In Canto III Phylax presents Psyche with an embroidered girdle, which lends Joseph Beaumont the opportunity to embroider his tale with a graphic account of the story of John the Baptist.
Her Spouse, in token of his royal Love
A Girdle unto Psyche sends; wherein
The accurate Works historic Beauty strove
The radiant Materials to outshine.
Phylax the rich Embroidery expounds,
And with the Token then the Maid surrounds.
Short Taste of Pleasures, how dost thou torment
A liquorish Soul, when once inflam'd by thee!
Desire's sweet-cruel edge might soon relent,
Didst thou not whet it to that keen degree,
That nothing but complete fruition will
The longing of its wakened stomach fill.
The Seaman, who hath with unwearied pain
Wrought through a thousand storms, and gain'd the sight
Of his sweet Home; that some cross wind again
Robs him of that dear-purchased delight,
He finds a greater storm in's breast arise
Pouring his sorrows through his mocked eyes.
The pined Man, on whom a thinner She,
Insatiable Famin, long hath fed;
Covets no Heav'n or Paradise to see
But what lies moulded up in any Bread.
One glimpse of this, bids Hope return, and light
Life in those eyes which were bequeath'd to Night.
But if that cheerful Morn o'rclouded be,
And his young Comforts in their cradle slain;
The fugitive Blessing feeds his misery,
And by rebound exalts it to a strain
Of higher Anguish: now his fancy more
Do's gnaw him, than his Hunger did before.
So Psyche famished with strong desire
To view her Spouse, no sooner 'gan to taste
Of his first Lustre, but that dainty fire
Made her all-ravish'd Heart Joy's Holocaust:
All other Days she counted Night to this,
Whose Dawn had broach'd such golden floods of Bliss.
But when immensity of Beams had cast
That cloud of weakness on her mortal eye;
And whilst she found it, she the Light had lost
In too much Light; her longing swell'd so high,
That did not sighs unload her bosom, it
Had by th' impatient belking Tumor split.
She sighs, and thinks; and then she sighs again:
Each frustrate thought which labour'd to comprise
What seeing kept from sight, makes her complain
Her thoughts were dazl'd, as before, her eyes.
Yet still she thinks, and grieving loves to be
Puzl'd in that delicious misery.
That Glorious she knew not what, whose glance
No less attracted than repuls'd her look,
Rack'd her upon Imagination's Trance
Untill her over-strained Passion broke:
Whose torrent through her lips now gushing out,
This amorous Lamentation forth she brought:
O happy ye, stout Eagles, happy ye,
Whose pure and genuine eyes are tempered
To that brave Vigor, that the Majesty
Of your beloved Sun can never shed
Such bright extremities of Heav'n, but you
Can drink them in as fast as they can flow:
You perch'd on some safe Rock can sit and see
How when the East unlocks his ruby gate,
From rich Aurora's bed of Roses He
Sweeter than it doth rise; what Robe of state
That day He deigns to guild, what Tire of light
He on his temples binds there to grow bright.
Not one of those brisk Eyes with which by night
Heav'n looks so big and glorious, but at
The mighty dint ev'n of his dawning light
Its conquer'd and abashed self doth shut.
'Tis your prerogative alone to bear
That Splendor's stroke which dazles every Star.
Into his Chariot of flaming gold
You see him mount, and give his purple steeds
Leave to draw out the Day: you see him roll'd
Upon his diamond Wheels, whose bounty breeds
That gorgeous Family of Pearls, which dwells
On eastern shores in their fair Mother-shells.
You see him climb Heav'n's highest silver hill,
And through cross Cancer make the Hours run right.
There with his widest looks your own you fill,
And riot in that royal feast of light;
Whilst to your eyes your souls fly up and gaze
On every Beauty of his high-noon face.
You see Him till into the steep-down West
He throws his course, and in th' Atlantick Deep
Washes the sweat from his fair brow and breast,
And cool his smoaking steeds, and yields to sleep
Among the watry Nymphs, who in his rest
Waft him through by-paths back into his East.
The kind Day thus makes all her hours attend
Your undisturbed Joys; but fainting me
With one poor minute she will not befriend
That I my fairer sweeter Sun may see.
Yet why blame I the Day? she's clear and fair:
But you, adulterate eyes, you cloudy are.
Had you been constant, such had been my Bliss:
But you with faithless cowardize gave in
Surely I'l be reveng'd on you for this,
Till you repent your treachery in brine.
Perhaps when tears have wash'd you clean, you may
Suit with the pureness of my Spouse's ray.
These querulous sighs, by their impatient blast
Drove on the cloud, and now the Rain began
Down her swoll'n cheeks drops great and numerous haste,
For more and greater still came crowding on
Whilst either eye-lid sprinkled in the crow'd
A living rainbow on its margin showd.
Strange Fire of noble Love, which thus can feed
And feast on Water; which disdains to find
Delight in Joy, or Rest in Pleasure's bed!
Which seeks its Calm in sighs' tumultuous Wind!
Which dares amidst Grief's Sea expect a shore
Of Peace, and Quiet in a Tempest's roar.
But as this storm swell'd high, in Phylax flies,
Whose yerning sweetness almost loos'd the rein
To his own gentle sympathetic eyes
Seeing the flood of Psyche's: but in pain
Till she was out, He hastes to chase away
Those sullen clouds which damp'd her joyous day.
For with his wing he wip'd her blubber'd face
And fann'd fresh comfort on her fainting mind:
Quarrel not with thine eyes; thy Vision was
Too visible, and they by growing blind
Their duty did, said He, being clogg'd as yet
With lazy dust, for sprightful sights unfit.
Have patience till that Dust be put to bed,
And mixed with the grave; then shall thine Eye,
From its dull former self awakened,
Open into a full capacity
Of viewing Him, whose lovely Princely Look
Shall be thy safe and everlasting Book.
Mean while, this Token He is pleas'd to send
Hoping thou'lt for his sake wear's next thy heart
No Lover e'r woo'd his adored Friend
With richer Present; that thou ne'r maist start
From his affection, with this Girdle
He Contrives to bind thee to Felicity.
The Ground's a texture all of Turtles' down
Which dares call virgin-snow both harsh and black:
For He himself deep dy'd it in his own
River of Whiteness, whose meek head doth make
Its nest at his throne's foot; where once when He
But dip'd his hand, the fount prov'd Purity.
To a choice Grace to spin He put it out,
That its fine thread might answer her neat hand
And then through all heav'n's Jewel-house He sought
What Gems to honor with this Ground: The strand
Of precious India no such Treasure shows
Above, the Ocean of true Jewels flows.
Ten thousand glittering things He turning o'r,
Cull'd out a glorious heap: Yet if, said He,
I throng my Darling with this massy store
'Twill to a Burden swell my Courtesy:
She tender is, and so my Love is too:
I wish her all; but these for all shall go.
And those were Jaspers, Diamonds, Onyxes,
Topazes. Beryls, Rubies, Amethysts;
All fitly polish'd for embroideries;
But brighter far than ever flam'd on Priests'
Or Princes crown: Which as He sending was
To honor with the work, another Grace.
His Snowy Mother, waiting all that while
At his right hand, melted down on her knee,
And sweetly beg'd that Office: In a smile
(His constant aspect towards Her and Thee,)
He grants her kind request; Yet stay, and let
Says He, my choice Thee with a Needle fit.
A Twist of Glories o'r his shoulders thrown,
About his back a sportful Quiver roll'd,
Of metal in this grosser world unknown,
The thrice-refined Quintessence of Gold.
Yet was the splendid House less pure and fine
Than those Inhabitants it did inshrine.
No sooner He unlock'd the glorious Lid,
But lo, a Cloud of living Joys and Smiles
Which in that merry Region were bred,
Breaths out itself, and all Spectators fills
With vigorous Pleasures, and with fresh Desires
To view that fountain whence such Bliss expires.
Innumerable Shafts there nestling lye
And keep each other warm with mutual flames,
Since all their metal's mystic Ardency;
A Metal which outbraves the gaudiest beams
That play about the Stars, or those which flow
From Titan's eyes, when they in Highnoon glow.
For those top rates which dart pure Spirits of Splendor
Love once selecting from his royal Crown,
These Arms, said He, as solid are as slender;
My Quiver shall this sole Artillery own:
My Heavn's the Bow which at my Earth I bend,
And that my Arrows to their Mark shall send.
There's no such thing, believe it Psyche, there,
As leaden Bolts, steep'd in cold Scorn and Hate:
Each Dart's a Son of fervor, and do's wear
A rich remembrance of its Master's fate;
For deep dy'd in his mighty precious Blood,
It keeps the pow'r and tincture of the flood.
With these He wounds his best-beloved Hearts,
And by each Wound sets ope to Life its way:
Life is the point of these mysterious Darts
Which with clear Joy and dainty Vigor slay.
They slay indeed, yet still reviving be;
They nothing murder but Mortality.
The threads of softest flax show gross and course
Compar'd with these, so delicate are they:
Yet cruel Steel strikes with less boistrous force,
And with less fatal certainty doth slay.
Immortal Eys alone can view them, but
No way they see to fence the subtile shot.
They quench their noble thirst wheree'r they list
Sucking and quaffing in the royal veins
Of our sublimest Cherub's deepest breast:
All Heav'n's bright Hierarchy with joy complains
Of those sweet deaths these potent Weapons give,
By which in Pains of amorous Bliss they live.
Love choosing one of these from its bright Nest
Applies it near his own all-piercing Ey,
From whose acute intention there prest
A Dint so searching, that immediately
The yielding Dart did answer't by a new
Eye of its own, and so a Needle grew.
Then from his golden Locks, that curled Grove
Of thousand Little Loves, one single Hair
He pluck'd: And this alone, said He, will prove
Sufficient Thread to finish all thy fair
Embroidery; 'twill stretch, and always be
Longer and longer to Eternity.
Here take thy Tool; but let th' Invention be
Thine own; for who with comelier art can fit
The emblematic Gift of Chastity,
Than Thou, the Mother both of Me and it!
She bowing low, her thanks and duty throws
Before his feet, and to her work she goes.
Th' officious Graces tripped after Her
With meet attendance on her lily train,
Unto that Tower of living Crystal, where
Thy Vision lately thee did entertain.
That milky Way which down Heav'n's mountain flows,
Its beauteous smoothness to Her footsteps ows.
Oft had she trac'd and travers'd it; but ne'r
With cheerlier countenance or nimbler pace:
The pleasure of her Task could not forbear
To shew itself both in her feet and face;
So much she joy'd this Virgin-work should be
Child to the Mother of Virginity.
The Castle Gates in a soft smile flew ope
To see their Queen, and bid her welcome in.
She looks about her in that curious shop
Of Purities, uncertain where to 'gin:
She all approves, and therefore doth demur
Among so many Bests, which to prefer.
The lofty Roof of that illustrious Hall
With Sighs and amorous Languishments was seal'd,
From whence in most delicious drops did fall
Down to the floor heartmelting Tears, and yield
A pearly pavement, which the ground's cool kiss
Into chaste Firmitude did crystallize.
The Twilight's tears shed in the laps of flowers
Less gracefully reflect Heav'n's rising Ey,
When Phoebus lets in the Diurnal Hours
And trims his face upon the Morning sky
Than these reverberated that fair Look
Which from the Virgin's entring face they took.
Thick were the Walls impeopled with the stories
Of those whom Chastity had cloth'd in White
From antient Abel's most unspotted glories
Unto the latest beams of virgin-light:
That Abel who first to his Lilies tied
Martyrdom's Roses, in whose bed he died.
But at the upper end a Table hung
All of one sparkling Diamond, fair and high
Whose brighter Lines the noblest Angel's tongue
Is proud to read. It was the History
Of Love himself, in sculpture so divine
That every Word the Table did outshine.
For every Word seem'd more than seemingly
To live and breathe and walk and operate
And gloriously maintain affinity
With that immortal Word whose mortal state
Reviv'd on this fair Stage; on which were met
Both his first Bethlehem and last Olivet.
Long look'd she on this Pourtrait, and forgot
By looking long, that she had look'd at all
Her Eyes, whose prey that Object was, did not
Perceive how by their pris'ner they were stole
Nor was she well aware how with her eyes
Her heart was gone, and made the Picture's prize.
At length she sweetly cries, O that this hand
Might draw those Lines of Bliss, of Life, of Love!
Till Time do's fall I'd be content to stand
And practise here, so I at last might prove
Artist enough to form one Copy which
With more than all Heav'n would poor Earth inrich.
But my Almighty Lord and Son who did
React his Stories on this diamond Scene
By his own finger, can be copied
Only by it: Though He would make a Queen
Of worthless me, yet meet He judg'd it still
That in his Handmaid some defect should dwell.
This word strait summon'd in th' ingenuous cheek
Of all the Graces, which about her prest
An universal blush, to hear their meek
Though highest Empress: And, may we at least
Copy, said they, this Lowliness, more due
To vulgar us, than unto Soverain you.
But turning to the next her busy eye
And reading there in glorious triumph drawn
the sweet Exploits of her Virginity
She blushed more than they, and of their own
Shame made them all asham'd, to see how far
It was outpurpled and outgrain'd by Her.
By her, who cry'd, since He is Lord supreme,
What help, if He be pleas'd to have it so.
If next his own He ranks his Vassal's fame,
And, prints it in a Book of Diamond too.
'Tis not the Picture of what I did merit
But what His favour maketh me inherit.
For what was I, a Lump of sordid Clay
Who would have Lowly been, but could not be
For when I sunk my self, and lowest lay
Flat in the dust of my Humility,
Too high I was, and might most justly in
My native Nothing's gulf have plunged been.
Had I had any thing in truth mine own
I from that step might lowlily have bow'd:
But seeing all is His, aforehand thrown
Was I beneath descent, though truly Proud
Vile Dust may be, yet properly to speak,
What springs from Nothing never can be Meek
Whilst in this Paradoxe's rapture she
Breathes forth her Piety; the Graces by
Her, strong Dispute against it, clearer see
Th' illustrious Truth of her Humility,
(Thus when the blushing Rose her self doth close
Up in her bud, her sweetness widest flows,)
Then round besieging Her with bended knees,
In a conspiracy of reverend love,
They charge Her thus: Seek no more stories these
Of thine, the best imbroidery will prove.
Degrade not what thy Son prefers, nor be
Because He loves thee, thine own enemy.
Nay gentle Sisters, sweetly she replies,
I love my self too well so proud to grow;
Though other hands applaud my victories,
Mine own would them deface by doing so.
Were that my work, this Needle at each letter
Would prick my heart, because I was no better.
Lo in that next, that ruby Table there,
An heav'nly Pattern: well the Man I know,
Both to my Lord and Me a friend most dear,
When we with him were sojourners below.
Pure was his Life, and pure his Office was,
Clensing the way where Pureness was to pass.
Chaste Excellence, devout severity,
Courageous Temperance, death-daring Zeal,
All flourish in his blessed History:
Of both the Testaments the middle Seal
And Clasp was He; and who so fit to be
This Girdle's beauty, as conjunctive He?
Whilst on the noble Baptist thus her eyes
And praises dwelt; a Grace had fill'd in haste
Her lap with lilies, and the dainty prize
Into a chair of Alabaster cast.
The gentle Virgin smil'd at first to see't;
Then down she sits and makes her Cushion sweet.
Her maiden Train strait gathers close about,
And with a Jewel each one ready stands.
To her dear Work she falls; and as she wrought,
A sweet Creation followed her hands:
Upon her knee apace the Table grew
And every figure to the Texture flew.
As active fancy in a midnight's dream
With strange extemporal dexterity
What Scenes, what Throngs, what Worlds she lists doth frame,
Making the most divided things agree,
And most united snarle; though in a scant
Nook of the brain her spacious works be pent.
So wrought this nimble Artist, and admir'd
Her self to see the Work march on so fast.
Surely th' ambitious History desir'd
To this new dignity amain to haste,
And purchase to its single ruby beams
The various Lustres of ten thousand Gems.
The hindmost features forward crowd; for all
Would needs thrust in, and rather choose to be
Justled, and press'd, and nipp'd into a small
(Yet fully glorious) epitomy;
Than in that little Dwelling loose their seat,
Where sweet Contraction made their worth more great.
And now the Girdle proves a Throng, which in
Each several Gem did find an Union:
But eminent above the rest did shine:
The lovely Master of the business, John;
One-different John, who, as the Work doth rise,
Lives, preaches, washes, suffers prison, dies.
Th' Imbroidery finish'd thus: that with more speed
She might present it to her mighty Son,
She gives command her Birds be harnessed:
Quick as the Word, her ready Maidens run,
And from the shore of her next milky spring
Five pair of her immortal Pigeons bring.
Her Coach was double gilt with that pure Light
Whose grosser part fills Phoebus' face with glory:
Not glaring, like his eyes, but Mild and White,
And shining like its Owner's Virgin-story.
The Reins were cloath'd in whitest silk, to hold
Some 'semblance to the Hand which them controll'd.
The gentle Birds bow'd down their willing head
Not to be yoaked, but adorned by
The dainty harness: Joy and Triumph spread
Their wings, who well knew whether they should fly.
Strait nimble She into her Chariot step'd,
Which glad and proud to bear Her, upward leap'd.
As through the whirling Orbs She faster flies,
The glittering Girdle to the Stars She shows:
They twinckled strait, asham'd of their faint eyes,
Round all the dazl'd Zodiac which throws
His spangled Cincture o'r the slippery Spheres
To keep in order and gird up the Years.
Orion's Blush confess'd how much this sight
Outvy'd the glories which about him flow:
His yielding countenance fell, and to the bright
Triumphant Apparition did bow;
Three times he try'd, and studiously felt
How to unbuckle his out-shined Belt.
But mounting to the soverain Palace, She
Hastes in to her expecting Lord and lays
Her face and Work upon his footstool: He
Her curious pains with high approof repays;
Yet, on this Ground had thine own Story grown,
The Girdle would, said He, have fairer shown.
Then to his royal Cabinet He goes
Which Spirits of gold, and Souls of Gems inshrines
And having from that heart of Richness chose
The softest Drops, He in one Jewel twines
Such Rarities as my tongue cannot tell;
But thy dear Soul their ravishments shall feel.
For to the Girdle straitly linking it,
He deign'd to grace Me who stood wondring by
Take this, said He, and see how it will fit
Thine and my Psyche's: But be sure to ty
It on so close, that by this Token She
May understand how near She is to Me.
The second hour's scarce entring since I took
It, and my leave: and here the Present is,
Come, wipe thine eyes; a purified look
Is but a due debt where the sight is Bliss
This said, the Girdle's volume ope he threw
Whence a full volley of Light's weapons flew.
But as the rural Swain, whose courser eyes
Ne'r star'd on other beauteous things than what
Begay the simple fields, when first he spies
His Prince's Wardrope ope, quite through is shot
With wondring fear, and much doubts least it be
Treason in him such royal sights to see:
So mortal Psyche was dismay'd at this
Immortal Spectacle's first flash: When He
Cries out, Error cheats and frights thee thus?
This Zone's not torrid though it flaming be
Nor sent thy Spouse this Token to destroy
Thine Eye's, but diet them with sparkling Joy.
Feed then and feast them here; whilst I in it
Interpret this rich dialect to Thee
Which Mary's needle hath so fairly writ
And taught dumb Colours eloquent to be
These words reliev'd the dazl'd passion
Of Psyche's eyes, and Phylax thus begun:
See'st thou that Fabric there, which lifts so high
Its glistering head, and scorns to pay the Sun
Homage for any beams, since Sanctity
Flames round about it, and 'twixt every stone
Lies thicker than the Cement? know that this
Illustrious Pile, the Jewish Temple is.
Forty-six years had run their race, and spent
Their own upon Heav'n's lasting Orbs, before
This Structure gained its first complement:
But here a moment rais'd it, and to more
Pomp than proud Herod's Treasury could dress:
These Stones grew in a richer mine than than His.
That reverend Senior whose high-miter'd
Head Points out his heav'nly Office, is the Priest.
Plain in his awful Countenance thou maist read
What his Attire proclaims: were He undress,
He still with virtues would arraied be
Who now clothes holy Robes with Sanctity.
His left hand on his sealed mouth he lays
His right he backward to the Altar stretches;
His eyes are full of talk; his gestures' phrase
Without a tongue, his Mind's oration Preaches.
At length that throng of People there, began
To guess the Sense, and what befel the man.
Whilst on the Incense-altar He did place
Its aromatic fuel, and supply
What Heat or Sweetness there deficient was
By many a fervent Vow and precious Sigh;
His Cloud out-flew the fainting Incense smoak
And stoutly through Heav'n's highest stories broke.
Where as it roll'd, an Angel leaps upon
Its odorous back, and posteth down to Earth
Hither he steers his flight; his station
He by that Altar takes; and there breathes forth
A sweet repayment unto Zachary
Of what his Soul had panted out so high.
Behold, says he, thy Vows and Prayers are
Come back to fill thy bosom with success.
No Messenger am I of fright or fear;
Trust Me, and trust thy privileged Bliss:
Thine Heart, so fruitful in sublime
Affection Hath for thy Body earn'd an high Production.
Thy dear Elisa, who is join'd to Thee
As near in Virtue's as in Wedlock's Tie
Shall bear a Son, in whom thine eyes shall see
The fruit of both those Knots; a Son so high
In Heav'n's esteem, that God thinks fit to frame
His sacred Title; John must be his Name.
A Name of high Ingredients, God, and Grace,
For ne'r was Man so grac'd by God, as He,
His Life shall justify before the face
Of all the World this Etymology.
Needs must that Name infallible Success
Assert, where God the Nomenclator is.
A Son of smiles and Gladness he shall prove,
Making thine aged heart young with Delight.
On his birthday together joy and Love
Shall spring with Him, and take their blessed flight
To thousand Souls, where they shall sit and tell
What Hopes, what Wonders in thy Infant dwell.
When friendliest Stars had their propitious powers
Join'd in the straitest league of Love, to crown
With Fortune's own blest Soul the native hours
Of noblest Princes; they were never known
To dart so much of kind Heav'n down to earth,
As forth shall break at His auspicious Birth.
For in his own Creator's mighty Eye,
(In which the burly bulk of all this World
Less than the simplest Atom shows, which by
The feeble Air in scorn about is hurl'd,)
Great shall thy Son appear; Let Doubting go,
Immensity resolves to make him so.
For whilst he nestles in the narrow Cell
Of thine Elisa's womb, the Spirit of Heav'n
(Much vaster than its boundless Realm) shall fill
His breeding Heart: which, when it once is thriven
Unto a pitch mature, shall nobly prove
To Earth, how it by Heav'n alone doth move.
No boistrous roaring Wine, or rampant Drink
Shall his sweet lip deflour: his Cup must be
Fed on some virgin-fountain's crystal brink,
To teach his Palate too Virginity:
For in his sacred veins no fire must flow,
But what Heav'n's Spirit pleaseth there to blow.
With which brave fire He Israel must refine;
Israel o'regrown with rust and filth: and so
Chastise and cleanse the Way where his divine
Redeemer means close after him to go.
For nobler flames ne'r warm'd Elijah's breast,
Than in thy Son's shall make their gallant nest.
So spake the wing'd Ambassadour, but Doubt
Ran shivering through the Old man's jealous heart:
Through his uncertain Eye Dismay look'd out;
And his sear joints did too-too nimbly start.
Thus vain fear forc'd the Priest himself to be
A sacrifice to Infidelity.
And this Reply he sigh'd: Decayed, I
Alas want blood to paint a Blush at this
Too worthy News: Can fifty Summers fly
Back, and with Youth my wither'd Spirits bless!
Frost in my veins, and Snow upon my Head
Bid me already write, More than half dead.
Nor in Elisa doth less Deadness live:
How then in two such Winters can there grow
A Spring whose sudden Vigorousness may give
New Lives to Us, and make them overflow
Into a third? Sweet Angel, thy strange Word
May well some Sign to cheer my faith afford.
Sure then thou know'st not Me, the Angel cries;
Wer't thou aware that Gabriel I am,
Who in the Presence-chamber of the skies
Attend on God and his Almighty Lamb;
From purest Verity's eternal Home
Thou wouldst not dare to dream that fraud could come.
Yet shalt thou have a Sign; and I will fast
Seal't on thy faithless Tongue which asked it.
Mute shall that Tongue remain, until thou hast
Seen what thou would'st not credit:
Then I'l let The Pris'ner loose again, that it may sing
A Benedictus to its gracious King.
That stiptic Word full in the Priest's face flew,
And fastned mystic chains upon his Tongue.
He strait rejoyc'd to feel his Censure true;
And with his eyes and heart forestall'd his Song.
He thinks and looks his earnest Hymn, and pays
For his dumb Punishment, his silent Praise.
But now observe that sober Matron there,
Through whose well-poised eyes sage Chastity
Her reverend prospect takes: Lo how the dear
And trusty Promise in her Womb grows high;
Which by still swelling tacitly confesses
The same the Muteness of her Spouse expresses.
Mark that most humbly-gentle Stranger come
To see her pregnant Cosen: Her array
Is plain and poor; her Looks still seem at home,
So closely cloyster'd in their veil are they:
Spectators were so much her Dread, that she
Ev'n in this Girdle would not viewed be.
She would not viewed be, yet shines more bright
Than all the rest, because herself she clouds.
So the most pure and star-like Hypocrite
Of all the Tribe of sparks, is that which shrowds
Its bashfull Lustre in th' unlikely nest
Of the cold flint's ignoble swarthy breast.
Tis She whose Handy-work the Girdle is
And who upon herself least cost bestows;
She, whose salute with ravishment did seize
Elisa's heart. See how her arms she throws
In wide astonishment; how fain would those
Pearls which have op'd her mouth, her words disclose;
All Glories which our female Tribe have crown'd
Cry'd she, shrink in their conquer'd eyes, to see
Those brighter Blessings which in Thee abound,
Thou Miracle of Virgin-pregnancy.
All Happiness dwells in thy God; and He
Takes up his mansion now in chosen Thee.
For when thy Salutation through mine ear
Shed Heav'n into my heart; the Babe which lay
Listning within me, prov'd that he did hear
And ken the language too: nor would he stay
To act his triumph in some larger room,
But, for his dancing-house, leap'd in my womb.
He by thy voice well knew that WORD which was
Within, and finding now his Lord so near
Thought it high time to be at work, and as
He might, begin his active Office here:
A true fore-runner, who doth leap unborn
Unto his Lord's strange Day, a wonderous Morn.
See'st thou that knot of buisy Jewels there
Whose cheerly Looks some happy News proclaim?
The Infant's born, and those his Kinsfolks are
At Circumcision's Rites: but for his Name
A kind Dispute makes their loves disgree;
All these will have it none but Zachary.
His holy father's Name will sit most fair
Upon the Son, say they, who now doth rise
The long-expected and miraculous Heir
From whom may flow a Brood of Zacharies.
The Eagle's Progeny must needs inherit
As well their father's princely Name, as Spirit.
O no! the Mother cries, mis-call him not;
His Name, before himself, conceived was,
Surely wise Heav'n best understandeth what
Title will fit its Gifts. Might I the case
Resolve, my honor'd Spouse's Name alone
I would prefer; but Heav'n hath chosen John.
So hot the kind Contention grew, that now
To Zacharie's decision they run. See where
He writes: that golden leaf doth show
The Oracle's Decree: His Name is John.
In what fair equipage those Letters stand!
For Marie's finger here did guide his hand.
No sooner had his pen drop'd that sweet flame
But his long-frozen Tongue again was thawn:
For Gabriel (though undiscerned) came
To melt the chain which he on it had thrown.
The Captive, glad of this Releasment, dances,
And with inspired Lays his Joys advances.
Behold his friends in that admiring Throng
Whose eys and hands Amazement lifts so high,
To see at length his dead and buried Tongue
Revive, and yield a vocal Progeny
Of holy Praise: thus strangely answering
That Birth which from his cold dry body sprung.
That feathered and party-colored Thing
Who to her puffing mouth a Trump doth set
And hastens hence with ready-stretched wing
Is noble fame; which posteth to transmit
These Miracles in such a sound as may
Through every ear and heart command its way.
Look where she's perch'd now upon yonder Hill
And on that advantageous Theatre
Doth all the Quarters of Judea fill
With stranger News than ever thundred there.
Thus John, who came to be a Voice, doth in
Fame's and his Father's Tongue, his Cry begin.
But there the Scene is chang'd, where Desolation
Was sole Inhabitant, until that one
Poor Eremite chose his tamest habitation
Amidst its Wildness: That plain Thing is John.
'Tis strange how Mary taught such Gems to seem
So vile a garb, as here becloudeth him.
That Cincture stands but for a thong of Leather,
That Vestiment for a coat of Camel's Hair:
The sum of all his Wardrobe was no other
But what upon his simple self he bare.
No Riches will I own, said noble He,
But what may make me rich in Poverty.
I know my Dust; nor shall my flesh and Blood
Flatter my heart into forgetfulness,
That they are sentenc'd to become the food
Of Putrifaction: and why should I dress
Corruption's seeds in Beautie's livery,
And be a painted Tomb before I dy?
I'l rob no Ermyn of his dainty skin
To make mine own grow proud:
No cloth of gold To me shall dangerous emulation win:
I live to live; I live not to be sold:
And fine enough this Clod of mine shall be
In Weeds which best will suit Humility.
Let Scarlet's Blush the guilty Court attend,
Let wanton Silk smile on the Gallant's back,
Let pure and snowy-countnanc'd Linen lend
Its own to those who other Whiteness lack:
My Bravery must be, an Eye to please
Which reads no beauty in such Joys as these.
Let gaudy fashion-mongers day by day
Misshape themselves, and vex their giddy Brain
About some upstart Cut or Garb, which they
Were never yet disfigur'd with: in vain
Striving to catch the fashion, which is still
Like Phoebe's face, but one day at the full.
My fashion constant as my Nature is,
Which taught me it: Nor is the Sun midway
His race e'r I have travell'd through my Dress.
The same East op's mine eyes, which op's the Day;
And I'm as soon attir'd as wak'd, who ne'r
Do any other but my Bed-cloths wear.
This hairy Covering is my only Bed,
My shirt, my cloke, my gown, my every-thing.
When over it these several Names I read,
His furniture I well can spare the King,
The tumult of whose store yeilds no supply
So fully fit, as my Epitomy.
Mark now that bubling Crystal, Psyche, there;
That spring's the living Cellar of the Saint:
Thence do's he draw his tame and virgin beer,
And makes his Blood with those cool streams acquaint:
Cool streams indeed; yet such as best agree
With fervent flames of noblest Piety.
No Kitchin he erects, to be the shop
Wherein to forge his Bellie's ammunition:
His Table's full as cheap as is his cup,
And no less stor'd with fountains of provision;
This Region doth him his Cates afford,
And even his Habitation is his Board.
His common Diet those poor Locusts are;
And when he feasts, he lifts but up his head,
And strait those courteous Trees, to mend his fare.
Into his Mouth sincerest honey shed.
Nor turns he down that Mouth, untill it has
Pay'd for its sweet feast by a sweeter Grace.
Here with himself he do's converse: a rare
And painful thing, when Men in Presses dwell,
Where whilst on those who crow'd them, still they stare.
Unhappy they, alas, though too-too well
Skilled in all their Neighbors, never come
To be acquainted with themselves at home.
The rest of his Acquaintance dwelt on high,
Beyond his eye's reach, but within his heart's:
For with what speed brave Lightnings downward fly,
Through every stage of heav'n, this upward darts:
Nor will its sprightful journey bounded be
By any Rampart but Immensity.
At God it aims, nor ever fails to hit
Its blessed mark, whilst on strong Prayer's wings,
Or Contemplation's, it steers its flight:
And rank'd above with joyous Angels sings,
Admires, adores, and studies to forget
There is a Breast below which wanteth it.
How often has his fainting Body made
Complaint of his injurious Piety!
How often has it cry'd, I am betray'd;
My life and spirits all away do fly
And smile in Heav'n, whilst I below am left
To live this Death, of death and life bereft.
He fetch'd no bold Materials from the deep
Bowels of any Marble Mine, to raise
A daring Fabric which might scorn the steep
Torrent of headlong Time; as if his Days
And years had been his own, and he might here
Lord of his life for ever domineer.
He knew the least Blast's indignation might
His brittle Dust and Ashes blow away:
He knew most certain Death's uncertain Night
Lurk'd in the bosom of his vital Day:
He knew that any House would serve him, who
Look'd for no Home so long's he dwelt Below.
That Cave his Palace was, both safe and strong,
Because not kept by jealous Door nor Bar:
Those Groves his Gardens, where he walk'd among
The family of Dread, yet knew no fear:
For fear's wild Realm is not the Wilderness
But that foul Breast where Guilt the dweller is.
Those Bears, those Boars, those Wolves, whose ireful face
Strikes terror into other Mortal Eyes,
With friendly Mildness upon him did gaze
As on sweet Adam in calm Paradise.
They slander'd are with savageness no spleen
They bear to Man, but to Man's poison, Sin.
So wild, so black, and so mis-shap'd a Beast
Is Sin, that other Monsters it defy
As a more Monstrous thing than they, and cast
About how to revenge it: But the eye
And Port of Purity so reverend are,
That Beasts most feared wait on it with fear.
The beams of this Angelic Life at last
Broke out, and summon'd in new Admiration;
For Man at length, that duller ruder Beast
Is by these Brutes convinc'd to imitation.
Behold that thronging Rout which hither flies
See how they stare, and scarce believe their Eys.
These Deserts nothing less than desert seem,
Being crowded from themselves, and now become
Jurie's thick Towns, and fair Jerusalem
Which hither have remov'd their populous Home.
What now has John lost by his private Cell
To which whole Towns and Cities flock to dwell?
Thus generous Honor righteously disdains
Ev'n to be touched by th' high-parting reach
Of bold Ambition: but through hills and plains,
And dens and caves, and Deserts' hunts, to catch
The modest fugitive, whom Worth doth hurry
From Worth's Reward, and makes afraid of Glory.
His Auditory now so ample grown,
The noble Ermite is resolv'd to Preach:
Behold, says he, that promis'd Glorie's Dawn.
(Which to behold, the Patriarchs did reach
Their necks and eyes through many a shady thing)
In your horizon now begins to spring.
O fail ye not to meet his gracious Beams
With undefiled hearts; for such is He;
And will Baptize you with refined streams
Of searching fire, that you may Metal be
Of pure alloy, and, signed with his face
And Motto, through his Realm for current pass.
Let not that Power of Spots and Blots, which in
Your Souls now reigns, make you despair to be
Freed from the nasty bondage of your Sin
For you aforehand shall be Wash'd by me
My water for his fire the way prepares,
As for my water must your hearty Tears.
Observ'st thou, Psyche, how that silver stream
Its limpid self doth through the Girdle wind:
This Jordan is, and there the People seem
At busy crowding strife who first should find
A better Baptism in those floods, which may
Their fruitless Legal Washings wash away.
But mark that grateful He: how sweet his eye
How delicate and how divine his face
Embellish'd with heart-conquering Majesty!
Were't thou to choose thy Spouse, wouldst thou no place
Thy soul to Him? 'Tis He: O no, it is
As much of Him as Jewels can express.
To be Baptised, but not cleans'd, comes He,
Who is more spotless than that living Light
Which gilds the crest of Heav'n's sublimity:
He comes, by being washed to wash white
Baptism itself, that it henceforth from Him
And his pure Touch, with Purity may swim.
As when amongst a gross ignoble crowd
Of flints and pebbles and such earth-bred stones
An heaven-descended Diamond strives to shroud
Its luster's brave ejaculations
Although it 'scapes the test of vulgar eyes
The wiser Jeweller the Gem descries:
So most judicious John's descerning eye
This Stranger's shy but noble splendor read.
Besides, when others to their Baptism by
A penitent Confession prefaced,
He wav'd that useless Circumstance, and so
Himself conceal'd, yet intimated too.
See how Suspense astounds the Baptist: for
The Promis'd sign his Master to descry
Appeared not: this made his just Demur
Dispute the case, and resolutely cry
If thou art spotless, fitter 'tis for me
Who sinful am, to be baptiz'd by thee.
But when his Lord reply'd, For once let me
Prevail, since thus alone we must fulfil
The sum of righteousness; ambiguous He
Felt sacred Aw surprize his trembling Will:
He mus'd, and guess'd, and hovered about
The glimmering Truth with many a yielding thought.
Which Jesus seeing, He upon him threw
The urgent yoak of an express Injunction;
Whose virtue forthwith efficacious grew,
And made the meek Saint bow to his high function.
Cast but thine eye a little up the stream,
Wading in Crystal there thou seest Them.
Old Jordan smil'd, receiving such high Pay
For those small pains obedient he had spent
Making his water's guard the dryed way
Through wonders when to Canaan Israel went,
Nor do's he envy now Pactolus' streams
Or eastern flouds, whose paths are pav'd with Gems.
The waves came crowding one upon another
To their fair Lord their chaste salute to give:
Each one did chide and justle back his brother,
And with laborious foaming murmur strive
To kiss those Feet, and so more spotless grow,
Than from its virgin spring it first did flow.
But those most happy Drops the Baptist cast
On Life's pure head, into the joyless Sea
Which borroweth from Death its stile, made haste,
And soon confuted that sad Heraldry:
The Deep that day reviv'd, and claps his hands,
And roll'd his smiles about his wondring strands.
See there thy Spouse is on the bank, and more
Than Heav'n flown down and pitch'd upon his head:
That snowy Dove which perched heretofore
High on the all-illustrious Throne of God,
Hath chose this seat, nor thinks it a Descent
On such high terms to leave the Firmament.
For wheresoever Jesus is, although
In the profoundest sink of black Disgrace,
Still Glory triumphs in his sovereign brow,
Still Majesty holds its imperial place
In the bright Orb of his all-lovely Eye;
Still most depressed He remains Most High.
And Heav'n well-witness'd this strange truth, which in
That wondrous instant op'd its mouth and cry'd.
This is my Darling Son, in whom do shine
All my Joy's Jewels. O how far and wide
That Voice did fly, on which each Wind get hold,
And round about the World the Wonder told.
From hence to Court the valiant Baptist goes,
Where Lusty sins no less than Herod reign:
Meek Sanctity had arm'd him well with those
Proud Enemies a combat to maintain.
He who dares nothing but his Maker fear,
Against all Monsters may proclaim a War.
Behold how Pomp besots great Herod there
O what imposthumes of fond Majesty
Pride puffs into his face! Durst there appear
A Censor now a just Truth to apply
Home to the King, and tell him that his eyes
Should rather swell with Tears, his breast with Sighs?
Yes, there the Heav'n-embraved Preacher is,
Who therefore in strong pity melts to see
A Prince made Subject to vile wickedness.
Great Sir, the Match unlawful is, cries he:
O far be it from Kings to break the Law,
For whose defence so strong their Scepters grow.
Since to thine own Commands, just duty
Thou Expectest from thy Subjects; let thy neck
Not scorn to thine own Maker's yoke to bow.
The Precedent may dangerous prove, and wrack
Thy throne and kingdom, if thy People read
Highest Rebellion's Lesson in their Head.
Thy Brother's Wife to Him as near is ty'd
As He himself; O tear him not in sunder:
You murder him alive when you divide
His Dearest Unity: The worst of Plunder
Is Mercy, if compar'd with this, which doth
By tearing off one half, unravel both.
Live, live O King, and flourish; live for ever;
Yet not for works of Death, but Acts of Life.
Death's proper hateful office 'tis to sever
The loving Husband from his lawful Wife:
But fie his wrath as yet deferred hath;
O why wilt Thou more cruel be than Death!
God who made this enclosure, hedging Her
In to her Philip, still hath left to Thee
And thy free choice, an open Champain, where
Millions of sweet and virgin Beauties be.
Adorn thy bed with any one beside,
Only thy Brother's must not be thy Bride.
Must not? th' Adulteress cry'd (for she was by)
Whether is Herod, or that Youngling, King?
And shall the Acts of awful Majesty
Be flouted by this upstart pratling Thing?
My bodkin burns his traytorous tongue to bore
And make it sure for preaching Me a Whore.
Be thou content my Dear, the King replies
Strait I'l revenge thy Wrong, for 'tis mine own.
Rebellion's fiery Boils may likelier rise
From his invenom'd Words against my Crown
Than from our spotless Match; which Heav'n long bless!
Drag him to Prison, he shall smart for this.
(Unhappy Truth, how gains vain flattery
More grace and freedom in the Court than Thou
Who mightst secure and prosper Majesty
Whilst that doth Lies, and Traps, and Poisons strew
Who though thou meek and poor and naked art,
Yet bear'st a valiant and loyall heart!)
Deep in the City's bottom sunk there was
A Goal, where Darkness dwelt and Desolation
Through all the Town's proud Taunts inforc'd to pass
In glorious patience and meek exultation:
The Saint is thither hurried, and down
Into the miry dungeon headlong thrown.
So when unworthy Chance doth prostitute
Some noble Jewel unto sordid Swine
The senseless Beasts unable to compute
Their Prize's worth, or read those beams which shine
With love commanding beauty, rudely tread
Into the vilest dirt its precious head.
These rude dead walls, with stones almost as hard
As that which for a heart did serve the King,
The Pris'ner up in a new desart barr'd:
Yet his free Contemplation still did bring
Heav'n's latitude into those straits, and swell
With Angels and with God that lesser Hell.
This is his noble Company, and He
More liberty doth in his Goal enjoy
Than foolish Herod, though his Tetrarchy
Op's to his loosest Lusts so wide a way.
Vice is the foulest Prison, and in this
Not John, but Herod the close Pris'ner is.
Yet Herod thinks not so: (what pity 'tis
Vain Thought and Fancy thus the scale should sway,
And ponderous Reason's sober solidness
Like light and idle froth be cast away!)
For this smart Preacher thus imprison'd, He
Judges himself, and all his Pleasures free.
And in that freedom means to celebrate
That Day which gave him welcome from the womb;
To crown which Ceremony with bright state,
His glittering Nobles all to Court must come
That Men might in the splendor of each Guest
Read his magnificence who makes the Feast.
Abundant choice of every lusty Beast
Was hither brought: No Bird so dear and rare,
But it was fetched from its highest Nest
To build in some quaint py or platter here
To Noah's Ark scarce came a thicker Croud
For life, than to be slain there hither flow'd.
The Ocean too streams in to fill this brim
Of more than spring-tide superfluity:
Large shoals of wanton fishes here must swim
In aromatic ponds of spicery;
That Herod's ominous Birth-Day forth may bring
A needless Death to every kind of thing.
Ambition was chief steward of the Feast;
Both Cook and Cater liquorish Luxury;
Only Lust mix'd the gallant sauce, and drest
The choice inflaming Dainties of the Sea.
Lo there the King is with his Nobles set,
And all the crouded Table smoaks with meat.
Intemperance attended on the board
And crown'd with sparkling Wine each foaming Cup.
The King's health first went round, which every Lord
Drowning his own in it, hasts to drink up
And loudly prays, His life as full may be
Of years, as they the Board of dishes see.
Next to the Queen their ranting homage they
All in a like drink-offering sacrifice,
And heap upon her second Nuptial day
The garlands of their courtliest flatteries;
Darting on Philip scorn's ignoble Wit,
Whom as the Married Widdower they twit.
Then wild with proud excess, bowl after bowl
Are to their female Idols poured down.
So monstrous were those Draughts, that Bacchus' soul
Had now all theirs subdu'd, and King was grown
Of them and of their Prince: who belching cries
Enough of this feast; now let's feed our eys.
For he the young Herodias had spy'd;
Whose face no sooner dawned in the Hall,
But an inchanting meretricious Tide
Of sweets and Graces overflows them all.
Doubled her Looks' and Dresses' beauties be,
Because her fond Spectators double see.
No Syren ever on the watry stage
Did act so true, a false but lovely part,
The gazing careless Seaman to engage
In the delicious shipwreck of his heart:
Nor e'r was dangerous Sea so deep and wide
As in her narrow breast this Nymph did hide.
Behold her there: What studied neglect
Upon her shoulders pours her tresses down!
How is her breast with Gems' allurements decks,
Yet wins more eys and wishes by its own;
Whose speaking nakedness itself commends,
And lustful Fancies to what's cover'd sends.
Yea ev'n her quaint Attire all thin and light
With gorgeous hypocrisy doth lay
More open what it would deny the sight,
And whilst it stops, invites into the way.
About she swims; and by a courtly Dance
Her other beauties' value doth enhance.
All Eyes and Hearts trip after Her, as she
About the Hall her graceful motions measures:
No nimble Turn can in the Galiard be,
But Herod's brains turn too: who by these pleasures
Again seems drunk, and to his surfeit doth
Give ease by vomiting his plotted Oath.
By heav'n and my own Majesty, he cries,
This Dance, sweet Daughter, must not want reward:
For never Venus traversed the skies,
With a more Soul-commanding Galiard.
Let thy Demand be high; for though it be
Half of my Realm, 'tis wholly due to Thee.
A cunning Blush in her well-tutor'd face
This mighty Promise kindled: to the ground
Three times she bows, and with a modest grace
Minces her spruce retreat, that she might sound
Her Mother's counsels, in whose joyfull ear
She chirps the favor Herod offer'd her.
The salvage Queen, whose thirst not all the Wines
At that great Feast could quench, unless they were
Brew'd with the richer blood of John, inclines
Her Daughter to request this boon for her.
I ne'r shall think, said she, that Herod is
Mine, or his Kingdom's Head, whilst John wears his.
Thou knowst my Wrongs, and with what pain I wear
The Name of Whore his Preachment on me pinn'd:
Help then my righteous vengeance on, and tear
Away this Grief which knaws thy Mother's mind.
This was enough: back flies the Damsel, and
Thus sweetens o'r her barbarous Demand:
As long as Heav'n's great King, may Herod reign,
And blessed be this undeserved Day
Wherein thine Handmaid doth such favor gain,
That half thy Kingdom shall not say me Nay;
For real is thy royal Word: But why
Should a poor Maid's ambition tow'r so high?
That mighty Promise well became the King,
That like thy self thy Bounty might appear.
But Heav'n forbid that I so vile a Thing,
Thy Scepter's glories should in sunder tear,
And break mine arm with Half of that Command
Whose Total is too little for thy Hand.
A slender Gift more equal Pay will be
To my Desert; Grant me but my just will
Over one wretched Worm which knaweth thee
And thy whole Stock: So shall the King fulfil
His royal Word: I only crave His head
Whose Tongue deflour'd your and my Mother's Bed.
But at this impudently-meek Request
Strait, startled Herod from the Table flings
His locks and beard he tears, he beats his breast,
His teeth he gnashes and his hands he wrings;
He stares, he sighs, he weeps, and now seems more
With sorrow drunken, than with Wine before.
Alas, alas, be cries, what have I done!
O that my Kingdom might my Word recall.
How shall I help thee now, unhappy John,
Who in my Promise preach'd thy Funeral!
As thee thy careless Tongue a Pris'ner made
So my rash lips have thee to death betray'd.
O that to day my Lords had not been here
The solemn Witnesses of my great Vow!
Must Death intrude, and his black Warrant bear
Date, on my sadly-joyous Birthday? How
Shall I unsnarle my Promise, and contrive
That both my Honor and the Saint may live!
Both cannot live; O that poor Herod were
Some private Man, that so he might be free
Of his Repute! But Prince's honors are
The People's too; and by Community
The guiltless Body would be perjured,
Should I my self forswear who am their Head.
Let my sad shipwreck steer you to the bay
Of cautious safety: Ne'r let Mirth and Wine
Your Tongues unbridle, and such fetters lay
On your best freedom as are thrown on mine.
Enslav'd am I, though King, by one wild Word,
And my own Promise is my cruel Lord.
A Lord which forces me to hath my sword
Deep in the veins of my most choice Delight
What glimpse can all my Kingdom me afford
Worthy joy, if my own Sentence fight
Against my heart's best Wish; if I alone
Must murder what I honor, holy John?
And must John die? bear witness all how loth
This fatal Word thus from my forced lip
To recompence the too too hasty Oath
Which from Imprudence, not from Me did slip
Then take his Head: Yet never say that I
Issu'd this Warrant, but Necessity.
Thus strove the Tyrant by a comely Ly
The visage of his hideous Hate to paint
Least in the Damsel's Dance his Policy
Might seem to have been mask'd against the Saint.
Thus dreads He his unlawful Vow to break
But fears not Lust with guiltless Blood to back.
Twas plain, his finite though outrageous Vow
Did prostitute but half his Realm: and why
Must then the bloody Hypocrite bestow
More than the whole? what Prodigality
Is this, mad Herod? for John's Head alone
Is worth more than thy Kingdom, or thine own.
Lo there the last Dish of great Herod's Feast,
The Martyr's fair Head in a Charger lay'd:
He smiles within, though clouds his face o'r-cast
And feeds his Soul on it, but that proud Maid
Knowing her Mother by this Death would live
In triumph takes the Dish, and takes her leave.
The royal Beldame in suspense did wait
To reap her sprightful stratagem's event:
And seeing now the bloody Present, strait
Grown young with salvage joy, her high Content
She to her dancing Daughter signifies
In her own tripping and lascivious guise.
Then like a fell she-Bear, whose long-wish'd Prey
Is fall'n at last into her hungry paws:
She tears the sacred Lips and rends a way
Unto the reverend Tongue; which out she draws,
And with most peevish Wounds and scornful Jests
Her womanish Revenge upon it feasts.
But mark that Convoy of illustrious Light
Which makes from this low World such joyful haste:
The better part of John there takes its flight
Unto a greater King's than Herod's feast
Being from this Earth, that Goal, his Body, — three
Prisons to heav'nly Him, — at once set free.
The Prophets and the Patriarchs gave way
When they this greater Saint approaching saw
Who now at anchor lies in Blisse's Bay
Far from those storms he grappled with below
And sweetlier rests in Abraham's bosom, than
In that adulterous King's the lustful Queen.
This is the Story which the Virgin-Mother
Hath round about thy Girdle made to live:
Yet lives it not, compared with this other
Immortal Jewel, which thy Spouse did give
To crown the rest, and tie up all the story
In one divine Epitome of Glory.
Observe it well: but never let thy Tongue
Presume that any Eloquence's Dress
Can suit its beauties; which no Seraph's song
With due and equal sweetness can express
The Angel here, his stately Lecture done
Expected Psyche's approbation.
She, 'twixt Amazement and Delight divided
Perused all the strange Imbroidery;
But when to that last Gem her eye she guided
Excessive Joys so swell'd her soul, that she
Runs over with delicious tears, and cries,
Come Phylax, come, gird me with Paradise.
Content, said He, but then be sure to shrink
Your proper self alone within your self:
Severely strait's the Girdle; never think
That any supernumerary Pelf
Can find a room in this rich mansion where
The outward Walls of solid Jewels are.
This said; before her self was well aware,
He nimbly buckling it about her heart,
Press'd forth this shrill Complaint: O Phylax spare
My squeesed Soul, least from her self she start.
Loose, loose the Buckle! if the time be come
That I must die, at least afford me room.
Must I be girt to death, and not have space
To fetch one parting sigh before I die?
O me! whose sins have made my Spouse imbrace
Me with imbroyder'd tortures; so that I
The Riddle of unhappy Maidens, go
In travel with more than a Mother's Woe.
And so she did indeed: Such matchless Throws
And Pangs did sting her in her straitned heart;
At length her Grief she bringeth forth, and shows
Her wondering self the reason of her smart,
Whilst from her labouring breast she breaking sees
A shapeless Lump of foul Deformities.
Abortive Embryos, unformed Lust,
Pinfeathered Fancies, and half-shap'd Desires,
Dim dawns of fondness, doubtful seeds of Rust,
Glimmering embers of corruptive Fires,
Scarce something, and yet more than nothing was
That mystic Chaos, that dead-living Mass.
O how tormenting is the Parturition
Of tender souls, when they unload themselves
Of their blind night-conceiv'd brats of Perdition!
O how the peevish and reluctant elves
(Mad with their own birth,) viperously contend
The worried bowels of the heart to rend!
This makes faint, foolish, Mortals oft prefer
The sad Reversion of eternal Pain,
Before this Conflict's pangs: So they may here
A quiet truce with their soft sins maintain;
They are content, though Hell must with their Grave
Set ope its mouth, and them as sure receive.
O bitter pleasantness of present Ease,
Which in thy bait Death's sharpest hook dost hide:
The most prodigious fatal Witcheries
Are harmless Joys to thee, who from the wide
Expansions Of eternal Bliss canst Man
Seduce by rotten Joy's short flattering Span!
Psyche deliver'd of that monstrous Birth,
Finds her strict Girdle fit and easy grown,
Affording room for all the Train of Mirth
With which her bosom now was overflown:
She view'd the Newborn Heat, and viewing smil'd
Not out of love, but hate unto the Child.
As one from blind Cimmeria newly come,
Beyond his own ambition, into
Arabia's blessed fields, and meeting room
Both for his eyes and joys; doth wondring go
Through those spice-breathing paths, and thinks that he
Doth now no less begin to Live than See:
So overjoyed she admired now
The glorious Day new-risen in her breast,
Where carnal Clouds before would not allow
A constant beam to dwell; but overcast
Her soul's face with so gross a mist, that she
Nor Heav'n, nor what way led to it could see.
Her heart clear'd up, far fairer than the face
Of fresh Aurora wash'd in eastern streams:
Unspotted Thoughts flock'd in to take their place
In her pure bosom, which a garden seems
Of Lilies planted on warm beds of Snow,
Through which God's Spirit doth gales of odours blow.
All sublunary sweets she has forgot,
Nor thinks this bitter World can breed such things.
All Beauties to her eye are but one Blot:
All Bees to her are nothing else but stings:
All Loves are Hate: all Dalliance, Vexation:
All Blandishments, but Poison in the fashion.
For by this Girdle she His Pris'ner is
In whose alone the Name of Love she reads,
Whilst in the Languishments of softest Bliss
On dainty Torments her Delights she feeds;
Crying with mighty sighs, O Jesu when
Shall I have liv'd this Death, and Life beam!
What further business have I here below
In this vain World, whose joys I relish not.
Who is the Conqueror of my heart, but Thou?
And since thy Love this victory hath got,
Why must thy Captive not permitted be
To wait on thy triumphant Coach and Thee?
Though of thy Royal Scorn I worthy be,
Yet why wilt Thou thine own choice disallow?
If I had still neglected been by Thee,
This Body had not seem'd my Dungeon now:
But why's this Tast of Heav'n unto me deign'd,
If still to wretched Hell I must be chain'd?
To wretched Hell for such is Earth to me;
And so would Heav'n be too, wer't Thou not there.
But to the gloomy Realm of Misery
Shouldst Thou remove thy Throne, I ne'r should dare
To any higher Paradise aspire,
Than what is planted in th' infernal fire.
O that some courteous Turtle me would lend
Her feather'd Oars, that I my soul might row
Up to the Port of my Desires, and blend
It with the Tide of bliss which there doth flow!
I never thought that Earth so low did ly,
Or that the Heav'n till now was half so high.
O why art Thou so lovely, if poor I
Must still live Exile from thy dearest Eyes!
This Token, Jesu, makes me louder cry
For Thee thy self, the far more pretious Prize.
O what will thy Supreme Imbraces be
If this small Cincture thus have ravish'd me!
I ravish'd am, and from Lust's swarthy flame
For ever by this blessed Rape set free;
And yet by stronger Ardor spurred am
To be reveng'd on thy dear Love and Thee:
If I may be but thy domestic slave,
I of my Conqueror my Revenge shall have.
I yield, I yield, great Lord: Why must thy Dart
Be always killing Me, yet never slay
My ever-dying still-surviving Heart?
Why must thy furnace with my Torment play,
And burn, but not consume? O why, why must
I be no Mortal who am fragile Dust?
O cruel Absence! ne'r was present Hell
So true as thou unto its dismal Name!
O torturing Hope, which only dost reveal
A tempting glimpse of Light, but hid'st the flame
That so the sweetly-cheated Eye may be
Assur'd by that short sight, she doth not see.
Intolerable Joys, why smart you so?
What means this barbarous Rack of sweet Desires
What makes my Tears so kindly-salvage now
As not to quench, but feed and mock my Fires?
Dear Girdle help! should'st heav'nly Thou be slack,
Soon would my overstretched heart-strings crack.
[1702; Grosart (1880) 1:45-60]