1805
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Psyche; or, the Legend of Love. Canto VI.

Psyche; or, the Legend of Love.

Mary Tighe


Monthly Review: "In the VIth and last canto, the heroine is becalmed in prosecuting her voyage, surprized, and carried to the island of Indifference: she is pursued and finally rescued by her Knight. The voyage is concluded; and Psyche, brought home to the Island of Pleasure, beholds again the Temple of Love; is re-united to her lover, who, we need not say, is her faithful Knight; and is invited by Venus to receive her apotheosis in heaven" 66 (October 1811) 147.

Oliver Elton: "It is on the line between the older mode — Campbell's mode — of appropriating Spenser's charm, and the newer, and it shows the mixture of styles. Mrs. Tighe imposes on her Psyche, instead of the familiar trials, duller ones of her own making, and sends her wandering to the Coasts of Spleen and the Island of Indifference, to be saved by a knight who proves to be Cupid in disguise. There is not much romance in the work, but Mrs. Tighe sometimes catches the ebb and resurgence of Spenser's more equable verse with a pleasant ease" Survey of English Literature 1780-1830 (1912) 2:286.

ARGUMENT: "Introduction — The power of Love to soften adversity — Exhortation to guard Love from the attacks of Ill-temper, which conduct to Indifference and Disgust — Psyche becalmed — Psyche surprised and carried to the Island of Indifference — Pursued and rescued by her Knight — The Voyage concluded — Psyche brought home beholds again the Temple of Love — Is reunited to her Lover, and invited by Venus to receive in Heaven her Apotheosis — Conclusion."



When pleasure sparkles in the cup of youth,
And the gay hours on downy wing advance,
Oh! then 'tis sweet to hear the lip of truth
Breathe the soft vows of love, sweet to entrance
The raptured soul by intermingling glance
Of mutual bliss; sweet amid roseate bowers,
Led by the hand of Love, to weave the dance,
Or unmolested crop life's fairy flowers,
Or bask in joy's bright sun through calm unclouded hours.

Yet they, who light of heart in may-day pride
Meet love with smiles and gaily amorous song,
(Though he their softest pleasures may provide,
Even then when pleasures in full concert throng)
They cannot know with what enchantment strong
He steals upon the tender suffering soul,
What gently soothing charms to him belong,
How melting sorrow owns his soft control,
Subsiding passions hushed in milder waves to roll.

When vexed by cares and harassed by distress,
The storms of fortune chill thy soul with dread,
Let Love, consoling Love! still sweetly bless,
And his assuasive balm benignly shed:
His downy plumage o'er thy pillow spread
Shall lull thy weeping sorrows to repose;
To Love the tender heart hath ever fled,
As on its mother's breast the infant throws
Its sobbing face, and there in sleep forgets its woes.

Oh! fondly cherish then the lovely plant,
Which lenient Heaven hath given thy pains to ease;
Its lustre shall thy summer hours enchant,
And load with fragrance every prosperous breeze,
And when rude winter shall thy roses seize,
When nought through all thy bowers but thorns remain,
This still with undeciduous charms shall please,
Screen from the blast and shelter from the rain,
And still with verdure, cheer the desolated plain.

Through the hard season Love with plaintive note
Like the kind red-breast tenderly shall sing,
Which swells mid dreary snows its tuneful throat,
Brushing the cold dews from its shivering wing,
With cheerful promise of returning spring
To the mute tenants of the leafless grove.
Guard thy best treasure from the venomed sting
Of baneful peevishness; oh! never prove
How soon ill-temper's power can banish gentle Love!

Repentance may the storms of passion chase,
And Love, who shrunk affrighted from the blast,
May hush his just complaints in soft embrace,
And smiling wipe his tearful eye at last:
Yet when the wind's rude violence is past,
Look what a wreck the scattered fields display!
See on the ground the withering blossoms cast!
And hear sad Philomel with piteous lay
Deplore the tempest's rage that swept her young away.

The tears capricious beauty loves to shed,
The pouting lip, the sullen silent tongue,
May wake the impassioned lovers tender dread,
And touch the spring that clasps his soul so strong;
But ah, beware! the gentle power too long
Will not endure the frown of angry strife;
He shuns contention, and the gloomy throng
Who blast the joys of calm domestic life,
And flies when discord shakes her brand with quarrels rife.

Oh! he will tell you that these quarrels bring
The ruin, not renewal of his flame:
If oft repeated, lo! on rapid wing
He flies to hide his fair but tender frame;
From violence, reproach, or peevish blame
Irrevocably flies. Lament in vain!
Indifference comes the abandoned heart to claim,
Asserts for ever her repulsive reign,
Close followed by disgust and all her chilling train.

Indifference, dreaded power! what art shall save
The good so cherished from thy grasping hand?
How shall young Love escape the untimely grave
Thy treacherous arts prepare? or how withstand
The insidious foe, who with her leaden band
Enchains the thoughtless, slumbering deity?
Ah, never more to wake! or e'er expand
His golden pinions to the breezy sky,
Or open to the sun his dim and languid eye.

Who can describe the hopeless, silent pang
With which the gentle heart first marks her sway?
Eyes the sure progress of her icy fang
Resistless, slowly fastening on her prey;
Sees rapture's brilliant colours fade away,
And all the glow of beaming sympathy;
Anxious to watch the cold averted ray
That speaks no more to the fond meeting eye
Enchanting tales of love, and tenderness, and joy.

Too faithful heart! thou never canst retrieve
Thy withered hopes: conceal the cruel pain!
O'er thy lost treasure still in silence grieve;
But never to the unfeeling ear complain:
From fruitless struggles dearly bought refrain!
Submit at once — the bitter task resign,
Nor watch and fan the expiring flame in vain;
Patience, consoling maid, may yet be thine,
Go seek her quiet cell, and hear her voice divine!

But lo! the joyous sun, the soft-breathed gales
By zephyrs sent to kiss the placid seas,
Curl the green wave, and fill the swelling sails;
The seamen's shouts, which jocund hail the breeze,
Call the glad knight the favouring hour to seize.
Her gentle hostess Psyche oft embraced,
Who still solicitous her guest to please
On her fair breast a talisman had placed,
And with the valued gem her parting blessing graced.

How gaily now the bark pursues its way
Urged by the steady gale! while round the keel
The bubbling currents in sweet whispers play,
Their force repulsive now no more they feel;
No clouds the unsullied face of heaven conceal,
But the clear azure one pure dome displays,
Whether it bids the star of day reveal
His potent beams, or Cynthia's milder rays
On deep cerulean skies invite the eye to gaze.

Almost unconscious they their course pursue,
So smooth the vessel cuts the watery plain;
The wide horizon to their boundless view
Gives but the sky, and Neptune's ample reign:
Still the unruffled bosom of the main
Smiles undiversified by varying wind;
No toil the idle mariners sustain,
While, listless, slumbering o'er his charge reclined,
The pilot cares no more the unerring helm to mind.

With light exulting heart glad Psyche sees
Their rapid progress as they quit the shore:
Yet weary languor steals by slow degrees
Upon her tranquil mind; she joys no more
The never changing scene to wander o'er
With still admiring eye; the enchanting song
Yields not that lively charm it knew before,
When first enraptured by his tuneful tongue
She bad her vocal knight the heavenly strain prolong.

A damp chill mist now deadens all the air,
A drowsy dullness seems o'er all to creep,
No more the heavens their smile of brightness wear,
The winds are hushed, while the dim glassy deep
Oppressed by sluggish vapours seems to sleep;
See his light scarf the knight o'er Psyche throws,
Solicitous his lovely charge to keep
From still increasing cold; while deep repose
Benumbs each torpid sense and bids her eye-lids close.

Now as with languid stroke they ply the oars,
While the dense fog obscures their gloomy way;
Hymen, well used to coast these dangerous shores,
Roused from the dreaming trance in which he lay,
Cries to the knight in voice of dread dismay,
"Steer hence thy bark, oh! yet in time beware;
Here lies Petrea, which with baneful sway
Glacella rules, I feel the dank cold air,
I hear her chilling voice, methinks it speaks despair!"

Even while he speaks, behold the vessel stands
Immoveable! in vain the pilot tries
The helm to turn; fixed in the shallow strands,
No more obedient to his hand, it lies,
The disappointed oar no aid supplies
While sweeping o'er the sand it mocks their force.
The anxious knight to Constance now applies,
To his oft tried assistance has recourse,
And bids his active mind design some swift resource,

Debating doubtfully awhile they stood,
At length on their united strength rely,
To force the bark on the supporting flood;
They rouse the seamen, who half slumbering lie,
Subdued and loaded by the oppressive sky.
Then wading mid the fog, with care explore
What side the deepest waters may supply,
And where the shallows least protect the shore,
While through their darksome search the star sheds light before.

Mean time deep slumbers of the vaporous mist
Hang on the heavy eye-lids of the fair;
And Hymen too, unable to resist
The drowsy force of the o'erwhelming air,
Laid at her feet at length forgets his care.
When lo! Glacella's treacherous slaves advance,
Deep wrapt in thickest gloom; the sleeping fair
They seize, and bear away in heedless trance,
Long ere her guardian knight suspects the bitter chance.

Thus the lorn traveller imprudent sleeps
Where his high glaciers proud Locendro shews;
Thus o'er his limbs resistless torpor creeps,
As yielding to the fatal deep repose
He sinks benumbed upon the Alpine snows,
And sleeps no more to wake; no more to view
The blooming scenes his native vales disclose,
Or ever more the craggy path pursue,
Or o'er the lichened steep the chamois chase renew.

Lo! to their queen they bear their sleeping prey,
Deep in her ice-built castle's gloomy state,
There on a pompous couch they gently lay
Psyche, as yet unconscious of her fate,
And when her heavy eyes half opening late
Dimly observe the strange and unknown scenes,
As in a dream she views her changed estate,
Gazing around with doubtful, troubled mien
Now on the stupid crowd, now on their dull proud queen

With vacant smile, and words but half exprest,
In one ungracious, never-varying tone,
Glacella welcomes her bewildered guest,
And bids the chief supporter of her throne
Approach and make their mighty mistress known,
Proud Selfishness, her dark ill-favoured lord!
Her gorgeous seat, which still he shared alone,
He slowly leaves obedient to her word,
And ever as he moved the cringing train adored.

Nought of his shapeless form to sight appears,
Impenetrable furs conceal each part;
Harsh and unpleasing sounds in Psyche's ears
That voice which had subdued full many a heart;
While he, exerting every specious art,
Persuades her to adore their queen's control;
Yet would he not Glacella's name impart,
But with false title, which she artful stole
From fair Philosophy, deludes the erring soul.

"Rest, happy fair!" he cries, "who here hast found
From all the storms of life a safe retreat,
Sorrow thy breast henceforth no more shall wound
Nor care invade thee in this quiet seat:
The voice of the distressed no more shall meet
The sympathising ear; another's woes
Shall never interrupt the stillness sweet,
Which here shall hush thee to serene repose,
Nor damp the constant joys these scenes for thee disclose.

Fatigue no more thy soft and lovely frame
With vain benevolence and fruitless care;
No deep heaved sigh shall here thy pity claim,
Nor hateful want demand thy wealth to share;
For thee shall Independence still prepare
Pleasures unmingled, and for ever sure;
His lips our sovereign's peaceful laws declare,
Centre existence in thyself secure,
Nor let an alien shade thy sunshine e'er obscure."

He spoke, and lo! unnumbered doors unfold,
And various scenes of revelry display;
Here Grandeur sunk beneath the massive gold;
Here discontented Beauty pined away,
And vainly conscious asked her promised sway;
Here Luxury prepared his sumptuous feast,
While lurking Apathy behind him lay
To poison all the insipid food he drest,
And shake his poppy crown o'er every sated guest.

The hireling minstrels strike their weary lyre,
And slumber o'er the oft repeated strain;
No listless youth to active grace they fire:
Here Eloquence herself might plead in vain,
Nor one of all the heartless crowd could gain:
And thou, oh! sweeter than the Muses song,
Affection's voice divine! with cold disdain
Even thou art heard, while mid the insulting throng
Thy daunted, shivering form moves timidly along!

Thus o'er the oiled surface softly slides
The unadmitted stream, rapid it flows,
And from the impervious plain pellucid glides;
Repulsed with gentle murmurs thus it goes,
Till in the porous earth it finds repose;
Concealed and sheltered in its parents breast:—
Oh! man's best treasure in this vale of woes!
Still cheer the sad, and comfort the distrest,
Nor ever be thy voice by selfishness opprest!

Psyche with languid step he leads around,
And bids her all the castle's splendour see.
Here Dissipation's constant sports abound,
While her loose hand in seeming bounty free,
Her scentless roses, painted mimicry,
Profusely sheds; here Pride unheeded tells
To nodding crowds his ancient pedigree;
And Folly with reiterated spells
To count her spotted cards the yawning group compels.

"See how, attentive to her subjects ease,"
To their reluctant prey exclaims her guide,
"Each fleeting joy of life she bids them seize,
Anxious for each gay pastime to provide;
See her fast spreading power increasing wide,
Adored and worshipped in each splendid dome!
Lo! Beauty glows for ever at her side,
She bids her cheek the unvarying rose assume;
And Bacchus sees for her his votive ivy bloom.

"Is aught then wanting in this fairy bower?
Or is there aught which yet thy heart can move?"
That heart, unyielding to their sovereign's power,
In gentle whispers sighing answers, "Love!"
While scornful smiles the fond reply reprove,
"Lo!" he exclaims, "thy vanquished Cupid view;
He oft with powerful arms had vainly strove
Our sovereign's rocky fortress to subdue,
Now, subject to her reign, he yields obedience due."

Wondering she gazed around, and where he points,
An idiot child in golden chains she spies,
Rich cumbrous gems load all his feeble joints,
A gaudy bandage seels his stupid eyes,
And foul Desire his short-lived torch supplies:
By the capricious hand of Fashion led,
Her sudden starts with tottering step he tries
Submissive to attend: him had she bred,
And Selfishness himself the nursling ever fed.

With lustre false his tinsel arms to deck
Ungraceful ornaments around him shone,
Gifts of his sportive guide; she round his neck
A glittering cord insultingly had thrown,
Loading its pendent purse with many a stone
And worthless dross, and ever as he went,
His leaden darts, with wanton aim unknown,
Now here, now there, in careless chance she sent,
That oft their blunted force in empty air was spent.

Shocked, from the gross imposture Psyche turned
With horror and disgust her fearful eye;
Her fate forlorn in silent anguish mourned,
And called her knight with many a hopeless sigh.
But see, the crowds in sudden tumult fly!
The doors, fast closing to exclude some foe,
Proclaim to Psyche's hopes her hero nigh:
Escaping from her guard she flies, when lo!
His form the bursting gates in awful beauty shew.

"Fly from these dangerous walls," his page exclaims;
"Swift let us haste our floating bark to gain!
See thy knight's wondrous dart in terror flames;
Soon shall these ice-built walls no shape retain!
Nor can their Queen his dreaded sight sustain."
Scarcely she heard while rapidly she fled,
Even as a bird, escaped the wily train
The fowler with destructive art had spread,
Nor panting stays its flight, nor yet foregoes its dread.

See how astonished now the crowd supine,
Roused by his potent voice, confused arise;
In tottering masses o'er their heads decline
Dissolving walls; they gaze with wild surprise,
And each affrighted from the ruin flies:—
Pitying he views the vain unfeeling band
Beneath his care, a vile and worthless prize,
Their Queen alone his vengeful arms demand,
But unknown force was hers his terrors to withstand.

A shield she had of more than Gorgon power,
And whom she would she could transform to stone,
Nor ever had it failed her till that hour:
She proves his form invincible alone,
And calls its force petrific on her own.
Amazed he sees the indurated train,
The callous tenants of the silent throne,
And all the marble subjects of their reign,
Inviolably hard, their breathless shape retain.

The magic shield he thence in triumph bore,
Resolved, in pity to the human race,
Her noxious hands its might should guide no more,
And bade the seas conceal its Hydra face:
Oh! kindly meant, though much defeated grace!
For though the o'erwhelming weight of sounding waves
Conceal its rugged orb a little space,
Snatched by Glacella from the dark deep caves,
Once more the arm of Love with potent spell it braves.

But Psyche, rescued from their cruel scorn,
Urges her knight to hasten from the shore:
The buoyant vessel on the billows borne
Rides proudly o'er the mounting surge once more;
Again they spread the sails, the feathered oar
Skims with impatient stroke the sparkling tide;
The blushing Hymen now their smiles restore
Again to frolic gaily at their side,
Though still their playful taunts reproach their slumbering guide.

Psyche looks back with horror on the coast;
Black, drear, and desolate is all the scene:
The rocky cliffs still human shape may boast;
There the sad victims of the cruel Queen,
Memorials of her baneful power, are seen:
No vine crowned hills, no glowing vales appear,
Nor the white cottage laughs upon the green;
The black and leafless thorn alone is there,
And the chill mountains lift their summits wild and bare.

Her spirits lighten as they leave behind
The dreary prospect of Glacella's isle;
She blest with gladdened heart the light-winged wind
That bears her swiftly from a scene so vile;
With glistening eye, and hope's prophetic smile,
She hears her knight foretel their dangers o'er,
That sure success shall crown their fated toil,
And soon arriving at that happy shore,
Love shall again be found, and leave his bride no more.

Now, from light slumbers and delicious dreams,
The jocund cry of joy aroused the fair;
The morn that kissed her eyes with golden beams,
Bade her the universal transport share;
Divinely breathed the aromatic air,
And Psyche's heart, half fainting with delight,
In the peculiar odour wafted there
Recalled the breezes which, o'er scenes most bright,
Their wings of perfume shook, and lingering stayed their flight.

The lovely shore the mariners descry,
And many a gladsome cheer the prospect hails;
Its graceful hills rise full before the eye,
While eagerly expanding all their sails
They woo the freshness of the morning gales:
The approaching scenes new opening charms display,
And Psyche's palpitating courage fails,
She sees arrived at length the important day,
Uncertain yet of power the mandate to obey.

But one dear object every wish confines,
Her spouse is promised in that bower of rest;
And shall the sun, that now so cheerful shines,
Indeed behold her to his bosom prest,
And in his heavenly smiles of fondness blest?
Oh! 'tis too much! — exhausted life she fears
Will struggling leave her agitated breast,
Ere to her longing eyes his form appears,
Or the soft hand of Love shall wipe away her tears.

Oh! how impatience gains upon the soul
When the long promised hour of joy draws near!
How slow the tardy moments seem to roll!
What spectres rise of inconsistent fear!
To the fond doubting heart its hopes appear
Too brightly fair, too sweet to realize;
All seem but day-dreams of delight too dear!
Strange hopes and fears in painful contest rise,
While the scarce trusted bliss seems but to cheat the eyes.

But safely anchored in the happy port,
Led by her knight the golden sands she prest:
His heart beat high, his panting breath heaved short,
And sighs proclaim his agitated breast
By some important secret thought opprest:
"At length," he cries, "behold the fated spring!
Yon rugged cliff conceals the fountain blest,
(Dark rocks its crystal source o'ershadowing,)
And Constance swift for thee the destined urn shall bring."

He speaks, but scarce she hears, her soul intent
Surveys as in a dream each well known scene:
Now from the pointed hills her eye she bent
Inquisitive o'er all the sloping green;
The graceful temple meet for Beauty's queen,
The orange groves that ever blooming glow,
The silvery flood, the ambrosial air serene,
The matchless trees that fragrant shade bestow,
All speak to Psyche's soul, all seem their queen to know.

Let the vain rover, who his youth hath past
Misled in idle search of happiness,
Declare, by late experience taught at last,
In all his toils he gained but weariness,
Wooed the coy goddess but to find that less
She ever grants where dearest she is bought;
She loves the sheltering bowers of home to bless,
Marks with her peaceful hand the favourite spot,
And smiles to see that Love has home his Psyche brought.

On the dear earth she kneels the turf to press,
With grateful lips and fondly streaming eyes,
"Are these the unknown bowers of Happiness?
Oh! justly called, and gained at last!" she cries,
As eagerly to seize the urn she flies.
But lo! while yet she gazed with wondering eye
Constance ascends the steep to gain the prize,
The eagle's eyry is not built so high
As soon she sees his star bright blazing to the sky.

With light and nimble foot the boy descends,
And lifts the urn triumphant in his hand;
Low at the turf-raised altar Psyche bends,
While her fond eyes her promised Love demand;
Close at her side her faithful guardians stand,
As thus with timid voice she pays her vows,
"Venus, fulfilled is thine adored command,
Thy voice divine the suppliant's claim allows,
The smile of favour grant, restore her heavenly spouse."

Scarce on the altar had she placed the urn,
When lo! in whispers to her ravished ear
Speaks the soft voice of Love! "Turn, Psyche, turn!
And see at last, released from every fear,
Thy spouse, thy faithful knight, thy lover here!"
From his celestial brow the helmet fell,
In joy's full glow, unveiled his charms appear,
Beaming delight and love unspeakable,
While in one rapturous glance their mingling souls they tell.

Two tapers thus, with pure converging rays,
In momentary flash their beams unite,
Shedding but one inseparable blaze
Of blended radiance and effulgence bright,
Self-lost in mutual intermingling light;
Thus, in her lover's circling arms embraced,
The fainting Psyche's soul, by sudden flight,
With his its subtlest essence interlaced;
Oh! bliss too vast for thought! by words how poorly traced!

Fond youth! whom Fate hath summoned to depart,
And quit the object of thy tenderest love,
How oft in absence shall thy pensive heart
Count the sad hours which must in exile move,
And still their irksome weariness reprove;
Distance with cruel weight but loads thy chain
With every step which bids thee farther rove,
While thy reverted eye, with fruitless pain,
Shall seek the trodden path its treasure to regain.

For thee what rapturous moments are prepared!
For thee shall dawn the long expected day!
And he who ne'er thy tender woes hath shared,
Hath never known the transport they shall pay,
To wash the memory of those woes away:
The bitter tears of absence thou must shed,
To know the bliss which tears of joy convey,
When the long hours of sad regret are fled,
And in one dear embrace thy pains compensated!

Even from afar beheld, how eagerly
With rapture thou shalt hail the loved abode!
Perhaps already, with impatient eye,
From the dear casement she hath marked thy road,
And many a sigh for thy return bestowed:
Even there she meets thy fond enamoured glance:
Thy soul with grateful tenderness o'erflowed,
Which firmly bore the hand of hard mischance,
Faints in the stronger power of joy's o'erwhelming trance.

With Psyche thou alone canst sympathise,
Thy heart benevolently shares her joy!
See her unclose her rapture beaming eyes,
And catch that softly pleasurable sigh,
That tells unutterable ecstasy!
While hark melodious numbers through the air,
On clouds of fragrance wafted from the sky,
Their ravished souls to pious awe prepare,
And lo! the herald doves the Queen of Love declare.

With fond embrace she clasped her long lost son,
And gracefully received his lovely bride,
"Psyche! thou hardly hast my favour won!"
With roseate smile her heavenly parent cried,
"Yet hence thy charms immortal, deified,
With the young Joys, thy future offspring fair,
Shall bloom for ever at thy lover's side;
All ruling Jove's high mandate I declare,
Blest denizen of Heaven! arise its joys to share."

She ceased, and lo! a thousand voices, joined
In sweetest chorus, Love's high triumph sing;
There, with the Graces and the Hours entwined,
His fairy train their rosy garlands bring,
Or round their mistress sport on halcyon wing;
While she enraptured lives in his dear eye,
And drinks immortal love from that pure spring
Of never-failing full felicity,
Bathed in ambrosial showers of bliss eternally!

Dreams of Delight farewel! your charms no more
Shall gild the hours of solitary gloom!
The page remains — but can the page restore
The vanished bowers which Fancy taught to bloom?
Ah, no! her smiles no longer can illume
The path my Psyche treads no more for me;
Consigned to dark oblivion's silent tomb
The visionary scenes no more I see,
Fast from the fading lines the vivid colours flee!

[(1812) 180-209]