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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Baucis and Philemon
By Ovid (43 B.C.–18 A.D.)
Translation of John Dryden (see full text)

IN Phrygian ground
Two neighb’ring trees, with walls encompassed round,
Stand on a moderate rise, with wonder shown,—
One a hard oak, a softer linden one:
I saw the place, and them by Pittheus sent        5
To Phrygian realms, my grandsire’s government.
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 concealed their deities:        10
One laid aside his thunder, one his rod;
And many toilsome steps together trod;
For harbor at a thousand doors they knocked,—
Not one of all the thousand but was locked.
At last an hospitable house they found,—        15
An homely shed; the roof, not far from ground,
Was thatched with reeds and straw together bound.
There Baucis and Philemon lived, and there
Had lived long married, and a happy pair;
Now old in love; though little was their store,        20
Inured to want, their poverty they bore,
Nor aimed 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;        25
Or rather both commanded, both obeyed.
  From lofty roofs the gods repulsed before,
Now stooping, entered through the little door;
The man (their hearty welcome first expressed)
A common settle drew for either guest,        30
Inviting each his weary limbs to rest.
But ere they sat, officious Baucis lays
Two cushions stuffed with straw, the seat to raise,—
Coarse, but the best she had: then takes the load
Of ashes from the hearth, and spreads abroad        35
The living coals, and lest they should expire,
With leaves and barks she feeds her infant fire;
It smokes, and then with trembling breath she blows,
Till in a cheerful blaze the flames arose.
With brushwood and with chips she strengthens these,        40
And adds at last the boughs of rotten trees.
The fire thus formed, she sets the kettle on
(Like burnished gold the little seether shone):
Next took the coleworts which her husband got
From his own ground (a small well-watered spot);        45
She stripped the stalks of all their leaves; the best
She culled, and then with handy care she dressed.
High o’er the hearth a chine of bacon hung:
Good old Philemon seized it with a prong,
And from the sooty rafter drew it down,        50
Then cut a slice, but scarce enough for one:
Yet a large portion of a little store,
Which for their sakes alone he wished were more.
This in the pot he plunged without delay,
To tame the flesh, and drain the salt away.        55
The time between, before the fire they sat,
And shortened the delay by pleasing chat.
  A beam there was, on which a beechen pail
Hung by the handle, on a driven nail:
This filled with water, gently warmed, they set        60
Before their guests; in this they bathed their feet,
And after with clean towels dried their sweat.
This done, the host produced the genial bed.
Sallow the foot, the borders, and the stead,
Which with no costly coverlet they spread;        65
But coarse old garments,—yet such robes as these
They laid alone, at feasts, on holidays.
The good old housewife, tucking up her gown,
The table sets; the invited gods lie down.
The trivet-table of a foot was lame,—        70
A blot which prudent Baucis overcame,
Who thrust beneath the limping leg a sherd,
So was the mended board exactly reared;
Then rubbed it o’er with newly gathered mint,—
A wholesome herb, that breathed a grateful scent.        75
Pallas began the feast, where first was seen
The party-colored olive, black and green;
Autumnal cornels next in order served,
In lees of wine well pickled and preserved;
A garden salad was the third supply,        80
Of endive, radishes, and succory:
Then curds and cream, the flower of country fare,
And new-laid eggs, which Baucis’s busy care
Turned by a gentle fire, and roasted rare.
All these in earthenware were served to board;        85
And next in place an earthen pitcher, stored
With liquor of the best the cottage could afford.
This was the table’s ornament and pride,
With figures wrought: like pages at his side
Stood beechen bowls; and these were shining clean,        90
Varnished with wax without, and lined within.
By this the boiling kettle had prepared,
And to the table sent the smoking lard:
On which with eager appetite they dine,—
A savory bit, that served to relish wine;        95
The wine itself was suiting to the rest,
Still working in the must, and lately pressed.
The second course succeeds like that before:
Plums, apples, nuts, and of their wintry store
Dry figs and grapes and wrinkled dates were set        100
In canisters, to enlarge the little treat:
All these a milk-white honeycomb surround,
Which in the midst the country banquet crowned.
But the kind hosts their entertainment grace
With hearty welcome, and an open face;        105
In all they did, you might discern with ease
A willing mind and a desire to please.
  Meantime the beechen bowls went round, and still,
Though often emptied, were observed to fill,
Filled without hands, and of their own accord        110
Ran without feet, and danced about the board.
Devotion seized the pair, to see the feast
With wine, and of no common grape, increased;
And up they held their hands, and fell to prayer,
Excusing as they could their country fare.        115
One goose they had (’twas all they could allow),
A wakeful sentry, and on duty now,
Whom to the gods for sacrifice they vow:
Her, with malicious zeal, the couple viewed;
She ran for life, and, limping, they pursued:        120
Full well the fowl perceived their bad intent,
And would not make her master’s compliment;
But, persecuted, to the powers she flies,
And close between the legs of Jove she lies.
He with a gracious ear the suppliant heard,        125
And saved her life; then what he was, declared,
And owned the god. “The neighborhood,” said he,
“Shall justly perish for impiety:
You stand alone exempted; but obey
With speed, and follow where we lead the way:        130
Leave these accursed; and to the mountain’s height
Ascend, nor once look backward in your flight.”
  They haste, and what their tardy feet denied,
The trusty staff (their better leg) supplied.
An arrow’s flight they wanted to the top,        135
And there secure, but spent with travel, stop;
Then turn their now no more forbidden eyes:
Lost in a lake the floated level lies;
A watery desert covers all the plains,
Their cot alone as in an isle remains;        140
Wondering with peeping eyes, while they deplore
Their neighbors’ fate, and country now no more,
Their little shed, scarce large enough for two,
Seems, from the ground increased, in height and bulk to grow.
A stately temple shoots within the skies:        145
The crotchets of their cot in columns rise:
The pavement polished marble they behold,
The gates with sculpture graced, the spires and tiles of gold.
  Then thus the sire of gods, with looks serene:—
“Speak thy desire, thou only just of men;        150
And thou, O woman, only worthy found
To be with such a man in marriage bound.”
  Awhile they whisper; then, to Jove addressed,
Philemon thus prefers their joint request:—
“We crave to serve before your sacred shrine,        155
And offer at your altars rites divine:
And since not any action of our life
Has been polluted with domestic strife,
We beg one hour of death; that neither she
With widow’s tears may live to bury me,        160
Nor weeping I, with withered arms, may bear
My breathless Baucis to the sepulchre.”
  The godheads sign their suit. They run their race
In the same tenor all the appointed space:
Then, when their hour was come, while they relate        165
These past adventures at the temple gate,
Old Baucis is by old Philemon seen
Sprouting with sudden leaves of sprightly green;
Old Baucis looked where old Philemon stood,
And saw his lengthened arms a sprouting wood.        170
New roots their fastened feet begin to bind,
Their bodies stiffen in a rising rind;
Then, ere the bark above their shoulders grew,
They give and take at once their last adieu:
At once, “Farewell, O faithful spouse,” they said;        175
At once the encroaching rinds their closing lips invade.
Even yet, an ancient Tyanæan shows
A spreading oak, that near a linden grows;
The neighborhood confirm the prodigy,—
Grave men, not vain of tongue, or like to lie.        180
I saw myself the garlands on their boughs,
And tablets hung for gifts of granted vows;
And offering fresher up, with pious prayer,—
“The good,” said I, “are God’s peculiar care,
And such as honor Heaven shall heavenly honor share.”        185

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