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Mithridates At Chios




by: John Greenleaf Whittier

It is recorded that the Chians, when subjugated by Mithridates of
Cappadocia, were delivered up to their own slaves, to be carried away
captive to Colchis. Athenxus considers this a just punishment for their
wickedness in first introducing the slave-trade into Greece. From this
ancient villany of the Chians the proverb arose, "The Chian hath bought
himself a master."

KNOW'ST thou, O slave-cursed land
How, when the Chian's cup of guilt
Was full to overflow, there came
God's justice in the sword of flame
That, red with slaughter to its hilt,
Blazed in the Cappadocian victor's hand?

The heavens are still and far;
But, not unheard of awful Jove,
The sighing of the island slave
Was answered, when the AEgean wave
The keels of Mithridates clove,
And the vines shrivelled in the breath of war.

"Robbers of Chios! hark,"
The victor cried, "to Heaven's decree!
Pluck your last cluster from the vine,
Drain your last cup of Chian wine;
Slaves of your slaves, your doom shall be,
In Colchian mines by Phasis rolling dark."

Then rose the long lament
From the hoar sea-god's dusky caves
The priestess rent her hair and cried,
"Woe! woe! The gods are sleepless-eyed!"
And, chained and scourged, the slaves of slaves,
The lords of Chios into exile went.

"The gods at last pay well,"
So Hellas sang her taunting song,
"The fisher in his net is caught,
The Chian hath his master bought;"
And isle from isle, with laughter long,
Took up and sped the mocking parable.

Once more the slow, dumb years
Bring their avenging cycle round,
And, more than Hellas taught of old,
Our wiser lesson shall be told,
Of slaves uprising, freedom-crowned,
To break, not wield, the scourge wet with their
blood and tears.
1868.





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