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and that her own life was in danger, with the received opinion that it was allowable to be revenged on an enemy, which even the philosophy of Plato had not eradicated, plead in her excuse; and she might rather appear gentle in not pursuing her revenge further, than vindictive in attempting to take off the obnoxious youth. However that may be, her situation, as P. Brumoy finely observes, is drawn from the true feelings of the human heart, and as such is in the true taste of theatrical representation. The conduct of the drama is admirable: from the mother's attempt to poison the son, and the son's attempt to put the mother to death, each unacquainted with their mutual relation, arises by a natural train of incidents a discovery which gives an happy catastrophe to the tragedy, which is of the most pleasing kind, simple, tender, affecting, and abounding, perhaps too much, with beautiful description. Minerva indeed has a part assigned to her little adapted to her character; perhaps Mercury might with more propriety have concluded the drama, as he had opened it; but an Athenian audience was to be gratified with the appearance of their tutelary goddess. **
The scene is before the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
X I O N.
MERC. ATLAS, that on his brazen shoulders rolls
Yon heav'n, the ancient mansion of the gods,
7. Central throne. See note on the Chocphoræ of Æschylus, p. 347. I. 15.
Deriv'd his origin: to him as guards Minerva gave two dragons, and in charge Consign'd him to the daughters of Aglauros : This rite to th’ Erechthidæ hence remains, 'Midst serpents wreath'd in ductile gold to nurse Their children. What of ornament she had, She hung around her son, and left him thus To perish. But to me his earnest prayer Phæbus applied, “ to the high-lineag'd sons “ Of glorious Athens go, my brother; well 6. Thou knowest the city of Pallas; from the cave “ Deep in the hollow rock a new-born babe, “ Laid as he is, and all his vestments with him, “ Bring to thy brother to my shrine, and place " At th' entrance of my temple: of the rest, " For, know, the child is mine, I will take care.” To gratify my brother thence I bore The osier-woven ark, and place the boy Here at the temple's base, the wreathed lid Uncovering, that the infant might be seen. It chanc'd, as th' orient sun the steep of heav'n . Ascended, to the god's oracular seat The priestess entering on the infant cast Her eye, and marvell’d, deeming that some nymph Of Delphi at the fane had dar'd to lay The secret burden of her womb: this thought
39. Minerva took upon herself the care of this earth-born child. One day, going to Pallene, sbe delivered him to the three daughters of Cecrops and Aglauros in a little chest, charging them not to open it before her return. Curiosity bow. ever tempted them to disobey the command; they opened the chest, and saw two serpents wreathed around tbe infant. See l. 266. V 33. It was the universal practice of the ancients, in their unnatural custom of exposing their children, to expose something of value, at least of ornament, with the infant: hence the mother in Terence says,
Sostrata. Ut stultæ et miseræ omnes sumus
Chremes.--Istuc recte. Heautontimor,
Prompts her to move it from the shrine; but soon
Is to the boy appointed, for I see
This son of Phæbus issuing forth ľadorn
Haste, thou verdant new-sprung bough,
106. The temple of Apollo was situated above the town of Delphi, under the rocks of Parnassus : as you ascend from the Gymnasium, the celebrated fountain of Castalia flows on the right, so called from a daughter of Achelous of that name, to whom Cephisus gave this stream; in proof of which the inhabitants of Lilæa assert, that if cakes are on certain days thrown into the spring of Cephisus, they rise again in Castalia.—Pausaniæ Phocica, c. viii.
121. Thou sew-sprung bough. This is generally understood as alluding to the transformation of Dapbne, before which Nondum laurus erat : but it has a very different meaning: a branch was cat every morning from the sacred laurel of