Loudly he called so his audience could hear
With admiration, and admiring, she replied in fear
Cried out to heaven in the name of her son,
Who laughed at all the gods, believed in none:
He shook his haughty head, and then replied,
“These myths are no more than pious lies:
You attribute too much to the heavenly way,
I am furious that they give us forms, only to take away.”
The others, of better minds, in their sense declared
Against this doctrine? You have turned against the herd.
Then turn against, an old experienced man,
And the sober gravity began:
“Listen and understand Heaven’s power is infinite
It permeates earth, air, and sea,
You will attend the mass, and my power you will obey:
My proof will clear your doubt; singing in Phrygian key
Two neighboring trees, Stand on a moderate rise, with wonder shown,
One a hard oak, the other a softer linden one:
I saw the place and them, by the navigator sent
They learned to speak and made grandfather’s government.
Not far from there is a lake, the haunt
Of coots, and of the fishing cormorant
Here the ancient mariner wore a cormorant around his neck in disguise
As mortal men concealed their Gods;
One angel laid aside his thunder, and one his rod;
And many toilsome steps together trod;
For harbor searching at a thousand doors they knocked,
All but one of a thousand was locked.
At last an hospitable house they found,
A homely shed; the roof, not far from ground,
Was thatched with reeds and straw together bound.
There Betty and Phil lived, and there
Had lived long married and a happy pair:
Now old in love, though little was their store,
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.
A common settle drew for either guest,
Inviting each his weary limbs to rest.
Upon 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
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 brush-wood and with chips she strengthens these,
And adds at last the boughs of rotten trees.
The fire thus formed, she sets the kettle on,
High over the hearth a bit of bacon hung;
Good old Phil seized it with a prong,
And from the sooty rafter drew it down,
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.
The time between, before the fire they sat,
And shortened the delay with 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
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,
Which with no costly coverlet they spread;
But coarse old garments, yet such robes as these
They laid alone, at feasts, on holydays.
The good old houswife tucking up her gown,
Then rubbed the bum leg over with newly-gathered mint,
A wholesome herb, that breathed a grateful scent.
They began the feast, where first were seen
The party-coloured olive, black and green:
Autumnal kernels next in order served,
In lees of wine well pickled, and preserved:
A garden-salad was the third supply,
Of endive, radishes, and chicory:
Then curds and cream, the flower of country-fare,
And new-laid eggs, which Phils’ busy care
Turned by a gentle fire, and roasted rear.
All these in earthen ware were served to board;
And next in place, an earthen pitcher, stored
With liquor of the best the poor 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,
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:
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
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:
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
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.
One goose they had, (it was 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:
Full well the fowl perceived their bad intent,
And would not make her masters compliment;
But persecuted, to the powers she flies,
And close between the legs of Love she lies.
He with a gracious ear the suppliant heard,
And saved her life; then what he was declared,
And owned 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 accursed; and to the mountain’s height
Ascend; nor once look backward in your flight.’
They haste, and what their tardy feet denied, the staff gave him a better leg.
Like An arrow’s flight they soared to the top,
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:
Wondering with weeping eyes, while they deplore
Their neighbours’ 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:
The crotches 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 look serene,
‘Speak thy desire, thou only just of men; And thou, O woman, only worthy found
The woman called out to her son
Can you see now that God can come to us as a simple guest?
Kindness and generosity should be shown to everyone,
For anyone could be coming from the other side.