1 WITH each perfection dawning on her mind,
2 All beauty's treasure opening on her cheek,
3 Each flatt'ring hope subdu'd, each wish resign'd,
4 Does gay Ophelia this lone mansion seek.
5 Say, gentle maid, what prompts thee to forsake
6 The paths, thy birth and fortune strew with flow'rs?
7 Through nature's kind endearing ties to break,
8 And waste in cloyster'd walls thy pensive hours?
9 Let sober thought restrain thine erring zeal,
10 That guides thy footsteps to the vestal gate,
11 Lest thy soft heart (this friendship bids reveal)
12 Like mine unblest shou'd mourn like mine too late.
13 Does some angelic lonely-whisp'ring voice,
14 Some sacred impulse, or some dream divine,
15 Approve the dictates of thy early choice? —
16 Approach with confidence the awful shrine.
17 There kneeling at yon altar's marble base
18 (While streams of rapture from thine eye-lid steal,
19 And smiling heav'n illumes thy soul with grace)
20 Pronounce the vow, thou never can'st repeal.
21 Yet if misled by false-entitled friends,
22 Who say — "That peace with all her comely train,
23 "From starry regions to this clime descends,
24 "Smooths ev'ry frown, and softens ev'ry pain:
25 "That vestals tread contentment's flow'ry lawn,
26 "Approv'd of innocence, by health carest:
27 "That rob'd in colours bright, by fancy drawn,
28 "Celestial hope sits smiling at their breast; "
29 Suspect their syren song and artful style,
30 Their pleasing sounds some treach'rous thought conceal!
31 Full oft does pride with sainted voice beguile,
32 And sordid int'rest wear the mask of zeal.
33 A tyrant abbess here perchance may reign,
34 Who, fond of pow'r, affects the imperial nod,
35 Looks down disdainful on her female train,
36 And rules the cloyster with an iron rod.
37 Reflection sickens at the life-long tie,
38 Back-glancing mem'ry acts her busy part,
39 Its charms the world unfolds to fancy's eye,
40 And sheds allurement on the wishful heart.
41 Lo! Discord enters at the sacred porch,
42 Rage in her frown, and terror on her crest:
43 Ev'n at the hallow'd lamps she lights her torch,
44 And holds it flaming to each virgin breast.
45 But since the legends of monastic bliss
46 By fraud are fabled, and by youth believ'd,
47 Unbought experience learn from my distress,
48 Oh! mark my lot, and be no more deceiv'd.
49 Three lustres scarce with hasty wing were fled,
50 When I was torn from ev'ry weeping friend,
51 A thoughtless victim to the temple led,
52 And (blush ye parents) by a father's hand.
53 Yet then what solemn scenes deceiv'd my choice!
54 The pealing organ's animating sound,
55 The choral virgins' captivating voice,
56 The blazing altar, and the priests around:
57 The train of youths array'd in purest white,
58 Who scatter'd myrtles as I pass'd along;
59 The thousand lamps that pour'd a flood of light,
60 The kiss of peace from all the vestal throng:
61 The golden censers toss'd with graceful hand,
62 Whose fragrant breath Arabian odor shed:
63 Of meek-ey'd novices the circling band,
64 With blooming chaplets wove around their head.
65 — My willing soul was caught in rapture's flame,
66 While sacred ardor glow'd in ev'ry vein:
67 Methought applauding angels sung my name,
68 And heaven's unsullied glories gilt the fane.
69 This temporary transport soon expir'd,
70 My drooping heart confess'd a dreadful void:
71 E'er since, alas! abandon'd, uninspir'd,
72 I tread this dome to misery allied.
73 No wakening joy informs my sullen breast,
74 Thro' opening skies no radiant seraph smiles,
75 No saint descends to sooth my soul to rest,
76 No dream of bliss the dreary night beguiles.
77 Here haggard discontent still haunts my view;
78 The sombre genius reigns in ev'ry place,
79 Arrays each virtue in the darkest hue,
80 Chills ev'ry prayer, and cancels ev'ry grace.
81 I meet her ever in the chearless cell,
82 The gloomy grotto and unsocial wood;
83 I hear her ever in the midnight bell,
84 The hollow gale, and hoarse resounding flood.
85 This caus'd a mother's tender tears to flow,
86 (The sad remembrance time shall ne'er erase)
87 When having seal'd th' irrevocable vow,
88 I hasten'd to receive her last embrace.
89 Full-well she then presag'd my wretched fate,
90 Th' unhappy moments of each future day:
91 When lock'd within this terror-shedding grate,
92 My joy-deserted soul would pine away.
93 Yet ne'er did her maternal voice unfold
94 This cloyster'd scene in all its horror drest;
95 Nor did she then my trembling steps withold
96 When here I enter'd a reluctant guest.
97 Ah! could she view her only child betray'd,
98 And let submission o'er her love prevail?
99 Th' unfeeling priest why did she not upbraid?
100 Forbid the vow, and rend the hov'ring veil?
101 Alas! she might not — her relentless lord
102 Had seal'd her lips, and chid her streaming tear,
103 So anguish in her breast conceal'd its hoard,
104 And all the mother sunk in dumb despair.
105 But thou who own'st a father's sacred name,
106 What act impell'd thee to this ruthless deed?
107 What crime had forfeited my filial claim?
108 And giv'n (oh blasting thought) thy heart to bleed?
109 If then thine injur'd child deserve thy care,
110 Oh haste and bear her from this lonesome gloom!
111 In vain — no words can sooth his rigid ear;
112 And Gallia's laws have riveted my doom.
113 Ye cloister'd fair — ye censure-breathing saints,
114 Suppress your taunts, and learn at length to spare,
115 Tho' mid these holy walls I vent my plaints,
116 And give to sorrow what is due to pray'r.
117 I fled not to this mansion's deep recess,
118 To veil the blushes of a guilty shame,
119 The tenor of an ill-spent life redress,
120 And snatch from infamy a sinking name.
121 Yet let me to my fate submissive bow;
122 From fatal symptoms if I right conceive,
123 This stream Ophelia has not long to flow,
124 This voice to murmur, and this breast to heave.
125 Ah! when extended on th' untimely bier
126 To yonder vault this form shall be convey'd,
127 Thou'lt not refuse to shed one grateful tear,
128 And breathe the requiem to my fleeting shade.
129 With pious footstep join the sable train,
130 As thro' the lengthening ile they take their way;
131 A glimmering taper let thy hand sustain,
132 Thy soothing voice attune the funeral lay:
133 Behold the minister who lately gave
134 The sacred veil, in garb of mournful hue,
135 (More friendly office) bending o'er my grave,
136 And sprinkling my remains with hallow'd dew:
137 As o'er the corse he strews the rattling dust,
138 The sternest heart will raise compassion's sigh:
139 Ev'n then no longer to his child unjust,
140 The tears may trickle from a father's eye.