The Escape of Simonides

Th’ attention letters can engage,
Ev’n from a base degen’rate age,
I’ve shown before; and now shall show
Their lustre in another view,
And tell a memorable tale,
How much they can with heav’n prevail.
Simonides, the very same
We lately had a call to name,
Agreed for such a sum to blaze
A certain famous champion’s praise.
He therefore a retirement sought,
But found the theme on which he wrote
So scanty, he was forced to use
Th’ accustom’d license of the muse,
And introduced and praise bestow’d
On Leda’s sons to raise his ode;
With these the rather making free,
As heroes in the same degree.
He warranted his work, and yet
Could but one third of payment get.
Upon demanding all the due,
“Let them,” says he, “pay t’other two,
Who take two places in the song;
But lest you think I do you wrong
And part in dudgeon—I invite
Your company to sup this night,
For then my friends and kin I see,
’Mongst which I choose to reckon thee.”
Choused and chagrined, yet shunning blame,
He promised, set the hour, and came;
As fearful lest a favour spurn’d
Should to an open breach be turn’d.
The splendid banquet shone with plate,
And preparations full of state
Made the glad house with clamors roar—
When on a sudden at the door
Two youths, with sweat and dust besmear’d,
Above the human form appear’d,
And charged forthwith a little scout
To bid Simonides come out,
That ’twas his int’rest not to stay.—
The slave, in trouble and dismay,
Roused from his seat the feasting bard,
Who scarce had stirr’d a single yard
Before the room at once fell in,
And crush’d the champion and his kin.
No youths before the door are found.—
The thing soon spread the country round;
And when each circumstance was weigh’d,
They knew the gods that visit made,
And saved the poet’s life in lieu
Of those two-thirds which yet were due. [more info]

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