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DAMON AND PYTHIAS; OR, TRUE FRIENDSHIP, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Here, guards!' pale with fear, dionysius cries
Last Line: "and of virtue -- you make him the third."
Alternate Author Name(s): Schiller, Friedrich Von
Subject(s): Damon And Pythias

"HERE, guards!" pale with fear, Dionysius cries,
"Here, guards, yon intruder arrest!
'T is Damon -- but hah! speak, what means this disguise?
And the dagger, which gleams in thy vest?"
"'T was to free," says the youth, "this dear land from its chains!"
"Free the land! wretched fool, thou shalt die for thy pains."

"I am ready to die -- I ask not to live --
Yet three days of respite, perhaps, thou may'st give,
For to-morrow, my sister will wed,
And 't would damp all her joy, were her brother not there;
Then let me, I pray, to her nuptials repair,
Whilst a friend remains here in my stead."

With a sneer on his brow, and a curse in his breast,
"Thou shalt have," cries the tyrant, "shalt have thy request;
To thy sister's repair, on her nuptials attend,
Enjoy thy three days, but -- mark well what I say --
Return on the third; if, beyond that fix'd day,
There be but one hour's, but one moment's delay,
That delay shall be death to thy friend!"

Then to Pythias he went; and he told him his case;
That true friend answer'd not, but, with instant embrace
Consenting, rush'd forth to be bound in his room;
And now, as if wing'd with new life from above,
To his sister he flew, did his errand of love,
And, ere a third morning had brighten'd the grove,
Was returning with joy to his doom.

But the heavens interpose,
Stern the tempest arose,
And, when the poor pilgrim arrived at the shore,
Swoll'n to torrents, the rills
Rush'd in foam from the hills,
And crash went the bridge in the whirlpool's wild roar.

Wildly gazing, despairing, half phrensied he stood;
Dark, dark were the skies, and dark was the flood,
And still darker his lorn heart's emotion;
And he shouted for aid, but no aid was at hand,
No boat ventured forth from the surf-ridden strand,
And the waves sprang, like woods, o'er the lessening land,
And the stream was becoming an ocean.

Now with knees low to earth and with hands to the skies,
"Still the storm, God of might, God of mercy!" he cries --
"Oh hush with thy breath this loud sea;
The hours hurry by: the sun glows on high;
And should he go down, and I reach not yon town,
My friend -- he must perish for me!"

Yet the wrath of the torrent still went on increasing,
And waves upon waves still dissolved without ceasing,
And hour after hour hurried on;
Then, by anguish impell'd, hope and fear alike o'er,
He, reckless, rush'd into the water's deep roar;
Rose, sunk, struggled on, till, at length, the wish'd shore, --
Thanks to Heaven's outstretch'd hand -- it is won! --

But new perils await him: scarce 'scaped from the flood,
And intent on redeeming each moment's delay,
As onward he sped, lo! from out a dark wood,
A band of fierce robbers encompass'd his way.
"What would ye?" he cried, "save my life I have naught;
Nay, that is the king's" -- Then swift, having caught
A club from the nearest, and swinging it round
With might more than man's, he laid three on the ground,
Whilst the rest hurried off in dismay.

But the noon's scorching flame
Soon shoots through his frame,
And he turns, faint and way-worn, to heaven with a sigh --
"From the flood and the foe
Thou'st redeem'd me, and oh!
Thus, by thirst overcome, must I effortless lie,
And leave him, the beloved of my bosom, to die!"

Scarce utter'd the word,
When startled he heard
Purling sounds, sweet as silver's, fall fresh on his ear;
And low a small rill
Trickled down from the hill!
He heard and he saw, and, with joy drawing near,
Laved his limbs, slaked his thirst, and renew'd his career.

And now the sun's beams through the deep boughs are glowing,
And rock, tree, and mountain their shadows are throwing,
Huge and grim, o'er the meadow's bright bloom;
And two travellers are seen coming forth on their way,
And, just as they pass, he hears one of them say --
"'T is the hour that was fix'd for his doom."

Still, anguish gives strength to his wavering flight;
On he speeds; and lo now! in eve's reddening light
The domes of far Syracuse blend; --
There Philostratus meets him, (a servant grown gray
In his house,) crying: "Back! not a moment's delay;
No cares will avail for thy friend.

"No; nothing can save his dear head from the tomb;
So think of preserving thine own.
Myself, I beheld him led forth to his doom;
Ere this, his brave spirit has flown.
With confident soul he stood, hour after hour,
Thy return never doubting to see;
No sneers of the tyrant that faith could o'erpower
Or shake his assurance in thee!"

"And is it too late? and cannot I save
His dear life? then, at least, let me share in his grave!
Yes, death shall unite us! no tyrant shall say,
That friend to his friend proved untrue; he may slay,
May torture, may mock at all mercy and ruth,
But ne'er shall he doubt of our friendship and truth."

'T is sunset; and Damon arrives at the gate,
Sees the scaffold and multitudes gazing below;
Already the victim is bared for his fate,
Already the deathsman stands arm'd for the blow;
When hark! a wild voice, which is echo'd around,
"Stay! -- 't is I -- it is Damon, for whom he was bound!"

And now they sink into each other's embrace,
And are weeping for joy and despair.
Not a soul, amongst thousands, but melts at their case;
Which swift to the monarch they bear;
Even he, too, is moved -- feels for once as he ought --
And commands, that they both to his throne shall be brought.

Then, -- alternately gazing on each gallant youth
With looks of awe, wonder, and shame --
"Ye have conquer'd," he cries. "Yes, I see now that truth,
That friendship, is not a mere name.
Go: you're free; but, whilst life's dearest blessings you prove,
Let one prayer of your monarch be heard,
That -- his past sins forgot -- in this union of love
And of virtue -- you make him the third."

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