Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,
Before King Oberons bright diadem,
Sceptre, and mantle, claspd with dewy gem,
Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns
From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslippd lawns,
The ever-smitten Hermes empty left
His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft:
From high Olympus had he stolen light,
On this side of Joves clouds, to escape the sight
Of his great summoner, and made retreat
Into a forest on the shores of Crete.
For somewhere in that sacred island dwelt
A nymph to whom all hoofed Satyrs knelt;
At whose white feet the languid Tritons pourd
Pearls, while on land they witherd and adored.
Fast by the springs where she to bathe was wont,
And in those meads where sometimes she might haunt,
Were strewn rich gifts, unknown to any Muse,
Though Fancys casket were unlockd to choose.
Ah, what a world of love was at her feet!
So Hermes thought, and a celestial heat
Burnd from his winged heels to either ear,
That, from a whiteness as the lily clear,
Blushd into roses mid his golden hair,
Fallen in jealous curls about his shoulders bare.
From vale to vale, from wood to wood, he flew,
Breathing upon the flowers his passion new,
And wound with many a river to its head,
To find where this sweet nymph prepared her secret bed
In vain; the sweet nymph might nowhere be found,
And so he rested on the lonely ground,
Pensive, and full of painful jealousies
Of the Wood-Gods, and even the very trees.
There as he stood he heard a mournful voice,
Such as, once heard, in gentle heart destroys
All pain but pity; thus the lone voice spake:
When from this wreathed tomb shall I awake?
When move in a sweet body fit for life,
And love, and pleasure, and the ruddy strife
Of hearts and lips? Ah, miserable me!
The God, dove-footed, glided silently
Round bush and tree, soft-brushing in his speed
The taller grasses and full-flowering weed,
Until he found a palpitating snake,
Bright and cirque- couchant, in a dusky brake.
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson-barrd;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolved, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries
So rainbow-sided, touchd with miseries,
She seemd at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demons mistress, or the demons self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadnes tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a womans mouth with all its pearls complete;
And for her eyeswhat could such eyes do there
But weep and weep, that they were born so fair,
As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air?
Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
Came, as through bubbling honey, for Loves sake,
And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
Like a stoopd falcon ere he takes his prey:
I had a splendid dream of thee last night!
I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold,
Among the Gods, upon Olympus old,
The only sad one; for thou didst not hear
The soft lute-fingerd Muses chanting clear,
Nor even Apollo when he sang alone,
Deaf to his throbbing throats long, long melodious moan.
I dreamt I saw thee, robed in purple flakes,
Break amorous through the clouds, as morning breaks,
And swiftly as a bright Phbean dart
Strike for the Cretan isle; and here thou art!
Too gentle Hermes, hast thou found the maid?
Whereat the star of Lethe not delayd
His rosy eloquence, and thus inquired:
Thou smooth-lippd serpent, surely high-inspired!
Thou beauteous wreath, with melancholy eyes,
Possess whatever bliss thou canst devise,
Telling me only where my nymph is fled
Where she doth breathe! Bright planet, thou hast said,
Returnd the snake, but seal with oaths, fair God!
I swear, said Hermes, by my serpent rod,
And by thine eyes, and by thy starry crown!
Light flew his earnest words, among the blossoms blown.
Then thus again the brilliance feminine:
Too frail of heart! for this lost nymph of thine,
Free as the air, invisibly she strays
About these thornless wilds; her pleasant days
She tastes unseen; her nimble feet
Leave traces in the grass and flowers sweet:
From weary tendrils and bowd branches green
She plucks the fruit unseen, she bathes unseen:
And by my power is her beauty veild
To keep it unaffronted, unassaild
By the love-glances of unlovely eyes,
Of Satyrs, Fauns, and bleard Silenus sighs.
Pale grew her immortality, for woe
Of all these lovers, and she grieved so
I took compassion on her, bade her steep
Her hair in weird syrops, that would keep
Her loveliness invisible, yet free
To wander as she loves, in liberty.
Thou shalt behold her, Hermes, thou alone,
If thou wilt, as thou swearest, grant my boon.
Then, once again, the charmed God began
An oath, and through the serpents ears it ran
Warm, tremulous, devout, psalterian.
Ravishd she lifted her Circean head,
Blushd a live damask, and swift-lisping
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