Sturio and Hippias, two mermen, consider the charms of various maidens and their various effects on beholders. They are especially enamoured of the artful Mira, whose appearance breaks off the dialogue: "'Tis Mira's voice; I know her warbling tongue. | Move, Sturio, softly on; then sudden rise, | And in her wanton song the easy Nymph surprize." "Maera" is one of Homer's nereides.
Dorothy Broughton notes the relative scarcity of traditional names in Diaper's poem: "Nereides seems to have been uninfluenced by Spenser. Diaper ignores the fifty names of nereides introduced into the Faerie Queene, an extension of Homer's list" xxxviii. But it should be noted that Diaper's theme of mutability is very Spenserian, as is the eroticism used to develop it.
STURIO, HIPPIAS, MIRA.
The waves are still, and the unclouded day
Smiles on the murm'ring sea with joyous light.
Begin the song, while wanton Dolphins play,
And the bright sun, and pleasing calms invite.
Happy the youth, whom beauteous Mira loves,
No nymph so nimbly swims, so graceful moves.
When to soft words she tunes her artful tongue,
The winds themselves will listen to her song.
Anthis I saw, and to my envy'd eyes
The circling blood with conscious ardour flies.
When Anthis smiles, joy fills the swelling veins,
Nor Winter-calms, nor Summer's gentle rains
Are half so grateful to the fishing swains.
Her rising breasts are white as polish'd shells,
And in each part a different beauty dwells.
When Mira frowns, though all the sky was fair,
The Clouds return, and thick the moistned air;
The smiling Heaven, when e'er she looks serene,
Puts on its azure, and the sea its green.
When first a glance from Galatea's Eyes
Pierc'd through my heart, and did my soul surprize,
Amaz'd I fell—
Beauty it self too powerful will affright;
No lightning moves so swift, or shines so bright.
The Cramp-fish touch'd benumbs with sudden pain,
And shivering horrour strikes through every vein.
But by one distant look from her I lov'd
My blood grew stagnate, and I stood unmov'd.
We curse the dog, and loath the shapeless bat
As sad forerunners of unlucky fate:
These, we deform'd, and frightful monsters call,
But they, each in their kind, are beauteous all;
Fondly we love, and without reason hate,
And worship idols, which ourselves create.
Beauty's a shining spark of heavenly fire,
That kindles in the soul immense desire;
It draws with pleasing force the willing mind;
Beauty divine like this we seldom find:
Few things are truly fair, though perfect in their kind.
Who Mira loves, when Clytie appears,
Coarse tasteless Thornback to the Sole prefers.
I her pale cheeks, and languid looks despise;
Well may she kill; for Death is in her Eyes.
I hate the full-cheek'd Blowze and flushing Maid,
Whose angry red makes every youth afraid:
Such flaming Nymphs want every real grace;
They cool our passion, while they burn our face.
Envy is pale, and pale is sad Despair.
Can Mira then be pale, and yet be fair?
The water-lillies are a faintish sweet.
I know an island grove, where Nereids meet;
There blushing beds of beauteous roses grow,
From whom diffusive smells in fragrant circles flow.
Would Mira yield to love, would she comply,
Her cheeks would colour with a fresher die.
But though ev'n now she wants no graceful charm,
Her voice kills farther than her eyes can harm.
Nereus himself above the waves appear'd,
She sung — and he with secret pleasure heard,
And listening smil'd, and stroak'd his hoary beard.
While Doris stood afar, and jealous grew,
With watchful eyes she look'd, and fear'd what might ensue.
So have I heard one praise the chattering pie,
And swear the coots with artful musick cry:
But hark — ev'n now I hear some distant song.
'Tis Mira's voice; I know her warbling tongue.
Move, Sturio, softly on; then sudden rise,
And in her wanton song the easy Nymph surprize.
[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:233-35]