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Plague on't! 'tis past a jest-nay, prithee, pox!
Give her the hair.'-He spoke, and rapp'd his box.
'It grieves me much (replied the peer again)
Who speaks so well should ever speak in vain :
But by this lock, this sacred lock, I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted hair;
Which never more its honours shall renew,
Clipp'd from the lovely head where late it grew)
That, while my nostrils draw the vital air,
This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.'
He spoke, and speaking, in proud triumph spread
The long-contended honours of her head.
But Umbriel, hateful gnome, forbears not so;
He breaks the vial whence the sorrows flow.
Then see! the nymph in beauteous grief appears,
Her eyes half-languishing, half drown'd in tears;
On her heav'd bosom hung her drooping head,
Which with a sigh she rais'd, and thus she said:
'For ever curs'd be this detested day,
Which snatch'd my best, my favourite curl away!
Happy! ah ten times happy had I been,
If Hampton Court these eyes had never seen!
Yet am not I the first mistaken maid,
By love of courts to numerous ills betray'd.
O had I rather unadmir'd remain'd
In some lone isle, or distant northern land;
Where the gilt chariot never marks the way,
Where none learn ombre, none e'er taste bohea!
There kept my charms conceal'd from mortal eye,
Like roses, that in deserts bloom and die.
What mov'd my mind with youthful lords to roam?
O had I stay'd, and said my pray'rs at home!
Twas this the morning omens seem'd to tell,
Thrice from my trembling hand the patch-box fell;
The tottering china shook without a wind,
Nay, Poll sat mute, and Shock was most unkind!
A sylph, too, warn'd me of the threats of fate,
In mystic visions, now believ'd too late!
See the poor remnants of these slighted hairs!
My hands shall rend what ev'n thy rapine spares:
These in two sable ringlets taught to break,
Once gave new beauties to the snowy neck;
The sister-lock now sits uncouth, alone,
And in its fellow's fate foresees its own;
Uncurl'd it hangs, the fatal sheers demands,
And tempts once more thy sacrilegious hands.
O hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize
Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!"
said the pitying audience melt in tears; But fate and Jove had stopp'd the baron's ears. In vain Thalestris with reproach assails, For who can move when fair Belinda fails? Not half so fix'd the Trojan could remain, While Anna begg'd and Dido rag'd in vain. Then grave Clarissa graceful wav'd her fan; Silence ensued, and thus the nymph began:
'Say, why are beauties prais'd and honour'd most, The wise man's passion, and the vain man's toast? Why deck'd with all the land and sea afford, Why angels call'd, and angel-like ador'd?
Why round our coaches crowd the white-glov'd beaux ?
Why bows the side-box from its inmost rows?
How vain are all these glories, all our pains,
Unless good sense preserve what beauty gains;
That men may say, when we the front-box grace,
Behold the first in virtue as in face!
Oh! if to dance all night, and dress all day,
Charm'd the small-pox, or chas'd old age away;
Who would not scorn what housewife's cares produce,
Or who would learn one earthly thing of use?
To patch, nay ogle, might become a saint,
Nor could it sure be such a sin to paint.
But since, alas! frail beauty must decay,
Curl'd or uncurl'd, since locks will turn to gray;
Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade,
And she who scorns a man must die a maid;
What then remains, but well our pow'r to use,
And keep good-humour still whate'er we lose?
And trust me, dear! good-humour can prevail,
When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll;
Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul."
So spoke the dame, but no applause ensued;
Belinda frown'd, Thalestris call'd her prude.
'To arms, to arms!' the fierce virago cries,
And swift as lightning to the combat flies.
All side in parties, and begin the' attack;
Fans clap, silks rustle, and tough whalebones crack;
Heroes' and heroines' shouts confus'dly rise,
And bass and treble voices strike the skies.
No common weapons in their hands are found,
Like gods they fight, nor dread a mortal wound.
So when bold Homer makes the gods engage,
And heavenly breasts with human passions rage;
'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms;
And all Olympus rings with loud alarms;
Jove's thunder roars, heav'n trembles all around,
Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound;
Earth shakes her nodding tow'rs, the ground gives
And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day!
Triumphant Umbriel, on a sconce's height, Clapp'd his glad wings, and sat to view the fight: Propp'd on their bodkin-spears, the sprites survey The growing combat, or assist the fray.
While through the press enrag'd Thalestris flies, And scatters death around from both her eyes, A beau and witling perish'd in the throng, One died in metaphor, and one in song: 'O cruel nymph! a living death I bear.' Cried Dapperwit, and sunk beside his chair. A mournful glance Sir Fopling upwards cast, Those eyes are made so killing'-was his last. Thus on Mæander's flowery margin lies The' expiring swan, and as he sings he dies.
When bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down, Chloe stepp'd in, and kill'd him with a frown; She smil'd to see the doughty hero slain, But, at her smile, the beau reviv'd again.
Now Jove suspends his golden scales in air, Weighs the men's wits against the lady's hair; The doubtful beam long nods from side to side; At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside. See fierce Belinda on the baron flies, With more than usual lightning in her eyes: Nor fear'd the chief the' unequal fight to try, Who sought no more than on his foe to die. But this bold lord, with manly strength endued, She with one finger and a thumb subdued: Just where the breath of life his nostrils drew, A charge of snuff the wily virgin threw ; The gnomes direct, to every atom just, The pungent grains of titillating dust.. Sudden, with starting tears each eye o'erflows, And the high dome re-echoes to his nose. 'Now meet thy fate,' incens'd Belinda cry'd, And drew a deadly bodkin from her side: (The same, his ancient personage to deck, Her great great grandsire wore about his neck, In three seal-rings; which after, melted down, Form'd a vast buckle for his widow's gown: Her infant grandame's whistle next it grew, The bells she gingled, and the whistle blew; Then in a bodkin grac'd her mother's hairs, Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.) 'Boast not my fall (he cry'd) insulting foe! Thou by some other shalt be laid as low. Nor think to die dejects my lofty mind; All that I dread is leaving you behind! Rather than so, ah let me still survive, And burn in Cupid's flames-but burn alive.' 'Restore the lock!' she cries; and all around Restore the lock!' the vaulted roofs rebound. Not fierce Othello in so loud a strain
Roar'd for the handkerchief that caus'd his pain.
But see how oft ambitious aims are cross'd,
And chiefs contend till all the prize is lost!
The lock, obtain'd with guilt, and kept with pain,
In every place is sought, but sought in vain:
With such a prize no mortal must be blest,
So heav'n decrees! with heav'n who can contest?
Some thought it mounted to the lunar sphere,
Since all things lost on earth are treasur'd there.
There heroes' wits are kept in ponderous vases,
And beaux' in snuff-boxes and tweezer-cases.
There broken vows, and death-bed alms are found,
And lovers' hearts with ends of ribbon bound,
The courtier's promises, and sick man's pray'rs,
The smiles of harlots, and the tears of heirs,
Cages for gnats, and chains to yoke a flea,
Dried butterflies, and tomes of casuistry.
But trust the Muse-she saw it upward rise,
Though mark'd by none but quick poetic eyes:
(So Rome's great founder to the heav'ns withdrew,
To Proculus alone confess'd in view)
A sudden star, it shot through liquid air,
And drew behind a radiant trail of hair.
Not Berenice's locks first rose so bright,
The heav'ns bespangling with dishevell'd light.
The sylphs behold it kindling as it flies,
And pleas'd pursue its progress through the skies.
This the beau monde shall from the mall survey,
And hail with music its propitious ray;
This the blest lover shall for Venus take,
And send up vows from Rosamonda's lake;
This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless skies,
When next he looks through Galilæo's eyes;
And hence the' egregious wizard shall foredoom
The fate of Louis, and the fall of Rome.
Then cease, bright nymph! to mourn thy ravish'd hair,
Which adds new glory to the shining sphere!
Not all the tresses that fair head can boast,
Shall draw such envy as the lock you lost.