[Psyche] Canto IV.[Page ]
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
226 A while she stood in silent wonder lost,
227 And scarce believes the strange abandonment;
228 No fears like this her heart had ever crost,
229 Nor could she think his mind so lightly bent
230 Could swerve so quickly from its first intent;
231 Till sudden bursting forth in angry mood
232 Disfida gave her indignation vent,
233 "Ah, well I know," she cried, "that wicked brood
234 Whose cursed ensnaring arts in vain my cares with-stood,
235 Vile Varia's fickle and inconstant train,
236 Perpetual torments of my harassed days:
237 Their nightly thefts my fruits, my flowers sustain,
238 Their wanton goats o'er all my vineyards graze,
239 My corn lies scattered, and my fences blaze,
240 My friends, my followers they basely lure;
241 I know their mischievous detested ways!
242 My castle vainly have I built so sure
243 While from their treacherous wiles my life is insecure.
244 "But I will lead thee to the glittering sands,
245 Where shines their hollow many-coloured fane:
246 There, as the circling group fantastic stands,
247 Thy truant knight perhaps thou mayst regain
248 From the light arts of that seductive train."
249 She paused — but Psyche spoke not in reply;
250 Her noble heart, which swelled with deep disdain,
251 Forbad the utterance of a single sigh,
252 And shamed the indignant tear which started to her eye.
253 At length with firm, but gentle dignity
254 And cold averted eye she thus replies:
255 "No! let him go: nor power nor wish have I
256 His conduct to control. Let this suffice;
257 Before my path a surer guardian flies,
258 By whose direction onward I proceed
259 Soon as the morn's first light shall clear the skies."
260 She ceased, then languishing her griefs to feed,
261 Her cold dark chamber sought from observation freed.
262 'Twas there regret indulged the bitter tear;
263 She feels herself forsaken and alone:
264 "Behold," she cries, fulfilled is every fear,
265 Oh! wretched Psyche, now indeed undone!
266 Thy love's protecting care no more is shown,
267 He bids his servant leave thee to thy fate,
268 Nor longer will the hopeless wanderer own:
269 Some fairer, nobler spouse, some worthier mate,
270 At length by Venus given shall share his heavenly state.
271 "Oh! most adored! Oh! most regretted love!
272 Oh! joys that never must again be mine,
273 And thou lost hope, farewell! — vainly I roye,
274 For never shall I reach that land divine,
275 Nor ever shall thy beams celestial shine
276 Again upon my sad unheeded way!
277 Oh! let me here with life my woes resign,
278 Or in this gloomy den for ever stay,
279 And shun the scornful world, nor see detested day."
280 "But no! those scenes are hateful to mine eyes,
281 And all who spoke or witnessed my disgrace;
282 My soul with horror from this dwelling flies
283 And seeks some tranquil, solitary place
284 Where grief may finish life's unhappy race!"
285 So past she the long night, and soon as morn
286 Had first begun to show his cheerful face,
287 Her couch, which care had strewn with every thorn,
288 With heavy heart she left, disquieted, forlorn.
289 Not thus Disfida suffered her to part,
290 But urged her there in safety to remain,
291 Repeating oft to her foreboding heart
292 That fairy land she never could attain:
293 But when she saw dissuasion was in vain,
294 And Psyche bent her journey to pursue,
295 With angry brow she called a trusty train
296 And bade them keep the imprudent fair in view,
297 And guard her dangerous path with strict observance true.
298 In vain their proffered service she declines,
299 And dreads the convoy of the scowling band;
300 Their hateful presence with her loss combines,
301 She feels betrayed to the destroyer's hand,
302 And trembling wanders o'er the dreary land;
303 While as she seeks to escape Disfida's power,
304 Her efforts still the officious guards withstand,
305 Led in vain circles many a tedious hour,
306 Undistanced still she sees the gloomy turrets lower.
307 Till wearied with her fruitless way, at length
308 Upon the ground her fainting limbs she threw;
309 No wish remained to aid exhausted strength,
310 The mazy path she cared not to pursue,
311 Since unavailing was the task she knew:
312 Her murmuring guards to seek for food prepare,
313 Yet mindful of their charge, still keep in view
314 The drooping victim of their cruel care,
315 Who sees the day decline in terror and despair.
316 Hark! a low hollow groan she seems to hear
317 Repeated oft; wondering she looks around:
318 It seemed to issue from some cavern near,
319 Or low hut hidden by the rising ground;
320 For, though it seemed the melancholy sound
321 Of human voice, no human form was nigh;
322 Her eye no human habitation found,
323 But as she listening gazed attentively,
324 Her shuddering ears received the deep and long drawn sigh.
325 The guard who nearest stood now whispering said,
326 "If aught of doubt remain within thy mind,
327 Or wish to know why thus thou wert betrayed,
328 Or what strange cause thy faithless knight inclined
329 To leave the charge he with such scorn resigned,
330 Each curious thought thou now mayst satisfy,
331 Since here the entrance of a cave we find,
332 Where dwells, deep hid from day's too garish eye,
333 A sage whose magic skill can solve each mystery."
334 He staid not her reply, but urged her on
335 Reluctant to the dark and dreary cave;
336 No beam of cheerful Heaven had ever shone
337 In the recesses of that gloomy grave,
338 Where screaming owls their daily dwelling crave.
339 One sickly lamp the wretched master shewed;
340 Devouring fiend! Who now the prey shall save
341 From his fell gripe, whose hands in blood imbrued,
342 In his own bosom seek his lacerated food?
343 On the damp ground he sits in sullen woe,
344 But wildly rolls around his frenzied eye,
345 And gnaws his withered lips, which still o'erflow
346 With bitter gall; in foul disorder lie
347 His black and matted locks; anxiety
348 Sits on his wrinkled brow and sallow cheek;
349 The wasted form, the deep-drawn, frequent sigh,
350 Some slow consuming malady bespeak,
351 But medicinal skill the cause in vain shall seek.
352 "Behold," the treacherous guard exclaimed, "behold,
353 At length Disfida sends thy promised bride!
354 Let her, deserted by her knight, be told
355 What peerless lady lured him from her side;
356 Thy cares her future safety must provide."
357 Smiling maliciously as thus he spoke,
358 He seemed her helpless anguish to deride;
359 Then swiftly rushing from the den he broke,
360 Ere from the sudden shock astonished she awoke.
361 She too had fled; but when the wretch escaped
362 He closed the cavern's mouth with cruel care;
363 And now the monster placed his form mis-shaped
364 To bar the passage of the affrighted fair:
365 Her spirits die, she breathes polluted air,
366 And vaporous visions swim before her sight:
367 His magic skill the sorcerer bids her share,
368 And lo! as in a glass, she sees her knight
369 In bower remembered well, the bower of loose Delight.
370 But oh! what words her feelings can impart!
371 Feelings to hateful envy near allied!
372 While on her knight her anxious glances dart:
373 His plumed helmet, lo! he lays aside;
374 His face with torturing agony she spied,
375 Yet cannot from the sight her eyes remove;
376 No mortal knight she sees had aid supplied,
377 No mortal knight in her defence had strove;
378 'Twas Love! 'twas Love himself, her own adored Love.
379 Poured in soft dalliance at a lady's feet,
380 In fondest rapture he appeared to lie,
381 While her fair neck with inclination sweet
382 Bent o'er his graceful form her melting eye,
383 Which his looked up to meet in ecstasy.
384 Their words she heard not; words had ne'er exprest,
385 What well her sickening fancy could supply,
386 All that their silent eloquence confest,
387 As breathed the sigh of fire from each impassioned breast.
388 While thus she gazed, her quivering lips turn pale;
389 Contending passions rage within her breast,
390 Nor ever had she known such bitter bale,
391 Or felt by such fierce agony opprest.
392 Oft had her gentle heart been sore distrest,
393 But meekness ever has a lenient power
394 From anguish half his keenest darts to wrest;
395 Meekness for her had softened sorrow's hour,
396 Those furious fiends subdued which boisterous souls devour.
397 For there are hearts that, like some sheltered lake,
398 Ne'er swell with rage, nor foam with violence;
399 Though its sweet placid calm the tempests shake,
400 Yet will it ne'er with furious impotence
401 Dash its rude waves against the rocky fence,
402 Which nature placed the limits of its reign:
403 Thrice blest! who feel the peace which flows from hence,
404 Whom meek-eyed gentleness can thus restrain;
405 Whate'er the storms of fate, with her let none complain!
406 That mild associate Psyche now deserts,
407 Unlovely passions agitate her soul,
408 The vile magician all his art exerts,
409 And triumphs to behold his proud control:
410 Changed to a serpent's hideous form, he stole
411 O'er her fair breast to suck her vital blood;
412 His poisonous involutions round her roll:
413 Already is his forked tongue imbrued
414 Warm in the stream of life, her heart's pure purple flood.
415 Thus wretchedly she falls Geloso's prey!
416 But her, once more, unhoped for aid shall save!
417 Admitted shines the clear blue light of day
418 Upon the horrors of that gloomy grave;
419 Her knight's soft voice resounds through all the cave,
420 The affrighted serpent quits his deadly hold,
421 Nor dares the vengeance of his arm to brave,
422 Shrunk to a spider's form, while many a fold
423 Of self-spun web obscene the sorcerer vile enrolled.
424 Scarce had the star of his attendant youth
425 Blazed through the cavern and proclaimed the knight,
426 When all those spells and visions of untruth,
427 Bred in dark Erebus and nursed in night,
428 Dissolving vanished into vapour light;
429 While Psyche, quite exhausted by her pains,
430 And hardly trusting her astonished sight,
431 Now faint and speechless in his arms remains,
432 Nor memory of the past, nor present sense retains.
433 Borne from the cavern, and to life restored,
434 Her opening eyes behold her knight once more,
435 She sees whom lost with anguish she deplored;
436 Yet a half-feigned resentment still she bore,
437 Nor sign of joy her face averted wore,
438 Though joy unuttered panted at her heart;
439 In sullen silence much she pondered o'er
440 What from her side induced him to depart,
441 And all she since had seen by aid of magic art.
442 Was it then all a false deluding dream
443 That wore the, semblance of celestial Love?
444 On this her wavering thoughts bewildered seem
445 At length to rest; yet onward as they move,
446 Though much his tender cares her doubts reprove,
447 And though she longs to hear, and pardon all,
448 Silence she still preserves: awhile he strove
449 Her free and cheerful spirits to recall,
450 But found the task was vain; his words unnoticed fall.
451 Now in his turn offended and surprised,
452 The knight in silence from her side withdrew;
453 With pain she marked it, but her pain disguised,
454 And heedless seemed her journey to pursue,
455 Now backward deigned to turn one anxious view
456 As oft she wished; till mindful of his lord,
457 Constance alarmed affectionately flew,
458 Eager to see their mutual peace restored,
459 And blamed her cold reserve in many a soft breathed word.
460 "O Psyche! wound not thus thy faithful knight,
461 Who fondly sought thee many an anxious hour,
462 Though bleeding yet from that inglorious fight,
463 Where thou wert rescued from the savage power
464 Of that fell beast who would thy charms devour:
465 Still faint with wounds, he ceased not to pursue
466 Thy heedless course: let not displeasure lower
467 Thus on thy brow: think not his heart untrue!
468 Think not that e'er from thee he willingly withdrew!"
469 With self-reproach and sweet returning trust,
470 While yet he spoke, her generous heart replies,
471 Soft melting pity bids her now be just
472 And own the error which deceived her eyes;
473 Her little pride she longs to sacrifice,
474 And ask forgiveness of her suffering knight;
475 Her suffering knight, alas! no more she spies,
476 He has withdrawn offended from her sight,
477 Nor can that gentle voice now hope to stay his flight,
478 Struggling no more her sorrows to restrain,
479 Her streaming eyes look round with anxious fear;
480 Nor are those tender showers now shed in vain,
481 Her soft lamenting voice has reached his ear,
482 Where latent he had marked each precious tear;
483 Sudden as thought behold him at her feet!
484 Oh! reconciling moment! charm most dear!
485 What feeling heart thy pleasures would repeat,
486 Or wish thy dearly purchased bliss, however sweet?
487 The smiles of joy which swell her glowing cheek,
488 And o'er her parting lips divinely play,
489 Returning pleasure eloquently speak,
490 Forgetful of the tears which lingering stay,
491 (Like sparkling dew drops in a sunny day)
492 Unheeded tenants of rejoicing eyes;
493 His wounds her tender care can well repay:
494 There grateful kindness breathes her balmy sighs,
495 Beneath her lenient hand how swiftly suffering flies!
496 Freed from the mazes of Disfida's groves,
497 The opening landscape brightens to their view;
498 Psyche, with strength revived, now onward moves
499 In cheerful hope, with courage to renew
500 Repeated toils, and perils to pursue:
501 Thus when some tender plant neglected pines,
502 Shed o'er its pendent head the kindly dew,
503 How soon refreshed its vivid lustre shines!
504 Once more the leaf expands, the drooping tendril twines.
505 Thus cheered, the knight intreats her to impart
506 The dangers which her way had since befel,
507 Her timid lips refuse to speak the art
508 Which clothed him in a form she loved so well:
509 That she had thought him Love, she blushed to tell!
510 Confused she stopt; a gentle pause ensued;
511 What chance had brought him to the demon's cell
512 She then enquires; what course he had pursued,
513 And who his steps had led throughout the mazy wood.
514 Sooth he had much to say, though modest shame
515 His gallant deeds forbade him to declare;
516 For while through those bewildering woods he came,
517 Assisted by his page's active care,
518 He had detected Varia's wily snare,
519 And forced her wanton retinue to flee.
520 With like disgrace, malignant in despair,
521 Disfida's slaves their plots defeated see,
522 Their feeble malice scorned, their destined victims free.
523 But he had marked the traces of their feet,
524 And found the path which to the cavern led:
525 Whence now, rejoicing in reunion sweet,
526 Their way together cheerfully they tread,
527 Exempt awhile from danger and from dread;
528 While Psyche's heart, with confidence more bold,
529 Full oft the hour of rapture pictured,
530 When those celestial charms she should behold,
531 And feel the arms of Love once more his bride enfold.