John Gay, “Panthea. An Elegy”

JOHN GAY

“Panthea. An Elegy”

 

Long had Panthea felt Love’s secret smart,
And hope and fear alternate rul’d her heart;
Consenting glances had her flame confest.
(In woman’s eyes her very soul’s exprest)
Perjur’d Alexis saw the blushing maid,                                             5
He saw, he swore, he conquer’d and betray’d:
Another love now calls him from her arms,
His fickle heart another beauty warms;
Those oaths oft’whisper’d in Panthea’s ears,
He now again to Galatea swears.                                                     10
Beneath a beech th’ abandon’d virgin laid,
In grateful solitude enjoys the shade;
There with faint voice she breath’d these moving strains,
While sighing Zephyrs shar’d her am’rous pains.

Pale settled sorrow hangs on upon my brow,                       15
Dead are my charms; Alexis, breaks his vow!
Think, think, dear shepherd, on the days you knew,
When I was happy, when my swain was true;
Think how thy looks and tongue are form’d to move,
And think yet more—that all my fault was love.                           20
Ah, could you view me in this wretched state!
You might not love me, but you could not hate.
Could you behold me in this conscious shade,
Where first thy vows, where first my love was paid,
Worn out with watching, sullen with despair,                              25
And see each eye swell with a gushing tear?
Could you behold me on this mossy bed,
From my pale cheek the lively crimson fled,
Which in my softer hours you oft’ have sworn,
With rosie beauty far out-blush’d the morn;                                30
Could you untouch’d this wretched object bear,
And would not lost Panthea claim a tear?
You could not sure—tears from your eyes would steal,
And unawares thy tender soul reveal.
Ah, no!—thy soul with cruelty is fraught,                                      35
No tenderness disturbs thy savage thought;
Sooner shall tigers spare the trembling lambs,
And wolves with pity hear with their bleating dams;
Sooner shall vultures from their quarry fly,
Than false Alexis for Panthea sigh.                                                  40
Thy bosom ne’er a tender thought confest,
Sure stubborn flint had arm’d thy cruel breast;
But hardest flints are worn by frequent rains,
And the soft drops dissolve their solid veins;
While thy relentless heart more hard appears,                            45
And is not soften’d by a flood of tears.

Ah, what is love! Panthea’s joys are gone,
Her liberty, her peace, her reason flown!
And when I view me in the watry glass,
I find Panthea now, not what she was.                                           50
As northern winds the new-blown roses blast,
And on the ground their fading ruins cast;
As sudden blights corrupts the ripen’d grain,
And of its verdure spoil the mournful plain;
So hapless love on blooming features preys,                               55
So hapless love destroys our peaceful days.

Come, gentle sleep, relieve these weary’d eyes,
All sorrow in thy soft embraces dies:
There, spite of all thy perjur’d vows, I find
Faithless Alexis languishingly kind;                                                 60
Sometimes he leads me by the mazy stream,
And pleasingly deludes me in my dream;
Sometimes he guides me to the secret grove,
Where all our looks, and all our talk is love.
Oh, could I thus consume each tedious day,                               65
And in sweet slumbers dream my life away;
But sleep, which now no more relieves these eyes,
To my sad soul the dear deceit denies.

Why does the sun dart forth his cheerful rays?
Why do the woods resound with warbling lays?                          70
Why does the rose her grateful fragrance yield,
And the yellow cowslips paint the smiling field?
Why do the streams with murm’ring musick flow,
And why do groves their friendly shade bestow?
Let sable clouds the cheerful sun deface,                                    75
Let mournful silence seize the feather’d race;
No more, ye roses, grateful fragrance yield,
Droop, droop, ye cowslips, in the blasted field;
No more, ye streams, with murm’ring musick flow,
And let not groves a friendly shade bestow:                                80
With sympathizing grief let nature mourn,
And never know the youthful spring’s return;
And shall I never more Alexis see?
Then what is spring, or grove or stream to me?

Why sport the skipping lambs on yonder plain?                  85
Why do the birds their tuneful voice strain?
Why frisk those heifers in cooling grove?
Their happier life is ignorant of love.

Oh! lead me to some melancholy cave,
To lull my sorrow in a living grave;                                                90
From the dark rock where dashing waters fall,
And creeping ivy hangs the craggy wall,
Where I may waste in tears my hours away,
And never know the seasons or the day.
Die, die, Panthea—fly in this hateful grove,                                 95
For what is life without the Swain I love?

NOTES:

Title  Panthea  This name means “of all gods” in Greek.

1  smart  “Mental suffering, sorrow” (OED).

10  Galatea  “In Greek mythology, a Nereid who was loved by the Cyclops Polyphemus. Galatea, however, loved the youth Acis” (Britannica).

14  Zephyrs  Greek god of gentle winds.

18  swain  “Lover” (OED).

39  quarry  Here a reference to the vulture’s “prey” or carrion (OED).

42  flint  “Hard stone” (OED).

45  hard  “Unyielding” (OED).

49  watry glass  Water serving as a mirror.

51  northern winds  Refers to Boreas, Greek god of the cold northern winds.

61  mazy  “Twisting” (OED).

70  warbling  “Singing with sweet quavering notes” (OED).

72  cowslips  “Well-known plant in pastures and grassy banks, blossoming in spring” (OED).

87  heifers  “Young cows” (OED).

92  craggy  “Hard and rough” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions: Volume 2 (London, 1737), pp. 109-113. [Google Books]

Edited by Joanna Tran

 

 

 

 


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