Leander's Epistle to Hero
"Read this; yet be not troubled when you read,
Your lover comes not in his letter's stead.
On you all health, all happiness attend,
Which I would much, much rather bring than send.
But now these envious storms obstruct my way,
And only this bold bark durst put to sea.
I too had come, had not my parents' spies
Stood by to watch me with suspicious eyes.
How many tedious days and nights are past,
Since I was suffer'd to behold you last?
Ye spiteful gods and goddesses, who keep
Your wat'ry courts within the spacious deep,
Whys at this time, are all the winds broke forth,
Why swells the seas beneath the furious north?
'Tis summer now, when all should be serene;
The skies unclouded, undisturb'd the main:
Winter is yet unwilling to appear,
But you invert the seasons of the year.
Yet let me once attain the wish'd for beach,
Out of the now malicious Neptune's reach;
Then blow, ye winds; ye troubled billows roar;
Roll on ye angry waves, and lash the shore;
Ruffle the seas, drive the tempestuous air;
Be one continu'd storm, to keep me there.
Ah Hero, when to you my course is bent,
I seem to slide along a smooth descent.
But in returning thence, I clamber up,
And scale, methinks, some lofty mountain's top.
Why, when our souls by mutual love are join'd,
Why are we sunder'd by the sea and wind?
Either make my Abydos your retreat,
Or let your Sestos be my much lov'd seat.
This plague of absence I can bear no more,
Come what can come, I'll shortly venture o'er;
Not all the rage of seas, nor force of storms,
Nothing but death, shall keep me from your arms:
Yet may that death at least so friendly prove,
To float me to the coast of her I love.
Let not the thought occasion any fear;
Doubt not, I will be soon and safely there:
But till that time, let this employ your hours,
And show ou that I can be none but yours."
Meanwhile, the vessel from the land withdrew,
When heaven took pity on a love so true;
The winds to blow, the waves to toss forbore,
In leaps the ravish'd youth, and ventures o'er,
With a smooth passage to the farther shore.
Now to the port the prosp'rous lover drives,
And safely after all his toils arrives.
Dissolved in bliss, he lies the live-long night,
Melts, languishes, and dies in vast delight.
But that delight my muse forbears to sing,
She knows the weakness of her infant wing.
As when the painter strove to draw the chief
Of all the Grecians, in his height of grief;
In ev'ry limb the well-shap'd piece excell'd,
But coming to the face, his pencil fail'd.
There modestly he staid, and held, for fear
He should not reach the woe he fancied there;
But round the mournful head a veil he threw
That man might guess at what he could not show.
So when our pleasures rise to excess,
No tongue can tell it, and no pen express.
Love will not have his mysteries revealed,
And beauty keeps the joys it gives concealed.
And till those joys my Delia lets me know,
To me they shall continue ever so.
Ah! Delia, would indulgent love decree,
Thy faithful slave that heaven of bliss with thee:
What then should be my verse? what darling flights
Should my muse take? reach what celestial heights?
Now in despair, with drooping notes she sings,
No dawn of hope to raise her on her wings.
In the warm spring the warbling birds rejoice,
And in the smiling sunshine tune their voice.
Bask'd in the beams, they strain their tender throats,
Where cheerful light inspires the charming notes.
Such, and so charming, should my numbers be,
If you, my only light, would smile on me.
Your influence would inspire as moving airs,
And make my song as soft and sweet as theirs.
Would you but once auspiciously incline
To raise his fame, who only writes for thine;
I'd sing such notes as none but you could teach,
And none but one who loves like me can reach.
Secure of you, what raptures could I boast?
How wretched shall I be when you are lost?
Ah ! think what pangs despairing lovers prove,
And what a blest estate were mutual love.
How might my soul be with your favour rais'd?
And how in pleasing you, myself be pleas'd?
With what delight, what transport, could I burn?
Did but my flames receive the least return.
How would one tender look, one pitying smile,
Or one kind word from you, reward my toil?
It must, and would your tend'rest pity move,
Were you but once convince'd how well I love.
By ev'ry power that reigns and rules on high,
By love, the mightiest power of all the sky;
By your dear self, the last great oath, I swear,
That neither life, nor soul, are half so dear.
What need I these superfluous vows repeat?
Already sigh'd so often at your feet.
You know my passion is sincere and true,
I love you to excess; you know I do.
No tongue, no pen, can what I feel express,
E'en poetry itself must make it less.
You haunt me still, wherever I remove,
There's no retreat secure from fate, or love.
My soul from yours no distance can divide,
No rocks, nor caves, can from your presence hide.
By day, your lovely form fills all my sight,
Nor do I lose you, when I lose the light,
You are the charming phantom of the night.
Still your dear image dances in my view,
And all my restless thoughts run still on you;
You only are the sleeping poet's dream,
And when awake, you only are his theme.
Were I, by some yet harder fortune hurl'd
To the remotest parts of all the world;
The coldest northern clime, the torrid zone,
Should hear me sing of you, and you alone.
That pleasing task should all my hours employ,
Spent in a charming melancholy joy.
The chorus of the birds, the whisp'ring boughs,
And murm'ring streams, should join to sooth my woes:
My thoughts of you should yield a sad delight,
While joy and grief contend like day and night.
With smiles and tears, resembling sun and rain,
To keep the pleasure, I'd endure the pain;
If such content my troubled soul could know,
Such satisfaction, mix'd with so much woe;
If but my thoughts could keep my wishes warm,
Ah! how would your transporting presence charm
How pleasant would these pathless wilds appear,
Were you alone my kind companion here!
What should I then have left me to deplore ?
Oh! what society to wish for more?
No country thou art in can desert be,
And towns are desolate depriv'd of thee.
Banish'd with thee, I could an exile bear;
Banish'd from thee, the banishment lies there.
I to some lonely isle with thee could fly,
Where not a creature dwells but thou and I;
Where a wide-spreading main around us roars,
Besprinkling with its foam our desert shores;
Where winds and waves in endless wars engage,
And high-wrought tides roll with eternal rage;
Where ships far off their fearful courses steer,
And no bold vessel ever ventures near.
Should rising seas swell over ev'ry coast,
Were mankind in a second deluge lost,
Did only two of all the world survive,
Only one man, one woman left alive,
And should the gods that lot to us allow,
Were I Deucalion, and my Pyrrha thou,
Contentedly I should my fate embrace,
And would not beg them to renew our race;
All my most ardent wishes should implore,
All I should ask from each indulgent pow'r,
Would be to keep thee safe, and have no more.
Your cruelty occasions all my smart,
Your kindness could restore my bleeding heart.
You work me to a storm, you make me calm;
You give the wound, and can infuse the balm.
Of you I boast, of you alone complain,
My greatest pleasure and my greatest pain.
Whene'er you grieve I can no comfort know,
And when you first are pleas'd, I must be so;
While you are well, there's no disease I feel,
And I enjoy no health when you are ill.
Whate'er you do my actions does direct;
Your smile can raise me, and your frown deject.
Whome'er you love, I by the self same fate,
Love too; and hate, whatever wretch you hate;
With yours, my wishes and my passions join,
Your humor and your int'rest, all is mine.
I share in all; nor can my fortunes be
Unhappy, let but fortune smile on thee.
You can preserve, you only can destroy,
Increase my sorrow, or create my joy.
From you, and you alone, my doom I wait,
You are the star whose influence rules my fate.
On yours my being, and my life depend,
And mine shall last no more, when yours must end.
No toil would be too great, no task too hard,
Were you at last to be my rich reward.
In serving you I'd spend my latest breath,
Brave any danger, run on any death.
I live but for your sake, and when I die,
All I shall pray for is, may you be by.
No life, like living with thee, can delight;
No death can please, like dying in thy sight.
Oh! when I must, by heaven's severe decree,
Be snatch'd from all that's dear, be snatch'd from thee,
Mayst thou be present to dispel my fear,
And soften with thy charms the pangs I bear.
While on thy lips I pour my parting breath;
Look thee all o'er, and clasp thee close in death;
Sigh out my soul upon thy panting breast,
And with a passion not to be expressed,
Sink at thy feet into eternal rest.