Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
The Epithalamium of Helen and Menelaus, from the Eighteenth Idyllium of Theocritus
TWELVE 1 Spartan Virgins, noble, young, and fair,
With Violet wreaths adorn’d their flowing hair;
And to the pompous Palace did resort,
Where Menelaus kept his Royal Court.
There hand in hand a comely Quire they led;        5
To sing a blessing to his Nuptial Bed,
With curious Needles wrought, and painted Flow’rs bespread.
Joves beauteous Daughter now his Bride must be,
And Jove himself was less a God than he:
For this their artful hands instruct the Lute to sound,        10
Their feet assist their hands, and justly beat the ground.
This was their Song: Why, happy Bridegroom, why,
E’re yet the Stars are kindl’d in the Skie,
E’re twilight shades, or Ev’ning dews are shed,
Why dost thou steal so soon away to Bed?        15
Has Somnus brush’d thy Eye-lids with his Rod,
Or do thy Legs refuse to bear their Load
With flowing bowles of a more generous God?
If gentle Slumber on thy Temples creep,
(But naughty Man thou dost not mean to sleep)        20
Betake thee to thy Bed, thou drowzy Drone,
Sleep by thy self, and leave thy Bride alone:
Go, leave her with her Maiden Mates to play
At sports more harmless, till the break of day:
Give us this Evening: thou hast Morn and Night,        25
And all the year before thee, for delight.
O happy Youth! to thee, among the crowd
Of Rival Princes, Cupid sneez’d aloud;
And every lucky Omen sent before,
To meet thee landing on the Spartan shore.        30
Of all our Heroes thou canst boast alone,
That Jove, when e’re he Thunders, calls thee Son.
Betwixt two Sheets thou shalt enjoy her bare,
With whom no Grecian Virgin can compare
So soft, so sweet, so balmy, and so fair.        35
A Boy like thee 2 would make a Kingly line:
But oh, a Girl like her must be divine.
Her equals we, in years, but not in face,
Twelve score Virago’s of the Spartan Race,
While naked to Eurota’s 3 banks we bend,        40
And there in manly exercise contend,
When she appears, are all eclips’d and lost,
And hide the beauties that we made our boast.
So, when the Night and Winter disappear,
The Purple morning, rising with the year,        45
Salutes the spring, as her Celestial eyes
Adorn the World, and brighten all the Skies:
So beauteous Helen shines among the rest,
Tall, slender, straight, with all the Graces blest.
As Pines the Mountains, or as Fields the Corn,        50
Or as Thessalian Steeds the Race adorn;
So Rosie colour’d Helen is the pride
Of Lacedemon, and of Greece beside.
Like her no Nymph can willing Ozyers bend
In basket-works, which painted streaks commend:        55
With Pallas in the Loomb she may contend.
But none, ah! none can animate the Lyre,
And the mute strings with Vocal Souls inspire:
Whether the Learn’d Minerva be her Theam,
Or chaste Diana bathing in the Stream;        60
None can record their Heavenly praise so well
As Helen, in whose eyes ten thousand Cupids dwell.
O fair, O Graceful! yet with Maids inroll’d,
But whom to morrow’s Sun a Matron shall behold!
Yet e’re to morrow’s Sun shall show his head,        65
The dewy paths of meadows we will tread.
For Crowns and Chaplets to adorn thy head.
Where all shall weep, and wish for thy return,
As bleating Lambs their absent Mother mourn.
Our Noblest Maids shall to thy Name bequeath        70
The boughs of Lotos, form’d into a wreath.
This Monument, thy Maiden beauties due,
High on a Plane tree shall be hung to view:
On the smooth rind the Passenger shall see
Thy Name ingrav’d, and worship Helens Tree:        75
Balm, from a Silver box distill’d around
Shall all bedew the roots, and scent the sacred ground.
The balm, ’tis true, can aged Plants prolong,
But Helens name will keep it ever young.
Hail Bride, hail Bridegroom, son in Law to Jove!        80
With fruitful joys Latona bless your Love!
Let Venus furnish you with full desires,
Add vigour to your wills, and fuel to your fires!
Almighty Jove augment your wealthy store,
Give much to you, and to his Grandsons more!        85
From generous Loyns a generous Race will spring,
Each Girl, like her, a Queen; each Boy, like you, a King.
Now sleep if sleep you can; but while you rest,
Sleep close, with folded arms, and breast to breast:
Rise in the morn; but oh before you rise,        90
Forget not to perform your morning Sacrifice.
We will be with you e’re the crowing Cock
Salute the light, and struts before his feather’d Flock.
Hymen, oh Hymen, to thy Triumphs run,
And view the mighty spoils thou hast in Battle won.        95
Note 1. Text from the original of 1685 except as noted. [back]
Note 2. Boy like thee] Boy, like thee, 1685. [back]
Note 3. Eurota’s] Eurotas’ would be more accurate. [back]

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