Niobe’s Reward

The queen of Thebes, daughter of Tantalus,
Who received not wisdom nor grace from Pallas,
Bore children to her husband Amphion,
And judged them bright and radiant as the dawn.
Fourteen they numbered, the boys were seven,
And likewise the girls, these gifts from heaven.

These did Niobe as a mother love,
And for their number thought herself above
The goddess who had born the golden twins;
Her tale of woe thus with folly begins.
Her thought she kept not hidden in her heart,
But from her mouth in words she let it depart.

She boasted that she was better than Leto,
And thus brought down the wrath of Apollo.
The doom that approached Niobe beheld,
Her love for her children action compelled:
She begged Apollo mercy to bestow,
But Phoebus heard not: he drew back his bow.

He smote all the boy children down to the ground,
Their bloody corpses were strewn all around,
And Artemis slew the girls for her part:
From each one protruded a fatal dart.
The children’s souls to Hades were tendered,
By the blows that the twins of Leto rendered.

And Amphion, grieved to death, gave a roar,
When he saw the ground stained purple with gore;
He bellowed with rage and swore retribution,
And brought on himself his own execution:
Apollo at once struck him to the ground,
His soul from his body was instant unbound.

Unburied nine days, the corpses lay bare,
Till from desecration the gods deigned to spare
Them, and so they were buried at the last:
The birds were denied their hoped for repast.
But on Niobe seized sorrow and grief;
No succor could comfort nor give relief.

She fled to a mountain and turned into stone
And wept forever, bereft and alone.
Her tears as rivers flowed down from the rock,
Forever bewailing that gruesome shock
That she received from the gods for her pride,
Who in their wisdom smote them that they died.

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