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Psyche

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ARGUMENT.

Proem Psyche introduced Her royal origin Envy of Venus Her instructions to Cupid The island of Pleasure The fountains of Joy and of Sorrow The appearance of Love Psyche asleep Mutually wounded Psyche reveals her dream to her Mother The Oracle consulted Psyche abandoned on the Rock by its decree Carried by Zephyrs to the island of Pleasure The Palace of Love Banquet of Love Marriage of Cupid and Psyche Psyche's daily solitude Her request to her Lover His reluctant consent.

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1 LET not the rugged brow the rhymes accuse,
2 Which speak of gentle knights and ladies fair,
3 Nor scorn the lighter labours of the muse,
4 Who yet, for cruel battles would not dare
5 The low-strung chords of her weak lyre prepare;
6 But loves to court repose in slumbery lay,
7 To tell of goodly bowers and gardens rare,
8 Of gentle blandishments and amorous play,
9 And all the lore of love, in courtly verse essay.
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10 And ye whose gentle hearts in thraldom held
11 The power of mighty Love already own,
12 When you the pains and dangers have beheld,
13 Which erst your lord hath for his Psyche known,
14 For all your sorrows this may well atone,
15 That he you serve the same hath suffered;
16 And sure, your fond applause the tale will crown
17 In which your own distress is pictured,
18 And all that weary way which you yourselves must tread.
19 Most sweet would to my soul the hope appear,
20 That sorrow in my verse a charm might find,
21 To smooth the brow long bent with bitter cheer,
22 Some short distraction to the joyless mind
23 Which grief, with heavy chain, hath fast confined
24 To sad remembrance of its happier state;
25 For to myself I ask no boon more kind
26 Than power another's woes to mitigate,
27 And that soft soothing art which anguish can abate.
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28 And thou, sweet sprite, whose sway doth far extend,
29 Smile on the mean historian of thy fame!
30 My heart in each distress and fear befriend,
31 Nor ever let it feel a fiercer flame
32 Than innocence may cherish free from blame,
33 And hope may nurse, and sympathy may own;
34 For, as thy rights I never would disclaim,
35 But true allegiance offered to thy throne,
36 So may I love but one, by one beloved alone.
37 That anxious torture may I never feel,
38 Which, doubtful, watches o'er a wandering heart.
39 Oh! who that bitter torment can reveal,
40 Or tell the pining anguish of that smart!
41 In those affections may I ne'er have part,
42 Which easily transferred can learn to rove:
43 No, dearest Cupid! when I feel thy dart,
44 For thy sweet Psyche's sake may no false love
45 The tenderness I prize lightly from me remove!
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Canto I.

1 MUCH wearied with her long and dreary way,
2 And now with toil and sorrow well nigh spent,
3 Of sad regret and wasting grief the prey,
4 Fair Psyche through untrodden forests went,
5 To lone shades uttering oft a vain lament.
6 And oft in hopeless silence sighing deep,
7 As she her fatal error did repent,
8 While dear remembrance bade her ever weep,
9 And her pale cheek in ceaseless showers of sorrow steep.
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10 'Mid the thick covert of that woodland shade,
11 A flowery bank there lay undressed by art,
12 But of the mossy turf spontaneous made;
13 Here the young branches shot their arms athwart,
14 And wove the bower so thick in every part,
15 That the fierce beams of Phoebus glancing strong
16 Could never through the leaves their fury dart;
17 But the sweet creeping shrubs that round it throng,
18 Their loving fragrance mix, and trail their flowers along.
19 And close beside a little fountain played,
20 Which through the trembling leaves all joyous shone,
21 And with the cheerful birds sweet music made,
22 Kissing the surface of each polished stone
23 As it flowed past: sure as her favourite throne
24 Tranquillity might well esteem the bower,
25 The fresh and cool retreat have called her own,
26 A pleasant shelter in the sultry hour,
27 A refuge from the blast, and angry tempest's power.
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28 Wooed by the soothing silence of the scene
29 Here Psyche stood, and looking round, lest aught
30 Which threatened danger near her might have been,
31 Awhile to rest her in that quiet spot
32 She laid her down, and piteously bethought
33 Herself on the sad changes of her fate,
34 Which in so short a space so much had wrought,
35 And now had raised her to such high estate,
36 And now had plunged her low in sorrow desolate.
37 Oh! how refreshing seemed the breathing wind
38 To her faint limbs! and while her snowy hands
39 From her fair brow her golden hair unbind,
40 And of her zone unloose the silken bands,
41 More passing bright unveiled her beauty stands;
42 For faultless was her form as beauty's queen,
43 And every winning grace that Love demands,
44 With mild attempered dignity was seen
45 Play o'er each lovely limb, and deck her angel mien.
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46 Though solitary now, dismayed, forlorn,
47 Without attendant through the forest rude,
48 The peerless maid of royal lineage born
49 By many a royal youth had oft been wooed;
50 Low at her feet full many a prince had sued,
51 And homage paid unto her beauty rare;
52 But all their blandishments her heart withstood;
53 And well might mortal suitor sure despair,
54 Since mortal charms were none which might with hers compare.
55 Yet nought of insolence or haughty pride
56 Found ever in her gentle breast a place;
57 Though men her wondrous beauty deified,
58 And rashly deeming such celestial grace
59 Could never spring from any earthly race,
60 Lo! all forsaking Cytherea's shrine,
61 Her sacred altars now no more embrace,
62 But to fair Psyche pay those rites divine,
63 Which, Goddess! are thy due, and should be only thine.
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64 But envy of her beauty's growing fame
65 Poisoned her sisters' hearts with secret gall,
66 And oft with seeming piety they blame
67 The worship which they justly impious call;
68 And oft, lest evil should their sire befal,
69 Besought him to forbid the erring crowd
70 Which hourly thronged around the regal hall,
71 With incense, gifts, and invocations loud,
72 To her whose guiltless breast, ne'er felt elation proud.
73 For she was timid as the wintry flower;
74 That, whiter than the snow it blooms among,
75 Droops its fair head submissive to the power
76 Of every angry blast which sweeps along
77 Sparing the lovely trembler, while the strong
78 Majestic tenants of the leafless wood
79 It levels low. But, ah! the pitying song
80 Must tell how, than the tempest's self more rude,
81 Fierce wrath and cruel hate their suppliant prey pursued.
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82 Indignant quitting her deserted fanes,
83 Now Cytherea sought her favourite isle,
84 And there from every eye her secret pains
85 'Mid her thick myrtle bowers concealed awhile;
86 Practised no more the glance, or witching smile,
87 But nursed the pang she never felt before,
88 Of mortified disdain; then to beguile
89 The hours which mortal flattery soothed no more,
90 She various plans revolved her influence to restore.
91 She called her son with unaccustomed voice;
92 Not with those thrilling accents of delight
93 Which bade so oft enchanted Love rejoice,
94 Soft as the breezes of a summer's night:
95 Now choked with rage its change could Love affright;
96 As all to sudden discontent a prey,
97 Shunning the cheerful day's enlivening light,
98 She felt the angry power's malignant sway,
99 And bade her favourite boy her vengeful will obey.
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100 Bathed in those tears which vanquish human hearts,
101 "Oh, son beloved!" (the suppliant goddess cried,)
102 If e'er thy too indulgent mother's arts
103 Subdued for thee the potent deities
104 Who rule my native deep, or haunt the skies;
105 Or if to me the grateful praise be due,
106 That to thy sceptre bow the great and wise,
107 Now let thy fierce revenge my foe pursue,
108 And let my rival scorned her vain presumption rue.
109 For what to me avails my former boast
110 That, fairer than the wife of Jove confest,
111 I gained the prize thus basely to be lost?
112 With me the world's devotion to contest
113 Behold a mortal dares; though on my breast
114 Still vainly brilliant shines the magic zone.
115 Yet, yet I reign: by you my wrongs redrest,
116 The world with humbled Psyche soon shall own
117 That Venus, beauty's queen, shall be adored alone.
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118 "Deep let her drink of that dark, bitter spring,
119 Which flows so near thy bright and crystal tide;
120 Deep let her heart thy sharpest arrow sting,
121 Its tempered barb in that black poison dyed.
122 Let her, for whom contending princes sighed,
123 Feel all the fury of thy fiercest flame
124 For some base wretch to foul disgrace allied,
125 Forgetful of her birth and her fair fame,
126 Her honours all defiled, and sacrificed to shame."
127 Then, with sweet pressure of her rosy lip,
128 A kiss she gave bathed in ambrosial dew;
129 The thrilling joy he would for ever sip,
130 And his moist eyes in ecstasy, imbrue.
131 But she whose soul still angry cares pursue,
132 Snatched from the soft caress her glowing charms;
133 Her vengeful will she then enforced anew,
134 As she in haste dismissed him from her arms,
135 The cruel draught to seek of anguish and alarms.
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136 'Mid the blue waves by circling seas embraced
137 A chosen spot of fairest land was seen;
138 For there with favouring hand had Nature placed
139 All that could lovely make the varied scene:
140 Eternal Spring there spread her mantle green;
141 There high surrounding hills deep-wooded rose
142 O'er placid lakes; while marble rocks between
143 The fragrant shrubs their pointed heads disclose,
144 And balmy breathes each gale which o'er the island blows.
145 Pleasure had called the fertile lawns her own,
146 And thickly strewed them with her choicest flowers;
147 Amid the quiet glade her golden throne
148 Bright shone with lustre through o'erarching bowers:
149 There her fair train, the ever downy Hours,
150 Sport on light wing with the young Joys entwined;
151 While Hope delighted from her full lap showers
152 Blossoms, whose fragrance can the ravished mind
153 Inebriate with dreams of rapture unconfined.
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154 And in the grassy centre of the isle,
155 Where the thick verdure spreads a damper shade,
156 Amid their native rocks concealed awhile,
157 Then o'er the plains in devious streams displayed,
158 Two gushing fountains rise; and thence conveyed,
159 Their waters through the woods and vallies play,
160 Visit each green recess and secret glade,
161 With still unmingled, still meandering way,
162 Nor widely wandering far, can each from other stray.
163 But of strange contrast are their virtues found,
164 And oft the lady of that isle has tried
165 In rocky dens and caverns under ground,
166 The black deformed stream in vain to hide;
167 Bursting all bounds her labours it defied;
168 Yet many a flowery sod its course conceals
169 Through plains where deep its silent waters glide,
170 Till secret ruin all corroding steals,
171 And every treacherous arch the hideous gulph reveals.
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172 Forbidding every kindly prosperous growth,
173 Where'er it ran, a channel bleak it wore;
174 The gaping banks receded, as though loth
175 To touch the poison which disgraced their shore:
176 There deadly anguish pours unmixed his store
177 Of all the ills which sting the human breast,
178 The hopeless tears which past delights deplore,
179 Heart-gnawing jealousy which knows no rest,
180 And self-upbraiding shame, by stern remorse opprest.
181 Oh, how unlike the pure transparent stream,
182 Which near it bubbles o'er its golden sands!
183 The impeding stones with pleasant music seem
184 Its progress to detain from other lands;
185 And all its banks, inwreathed with flowery bands,
186 Ambrosial fragrance shed in grateful dew:
187 There young Desire enchanted ever stands,
188 Breathing delight and fragrance ever new,
189 And bathed in constant joys of fond affection true.
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190 But not to mortals is it e'er allowed
191 To drink unmingled of that current bright;
192 Scarce can they taste the pleasurable flood,
193 Defiled by angry Fortune's envious spite;
194 Who from the cup of amorous delight
195 Dashes the sparkling draught of brilliant joy,
196 Till, with dull sorrow's stream despoiled quite,
197 No more it cheers the soul nor charms the eye,
198 But 'mid the poisoned bowl distrust and anguish lie.
199 Here Cupid tempers his unerring darts,
200 And in the fount of bliss delights to play;
201 Here mingles balmy sighs and pleasing smarts,
202 And here the honied draught will oft allay
203 With that black poison's all-polluting sway,
204 For wretched man. Hither, as Venus willed,
205 For Psyche's punishment he bent his way:
206 From either stream his amber vase he filled,
207 For her were meant the drops which grief alone distilled.
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208 His quiver, sparkling bright with gems and gold,
209 From his fair plumed shoulder graceful hung,
210 And from its top in brilliant chords enrolled
211 Each little vase resplendently was slung:
212 Still as he flew, around him sportive clung
213 His frolic train of winged Zephyrs light,
214 Wafting the fragrance which his tresses flung:
215 While odours dropped from every ringlet bright,
216 And from his blue eyes beamed ineffable delight.
217 Wrapt in a cloud unseen by mortal eye,
218 He sought the chamber of the royal maid;
219 There, lulled by careless soft security,
220 Of the impending mischief nought afraid,
221 Upon her purple couch was Psyche laid,
222 Her radiant eyes a downy slumber sealed;
223 In light transparent veil alone arrayed,
224 Her bosom's opening charms were half revealed,
225 And scarce the lucid folds her polished limbs concealed.
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226 A placid smile plays o'er each roseate lip,
227 Sweet severed lips! while thus your pearls disclose,
228 That slumbering thus unconscious she may sip
229 The cruel presage of her future woes?
230 Lightly, as fall the dews upon the rose,
231 Upon the coral gates of that sweet cell
232 The fatal drops he pours; nor yet he knows,
233 Nor, though a God, can he presaging tell
234 How he himself shall mourn the ills of that sad spell!
235 Nor yet content, he from his quiver drew,
236 Sharpened with skill divine, a shining dart:
237 No need had he for bow, since thus too true
238 His hand might wound her all-exposed heart;
239 Yet her fair side he touched with gentlest art,
240 And half relenting on her beauties gazed;
241 Just then awaking with a sudden start
242 Her opening eye in humid lustre blazed,
243 Unseen he still remained, enchanted and amazed.
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244 The dart which in his hand now trembling stood,
245 As o'er the couch he bent with ravished eye,
246 Drew with its daring point celestial blood
247 From his smooth neck's unblemished ivory:
248 Heedless of this, but with a pitying sigh
249 The evil done now anxious to repair,
250 He shed in haste the balmy drops of joy
251 O'er all the silky ringlets of her hair;
252 Then stretched his plumes divine, and breathed celestial air.
253 Unhappy Psyche! soon the latent wound
254 The fading roses of her cheek confess,
255 Her eyes bright beams, in swimming sorrows drowned,
256 Sparkle no more with life and happiness
257 Her parents fond exulting heart to bless;
258 She shuns adoring crowds, and seeks to hide
259 The pining sorrows which her soul oppress,
260 Till to her mother's tears no more denied,
261 The secret grief she owns, for which she lingering sighed.
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262 A dream of mingled terror and delight
263 Still heavy hangs upon her troubled soul,
264 An angry form still swims before her sight,
265 And still the vengeful thunders seem to roll;
266 Still crushed to earth she feels the stern control
267 Of Venus unrelenting, unappeased:
268 The dream returns, she feels the fancied dole;
269 Once more the furies on her heart have seized,
270 But still she views the youth who all her sufferings eased.
271 Of wonderous beauty did the vision seem,
272 And in the freshest prime of youthful years;
273 Such at the close of her distressful dream
274 A graceful champion to her eyes appears;
275 Her loved deliverer from her foes and fears
276 She seems in grateful transport still to press;
277 Still his soft voice sounds in her ravished ears;
278 Dissolved in fondest tears of tenderness
279 His form she oft invokes her waking eyes to bless.
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280 Nor was it quite a dream, for as she woke,
281 Ere heavenly mists concealed him from her eye,
282 One sudden transitory view she took
283 Of Love's most radiant bright divinity;
284 From the fair image never can she fly,
285 As still consumed with vain desire she pines;
286 While her fond parents heave the anxious sigh,
287 And to avert her fate seek holy shrines
288 The threatened ills to learn by auguries and signs.
289 And now, the royal sacrifice prepared,
290 The milk-white bull they to the altar lead,
291 Whose youth the galling yoke as yet had spared,
292 Now destined by the sacred knife to bleed:
293 When lo! with sudden spring his horns he freed,
294 And head-long rushed amid the frighted throng:
295 While from the smoke-veiled shrine such sounds Proceed
296 As well might strike with awe the soul most strong;
297 And thus divinely spoke the heaven inspired tongue.
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298 "On nuptial couch, in nuptial vest arrayed,
299 On a tall rock's high summit Psyche place:
300 Let all depart, and leave the fated maid
301 Who never must a mortal Hymen grace:
302 A winged monster of no earthly race
303 Thence soon shall bear his trembling bride away;
304 His power extends o'er all the bounds of space,
305 And Jove himself has owned his dreaded sway,
306 Whose flaming breath sheds fire, whom earth and heaven obey."
307 With terror, anguish, and astonishment
308 The oracle her wretched father hears;
309 Now from his brow the regal honours rent,
310 And now in frantic sorrow wild appears,
311 Nor threatened plagues, nor punishment he fears,
312 Refusing long the sentence to obey,
313 Till Psyche, trembling with submissive tears,
314 Bids them the sacrifice no more delay,
315 Prepare the funeral couch, and leave the destined prey.
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316 Pleased by the ambiguous doom the Fates promulge,
317 The angry Goddess and enamoured Boy
318 Alike content their various hopes indulge;
319 He, still exploring with an anxious eye
320 The future prospect of uncertain joy,
321 Plans how the tender object of his care
322 He may protect from threatened misery;
323 Ah sanguine Love! so oft deceived, forbear
324 With flattering tints to paint illusive hope so fair.
325 But now what lamentations rend the skies!
326 In amaracine wreaths the virgin choir
327 With Io Hymen mingle funeral cries:
328 Lost in the sorrows of the Lydian lyre
329 The breathing flutes' melodious notes expire;
330 In sad procession pass the mournful throng
331 Extinguishing with tears the torches' fire,
332 While the mute victim weeping crowds among,
333 By unknown fears oppressed, moves silently along.
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334 But on such scenes of terror and dismay
335 The mournful Muse delights not long to dwell;
336 She quits well pleased the melancholy lay,
337 Nor vainly seeks the parents' woes to tell:
338 But what to wondering Psyche then befel
339 When thus abandoned, let her rather say,
340 Who shuddering looks to see some monster fell
341 Approach the desert rock to seize his prey,
342 With cruel fangs devour, or tear her thence away.
343 When lo! a gentle breeze began to rise,
344 Breathed by obedient Zephyrs round the maid,
345 Fanning her bosom with its softest sighs
346 Awhile among her fluttering robes it strayed,
347 And boldly sportive latent charms displayed:
348 And then, as Cupid willed, with tenderest care
349 From the tall rock, where weeping she was laid,
350 With gliding motion through the yielding air
351 To Pleasure's blooming isle their lovely charge they bear.
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352 On the green bosom of the turf reclined,
353 They lightly now the astonished virgin lay,
354 To placid rest they sooth her troubled mind;
355 Around her still with watchful care they stay,
356 Around her still in quiet whispers play;
357 Till lulling slumbers bid her eyelids close,
358 Veiling with silky fringe each brilliant ray,
359 While soft tranquillity divinely flows
360 O'er all her soul serene, in visions of repose.
361 Refreshed she rose, and all enchanted gazed
362 On the rare beauties of the pleasant scene.
363 Conspicuous far a lofty palace blazed
364 Upon a sloping bank of softest green;
365 A fairer edifice was never seen;
366 The high ranged columns own no mortal hand,
367 But seem a temple meet for Beauty's queen.
368 Like polished snow the marble pillars stand
369 In grace attempered majesty sublimely grand.
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370 Gently ascending from a silvery flood,
371 Above the palace rose the shaded hill,
372 The lofty eminence was crowned with wood,
373 And the rich lawns, adorned by nature's skill,
374 The passing breezes with their odours fill;
375 Here ever blooming groves of orange glow,
376 And here all flowers which from their leaves distil
377 Ambrosial dew in sweet succession blow,
378 And trees of matchless size a fragrant shade bestow.
379 The sun looks glorious mid a sky serene,
380 And bids bright lustre sparkle o'er the tide;
381 The clear blue ocean at a distance seen
382 Bounds the gay landscape on the western side,
383 While closing round it with majestic pride,
384 The lofty rocks mid citron groves arise;
385 "Sure some divinity must here reside,"
386 As tranced in some bright vision, Psyche cries,
387 And scarce believes the bliss, or trusts her charmed eyes.
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388 When lo! a voice divinely sweet she hears,
389 From unscen lips proceeds the heavenly sound;
390 "Psyche approach, dismiss thy timid fears,
391 At length his bride thy longing spouse has found,
392 And bids for thee immortal joys abound;
393 For thee the palace rose at his command,
394 For thee his love a bridal banquet crowned;
395 He bids attendant nymphs around thee stand
396 Prompt every wish to serve, a fond obedient band."
397 Increasing wonder filled her ravished soul,
398 For now the pompous portals opened wide,
399 There, pausing oft, with timid foot she stole
400 Through halls high domed, enriched with sculptured pride,
401 While gay saloons appeared on either side
402 In splendid vista opening to her sight;
403 And all with precious gems so beautified,
404 And furnished with such exquisite delight,
405 That scarce the beams of heaven emit such lustre bright.
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406 The amethyst was there of violet hue,
407 And there the topaz shed its golden ray,
408 The chrysoberyl, and the sapphire blue
409 As the clear azure of a sunny day,
410 Or the mild eyes where amorous glances play;
411 The snow white jasper, and the opal's flame,
412 The blushing ruby, and the agate grey,
413 And there the gem which bears his luckless name
414 Whose death by Phoebus mourned ensured him deathless fame.
415 There the green emerald, there cornelians glow,
416 And rich carbuncles pour eternal light,
417 With all that India and Peru can shew,
418 Or Labrador can give so flaming bright
419 To the charmed mariner's half dazzled, sight:
420 The coral paved baths with diamonds blaze:
421 And all that can the female heart delight
422 Of fair attire, the last recess displays,
423 And all that Luxury can ask, her eye surveys.
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424 Now through the hall melodious music stole,
425 And self-prepared the splendid banquet stands,
426 Self-poured the nectar sparkles in the bowl,
427 The lute and viol touched by unseen hands
428 Aid the soft voices of the choral bands;
429 O'er the full board a brighter lustre beams
430 Than Persia's monarch at his feast commands:
431 For sweet refreshment all inviting seems
432 To taste celestial food, and pure ambrosial streams.
433 But when meek Eve hung out her dewy star,
434 And gently veiled with gradual hand the sky,
435 Lo! the bright folding doors retiring far,
436 Display to Psyche's captivated eye
437 All that voluptuous ease could e'er supply
438 To sooth the spirits in serene repose:
439 Beneath the velvet's purple canopy
440 Divinely formed a downy couch arose,
441 While alabaster lamps a milky light disclose.
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442 Once more she hears the hymeneal strain;
443 Far other voices now attune the lay;
444 The swelling sounds approach, awhile remain,
445 And then retiring faint dissolved away:
446 The expiring lamps emit a feebler ray,
447 And soon in fragrant death extinguished lie:
448 Then virgin terrors Psyche's soul dismay,
449 When through the obscuring gloom shenought can spy,
450 But softly rustling sounds declare some Being nigh.
451 Oh, you for whom I write! whose hearts can melt
452 At the soft thrilling voice whose power you prove,
453 You know what charm, unutterably felt,
454 Attends the unexpected voice of Love:
455 Above the lyre, the lute's soft notes above,
456 With sweet enchantment to the soul it steals
457 And bears it to Elysium's happy grove;
458 You best can tell the rapture Psyche feels
459 When Love's ambrosial lip the vows of Hymen seals.
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460 "'Tis he, 'tis my deliverer! deep imprest
461 Upon my heart those sounds I well recal,"
462 The blushing maid exclaimed, and on his breast
463 A tear of trembling ecstasy let fall.
464 But, ere the breezes of the morning call
465 Aurora from her purple, humid bed,
466 Psyche in vain explores the vacant hall,
467 Her tender lover from her arms is fled,
468 While sleep his downy wings had o'er her eye-lids spread.
469 Again the band invisible attend,
470 And female voices sooth the mournful bride;
471 Light hands to braid her hair assistance lend,
472 By some she sees the glowing bracelet tied,
473 Others officious hover at her side,
474 And each bright gem for her acceptance bring,
475 While some, the balmy air diffusing wide,
476 Fan softer perfumes from each odorous wing
477 Than the fresh bosom sheds of earliest, sweetest spring.
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478 With songs divine her anxious soul they cheer,
479 And woo her footsteps to delicious bowers,
480 They bid the fruit more exquisite appear
481 Which at her feet its bright profusion showers:
482 For her they cull unknown, celestial flowers;
483 The gilded car they bid her fearless guide,
484 Which at her wish self-moved with wondrous powers,
485 The rapid bird's velocity defied,
486 While round the blooming isle it rolled with circuit wide.
487 Again they spread the feast, they strike the lyre,
488 But to her frequent questions nought reply,
489 Her lips in vain her lover's name require,
490 Or wherefore thus concealed he shuns her eye.
491 But when reluctant twilight veils the sky,
492 And each pale lamp successively expires;
493 Again she trembling hears the voice of joy,
494 Her spouse a tender confidence inspires,
495 But with a fond embrace ere dawn again retires.
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496 To charm the languid hours of solitude
497 He oft invites her to the Muse's lore,
498 For none, have vainly e'er the Muse pursued,
499 And those whom she delights, regret no more
500 The social, joyous hours, while rapt they soar
501 To worlds unknown, and live in fancy's dream:
502 Oh, Muse divine! thee only I implore,
503 Shed on my soul thy sweet inspiring beams,
504 And pleasure's gayest scene insipid folly seems!
505 Silence and solitude the Muses love,
506 And whom they charm they can alone suffice;
507 Nor ever tedious hour their votaries prove:
508 This solace now the lonely Psyche tries,
509 Or, while her hand the curious needle plies,
510 She learns from lips unseen celestial strains;
511 Responsive now with their soft voice she vies,
512 Or bids her plaintive harp express the pains
513 Which absence sore inflicts where Love all potent reigns.
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514 But melancholy poisons all her joys,
515 And secret sorrows all her hopes depress,
516 Consuming languor every bliss destroys,
517 And sad she droops repining, comfortless.
518 Her tender lover well the cause can guess,
519 And sees too plain inevitable fate
520 Pursue her to the bowers of happiness.
521 "Oh, Psyche! most beloved, ere yet too late,
522 Dread the impending ills and prize thy tranquil state."
523 In vain his weeping love he thus advised;
524 She longs to meet a parent's sweet embrace,
525 Oh, were their sorrowing hearts at least apprised
526 How Psyche's wondrous lot all fears may chase;
527 For whom thy love prepared so fair a place!
528 Let but my bliss their fond complaints repress,
529 Let me but once behold a mother's face,
530 Oh, spouse adored! and in full happiness
531 This love-contented heart its solitude shall bless.
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532 Oh, by those beauties I must ne'er behold!
533 The spicy-scented ringlets of thine hair:
534 By that soft neck my loving arms enfold,
535 Crown with a kind consent thy Psyche's prayer!
536 Their dear embrace, their blessing let me share;
537 So shall I stain our couch with tears no more:
538 But, blest in thee, resign each other care,
539 Nor seek again thy secret to explore,
540 Which yet, denied thy sight, I ever must deplore. "
541 Unable to resist her fond request,
542 Reluctant Cupid thus at last complied,
543 And sighing clasped her closer to his breast.
544 "Go then, my Psyche! go, my lovely bride!
545 But let me in thy faith at least confide,
546 That by no subtle, impious arts betrayed,
547 Which, ah! too well I know will all be tried,
548 Thy simply trusting heart shall e'er be swayed
549 The secret veil to rend which fate thy screen hath made.
[Page 40]
550 For danger hovers o'er thy smiling days,
551 One only way to shield thee yet, I know;
552 Unseen, I may securely guard thy ways
553 And save thee from the threatened storm of woe;
554 But forced, if known, my Psyche to forego,
555 Thou never, never must again be mine!
556 What mutual sorrows hence must ceaseless flow!
557 Compelled thy dear embraces to resign,
558 While thou to anguish doomed for lost delights shalt pine.
559 Solace thy mind with hopes of future joy!
560 In a dear infant thou shalt see my face;
561 Blest mother soon of an immortal boy,
562 In him his father's features thou shalt trace!
563 Yet go! for thou art free, the bounds of space
564 Are none for thee: attendant Zephyrs stay,
565 Speak but thy will, and to the wished for place
566 Their lovely mistress swift they shall convey:
567 Yet hither, ah! return, ere fades the festive day. "
[Page 41]
568 "Light of my soul, far dearer than the day!"
569 (Exulting Psyche cries in grateful joy)
570 Me all the bliss of earth could ill repay
571 For thy most sweet, divine society;
572 To thee again with rapture will I fly,
573 Nor with less pleasure hail the star of eve
574 Than when in tedious solitude I sigh;
575 My vows of silent confidence believe,
576 Nor think thy Psyche's faith will e'er thy love deceive. "
577 Her suit obtained, in full contentment blest,
578 Her eyes at length in placid slumbers close.
579 Sleep, hapless fair! sleep on thy lover's breast!
580 Ah, not again to taste such pure repose!
581 Till thy sad heart by long experience knows
582 How much they err, who to their interest blind,
583 Slight the calm peace which from retirement flows;
584 And while they think their fleeting joys to bind,
585 Banish the tranquil bliss which heaven for man designed!
[Page [42]][Page [43]]

Canto II.

[Page [44]]

ARGUMENT.

Introduction Dangers of the World Psyche conveyed by Zephyrs awakes once more in the paternal mansion Envy of her Sisters They plot her ruin Inspire her with suspicion and terror Psyche's return to the Palace of Love Her disobedience Love asleep Psyche's amazement The flight of Love Sudden banishment of Psyche from the island of Pleasure Her lamentations Comforted by Love Temple of Venus Task imposed on Psyche conditional to her reconciliation with Venus Psyche soothed and attended by Innocence Psyche wandering as described in the opening of the first Canto.

[Page [45]]

CANTO II.

1 On happy you! who blest with present bliss
2 See not with fatal prescience future tears,
3 Nor the dear moment of enjoyment miss
4 Through gloomy discontent, or sullen fears
5 Foreboding many a storm for coming years;
6 Change is the lot of all. Ourselves with scorn
7 Perhaps shall view what now so fair appears;
8 And wonder whence the fancied charm was born
9 Which now with vain despair from our fond grasp is torn!
[Page 46]
10 Vain schemer, think not to prolong thy joy!
11 But cherish while it lasts the heavenly boon;
12 Expand thy sails! thy little bark shall fly
13 With the full tide of pleasure! though it soon
14 May feel the influence of the changeful moon,
15 It yet is thine! then let not doubts obscure
16 With cloudy vapours veil thy brilliant noon,
17 Nor let suspicion's tainted breath impure
18 Poison the favouring gale which speeds thy course secure!
19 Oh, Psyche, happy in thine ignorance!
20 Couldst thou but shun this heart tormenting bane;
21 Be but content, nor daringly advance
22 To meet the bitter hour of threatened pain;
23 Pure spotless dove! seek thy safe nest again;
24 Let true affection shun the public eye,
25 And quit the busy circle of the vain,
26 For there the treacherous snares concealed lie;
27 Oh timely warned escape! to safe retirement fly!
[Page 47]
28 Bright shone the morn! and now its golden ray
29 Dispelled the slumbers from her radiant eyes,
30 Yet still in dreams her fancy seems to play,
31 For lo! she sees with rapture and surprise
32 Full in her view the well-known mansion rise,
33 And each loved scene of first endearment hails;
34 The air that first received her infant sighs
35 With wondring ecstasy she now inhales,
36 While every trembling nerve soft tenderness assails.
37 See from the dear pavilion, where she lay,
38 Breathless, she flies with scarce assured feet,
39 Swift through the garden wings her eager way,
40 Her mourning parents ravished eyes to greet
41 With loveliest apparition strange and sweet:
42 Their days of anguish all o'erpaid they deem
43 By: one blest hour of ecstasy so great:
44 Yet doubtingly they gaze, and anxious seem
45 To ask their raptured souls, "Oh, is this all a dream?"
[Page 48]
46 The wondrous tale attentively they hear,
47 Repeated oft in broken words of joy,
48 She in their arms embraced, while every ear
49 Hangs on their Psyche's lips, and earnestly
50 On her is fixed each wonder speaking eye;
51 Till the sad hour arrives which bids them part,
52 And twilight darkens o'er the ruddy sky;
53 Divinely urged they let their child depart,
54 Pressed with a fond embrace to each adoring heart.
55 Trusting that wedded to a spouse divine
56 Secure is now their daughter's happiness,
57 They half contentedly their child resign,
58 Check the complaint, the rising sigh suppress,
59 And wipe the silent drops of bitterness.
60 Nor must she her departure more delay,
61 But bids them now their weeping Psyche bless;
62 Then back to the pavilion bends her way
63 Ere in the fading west quite sinks expiring day.
[Page 49]
64 But, while her parents listen with delight,
65 Her sisters hearts the Furies agitate:
66 They look with envy on a lot so bright,
67 And all the honours of her splendid fate,
68 Scorning the meanness of their humbler state;
69 And how they best her ruin may devise
70 With hidden rancour much they meditate,
71 Yet still they bear themselves in artful guise,
72 While 'mid the feigned caress, concealed the venom lies.
73 By malice urged, by ruthless envy stung,
74 With secret haste to seize their prey they flew,
75 Around her neck as in despair they clung;
76 Her soft complying nature well they knew,
77 And trusted by delaying to undo;
78 But when they found her resolute to go,
79 Their well laid stratagem they then pursue,
80 And, while they bid their treacherous sorrows flow,
81 Thus fright her simple heart with images of woe.
[Page 50]
82 "Oh, hapless Psyche! thoughtless of thy doom!
83 Yet hear thy sisters who have wept for thee,
84 Since first a victim to thy living tomb,
85 Obedient to the oracle's decree,
86 Constrained we left thee to thy destiny.
87 Since then no comfort could our woes abate;
88 While thou wert lulled in false security
89 We learned the secret horrors of thy fate,
90 And heard prophetic lips thy future ills relate.
91 Yet fearing never to behold thee more,
92 Our filial care would fain the truth conceal;
93 But from the sages cell this ring we bore,
94 With power each latent magic to reveal:
95 Some hope from hence our anxious bosoms feel
96 That we from ruin may our Psyche save,
97 Since Heaven propitious to our pious zeal,
98 Thee to our frequent prayers in pity gave,
99 That warned thou yet mayest shun thy sad untimely grave.
[Page 51]
100 Oh! how shall we declare the fatal truth?
101 How wound thy tender bosom with alarms?
102 Tell how the graces of thy blooming youth,
103 Thy more than mortal, all-adored charms
104 Have lain enamoured in a sorcerer's arms?
105 Oh, Psyche! seize on this decisive hour,
106 Escape the mischief of impending harms!
107 Return no more to that enchanted bower,
108 Fly the magician's arts, and dread his cruel power
109 If, yet reluctant to forego thy love,
110 Thy furtive joys and solitary state,
111 Our fond officious care thy doubts reprove,
112 At least let some precaution guard thy fate,
113 Nor may our warning love be prized too late;
114 This night thyself thou mayst convince thine eyes,
115 Hide but a lamp, and cautiously await
116 Till in deep slumber thy magician lies,
117 This ring shall then disclose his foul deformities.
[Page 52]
118 That monster by the oracle foretold,
119 Whose cursed spells both gods and men must fear,
120 In his own image thou shalt then behold,
121 And shuddering hate what now is prized so dear;
122 Yet fly not then, though loathsome he appear,
123 But let this dagger to his breast strike deep;
124 Thy coward terrors then thou must not hear,
125 For if with life he rouses from that sleep
126 Nought then for thee remains, and we must hopeless weep. "
127 Oh! have you seen, when in the northern sky
128 The transient flame of lambent lightning plays,
129 In quick succession lucid streamers fly,
130 Now flashing roseate, and now milky rays,
131 While struck with awe the astonished rustics gaze?
132 Thus o'er her cheek the fleeting signals move,
133 Now pale with fear, now glowing with the blaze
134 Of much indignant, still confiding love,
135 Now horror's lurid hue with shame's deep blushes strove
[Page 53]
136 On her cold, passive hand the ring they place,
137 And hide the dagger in her folding vest;
138 Pleased the effects of their dire arts to trace
139 In the mute agony that swells her breast,
140 Already in her future ruin blest:
141 Conscious that now their poor deluded prey
142 Should never taste again delight or rest,
143 But sickening in suspicion's gloom decay,
144 Or urged by terrors rash their treacherous will obey.
145 While yet irresolute with sad surprise,
146 Mid doubt and love she stands in strange suspense,
147 Lo! gliding from her sisters wondering eyes
148 Returning Zephyrs gently bear her thence;
149 Lost all her hopes, her joys, her confidence,
150 Back to the earth her mournful eyes she threw,
151 As if imploring pity and defence;
152 While bathed in tears her golden tresses flew,
153 As in the breeze dispersed they caught the precious dew.
[Page 54]
154 Illumined bright now shines the splendid dome,
155 Melodious accents her arrival hail:
156 But not the torches' blaze can chase the gloom,
157 And all the soothing powers of music fail;
158 Trembling she seeks her couch with horror pale,
159 But first a lamp conceals in secret shade,
160 While unknown terrors all her soul assail.
161 Thus half their treacherous counsel is obeyed,
162 For still her gentle soul abhors the murderous blade.
163 And now, with softest whispers of delight,
164 Love welcomes Psyche still more fondly dear;
165 Not unobserved, though hid in deepest night,
166 The silent anguish of her secret fear.
167 He thinks that tenderness excites the tear
168 By the late image of her parents' grief,
169 And half offended seeks in vain to cheer,
170 Yet, while he speaks, her sorrows feel relief,
171 Too soon more keen to sting from this suspension brief!
[Page 55]
172 Allowed to settle on celestial eyes
173 Soft Sleep exulting now exerts his sway,
174 From Psyche's anxious pillow gladly flies
175 To veil those orbs, whose pure and lambent ray
176 The powers of heaven submissively obey.
177 Trembling and breathless then she softly rose
178 And seized the lamp, where it obscurely lay,
179 With hand too rashly daring to disclose
180 The sacred veil which hung mysterious o'er her woes.
181 Twice, as with agitated step she went,
182 The lamp expiring shone with doubtful gleam,
183 As though it warned her from her rash intent:
184 And twice she paused, and on its trembling beam
185 Gazed with suspended breath, while voices seem
186 With murmuring sound along the roof to sigh;
187 As one just waking from a troublous dream,
188 With palpitating heart and straining eye,
189 Still fixed with fear remains, still thinks the danger nigh
[Page 56]
190 Oh, daring Muse! wilt thou indeed essay
191 To paint the wonders which that lamp could shew?
192 And canst thou hope in living words to say
193 The dazzling glories of that heavenly view?
194 Ah! well I ween, that if with pencil true
195 That splendid vision could be well exprest,
196 The fearful awe imprudent Psyche knew
197 Would seize with rapture every wondering breast,
198 When Love's all potent charms divinely stood confest.
199 All imperceptible to human touch,
200 His wings display celestial essence light,
201 The clear effulgence of the blaze is such,
202 The brilliant plumage shines so heavenly bright
203 That mortal eyes turn dazzled from the sight;
204 A youth he seems in manhood's freshest years;
205 Round his fair neck, as clinging with delight,
206 Each golden curl resplendently appears,
207 Or shades his darker brow, which grace majestic wears.
[Page 57]
208 Or o'er his guileless front the ringlets bright
209 Their rays of sunny lustre seem to throw,
210 That front than polished ivory more white!
211 His blooming cheeks with deeper blushes glow
212 Than roses scattered o'er a bed of snow:
213 While on his lips, distilled in balmy dews,
214 (Those lips divine that even in silence know
215 The heart to touch) persuasion to infuse
216 Still hangs a rosy charm that never vainly sues.
217 The friendly curtain of indulgent sleep
218 Disclosed not yet his eyes' resistless sway,
219 But from their silky veil there seemed to peep
220 Some brilliant glances with a softened ray,
221 Which o'er his features exquisitely play,
222 And all his polished limbs suffuse with light.
223 Thus through some narrow space the azure day
224 Sudden its cheerful rays diffusing bright,
225 Wide darts its lucid beams, to gild the brow of night.
[Page 58]
226 His fatal arrows and celestial bow
227 Beside the couch were negligently thrown,
228 Nor needs the god his dazzling arms, to show
229 His glorious birth, such beauty round him shone
230 As sure could spring from Beauty's self alone;
231 The gloom which glowed o'er all of soft desire,
232 Could well proclaim him Beauty's cherished son;
233 And Beauty's self will oft these charms admire,
234 And steal his witching smile, his glance's living fire.
235 Speechless with awe, in transport strangely lost
236 Long Psyche stood with fixed adoring eye;
237 Her limbs immoveable, her senses tost
238 Between amazement, fear, and ecstasy,
239 She hangs enamoured o'er the Deity.
240 Till from her trembling hand extinguished falls
241 The fatal lamp He starts and suddenly
242 Tremendous thunders echo through the halls,
243 While ruin's hideous crash bursts o'er the affrighted walls.
[Page 59]
244 Dread horror seizes on her sinking heart,
245 A mortal chillness shudders at her breast,
246 Her soul shrinks fainting from death's icy dart,
247 The groan scarce uttered dies but half exprest,
248 And down she sinks in deadly swoon opprest:
249 But when at length, awaking from her trance,
250 The terrors of her fate stand all confest,
251 In vain she casts around her timid glance,
252 The rudely frowning scenes her former joys enhance.
253 No traces of those joys, alas, remain!
254 A desert solitude alone appears.
255 No verdant shade relieves the sandy plain,
256 The wide spread waste no gentle fountain cheers,
257 One barren face the dreary prospect wears;
258 Nought through the vast horizon meets her eye
259 To calm the dismal tumult of her fears,
260 No trace of human habitation nigh,
261 A sandy wild beneath, above a threatening sky.
[Page 60]
262 The mists of morn yet chill the gloomy air,
263 And heavily obscure the clouded skies;
264 In the mute anguish of a fixed despair
265 Still on the ground immoveable she lies;
266 At length, with lifted hands and streaming eyes,
267 Her mournful prayers invoke offended Love,
268 Oh, let me hear thy voice once more, "she cries,
269 In death at least thy pity let me move,
270 And death, if but forgiven, a kind relief will prove.
271 For what can life to thy lost Psyche give,
272 What can it offer but a gloomy void?
273 Why thus abandoned should I wish to live?
274 To mourn the pleasure which I once enjoyed,
275 The bliss my own rash folly hath destroyed;
276 Of all my soul most prized, or held most dear,
277 Nought but the sad remembrance doth abide,
278 And late repentance of my impious fear;
279 Remorse and vain regret what living soul can bear!
[Page 61]
280 Oh, art thou then indeed for ever gone!
281 And art thou heedless of thy Psyche's woe!
282 From these fond arms for ever art thou flown,
283 And unregarded must my sorrows flow!
284 Ah! why too happy did I ever know
285 The rapturous charms thy tenderness inspires?
286 Ah! why did thy affections stoop so low?
287 Why kindle in a mortal breast such fires,
288 Or with celestial love inflame such rash desires?
289 "Abandoned thus for ever by thy love,
290 No greater punishment I now can bear,
291 From fate no farther malice can I prove;
292 Not all the horrors of this desert, drear,
293 Nor death itself can now excite a fear;
294 The peopled earth a solitude as vast
295 To this despairing heart would now appear;
296 Here then, my transient joys for ever past,
297 Let thine expiring bride thy pardon gain at last!"
[Page 62]
298 Now prostrate on the bare unfriendly ground,
299 She waits her doom in silent agony;
300 When lo! the well known soft celestial sound
301 She hears once more with breathless ecstasy,
302 Oh! yet too dearly loved! Lost Psyche! "Why
303 With cruel fate wouldst thou unite thy power,
304 And force me thus thine arms adored to fly?
305 Yet cheer thy drooping soul, some happier hour
306 Thy banished steps may lead back to thy lover's bower.
307 Though angry Venus we no more can shun,
308 Appease that anger and I yet am thine!
309 Lo! where her temple glitters to the sun;
310 With humble penitence approach her shrine,
311 Perhaps to pity she may yet incline;
312 But should her cruel wrath these hopes deceive,
313 And thou, alas! must never more be mine,
314 Yet shall thy lover ne'er his Psyche leave,
315 But, if the fates allow, unseen thy woes relieve.
[Page 63]
316 "Stronger than I, they now forbid my stay;
317 Psyche beloved, adieu!" Scarce can she hear
318 The last faint words, which gently melt away;
319 And now more faint the dying sounds appear,
320 Borne to a distance from her longing ear;
321 Yet still attentively she stands unmoved,
322 To catch those accents which her soul could cheer,
323 That soothing voice which had so sweetly proved
324 That still his tender heart offending Psyche loved!
325 And now the joyous sun had cleared the sky,
326 The mist dispelled revealed the splendid fane;
327 A palmy grove majestically high
328 Screens the fair building from the desert plain;
329 Of alabaster white and free from stain
330 Mid the tall trees the tapering columns rose;
331 Thither, with fainting steps, and weary pain,
332 Obedient to the voice at length she goes,
333 And at the threshold seeks protection and repose.
[Page 64]
334 Round the soft scene immortal roses bloom,
335 While lucid myrtles in the breezes play;
336 No savage beast did ever yet presume
337 With foot impure within the grove to stray,
338 And far from hence flies every bird of prey;
339 Thus, mid the sandy Garamantian wild,
340 When Macedonia's lord pursued his way,
341 The sacred temple of great Ammon smiled,
342 And green encircling shades the long fatigue beguiled:
343 With awe that fearfully her doom awaits
344 Still at the portal Psyche timid lies,
345 When lo! advancing from the hallowed gates
346 Trembling she views with reverential eyes
347 An aged priest. A myrtle bough supplies
348 A wand, and roses bind his snowy brows:
349 Bear hence thy feet profane (he sternly cries)
350 Thy longer stay the goddess disallows,
351 Fly, nor her fiercer wrath too daringly arouse! "
[Page 65]
352 His pure white robe imploringly she held,
353 And, bathed in tears, embraced his sacred knees;
354 Her mournful charms relenting he beheld,
355 And melting pity in his eye she sees;
356 "Hope not (he cries) the goddess to appease,
357 Retire at awful distance from her shrine,
358 But seek the refuge of those sheltering trees,
359 And now thy soul with humble awe incline
360 To hear her sacred will, and mark the words divine."
361 Presumptuous Psyche! whose aspiring soul
362 The God of Love has dared to arrogate;
363 Rival of Venus! whose supreme control
364 Is now asserted by all ruling fate,
365 No suppliant tears her vengeance shall abate
366 Till thou hast raised an altar to her power,
367 Where perfect happiness, in lonely state,
368 Has fixed her temple in secluded bower,
369 By foot impure of man untrodden to this hour!
[Page 66]
370 And on the altar must thou place an urn
371 Filled from immortal Beauty's sacred spring,
372 Which foul deformity to grace can turn,
373 And hack to fond affection's eyes can bring
374 The charms which fleeting fled on transient wing;
375 Snatched from the rugged steep where first they rise,
376 Dark rocks their crystal source o'ershadowing,
377 Let their clear water sparkle to the skies
378 Where cloudless lustre beams which happiness supplies!
379 "To Venus thus for ever reconciled,
380 (This one atonement all her wrath disarms,)
381 From thy loved Cupid then no more exiled
382 There shalt thou, free from sorrow and alarms,
383 Enjoy for ever his celestial charms.
384 But never shalt thou taste a pure repose;
385 Nor ever meet thy lover's circling arms,
386 Till, all subdued that shall thy steps oppose,
387 Thy perils there shall end, escaped from all thy foes."
[Page 67]
388 With meek submissive woe she heard her doom,
389 Nor to the holy minister replied;
390 But in the myrtle grove's mysterious gloom
391 She silently retired her grief to hide.
392 Hopeless to tread the waste without a guide,
393 All unrefreshed and faint from toil she lies:
394 When lo! her present wants are all supplied,
395 Sent by the hand of Love a turtle flies,
396 And sets delicious food before her wondering eyes.
397 Cheered by the favouring omen, softer tears
398 Relieve her bosom from its cruel weight:
399 She blames the sad despondence of her fears,
400 When still protected by a power so great,
401 His tenderness her toils will mitigate.
402 Then with renewed strength at length she goes,
403 Hoping to find some skilled in secret fate,
404 Some learned sage who haply might disclose
405 Where lay that blissful bower the end of all her woes.
[Page 68]
406 And as she went, behold, with hovering flight
407 The dove preceded still her doubtful way;
408 Its spotless plumage of the purest white,
409 Which shone resplendent in the blaze of day,
410 Could even in darkest gloom a light display;
411 Of heavenly birth, when first to mortals given
412 Named Innocence. But ah! too short its stay;
413 By ravenous birds it fearfully was driven
414 Back to reside with Love, a denizen of heaven.
415 Now through the trackless wild, o'er many a mile.
416 The messenger of Cupid led the fair,
417 And cheered with hope her solitary toil,
418 Till now a brighter face the prospects wear,
419 Past are the sandy wastes and deserts bare,
420 And many a verdant hill, and grassy dale,
421 And trace, that mortal culture might declare,
422 And many a wild wood dark, and joyous vale
423 Appeared her soul to sooth, could soothing scenes avail.
[Page 69]
424 But other fears her timid soul distress,
425 Mid strangers unprotected and alone,
426 The desert wilderness alarmed her less
427 Than cities, thus unfriended and unknown;
428 But where the path was all by moss o'ergrown,
429 There still she chose her solitary way,
430 Where'er her faithful Dove before had flown
431 Fearful of nought she might securely stray,
432 For still his care supplied the wants of every day.
433 And still she entered every sacred grove
434 And homage paid to each divinity,
435 But chief the altar of almighty Love
436 Weeping embraced with fond imploring eye;
437 To every oracle her hopes apply,
438 Instructions for her dangerous path to gain:
439 Exclaiming oft, with a desponding sigh,
440 "Ah! how through all such dangers, toil and pain,
441 Shall Psyche's helpless steps their object e'er attain!"
[Page 70]
442 And now remote from every peopled town
443 One sultry day a cooling bower she found:
444 There, as I whilom sung, she laid her down,
445 Where rich profusion of gay flowers around
446 Had decked with artless shew the sloping ground;
447 There the wild rose and modest violet grow,
448 There all thy charms, Narcissus! still abound:
449 There wrapt in verdure fragrant lilies blow,
450 Lilies that love the vale, and hide their bells of snow.
451 Thy flowers, Adonis! bright vermilion shew;
452 Still for his love the yellow Crocus pines;
453 There, while indignant blushes seem to glow,
454 Beloved by Phoebus his Acanthus shines;
455 Reseda still her drooping head reclines
456 With faithful homage to his golden rays,
457 And, though mid clouds their lustre he resigns,
458 An image of the constant heart displays,
459 While silent still she turns her fond pursuing gaze.
[Page 71]
460 And every sweet that Spring with fairy hands
461 Scatters in thy green path, enchanting May!
462 And every flowering shrub there clustering stands
463 As though they wooed her to a short delay,
464 Yielding a charm to sooth her weary way;
465 Soft was the tufted moss, and sweet the breeze,
466 With lulling sound the murmuring waters play,
467 With lulling sound from all the rustling trees
468 The fragrant gale invites to cool refreshing ease.
469 There as she sought repose, her sorrowing heart
470 Recalled her absent love with bitter sighs;
471 Regret had deeply fixed the poisoned dart,
472 Which ever rankling in her bosom lies;
473 In vain she seeks to close her weary eyes,
474 Those eyes still swim incessantly in tears,
475 Hope in her cheerless bosom fading dies,
476 Distracted by a thousand cruel fears,
477 While banished from his love for ever she appears.
[Page 72]
478 Oh! thou best comforter of that sad heart
479 Whom fortune's spite assails; come, gentle Sleep,
480 The weary mourner sooth! for well the art
481 Thou knowest in soft forgetfulness to steep
482 The eyes which sorrow taught to watch and weep;
483 Let blissful visions now her spirits cheer,
484 Or lull her cares to peace in slumbers deep,
485 Till from fatigue refreshed and anxious fear
486 Hope like the morning star once more shall re-appear.
[Page [73]]

Canto III.

[Page [74]]

ARGUMENT.

Praise of Love Psyche's Champion, with his attendant Constance, described The Knight assumes the command of Passion, who appears as a Lion Psyche proceeds under the protection of the Knight Persuaded to repose in the Bower of loose Delight Her escape from thence Led by Innocence to Retirement Psyche meets Vanity and Flattery Betrayed by them into the power of Ambition Rescued by her Knight.

[Page [75]]

CANTO III.

1 On, who art thou who darest of Love complain?
2 He is a gentle spirit and injures none!
3 His foes are ours; from them the bitter pain,
4 The keen, deep anguish, the heart-rending groan,
5 Which in his milder reign are never known.
6 His tears are softer than the April showers,
7 White-handed Innocence supports his throne,
8 His sighs are sweet as breath of earliest flowers,
9 Affection guides his steps, and peace protects his bowers.
[Page 76]
10 But scarce admittance he on earth can find,
11 Opposed by vanity, by fraud ensnared,
12 Suspicion frights him from the gloomy mind,
13 And jealousy in vain his smiles has shared,
14 Whose sullen frown the gentle godhead scared;
15 From passion's rapid blaze in haste he flies,
16 His wings alone the fiercer flame has spared;
17 From him ambition turns his scornful eyes,
18 And avarice, slave to gold, a generous lord denies.
19 But chief Inconstancy his power destroys;
20 To mock his lovely form, an idle train
21 With magic skill she dressed in transient toys,
22 By these the selfish votaries she can gain
23 Whom Love's more simple bands could ne'er detain.
24 Ah! how shall Psyche through such mortal foes
25 The fated end of all her toils attain?
26 Sadly she ponders o'er her hopeless woes,
27 Till on the pillowy turf she sinks to short repose.
[Page 77]
28 But, as the careless lamb whom playful chance
29 Thoughtless of danger has enticed to rove,
30 Amidst her gambols casts a sudden glance
31 Where lurks her wily foe within the grove,
32 Anxious to fly, but still afraid to move,
33 All hopeless of escape so looks the maid,
34 Such dread her half-awakened senses prove,
35 When roused from sleep before her eyes dismayed
36 A knight all armed appears close mid the embowering shade.
37 Trembling she gazed, until the stranger knight
38 Tempering with mildest courtesy, the awe
39 Which majesty inspired, low in her sight
40 Obeisance made; nor would he nearer draw,
41 Till, half subdued surprise and fear, he saw
42 Pale terror yielding to the rosy grace,
43 The pure congealed blood begin to thaw,
44 And flowing through her crystal veins apace
45 Suffuse with mantling blush her mild celestial face.
[Page 78]
46 Gently approaching then with fairest speech
47 He proffered service to the lonely dame,
48 And prayed her that she might not so impeach
49 The honour of his youth's yet spotless fame,
50 As aught to fear which might his knighthood shame;
51 But if her unprotected steps to guard,
52 The glory of her champion he might claim,
53 He asked no other guerdon or reward,
54 Than what bright honour's self might to his deeds awards.
55 Doubting, and musing much within her mind,
56 With half suspicious, half confiding eye,
57 Awhile she stood; her thoughts bewildered find
58 No utterance, unwilling to deny
59 Such proffered aid, yet bashful to reply
60 With quick assent, since though concealed his face
61 Beneath his helm, yet might she well espy
62 And in each fair proportion plainly trace
63 The symmetry of form, and perfect youthful grace.
[Page 79]
64 Hard were it to describe the nameless charm
65 That o'er each limb, in every action played,
66 The softness of that voice, which could disarm
67 The hand of fury of its deadly blade:
68 In shining armour was the youth arrayed,
69 And on his shield a bleeding heart he bore,
70 His lofty crest light plumes of azure shade,
71 There shone a wounded dragon bathed in gore,
72 And bright with silver beamed the silken scarf he wore.
73 His milk-white steed with glittering trappings blazed,
74 Whose reins a beauteous boy attendant held,
75 On the fair squire with wonder Psyche gazed,
76 For scarce he seemed of age to bear the shield,
77 Far less a ponderous lance, or sword to wield;
78 Yet well this little page his lord had served,
79 His youthful arm had many a foe repelled,
80 His watchful eye from many a snare preserved,
81 Nor ever from his steps in any danger swerved.
[Page 80]
82 Graced with the gift of a perpetual youth,
83 No lapse of years had power his form to change;
84 Constance was named the boy, whose matchless truth
85 Though oft inticed with other lords to range
86 Nor fraud, nor force could from that knight estrange;
87 His mantle of celestial blue was made,
88 And its bright texture wrought with art so strange
89 That the fresh brilliant gloss could never fade,
90 And lustre yet unknown to Psyche's eyes displayed.
91 Thus while she gazed, behold with horrid roar
92 A lion from the neighbouring forest rushed,
93 A golden chain around his neck he bore,
94 Which richly glowing with carbuncles blushed,
95 While his fierce eye-balls fiery rage had flushed:
96 Forth steps the youth before the affrighted fair,
97 Who in his mighty paw already crushed
98 Seems in the terrors of her wild despair,
99 And her mute quivering lips a death-like paleness wear.
[Page 81]
100 But scarce the kingly beast the knight beheld,
101 When crouching low, submissive at his feet,
102 His wrath extinguished, and his valour quelled,
103 He seemed with reverence and obeisance sweet
104 Him as his long acknowledged lord to greet.
105 While, in acceptance of the new command,
106 Well pleased the youth received the homage meet,
107 Then seized the splendid chain with steady hand
108 Full confident to rule, and every foe withstand.
109 And, when at length recovered from her fear
110 The timid Psyche mounts his docile steed,
111 Much prayed, she tells to his attentive ear
112 (As on her purposed journey they proceed)
113 The doubtful course the oracle decreed:
114 And how observant of her friendly guide,
115 She still pursued its flight, with all the speed
116 Her fainting strength had hitherto supplied:
117 What pathless wilds she crossed! What forests darkling wide!
[Page 82]
118 Which having heard, the courteous knight began
119 With counsel sweet to sooth her wounded heart;
120 Divinely eloquent, persuasion ran
121 The herald of his words ere they depart
122 His lips, which well might confidence impart,
123 As he revealed how he himself was bound
124 By solemn vow, that neither force nor art
125 His helmet should unloose, till he had found
126 The bower of happiness, that long sought fairy ground.
127 I too (he said) divided from my love,
128 The offended power of Venus deprecate,
129 Like thee, through paths untrodden, sadly rove
130 In search of that fair spot prescribed by fate,
131 The blessed term of my afflicted state,
132 Where I the mistress of my soul shall find,
133 For whose dear sake no toil to me seems great,
134 Nor any dangers to my search assigned
135 Can from its purpose fright my ardent longing mind.
[Page 83]
136 "Psyche! thy soft and sympathising heart
137 Shall share the rapture of thy loyal knight;
138 He too, in thy content shall bear a part,
139 Blest witness of thy new restored delight;
140 My vows of true allegiance here I plight,
141 Ne'er to forsake thee till thy perils end,
142 Thy steps to guard, in thy protection fight,
143 By counsel aid, and by my arm defend,
144 And prove myself in all, thy champion and thy friend."
145 So on they went, her cheerless heart revived
146 By promised succour in her doubtful way;
147 And much of hope she to herself derived,
148 From the warm eagerness his lips display
149 In their pursuit to suffer no delay:
150 "And sure, (she softly sighed) my dearest Lord,
151 Thy watchful love still guides me as I stray,
152 Not chance alone could such an aid afford,
153 Lo! beasts of prey confess the heaven-assisted sword."
[Page 84]
154 Now from his crystal urn, with chilling hand,
155 Vesper had sprinkled all the earth with dew,
156 A misty veil obscured the neighbouring land,
157 And shut the fading landscape from their view;
158 A beaten path they eagerly pursue,
159 (For now refreshment and repose they need
160 As Psyche weary of long travel grew)
161 Where by a river's bank it seemed to lead,
162 Along its sinuous course they heedlessly proceed.
163 At length the lordly beast that bore the knight
164 Explored the river's depth, with sudden bound:
165 Psyche, who heard the plunge with strange affright,
166 Her champion re-assured with welcome sound,
167 That he the other bank had safely found;
168 And, while he spoke, emerging from the shade,
169 A joyous goodly train appear around,
170 Of many a gallant youth and white robed maid,
171 Who grateful, welcome gave, and courteous greeting paid.
[Page 85]
172 Quick through the trees a thousand torches blazed
173 The gloom to banish, and the scene disclose
174 To Psyche all irresolute, amazed:
175 A bridge with stately arch at distance rose,
176 Thither at once the gay assembly goes,
177 Not unattended by the charmed knight,
178 Inviting Psyche to partake repose,
179 Pointing where shone their bower illumined bright,
180 Their bower so passing fair, the bower of loose Delight.
181 At length with timid foot the bridge she past,
182 And to her guardian knight clung fearfully,
183 While many a doubting glance around she cast,
184 If still her watchful dove she might espy;
185 Feebly it seemed on labouring wing to fly,
186 Till, dazzled by the sudden glare around,
187 In painful trance it closed its dizzy eye,
188 And had it not fair Psyche's bosom found,
189 Its drooping pinion soon had touched the unhallowed ground.
[Page 86]
190 Hence there arose within her heart sore dread
191 Which no alluring pleasure could dispel;
192 The splendid hall with luscious banquet spread,
193 The soft-breathed flutes which in sweet concert swell,
194 With melody of song unspeakable;
195 Nor the light dancing troop in roses drest,
196 Could chase the terrors which she dared not tell,
197 While fondly cherished in her anxious breast
198 She strove in vain to sooth the fluttering bird to rest.
199 On a soft downy couch the guests are placed,
200 And close behind them stands their watchful page,
201 But much his strict attendance there disgraced,
202 And much was scorned his green and tender age,
203 His calm fixed eye, and steady aspect sage:
204 But him nor rude disdain, nor mockery,
205 Nor soothing blandishments could e'er engage
206 The wanton mazes of their sports to try,
207 Or from his lord to turn his firm adhering eye.
[Page 87]
208 White bosomed nymphs around with loosened zones
209 All on the guests obsequiously tend,
210 Some sing of love with soft expiring tones,
211 While Psyche's melting eyes the strain commend;
212 Some o'er their heads the canopy suspend,
213 Some hold the sparkling bowl, while some with skill
214 Ambrosial showers and balmy juices blend,
215 Or the gay lamps with liquid odours fill
216 Whose many coloured fires divinest sweets distil.
217 And now a softer light they seemed to shed,
218 And sweetest music ushered in their queen:
219 Her languid steps by winged boys are led,
220 Who in their semblance might have Cupids been;
221 Close wrapt in veils her following train was seen;
222 Herself looked lovely in her loose attire,
223 Her smiling eyes gave lustre to the scene,
224 And still, where'er they turned their wanton fire,
225 Each thrilling nerve confessed the rapture they inspire.
[Page 88]
226 The stranger guests she viewed with welcome glad,
227 And crowned the banquet with reception sweet,
228 To fill the glowing bowl her nymphs she bad,
229 And graceful rising from her splendid seat
230 She would herself present the sparkling treat;
231 When lo! the dove alarmed with sudden start,
232 Spurned the bright cup and dashed it at her feet,
233 For well he knew 'twas mixed with treacherous art
234 To sting his Psyche's breast with agonizing smart.
235 Regardless of her supplicating tears
236 Each eye with vengeful rage the insult sees,
237 Her knight's protection now in vain appears;
238 The offended sovereign anxious to appease,
239 A thousand hands prepare the dove to seize:
240 Nor was this all, for as the tumult rose,
241 Sudden more thick than swarm of summer bees,
242 The secret dens their venomed hoards disclose,
243 And horror at the sight her vital spirits froze.
[Page 89]
244 Hissing aloud with undulations dire,
245 Their forked tongues unnumbered serpents show,
246 Their tainted breath emitting poisonous fire,
247 All turn on Psyche as their mortal foe;
248 But he, whose arm was never weak or slow,
249 Now rushed before her with resistless spring,
250 On either side the oft-repeated blow
251 Repulsed the malice of their deadly sting,
252 While sparks of wrathful fire from their fierce jaws they fling.
253 "Fly, Psyche! these are slander's hellish brood!
254 Contest I know is vain," her champion cried.
255 Her passage now the opposing train withstood;
256 Struck with disgust their hideous forms she spied,
257 For lo! each silken veil is thrown aside,
258 And foul deformity, and filth obscene,
259 With monstrous shapes appear on every side;
260 But vanished is their fair and treacherous queen,
261 And with her every charm that decked the enchanted scene.
[Page 90]
262 Meanwhile the dove had soared above their reach,
263 But hovered still in anxious Psyche's sight,
264 Precursor of escape, it seemed to teach
265 Whither she safest might direct her flight,
266 And find a passport in her foes' despite;
267 One rugged path there lay with briars o'ergrown,
268 Then dark and dismal with the shades of night,
269 Thither the dove on rapid wing had flown,
270 Conspicuous mid the gloom its silver plumage shone.
271 Yet she delayed, o'ercome by terror's power,
272 And scarce her fainting form the knight could shield,
273 When lo! still active in the trying hour,
274 Constance rushed fearless through the dreadful field,
275 With breast-plate firm invulnerably steeled,
276 He heeded not the storms which round him press,
277 To any perils he disdained to yield,
278 Endued with prudence as with hardiness,
279 And ever skilled to bring due succour in distress.
[Page 91]
280 Lo! swift returning on his master's steed,
281 In his right hand he held the lion's chain,
282 The mighty beast his gentleness could lead,
283 Though little used to bear the curb or rein,
284 And mid those groves accustomed to remain,
285 Yet now prepared, with sweet submissive grace,
286 He ready stands the knight to bear again,
287 While trembling Psyche on the steed they place,
288 Which swift as lightning flies far from the dreadful chase.
289 Rough was the rude wild way, and many a thorn
290 Tore her loose garments in their rapid flight,
291 O'er many a league the panting fair is borne,
292 Till now, emerging from the shades of night,
293 The grey-eyed morn stole forth her pallid light.
294 Then first she paused, unable to proceed,
295 Exhausted with fatigue, and pain, and fright.
296 "Turn, Psyche," cried the youth, "relax thy speed,
297 And see thyself at length from thy pursuers freed."
[Page 92]
298 Mid the thick forest was a lonely dell,
299 Where foot of man was seldom known to tread,
300 The sloping hills all round in graceful swell
301 The little green with woods environed;
302 Hither the dove their passive course had led:
303 Here the thin smoke blue rising mid the trees,
304 Where broad and brown the deepest umbrage spread,
305 Spoke the abode of safe retired ease,
306 And Psyche gladly there her dove descending sees.
307 In lowly cottage, walled with mossy sod,
308 Close by a little spring's perpetual rill,
309 A hermit dwelt, who many a year had trod
310 With sacred solitude that pine-clad hill,
311 And loved with holy images to fill
312 His soul enrapt; yet courteous then besought
313 A while secluded here to rest; and still
314 Replete with kind and hospitable thought,
315 To a sequestered bower the wearied [Psyche] brought.
[Page 93]
316 Skilled in the virtue of each healing flower,
317 And the wild fruit's restoring juice to blend,
318 He spreads the frugal fare of wholesome power,
319 And heedfully his cares their wants attend;
320 A docile ear to his advice they lend,
321 And sage instruction from his precepts take,
322 Which much their future journey may befriend;
323 Wisdom with soothing eloquence he spake,
324 Pleased to resolve their doubts, and all their cares partake.
325 In those sweet placid scenes awhile they rest,
326 Till Psyche finds her fainting strength revive;
327 And here her dove, as in a quiet nest,
328 Delighted seems to sportive joy alive;
329 And hence they surest confidence derive.
330 He plumes his wings, and through his swelling throat
331 (No more a ruffled, fearful fugitive)
332 In gentle murmurs pours his dulcet note,
333 While Psyche listening sits in some still vale remote.
[Page 94]
334 Oh! have you never known the silent charm
335 That undisturbed retirement yields the soul,
336 Where no intruder might your peace alarm,
337 And tenderness hath wept without control,
338 While melting fondness o'er the bosom stole?
339 Did fancy never, in some lonely grove,
340 Abridge the hours which must in absence roll?
341 Those pensive pleasures did you never prove,
342 Oh, you have never loved! you know not what is love!
343 They do not love who can to these prefer
344 The tumult of the gay, or folly's roar;
345 The Muse they know not; nor delight in her
346 Who can the troubled soul to rest restore,
347 Calm contemplation: Yes, I must deplore
348 Their joyless state, even more than his who mourns
349 His love for ever lost; delight no more
350 Unto his widowed heart indeed returns,
351 Yet, while he weeps, his soul their cold indifference spurns.
[Page 95]
352 But if soft hope illumines fancy's dream,
353 Assuring him of love and constancy,
354 How exquisite do then the moments seem,
355 When he may hide himself from every eye,
356 And cherish the dear thought in secrecy!
357 While sweet remembrance sooths his thrilling heart,
358 And brings once more past hours of kindness nigh,
359 Recals the look of love when forced to part,
360 And turns to drops of joy the tears that sadly start.
361 Forgetful of the dangers of her way,
362 Imagination oft would Psyche bear
363 To her long travel's end, and that blest day
364 When Love unveiled should to her eyes appear;
365 When she might view his charms exempt from fear,
366 Taste his pure kisses, feel his balmy sighs,
367 Rest in the fond embrace of arms so dear,
368 Gaze with soft rapture on his melting eyes,
369 And hear his voice divine, the music of the skies!
[Page 96]
370 Their destined course impatient to achieve,
371 The knight is urgent onward to proceed:
372 Cheered with recruited strength they take their leave
373 Of their kind host, and pay their grateful meed
374 Of warmest thanks sincere; onward they speed
375 Their sunless journey long through forests green,
376 And tangled thickets rank with many a weed;
377 And When at closing day a hut is seen,
378 They seek the humble roof, nor scorn its welcome mean.
379 It happened once that early roused from sleep,
380 (Ere her damp veil the virgin morn had cast
381 From her pale face, not yet with blushes deep
382 Lovely suffused, as when approaching fast
383 His herald star proclaims her spouse at last)
384 Psyche forsaking soon her homely bed,
385 Alone had fearless the low threshold past,
386 And, to beguile the hours which lingering fled,
387 Light o'er the dewy plain walked forth with nimble tread.
[Page 97]
388 Yet though the knight close wrapt in slumber lay,
389 Her steps, at distance, still the page pursued,
390 Fearful that danger might befal her way,
391 Or lest, entangled in the mazy wood,
392 Returning she should miss the pathway rude.
393 The lark now hails the sun with rapturous song,
394 The cheerful earth resounds with gratitude,
395 O'er the guy scene, as Psyche tript along,
396 She felt her spirits rise, her lightened heart grow strong.
397 And hark, soft music steals upon the ear!
398 'Tis woman's voice most exquisitely sweet!
399 Behold two female forms approaching near
400 Arrest with wonder Psyche's timid feet;
401 On a gay car, by speckled panthers fleet
402 Is drawn in gallant state a seeming queen,
403 And at her foot on low but graceful seat
404 A gentle nymph of lovely form is seen,
405 In robe of fairest white, with scarf of pleasant green.
[Page 98]
406 In strains of most bewitching harmony,
407 And still adapted to her sovereign's praise,
408 She filled the groves with such sweet melody,
409 That, quite o'ercome with rapture and amaze,
410 Psyche stood listening to the warbled lays;
411 Yet with a sullen, scarce approving ear
412 Her mistress sits, but with attentive gaze,
413 Her eyes she fixes on a mirror clear
414 Where still by fancy's spell unrivalled charms appear.
415 And, as she looked with aspect ever new,
416 She seemed on change and novel grace intent,
417 Her robe was formed of ever varying hue,
418 And whimsically placed each ornament;
419 On her attire, with rich luxuriance spent,
420 The treasures of the earth, the sea, the air,
421 Are vainly heaped her wishes to content;
422 Yet were her arms and snowy bosom bare,
423 And both in painted pride shone exquisitely fair.
[Page 99]
424 Her braided tresses in profusion drest,
425 Circled with diadem, and nodding plumes,
426 Sported their artful ringlets o'er her breast,
427 And to the breezes gave their rich perfumes;
428 Her cheek with tint of borrowed roses blooms:
429 Used to receive from all rich offerings,
430 She quaffs with conscious right the fragrant fumes
431 Which her attendant from a censer flings,
432 Who graceful feeds the flame with incense while she sings.
433 Soon as her glance fair Psyche's form had caught,
434 Her soft attendant smiling she addressed:
435 "Behold, Lusinga! couldst thou e'er have thought
436 That these wild woods were so in beauty blest?
437 Let but that nymph in my attire be drest
438 And scarce her loveliness will yield to mine!
439 At least invite her in our bower to rest,
440 Before her eyes let all my splendor shine,
441 Perhaps to dwell with us her heart we may incline."
[Page 100]
442 With softest smile applauding all she heard,
443 Lusinga bowing left her golden seat,
444 And Psyche, who at first in doubt had feared
445 While listening to the lay so silver sweet,
446 Now passive followed with unconscious feet;
447 Till Constance, all alarmed, impatient flew,
448 And soft his whispers of the maid entreat
449 To fly the Syren's song, for well he knew
450 What lurking dangers hence would to his Lord ensue.
451 "Oh, do not trust her treacherous lips," he cried,
452 "She is the subtle slave of Vanity,
453 Her queen, the child of folly, and of pride,
454 To lure thee to her power each art will try,
455 Nor ever will release thee peaceably."
456 He spoke, but spoke in vain, for lo! from far,
457 Of giant port they fast approaching spy
458 A knight, high mounted on a glittering car,
459 From whose conspicuous crest flames wide a dazzling star.
[Page 101]
460 "Psyche, escape! Ambition is at hand!"
461 The page exclaims: while swift as thought he flies;
462 She would have followed, but with parley bland
463 Lusinga soon her terrors pacifies.
464 "Fair nymph, ascend my car," the sovereign cries,
465 I will convey thee where thy wishes lead,
466 Haply the safest course I may advise
467 How thou thy journey mayst perform with speed;
468 For ne'er in woods to dwell such beauty was decreed. "
469 So gently urgent her consent they wooed
470 With much persuasion of the stranger knight,
471 That yielding Psyche now no more withstood,
472 But pointing out to her observant sight
473 The humble cot where she had passed the night,
474 She prayed her kind conductress there to turn,
475 And promised to herself what vast delight
476 Her wondering knight would feel at her return,
477 And with what blushing shame the timid page would burn.
[Page 102]
478 But scarcely had she climbed the fatal car
479 When swifter than the wind the panthers flew,
480 The traversed plains and woods, receding far,
481 Soon shut from trembling Psyche's anxious view
482 The spot where she had left her guardian true;
483 With desperate efforts, all in vain she tries
484 To escape the ills which how too sure she knew
485 Must from her ill-placed confidence arise:
486 Betrayed Ah! self-betrayed, a wretched sacrifice.
487 She strove to quit the car with sudden bound,
488 Ah, vain attempt! she now perceived too late
489 A thousand silken trammels, subtly wound
490 O'er her fair form, detained her as she sate:
491 Lost in despair she yields to her sad fate,
492 And silent, hears but with augmented fright
493 The queen describe her brother's splendid state,
494 Who now outstripped them by his rapid flight,
495 And prest his foaming steeds to gain the arduous
[Page 103]
496 High o'er the spacious plain a mountain rose,
497 A stately castle on its summit stood:
498 Huge craggy cliffs behind their strength oppose
499 To the rough surges of the dashing flood;
500 The rocky shores a boldly rising wood
501 On either side conceals; bright shine the towers
502 And seem to smile upon the billows rude.
503 In front the eye, with comprehensive powers,
504 Sees wide extended plains enriched with splendid bowers.
505 Hither they bore the sad reluctant fair,
506 Who mounts with dizzy eye the awful steep;
507 The blazing structure seems high poised in air,
508 And its light pillars tremble o'er the deep:
509 As yet the heavens are calm, the tempests sleep,
510 She knows not half the horrors of her fate:
511 Nor feels the approaching ruin's whirlwind sweep:
512 Yet with ill-boding fears she past the gate,
513 And turned with sickening dread from scenes of gorgeous state.
[Page 104]
514 In vain the haughty master of the hall
515 Invites her to partake his regal throne,
516 With cold indifference she looks on all
517 The gilded trophies, and the well-wrought stone
518 Which in triumphal arches proudly shone:
519 And as she casts around her timid eye,
520 Back to her knight her trembling heart is flown,
521 And many an anxious wish, and many a sigh
522 Invokes his gallant arm protection to supply.
523 Sudden the lurid heavens obscurely frown,
524 And sweeping gusts the coming storm proclaim;
525 Flattery's soft voice the howling tempests drown,
526 While the roofs catch the greedy lightning's flame.
527 Loud in their fears, the attendant train exclaim
528 The light built fabric ne'er can stand the blast,
529 And all its insecure foundations blame:
530 Tumultuously they rush: the chief aghast
531 Beholds his throne o'erturned, his train dispersing fast.
[Page 105]
532 Psyche dismayed, yet thoughtful of escape,
533 In anxious silence to the portal prest;
534 And freedom would have hailed in any shape
535 Though seen in death's tremendous colours drest:
536 But ah! she feels the knight's strong grasp arrest
537 Her trembling steps. "Think not," he cries, "to fly
538 With yon false crowd who by my favours blest,
539 Can now desert me when with changeful eye
540 Inclement fortune frowns from yon dark angry sky."
541 While yet he spoke loud bursts the groaning hall,
542 With frightful peal the thundering domes resound,
543 Disjointed columns in wild ruin fall,
544 While the huge arches tremble to the ground.
545 Yet unappalled amid the crush is found
546 The daring chief: his hold he firm maintains
547 Though hideous devastation roars around;
548 Plunged headlong down his prey he still sustains,
549 Who in his powerful grasp in death-like swoon remains.
[Page 106]
550 Down sinks the palace with its mighty lord,
551 Hurled from the awful steep with vehemence
552 Even to the floods below, which angry roared
553 And gaping wide received the weight immense:
554 Indignant still, with fearless confidence
555 He rose, high mounting o'er the heaving waves;
556 Against their rage one arm is his defence,
557 The other still his lovely burden saves,
558 Though strong the billows beat, and fierce the tempest raves.
559 The blazing star yet shone upon his brow,
560 And flamed triumphant o'er the dashing main;
561 He rides secure the watery waste, and now
562 The sheltering shore he might in safety gain;
563 The sheltering shore he shuns with proud disdain,
564 And breasts the adverse tide. Ah, rash resource!
565 Yon vessel, Prince, thou never shalt attain!
566 For plunging 'mid the deep, with generous force,
567 See where the lion's lord pursues thy hardy course!
[Page 107]
568 Psyche a well known voice to life restores,
569 Once more her eyes unclosing view the light,
570 But not the waters, nor receding shores,
571 One only object can arrest her sight,
572 High o'er the flood she sees her valiant knight,
573 And sudden joy, and hopes scarce trusted cheer
574 Even in that awful moment's dread affright;
575 Her feeble cry indeed he cannot hear,
576 But sees her out-stretched arms, and seems already near.
577 In vain the giant knight exerts his strength;
578 Urged by the impetuous youth the lion prest,
579 And gaining fast upon his flight, at length
580 Prepared his daring progress to arrest,
581 And seized with furious jaw his struggling breast;
582 Gasping he loosed his hold and Psyche lost
583 The o'erwhelming wave with ruin had opprest,
584 But Constance, ever near when needed most,
585 The sinking beauty caught and bore her to the coast.
[Page 108]
586 Stung with the shame of the relinquished prey,
587 Mad with revenge, and hate, and conscious pride,
588 The knight, recovered from his short dismay,
589 Dashes resistless through the foaming tide;
590 The billows yielding to his arm divide,
591 As rushing on the youth he seeks the shore;
592 But now a combat strange on either side
593 Amid the waves begins; each hopes no more
594 The engulphing deep his foe shall e'er to light restore.
595 Beside the cold inhospitable lands
596 Where suns long absent dawn with lustre pale,
597 Thus on his bark the bold Biscayen stands,
[*]

The whale fishery, on the coast of Greenland, was first carried on by the sailors of the Bay of Biscay. See Goldsmith's Animated Nature, vol. vi.

598 And bids his javelin rouse the parent whale:
599 Fear, pain, and rage at once her breast assail,
600 The agitated ocean foams around
601 Lashed by the sounding fury of her tail,
602 Or as she mounts the surge with frightful bound,
603 Wide echoing to her cries the bellowing shores resound
[Page 109]
604 Fierce was the contest, but at length subdued,
605 The youth exulting sees his giant foe.
606 With wonder still the enormous limbs he viewed
607 Which lifeless now the waves supporting show;
608 His starred helm, that now was first laid low,
609 He seized as trophy of the wonderous fight,
610 And bade the sparkling gem on Constance glow,
611 While Psyche's eyes, soft beaming with delight,
612 Through tears of grateful praise applaud her gallant knight.
[Page [110]][Page [111]]

Canto IV.

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ARGUMENT.

Introduction Sympathy Suspicion Psyche benighted Credulity represented, according to a Picture by Apelles, as an old Woman the devoted prey of Slander, or the Blatant Beast Contest between the Knight and Slander The Knight wounded Slander flies Credulity leads Psyche to the Castle of Suspicion Psyche deluded, laments the desertion of her Knight to the train of Inconstancy Psyche betrayed by Suspicion into the power of Jealousy Persuaded by him that her Knight, by whom she was then abandoned, was indeed Love Psyche delivered by her Knight Reconciliation.

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CANTO IV.

1 FULL gladsome was my heart ere while to tell
2 How proud Ambition owned superior Love;
3 For ah! too oft his sterner power could quell
4 The mild affections which more gently move,
5 And rather silent fled than with him strove:
6 For Love content and tranquil saw with dread
7 The busy scenes Ambition's schemes approve,
8 And, by the hand of Peace obscurely led,
9 From pride of public life disgusted ever fled.
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10 There are who know not the delicious charm
11 Of sympathising hearts; let such employ
12 Their active minds; the trumpet's loud alarm
13 Shall yield them hope of honourable joy,
14 And courts may lure them with each splendid toy:
15 But ne'er may vanity or thirst of fame
16 The dearer bliss of loving life destroy!
17 Oh! blind to man's chief good who Love disclaim,
18 And barter pure delight for glory's empty name!
19 Blest Psyche! thou hast 'scaped the tyrants power!
20 Thy gentle heart shall never know the pain
21 Which tortures pride in his most prosperous hour:
22 Yet dangers still unsung for thee remain;
23 Nor must thou unmolested hope to gain
24 Immortal beauty's never failing spring;
25 Oh! no nor yet tranquillity attain:
26 But though thy heart the pangs of doubt may sting,
27 Thy faithful knight shall yet thy steps in safety bring.
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28 Warned by late peril now she scarcely dares
29 Quit for one moment his protecting eye:
30 Sure in his sight, her soul of nought despairs,
31 And nought looks dreadful when that arm is nigh
32 On which her hopes with confidence rely;
33 By his advice their constant course they bend,
34 He points where hidden danger they should fly,
35 On him securely, as her heaven-sent friend,
36 She bids her grateful heart contentedly depend.
37 Oh! who the exquisite delight can tell,
38 The joy which mutual confidence imparts!
39 Or who can paint the charm unspeakable
40 Which links in tender bands two faithful hearts?
41 In vain assailed by fortune's envious darts,
42 Their mitigated woes are sweetly shared,
43 And doubled joy reluctantly departs:
44 Let but the sympathising heart be spared,
45 What sorrow seems not light, what peril is not dared?
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46 Oh! never may suspicion's gloomy sky
47 Chill the sweet glow of fondly trusting love!
48 Nor ever may he feel the scowling eye
49 Of dark distrust his confidence reprove!
50 In pleasing error may I rather rove,
51 With blind reliance on the hand so dear,
52 Than let cold prudence from my eyes remove
53 Those sweet delusions, where nor doubt nor fear
54 Nor foul disloyalty nor cruel change appear.
55 The noble mind is ever prone to trust;
56 Yet love with fond anxiety is joined;
57 And timid tenderness is oft unjust;
58 The coldness which it dreads too prompt to find,
59 And torture the too susceptible mind.
60 Hence rose the gloom which oft o'er Psyche stole
61 Lest he she loved, unmindful or unkind,
62 Should careless slight affection's soft control,
63 Or she long absent lose her influence o'er his soul.
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64 'Twas evening, and the shades which sudden fell
65 Seemed to forebode a dark unlovely night;
66 The sighing wood-nymphs from their caves foretel
67 The storm which soon their quiet shall affright:
68 Nor cheering star nor moon appears in sight,
69 Nor taper twinkles through the rustling leaves
70 And sheds afar its hospitable light:
71 But hark! a dismal sound the ear receives,
72 And through the obscuring gloom the eye strange forms perceives.
73 It was a helpless female who exclaimed,
74 Whose blind and aged form an ass sustained:
75 Misshaped and timorous, of light ashamed,
76 In darksome woods her hard-earned food she gained,
77 And her voracious appetite maintained,
78 Though all devouring, yet unsatisfied;
79 Nor aught of hard digestion she disdained,
80 Whate'er was offered greedily she tried,
81 And meanly served, as slave, whoever food supplied.
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82 A cruel monster now her steps pursued,
83 Well known of yore and named the Blatant Beast;
84 And soon he'seized his prey with grasp so rude,
85 So fiercely on her feeble body prest,
86 That had the courteous knight not soon released
87 Her unresisting limbs from violence,
88 She must have sunk by his rough jaws opprest:
89 The spiteful beast, enraged at the defence,
90 Now turned upon the knight with foaming vehemence.
91 But, when his fury felt the couched spear,
92 On Psyche's unarmed form he bellowing flew;
93 'Twas there alone the knight his rage could fear;
94 Swifter than thought his flaming sword he drew,
95 And from his hand the doubtful javelin threw
96 Lest erring it might wound the trembling fair:
97 Eager the cruel monster to subdue
98 He scorned to use his shield's protecting care,
99 And rashly left his side in part exposed and bare.
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100 Sharp were the wounds of his avenging steel,
101 Which forced the roaring beast to quit the field:
102 Yet ere he fled, the knight unused to feel
103 The power of any foe, or e'er to yield
104 To any arm which sword or spear could wield,
105 Perceived the venom of his tooth impure;
106 But, with indignant silence, unrevealed
107 The pain he bore, while through the gloom obscure
108 The beast, in vain pursued, urged on his flight secure.
109 And now the hag, delivered from her fear,
110 Her grateful thanks upon the knight bestowed,
111 And, as they onward went, in Psyche's ear
112 Her tongue with many a horrid tale o'erflowed,
113 Which warned her to forsake that venturous road,
114 And seek protection in the neighbouring grove;
115 Where dwelt a prudent dame, who oft bestowed
116 Her sage advice, when pilgrims doomed to rove,
117 Benighted there, had else with lurking dangers strove.
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118 The knight now softly bade his charge beware,
119 Nor trust Credulity whom well he knew:
120 Yet he himself, harassed with pain and care,
121 And heedful of the storm which fiercer grew,
122 Yielded, a path more sheltered to pursue:
123 Now soon entangled in a gloomy maze
124 Psyche no longer has her knight in view,
125 Nor sees his page's star-crowned helmet blaze;
126 Close at her side alone the hag loquacious stays.
127 Fearful she stops, and calls aloud in vain,
128 The storm-roused woods roar only in reply;
129 Anxious her loved protector to regain
130 She trembling listens to Credulity,
131 Who points where they a glimmering light may spy;
132 Which, through the shade of intervening trees
133 And all the misty blackness of the sky,
134 Casting a weak and dubious ray she sees,
135 And fain by this would seek her terrors to appease.
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136 Yet hoping that, allured by that same light
137 Which singly seemed through all the gloom to shine,
138 She there at last might meet her wandering knight,
139 Thither her footsteps doubtingly incline
140 As best the uncertain path they could divine,
141 All tangled as it wound through brake and briar:
142 While to affright her soul at once combine
143 A thousand shapeless forms of terror dire,
144 Here shrieks the ill-omened bird, there glares the meteor's fire.
145 In the deep centre of the mazy wood,
146 With matted ivy and wild vine o'ergrown,
147 A Gothic castle solitary stood,
148 With massive walls built firm of murky stone;
149 Long had Credulity its mistress known,
150 Meagre her form and tawny was her hue,
151 Unsociably she lived, unloved, alone,
152 No cheerful prospects gladdened e'er her view,
153 And her pale hollow eyes oblique their glances threw.
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154 Now had they reached the sad and dreary bower
155 Where dark Disfida held her gloomy state:
156 The grated casements strong with iron power,
157 The huge port-cullis creaking o'er the gate,
158 The surly guards that round the draw-bridge wait,
159 Chill Psyche's heart with sad foreboding fears;
160 Nor ever had she felt so desolate
161 As when at length her guide the porter hears,
162 And at the well known call reluctantly appears.
163 In hall half lighted with uncertain rays,
164 Such as expiring tapers transient shed,
165 The gloomy princess sat, no social blaze
166 The unkindled hearth supplied, no table spread
167 Cheered the lone guest who weetless wandered,
168 But melancholy silence reigned around,
169 While on her arm she leaned her pensive head,
170 And anxious watched, as sullenly she frowned,
171 Of distant whispers low to catch the doubtful sound.
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172 Startled to hear an unaccustomed noise
173 Sudden she rose, and on the intruders bent
174 Her prying eye askance; but soon the voice
175 Of her old slave appeased her discontent,
176 And a half welcome to her guests she lent:
177 Her frequent questions satisfied at last,
178 Through all the neighbouring woods her scouts she sent
179 To seek the knight, while Psyche's tears flowed fast,
180 And all the live-long night in anxious woe she past.
181 The sullen bell had told the midnight hour,
182 And sleep had laid the busy world to rest,
183 All but the watchful lady of that bower
184 And wretched Psyche: her distracted breast
185 The agony of sad suspense opprest,
186 Now to the casement eagerly she flies,
187 And now the wished-for voice her fancy blest:
188 Alas! the screaming night-bird only cries;
189 Only the drear obscure there meets her straining eyes.
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190 Has thy heart sickened with deferred hope?
191 Or felt the impatient anguish of suspense?
192 Or hast thou tasted of the bitter cup
193 Which disappointment's withered hands dispense?
194 Thou knowest the poison which o'erflowed from hence
195 O'er Psyche's tedious, miserable hours.
196 The unheeded notes of plaintive Innocence
197 No longer sooth her soul with wonted powers,
198 While false Disfida's tales her listening ear devours.
199 Of rapid torrents and deep marshy fens,
200 Of ambushed foes and unseen pits they tell,
201 Of ruffians rushing from their secret dens,
202 Of foul magicians and of wizard spell,
203 The poisoned lance and net invisible;
204 While Psyche shuddering sees her knight betrayed
205 Into the snares of some enchanter fell,
206 Beholds him bleeding in the treacherous shade,
207 Or hears his dying voice implore in vain for aid.
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208 At length the cruel messengers return,
209 Their trampling steeds sound welcome in her ear;
210 Her rapid feet the ground impatient spurn,
211 As eagerly she flies their news to hear.
212 Alas! they bring no tidings which may cheer
213 Her sorrowing soul opprest, disconsolate!
214 "Dismiss," they cry, "each idly timid fear!
215 No dangers now thy faithless knight await,
216 Lured by a wanton fair to bowers of peaceful state.
217 "We saw him blithely follow where she led,
218 And urged him to return to thee in vain:
219 Some other knight, insultingly he said,
220 Thy charms might soon for thy protection gain,
221 If still resolved to tread with weary pain
222 The tedious road to that uncertain land;
223 But he should there contentedly remain;
224 No other bliss could now his heart demand
225 Than that new lady's love and kindly proffered hand."
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226 A while she stood in silent wonder lost,
227 And scarce believes t