She said, and for her lost Calanthis sighs,
When the fair Consort of her son replies.
‘Since you a servant’s ravish’d form bemoan,
And kindly sigh for sorrows not your own;
Let me (if tears and grief permit) relate
A nearer woe, a sister’s stranger fate.
No Nymph of all OEchalia could compare
For beauteous form with Dryope the fair,
Her tender mother’s only hope and pride,
(Myself the offspring of a second bride)
This Nymph compress’d by him who rules the day,
Whom Delphi and the Delian isle obey,
Andraemon lov’d; and, bless’d in all those charms
That pleas’d a God, succeeded to her arms.
‘A lake there was, with shelving banks around,
Whose verdant summit fragrant myrtles crown’d.
These shades, unknowing of the fates, she sought,
And to the Naiads flow’ry garlands brought;
Her smiling babe (a pleasing charge) she prest
Within her arms, and nourish’d at her breast.
Not distant far, a wat’ry Lotos grows,
The spring was new, and all the verdant boughs
Adorn’d with blossoms promis’d fruits that vie
In glowing colours with the Tyrian dye:
Of these she cropp’d to please her infant son,
And I myself the same rash act had done:
But lo! I saw, (as near her side I stood)
The violated blossoms drop with blood;
Upon the tree I cast a frightful look;
The trembling tree with sudden horror shook.
Lotis the nymph (if rural tales be true)
As from Priapus’ lawless lust she flew,
Forsook her form; and fixing here became
A flow’ry plant, which still preserves her name.
‘This change unknown, astonish’d at the sight
My trembling sister strove to urge her flight,
And first the pardon of the nymphs implor’d,
And those offended sylvan powers ador’d:
But when she backward would have fled, she found
Her stiff’ning feet were rooted in the ground:
In vain to free her fasten’d feet she strove,
And as she struggles, only moves above;
She feels th’ encroaching bark around her grow
By quick degrees, and cover all below:
Surpris’d at this, her trembling hand she heaves
To rend her hair, the shooting leaves are seen
To rise, and shade her with a sudden green.
The child Amphissus, to her bosom prest,
Perceiv’d a colder and a harder breast,
And found the springs, that ne’er till then deny’d
Their milky moisture, on a sudden dry’d.
I saw, unhappy! what I now relate,
And stood the helpless witness of thy fate,
Embrac’d thy boughs, thy rising bark delay’d,
There wish’d to grow, and mingle shade with shade.
‘Behold Andraemon and th’ unhappy sire
Appear, and for their Dryope enquire;
A springing tree for Dryope they find,
And print warm kisses on the panting rind.
Prostrate, with tears their kindred plant bedew,
And close embrace as to the roots they grew,
The face was all that now remain’d of thee,
No more a woman, nor yet quite a tree;
Thy branches hung with humid pearls appear,
From ev’ry leaf distils a trickling tear,
And straight a voice, while yet a voice remains,
Thus thro’ the trembling boughs in sighs complains.
”If to the wretched any faith be giv’n,
I swear by all th’ unpitying pow’rs of heav’n,
No wilful crime this heavy vengeance bred;
In mutual innocence our lives we led:
If this be false, let these new greens decay,
Let sounding axes lop my limbs away,
And crackling flames on all my honours prey.
But from my branching arms this infant bear,
Let some kind nurse supply a mother’s care:
And to his mother let him oft be led,
Sport in her shades, and in her shades be fed;
Teach him, when first his infant voice shall frame
Imperfect words, and lisp his mother’s name,
To hail this tree; and say with weeping eyes,
Within this plant my hapless parent lies:
And when in youth he seeks the shady woods,
Oh, let him fly the crystal lakes and floods,
Nor touch the fatal flow’rs; but, warn’d by me,
Believe a Goddess shrin’d in ev’ry tree.
My sire, my sister, and my spouse farewell!
If in your breasts or love, or pity dwell,
Protect your plant, nor let my branches feel
The browsing cattle or the piercing steel.
Farewell! and since I cannot bend to join
My lips to yours, advance at least to mine.
My son, thy mother’s parting kiss receive,
While yet thy mother has a kiss to give.
I can no more; the creeping rind invades
My closing lips, and hides my head in shades:
Remove your hands, the bark shall soon suffice
Without their aid to seal these dying eyes.’
‘She ceas’d at once to speak, and ceas’d to be;
And all the nymph was lost within the tree;
Yet latent life thro’ her new branches reign’d,
And long the plant a human heat retain’d.’
She said, and for her lost Calanthis sighs,