1794
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Cestus of Venus.

New York Magazine and Literary Repository 5 (October 1794) 637-38.

Anonymous


Twelve octosyllabic quatrains. The anonymous poet rings changes on the theme of Florimel's girdle, "The prize of her, which did in beautie most excell" Faerie Queen 4.4.5.9. In this poem the contenders attempt to determine what exactly the Cestus is, proposing sympathy, wit, and wisdom. Running over this "mental catalogue," the poet concludes otherwise: "if aright I ween, this zone. . . | Was but a simple purse." The poem is dated "New-York, Oct. 17th, 1794."

Collins's Ode on the Poetical Character received relatively few imitations, though perhaps this can be considered one of them — several of his poems had recently been reprinted in the New York Magazine.



The Cestus, which the graces wove,
And laughing Venus wore,
Where centered all the power of love,
By which all lovers swore.

Has been to various charms compared,
In various figures drest;
And thus the sentimental bard
His tender creed confess'd:

'Tis Sympathy's resistless tears,
Which melt the stubborn heart;
Awake a thousand anxious fears,
A thousand joys impart.

Such childish transports I despise,
(Exclaim'd a sprightlier swain,)
And Wit must revel in those eyes
Which give my bosom pain.

Hold, (said the philosophic sage)
'Tis Wisdom I aver,
Which charms mankind in every age;
I pay my vows to her.

Thus vainly have they oft explored
The mental catalogue;
And ev'ry beauty been adored,
And ev'ry grace in vogue.

Unweeting bards! who thus insult
Their godships' finer taste;
And think that they, on charms occult,
Etherial sighs would waste.

For, if their breasts (as poets tell)
With mortal passions glow,
Not even Beauty's potent spell
Could deal the fatal blow.

The little tyrant of the skies
Had pass'd unheeded by,
Nor the soft lustre of her eyes
Been honor'd with a sigh.

Then, if aright I ween, this zone
(Which woke the plaintive verse,
And triumph'd o'er the heart of stone,)
Was but a simple purse.

Nay, do not rave, ye whimpering swains,
And talk of love sincere;
For all your extacies and pains
Concentre only here.

Could you but learn the happy art,
By Midas known of old;
You'd e'en transform the fair one's heart
And ev'ry nerve to gold.

[pp. 637-38]