first disturb’d our Joy,

And lov’d me fiercely, as I lov’d the Boy.

Ask not which passion in my Soul was high’r,

My last Aversion, or my first Desire:

Nor this the greater was, nor that the less;

Both were alike; for both were in excess.

Thee, Venus, thee both Heav’n and Earth obey;

Immense thy Pow’r, and boundless is thy Sway.

The Cyclops, who defi’d th’ Æthereal Throne,

And thought no Thunder louder than his own,

The terrour of the Woods, and wilder far

Than Wolves in Plains, or Bears in Forrests are,

Th’ Inhumane Host, who made his bloody Feasts

On mangl’d Members of his butcher’d Guests,

Yet felt the force of Love, and fierce Desire,

And burnt for me, with unrelenting Fire:

Forgot his Caverns, and his woolly care,

Assum’d the softness of a Lover’s Air;

And comb’d, with Teeth of Rakes, his rugged hair.

Now with a crooked Sythe his Beard he sleeks;

And mows the stubborn Stubble of his Cheeks:

Now, in the Crystal Stream he looks, to try

His Simagres, and rowls his glaring eye.

His Cruelty and thirst of Blood are lost;

And Ships securely sail along the Coast.

The Prophet Telemus (arriv’d by chance

Where Ætna’s Summets to the Seas advance,

Who mark’d the Tracts of every Bird that flew,

And sure Presages from their flying drew)

Foretold the Cyclops, that Ulysses hand

In his broad eye shou’d thrust a flaming Brand.

The Giant, with a scornful grin, reply’d,

Vain Augur, thou hast falsely prophesi’d;

Already Love his flaming Brand has tost;

Looking on two fair Eyes, my sight I lost.

Thus, warn’d in vain, with stalking pace he strode,

And stamp’d the Margine of the briny Flood

With heavy steps; and weary, sought agen

The cool Retirement of his gloomy Den.

A Promontory, sharp’ning by degrees,

Ends in a Wedge, and over-looks the Seas:

On either side, below, the water flows:

This airy walk the Giant Lover chose.

Here, on the midst he sate; his Flocks, unled,

Their Shepherd follow’d, and securely fed.

A Pine so burly, and of length so vast,

That sailing Ships requir’d it for a Mast,

He wielded for a Staff; his steps to guide:

But laid it by, his Whistle while he try’d.

A hundred Reeds, of a prodigious growth,

Scarce made a Pipe proportion’d to his mouth:

Which, when he gave it wind, the Rocks around,

And watry Plains, the dreadful hiss resound.

I heard the Ruffian-Shepherd rudely blow,

Where, in a hollow Cave, I sat below;

On Acis bosom I my head reclin’d:

And still preserve the Poem in my mind.

Oh lovely Galatea, whiter far

Than falling Snows, and rising Lillies are;

More flowry than the Meads, as Crystal bright;

Erect as Alders, and of equal height:

More wanton than a Kid, more sleek thy Skin

Than Orient Shells, that on the Shores are seen:

Than Apples fairer, when the boughs they lade;

Pleasing, as Winter Suns or Summer Shade:

More grateful to the sight, than goodly Planes;

And softer to the touch, than down of Swans,

Or Curds new turn’d; and sweeter to the taste

Than swelling Grapes, that to the Vintage haste:

More clear than Ice, or running Streams, that stray

Through Garden Plots, but ah more swift than they.

Yet, Galatea, harder to be broke

Than Bullocks, unreclaim’d to bear the Yoke,

And far more stubborn than the knotted Oak:

Like sliding Streams, impossible to hold;

Like them fallacious; like their Fountains, cold:

More warping than the Willow, to decline

My warm Embrace, more brittle than the Vine;

Immoveable, and fixt in thy disdain;

Rough, as these Rocks, and of a harder grain.

More violent than is the rising Flood:

And the prais’d Peacock is not half so proud.

Fierce as the Fire, and sharp as Thistles are;

And more outragious than a Mother-Bear:

Deaf as the billows to the Vows I make;

And more revengeful, than a trodden Snake.

In swiftness fleeter than the flying Hind,

Or driven Tempests, or the driving Wind.

All other faults with patience I can bear;

But swiftness is the Vice I only fear.

Yet, if you knew me well, you wou’d not shun

My Love, but to my wish’d Embraces run:

Wou’d languish in your turn, and court my stay;

And much repent of your unwise delay.

My Palace, in the living Rock, is made

By Nature’s hand; a spacious pleasing Shade;

Which neither heat can pierce, nor cold invade.

My Garden fill’d with Fruits you may behold,

And Grapes in clusters, imitating Gold;

Some blushing Bunches of a purple hue:

And these, and those, are all reserv’d for you.

Red Strawberries, in shades, expecting stand,

Proud to be gather’d by so white a hand.

Autumnal Cornels latter Fruit provide,

And Plumbs, to tempt you, turn their glossy side

Not those of common kinds; but such alone

As in Phæacian Orchards might have grown:

Nor Chestnuts shall be wanting to your Food,

Nor Garden-fruits, nor Wildings of the Wood;

The laden Boughs for you alone shall bear;

And yours shall be the product of the Year.

The Flocks you see, are all my own; beside

The rest that Woods and winding Vallies hide;

And those that fold’d in the Caves abide.

Ask not the numbers of my growing Store;

Who knows how many, knows he has no more.

Nor will I praise my Cattel; trust not me,

But judge your self, and pass your own decree:

Behold their swelling Dugs; the sweepy weight

Of Ews that sink beneath the Milky fraight;

In the warm Folds their tender Lambkins lye;

Apart from Kids, that call with humane cry.

New Milk in Nut-brown Bowls is duely serv’d

For daily Drink; the rest for Cheese reserv’d.

Nor are these House-hold Dainties all my Store:

The Fields and Forrests will afford us more;

The Deer, the Hare, the Goat, the Salvage Boar.

All sorts of Ven’son; and of Birds the best;

A pair of Turtles taken from the Nest.

I walk’d the Mountains, and two Cubs I found,

(Whose dam had left ’em on the naked ground,)

So like, that no distinction cou’d be seen;

So pretty, they were Presents for a Queen;

And so they shall; I took ’em both away;

And keep, to be Companions of your Play.

Oh raise, fair Nymph, your Beauteous Face above

The Waves; nor scorn my Presents, and my Love.

Come, Galatea, come and view my face;

I late beheld it, in the watry Glass;

And found it lovelier than I fear’d it was.

Survey my towring Stature, and my Size:

Not Jove, the Jove you dream, that rules the Skies

Bears such a bulk, or is so largely spread:

My Locks (the plenteous Harvest of my head)

Hang o’re my Manly Face; and dangling down,

As with a shady Grove, my shoulders crown.

Nor think, because my limbs and body bear

A thickset underwood of bristling hair,

My shape deform’d: what fouler sight can be,

Than the bald Branches of a leafless Tree?

Foul is the Steed, without a flowing Main;

And Birds, without their Feathers, and their Train.

Wool decks the Sheep; and Man receives a Grace

From bushy Limbs, and from a bearded Face.

My forehead with a single eye is fill’d,

Round as a Ball, and ample as a Shield.

The Glorious Lamp of Heav’n, the Radiant Sun,

Is Nature’s eye; and is content with one.

Add, that my Father sways your Seas, and I

Like you am of the watry Family.

I make you his, in making you my own;

You I adore; and kneel to you alone:

Jove, with his Fabled Thunder, I despise,

And only fear the lightning of your eyes.

Frown not, fair Nymph; yet I cou’d bear to be

Disdain’d, if others were disdain’d with me.

But to repulse the Cyclops, and prefer

The Love of Acis, (Heav’ns) I cannot bear.

But let the Stripling please himself; nay more,

Please you, tho’ that’s the thing I most abhor;

The Boy shall find, if e’re we cope in Fight,

These Giant Limbs endu’d with Giant Might.

His living Bowels, from his Belly torn,

And scatter’d Limbs, shall on the Flood be born:

Thy Flood, ungrateful Nymph, and fate shall find

That way for thee and Acis to be joyn’d.

For oh I burn with Love, and thy Disdain

Augments at once my Passion and my pain.

Translated Ætna flames within my Heart,

And thou, Inhumane, wilt not ease my smart.

Lamenting thus in vain, he rose, and strode

With furious paces to the Neighb’ring Wood:

Restless his feet, distracted was his walk;

Mad were his motions, and confus’d his talk.

Mad as the vanquish’d Bull, when forc’d to Yield

His lovely Mistress, and forsake the Field.

Thus far unseen I saw: when, fatal chance

His looks directing, with a sudden glance,

Acis and I were to his sight betray’d;

Where, nought suspecting, we securely play’d.

From his wide mouth a bellowing cry he cast;

I see, I see, but this shall be your last.

A roar so loud made Ætna to rebound;

And all the Cyclops labour’d in the sound.

Affrighted with his monstrous Voice, I fled,

And in the Neighb’ring Ocean plung’d my head.

Poor Acis turn’d his back, and, help, he cried,

Help, Galatea, help, my Parent Gods,

And take me dying to your deep Abodes.

The Cyclops follow’d: but he sent before

A Rib, which from the living Rock he tore:

Though but an Angle reach’d him of the Stone,

The mighty Fragment was enough alone

To crush all Acis; ’twas too late to save,

But what the Fates allow’d to give, I gave:

That Acis to his Lineage should return;

And rowl, among the River Gods, his Urn.

Straight issu’d from the Stone a Stream of blood;

Which lost the Purple, mingling with the Flood.

Then like a troubled Torrent it appear’d:

The Torrent too, in little space, was clear’d.

The Stone was cleft, and through the yawning chink

New Reeds arose, on the new River’s brink.

The Rock, from out its hollow Womb, disclos’d

A sound like Water in its course oppos’d:

When, (wondrous to behold,) full in the Flood

Up starts a Youth, and Navel high he stood.

Horns from his Temples rise; and either Horn

Thick Wreaths of Reeds (his Native growth) adorn.

Were not his Stature taller than before,

His bulk augmented, and his beauty more,

His colour blue, for Acis he might pass:

And Acis chang’d into a Stream he was.

But mine no more, he rowls along the Plains

With rapid motion, and his Name retains.