« ZurückWeiter »
And Cupid hop'd they would improve
By time, and ripen into love.
The boy nade use of all his craft,
In vain discharging many a shaft,
Pointed at colonels, lords, and beaux :
Cadenus warded off the blows;
For, placing still some book betwixt,
The darts were in the cover fix'd,
Or, often blunted and recoil'd,
On Plutarch's Morals struck, were spoil'd.
The queen of wisdom could foresee,
But not prevent the Fates' decree :
And human caution tries in vain
To break that adamantine chain.
Vanessa, though by Pallas taught,
By Love invulnerable thought,
Searching in books for wisdom's aid,
Was, in the very search, betray'd.
Cupid, though all his darts were lost,
Yet still resolv'd to spare no cost:
He could not answer to his fame
The triumphs of that stubborn dame,
A nymph so hard to be subdued,
Who neither was coquette nor prude.
"I find," said he, "she wants a doctor
Both to adore her, and instruct her:
I'll give her what she most admires,
Among those venerable sires,
Cadenus is a subject fit,
Grown old in politics and wit,
Caress'd by ministers of state,
Of half mankind the dread and hate.
Whate'er vexations love attend,
She need no rivals apprehend.
Her sex, with universal voice,
Must laugh at her capricious choice."
Cadenus many things had writ:
Vanessa much esteem'd his wit,
And call'd for his poetic works:
Meantime the boy in secret lurks;
And, while the book was in her hand,
The urchin from his private stand
Took aim, and shot with all his strength
A dart of such prodigious length,
It pierc'd the feeble volume through,
And deep transfix'd her bosom too.
Some lines, more moving than the rest,
Stuck to the point that pierc'd her breast,
And, borne directly to the heart,
With pains unknown, increas'd her smart.
Vanessa, not in years a score,
Dreams of a gown of forty-four;
Imaginary charms can find
In eyes with reading almost blind :
Cadenus now no more appears
Declin'd in health, advanc'd in years.
She fancies music in his tongue;
No farther looks, but thinks him young.
What mariner is not afraid
To venture in a ship decay'd?
What planter will attempt to yoke
A sapling with a falling oak?
As years increase, she brighter shines :
Cadenus with each day declines:
And he must fall a prey to time,
While she continues in her prime.
Cadenus, common forms apart,
In every scene had kept his heart;
Had sigh'd and languish'd, vow'd and writ,
For pastime, or to show his wit.
But books, and time, and state affairs,
Had spoil'd his fashionable airs :
He now could praise, esteem, approve,
But understood not what was love.
His conduct might have made him styl❜d
A father, and the nymph his child.
That innocent delight he took
To see the virgin mind her book,
Was but the master's secret joy
In school to hear the finest boy.
Her knowledge with her fancy grew;
She hourly press'd for something new;
Ideas came into her mind
So fast, his lessons lagg'd behind;
She reason'd, without plodding long,
Nor ever gave her judgment wrong.
But now a sudden change was wrought:
She minds no longer what he taught.
Cadenus was amaz'd to find
Such marks of a distracted mind:
For, though she seem'd to listen more
To all he spoke, than e'er before,
He found her thoughts would absent range,
Yet guess'd not whence could spring the change.
And first he modestly conjectures
His pupil might be tir'd with lectures;
Which help'd to mortify his pride,
Yet gave him not the heart to chide :
But, in a mild dejected strain,
At last he ventur'd to complain;
Said, she should be no longer teas'd,
Might have her freedom when she pleas'd;
Was now convinc'd he acted wrong,
To hide her from the world so long,
And in dull studies to engage
One of her tender sex and age;
That every nymph with envy own'd,
How she might shine in the grand monde ;
And every shepherd was undone
To see her cloister'd like a nun.
This was a visionary scheme :
He wak'd, and found it but a dream;
A project far above his skill;
For nature must be nature still.
If he were bolder than became
A scholar to a courtly dame,
She might excuse a man of letters;
Thus tutors often treat their betters:
And, since his talk offensive grew,
He came to take his last adieu.
Vanessa, fill'd with just disdain,
Would still her dignity maintain,
Instructed from her early years
To scorn the art of female tears.
Had he employ'd his time so long
To teach her what was right and wrong;
Yet could such notions entertain
That all his lectures were in vain ?
She own'd the wandering of her thoughts;
But he must answer for her faults.
She well remembered, to her cost,
That all his lessons were not lost.
Two maxims she could still produce,
And sad experience taught their use;
That virtue, pleas'd by being shown,
Knows nothing which it dares not own;
Can make us without fear disclose
Our inmost secrets to our foes:
That common forms were not design'd
Directors to a noble mind.
"Now," said the nymph, "to let you see
My actions with your rules agree;
That I can vulgar forms despise,
And have no secrets to disguise :
I knew, by what you said and writ,
How dangerous things were men of wit;
You caution'd me against their charms,
But never gave me equal arms;
Your lessons found the weakest part,
Aim'd at the head, but reach'd the heart."
Cadenus felt within him rise
Shame, disappointment, guilt, surprise.
He knew not how to reconcile
Such language with her usual style:
And yet her words were so express'd,
He could not hope she spoke in jest,
His thoughts had wholly been confin'd
To form and cultivate her mind.
He hardly knew, till he was told, Whether the nymph were young or old;