"NIOBE in Distress for her Children slain by APOLLO, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book VI. and from a view of the Painting of Mr. Richard Wilson"
By Phillis Wheatley

Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by Students of Marymount University, James West, Amy Ridderhof
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Sources

London : Printed for A. Bell, 1773Page images are sourced from two copies of the first edition housed in the Library of Congress.Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative, 1999Online SGML text from the University of Michigan HTI. SGML markup edited to conform to LiC parameters, including changes to element and attribute case, ligatures, and other special html characters.

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Citation

Wheatley, Phillis. "NIOBE in Distress for her Children slain by APOLLO, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book VI. and from a view of the Painting of Mr. Richard Wilson". Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, Printed for A. Bell, 1773 , pp 101-113 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Wheatley/wheatley-distress. Accessed: 2024-04-18T00:35:58.416Z

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101 NIOBE in Distress for her Children slain by APOLLO, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book VI. and from a view of the Painting of Mr. Richard Wilson. 1APOLLO's wrath to man the dreadful spring 2Of ills innum'rous, tuneful goddess, sing! 3Thou who did'st first th' ideal pencil give, 4And taught'st the painter in his works to live, 5Inspire with glowing energy of thought, 6What Wilson painted, and what Ovid wrote. 7Muse! lend thy aid, nor let me sue in vain, 8Tho' last and meanest of the rhyming train! 9O guide my pen in lofty strains to show 10The Phrygian queen, all beautiful in woe. 11'Twas where Maeonia spreads her wide domain 12Niobe dwelt, and held her potent reign: 13See in her hand the regal sceptre shine, 14The wealthy heir of Tantalus divine, 102 15He most distinguish'd by Dodonean Jove, 16To approach the tables of the gods above: 17Her grandsire Atlas, who with mighty pains 18Th' ethereal axis on his neck sustains: 19Her other gran sire on the throne on high 20Rolls the loud-pealing thunder thro' the sky. 21Her spouse, Amphion, who from Jove too springs, 22Divinely taught to sweep the sounding strings. 23Seven sprightly sons the royal bed adorn, 24Seven daughters beauteous as the op'ning morn, 25As when Aurora fills the ravish'd sight, 26And decks the orient realms with rosy light 27From their bright eyes the living splendors play, 28Nor can beholders bear the flashing ray. 29Wherever, Niobe, thou turn'st thine eyes, 30New beauties kindle, and new joys arise! 31But thou had'st far the happier mother prov'd, 32If this fair offspring had been less belov'd: 103 33What if their charms exceed Aurora's teint, 34No words could tell them, and no pencil paint, 35Thy love too vehement hastens to destroy 36Each blooming maid, and each celestial boy. 37Now Manto comes, endu'd with mighty skill, 38The past to explore, the future to reveal. 39Thro' Thebes' wide streets Tiresia's daughter came, 40Divine Latona's mandate to proclaim: 41The Theban maids to hear the orders ran, 42When thus Maeonia's prophetess began: 43"Go, Thebans! great Latona's will obey, 44"And pious tribute at her altars pay: 45"With rights divine, the goddess be implor'd, 46"Nor be her sacred offspring unador'd." 47Thus Manto spoke. The Theban maids obey, 48And pious tribute to the goddess pay. 49The rich perfumes ascend in waving spires, 50And altars blaze with consecrated fires; 51The fair assembly moves with graceful air, 52And leaves of laurel bind the flowing hair. 104 53Niobe comes with all her royal race, 54With charms unnumber'd, and superior grace: 55Her Phrygian garments of delightful hue, 56Inwove with gold, refulgent to the view, 57Beyond description beautiful she moves 58Like heav'nly Venus, 'midst her smiles and loves: 59She views around the supplicating train, 60And shakes her graceful head with stern disdain, 61Proudly she turns around her lofty eyes, 62And thus reviles celestial deities: 63"What madness drives the Theban ladies fair 64"To give their incense to surrounding air? 65"Say why this new sprung deity preferr'd? 66"Why vainly fancy your petitions heard? 67"Or say why Coeus' offspring is obey'd, 68"While to my goddesship no tribute's paid? 69"For me no altars blaze with living fires, 70"No bullock bleeds, no frankincense transpires, 71"Tho' Cadmus' palace, not unknown to fame, 72"And Phrygian nations all revere my name. 105 73"Where'er I turn my eyes vast wealth I find. 74"Lo! here an empress with a goddess join'd. 75"What, shall a Titaness be deify'd, 76"To whom the spacious earth a couch deny'd? 77"Nor heav'n, nor earth, nor sea receiv'd your queen, 78"Till pitying Delos took the wand'rer in. 79"Round me what a large progeny is spread! 80"No frowns of fortune has my soul to dread. 81"What if indignant she decrease my train 82"More than Latona's number will remain? 83"Then hence, ye Theban dames, hence haste away, 84"Nor longer off'rings to Latona pay? 85"Regard the orders of Amphion's spouse, 86"And take the leaves of laurel from your brows." 87Niobe spoke. The Theban maids obey'd, 88Their brows unbound, and left the rights unpaid. 89The angry goddess heard, then silence broke 90On Cynthus' summit, and indignant spoke; 106 91"Phoebus! behold, thy mother in disgrace, 92"Who to no goddess yields the prior place 93"Except to Juno's self, who reigns above, 94"The spouse and sister of the thund'ring Jove. 95"Niobe, sprung from Tantalus, inspires 96"Each Theban bosom with rebellious fires; 97"No reason her imperious temper quells, 98"But all her father in her tongue rebels; 99"Wrap her own sons for her blaspheming breath, 100"Apollo! wrap them in the shades of death." 101Latona ceas'd, and ardent thus replies 102The God, whose glory decks th' expanded skies. 103"Cease thy complaints, mine be the task assign'd 104"To punish pride, and scourge the rebel mind." 105This Phoebe join'd. -- They wing their instant flight; 106Thebes trembled as th' immortal pow'rs alight. 107With clouds incompass'd glorious Phoebus stands; 108The feather'd vengeance quiv'ring in his hands. 109 110Near Cadmus' walls a plain extended lay, 111Where Thebes' young princes pass'd in sport the day: 112There the bold coursers bounded o'er the plains, 113While their great masters held the golden reins. 114Ismenus first the racing pastime led, 115And rul'd the fury of his flying steed. 116"Ah me," he sudden cries, with shrieking breath, 117While in his breast he feels the shaft of death; 118He drops the bridle on his courser's mane, 119Before his eyes in shadows swims the plain, 120He, the first-born of great Amphion's bed, 121Was struck the first, first mingled with the dead. 122Then didst thou, Sipylus, the language hear 123Of fate portentous whistling in the air: 124As when th' impending storm the sailor sees 125He spreads his canvas to the fav'ring breeze, 108 126So to thine horse thou gav'st the golden reins, 127Gav'st him to rush impetuous o'er the plains: 128But ah! a fatal shaft from Phoebus' hand 129Smites through thy neck, and sinks thee on the sand. 130Two other brothers were at wrestling found, 131And in their pastime claspt each other round: 132A shaft that instant from Apollo's hand 133Transfixt them both, and stretcht them on the sand: 134Together they their cruel fate bemoan'd, 135Together languish'd, and together groan'd: 136Together too th' unbodied spirits fled, 137And sought the gloomy mansions of the dead. 138Alphenor saw, and trembling at the view, 139Beat his torn breast, that chang'd its snowy hue. 140He flies to raise them in a kind embrace; 141A brother's fondness triumphs in his face: 142Alphenor fails in this fraternal deed, 143A dart dispatch'd him (so the fates decreed:) 109 144Soon as the arrow left the deadly wound, 145His issuing entrails smoak'd upon the ground. 146What woes on blooming Damasichon wait! 147His sighs portend his near impending fate. 148Just where the well-made leg begins to be, 149And the soft sinews form the supple knee, 150The youth sore wounded by the Delian god 151Attempts t' extract the crime-avenging rod, 152But, whilst he strives the will of fate t' avert, 153Divine Apollo sends a second dart; 154Swift thro' his throat the feather'd mischief flies, 155Bereft of sense, he drops his head, and dies. 156Young Ilioneus, the last, directs his pray'r, 157And cries, "My life, ye gods celestial! spare." 158Apollo heard, and pity touch'd his heart, 159But ah! too late, for he had sent the dart: 160Thou too, O Ilioneus, art doom'd to fall, 161The fates refuse that arrow to recal. 110 162On the swift wings of ever-flying Fame 163To Cadmus' palace soon the tidings came: 164Niobe heard, and with indignant eyes 165She thus express'd her anger and surprize: 166"Why is such privilege to them allow'd? 167"Why thus insulted by the Delian god? 168"Dwells there such mischief in the pow'rs above? 169"Why sleeps the vengeance of immortal Jove?" 170For now Amphion too, with grief oppress'd, 171Had plung'd the deadly dagger in his breast. 172Niobe now, less haughty than before, 173With lofty head directs her steps no more. 174She, who late told her pedigree divine, 175And drove the Thebans from Latona's shrine, 176How strangely chang'd! -- yet beautiful in woe, 177She weeps, nor weeps unpity'd by the foe. 178On each pale corse the wretched mother spread 179Lay overwhelm'd with grief, and kiss'd her dead, 180Then rais'd her arms, and thus, in accents slow, 181"Be sated cruel Goddess! with my woe; 111 182"If I've offended, let these streaming eyes, 183"And let this sev'nfold funeral suffice: 184"Ah! take this wretched life you deign'd to save, 185"With them I too am carried to the grave. 186"Rejoice triumphant, my victorious foe, 187"But show the cause from whence your triumphs flow? 188"Tho' I unhappy mourn these children slain, 189"Yet greater numbers to my lot remain." 190She ceas'd, the bow-string twang'd with awful sound, 200Which struck with terror all th' assembly round, 201Except the queen, who stood unmov'd alone, 202By her distresses more presumptuous grown. 203Near the pale corses stood their sisters fair 204In sable vestures and dishevell'd hair; 205One, while she draws the fatal shaft away, 206Faints, falls, and sickens at the light of day. 207To sooth her mother, lo! another flies, 208And blames the fury of inclement skies, 209And, while her words a filial pity show, 210Struck dumb -- indignant seeks the shades below. 112 211Now from the fatal place another flies, 212Falls in her flight, and languishes, and dies. 213Another on her sister drops in death; 214A fifth in trembling terrors yields her breath; 215While the sixth seeks some gloomy cave in vain, 216Struck with the rest, and mingl'd with the slain. 217One only daughter lives, and she the least; 218The queen close clasp'd the daughter to her breast: 219"Ye heav'nly pow'rs, ah spare me one," she cry'd, 220"Ah! spare me one," the vocal hills reply'd: 221In vain she begs, the Fates her suit deny, 222In her embrace she sees her daughter die. 223*auth1 auth1This Verse to the End is ther Work of another Hand. [Wheatley's note.] "The queen of all her family bereft, 224"Without or husband, son, or daughter left, 225"Grew stupid at the shock. The passing air 226"Made no impression on her stiff'ning hair. 113 227"The blood forsook her face: amidst the flood 228"Pour'd from her cheeks, quite fix'd her eye-balls stood. 229"Her tongue, her palate both obdurate grew, 230"Her curdled veins no longer motion knew; 231"The use of neck, and arms, and feet was gone, 232"And ev'n her bowels hard'ned into stone: 233"A marble statue now the queen appears, 234"But from the marble steal the silent tears."

Footnotes

Footnotes

_auth1This Verse to the End is ther Work of another Hand. [Wheatley's note.]