Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Baucis and Philemon,
Out of the Eighth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
          The Author, 1 pursuing the Deeds of Theseus, relates how He, with his friend Perithous, were invited by Achelous, the River-God, to stay with him, till his Waters were abated. Achelous entertains them with a Relation of his own Love to Perimele, who was chang’d into an Island by Neptune, at his Request. Perithous, being an Atheist, derides the Legend, and denies the Power of the Gods to work that Miracle. Lelex, another Companion of Theseus, to confirm the Story of Achelous, relates another Metamorphosis of Baucis and Philemon into Trees; of which he was partly an Eye-witness.

THUS Achelous ends: His Audience hear
With admiration, and admiring, fear
The Pow’rs of Heav’n; except Ixion’s Son,
Who laugh’d at all the Gods, believ’d in none:
He shook his impious Head, and thus replies,        5
These Legends are no more than pious Lies:
You attribute too much to Heavenly Sway,
To think they give us Forms, and take away.
  The rest, of better Minds, their Sense declar’d
Against this Doctrine, and with Horrour heard.        10
Then Lelex rose, an old experienc’d Man,
And thus with sober Gravity began:
Heav’ns Pow’r is Infinite: Earth, Air, and Sea,
The Manufacture Mass, the making Pow’r obey:
By Proof to clear your Doubt; In Phrygian Ground        15
Two neighb’ring Trees, with Walls encompass’d round,
Stand on a mod’rate Rise, with wonder shown,
One a hard Oak, a softer Linden one:
I saw the Place and them, by Pittheus sent
To Phrygian Realms, my Grandsire’s Government.        20
Not far from thence is seen a Lake, the Haunt
Of Coots, and of the fishing Cormorant:
Here Jove with Hermes came; but in Disguise
Of mortal Men conceal’d their Deities;
One laid aside his Thunder, one his Rod;        25
And many toilsom Steps together trod;
For Harbour at a thousand Doors they knock’d,
Not one of all the thousand but was lock’d
At last an hospitable House they found,
A homely Shed; the Roof, not far from Ground,        30
Was thatch’d with Reeds and Straw together bound.
There Baucis and Philemon liv’d, and there
Had liv’d long marry’d and a happy Pair:
Now old in Love, though little was their Store,
Inur’d to Want, their Poverty they bore,        35
Nor aim’d at Wealth, professing to be poor.
For Master or for Servant here to call,
Was all alike, where only Two were All.
Command was none, where equal Love was paid,
Or rather both commanded, both obey’d.        40
  From lofty Roofs the Gods repuls’d before,
Now stooping, enter’d through the little Door:
The Man (their hearty Welcome first express’d)
A common Settle drew for either Guest,
Inviting each his weary Limbs to rest.        45
But e’er they sat, officious Baucis lays
Two Cushions stuff’d with Straw, the Seat to raise;
Course, but the best she had; then rakes 2 the Load
Of Ashes from the Hearth, and spreads abroad
The living Coals, and, lest they should expire,        50
With Leaves and Barks she feeds her Infant-fire:
It smoaks; and then with trembling Breath she blows,
Till in a chearful Blaze the Flames arose.
With Brush-wood and with Chips she strengthens these,
And adds at last the Boughs of rotten Trees.        55
The Fire thus form’d, she sets the Kettle on,
(Like burnish’d Gold the little Seether shone)
Next took the Coleworts which her Husband got
From his own Ground (a small well-water’d Spot;)
She stripp’d the Stalks of all their Leaves; the best        60
She cull’d, and then with handy-care she dress’d.
High o’er the Hearth a Chine of Bacon hung;
Good old Philemon seiz’d it with a Prong,
And from the sooty Rafter drew it down,
Then cut a Slice, but scarce enough for one;        65
Yet a large Portion of a little Store,
Which for their Sakes alone he wish’d were more.
This in the Pot he plung’d without delay,
To tame the Flesh, and drain the Salt away.
The Time between, before the Fire they sat,        70
And shorten’d the Delay by pleasing Chat.
  A Beam there was, on which a Beechen Pail
Hung by the Handle, on a driven Nail:
This fill’d with Water, gently warm’d, they set
Before their Guests; in this they bath’d their Feet,        75
And after with clean Towels dry’d their Sweat:
This done, the Host produc’d the genial Bed,
Sallow the Feet, 3 the Borders, and the Sted,
Which with no costly Coverlet they spread;
But course old Garments, yet such Robes as these        80
They laid alone, at Feasts, on Holydays.
The good old Huswife tucking up her Gown,
The Table sets; th’ invited Gods lie down.
The Trivet-Table of a Foot was lame,
A Blot which prudent Baucis overcame,        85
Who thrusts 4 beneath the limping Leg, a Sherd,
So was the mended Board exactly rear’d:
Then rubb’d it o’er with newly-gather’d Mint,
A wholesom Herb, that breath’d a grateful Scent.
Pallas began the Feast, where first were seen        90
The party-colour’d Olive, Black and Green:
Autumnal Cornels next in order serv’d,
In Lees of Wine well pickl’d, and preserv’d:
A Garden-Sallad was the third Supply,
Of Endive, Radishes, and Succory:        95
Then Curds and Cream, the Flow’r of Country-Fare,
And new-laid Eggs, which Baucis busie Care
Turn’d by a gentle Fire, and roasted rear. 5
All these in Earthen Ware were serv’d to Board;
And next in place, an Earthen Pitcher, stor’d        100
With Liquor of the best the Cottage cou’d afford.
This was the Tables Ornament and Pride,
With Figures wrought: Like Pages at his Side
Stood Beechen Bowls; and these were shining clean,
Vernish’d with Wax without, and lin’d within.        105
By this the boiling Kettle had prepar’d,
And to the Table sent the smoaking Lard;
On which with eager Appetite they dine,
A sav’ry Bit, that serv’d to rellish Wine:
The Wine it self was suiting to the rest,        110
Still working in the Must, and lately press’d.
The Second Course succeeds like that before,
Plums, Apples, Nuts, and of their Wintry Store,
Dry Figs, and Grapes, and wrinkl’d Dates were set
In Canisters, t’enlarge the little Treat        115
All these a Milk-white Honey-comb surround,
Which in the midst the Country Banquet crown’d:
But the kind Hosts their Entertainment grace
With hearty Welcom, and an open Face:
In all they did, you might discern with ease,        120
A willing Mind, and a Desire to please.
  Mean time the Beechen Bowls went round, and still,
Though often empty’d, were observ’d to fill;
Fill’d without Hands, and of their own accord
Ran without Feet, and danc’d about the Board.        125
Devotion seiz’d the Pair, to see the Feast
With Wine, and of no common Grape, increas’d;
And up they held their Hands, and fell to Pray’r,
Excusing, as they cou’d, their Country Fare.
  One Goose they had, (’twas all they cou’d allow)        130
A wakeful Cent’ry, and on Duty now,
Whom to the Gods for Sacrifice they vow:
Her, with malicious Zeal, the Couple view’d;
She ran for Life, and limping they pursu’d:
Full well the Fowl perceiv’d their bad intent,        135
And wou’d not make her Masters Compliment;
But persecuted, to the Pow’rs she flies,
And close between the Legs of Jove she lies.
He with a gracious Ear the Suppliant heard,
And sav’d her Life; then what he was declar’d,        140
And own’d the God. The Neighbourhood, said he,
Shall justly perish for Impiety:
You stand alone exempted; but obey
With speed, and follow where we lead the way:
Leave these accurs’d; and to the Mountains Height        145
Ascend; nor once look backward in your Flight.
  They haste, and what their tardy Feet deny’d,
The trusty Staff (their better Leg) supply’d.
An Arrows Flight they wanted to the Top,
And there secure, but spent with Travel, stop;        150
Then turn their now no more forbidden Eyes;
Lost in a Lake the floated Level lies:
A Watry Desart covers all the Plains,
Their Cot alone, as in an Isle, remains:
Wondring with weeping 6 eyes, while they deplore        155
Their Neighbours Fate, and Country now no more,
Their little Shed, scarce large enough for Two,
Seems, from the Ground increas’d, in Height and Bulk to grow.
A stately Temple shoots within the Skies:
The Crotches 7 of their Cot in Columns rise:        160
The Pavement polish’d Marble they behold,
The Gates with Sculpture grac’d, the Spires and Tiles of Gold.
  Then thus the Sire of Gods, with Look 8 serene,
Speak thy Desire, thou only Just of Men;
And thou, O Woman, only worthy found        165
To be with such a Man in Marriage bound.
  A while they whisper; then, to Jove address’d,
Philemon thus prefers their joint Request:
We crave to serve before your sacred Shrine,
And offer at your Altars Rites Divine:        170
And since not any Action of our Life
Has been polluted with Domestick Strife,
We beg one Hour of Death; that neither she
With Widows Tears may live to bury me,
Nor weeping I, with wither’d Arms may bear        175
My breathless Baucis to the Sepulcher.
  The Godheads sign their Suit. They run their Race
In the same Tenor all th’ appointed Space;
Then, when their Hour was come, while they relate
These past Adventures at the Temple-gate,        180
Old Baucis is by old Philemon seen
Sprouting with sudden Leaves of spritely Green:
Old Baucis look’d where old Philemon stood,
And saw his lengthen’d Arms a sprouting Wood:
New Roots their fasten’d Feet begin to bind,        185
Their Bodies stiffen in a rising Rind:
Then e’er the Bark above their Shoulders grew,
They give and take at once their last Adieu;
At once, Farewell, O faithful Spouse, they said;
At once th’ incroaching Rinds their closing Lips invade.        190
Ev’n yet, an ancient Tyanæan shows
A spreading Oak, that near a Linden grows:
The Neighbourhood confirm the Prodigie,
Grave Men, not vain of Tongue, or like to lie.
I saw my self the Garlands on their Boughs,        195
And Tablets hung for Gifts of granted Vows;
And off’ring fresher up, with pious Pray’r,
The Good, said I, are God’s peculiar Care,
And such as honour Heav’n, shall heav’nly Honour share.
Note 1. The text from the original edition of 1700. In 160 ‘Crotches’ is certainly Dryden’s form. [back]
Note 2. rakes] Most editors thoughtlessly and wrongly give takes. [back]
Note 3. Feet] The English editors absurdly give foot. [back]
Note 4. thrusts] The English editors give thrust. [back]
Note 5. rear] The editors change to rare. [back]
Note 6. weeping] The editors absurdly give peeping. [back]
Note 7. Crotches] The editors give crotchets. [back]
Note 8. Look] The editors wrongly give Looks. [back]

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