Tag Archives: beauty

[John Norris], “The Rainbow. A Fable”

[JOHN NORRIS]

“The Rainbow. A Fable”

—Nimium ne crede Colori.—Virg.

 

An age there was, some authors teach,
When all things were endu’d with speech;
Nor plant, nor bird, nor fish, nor brute,
Nor thing inanimate was mute:
Their converse taught—or these men lie—                                      5
Better than books, morality.
One grain more faith afford me now,
I ask but one more grain, I vow,
Speech on mere visions to bestow.
Then you’ll believe, that truth I tell,                                                    10
That what I now relate befell.
Calm was the day, the sky was clear,
Save that a light cloud here and there,
Floating amid the azure plain,
Promis’d some gentle show’rs of rain;                                              15
Tho’ Men are faithless, Clouds are true,
As by the sequel soon I’ll shew.
Sol from the zenith now departed,
Eastward his rays obliquely darted,
The clouds, late glories of the day,                                                     20
By western winds are borne away,
Till to the east each vapour blown,
In lucid show’rs came gently down.
Now full oppos’d to Phoebus’ rays,
Iris her vivid tints displays;                                                                   25
A wat’ry mirror spread below,
To her own eyes her beauties shew.
I scarce can think Narcissus ey’d
Reflected beauty with such pride;
Or modern belle for birth-night dress’d,                                           30
Raptures so exquisite express’d.
Some time enamour’d o’er the lake
She hung, then—thus she spake.
“Say, in Creation’s ample bound,
Where can there such a form be found?                                           35
How fine that curve! how bright those rays!
Oh I could here for ever gaze;
See, see, resplendent circles rise,
Each above each, of various dyes!
Mark that first ring of sanguine light!                                                40
Beam’d ever ruby half so bright?
Or can the flaming topaz vie
With that next stream of golden dye?
Where was that em’rald ever seen
Whose rays could rival yonder green?                                               45
Or where’s that sapphire’s azure hue,
Can emulate it’s neighb’ring blue?
See! purple terminates my bow:
Boast amethysts so bright a glow?”
Thus to each charm she gave its due,                                         50
Nay more—but that is—entre nous,
Exhaustless seem’d the copious theme,
For where’s the end of self-esteem?
She finding still for praise pretence,
From vanity drew eloquence:                                                               55
When in the midst of her career,
Behold her glories disappear.
See her late boasted tints decay,
And vanish into air away,
Like spectres at th’ approach of day.                                                   60
On things too transient hangs their fate,
For them to hope a lasting date,
The fallen rain has clear’d the skies,
And lo! the short-liv’d phantom dies.
My application’s brief and plain,                                                           65
Beauty’s the Rainbow, Youth’s the Rain.

NOTES:

Author  The poem is signed “Eugenio.”  A reviewer of this volume of The Annual Register identifies the author as “John Norris, Esq, who was a student at Temple and fellow at Caius College in Cambridge” (The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature, Volume 13. London: 1762, p. 486).

Epigraph Nimium ne crede Colori.—Virg. From the Latin poet’s pastoral poem, Eclogues II. Trans. “Trust not too much to colour, beauteous boy” (classics.mit.edu).

17 sequel In reference to “Clouds” at line 16.

18 Sol “The sun (personified)” (OED); zenith “The point of the horizon at which a heavenly body rises” (OED).

24 Phoebus’  The sun personified as Apollo as the god of light or of the sun.

25 Iris “The goddess who acted as the messenger of the gods, and was held to display as her sign, or appear as, the rainbow; hence, allusively, a messenger” (OED).

28 Narcissus “[The name of] a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own reflection in water and pined to death” (OED).

51 entre nous “Between ourselves; in private” (OED).

56 career “The height of a person’s activity” (OED).

Source: The Annual Register (London, 1762), pp. 256-57.

Edited by Karen Peña

Richard Gough, “To Mrs. S— on presenting the Author with a Lock of her Hair”

RICHARD GOUGH

 “To Mrs. S— on presenting the Author with a Lock of her Hair”

The Poets, Madam, all aver,
That once the ruthless god of war,
Who, bred amid the din of arms,
Defy’d the pow’r of beauty’s charms;
And long had proudly scorn’d to wear,                                     5
The pleasing fetters of the fair.
Struck with the graceful air and mein,
And roseat bloom of Cyprus’ queen;
His savage fierceness all forbore,
Subdued by Venus, magic lore;                                                10
And soon became her pow’r to prove,
A convert to the force of love.
The wily Goddess, then, ‘tis said,
All with an heavenly tempered brede;
Of net-work circled him around,                                              15
And to her snowy bosom bound:
Secur’d the conquest of her eyes,
And by the rulers of the skies;
From the fierce God of war so tamed,
Thence forth was beauties goddess named.                        20
Thus say the poets, who in fiction,
In figure and in contradiction,
To all the laws of modest nature,
Trick out a strange romantic creature;
Which, after all, they queintly feign,                                       25
No where exists but in the brain.
Might I the genuine truth reveal,
And would you listen to the tale;
Would you, more kindly still supply,
Whate’er I pass in silence by?                                                 30
Whose was the dull, insensate breast,
Which beauty’s pow’r at length confess’d;
Who soon became that power to prove,
A convert to the force of love:
Wou’d you conceive who ‘tis I mean,                                    35
Then would I thus the rest explain:
The heavenly net-work, Venus snare,
Was this — a ringlet of her hair;
And she, to give her all her due,
Some faint resemblance was of–you.                                  40

NOTES:

Title Mrs. S— Unable to identify.

2 god of war In Roman mythology, Mars.

7 mein “Physical strength, force or power” (OED).

8 roseat “Resembling or suggestive of a rose, esp.in colour” (OED); Cyprus’ queen Probably Cleopatra of Egypt, renowned for her beauty, who was given control of the island through her alliance with Marc Antony (Encyclopedia Britannica).

10 Venus In Roman mythology, the goddess of love.

14 brede “Anything plaited, entwined, or interwoven” (OED).

25 queintly An older spelling of quaintly (OED).

31 insensate “Destitute of physical sense or feeling” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (April 1770), p. 183.

Edited by Matthew Bragg

Anonymous, “All in Vanity!”

Anonymous

All is Vanity!”

Whilst happy youths lead up the merry dance,
And musick’s charms invade the silent air,
Whilst sprightly nymphs spontaneously advance,
Lo! Here I sit, sad victim to despair.

But why should I complain? My day is o’er:                                            5
I’ve bid adieu to pleasure’s flow’ry stream;
My steady heart shall be enslav’d no more;
Such transient joys are like an empty dream.

Forgive, ye fair, this rude, unpolish’d verse,
Dread destiny has deeply pierc’d my heart;                                  10
Too certain truths unwilling I rehearse,
Ye, lovely maids, shall feel the vengeful dart.

Beauty and youth in which ye now delight,
Shall leave precipitate life’s giddy stage;
There charms shall sink in everlasting night,                                        15
And leave behind vexation and old age.

To day ye triumph with despotic power,
But Oh! to-morrow all your power is lost;
Like you to day appears the blushing flower,
Like you to-morrow nipt by death’s cold frost.                                20

O say, can dancing stop the hand of death,
Or musick’s charms extend life’s narrow page?
Can courtly balls recall the fleeting breath,
Or sooth the burning fever’s glowing rage?

If not, ye fair ones, listen to a friend,                                                        25
Exalt each thought to pure and endless joys;
With caution due to Damon’s muse attend,
None can be happy, but the good and wise.

NOTES:

3 nymphs A mythological spirit imagined as a beautiful maiden (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

23 courtly balls Political and social events attended by European nobility in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Later evolves into ballroom dancing. (DeMello, Feet and Footwear: A Cultural Encyclopedia, p. 89).

27 Damon Earliest reference to this name was found in a Greek story of Damon and Pythias. The myth exhibited the idea of a perfect friendship (Osborn, What’s in a Name?, p. 174).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 33 (London, 1763), p. 40.

Edited by Lok Yi Lo