First, Orpheus taught you religious rites,
and from bloody murder to stay your hands:
Musaeus healing and oracle lore;
and Hesiod all the culture of lands,
The time to gather, the time to plough.
And gat not Homer his glory divine
By singing of valour, and honour, and right,
and the sheen of the battle-extended line,
The ranging of troops and the arming of men?
O ay, but he didn't teach that, I opine,
To Pantacles; when he was leading the show
I couldn't imagine what he was at,
He had fastened his helm on the top of his head,
he was trying to fasten his plume upon that.
But others, many and brave, he taught,
of whom was Lamachus, hero true;
And thence my spirit the impress took,
and many a lion-heart chief I drew,
Patrocluses, Teucers, illustrious names;
for I fain the citizen-folk would spur
To stretch themselves to their measure and height,
whenever the trumpet of war they hear.
But Phaedras and Stheneboeas? No!
no harlotry business deformed my plays.
And none can say that ever I drew
a love-sick woman in all my days.
For you no lot or portion had got
in Queen Aphrodite.
Thank Heaven for that.
But ever on you and yours, my friend,
the mighty goddess mightily sat;
Yourself she cast to the ground at last.
O ay, that uncommonly pat.
You showed how cuckolds are made, and lo,
you were struck yourself by the very same fate.
But say, you cross-grained censor of mine,
how my Stheneboeas could harm the state.
Full many a noble dame, the wife
of a noble citizen, hemlock took,
And died, unable the shame and sin
of your Bellerophon-scenes to brook.
Was then, I wonder, the tale I told
of Phaedra's passionate love untrue?
Not so: but tales of incestuous vice
the sacred poet should hide from view,
Nor ever exhibit and blazon forth
on the public stage to the public ken.
For boys a teacher at school is found,
but we, the poets, are teachers of men.
We are hound things honest and pure to speak.
And to speak great Lycabettuses, pray,
And massive blocks of Parnassian rocks,
is that things honest and pure to say?
In human fashion we ought to speak.