Sweet pleasing Sleep! (Saturnia thus began)


      Sweet pleasing Sleep! (Saturnia thus began)
Who spread'st thy empire o'er each God and man;
If e'er obsequious to thy Juno's will,
O Pow'r of Slumbers! hear, and favour still.
Shed thy soft dews on Jove's immortal eyes,
While sunk in love's entrancing joys he lies.
A splendid footstool, and a throne, that shine
With gold unfading, Somnus, shall be thine;
The work of Vulcan; to indulge thy ease,
When wine and feasts thy golden humours please.
      Imperial Dame (the balmy pow'r replies)
Great Saturn's heir, and empress of the skies!
O'er other Gods I spread my easy chain;
The Sire of all, old Ocean, owns my reign,
And his hush'd waves lie silent on the main.
But how, unbidden, shall I dare to steep
Jove's awful temples in the dew of sleep?
Long since too vent'rous, at thy bold command,
On those eternal lids I laid my hand;
What-time, deserting Ilion's wasted plain,
His conqu'ring son, Alcides, plow'd the main:
When lo! the deeps arise, the tempests roar,
And drive the hero to the Coan shore:
Great Jove awaking, shook the blest abodes
With rising wrath, and tumbled Gods on Gods;
Me chief he sought, and from the realms on high
Had hurl'd indignant to the nether sky,
But gentle Night, to whom I fled for aid,
(The friend of earth and heav'n) her wings display'd;
Impow'r'd the wrath of Gods and men to tame,
Ev'n Jove rever'd the venerable dame.
      Vain are thy fears (the Queen of heav'n replies,
And speaking, rolls her large, majestic eyes)
Think'st thou that Troy has Jove's high favour won,
Like great Alcides, his all-conqu'ring son?
Hear, and obey the mistress of the skies,
Nor for the deed expect a vulgar prize;
For know, thy lov'd-one shall be ever thine,
The youngest Grace, Pasithae the divine.
      Swear then (he said) by those tremendous floods
That roar thro' hell, and bind th' invoking Gods:
Let the great parent Earth one hand sustain,
And stretch the other o'er the sacred main.
Call the black Titans that with Chronos dwell,
To hear, and witness from the depths of hell;
That she, my lov'd one, shall be ever mine,
The youngest Grace, Pasithae the divine.
      The Queen assents, and from th' infernal bow'rs
Invokes the sable subtartarean pow'rs,
And those who rule th' inviolable floods,
Whom mortals name the dread Titanian Gods.
      Then swift as wind, o'er Lemnos smoaky isle,
They wing their way, and Imbrus' sea-beat soil,
Thro' air unseen involv'd in darkness glide,
And light on Lectos, on the point of Ide.
(Mother of savages, whose echoing hills
Are heard resounding with a hundred rills)
Fair Ida trembles underneath the God;
Hush'd are her mountains, and her forests nod.
There on a fir, whose spiry branches rise
To join its summit to the neighb'ring skies,
Dark in embow'ring shade, conceal'd from sight,
Sate Sleep, in likeness of the bird of night.
(Chalcis his name with those of heav'nly birth,
But call'd Cymindis by the race of earth.)
      To Ida's top successful Juno flies;
Great Jove surveys her with desiring eyes:
The God, whose light'ning sets the heav'ns on fire,
Thro' all his bosom feels the fierce desire;
Fierce as when first by stealth he seiz'd her charms,
Mix'd with her soul, and melted in her arms.
Fix'd on her eyes he fed his eager look,
Then press'd her hand, and thus with transport spoke.
      Why comes my Goddess from th' aethereal sky,
And not her steeds and flaming chariot nigh?
      Then she–I haste to those remote abodes,
Where the great parents of the deathless Gods,
The rev'rend Ocean and grey Tethys reign,
On the last limits of the land and main.
I visit these, to whose indulgent cares
I owe the nursing of my tender years.
For strife, I hear, has made that union cease,
Which held so long this ancient pair in peace.
The steeds, prepar'd my chariot to convey
O'er earth and seas, and thro' th' aerial way,
Wait under Ide: Of thy superiour pow'r
To ask consent, I leave th' Olympian bow'r;
Nor seek, unknown to thee, the sacred cells
Deep under seas, where Ocean dwells.
      For that (said Jove) suffice another day;
But eager love denies the least delay.
Let softer cares the present hour employ,
And be these moments sacred all to joy.
Ne'er did my soul so strong a passion prove,
Or for an earthly, or a heav'nly love:
Not when I press'd Ixion's matchless dame,
Whence rose Perithous like the Gods in fame.
Not when fair Danae felt the show'r of gold
Stream into life, whence Perseus brave and bold.
Not thus I burn'd for either Theban dame,
(Bacchus from this, from that Alcides came).
Not Phoenix's daughter, beautiful and young,
Whence godlike Rhadamanth and Minos sprung.
Not thus I burn'd for fair Latona's face,
Nor comelier Ceres' more majestick grace.
Not thus ev'n for thyself I felt desire,
As now my veins receive the pleasing fire.
      He spoke; the Goddess with the charming eyes
Glows with celestial red, and thus replies.
Is this a scene for love? On Ida's height,
Expos'd to mortal, and immortal sight;
Our joys prophan'd by each familiar eye;
The sport of heav'n, and fable of the sky!
How shall I e'er review the blest abodes,
Or mix among the senate of the Gods?
Shall I not think, that, with disorder'd charms,
All heav'n beholds me recent from thy arms?
With skill divine has Vulcan form'd thy bow'r,
Sacred to love and to the genial hour;
If such thy will, to that recess retire,
And secret there indulge thy soft desire.
      She ceas'd, and smiling with superiour love,
Thus answer'd mild the cloud-compelling Jove.
Nor God, nor mortal shall our joys behold,
Shaded with clouds, and circumfus'd in gold,
Not ev'n the sun, who darts thro' heav'n his rays,
And whose broad eye th' extended earth surveys.
      Gazing he spoke, and kindling at the view,
His eager arms around the Goddess threw.
Glad earth perceives, and from her bosom pours
Unbidden herbs, and voluntary flow'rs;
Thick new-born vi'lets a soft carpet spread,
And clust'ring Lotos swell'd the rising bed,
And sudden hyacinths the turf bestrow,
And flamy Crocus made the mountain glow.
There golden clouds conceal the heav'nly pair,
Steep'd in soft joys, and circumfus'd with air;
Celestial dews, descending o'er the ground,
Perfume the mount, and breathe Ambrosia round.
At length with love and sleep's soft pow'r opprest,
The panting Thund'rer nods, and sinks to rest.


                                  –The Iliad, XIV, 267-406
                         Greek; trans. Alexander Pope


Homer, Greek,trans. Alexander Pope, The Iliad, Penguin Books, 1996.