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Jove's daughters hymn the gods; and bards rehearse
The deeds of worthies in their glowing verse.
The heaven-born Muses hymn the heavenly ring;
Of mortals, then, let mortal poets sing.
Yet who- as many as there be that live
Under the grey dawn, will a welcome give
To our sweet Graces, or the door-latch lift,
Or will not send them off without a gift ?
Barefoot, with wrinkled brows, and mien deject,
They chide me for the way of chill neglect ;
Tho' loath, into their empty chest they drop,
And on cold knees their heavy heads they prop ;
And dry their seat is, when no good they earn,
But from a fruitless journey back return.
What living man the poet will repay
With generous love for his ennobling lay?
I know not: men no longer, as before,
Would live for good deeds in poetic lore;
But are o'ercome by detestable gain ;
Close-fisted, every one doth fast retain
His money, thinking how to make it grow,
Nor freely would the smallest mite bestow,
" the knee is nearer than the shin;
Some good be mine! from gods bards honour win.
But who will hear another ? one will do -
Homer, best poet, and the cheapest too-
He costs me nothing." Fools ! what boots the gold
Hid within doors in heaps cannot be told ?
Not so the truly wise their wealth employ :
With some 'tis fit one's natural man to joy ;
Some to the bard should freely be assigned,
To kin—and many others of mankind.
The gods their offerings; guests should have their dues,
Welcome to come and go whene'er they choose.
But most of all the generous mind prefers
The Muses' consecrate interpreters.
So may you live to fame, when life is done,
Nor mourn inglorious at cold Acheron,
Like one from birth to poverty betrayed,
Whose palms are horny from the painful spade.
To many a serf Antiochus the great,
To many king Aleuas in his state,
Measured the monthly dole. Much kine to see
Lowed at the full stalls of the Scopadæ.
Innumerous flocks to some cool green retreat
The shepherds drove, to screen them from the heat,
O'er Cranon's plain— choice flocks in choicest place,
The wealth of Creon's hospitable race.
No pleasure had been theirs these things about,
When once their sweet souls they had emptied out
Into the broad raft of drear Acheron;
But they, sad with the thoughts of life foregone,
Had lain — their treasures left and memory hid —
Long ages lain the wretched dead amid,
Had not the glorious Ceian breathed the fire
Of his quick spirit to the stringed lyre,
And would not let them altogether die,
But made them famous to posterity:
And e'cn their swift-foot steeds obtained renown,
Which in the sacred race-course won the crown.
Who would have known the noble Lycian pair —
The sons of Priam with their pomp of hair -
Or Cycnus, as a woman fair to ken,
Had no bard sung the wars of former men ?
Nor that Odysseus, who went wandering round,
Twice sixty moons, wherever man is found,
And, while alive, to farthest Hades sped,
And from the cavern of the Cyclops fled,
Had been aye famed; the keeper of the swine,
Eumæus, and the man the herded kine
Had in his watchful care, Philætius,
And e'en Laertes the magnanimous,
Had been in a perpetual silence pent,
But for that old Ionian eloquent.
The Muses best renown on men bestow :
The living waste the wealth of those below.
It were all one the waves to number o'er,
As many as wind and blue sea drive ashore,
Or wash with water from the spring's dark urn
The clay of unbaked brick, as try to turn
The money-lover from his wretched pelf-
But let us leave the miser to himself.
May countless pieces swell his silver store !
And let him ever have a wish for more !