The Poetry Corner

The Fable Of Dryope.[56] From The Ninth Book Of Ovid's Metamorphoses. - Translations And Imitations.

By Alexander Pope

She said, and for her lost Galanthis 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 loved; and, bless'd in all those charms That pleased 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 flowery garlands brought: Her smiling babe (a pleasing charge) she press'd Within her arms, and nourish'd at her breast. Not distant far, a watery lotus grows; The spring was new, and all the verdant boughs, Adorn'd with blossoms, promised 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 flowery 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 implored, And those offended sylvan powers adored: But when she backward would have fled, she found Her stiffening 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: Surprised at this, her trembling hand she heaves To rend her hair; her hand is fill'd with leaves: Where late was hair, the shooting leaves are seen To rise, and shade her with a sudden green. The child Amphissus, to her bosom press'd, Perceived a colder and a harder breast, And found the springs, that ne'er till then denied Their milky moisture, on a sudden dried. I saw, unhappy! what I now relate, And stood the helpless witness of thy fate; Embraced 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 inquire: 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 every leaf distils a trickling tear; And straight a voice, while yet a voice remains, Thus through the trembling boughs in sighs complains: '"If to the wretched any faith be given, I swear by all th' unpitying powers of Heaven, 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 flowers; but, warn'd by me, Believe a goddess shrined in every 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 ceased at once to speak and ceased to be, And all the nymph was lost within the tree; Yet latent life through her new branches reign'd, And long the plant a human heat retain'd.'