But mortal man Was then far hardier in the old champaign, As well he should be, since a hardier earth Had him begotten; builded too was he Of bigger and more solid bones within, And knit with stalwart sinews through the flesh, Nor easily seized by either heat or cold, Or alien food or any ail or irk. And whilst so many lustrums of the sun Rolled on across the sky, men led a life After the roving habit of wild beasts. Not then were sturdy guiders of curved ploughs, And none knew then to work the fields with iron, Or plant young shoots in holes of delved loam, Or lop with hooked knives from off high trees The boughs of yester-year. What sun and rains To them had given, what earth of own accord Created then, was boon enough to glad Their simple hearts. Mid acorn-laden oaks Would they refresh their bodies for the nonce; And the wild berries of the arbute-tree, Which now thou seest to ripen purple-red In winter time, the old telluric soil Would bear then more abundant and more big. And many coarse foods, too, in long ago The blooming freshness of the rank young world Produced, enough for those poor wretches there. And rivers and springs would summon them of old To slake the thirst, as now from the great hills The water's down-rush calls aloud and far The thirsty generations of the wild. So, too, they sought the grottos of the Nymphs— The woodland haunts discovered as they ranged— From forth of which they knew that gliding rills With gush and splash abounding laved the rocks, The dripping rocks, and trickled from above Over the verdant moss; and here and there Welled up and burst across the open flats. As yet they knew not to enkindle fire Against the cold, nor hairy pelts to use And clothe their bodies with the spoils of beasts; But huddled in groves, and mountain-caves, and woods, And 'mongst the thickets hid their squalid backs, When driven to flee the lashings of the winds And the big rains. Nor could they then regard The general good, nor did they know to use In common any customs, any laws: Whatever of booty fortune unto each Had proffered, each alone would bear away, By instinct trained for self to thrive and live. And Venus in the forests then would link The lovers' bodies; for the woman yielded Either from mutual flame, or from the man's Impetuous fury and insatiate lust, Or from a bribe—as acorn-nuts, choice pears, Or the wild berries of the arbute-tree. And trusting wondrous strength of hands and legs, They'd chase the forest-wanderers, the beasts; And many they'd conquer, but some few they fled, A-skulk into their hiding-places... With the flung stones and with the ponderous heft Of gnarled branch. And by the time of night O'ertaken, they would throw, like bristly boars, Their wildman's limbs naked upon the earth, Rolling themselves in leaves and fronded boughs. Nor would they call with lamentations loud Around the fields for daylight and the sun, Quaking and wand'ring in shadows of the night; But, silent and buried in a sleep, they'd wait Until the sun with rosy flambeau brought The glory to the sky. From childhood wont Ever to see the dark and day begot In times alternate, never might they be Wildered by wild misgiving, lest a night Eternal should possess the lands, with light Of sun withdrawn forever. But their care Was rather that the clans of savage beasts Would often make their sleep-time horrible For those poor wretches; and, from home y-driven, They'd flee their rocky shelters at approach Of boar, the spumy-lipped, or lion strong, And in the midnight yield with terror up To those fierce guests their beds of out-spread leaves. And yet in those days not much more than now Would generations of mortality Leave the sweet light of fading life behind. Indeed, in those days here and there a man, More oftener snatched upon, and gulped by fangs, Afforded the beasts a food that roared alive, Echoing through groves and hills and forest-trees, Even as he viewed his living flesh entombed Within a living grave; whilst those whom flight Had saved, with bone and body bitten, shrieked, Pressing their quivering palms to loathsome sores, With horrible voices for eternal death— Until, forlorn of help, and witless what Might medicine their wounds, the writhing pangs Took them from life. But not in those far times Would one lone day give over unto doom A soldiery in thousands marching on Beneath the battle-banners, nor would then The ramping breakers of the main seas dash Whole argosies and crews upon the rocks. But ocean uprisen would often rave in vain, Without all end or outcome, and give up Its empty menacings as lightly too; Nor soft seductions of a serene sea Could lure by laughing billows any man Out to disaster: for the science bold Of ship-sailing lay dark in those far times. Again, 'twas then that lack of food gave o'er Men's fainting limbs to dissolution: now 'Tis plenty overwhelms. Unwary, they Oft for themselves themselves would then outpour The poison; now, with nicer art, themselves They give the drafts to others.