That nature seemed to very the delight,
And satisfied at once the smell and sight.
The master-workman of the bower was known
Through fairy-lands, and built for Oberon;
Who twining leaves with such proportion drew,
They rose by measure, and by rule they grew;
No mortal tongue can half the beauty tell,
For none but hands divine could work so well.
Both roof and sides were like a parlour made,
A soft recess, and a cool summer shade;
The hedge was set to thick, no foreign eye
The persons placed within it could espy;
But all that passed without with ease was seen,
As if nor fence nor tree was placed between.
Twas bordered with a field; and some was plain
With grass, and some was sowed with rising grain.
That (now the dew with spangles decked the ground),
A sweeter spot of earth was never found.
I looked and looked, and still with new delight;
Such joy my soul, such pleasures filled my sight:
And the fresh eglantine exhaled a breath,
Whose odours were or power to raise from death.
Nor sullen discontent, nor anxious care,
Even though brought thither, could inhabit there:
But thence they field as from their mortal foe;
For this sweet place could only pleasure know.
Thus as I mused, I cast aside my eye,
And saw a medlar-tree was planted nigh.
The spreading branches made a goodly show,
And full of opening blooms was every bough:
A goldfinch there I saw with gaudy pride
Of painted plumes, that hopped from side to side,
Still picking as she passed; and still she drew
The sweets from every flower, and sucked the dew:
Sufficed at length, she warbled in her throat,
And tuned her voice to many a merry note,
But indistinct, and neither sweet nor clear,
Yet such as soothed my soul, and pleased my ear.
Her short performance was no sooner tried,
When she I sought, the nightingale, replied:
So sweet, so shrill, so variously she sung,
That the grove echoed, and the valleys rung,
And I so ravished with her heavenly note,
I stood entranced, and had no room for thought,
But all oerpowered with ecstasy of bliss,
Was in a pleasing dream or paradise;
At length I waked, and looking round the bower
Searched every tree, and pryed on every flower,
If anywhere by chance I might espy
The rural poet of the melody;
For still methought she sung nor far away:
At last I found her on a laurel spray.
Close by my side she sat, and fair in sight,
Full in a line, against her opposite,
Where stood with eglantine the laurel twined;
And both their native sweets were well conjoined.
On the green bank I sat, and listened long;
(Sitting was more convenient for the song):
Nor till her lay was convenient ended could I move,
But wished to dwell for ever in the grove.
Only methought the time too swiftly passed,
And every note I feared would be last.
My sight, and smell, and hearing, were employed,
And all three senses in full gust enjoyed.
And what alone did all the rest surpass,
The sweet possession of the fairy place;
Single, and conscious to myself alone
Of pleasures to the excluded world unknown;
Pleasures which nowhere else were to be found,
And all Elysium in a spot of ground.
Thus while I sat intent to see and hear,
And drew perfumes of more than vital air,
All suddenly I heard the approaching sound
Of vocal music on the enchanted ground;
An host of saints it seemed, so full the choir,
As if the blessed above did all conspire
To join their voices, and neglect the lyre.
At length there issued from the grove behind
A fair assembly of the female kind:1
A train less fair, as ancient fathers tell,
Seduced the sons of heaven to rebel.
I pass their form, and every charming grace;
Less than an angel would their worth debase:
But their attire, like liveries of a kind,
All rich and rare, is fresh within my mind.
In velvet, white as snow, the troop was gowned,
The seams with sparkling emeralds set around:
Their hoods and sleeves the same; and purfled oer
With diamonds, pearls, and all the shining store
Of eastern pomp: their long descending train,
With rubies edged, and sapphires, swept the plain:
High on their heads, with jewels richly set,
Each lady wore a radiant coronet.
Beneath the circles, all the choir was graced
With chaplets green on their fair foreheads placed,
Of laurel some, of woodbine many more;
And wreaths of Agnus castus2 others bore;
These last, who with those virgin crowns were dressed,
Appeared in higher honour than the rest.
They danced around: but in the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien;
By stature, and by beauty, marked their sovereign queen.
She in the midst began with sober grace;
Her servants eyes were fixed upon her face,
And as she moved or turned, her motions viewed,
Her measures kept, and step by step pursued.
Methought she trod the ground with greater grace,
With more of godhead shining in her face;
And as in beauty she surpassed the quire,
So, nobler than the rest was her attire.
A crown of ruddy gold inclosed her brow,
Plain without pomp, and rich without a show:
A branch of Agnus castus in her hand
She bore aloft (her sceptre of command);
Admired, adored by all the circling crowd,
For wheresoeer she turned her face, they bowed:
And as she danced, a roundelay she sung,
In honour of the laurel, ever young:
She raised her voice on high, and sung so clear,
The fawns came scudding from the groves to hear:
And all the bending forest lent an ear.
At every close she made, the attending throng
Replied, and bore the burden of the song:
So just, so small, yet in so sweet a note,
It seemed the music melted in
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