1712
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Nereides: Eclogue X.

Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues.

Rev. William Diaper


In a nautical variation on the Theocritean love-lament, Meroe attempts to cast a spell on her lover Phorbas, erecting a pyre and infusing it with oils. But, alas, it proves too moist to burn. The explanation is that Cupid himself has been damped: "His wings were clogg'd with wet, and useless grown, | Fluttering he strove, but moisture prest him down. | The God of Love is now to seas confin'd, | No Triton must be proud, or Nymph unkind."

Dorothy Boughton notes "parallels between Sea-Eclogue X and Idyll II [of Theocritus], which both take the form of a monologue by a woman endeavouring to reclaim a faithless lover by means of witchcraft. Both women have an assistant in the rites to whom instructions are confided" Complete Works (1952) xxv-vi. Sannazarro's piscatory, Herpylis, also involves a magic spell.

Henry Marion Hall: "The fish mentioned are the same, and have the same rather alarming attributes, as those that figure in the Sannazarian piece from which Diaper adapted this idyll" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 158.



MEROE, OTYS.

MEROE.
Otys, begin—
Since he is gone, I'll fetch him to my arms
By sacred spells, and force of magic charms.
Search in the slime, you'll find the cramp-fish there,
That, chilling stops whatever swims too near:
You'll find the fish, that stays the labouring ship,
Though ruffling winds drive o'er the noisy deep:
So Phorbas, while from me he perjur'd flies,
Is struck benumb'd, and fix'd with strange surprize.
Look down auspicious Moon; too well you know
What Love will force, and potent charms can do.

Take here and drain the Sepia's inky juice,
Sprinkle the sea, and say, I thus infuse
Sad gloomy thoughts into the perjur'd swain,
'Till he relenting sigh, and turn to love again.
Look down auspicious Moon; too well you know
What Love will force, and potent charms can do.

Wreath three times thrice three reeds, and seven times round
The chaplets wave (strange virtues have been found
In numbers hid; and energy divine,
In figur'd spells, and the mysterious trine.)
Look down auspicious Moon; too well you know
What Love will force, and potent charms can do.

Take here the ravenous dog, and wound him through,
Then cry aloud, Phorbas, I strike for you;
So may his soul be pierc'd with fretting pain,
'Till he relenting sigh, and turn to love again.
Look down auspicious Moon; too well you know
What Love will force, and potent charms can do.

Go fetch dry weeds; they lie on yonder isle;
Then raise in corner'd squares the artful pile,
And force the kindled heap with flaming oil:
So may his tortur'd soul in anguish mourn,
And as the pile, so may the Triton burn.
Look down auspicious Moon; too well you know
What Love will force, and potent charms can do.

I hear the hollowing elves, and midnight shriek
Of wandring ghosts, who now unbodied seek
Their lost abodes, and restless ever roam;
Affright, ye elves, and bring my Phorbas home.
Look down auspicious Moon; too well you know
What Love will force, and potent charms can do.

While now the flames consume the sacred heap,
Sing Otys; try to lull my soul asleep;
Delightful sounds, when form'd by studious art
Will kind relief a while, and slumbring ease impart;
They quell sad thoughts, and raise from black despair
The troubled mind, and still the voice of care.

OTYS.
Love once assay'd to swim; in wanton play
He labouring strove to cut the liquid way:
He prest the waters with extended arms,
And as he mov'd, display'd a thousand charms.
When, tir'd with sport, he would at length have flown,
His wings were clogg'd with wet, and useless grown,
Fluttering he strove, but moisture prest him down.
The God of Love is now to seas confin'd,
No Triton must be proud, or Nymph unkind.

MEROE.
Cease, Otys; see, the flame already dies,
Choak'd with dark smoaky fumes, that circling rise.
Moisture imbib'd preserves the reeking heap:
Sad sign!—
Nor will he burn, nor shall I cease to weep.
In vain we strive: no artful spell can move,
No charm will force unwilling souls to love.

[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:240-42]