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Oh night more pleasing than the brightest day,
When fancy gives what absence takes away,
And, dress'd in all its visionary charms,
Restores my fair deserter to my arms!
Then round your neck in wanton wreath I twine,
Then you, methinks, as fondly circle mine;
A thousand tender words I hear and speak;
A thousand melting kisses give, and take:
Then fiercer joys, I blush to mention these,
Yet, while I blush, confess how much they please.
But when, with day, the sweet delusions fly,
And all things wake to life and joy, but I.
As if once more forsaken, I complain,
And close my eyes to dream of you again:
Then frantic rise, and like some fury rove
Through lonely plains, and through the silent grove;
As if the silent grove, and lonely plains,
That knew my pleasures, could relieve my pains.
I view the grotto, once the scene of love,
The rocks around, the hanging roofs above,
That charm'd me more, with native moss o'ergrown,
Than Phrygian marble, or the Parian stone.
I find the shades that veil'd our joys before;
But, Phaon gone, those shades delight no more.
Here the press'd herbs with bending tops betray
Where oft entwined in amorous folds we lay;
I kiss that earth which once was press'd by you,
And all with tears the withering herbs bedew.
For thee the fading trees appear to mourn,
And birds defer their songs till thy return:
Night shades the groves, and all in silence lie,
All but the mournful Philomel and I:
With mournful Philomel I join my strain,
Of Tereus she, of Phaon I complain.
A spring there is, whose silver waters show,
Clear as a glass, the shining sands below:
A flowery lotos spreads its arms above,
Shades all the banks, and seems itself a grove;
Eternal greens the mossy margin grace,
Watched by the silvan genius of the place:
Here as I lay, and swell'd with tears the flood,
Before my sight a watery virgin stood:
She stood and cried, "O you that love in vain!
Fly hence, and seek the far Leucadian main;
There stands a rock, from whose impending steep
Apollo's fane surveys the rolling deep;
There injured lovers, leaping from above,
Their flames extinguish, and forget to love.
Deucalion once with hopeless fury burn'd,
In vain he loved, relentless Pyrrha scorn'd:
But when from hence he plunged into the main,
Deucalion scorn'd, and Pyrrha loved in vain.
Haste, Sappho, haste! from high Leucadia throw
Thy wretched weight, nor dread the deeps below.
She spoke, and vanish'd with the voice-I rise,
And silent tears fall trickling from my eyes.
I go, ye nymphs! those rocks and seas to prove;
How much I fear, but ah, how much I love!
I go, ye nymphs, where furious love inspires;
Let female fears submit to female fires.
To rocks and seas I fly from Phaon's hate,
And hope from seas and rocks a milder fate
Ye gentle gales, beneath my body blow,
And softly lay me on the waves below!
And thou, kind Love, my sinking limbs sustain,
Spread thy soft wings, and waft me o'er the main,
Nor let a lover's death the guiltless flood profane!
On Phoebus' shrine my harp I'll then bestow,
And this inscription shall be placed below:
"Here she who sung, to him that did inspire,
Sappho to Phoebus consecrates her lyre;
What suits with Sappho, Phoebus, suits with thee;
The gift, the giver, and the god agree."
But why, alas! relentless youth, ah why,
To distant seas must tender Sappho fly?
Thy charms than those may far more powerful be,
And Phoebus self is less a god to me.
Ah! canst thou doom me to the rocks and sea,
O far more faithless and more hard than they?
Ah! canst thou rather see this tender breast
Dash'd on these rocks than to thy bosom press'd?
This breast, which once, in vain! you liked so well;
Where the loves play'd, and where the muses dwell
Alas! the muses now no more inspire,
Untuned my lute, and silent is my lyre.
My languid numbers have forgot to flow,
And fancy sinks beneath the weight of woe.
Ye Lesbian virgins, and ye Lesbian dames,
Themes of my verse, and objects of my flames,
No more your groves with my glad songs shall ring,
No more these hands shall touch the trembling string:
My Phaon 's fled, and I those arts resign-
(Wretch that I am, to call that Phaon mine!)
Return, fair youth, return, and bring along
Joy to my soul, and vigour to my song:
Absent from thee, the poet's flame expires;
But ah! how fiercely burn the lover's fires!
Gods! can no prayers, no sighs, no numbers move
One savage heart, or teach it how to love?
The winds my prayers, my sighs, my numbers bear,
The flying winds have lost them all in air!
Or when, alas! shall more auspicious gales
To these fond eyes restore thy welcome sails!
If you return-ah why these long delays?
Poor Sappho dies while careless Phaon stays.
O launch the bark, nor fear the watery plain;
Venus for thee shall smooth her native main.
O launch thy bark, secure of prosperous gales;
Cupid for thee shall spread the swelling sails.
If you will fly-(yet ah! what cause can be,
Too cruel youth, that you should fly from me?)
If not from Phaon I must hope for ease,
Ah let me seek it from the raging seas:
To raging seas unpitied I'll remove,
And either cease to live or cease to love!
ELOISA TO ABELARD.
ÅBELARD, One of the most celebrated teachers of the twelfth century, both for his extraordinary talents and his misfortunes, was born at Palais; in the neighbourhood of Nantes, in the year 1079. After surpassing many of the greatest scholars of his age, he became a professor of divinity in Paris with great success. He cast his eyes on the fair Heloise, the niece of Fulbert, à canon in the cathedral of Paris, and, determined to gratify his passion, he proposed to Fulbert to receive him into his house as a boarder, and promised to give, in exchange, all the instruction which he might consider his niece might require. The canon, being rather parsimonious, and anxious to see his niece among the stars of her time, agreed to the proposal. Among the things taught by Abelard to his ardent pupil, the art of love was the chief, and in which she soon surpassed her master. The consequence was
soon visible, and Fulbert insisted on their marriage. This Abelard, although ordained, consented to; but Heloise, considering that it would be the destruction of Abelard's glory, in a letter tried to dissuade him from it. However, they were married, with the understanding that it was to be kept from the knowledge of the public. Fulbert, jealous of the honour of his family, soon made the fact known, upon which Heloise, in the firmest manner, denied it. Fulbert's unkind treatment of his niece caused Abelard to remove her to the convent of Argenteuil; and Fulbert, fancying that it was intended to make her a nun, in revenge contrived to get introduced into Abelard's bed-room, in the dead of night, two wretches, who mutilated him in a most atrocious manner. The miscreants were punished, the canon disgraced; Heloise took the veil, and Abelard buried his grief and shame under the monastic garment, in the abbey of St. Denis. After some years had passed, the nuns of Argenteuil were expelled, Heloise among them. Abelard, who had built the oratory of Paraclet, gave it to Heloise, whose exemplary conduct procured her universal praise. Abelard died in 1142, and was buried at Paraclet, in a beautiful gothic tomb erected by Heloise, whose remains were interred in the same receptacle twenty-one years after. The tomb was removed to Paris, and placed where it is now to be seen, in the cemetery of Père la Chaise. From the letters which passed between this unfortunate pair, the author was indebted for the sentiments expressed in the poem.
In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heavenly-pensive Contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing Melancholy reigns;
What means this tumult in a vestal's veins?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?
Yet, yet I love!-From Abelard it came,
And Eloïsa yet must kiss the name.
Dear fatal name! rest ever unreveal'd,
Nor pass these lips, in holy silence seal'd:
Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise,
Where, mix'd with God's, his loved idea lies:
O write it not, my hand-the name appears
Already written-wash it out, my tears!
In vain lost Eloïsa weeps and prays,
Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys.
Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains
Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains:
Ye rugged rocks, which holy knees have worn:
Ye grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid thorn!
Shrines! where their vigils pale-eyed virgins keep,
And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep!
Tho' cold like you, unmoved and silent grown,
I have not yet forgot myself to stone.
All is not Heaven's while Abelard has part,
Still rebel nature holds out half my heart;
Nor prayers nor fasts its stubborn pulse restrain,
Nor tears for ages taught to flow in vain.
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose,
That well-known name awakens all my woes.
O name, for ever sad! for ever dear!
Still breathed in sighs, still usher'd with a tear.
I tremble, too, whene'er my own I find;
Some dire misfortune follows close behind.
Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow,
Led through a sad variety of woe:
Now warm in love, now withering in my bloom,
Lost in a convent's solitary gloom!
There stern Religion quench'd the unwilling flame,
There died the best of passions, Love and Fame.
Yet write, oh! write me all, that I may join
Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine.
Nor foes nor fortune take this power away;
And is my Abelard less kind than they?
Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare,
Love but demands what else were shed in prayer;
No happier task these faded eyes pursue;
To read and weep is all they now can do.
Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief; Ah, more than share it! give me all thy grief. Heaven first taught letters for some wretch's aid, Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid; They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires, The virgin's wish without her fears impart, Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart, Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul, And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole.
Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame, When Love approach'd me under friendship's name; My fancy form'd thee of angelic kind, Some emanation of the all-beauteous Mind. Those smiling eyes, attempering every ray, Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day. Guiltless I gazed, Heaven listen'd while you sung, And truths divine came mended from that tongue. From lips like those what precept fail'd to move? Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love: