372 Spenserians likely written circa 1801 to 1803 by Mary Tighe, an Irish poet who, like Keats, died young of tuberculosis. The first 1805 edition was anonymous; 100 copies were privately printed, though it acquired such reputation (Joseph Haslewood published an admiring account in the British Bibliographer) that Psyche or the Legend of Love was posthumously published in 1811 to great acclaim. The reviews of Psyche are valuable sources for contemporary commentary on Spenser and allegorical poetry. A number of sources date the first publication as 1795, apparently in error.
In The Legend of Love the Psyche myth is translated into a full-blown chivalric allegory of courtship and marriage. Mary Tighe displays a sophisticated understanding of Spenser's didactic procedures and their basis in classical thought. But Psyche is equally indebted to the allegorical treatments of modern manners in James Thomson's Castle of Indolence (1748), William Hayley's Triumphs of Temper (1781), and Sir James Bland Burges's Birth and Triumph of Love (1796). Tighe's powers of decorative description form a link between the Della Cruscans of the 1780s and the "Cockney" Spenserianism of the 1820s.
Joseph Haslewood: "As a narrative poem this forms a pleasing and interesting performance. The legitimate stanza of Spenser is a difficult and hazardous attempt, and the slavish recurrence of the rhime too frequently baffles all the powers of genius. It may be objected that there are a few lines of this description, where the similarity of the conclusion scarce amounts to a rhime, and the abrupt opening of the first canto, picturing the distress of Psyche, with its continuation, at the end of the second canto, forms too long an interval. Such slight blemishes, as are immediately discoverable, will weigh but little with the lover of the Muse, while enjoying the more general beauties, flowing from a brilliant imagination. Let it be hoped that this introduction to extended notice will assist in surmounting the causeless timidity of the writer, and that the fear of periodical critics will no longer keep from the public this pleasing production" British Bibliographer 1 (1810) 169.
Jane West to Thomas Percy: "I have scarce room to ask if you have read Psyche, an allegorical poem in the Spenserian stanza, written by an Irish lady who died young? It is poetical, moral, and sweetly plaintive, but has not interested me so much as Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming, which is in the same measure" 22 August 1811; in Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the XVIII Century (1817-1858) 8:432.
Francis Hodgson: "So far from thinking that the stanza, as managed by this writer, is tiresome, we are delighted with the variety and beauty of its construction. If it was indeed difficult to her in the composition, we can only say that she has completely concealed that difficulty; and that she has added another example to the scanty list of writers whose works, from the apparent facility of their execution, flatter their imitators with the hopes of arriving at an unattainable excellence.... It may be objected, perhaps, to this poem, that the author too often occupies the place of the heroine, and speaks more frequently in her proper person than epic canons have allowed to the poet. We know not how this may be; or at all events, we shall not here contest the point, whether or not the Aeneid would have gained beauty, if Virgil had given us more such passages as — 'Nescia mens hominum,' — "Fortunati ambo,' — and one or two others. — In an allegorical poem, and in a close though modernized imitation of Spenser's manner, the writer seems to have a sort of hereditary right to be as moral and pathetic as he pleases, in his own person" Monthly Review NS 66 (October 1811) 147-48, 151-52.
E. Owens Blackburne: "Psyche ... is one of the most marvellous poems that has ever been written by any woman in any age, Elizabeth Barrett Browning alone excepted. It stands alone in the literature of Ireland — pure, polished, sublime — the outpouring of a trammelled soul yearning to be freed from its uncongenial surroundings" Illustrious Irishwomen (1877) 2:56-57.
Henry Augustus Beers: "It is inferred that Keats knew the poem from a mention of the author in one of his pieces. He also wrote an Ode to Psyche, which seems, however, to have been inspired by an engraving in Spence's Polymetis. Mrs. Tighe was one of the latest and best of the professed imitators of Spenser. There is beauty of a kind in her languidly melodious verse and over-profuse imagery, but it is not the passionate and quintessential beauty of Keats. She is quite incapable of such choice and pregnant word effects as abound in every stanza of 'St. Agnes'" Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century (1901) 121.
Herbert E. Cory: "Mrs. Tighe's Psyche (written before the end of the century but not published until 1805) is famous for its influence over the young Keats. It is a fluent, sensuous, somewhat languorous poem, the work of a talented lover of Spenser, and transitional from the artificial spirit of the Eighteenth Century to the freer expression of the new era. The first two cantos give the regular version of Psyche's marriage with Cupid and of the ruinous influence of her jealous sisters. The later trials of Psyche are related with some romantic freedom but with much allegory of the Augustan-Spenserian kind. Psyche is befriended by a stranger knight and his squire, Constancy. Passion in the form of a lion appears but is submissive when he sees the knight. They arrive at the Bower of loose Delight. A dove saves Psyche from a perilous draught by dashing the cup from the tempting hand of the queen of the bower. They escape through wild ways to a hermit's cell where they remain for a time. Psyche is betrayed into the subtle net of Ambition but is rescued by her knight. Psyche is then tortured by the hag Credulity and led to the Blatant Beast, who is driven away by her knight. In the Castle of Suspicion, Gelyso shows her a false vision of Cupid in the Bower of loose Delight. Other adventures at the Palace of Chastity, the Coast of Spleen, Glacella's ice-palace on the Island of Indifference follow. At last Psyche is brought by her knight (Cupid of course) to Venus and reconciled" in "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 80n.
See the letters of John Keats for his early admiration and later rejection of this poem, and also Thomas Moore, "To Mrs. Henry Tighe, on reading her 'Psyche'" Works, ed. A. D. Godley (1929) 69-70.
ARGUMENT: "Proem — Psyche introduced — Her royal origin — Envy of Venus — Her instructions to Cupid — The island of Pleasure — The fountains of Joy and of Sorrow — The appearance of Love — Psyche asleep — Mutually wounded — Psyche reveals her dream to her Mother — The Oracle consulted — Psyche abandoned on the Rock by its decree — Carried by Zephyrs to the island of Pleasure — The Palace of Love — Banquet of Love — Marriage of Cupid and Psyche — Psyche's daily solitude — Her request to her Lover — His reluctant consent."
Let not the rugged brow the rhymes accuse,
Which speak of gentle knights and ladies fair,
Nor scorn the lighter labours of the muse,
Who yet, for cruel battles would not dare
The low-strung chords of her weak lyre prepare;
But loves to court repose in slumbery lay,
To tell of goodly bowers and gardens rare,
Of gentle blandishments and amorous play,
And all the lore of love, in courtly verse essay.
And ye whose gentle hearts in thraldom held
The power of mighty Love already own,
When you the pains and dangers have beheld,
Which erst your lord hath for his Psyche known,
For all your sorrows this may well atone,
That he you serve the same hath suffered;
And sure, your fond applause the tale will crown
In which your own distress is pictured,
And all that weary way which you yourselves must tread.
Most sweet would to my soul the hope appear,
That sorrow in my verse a charm might find,
To smooth the brow long bent with bitter cheer,
Some short distraction to the joyless mind
Which grief, with heavy chain, hath fast confined
To sad remembrance of its happier state;
For to myself I ask no boon more kind
Than power another's woes to mitigate,
And that soft soothing art which anguish can abate.
And thou, sweet sprite, whose sway doth far extend,
Smile on the mean historian of thy fame!
My heart in each distress and fear befriend,
Nor ever let it feel a fiercer flame
Than innocence may cherish free from blame,
And hope may nurse, and sympathy may own;
For, as thy rights I never would disclaim,
But true allegiance offered to thy throne,
So may I love but one, by one beloved alone.
That anxious torture may I never feel,
Which, doubtful, watches o'er a wandering heart.
Oh! who that bitter torment can reveal,
Or tell the pining anguish of that smart!
In those affections may I ne'er have part,
Which easily transferred can learn to rove:
No, dearest Cupid! when I feel thy dart,
For thy sweet Psyche's sake may no false love
The tenderness I prize lightly from me remove!
Much wearied with her long and dreary way,
And now with toil and sorrow well nigh spent,
Of sad regret and wasting grief the prey,
Fair Psyche through untrodden forests went,
To lone shades uttering oft a vain lament.
And oft in hopeless silence sighing deep,
As she her fatal error did repent,
While dear remembrance bade her ever weep,
And her pale cheek in ceaseless showers of sorrow steep.
'Mid the thick covert of that woodland shade,
A flowery bank there lay undressed by art,
But of the mossy turf spontaneous made;
Here the young branches shot their arms athwart,
And wove the bower so thick in every part,
That the fierce beams of Phoebus glancing strong
Could never through the leaves their fury dart;
But the sweet creeping shrubs that round it throng,
Their loving fragrance mix, and trail their flowers along.
And close beside a little fountain played,
Which through the trembling leaves all joyous shone,
And with the cheerful birds sweet music made,
Kissing the surface of each polished stone
As it flowed past: sure as her favourite throne
Tranquillity might well esteem the bower,
The fresh and cool retreat have called her own,
A pleasant shelter in the sultry hour,
A refuge from the blast, and angry tempest's power.
Wooed by the soothing silence of the scene
Here Psyche stood, and looking round, lest aught
Which threatened danger near her might have been,
Awhile to rest her in that quiet spot
She laid her down, and piteously bethought
Herself on the sad changes of her fate,
Which in so short a space so much had wrought,
And now had raised her to such high estate,
And now had plunged her low in sorrow desolate.
Oh! how refreshing seemed the breathing wind
To her faint limbs! and while her snowy hands
From her fair brow her golden hair unbind,
And of her zone unloose the silken bands,
More passing bright unveiled her beauty stands;
For faultless was her form as beauty's queen,
And every winning grace that Love demands,
With mild attempered dignity was seen
Play o'er each lovely limb, and deck her angel mien.
Though solitary now, dismayed, forlorn,
Without attendant through the forest rude,
The peerless maid of royal lineage born
By many a royal youth had oft been wooed;
Low at her feet full many a prince had sued,
And homage paid unto her beauty rare;
But all their blandishments her heart withstood;
And well might mortal suitor sure despair,
Since mortal charms were none which might with hers compare.
Yet nought of insolence or haughty pride
Found ever in her gentle breast a place;
Though men her wondrous beauty deified,
And rashly deeming such celestial grace
Could never spring from any earthly race,
Lo! all forsaking Cytherea's shrine,
Her sacred altars now no more embrace,
But to fair Psyche pay those rites divine,
Which, Goddess! are thy due, and should be only thine.
But envy of her beauty's growing fame
Poisoned her sisters' hearts with secret gall,
And oft with seeming piety they blame
The worship which they justly impious call;
And oft, lest evil should their sire befal,
Besought him to forbid the erring crowd
Which hourly thronged around the regal hall,
With incense, gifts, and invocations loud,
To her whose guiltless breast, ne'er felt elation proud.
For she was timid as the wintry flower,
That, whiter than the snow it blooms among,
Droops its fair head submissive to the power
Of every angry blast which sweeps along
Sparing the lovely trembler, while the strong
Majestic tenants of the leafless wood
It levels low. But, ah! the pitying song
Must tell how, than the tempest's self more rude,
Fierce wrath and cruel hate their suppliant prey pursued.
Indignant quitting her deserted fanes,
Now Cytherea sought her favourite isle,
And there from every eye her secret pains
'Mid her thick myrtle bowers concealed awhile;
Practised no more the glance, or witching smile,
But nursed the pang she never felt before,
Of mortified disdain; then to beguile
The hours which mortal flattery soothed no more,
She various plans revolved her influence to restore.
She called her son with unaccustomed voice;
Not with those thrilling accents of delight
Which bade so oft enchanted Love rejoice,
Soft as the breezes of a summer's night:
Now choked with rage its change could Love affright;
As all to sudden discontent a prey,
Shunning the cheerful day's enlivening light,
She felt the angry power's malignant sway,
And bade her favourite boy her vengeful will obey.
Bathed in those tears which vanquish human hearts,
"Oh, son beloved!" (the suppliant goddess cried,)
If e'er thy too indulgent mother's arts
Subdued for thee the potent deities
Who rule my native deep, or haunt the skies;
Or if to me the grateful praise be due,
That to thy sceptre bow the great and wise,
Now let thy fierce revenge my foe pursue,
And let my rival scorned her vain presumption rue.
"For what to me avails my former boast
That, fairer than the wife of Jove confest,
I gained the prize thus basely to be lost?
With me the world's devotion to contest
Behold a mortal dares; though on my breast
Still vainly brilliant shines the magic zone.
Yet, yet I reign: by you my wrongs redrest,
The world with humbled Psyche soon shall own
That Venus, beauty's queen, shall be adored alone.
"Deep let her drink of that dark, bitter spring,
Which flows so near thy bright and crystal tide;
Deep let her heart thy sharpest arrow sting,
Its tempered barb in that black poison dyed.
Let her, for whom contending princes sighed,
Feel all the fury of thy fiercest flame
For some base wretch to foul disgrace allied,
Forgetful of her birth and her fair fame,
Her honours all defiled, and sacrificed to shame."
Then, with sweet pressure of her rosy lip,
A kiss she gave bathed in ambrosial dew;
The thrilling joy he would for ever sip,
And his moist eyes in ecstasy imbrue.
But she whose soul still angry cares pursue,
Snatched from the soft caress her glowing charms;
Her vengeful will she then enforced anew,
As she in haste dismissed him from her arms,
The cruel draught to seek of anguish and alarms.
'Mid the blue waves by circling seas embraced
A chosen spot of fairest land was seen;
For there with favouring hand had Nature placed
All that could lovely make the varied scene:
Eternal Spring there spread her mantle green;
There high surrounding hills deep-wooded rose
O'er placid lakes; while marble rocks between
The fragrant shrubs their pointed heads disclose,
And balmy breathes each gale which o'er the island blows.
Pleasure had called the fertile lawns her own,
And thickly strewed them with her choicest flowers;
Amid the quiet glade her golden throne
Bright shone with lustre through o'erarching bowers:
There her fair train, the ever downy Hours,
Sport on light wing with the young Joys entwined;
While Hope delighted from her full lap showers
Blossoms, whose fragrance can the ravished mind
Inebriate with dreams of rapture unconfined.
And in the grassy centre of the isle,
Where the thick verdure spreads a damper shade,
Amid their native rocks concealed awhile,
Then o'er the plains in devious streams displayed,
Two gushing fountains rise; and thence conveyed,
Their waters through the woods and vallies play,
Visit each green recess and secret glade,
With still unmingled, still meandering way,
Nor widely wandering far, can each from other stray.
But of strange contrast are their virtues found,
And oft the lady of that isle has tried
In rocky dens and caverns under ground,
The black deformed stream in vain to hide;
Bursting all bounds her labours it defied;
Yet many a flowery sod its course conceals
Through plains where deep its silent waters glide,
Till secret ruin all corroding steals,
And every treacherous arch the hideous gulph reveals.
Forbidding every kindly prosperous growth,
Where'er it ran, a channel bleak it wore;
The gaping banks receded, as though loth
To touch the poison which disgraced their shore:
There deadly anguish pours unmixed his store
Of all the ills which sting the human breast,
The hopeless tears which past delights deplore,
Heart-gnawing jealousy which knows no rest,
And self-upbraiding shame, by stern remorse opprest.
Oh, how unlike the pure transparent stream,
Which near it bubbles o'er its golden sands!
The impeding stones with pleasant music seem
Its progress to detain from other lands;
And all its banks, inwreathed with flowery bands,
Ambrosial fragrance shed in grateful dew:
There young Desire enchanted ever stands,
Breathing delight and fragrance ever new,
And bathed in constant joys of fond affection true.
But not to mortals is it e'er allowed
To drink unmingled of that current bright;
Scarce can they taste the pleasurable flood,
Defiled by angry Fortune's envious spite;
Who from the cup of amorous delight
Dashes the sparkling draught of brilliant joy,
Till, with dull sorrow's stream despoiled quite,
No more it cheers the soul nor charms the eye,
But 'mid the poisoned bowl distrust and anguish lie.
Here Cupid tempers his unerring darts,
And in the fount of bliss delights to play;
Here mingles balmy sighs and pleasing smarts,
And here the honied draught will oft allay
With that black poison's all-polluting sway,
For wretched man. Hither, as Venus willed,
For Psyche's punishment he bent his way:
From either stream his amber vase he filled,
For her were meant the drops which grief alone distilled.
His quiver, sparkling bright with gems and gold,
From his fair plumed shoulder graceful hung,
And from its top in brilliant chords enrolled
Each little vase resplendently was slung:
Still as he flew, around him sportive clung
His frolic train of winged Zephyrs light,
Wafting the fragrance which his tresses flung:
While odours dropped from every ringlet bright,
And from his blue eyes beamed ineffable delight.
Wrapt in a cloud unseen by mortal eye,
He sought the chamber of the royal maid;
There, lulled by careless soft security,
Of the impending mischief nought afraid,
Upon her purple couch was Psyche laid,
Her radiant eyes a downy slumber sealed;
In light transparent veil alone arrayed,
Her bosom's opening charms were half revealed,
And scarce the lucid folds her polished limbs concealed.
A placid smile plays o'er each roseate lip,
Sweet severed lips! while thus your pearls disclose,
That slumbering thus unconscious she may sip
The cruel presage of her future woes?
Lightly, as fall the dews upon the rose,
Upon the coral gates of that sweet cell
The fatal drops he pours; nor yet he knows,
Nor, though a God, can he presaging tell
How he himself shall mourn the ills of that sad spell!
Nor yet content, he from his quiver drew,
Sharpened with skill divine, a shining dart:
No need had he for bow, since thus too true
His hand might wound her all-exposed heart;
Yet her fair side he touched with gentlest art,
And half relenting on her beauties gazed;
Just then awaking with a sudden start
Her opening eye in humid lustre blazed,
Unseen he still remained, enchanted and amazed.
The dart which in his hand now trembling stood,
As o'er the couch he bent with ravished eye,
Drew with its daring point celestial blood
From his smooth neck's unblemished ivory:
Heedless of this, but with a pitying sigh
The evil done now anxious to repair,
He shed in haste the balmy drops of joy
O'er all the silky ringlets of her hair;
Then stretched his plumes divine, and breathed celestial air.
Unhappy Psyche! soon the latent wound
The fading roses of her cheek confess,
Her eyes bright beams, in swimming sorrows drowned,
Sparkle no more with life and happiness
Her parents fond exulting heart to bless;
She shuns adoring crowds, and seeks to hide
The pining sorrows which her soul oppress,
Till to her mother's tears no more denied,
The secret grief she owns, for which she lingering sighed.
A dream of mingled terror and delight
Still heavy hangs upon her troubled soul,
An angry form still swims before her sight,
And still the vengeful thunders seem to roll;
Still crushed to earth she feels the stern control
Of Venus unrelenting, unappeased:
The dream returns, she feels the fancied dole;
Once more the furies on her heart have seized,
But still she views the youth who all her sufferings eased.
Of wonderous beauty did the vision seem,
And in the freshest prime of youthful years;
Such at the close of her distressful dream
A graceful champion to her eyes appears;
Her loved deliverer from her foes and fears
She seems in grateful transport still to press;
Still his soft voice sounds in her ravished ears;
Dissolved in fondest tears of tenderness
His form she oft invokes her waking eyes to bless.
Nor was it quite a dream, for as she woke,
Ere heavenly mists concealed him from her eye,
One sudden transitory view she took
Of Love's most radiant bright divinity;
From the fair image never can she fly,
As still consumed with vain desire she pines;
While her fond parents heave the anxious sigh,
And to avert her fate seek holy shrines
The threatened ills to learn by auguries and signs.
And now, the royal sacrifice prepared,
The milk-white bull they to the altar lead,
Whose youth the galling yoke as yet had spared,
Now destined by the sacred knife to bleed:
When lo! with sudden spring his horns he freed,
And head-long rushed amid the frighted throng:
While from the smoke-veiled shrine such sounds proceed
As well might strike with awe the soul most strong;
And thus divinely spoke the heaven inspired tongue.
"On nuptial couch, in nuptial vest arrayed,
On a tall rock's high summit Psyche place:
Let all depart, and leave the fated maid
Who never must a mortal Hymen grace:
A winged monster of no earthly race
Thence soon shall bear his trembling bride away;
His power extends o'er all the bounds of space,
And Jove himself has owned his dreaded sway,
Whose flaming breath sheds fire, whom earth and heaven obey."
With terror, anguish, and astonishment
The oracle her wretched father hears;
Now from his brow the regal honours rent,
And now in frantic sorrow wild appears,
Nor threatened plagues, nor punishment he fears,
Refusing long the sentence to obey,
Till Psyche, trembling with submissive tears,
Bids them the sacrifice no more delay,
Prepare the funeral couch, and leave the destined prey.
Pleased by the ambiguous doom the Fates promulge,
The angry Goddess and enamoured Boy
Alike content their various hopes indulge;
He, still exploring with an anxious eye
The future prospect of uncertain joy,
Plans how the tender object of his care
He may protect from threatened misery;
Ah sanguine Love! so oft deceived, forbear
With flattering tints to paint illusive hope so fair.
But now what lamentations rend the skies!
In amaracine wreaths the virgin choir
With Io Hymen mingle funeral cries:
Lost in the sorrows of the Lydian lyre
The breathing flutes' melodious notes expire;
In sad procession pass the mournful throng
Extinguishing with tears the torches' fire,
While the mute victim weeping crowds among,
By unknown fears oppressed, moves silently along.
But on such scenes of terror and dismay
The mournful Muse delights not long to dwell;
She quits well pleased the melancholy lay,
Nor vainly seeks the parents' woes to tell:
But what to wondering Psyche then befel
When thus abandoned, let her rather say,
Who shuddering looks to see some monster fell
Approach the desert rock to seize his prey,
With cruel fangs devour, or tear her thence away.
When lo! a gentle breeze began to rise,
Breathed by obedient Zephyrs round the maid,
Fanning her bosom with its softest sighs
Awhile among her fluttering robes it strayed,
And boldly sportive latent charms displayed:
And then, as Cupid willed, with tenderest care
From the tall rock, where weeping she was laid,
With gliding motion through the yielding air
To Pleasure's blooming isle their lovely charge they bear.
On the green bosom of the turf reclined,
They lightly now the astonished virgin lay,
To placid rest they sooth her troubled mind;
Around her still with watchful care they stay,
Around her still in quiet whispers play;
Till lulling slumbers bid her eyelids close,
Veiling with silky fringe each brilliant ray,
While soft tranquillity divinely flows
O'er all her soul serene, in visions of repose.
Refreshed she rose, and all enchanted gazed
On the rare beauties of the pleasant scene.
Conspicuous far a lofty palace blazed
Upon a sloping bank of softest green;
A fairer edifice was never seen;
The high ranged columns own no mortal hand,
But seem a temple meet for Beauty's queen.
Like polished snow the marble pillars stand
In grace attempered majesty sublimely grand.
Gently ascending from a silvery flood,
Above the palace rose the shaded hill,
The lofty eminence was crowned with wood,
And the rich lawns, adorned by nature's skill,
The passing breezes with their odours fill;
Here ever blooming groves of orange glow,
And here all flowers which from their leaves distil
Ambrosial dew in sweet succession blow,
And trees of matchless size a fragrant shade bestow.
The sun looks glorious mid a sky serene,
And bids bright lustre sparkle o'er the tide;
The clear blue ocean at a distance seen
Bounds the gay landscape on the western side,
While closing round it with majestic pride,
The lofty rocks mid citron groves arise;
"Sure some divinity must here reside,"
As tranced in some bright vision, Psyche cries,
And scarce believes the bliss, or trusts her charmed eyes.
When lo! a voice divinely sweet she hears,
From unseen lips proceeds the heavenly sound;
"Psyche approach, dismiss thy timid fears,
At length his bride thy longing spouse has found,
And bids for thee immortal joys abound;
For thee the palace rose at his command,
For thee his love a bridal banquet crowned;
He bids attendant nymphs around thee stand
Prompt every wish to serve, a fond obedient band."
Increasing wonder filled her ravished soul,
For now the pompous portals opened wide,
There, pausing oft, with timid foot she stole
Through halls high domed, enriched with sculptured pride,
While gay saloons appeared on either side
In splendid vista opening to her sight;
And all with precious gems so beautified,
And furnished with such exquisite delight,
That scarce the beams of heaven emit such lustre bright.
The amethyst was there of violet hue,
And there the topaz shed its golden ray,
The chrysoberyl, and the sapphire blue
As the clear azure of a sunny day,
Or the mild eyes where amorous glances play;
The snow white jasper, and the opal's flame,
The blushing ruby, and the agate grey,
And there the gem which bears his luckless name
Whose death by Phoebus mourned ensured him deathless fame.
There the green emerald, there cornelians glow,
And rich carbuncles pour eternal light,
With all that India and Peru can shew,
Or Labrador can give so flaming bright
To the charmed mariner's half dazzled sight:
The coral paved baths with diamonds blaze:
And all that can the female heart delight
Of fair attire, the last recess displays,
And all that Luxury can ask, her eye surveys.
Now through the hall melodious music stole,
And self-prepared the splendid banquet stands,
Self-poured the nectar sparkles in the bowl,
The lute and viol touched by unseen hands
Aid the soft voices of the choral bands;
O'er the full board a brighter lustre beams
Than Persia's monarch at his feast commands:
For sweet refreshment all inviting seems
To taste celestial food, and pure ambrosial streams.
But when meek Eve hung out her dewy star,
And gently veiled with gradual hand the sky,
Lo! the bright folding doors retiring far,
Display to Psyche's captivated eye
All that voluptuous ease could e'er supply
To sooth the spirits in serene repose:
Beneath the velvet's purple canopy
Divinely formed a downy couch arose,
While alabaster lamps a milky light disclose.
Once more she hears the hymeneal strain;
Far other voices now attune the lay;
The swelling sounds approach, awhile remain,
And then retiring faint dissolved away:
The expiring lamps emit a feebler ray,
And soon in fragrant death extinguished lie:
Then virgin terrors Psyche's soul dismay,
When through the obscuring gloom she nought can spy,
But softly rustling sounds declare some Being nigh.
Oh, you for whom I write! whose hearts can melt
At the soft thrilling voice whose power you prove,
You know what charm, unutterably felt,
Attends the unexpected voice of Love:
Above the lyre, the lute's soft notes above,
With sweet enchantment to the soul it steals
And bears it to Elysium's happy grove;
You best can tell the rapture Psyche feels
When Love's ambrosial lip the vows of Hymen seals.
"'Tis he, 'tis my deliverer! deep imprest
Upon my heart those sounds I well recal,"
The blushing maid exclaimed, and on his breast
A tear of trembling ecstasy let fall.
But, ere the breezes of the morning call
Aurora from her purple, humid bed,
Psyche in vain explores the vacant hall,
Her tender lover from her arms is fled,
While sleep his downy wings had o'er her eye-lids spread.
Again the band invisible attend,
And female voices sooth the mournful bride;
Light hands to braid her hair assistance lend,
By some she sees the glowing bracelet tied,
Others officious hover at her side,
And each bright gem for her acceptance bring,
While some, the balmy air diffusing wide,
Fan softer perfumes from each odorous wing
Than the fresh bosom sheds of earliest, sweetest spring.
With songs divine her anxious soul they cheer,
And woo her footsteps to delicious bowers,
They bid the fruit more exquisite appear
Which at her feet its bright profusion showers:
For her they cull unknown, celestial flowers;
The gilded car they bid her fearless guide,
Which at her wish self-moved with wondrous powers,
The rapid bird's velocity defied,
While round the blooming isle it rolled with circuit wide.
Again they spread the feast, they strike the lyre,
But to her frequent questions nought reply,
Her lips in vain her lover's name require,
Or wherefore thus concealed he shuns her eye.
But when reluctant twilight veils the sky,
And each pale lamp successively expires;
Again she trembling hears the voice of joy,
Her spouse a tender confidence inspires,
But with a fond embrace ere dawn again retires.
To charm the languid hours of solitude
He oft invites her to the Muse's lore,
For none have vainly e'er the Muse pursued,
And those whom she delights, regret no more
The social, joyous hours, while rapt they soar
To worlds unknown, and live in fancy's dream:
Oh, Muse divine! thee only I implore,
Shed on my soul thy sweet inspiring beams,
And pleasure's gayest scene insipid folly seems!
Silence and solitude the Muses love,
And whom they charm they can alone suffice;
Nor ever tedious hour their votaries prove:
This solace now the lonely Psyche tries,
Or, while her hand the curious needle plies,
She learns from lips unseen celestial strains;
Responsive now with their soft voice she vies,
Or bids her plaintive harp express the pains
Which absence sore inflicts where Love all potent reigns.
But melancholy poisons all her joys,
And secret sorrows all her hopes depress,
Consuming languor every bliss destroys,
And sad she droops repining, comfortless.
Her tender lover well the cause can guess,
And sees too plain inevitable fate
Pursue her to the bowers of happiness.
"Oh, Psyche! most beloved, ere yet too late,
Dread the impending ills and prize thy tranquil state."
In vain his weeping love he thus advised;
She longs to meet a parent's sweet embrace,
"Oh, were their sorrowing hearts at least apprised
How Psyche's wondrous lot all fears may chase;
For whom thy love prepared so fair a place!
Let but my bliss their fond complaints repress,
Let me but once behold a mother's face,
Oh, spouse adored! and in full happiness
This love-contented heart its solitude shall bless.
Oh, by those beauties I must ne'er behold!
The spicy-scented ringlets of thine hair:
By that soft neck my loving arms enfold,
Crown with a kind consent thy Psyche's prayer!
Their dear embrace, their blessing let me share;
So shall I stain our couch with tears no more:
But, blest in thee, resign each other care,
Nor seek again thy secret to explore,
Which yet, denied thy sight, I ever must deplore."
Unable to resist her fond request,
Reluctant Cupid thus at last complied,
And sighing clasped her closer to his breast.
"Go then, my Psyche! go, my lovely bride!
But let me in thy faith at least confide,
That by no subtle, impious arts betrayed,
Which, ah! too well I know will all be tried,
Thy simply trusting heart shall e'er be swayed
The secret veil to rend which fate thy screen hath made.
"For danger hovers o'er thy smiling days,
One only way to shield thee yet I know;
Unseen, I may securely guard thy ways
And save thee from the threatened storm of woe;
But forced, if known, my Psyche to forego,
Thou never, never must again be mine!
What mutual sorrows hence must ceaseless flow!
Compelled thy dear embraces to resign,
While thou to anguish doomed for lost delights shalt pine.
"Solace thy mind with hopes of future joy!
In a dear infant thou shalt see my face;
Blest mother soon of an immortal boy,
In him his father's features thou shalt trace!
Yet go! for thou art free, the bounds of space
Are none for thee: attendant Zephyrs stay,
Speak but thy will, and to the wished for place
Their lovely mistress swift they shall convey:
Yet hither, ah! return, ere fades the festive day."
"Light of my soul, far dearer than the day!"
(Exulting Psyche cries in grateful joy)
"Me all the bliss of earth could ill repay
For thy most sweet, divine society;
To thee again with rapture will I fly,
Nor with less pleasure hail the star of eve
Than when in tedious solitude I sigh;
My vows of silent confidence believe,
Nor think thy Psyche's faith will e'er thy love deceive."
Her suit obtained, in full contentment blest,
Her eyes at length in placid slumbers close.
Sleep, hapless fair! sleep on thy lover's breast!
Ah, not again to taste such pure repose!
Till thy sad heart by long experience knows
How much they err, who to their interest blind,
Slight the calm peace which from retirement flows;
And while they think their fleeting joys to bind,
Banish the tranquil bliss which heaven for man designed!