The Dowry

Mr Flaxman

When Ascrea’s bard unjustly bled!
Ocean refused to hide the sacred dead,
And stretched the corpse upon the unfruitful sand,
Where Neptune’s votaries, a pious band,
Found their loved friend;
With mild uproar
The murderer’s dwellings
Down they tore!
And justly forced the blood stain’d men to lave
Amidst the suffocating wave

Then they mourned the mighty dead,
And raised the shrine where he was laid;
Virtue’s bard, who boldly sang,
The unrighteous deeds of lawless man,
His falsehood, cruelty, and rage;
The monsters of an Iron Age —
’Till white robed modesty and justice fly
To join their sister virtues in the sky
He truly told the inhuman brood
Who robs, who slays, or thirsts for blood,
Jove’s vengeance soon shall work their fall,
Jove will destroy them, one, and all;
The good alone have peace and rest,
Jove grants them only, to be blest —
Myriads of ministers around them wait
To keep them free from evil fate
And when in course of time they die,
In better worlds to bear them company —

Of piety’s decay in man
He sung, whence all his ills began,
No longer now in peace and love on Earth
Husband and wife were one,
Discord had birth!
No longer second self, and dearest mate,
But yoke fellows alone
In strife and hate;
Then Vulcan formed, by Jove’s command
A beauteous fair with virgin face,
And loveliest form, with every grace,
Persuasion and the hours
Gave her rich gifts
Crowned her with flowers;
But Mercury and Aphrodite endued her mind
With wily craft to evil ways inclined,
A present then to Earth she went
By Jove to Epimetheus sent;
The fair deceit subdued his foolish will,
Who as his good embrace a mortal ill;
In a large vase, her dower, sly Hermes bore
The wretch who took it, thought ’twas glittering ore
And stretched an eager hand to seize the store,
Pandora raised the top, when out there flew
Evil, and miseries, a horrid crew;
O’er Earth and ocean they like lightning bound
And Earth and ocean quickly they surround;
Pandora wondered at the dismal view,
And closed the vase, lest hope should fly out too;
This, then, is what we have gained in evil hour
By man’s impiety — Pandora’s dower;
Ills, which lay waste the body and the mind,
Ills, by no healing art reduce, or law confined,
Ills, that by fraud, attack, or open force invade,
Sometimes by violence, sometimes in masquerade.

Now sing my Muse; and sing it loud,
How many in the motley crowd,
Great lords, and ladies, Jacks, and Jills
Partake of Pandorean ills?

That hobbler, in his civic honors dight,
Colonel, green grocer, alderman and knight,
Urging his gouty feet to a snail’s gallop
At the loved neighbouring feast, to lap and wallop,
On venison, turtle, green fat, there to dine,
And burnt his well stretched sking with genuine wine
To suck in stupor, palsy, e’er he has done
And fully end the work so well begun —

See yonder mortal telling o’er the gold
For which his conscience and his peace were sold,
Hark with a false alarm! and tries the thrice locked door
He dreads each human face
But most of all the poor
Whom he oppressed regardless of their cries,
He harming others, harms himself, and dies.

The man of pleasure has no time for cares,
Religion, business, duty, or such paltry wares;
Bound by no scruples, careful of no pelf,
Unheeding all besides, he lives but to himself;
He’s maimed in brawls, and ruined in excess
His idols, fashion — only virtue — dress.

And since these ills on Earth have had such power
Marriage partakes too of the infernal dower —
Love as a motive now, we should deride,
The ends proposed, convenience, avarice, pride;
The fair, like a Pandora of our age
Delights in routs, in ball rooms, and the stage,
With dauntless look, with paint and simpering grace
Her charms are feathers, jewels, muslin, lace —
The husband is well fitted to the wife
They are too well bred, to live in mutual strife,
He goes one way, she takes another course,
Still driving headlong on from bad to worse
’Till death or lawless love produce a change
And breaks their galling bond and gives a wider range

The influence of these fiends we might deplore
In every rank of life, both rich and poor;
The rich are haughty, and the poor are still
Murmuring with discontent at Heaven’s high will.

Yet shall the husband, brother, friend,
Who lives in love and virtue to the end —
The wife, the sister, daughter, doing right
Walk in a path of holy light
Their’s is fair hope, that points to heaven,
To them, are truth and justice given;
To watch their slumbers, ease their cares
Lest evil crush them unawares
To cheer their way with smile and kiss
And lead them to the land of bliss.

Fitz Hesiod