by William Cowper
As yet a stranger to the gentle fires
That Amathusia's smiling Queen inspires,
Not seldom I derided Cupid's darts,
And scorn'd his claim to rule all human hearts.
Go, child, I said, transfix the tim'rous dove,
An easy conquest suits an infant Love;
Enslave the sparrow, for such prize shall be
Sufficient triumph to a Chief like thee;
Why aim thy idle arms at human kind?
Thy shafts prevail not 'gainst the noble mind.
The Cyprian heard, and, kindling into ire,
(None kindles sooner) burn'd with double fire.
It was the Spring, and newly risen day
Peep'd o'er the hamlets on the First of May;
My eyes too tender for the blaze of light,
Still sought the shelter of retiring night,
When Love approach'd, in painted plumes arrayed;
Th'insidious god his rattling darts betray'd,
Nor less his infant features, and the sly
Sweet intimations of his threat'ning eye.
Such the Sigeian boy is seen above,
Filling the goblet for imperial Jove;
Such he, on whom the nymphs bestow'd their charms,
Hylas, who perish'd in a Naiad's arms.
Angry he seem'd, yet graceful in his ire,
And added threats, not destitute of fire.
"My power," he said, "by others pain alone,
'Twere best to learn; now learn it by thy own!
With those, who feel my power, that pow'r attest!
And in thy anguish be my sway confest!
I vanquish'd Phoebus, though returning vain
From his new triumph o'er the Python slain,
And, when he thinks on Daphne, even He
Will yield the prize of archery to me.
A dart less true the Parthian horseman sped,
Behind him kill'd, and conquer'd as he fled,
Less true th'expert Cydonian, and less true
The youth, whose shaft his latent Procris slew.
Vanquish'd by me see huge Orion bend,
By me Alcides, and Alcides's friend.
At me should Jove himself a bolt design,
His bosom first should bleed transfix'd by mine.
But all thy doubts this shaft will best explain,
Nor shall it teach thee with a trivial pain,
Thy Muse, vain youth! shall not thy peace ensure,
Nor Phoebus' serpent yield thy wound a cure.
He spoke, and, waving a bright shaft in air,
Sought the warm bosom of the Cyprian fair.
That thus a child should bluster in my ear
Provok'd my laughter more than mov'd my fear.
I shun'd not, therefore, public haunts, but stray'd
Careless in city, or suburban shade,
And passing and repassing nymphs that mov'd
With grace divine, beheld where'er I rov'd.
Bright shone the vernal day, with double blaze,
As beauty gave new force to Phoebus' rays.
By no grave scruples check'd I freely eyed
The dang'rous show, rash youth my only guide,
And many a look of many a Fair unknown
Met full, unable to control my own.
But one I mark'd (then peace forsook my breast)
One--Oh how far superior to the rest!
What lovely features! Such the Cyprian Queen
Herself might wish, and Juno wish her mien.
The very nymph was she, whom when I dar'd
His arrows, Love had even then prepar'd.
Nor was himself remote, nor unsupplied
With torch well-trimm'd and quiver at his side;
Now to her lips he clung, her eye-lids now,
Then settled on her cheeks or on her brow.
And with a thousand wounds from ev'ry part
Pierced and transpierced my undefended heart.
A fever, new to me, of fierce desire
Now seiz'd my soul, and I was all on fire,
But she, the while, whom only I adore,
Was gone, and vanish'd to appear no more.
In silent sadness I pursue my way,
I pause, I turn, proceed, yet wish to stay,
And while I follow her in thought, bemoan
With tears my soul's delight so quickly flown.
When Jove had hurl'd him to the Lemnian coast
So Vulcan sorrow'd for Olympus lost,
And so Oeclides, sinking into night,
From the deep gulph look'd up to distant light.
Wretch that I am, what hopes for me remain
Who cannot cease to love, yet love in vain?
Oh could I once, once more, behold the Fair,
Speak to her, tell her of the pangs I bear,
Perhaps she is not adamant, would show
Perhaps some pity at my tale of woe.
Oh inauspicious flame--'tis mine to prove
A matchless instance of disastrous love.
Ah spare me, gentle Pow'r!--If such thou be
Let not thy deeds, and nature disagree.
Now I revere thy fires, thy bow, thy darts:
Now own thee sov'reign of all human hearts.
Spare me, and I will worship at no shrine
With vow and sacrifice, save only thine.
Remove! no--grant me still this raging woe!
Sweet is the wretchedness, that lovers know:
But pierce hereafter (should I chance to see
One destined mine) at once both her and me.
Such were the trophies, that in earlier days,
By vanity seduced I toil'd to raise,
Studious yet indolent, and urg'd by youth,
That worst of teachers, from the ways of Truth;
Till learning taught me, in his shady bow'r,
To quit love's servile yoke, and spurn his pow'r.
Then, on a sudden, the fierce flame supprest,
A frost continual settled on my breast,
Whence Cupid fears his flames extinct to see,
And Venus dreads a Diomede15 in me.
Last updated January 14, 2019