The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue


P YGMALION , loathing their lascivious life,
Abhorr'd all womankind, but most a wife:
So single chose to live, and shunn'd to wed,
Well pleas'd to want a consort of his bed;
Yet fearing idleness, the nurse of ill,
In sculpture exercis'd his happy skill;
And carv'd in iv'ry such a maid, so fair,
As Nature could not with his art compare,
Were she to work; but, in her own defense,
Must take her pattern here, and copy hence.
Pleas'd with his idol, he commends, admires,
Adores; and last, the thing ador'd desires.
A very virgin in her face was seen,
And, had she mov'd, a living maid had been.
One would have thought she could have stirr'd, but strove
With modesty, and was asham'd to move.
Art, hid with art, so well perform'd the cheat,
It caught the carver with his own deceit:
He knows 't is madness, yet he must adore,
And still the more he knows it, loves the more.
The flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
Fir'd with this thought, at once he strained the breast,
And on the lips a burning kiss impress'd.
'Tis true, the harden'd breast resists the gripe,
And the cold lips return a kiss unripe:
But when, retiring back, he look'd again,
To think it iv'ry was a thought too mean;
So would believe she kiss'd, and courting more,
Again embrac'd her naked body o'er;
And straining hard the statue, was afraid
His hands had made a dint and hurt his maid;
Explor'd her, limb by limb, and fear'd to find
So rude a gripe had left a livid mark behind.
With flatt'ry now he seeks her mind to move,
And now with gifts (the pow'rful bribes of love).
He furnishes her closet first, and fills
The crowded shelves with rarities of shells;
Adds orient pearls, which from the conchs he drew,
And all the sparkling stones of various hue;
And parrots, imitating human tongue,
And singing-birds in silver cages hung;
And ev'ry fragrant flow'r, and od'rous green,
Were sorted well, with lumps of amber laid between.
Rich, fashionable robes her person deck,
Pendants her ears, and pearls adorn her neck;
Her taper'd fingers too with rings are grac'd,
And an embroider'd zone surrounds her slender waist.
Thus like a queen array'd, so richly dress'd,
Beauteous she shew'd, but naked shew'd the best.
Then from the floor he rais'd a royal bed,
With cov'rings of Sidonian purple spread;
The solemn rites perform'd, he calls her bride,
With blandishments invites her to his side;
And as she were with vital sense possess'd,
Her head did on a plumy pillow rest.
The feast of Venus came, a solemn day,
To which the Cypriots due devotion pay;
With gilded horns the milk-white heifers led,
Slaughter'd before the sacred altars, bled.
Pygmalion, off'ring, first approach'd the shrine,
And then with pray'rs implor'd the pow'rs divine:
" Almighty gods, if all we mortals want,
If all we can require, be yours to grant,
Make this fair statue mine, " he would have said,
But chang'd his words for shame, and only pray'd:
" Give me the likeness of my iv'ry maid. "
The golden goddess, present at the pray'r,
Well knew he meant th' inanimated fair,
And gave the sign of granting his desire;
For thrice in cheerful flames ascends the fire.
The youth, returning to his mistress, hies,
And, impudent in hope, with ardent eyes
And beating breast, by the dear statue lies.
He kisses her white lips, renews the bliss,
And looks and thinks they redden at th kiss —
He thought them warm before; nor longer stays,
But next his hand on her hard bosom lays:
Hard as it was, beginning to relent,
It seem'd the breast beneath his fingers bent.
He felt again, his fingers made a print;
'T was flesh, but flesh so firm, it rose against the dint.
The pleasing task he fails not to renew:
Soft, and more soft at ev'ry touch it grew;
Like pliant wax, when chafing hands reduce
The former mass to form, and frame for use.
He would believe, but yet is still in pain,
And tries his argument of sense again;
Presses the pulse, and feels the leaping vein.
Convinc'd, o'erjoy'd, his studied thanks and praise
To her who made the miracle he pays:
Then lips to lips he join'd; now freed from fear,
He found the savor of the kiss sincere:
At this the waken'd image op'd her eyes,
And view'd at once the light and lover, with surprise.
The goddess, present at the match she made,
So bless'd the bed, such fruitfulness convey'd,
That ere ten moons had sharpen'd either horn,
To crown their bliss, a lovely boy was born;
Paphos his name, who, grown to manhood, wall'd
The city Paphos, from the founder call'd.
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