Orpheus and Eurydice
So in old times the mournful Orpheus stood,
Drowning his sorrows in the Stygian flood,
Whose lamentable story seems to be
The nearest instance of a wretch like me.
Already had he pass'd the courts of death,
And charm'd with sacred verse the powers beneath;
While hell with silent admiration hung
On the soft music of his harp and tongue,
And the black roofs restored the wond'rous song.
No longer Tantalus essay'd to sip
The springs that fled from his deluded lip.
Their urn the fifty maids no longer fill;
Ixion lean'd and listen'd on his wheel,
And Sisyphus's stone for once stood still.
The ravenous vulture had forsook his meal,
And Tityus felt his growing liver heal;
Relenting fields to torture souls forbore,
And furies wept who never wept before;
All hell in harmony was heard to move
With equal sweetness as the spheres above.
Nor longer was his charming prayer denied;
All hell consented to release his bride.
Yet could the youth but short possession boast,
For what his poem gain'd, his passion lost;
Ere they restor'd her back to him and life,
They made him on these terms receive his wife:
If till he quite had pass'd the shades of night,
And reach'd the confines of ethereal light,
lie turn'd to view his prize, his wretched prize
Again was doom'd to vanish from his eyes.
Long had he wander'd on, and long forborne
To look, but was at last compelled to turn.
And now arriv'd where the sun's piercing ray
Struck thro' the gloom, and made a doubtful day,
Backwards his eyes the impatient lover cast
For one dear look, and that one look his last.
Straight from his sight flies his unhappy wife,
Who now liv'd twice, and twice was robb'd of life.
In vain to catch the fleeting shade he sought,
She too in vain bent backwards to be caught.
Gods ! what tumultuous raging passions toss'd
His anxious heart, when he perceiv'd her lost!
How wildly did his dreadful eye-balls roll!
How did all hell at once oppress his soul!
To what sad height was his direction grown!
How deep his just despair! how near my own!
In vain with her he labour'd to return,
All he could do was to sit down and mourn.
In vain, but ne'er before in vain, lie sings
At once the saddest and the sweetest things.
Stay, dear Eurydice, (he cries) ah! stay;
Why fleets the lovely shade so fast away?
Why am not I permitted to pursue?
Why will not rig'rous hell receive me too?
Already had she reach'd the farther shore,
And I, alas! allow'd to pass no more;
Imprison'd closer in the dismal coast
She's now for ever, ever, ever lost.
No charms a second time can set her fiee,
Hell has her now again: would hell had me!
From all his pains let Tityus be releas'd.
And in his stead unhappier Orpheus plac'd.
He feels no torture I'll refuse to bear,
Her loss is worse than all he suffers there.
Is this your bounty then? ye powers below!
And these the short-lived blessings you bestow?
Why did you such a cruel cov'nant make !
Which you but too well knew I needs must break.
Ah! by this artifice, too late I find
Your envious nature never was inclin'd
To be entirely good, or thoroughly kind.
Had you persisted to refuse the grant,
I should not then have known the double want.
This was contrived by some malicious power,
To swell my woes and make my miseries more.
Plung'd in despair far deeper than at first,
And blest, a short, short while, to be for ever curst.
Al ! yet again relent, again restore
My wretched bride, be bounteous as before.
Ah ! let the force of verse as powerful be
O'er you, as was the force of love o'er me:
And the dear forfeit once again resign,
Which but for too much love had still been mine.
By that immense and awful sway you bear,
That silent horror that inhabits here;
By these vast realms, and that unquestion'd right,
By which you rule this everlasting night;
By these my tears and pray'rs, which once could move,
Once more I beg you to release my love.
Let her a little while with me remain,
A little while, and she is yours again.
The date of mortal life is finish'd soon,
Swift is the race, and short the time to run.
Inevitable fate your night secures,
And she, and I, and all at last are yours."
So sung the charming youth, in such a strain;
But sung, and charm'd the second time in vain,
No longer could he move the powers below,
Lost were his numbers then, as mine are now.
Torn with despair, he leaves the Stygian lakes;
And back to light a loathsome journey takes.
No light could cheer him in his cruel woes,
Who bears about his grief where'er he goes.
In sacred verse his sad complaints he vents,
And all the day, and all the night laments.
Incessantly he sings, whose moving song
Draws trees, and stones, and list'ning herds along.
The Sylvan gods, and wood-nymphs stood around,
And melting maids were ravish'd at the sound.
All hear the wondrous notes, and all that heard,
With utmost art address'd the mournful bard.
Not all their charms his constancy could move,
Who fled the thoughts of any second love.
When mad to see him slight their raging fire,
To mortal hate converting fierce desire,
With their own hands they made the youth expire.
Such proofs, my Delia, would I gladly give;
For thee I'd die, without thee will not live.
I've felt already the severest smart
Death can inflict, for it was death to part.