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With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre,
And breathes three amorous sighs to raise the fire;
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize.
The powers give ear and granted half his prayer,
The rest the winds dispersed in empty air.
But now secure the painted vessel glides,
The sunbeams trembling on the floating tides;
While melting music steals upon the sky,
And soften'd sounds along the waters die.
Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play,
Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay-
All but the sylph; with careful thoughts opprest,
The impending woe sat heavy on his breast.
He summons straight his denizens of air;
The lucid squadrons round the sails repair;
Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe,
That seemed but zephyrs to the train beneath.
Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold,
Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold;
Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,
Their fluid bodies half dissolved in light,
Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew,
Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies,
Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes;
While every beam new transient colours flings,
Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings.
Amid the circle, on the gilded mast,
Superior by the head, was Ariel placed;
His purple pinions opening to the sun,
He raised his azure wand, and thus begun:
“Ye sylphs and sylphids, to your chief give ear! Fays, fairies, genii, elves, and demons, hear! Ye know the spheres, and various tasks assign'd By laws eternal to the aerial kind. Some in the fields of purest ether play, And bask and whiten in the blaze of day; Some guide the course of wandering orbs on high, Or roll the planets through the boundless sky; Some, less refined, beneath the moon's pale light Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night, Or suck the mists in grosser air below, Or dip their pinions in the painted bow, Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main, Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain; Others on earth o'er human race preside, Watch all their ways and all their actions guide. Of these the chief the care of nations own, And guard with arms divine the British throne.
“Our humbler province is to tend the fair; Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care; To save the powder from too rude a gale, Nor let the imprison'd essences exhale; To draw fresh colours from the vernal flowers; To steal from rainbows ere they drop in showers A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs, Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs; Nay, oft, in dreams, invention we bestow, To change a flounce, or add a furbelow.
“ This day, black omens threat the brightest fair That e'er deserved a watchful spirit's care; Some dire disaster, or by force or slight; But what, or where, the Fates have wrapt in night.
Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law,
Or some frail China jar receive a flaw;
Or stain her honour, or her new brocade;
Forget her prayers, or miss a masquerade;
Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
Or whether Heaven has doom'd that Shock must fall.
Haste, then, ye spirits, to your charge repair !
The fluttering fan be Zephyretta's care;
The drops to thee, Brillante, we consign;
And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine;
Do thou, Crispissa, tend her favourite Lock;
Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock.
“To fifty chosen sylphs, of special note,
We trust the important charge, the petticoat:
Oft have we known that sevenfold fence to fail,
Though stiff with hoops and arm’d with ribs of whale;
Form a strong line about the silver bound,
And guard the wide circumference around.
“ Whatever spirit, careless of his charge,
His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large,
Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins,
Be stopp'd in vials, or transfix'd with pins;
Or plunged in lakes of bitter washes lie,
Or wedged whole ages in a bodkin's eye;
Gums and pomatums shall his Aight restrain,
While clogg'd he beats his silken wings in vain;
Or alum styptics, with contracting power,
Shrink his thin essence like a rivell'd flower;
Or, as Ixion fix'd, the wretch shall feel
The giddy motion of the whirling mill,
In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow,
And tremble at the sea that froths below!"
He spoke. The spirits from the sails descend;
Some, orb in orb, around the nymph extend;
Some thread the mazy ringlets of her hair;
Some hang upon the pendants of her ear;
With beating hearts the dire event they wait,
Anxious, and trembling for the birth of fate.
Close by those meads, forever crowned with flowers,
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers,
There stands a structure of majestic frame,
Which from the neighbouring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home;
Here, thou, great Anna, whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take-and sometimes tea.
Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort,
To taste awhile the pleasures of a court;
In various talk the instructive hours they pass'd,
Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last;
One speaks the glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;
At every word a reputation dies.
Snuff, or the fan, supplies each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
Meanwhile, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine;
The merchant from the Exchange returns in peace,
And the long labours of the toilet cease.
Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites,
Burns to encounter two adventurous knights,
At ombre singly to decide their doom,
And swells her breast with conquests yet to come.
Straight the three bands prepare in arms to join,
Each band the number of the sacred Nine.
Soon as she spreads her hand, the aerial guard
Descend, and sit on each important card;
First Ariel, perch'd upon a matadore,
Then each according to the rank they bore;
For sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient race,
Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold four kings, in majesty revered,
With hoary whiskers and a forky beard;
And four fair queens whose hands sustain a flower,
The expressive emblem of their softer power;
Four knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band,
Caps on their heads and halberds in their hand;
And party-coloured troops, a shining train,
Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain.
The skilful nymph reviews her force with care;
“Let Spades be trumps !” she said, and trumps they were.
Now move to war her sable matadors,
In show like leaders of the swarthy Moors.
Spadillio first, unconquerable lord,
Led off two captive trumps, and swept the board.
As many more Manillio forced to yield,
And march'd a victor from the verdant field.
Him Basto follow'd, but his fate more hard,
Gain'd but one trump and one plebeian card.
With his broad sabre next, a chief in years,
The hoary Majesty of Spades appears,