1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Temple of Pleasure.

A Collection of Poems, mostly original, by Several Hands. [Joshua Edkins. ed.]

Anonymous


A verse allegory in couplets. The dreamer, after an evening of dissipation, falls into a slumber, awakening to behold the fane of Pleasure rising before him. The "seeming goddess" is a Circe figure, from whose wiles he but just escapes. The poem concludes with some prudent reflections. The details of the allegory are quite conventional, though James Thomson's Castle of Indolence, with its Enchanter and trap door, seems to be the most immediate model.



Carlos, a youth, by tempting PLEASURE led,
In senseless slumbers, doz'd upon his bed;
Sated with wine and riotous delight,
His lungs exhal'd the revels of the night:
Before his sleeping fancy, seem'd to rise
A stately fabrick, dazzling to the eyes.
Struck, with the sparkling and attractive view,
With swift and eager steps, he nearer drew;
The door flew back, on easy hinges hung,
And the broad valves with tinkling music rung.
High on a rich, superb, refulgent throne,
Which all the pomp of regal wealth outshone,
The seeming goddess of the place appears,
Array'd in beauty and the bloom of years;
Enamour'd of her charms, he stood amaz'd,
And, lost in wonder, paus'd, awhile, and gaz'd.
With graceful mien, descending from her chair,
He mark'd the costly ringlets of her hair;
Her flowing robe, compos'd of many a fold,
Inwrought, with gems of amethyst and gold,
Brighten'd the dome, with variegated rays,
And spread around an intermitting blaze.
Her voice, harmonious, thus, the silence broke;
And, in benign, persuasive accent, spoke,
"Stranger, approach; thou hast no cause to fear,
Nor care, nor danger gain admission here.—
Through all this spacious mansion I command,
And treat my vassals with a lib'ral hand;
The sons of earth, with ev'ry joy, I bless,
They call me PLEASURE — child of Happiness!
Welcome, fair youth, my fortune thou shalt share
And spend a life unknown to fretful care;
Within my court, celestial Mirth thou'lt see,
And live and reign, in endless bliss, with me."
She ended, and, with rapture, he survey'd
Th' enchanting features of the radiant maid.
At length, emerging from his deep surprise,
With fault'ring hesitation, he replies,
"Fain would my heart its grateful feelings tell
And its presumptuous wishes here to dwell."—
She seiz'd his hand, and, with a smile divine,
She led him, not reluctant, to her shrine.
Here sweetest minstrelsy salutes his ear,
And lifts his soul beyond the reach of fear.
A band of Nymphs, in shining vests array'd,
In regular rotation, sung and play'd;
A sumptuous banquet on the table stood,
Of choicest fruits and rich ambrosial food;
Plac'd on a Tyrian couch, at ease, they dine
And quaff whole cups of pure nectareous wine;
The feast was o'er; the bowl had oft gone round;
The music ceas'd — he hears an uncouth sound;
Smote with surprize, he started from his seat
And, looking back, espy'd a postern gate,
Through which, appall'd, he heart the piercing cry
Of restless pangs and groaning agony.
Dauntless, she says, "Observe what they endure
Who pass, with scorn, my hospitable door;
There, doom'd, in constant misery, to lie,
They call on Fate and wish, in vain, to die;
Bound down, in bitter anguish, to remain
And bear the smarting scourge of vengeful pain;
With rasping lance, she wounds the flesh of all
And bathes them, bleeding, in corrosive gall."

His swelling heart heav'd, with a pitying sigh,
He stoop'd, to view them, with a tearful eye;
What grief, what horror in his bosom grew,
To see the torment of the friends he knew!
His gay companions in soft folly's maze,
Confin'd to linger in some dire disease!
As, close, he lean'd to take a full survey,
He push'd, with force, the tottering couch away,
And headlong down — He, with surprize, awoke
And thus, recov'ring from his panic, spoke
"Insidious Siren! have I 'scap'd thy snare?—
Is this the endless bliss I was to share?
Thus from the brink of deep destruction driv'n
To dwell an outcast from the sight of heav'n.
Is this the fate decreed for those who stray,
In flatt'ring vice's smooth, alluring, way?
Who to the splendent Fane of PLEASURE run,
Like gaudy insects, in the summer's sun!
Who sip the juice of ev'ry balmy flow'r,
And all the gard'ner's sweetest plants devour,
'Till the chang'd year, approaching winter's verge,
With rainy winds, sings their untimely dirge!

"Thus foolish man resigns his slender age
To a lewd Sorceress's precarious rage;
In soft delights his fleeting moments spends
And ne'er regards the ruin that impends.
How poor the purchase! — when we but obtain
A day of PLEASURE for whole years of PAIN!

[pp. 89-93]