Tereus and Philomela - Canto the Second


Y E Gods! what mystery of gloom and shade
Is on the surface of the bosom laid!
For wedded love's improvidence arraign'd,
He look'd the very character he feign'd.
With unsuspected heart the destin'd prey
Took arms against the peril of delay;
In soothing folds the Parent's neck she held,
Nor from his cheek her glowing lips withheld;
The fatal suit was by herself preferr'd —
She fear'd its loss , if parried or deferr'd;
Grace in the form, and musick in the tongue,
Around him still the fondling Suitor clung.
Her with lascivious eye the Monster view'd,
And with his flaming appetite pursued;
The rape was at his heart. Her filial grace,
In that endear'd but innocent embrace,
Guilt, with its madness, like a fever stung;
The Furies hail'd it, and the torches flung.
She courts perdition, when she aims at bliss,
Detains the form rever'd, and plants the kiss.
A hovering Fiend is jealous at the sight,
And pants to counterfeit the Parent's right,
Laments that he has not a Father's name,
To feed and cherish the polluted aim.
The King is vanquish'd by the force of prayers,
And Victory's ill-fated wreath is theirs:
With desperate joy she revels in her prize,
The tear of rapture sparkles in her eyes;
Of pleasure undismay'd, and pure of guilt,
On easy faith, and virgin's honour built.
Now droop'd the Sun, descending to the West;
His chariot and his flaming steeds at rest;
A banquet is prepar'd, and sparkling wine
Flows in the cup, their spirits to refine;
Then for a night's repose the feast was chang'd —
But rest is not for appetites derang'd;
Sleep the Voluptuary's eye forsook —
Distemper'd images the curtain shook;
Before him tempting forms in bright array,
Those he had view'd; — the rest — as dear as they —
To fancy unreserv'd, and secret charms
Alluring, and soliciting his arms;
Attractions all before him in a heap
Fed the keen passion's flame, and murder'd sleep;
Nor once the hurricane of guilt repos'd,
Nor once a ray of mercy interpos'd.
Bright was the morn; when Tereus heard a voice
That bless'd him as Adoption's pride of choice;
Their hands are join'd; the venerable Sire
With trembling hope, the Fugitives inspire.
The hand of Tereus , in his own compress'd,
That serpent of his Child he thus address'd.
" Accept your pledge; I part with it in tears —
The hope and pride of these autumnal years;
I lend her to your virtues and her own;
Your passion for your Queen deserves the loan.
Again your promise, and again repeat —
You have a Regal Suitor at your feet.
By the dear links that Faith, on hallow'd ground,
To these affinities the heart has bound,
The Daughter, of a Parent's eye debarr'd,
With jealous and parental honour guard;
Restore this blushing Truant at your side
In all her blooming virtue's graceful pride;
Nor long withhold her from a Parent's knee —
A month will be a century to me.
And you, my Philomela , hear your charge;
Nor, by a Sister won, your time enlarge;
Be faithful to your trust, and soon return,
Before my ashes fall into the urn. "
Then he again embrac'd them, and again,
Clung to their necks, and spun the parting strain.
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