The Battle of Frogs and Mice
The Battle of Frogs and Mice
And just escaped the stretching claws of death,
A gentle mouse, whom cats pursued in vain,
Flies swift of foot across the neighboring plain,
Hangs o'er a brink, his eager thirst to cool,
And dips his whiskers in the standing pool:
When near, a courteous frog advanced his head,
And from the waters, hoarse resounding, said,
What chance hath cast thee panting on our coast?
With strictest truth let all thy words agree,
Nor let me find a faithless mouse in thee.
If worthy friendship, proffered friendship take,
And ent'ring, view the pleasurable lake;
Range o'er my palace, in my bounty share,
And glad return from hospitable fare.
This silver realm extends beyond my sway,
And me, their monarch, all its frogs obey.
Great Physignathus I, from Peleus' race,
Begot in fair Hydromeduse' embrace,
Where by the nuptial bank that paints his side,
The swift Eridanus delights to glide.
Thee too, thy form, thy strength, and port proclaim
A sceptred king, a son of martial fame;
Then trace thy line, and aid my guessing eyes."
Thus ceased the frog, and thus the mouse replies:
Through wild expanses of the midway sky,
My name resounds; and if unknown to thee,
The soul of great Psicharpax lives in me,
Of brave Troxartes' line, whose sleeky down
In love compressed Lichomyle the brown.
My mother she, and princess of the plains
Where'er her father Pternotroctas reigns:
Born where a cabin lifts its airy shed,
With figs, with nuts, with varied dainties fed.
But since our natures naught in common know
From what foundation can a friendship grow?
These curling waters o'er thy palace roll;
But man's high food supports my princely soul.
In vain the circled loaves attempt to lie
Concealed in flaskets from my curious eye;
In vain the tripe that boasts the whitest hue.
In vain the gilded bacon shuns my view,
In vain the cheeses, offspring of the pail,
Or honeyed cakes, which gods themselves regale.
And as in arts I shine, in arms I fight,
Mixed with the bravest, and unknown to flight.
Though large to mine the human form appear,
Not man himself can smite my soul with fear:
Sly to the bed with silent steps I go,
Attempt his finger or attack his toe,
And fix indented wounds with dextrous skill;
Sleeping he feels, and only seems to feel.
Yet have we foes which direful dangers cause,
Grim owls with talons armed, and cats with claws;
And that false trap, the den of silent fate,
Where death his ambush plants around the bait;
All dreaded these, and dreadful o'er the rest
The potent warriors of the tabby vest:
If to the dark we fly, the dark they trace,
And rend our heroes of the nibbling race.
But me, nor stalks not waterish herbs delight,
Nor can the crimson radish charm my sight,
The lake-resounding frogs' selected fare,
Which not a mouse of any taste can bear."
His answer thus the croaking king addressed:
And, stranger, we can boast of bounteous Jove;
We sport in water or we dance on land,
And, born amphibious, food from both command.
But trust thyself where wonders ask thy view,
And safely tempt those seas, I'll bear thee through;
Ascend my shoulders, firmly keep thy seat,
And reach my marshy court, and feast in state."
Leaps the light mouse, and clasps his arms around:
Then wond'ring floats, and sees with glad survey
The winding banks resembling ports at sea.
And wets with azure wave his downy sides,
His thoughts grow conscious of approaching woe,
His idle tears with vain repentance flow,
His locks he rends, his trembling feet he rears,
Thick beats his heart with unaccustomed fears;
He sighs, and chilled with danger, longs for shore;
His tail extended forms a fruitless oar,
Half drenched in liquid death, his prayers he spake,
And thus bemoaned him from the dreadful lake:
Trembling and fainting all the venturous way;
With oary feet the bull triumphant rode,
And safe in Crete deposed his lovely load.
Ah! safe at last, may thus the frog support
My trembling limbs to reach his ample court."
Lo! from the deep a water-hydra rose;
He rolls his sanguined eyes, his bosom heaves;
And darts with active rage along the waves.
Confused, the monarch sees his hissing foe,
And dives to shun the sable fates below.
Unskilled in swimming, floats remote from shore.
He grasps with fruitless hands to find relief,
Supinely falls, and grinds his teeth with grief;
Plunging he sinks, and struggling mounts again,
And sinks and strives, but strives with fate in vain.
The weightly moisture clogs his hairly vest,
And thus the prince his dying rage expressed:
As from hard rocks rebounds the shattering wrack,
Nor thou shalt 'scape thy due, perfidious king!
Pursued by vengeance on the swiftest wing;
At land thy strength could never equal mine,
At sea to conquer, and by craft, was thine.
But heaven has gods, and gods have searching eyes.
Ye mice, ye mice, my great avengers rise!"
As on the flowery brink he passed the day,
Basked in the beam, and loitered life away;
Loud shrieks the mouse, his shrieks the shores repeat;
The nibbling nation learn their hero's fate;
Grief, dismal grief ensues; deep murmurs sound,
And shriller fury fills the deafened ground:
From lodge to lodge the sacred heralds run,
To fix their councils with the rising sun;
Where great Troxartes crowned in glory reigns,
And winds his lengthening court beneath the plains:
Psicharpax' father, father now no more!
For poor Psicharpax lies remote from shore:
Supine he lies! the silent waters stand,
And no kind billow wafts the dead to land!
Around their monarch mouse the nation crowds;
Slow rose the monarch, heaved his anxious breast,
And thus the council, filled with rage, addressed:
Book One introduces the conflict: the accidental death of a mouse prince.
Ye tuneful nine, ye sweet celestial choir!
From Helicon's imbowering height repair,
Attend my labors and reward my prayer.
The springs of contest and the fields of fight;
How threatening mice advanced with warlike grace,
And waged dire combats with the croaking race.
Not louder tumults shook Olympus' towers,
When earth-born giants dared immortal powers.
These equal acts an equal glory claim,
And thus the Muse records the tale of fame.
'Tis mine the private grief, the public, yours.
Three warlike sons adorned my nuptial bed,
Three sons, alas! before their father dead.
Our eldest perished by the ravening cat,
As near my court the prince unheedful sat.
Our next, an engine fraught with danger drew,
The portal gaped, the bait was hung in view,
Dire arts assist the trap, the fates decoy,
And men unpitying killed my gallant boy.
The last, his country's hope, his parents' pride,
Plunged in the lake by Physignathus, died.
Rouse all the war, my friends! avenge the deed,
And bleed that monarch, and his nation bleed!"
And careful Mars supplied their host with arms.
The buskined warriors stalked along the plains.
Quills, aptly bound, their bracing corselet made,
Faced with the plunder of a cat they flayed;
The lamp's round boss affords their ample shield,
Large shells of nuts their covering helmet yield;
And o'er the region, with reflected rays,
Tall groves of needles for their lances blaze.
Dreadful in arms the marching mice appear:
The wondering frogs perceive the tumult near,
Forsake the waters, thickening form a ring.
And ask, and hearken, whence the noises spring;
When near the crowd, disclosed to public view,
The valiant chief Embasichytros drew;
The sacred herald's sceptre graced his hand,
And thus his words expressed his king's command:
And, decked in armor, shake the shining lance;
Their hapless prince by Physignathus slain,
Extends incumbent on the watery plain.
Then arm your host, the doubtful battle try;
Lead forth those frogs that have the soul to die."
And proudly swelling yet perplexed appear:
Much they resent, yet much their monarch blame,
Who, rising, spoke to clear his tainted fame:
Nor saw the gaspings of his latest breath.
He, vain of youth, our art of swimming tried,
And venturous in the lake the wanton died.
To vengeance now by false appearance led,
They point their anger at my guiltless head.
But wage the rising war by deep device,
And turn its fury on the crafty mice.
Your king directs the way; my thoughts elate
With hopes of conquest form designs of fate.
And the steep sides confine the sleeping wave,
There, near the margin, and in armor bright,
Sustain the first impetuous shocks of fight:
Then where the dancing feather joins the crest,
Let each brave frog his obvious mouse arrest;
Each strongly grasping, headlong plunge a foe,
Till countless circles whirl the lake below:
Down sink the mice in yielding waters drowned,
Loud flash the waters; echoing waves resound:
The frogs triumphant tread the conquered plain,
And raise their glorious trophies of the slain."
Redoubling ardor to the boldest hearts.
Around their legs the greaves of mallows close;
Green were the beets about their shoulders laid,
And green the colewort, which the target made;
Formed of the varied shells the waters yield,
Their glossy helmets glistened o'er the field;
And tapering sea-reeds for the polished spear,
With upright order pierced the ambient air.
Thus dressed for war, they take th' appointed height,
Poise the long arms, and urge the promised fight.
With stars surrounded in ethereal skies,
(A solemn council called) the brazen gates
Unbar; the gods assume their golden seats:
The sire superior leans, and points to show
What wondrous combats mortals wage below:
How strong, how large, the numerous heroes stride;
What length of lance they shake with warlike pride;
What eager fire their rapid march reveals;
So the fierce centaurs ravaged o'er the dales;
And so confirmed, the daring Titans rose,
Heaped hills on hills, and bid the gods be foes.
He casts a pitying smile on worldly cares,
And asks what heavenly guardians take the list,
Or who the mice or who the frogs assist?
Have joined the mice, why stays she still behind?
Drawn forth by savory steams, they wind their way,
And sure attendance round thine altar pay,
Where, while the victims gratify their taste,
They sport to please the goddess of the feast."
When thus, resolved, the blue-eyed maid replies:
"In vain, my father! all their dangers plead;
To such thy Pallas never grants her aid.
And rob my crystal lamps of feeding oil;
(Ills following ills) but what afflicts me more,
My veil that idle race profanely tore.
The web was curious, wrought with art divine;
Relentless wretches! all the work was mine.
Along the loom the purple warp I spread;
Cast the light shoot and crossed the silver thread:
The thousand breaches skilful hands repair;
For which vile earthly duns thy daughter grieve,
But gods, that use no coin, have none to give.
Neglected learning gets no wealth below.
Those clamorous fools have lost my favor too.
For late, when all the conflict ceased at night,
When my stretched sinews ached with eager fight,
When, spent with glorious toil, I left the field,
And sunk for slumber on my swelling shield,
Lo from the deep, repelling sweet repose,
With noisy croakings half the nation rose:
Till cocks proclaimed the crimson dawn of day.
Let all, like me, from either host forbear,
Nor tempt the flying furies of the spear.
Let heavenly blood (or what for blood may flow)
Adorn the conquest of a meaner foe,
Who, wildly rushing, meet the wondrous odds,
Though gods oppose, and brave the wounded gods.
O'er gilded clouds reclined, the danger view,
And be the wars of mortal scenes for you."
Great Jove assented, and the rest obeyed.
Halt ere they meet, and form the lengthening line;
The chiefs conspicuous seen, and heard afar,
Give the loud sign to loose the rushing war;
Their dreadful trumpets deep-mouthed hornets sound,
The sounded charge remurmurs o'er the ground;
Even Jove proclaims a field of horror nigh,
And rolls low thunder through the troubled sky.
And brave Lichenor with the javelin slew;
The luckless warrior, filled with generous flame,
Stood foremost glittering in the post of fame.
When in his liver struck, the javelin hung,
The mouse fell thundering and the target rung;
Prone to the ground he sinks his closing eye,
And soiled in dust his lovely tresses lie.
The missive spear within the bosom passed;
Death's sable shades the fainting frog surround,
And life's red tide runs ebbing from the wound.
Embasichytros felt Seutlaeus' dart
Transfix and quiver in his panting heart;
But great Artophagus avanged the slain,
And big Seutlaeus tumbling loads the plain,
And Polyphonus dies, a frog renowned
For boastful speech, and turbulence of sound;
Deep through the belly pierced, supine he lay,
And breathed his soul against the face of day.
A victor triumph and a friend expire,
With heaving arms a rocky fragment caught,
And fiercely flung where Troglodytes fought,
A warrior versed in arts, of sure retreat,
Yet arts in vain elude impending fate;
Full on his sinewy neck the fragment fell,
And o'er his eyelids clouds eternal dwell.
Lichenor (second of the glorious name)
Through all the frog the shining javelin flies,
And near the vanquished mouse the victor dies;
The dreadful stroke Crambophagus affrights,
Long bred to banquets, less inured to fights;
Heedless he runs, and stumbles o'er the steep,
And wildly floundering flashes up the deep;
Lichenor following, with a downward blow
Reached, in the lake, his unrecovered foe;
Gasping he rolls, a purple stream of blood
Distains the surface of the silver flood:
Through the wide wound the rushing entrails throng,
And slow the breathless carcass floats along.
Limnisius good Tyrophagus assails,
Prince of the mice that haunt the flowery vales;
Lost to the milky fares and rural seat,
He came to perish on the brink of fate.
The dead Pternoglyphus demands the fight,
Which tender Calaminthus shuns by flight,
Drops the green target, springing quits the foe,
Glides through the lake, and safely dives below.
The dire Pternophagus divides the way
Through breaking ranks, and leads the dreadful day;
No nibbling prince excelled in fierceness more,
His parents fed him on the savage boar;
But where his lance the field with blood imbrued,
Swift as he moved Hydrocharis pursued,
Till falled in death he lies; a shattering stone
Sounds on the neck, and crushes all the bone.
His blood pollutes the verdure of the plain,
And from his nostrils bursts his gushing brain.
A blameless frog, whom humbled life delights;
The fatal javelin unrelenting flies,
And darkness seals the gentle croaker's eyes.
Incensed Prassophagus, with sprightly bound,
Bear Cnissodoctes off the rising ground,
Then drags him o'er the lake deprived of breath,
And downward plunging, sinks his soul to death.
But now the great Psicharpax shines afar,
(Scarce he so great whose loss provoked the war;)
And through the liver struck Pelusius dead;
His freckled corpse before the victor fell,
His soul indignant sought the shades of hell.
Lifts with both hands a monstrous mass of mud;
The cloud obscene o'er all the warrior flies,
Dishonors his brown face and blots his eyes.
Enraged and wildly sputt'ring, from the shore
A stone immense of size the warrior bore,
A load for laboring earth, whose bulk to raise,
Asks ten degenerate mice of modern days;
The frog supportless writhes upon the ground.
Thus flushed, the victor wars with matchless force,
Till loud Craugasides arrests his course;
Hoarse croaking threats precede; with fatal speed
Deep through the belly runs the pointed reed,
Then, strongly tugged, returns imbrued with gore,
And on the pile his reeking entrails bore.
The lame Sitophagus, oppressed with pain,
Creeps from the desperate dangers of the plain;
And where the ditches rising weeds supply,
To spread their lowly shades beneath the sky,
There lurks the silent mouse relieved of heat,
And, safe embowered, avoids the chance of fate.
Whirl the dire furies of the pointed spear:
Then, where the foot around its ankle plies,
Troxartes wounds, and Physignathus flies,
Halts to the pool, a safe retreat to find,
And trails a dangling length of leg behind.
The mouse still urges, still the frog retires,
And half in anguish of the flight expires;
Then pious ardor young Prassaeus brings
Betwixt the fortune of contesting kings:
Lank, harmless frog! with forces hardly grown,
He darts the reed in combats not his own,
Which, faintly tinkling on Troxartes' shield,
Hangs at the point, and drops upon the field.
A gallant prince that far transcends his years;
Pride of his sire, and glory of his house,
And more a Mars in combat than a mouse;
His action bold, robust his ample frame,
And Meridarpax his resounding name.
Boasts the dire honors of his arms aloud;
Then, strutting near the lake, with looks elate,
Threats all its nations with approaching fate.
And such his strength, the silver lakes around
Might roll their waters o'er unpeopled ground.
But powerful Jove, who shows no less his grace
To frogs that perish than to human race,
Felt soft compassion rising in his soul,
And shook his sacred head, that shook the pole.
Then thus to all the gazing powers began
The sire of gods, and frogs, and mouse, and man:
An Iliad rising from a day's campaign!
How fierce his javelin o'er the trembling lakes
The black-furred hero Meridarpax shakes!
Unless some favoring deity descend,
Soon will the frogs' loquacious empire end.
Let dreadful Pallas winged with pity fly,
And make her AEgis blaze before his eye:
While Mars, refulgent on his rattling car,
Arrests his raging rival of the war."
When thus the glorious god of combat said,
"Nor Pallas, Jove! though Pallas take the field,
With all the terrors of her hissing shield,
Nor Mars himself, though Mars in armor bright
Ascend his car, and wheel amidst the fight;
Nor these can drive the desperate mouse afar,
And change the fortunes of the bleeding war.
Let all go forth, all heaven in arms arise,
Or launch thy own red thunder from the skies.
Such ardent blows as flew that wondrous day,
When heaps of Titans mixed with mountains lay,
When all the giant-race enormous fell,
And huge Encedalus was hurled to hell."
When from his throne the cloud-compeller nods;
Deep lengthening thunders run from pole to pole,
Olympus trembles as the thunders roll.
Then swift he whirls the brandished bolt around,
And headlong darts it at the distant ground;
The bolt, discharged, inwrapped with lightning flies,
And rends its flaming passage through the skies:
Then earth's inhabitants, the nibblers, shake,
And frogs, the dwellers in the waters, quake.
Yet still the mice advance their dread design,
And the last danger threats the croaking line:
Till Jove that inly mourned the loss they bore,
With strange assistance filled the frighted shore.
They march, a sudden unexpected crew.
Strong suits of armor round their bodies close,
Which like thick anvils blunt the force of blows;
In wheeling marches turned oblique they go,
With harpy claws their limbs divide below.
Fell shears the passage to their mouth command,
From out the flesh the bones by nature stand,
Broad spread their backs, their shining shoulders rise,
Unnumbered joints distort their lengthened thighs;
With nervous cords their hands are firmly braced,
Their round black eyeballs in their bosom placed,
On eight long feet the wondrous warriors tread,
And either end alike supplies a head.
These, mortal wits to call the crabs, agree;
The gods have other names for things than we.
The heroes' tails with severing grasps they rend.
Here, short of feet, deprived the power to fly,
There without hands upon the field they lie.
Wrenched from their holds, and scattered all around,
The bended lances heaped the cumbered ground.
Helpless amazement, fear pursuing fear,
And mad confusion through their host appear;
O'er the wild waste with headlong flight they go,
Or creep concealed in vaulted holes below.
Far-shooting Phoebus drove with fainter rays,
And a whole war (so Jove ordained) begun,
Was sought, and ceased, in one revolving sun.