While yet she spoke, the queen in transport sprung
Swift from the couch, and round the matron hung;
Fast from her eye descends the rolling tear:
“Say, once more say, is my Ulysses here?
How could that numerous and outrageous band
By one be slain, though by a hero’s hand?”
“I saw it not (she cries), but heard alone,
When death was busy, a loud dying groan;
The damsel-train turn’d pale at every wound,
Immured we sate, and catch’d each passing sound;
When death had seized her prey, thy son attends,
And at his nod the damsel-train descends;
There terrible in arms Ulysses stood,
And the dead suitors almost swam in blood:
Thy heart had leap’d the hero to survey,
Stern as the surly lion o’er his prey,
Glorious in gore, now with sulphereous fire
The dome he purges, now the flame aspires;
Heap’d lie the dead without the palace walls—
Haste, daughter, haste, thy own Ulysses calls!
Thy every wish the bounteous gods bestow;
Enjoy the present good, and former woe.
Ulysses lives, his vanquish’d foes to see;
He lives to thy Telemachus and thee!”
“Ah, no! (with sighs Penelope rejoin’d,)
Excess of joy disturbs thy wandering mind;
How blest this happy hour, should he appear,
Dear to us all, to me supremely dear;
Ah, no! some god the suitors death decreed,
Some god descends, and by his hand they bleed;
Blind! to contemn the stranger’s righteous cause,
And violate all hospitable laws!
The good they hated, and the powers defied!
But heaven is just, and by a god they died.
For never must Ulysses view this shore;
Never! the loved Ulysses is no more!”
“What words (the matron cries) have reach’d
Doubt we his presence, when he now appears!
Then hear conviction: Ere the fatal day
That forced Ulysses o’er the watery way,
A boar, fierce rushing in the sylvan war,
Plough’d half his thigh; I saw, I saw the scar,
And wild with transport had reveal’d the wound;
But ere I spoke, he rose, and check’d the sound.
Then, daughter, haste away! and if a lie
Flow from this tongue, then let thy servant die!”
To whom with dubious joy the queen replies:
“Wise is thy soul, but errors seize the wise;
The works of gods what mortal can survey?
Who knows their motives, who shall trace their way?
But learn we instant how the suitors trod
The paths of death, by man, or by a god.”
Thus speaks the queen, and no reply attends,
But with alternate joy and fear descends;
At every step debates her lord to prove;
Or, rushing to his arms, confess her love!
Then gliding through the marble valves, in state
Opposed, before the shining sire she sate.
The monarch, by a column high enthroned,
His eye withdrew, and fix’d it on the ground;
Curious to hear his queen the silence break:
Amazed she sate, and impotent to speak;