1720
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Florinda seen while she was bathing.

The Fair Circassian, a Dramatic Performance. Done from the original by a Gentleman-Commoner of Oxford.

Rev. Samuel Croxall


18 stanzas, ababcc. The Rev. Samuel Croxall imitates Spenser in his more goatish vein, giving us three maidens in the fountain rather than the two encountered in the Bower of Bliss: "Florinda, with two Sister Nymphs, undrest, | Within the Channel of the cooly Tide, | By bathing sought to sooth her Virgin Breast, | Nor could the Night her dazling Beauties hide; | Her Features, glowing with eternal Bloom, | Darted, like Hesper, thro' the dusky Gloom."

William Lyon Phelps: "Mr. Gosse says that Croxall described his aim in poetry as being 'to set off the dry and insipid stuff' of the age by publishing 'a whole piece of rich glowing scarlet.' This is interesting, as it shows that his dislike of Augustan poetry was conscious and pronounced. He was, however, not more than half emancipated; with all his fire and passion, his work has many conventionalities. He has more significance as a Spenserian" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 30-31.

Earl R. Wasserman: "Probably suggested by Spenser's description of the Bower of Bliss" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 260.



'Twas Summer, and the clear resplendent Moon,
Shedding far o'er the Plains her full-orb'd Light,
Among the lesser Stars distinctly shone,
Despoiling of its Gloom the scanty Night,
When, walking forth, a lonely Path I took
Nigh the fair Border of a purling Brook.

Sweet and refreshing was the Midnight Air,
Whose gentle Motions husht the silent Grove;
Silent, unless when prick'd with wakeful Care
Philomel warbled out her Tale of Love:
While blooming Flowers, which in the Meadows grew,
O'er all the Place their blended Odours threw.

Just by, the limpid River's chrystal Wave,
Its Eddies gilt with Phoebe's silver Ray,
Still as it flow'd a glittering Lustre gave
With glancing Gleams that emulate the Day;
Yet, oh! not half so bright as those that rise
Where young Florinda bends her smiling Eyes.

Whatever pleasing Views my Senses meet,
Her intermingled Charms improve the Theme;
The warbling Birds, the Flowers that breathe so sweet,
And the soft Surface of the dimpled Stream,
Resembling in the Nymph some lovely Part,
With Pleasures more exalted seize my Heart.

Wrapt in these Thoughts I negligently rov'd,
Imagin'd Transports all my Soul employ,
When the delightful Voice of Her I lov'd,
Sent thro' the Shades a Sound of real Joy.
Confus'd it came, with giggling Laughter mixt,
And Echo from the Banks replied betwixt.

Inspir'd with Hope, upborn with light Desire,
To the dear Place my ready Footsteps tend,
Quick, as when kindling Trails of active Fire
Up to their native Firmament ascend:
There shrouded in the Briars unseen I stood,
And thro' the Leaves survey'd the neighbouring Flood.

Florinda, with two Sister Nymphs, undrest,
Within the Channel of the cooly Tide,
By bathing sought to sooth her Virgin Breast,
Nor could the Night her dazling Beauties hide;
Her Features, glowing with eternal Bloom,
Darted, like Hesper, thro' the dusky Gloom.

Her Hair bound backward in a spiral Wreath
Her upper Beauties to my Sight betray'd,
The happy Stream, concealing Those beneath,
Around her Waste with circling Waters play'd;
Who, while the Fair One on his Bosom sported,
Her dainty Limbs with liquid Kisses courted.

A Thousand Cupids with their infant Arms
Swam padling in the Current here and there;
Some, with Smiles innocent, remark'd the Charms
Of the regardless undesigning Fair;
Some, with their little Eben Bows full-bended
And levell'd Shafts, the naked Girl defended.

Her Eyes, her Lips, her Breasts exactly round,
Of Lilly Hue, unnumber'd Arrows sent;
Which to my Heart an easy Passage found,
Thrill'd in my Bones and thro' my Marrow went:
Some bubling upward thro' the Water came,
Prepar'd by Fancy to augment my Flame.

Ah Love! how ill I bore thy pleasing Pain!
For while the tempting Scene so near I view'd,
A fierce Impatience throb'd in every Vein,
Discretion fled, and Reason lay subdued;
My Blood beat high, and with it's trembling made
A strange Commotion in the rustling Shade.

Fear seiz'd the timorous Naiads, all aghast
Their boding Spirits at the Omen sink,
Their Eyes they wildly on each other cast
And meditate to gain the farther Brink;
When in I plung'd, resolving to asswage
In the cool Gulph Love's importuning Rage.

Ah, stay Florinda! (so I meant to speak)
Let not from Love the loveliest Object fly!
But e'er I spoke, a loud combining Squeak
From shrilling Voices pierc'd the distant Sky:
When strait, as each was their peculiar Care,
Th' immortal Powers to bring Relief prepare.

A golden Cloud descended from above,
Like that which whilom hung on Ida's Brow,
Where Juno, Pallas, and the Queen of Love,
As then to Paris, were conspicuous now.
Each Goddess seiz'd her fav'rite Charge, and threw
Around her Limbs a Robe of azure Hue.

But Venus, who with Pity saw my Flame
Kindled by her own Amoret so bright,
Approv'd in private what she seem'd to blame,
And bless'd me with a Vision of Delight:
Careless she dropt Florinda's Veil aside,
That nothing mought her choicest Beauties hide.

I saw Elysium and the milky Way
Fair-opening to the Shades beneath her Breast;
In Venus' Lap the struggling Wanton lay,
And, while she strove to hide, reveal'd the rest.
A Mole, embrown'd with no unseemly Grace,
Grew near, embellishing the sacred Place.

So pleas'd I view'd, as One fatigued with Heat
Who near at Hand beholds a shady Bower,
Joyful, in Hope amidst the kind Retreat
To shun the Day-star in his Noontide Hour;
Or as when parcht with droughty Thirst he spies
A mossy Grott whence purest Waters rise.

So I Florinda — but beheld in vain:
Like Tantalus, who in the Realms below
Sees blushing Fruits, which to increase his Pain,
When he attempts to eat, his Taste forego.
O Venus, give me more, or let me drink
Of Lethe's Fountain, and forget to think.

[(1721) 55-59]