Atlas bearing the heavens from William Cunningham,
The Cosmographicall Glasse, London 1559
(The verse on the engraving is from Virgil´s Aenid)
Yet Ancient Earth, child-bearer of all things
Was not subdued, surrounded as she was
By deep and shrinking seas and by her rivers
That sank to darkest wells down to her womb;
Though black with heat and soot she raised her face,
And as she lifted hands to shield her eyes,
She shrank back lower than her usual place
While all things shook as though the world would break.
She cried aloud, "O greatest of the gods!
Is this your will and is this my reward?
Why does your lightning cease? If this
Is death by fire, then let your bolt of fire
Bring death to me so I may suffer you
To cause my death; even now I scarcely speak -"
For flames and smoke had filled her mouth, her throat.
"See my charred hair, ashes are in my eyes,
Across my face; have I earned this for my
Fertility? For me who wear the scars
of plough and spade? And each year torn and delved
That grass my grow for cattle, grain for men,
And myrrh placed on the altars of the gods?
It may be I deserve and easy death,
But how or why has Sea, your brother erred?
And why has water, fallen to his share
As third of our estate, dwindled to nothing
And farther from the sky? If you have no
Concern for him nor me, look how your heavens
Blaze from pole to pole - if fire consumes them
The very universe will fall to dust.
In pain, in worry, Atlas almost fails
To balance world´s hot axis on his shoulders;
If sea, land, and celestial heavens fall,
The very world we live in falls to dust,
Then we return to Chaos. Save, O Lord,
The charred remains of our poor Universe."