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ELEGIES OF PROPERTIUS.
ARETHUSA TO LYCOTAS.-TALE OF TARPEIA,
EPISTLE OF ARETHUSA TO LYCOTAS.-EL. 3. LIB. IV.
It is supposed that the lady designated under the fictitious name of Arethusa was Ælia Galla; and that by Lycotas was meant Posthumus, to whom the twelfth elegy of the third book is addressed on his parting from his wife Galla, and who is
thought to have served with Ælius Gallus, governor of Egypt, in his campaign against Arabia Felix.This elegy is conjectured to have been the model of Ovid's Epistles of Heroines.
Sæpe mihi solitus recitare Propertius ignes.
To her Lycotas Arethusa, these—
If thou, so oft away, canst still be mine;
The twice-track'd East beholds thee; Bactria's plain,
Now the swarth Indian horsed on steeds of morn.
Is this the husband-faith? the love-pledged hour,
The sprinkling vase was dipp'd in Stygian lake,
And weave the mantle of thy fourth campaign.
Ah wretch! who fell'd for stakes the harmless tree,
While near the ass for ever fed his fast.
Say does the mail thy tender shoulders gall?
And chafes the spear thy war-unpractised grasp?
They say thy cheek has wann'd: yet welcome this
Each chance-left weapon-all that's left of thee.
* There is mention in Pliny 35, 11, 40, of a picture by the painter Socrates, which represents Ocnus twisting a rope, and too lazy to drive away the ass that is browsing on the hemp. "Such a man twists Ocnus's rope," was a proverb of the Ionians. Pausan. lib. 10.
Then tossing on my ruffled couch I sigh,
And chide the bird that heralds morning skies; Or my camp-task in wintery midnights ply,
And cull the purple as the shuttle flies:
Or learn where flows Araxes, soon to yield,
How wide the Parthian scours his fountless waste; Con regions on the tablet's painted field,
And how the skilful God his world has traced:
What land is bound with frost, what riv'n with heat;
My soothing sister keeps her wakeful seat,
My nurse protests, and blames the winter gale.
Envied Hippolita !-with breast half-bare
Not Scythia's cliffs should bar my way with frost,
What though my robe with Punic crimson glow?
Unbars the door, the whilst her spindle stands.
The lap-dog's voice most pleasing sounds to me,
Usurps my bosom and my bed divides.
I deck the shrines with flowers, the cross-roads veil
That day, on which those brighter omens shine,
The sacrificing priests surround the shrine,
Ah! let not fire-wrapt Bactra tempt thy fates,
When from writhen cord are shower'd the leaden weights,
But (so may Parthia's foster-sons be quell'd,
Thus thy doff'd armour will I hang above
THE TALE OF TARPEIA.
The story of Tarpeia, as told by Livy, i. 11. and Florus, i. 1. 12. is well known. She required, as the price of her admitting the Sabine army into the fortress of the capitol, what the soldiers wore on their left arms; meaning their bracelets: they perversely interpreted the boon she asked-of their bucklers; and by this quibble affected to save their honour while they crushed her. Propertius seems to have thought that avarice was not a sufficiently poetical subject; and by supposing Tarpeia's motive to be a passion for Tatius, the Sabine chieftain, he certainly succeeds in making her a more interesting personage; but he forgot that he was at the same time rendering Tatius proportionably more odi
Tarpeia's grave inglorious shall be told,
Where Rome's proud edicts curb earth's vanquish'd race?
Th' Hortilian court, which guarding walls infold,
At that Numician fountain's lonely brink
The war-horse of the foe would stoop to drink.
She saw where Tatius scour'd the sandy plain,
His chased arms glanced and shook through the steed's tawny mane;
With bleeding briery marks the nightly-wandering maid.
"O ye camp-fires! O central princely tent!
The steed shall bear me to the camp erewhile,
The steed whose mane my chieftain's fingers braid.
And dogs raged fierce round Scylla's snowy waist?
And back the gather'd clue the labyrinth traced?
The chosen handmaid of a virgin hearth:
And thou, that wonderest at th' extinguish'd shrine,
Thee the wrought robe becomes; not him who hung
Make me thy guest, if not thy wife and queen;
She spoke; her arms relax'd in slumber slide;
And blew the faulty flames and hurl'd her torch within her blood.
Bare-bosom'd on the banks of tumbling Thermodon.
'Twas Pales' holy day; ancestral rite;
Rome's natal morn now tipp'd her walls with light.
"Twas the swains' revel-feast within the gates,
Where rustic tables steam with village cates ;*
Th' inebriate crowd, with soil'd and trampling heel.
The garrison restrain'd the trumpet's stated sound.
Plights mutual faith, and shares the plighted deeds.
The guard remiss had left the steepy way
To bar ascent: her sword prevents the watch-dog's bay:
For retribution wakes, and guards his own.
Her trust, her prostrate country she betray'd,
Rome's foe the treason scorn'd; and haughty cried,
"Climb thus my throne and bed, my queen and bride!"
*The guide Tarpeia gave the mount a name;
O ill-starr'd vestal! thy atoning fame.
• The common reading, "A duce Tarpeio," (who never once appears) is nonsense : I beg to read, "A duce Tarpeiâ," which is sense.
THE MALVERN HILLS.
While Malvern, king of hills, fair Severn overlooks,
And from his many heads, with many an amorous eye
Abounding in excess, the vale of Eusham lies. Drayton's Polyolbion.
ONCE more Malvern, after years of absence, I behold thy lofty ridge, as I descend the red heights that impend over the Severn, and pace with "wandering steps and slow towards Upton Bridge. What a scene of fertility lies before me, displaying the affluence of nature's beauty as fresh in colour as when I last visited it.
Then my sensations were as vivid as the thousand hues that at this moment decorate the landscape: now the colours are less refreshing to a mind grown duller in perception, and tinging all objects with the mellowness of age. Hills of my fathers! at whose feet many generations of my progenitors are mouldering, how keenly ye recal to my mind the feelings I experienced when I last visited you, and greeted your purple summits in my way from this very spot, darkened as they were from the evening sun setting behind them, and defining your undulations in a long wavy line across the horizon. Then youth deepened every tint, and made every smiling object around minister to enjoyment. I ran across the meadows; I swam in the Severn; I paced the lovely fields that intervene between the river and your sequestered village; brimful of hope, joy, and enthusiasm. I climbed your steep sides, and inhaled the vivifying air of their elevated region, with a sparkling elasticity of feeling that I shall experience no more; for though I now see you tower on high with delight, it is with a delight less exquisite, a feeling less calculated to afford an idea of its value. My season of youth is irrecoverably flown, and it now seems as if it had only been given to me that I might experience the pain of parting with it. In youth, the price of our pleasurable sensations is at its maximum, and declines as we get older, till arriving at the gates of death-what are they worth? And yet the realities of life are of as little value, and VOL. VI.
would be worth nothing even in youth but for the seasoning of hopes and fancies given us to make them palatable. As I looked upon those hills, I reflected how many eyes had gazed upon them to which they had presented exactly the same appearance, and excited the same sensations as with me, in past ages. Time makes little alteration in the great outlines of nature, or at all events proceeds slowly in his work, and when the author of "The Vision of William concerning Piers Plowman," saw them four hundred years ago, and when I visited them last month, these beautiful hills, no doubt, presented the same aspect to us both. Mountains and rivers are among the more stable things of nature; the surface of a plain is altered by man, and valleys may be changed by torrents and floods, but the eternal hills" are seen unchanged by successive generations of men. They are visual records of the past, pregnant with sublime associations, and awaken sympathies with the sons of forgotten ages, and call up the shadowy images of beings that have long ago fretted their hour" on the stage of life. Sober and sad are the feelings at such moments, when they pry into the darkness of past time-sad even to tears. Even fugitive rivers flow by the ruins of mighty cities as they flowed when the buildings were entire and the streets swarmed with population, while things apparently more stable perish. Cervantes has prettily noticed this in a Sonnet to Rome. Johnson thought the idea was originally in Janus Vitalis.
O Roma! en tu grandeza en tu hermosura,
"fugitivo" referring to the Tiber mentioned in a preceding stanza.
Such were my thoughts when I had left the coach, and turning R