Elizabeth Tollet, “On a Death’s Head”


“On a Death’s Head”


Esi illic Lethaeus Amor, qui pectora sanat,
Inque suas gelidam lampadas addit aquam.


On this Resemblance, where we find
A Portrait drawn for all Mankind,
Fond Lover! gaze a while, to see
What Beauty’s Idol Charms shall be.
Where are the Balls that once cou’d dart                                          5
Quick Lightning thro’ the wounded Heart?
The Skin, whose Teint cou’d once unite
The glowing Red and polish’d White?
The Lip in brighter Ruby drest?
The Cheek with dimpled Smiles imprest?                                         10
The rising Front, where Beauty sate
Thron’d in her Residence of State;
Which, half-disclos’d and half-conceal’d,
The Hair in flowing Ringlets veil’d;
‘Tis vanish’d all! remains alone                                                            15
This eyeless Scalp of naked Bone:
The vacant Orbits sunk within:
The Jaw that offers at a Grin.
Is this the Object then that claims
The Tribute of our youthful Flames?                                                   20
Must am’rous Hopes and fancy’d Bliss,
Too dear Delusions! end in this?
How high does Melancholy swell!
Which Sighs can more than Language tell:
Till Love can only grieve or fear;                                                           25
Reflect a while, then drop a Tear
For all that’s beautiful or dear.


Epigraph “There dwells Lethean Love, who heals the heartsick/And quenches in cold water his fierce flame.” From Ovid, Remedia Amoris (The Cures for Love), ll. 551-52 (Ovid: The Love Poems, trans. A.D. Melville [Oxford and New York: OUP, 1990], p. 166).

4  Idol  “False” (OED).

5 Balls  Eyeballs.

7  Teint  Taint, “color, hue, tint” (OED).

11  sate  “To be placed or situated” (OED).

16  Scalp  “Skull” (OED).

17  Orbits  “Eye sockets” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions. With Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII, an Epistle (London, 1755), pp. 58-59.  [Google Books]

 Edited by Terry Luo

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