[Psyche] Canto II.[Page ]
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.
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!
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!
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!"
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.
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.
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! "
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!
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."
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.