I was a woman, let me have once more
A womans shape, and charming as before.
I love a youth of CorinthO the bliss!
Give me my womans form, and place me where he is.
Stoop, Hermes, let me breathe upon thy brow,
And thou shalt see thy sweet nymph even now.
The God on half-shut feathers sank serene,
She breathed upon his eyes, and swift was seen
Of both the guarded nymph near-smiling on the green.
It was no dream; or say a dream it was,
Real are the dreams of Gods, and smoothly pass
Their pleasures in a long immortal dream.
One warm, flushd moment, hovering, it might seem,
Dashd by the wood-nymphs beauty, so he burnd;
Then, lighting on the printless verdure, turnd
To the swoond serpent, and with languid arm,
Delicate, put to proof the lithe Caducean charm.
So done, upon the nymph his eyes he bent
Full of adoring tears and blandishment,
And towards her stept: she, like a moon in wane,
Faded before him, cowerd, nor could restrain
Her fearful sobs, self-folding like a flower
That faints into itself at evening hour:
But the God fostering her chilled hand,
She felt the warmth, her eyelids opend bland,
And, like new flowers at morning song of bees,
Bloomd, and gave up her honey to the lees.
Into the green- recessed woods they flew;
Nor grew they pale, as mortal lovers do.
To change; her elfin blood in madness ran;
Her mouth foamd, and the grass, therewith besprent,
Witherd at dew so sweet and virulent;
Her eyes in torture fixd and anguish drear,
Hot, glazed, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear,
Flashd phosphor and sharp sparks, without one cooling tear.
The colours all inflamed throughout her train,
She writhed about, convulsed with scarlet pain:
A deep volcanian yellow took the place,
Of all her milder-mooned bodys grace;
And, as the lava ravishes the mead,
Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede:
Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars,
Eclipsed her crescents, and lickd up her stars:
So that, in moments few, she was undrest
Of all her sapphires, greens, and amethyst,
And rubious-argent: of all these bereft,
Nothing but pain and ugliness were left.
Still shone her crown; that vanishd, also she
Melted and disappeard as suddenly;
And in the air, her new voice luting soft,
Cried, Lycius! gentle Lycius!borne aloft
With the bright mists about the mountains hoar
These words dissolved: Cretes forests heard no more.
A full-born beauty new and exquisite?
She fled into that valley they pass oer
Who go to Corinth from Cenchreas shore;
And rested at the foot of those wild hills,
The rugged founts of the Peræan rills,
And of that other ridge whose barren back
Stretches, with all its mist and cloudy rack,
South-westward to Cleone. There she stood,
About a young birds flutter from a wood,
Fair, on a sloping green of mossy tread,
By a clear pool, wherein she passioned
To see herself escaped from so sore ills,
While her robes flaunted with the daffodils.
More beautiful than ever twisted braid,
Or sighd, or blushd, or on spring-flowerd lea
Spread a green kirtle to the minstrelsy:
A virgin purest lippd, yet in the lore
Of love deep learned to the red hearts core:
Not one hour old, yet of sciential brain
To unperplex bliss from its neighbour pain;
Define their pettish limits, and estrange
Their points of contact, and swift counterchange;
Intrigue with the specious chaos, and dispart
Its most ambiguous atoms with sure art;
As though in Cupids college she had spent
Sweet days a lovely graduate, still unshent,
And kept his rosy terms in idle languishment.
By the wayside to linger, we shall see;
But first tis fit to tell how she could muse
And dream, when in the serpent prison-house,
Of all she list, strange or magnificent:
How, ever, where she willd her spirit went;
Whether to faint Elysium, or where
Down through trees-lifting waves the Nereids fair
Wind into Thetis bower by many a pearly stair;
Or where God Bacchus drains his cups divine,
Stretchd out, at ease, beneath a glutinous pine;
Or where in Plutos gardens palatine
Mulcibers columns gleam in far piazzian line.
And sometimes into cities she would send
Her dream, with feast and rioting to blend;
And once, while among mortals dreaming thus,
She saw the young Corinthian Lycius
Charioting foremost in the envious race,
Like a young Jove with calm uneager face,
And fell into a swooning love of him.
Now on the moth-time of that evening dim
He would return that way, as well she knew,
To Corinth from the shore; for freshly blew
The eastern soft-wind, and his galley now
Grated the quay-stones with her
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