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Of cups and goblets, and the store thrice told
Of Ceres' horn, and, in huge vessels, wine
Came from the gloomy tun with merry shine.
Thus loaded with a feast the tables stood,
Each shrining in the midst the image of a God.
When in an antechamber every guest Had felt the cold full sponge to pleasure press'd, By ministering slaves, upon his hands and feet, And fragrant oils with ceremony meet Pour’d on his hair, they all moved to the feast In white robes, and themselves in order placed Around the silken couches, wondering Whence all this mighty cost and blaze of wealth could spring.”
Soft went the music the soft air along,
While fluent Greek a vowel’d under-song
Kept up among the guests, discoursing low
At first, for scarcely was the wine at flow ;
But when the happy vintage touch'd their brains,
Louder they talk, and louder come the strains
Of powerful instruments:—the gorgeous dyes,
The space, the splendor of the draperies,
The roof of awful richness, nectarous cheer,
Beautiful slaves, and Lamia’s self, appear,
Now, when the wine has done its rosy deed,
And every soul from human trammels freed,
No more so strange; for merry wine, sweet wine,
Will make Elysian shades not too fair, too divine.
Soon was God Bacchus at meridian height;
Flush’d were their cheeks, and bright eyes double bright:
Garlands of every green, and every scent
From vales deflower'd, or forest-trees branch-rent,
In baskets of bright osier'd gold were brought
High as the handles heap'd, to suit the thought
Of every guest; that each, as he did please,
Might fancy-fit his brows, silk-pillow’d at his ease.
What wreath for Lamia 2 What for Lycius 2 What for the sage, old Apollonius 2 Upon her aching forehead be there hung The leaves of willow and of adder's tongue; And for the youth, quick, let us strip for him The thyrsus, that his watching eyes may swim Into forgetfulness; and, for the sage, Let spear-grass and the spiteful thistle wage War on his temples. Do not all charms fly At the mere touch of cold philosophy Ž There was an awful rainbow once in heaven: We know her woof, her texture; she is given In the dull catalogue of common things. Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings, Conquer all mysteries by rule and line, Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine— Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade.
By her glad Lycius sitting, in chief place,
Scarce saw in all the room another face,
Till, checking his love trance, a cup he took
Full brimm’d, and opposite sent forth a look
'Cross the broad table, to beseech a glance
From his old teacher’s wrinkled countenance,
And pledge him. The bald-head philosopher
Had fix’d his eye, without a twinkle or a stir,
Full on the alarmed beauty of the bride,
Brow-beating her fair form, and troubling her sweet pride.
Lycius then press'd her hand, with devout touch,
As pale it lay upon the rosy couch :
*T was icy, and the cold ran through his veins;
Then sudden it grew hot, and all the pains
Of an unnatural heat shot to his heart.
“Lamia, what means this 2 Wherefore dost thou start 2
Know'st thou that man 2° Poor Lamia answer'd not.
He gazed into her eyes, and not a jot
Own'd they the lovelorn piteous appeal:
More, more he gazed : his human senses reel:
Some hungry spell that loveliness absorbs;
There was no recognition in those orbs.
“Lamia ''” he cried—and no soft-toned reply.
The many heard, and the loud revelry
Grew hush; the stately music no more breathes;
The myrtle sicken'd in a thousand wreaths.
By faint degrees, voice, lute, and pleasure ceased ;
A deadly silence step by step increased,
Until it seem’d a horrid presence there,
And not a man but felt the terror in his hair.
“Lamia s” he shriek’d ; and nothing but the shriek
With its sad echo did the silence break.
“Begone, foul dream!” he cried, gazing again
In the bride's face, where now no azure vein
Wander'd on fir-spac'd temples; no soft bloom
Misted the cheek; no passion to illume
The deep-recessed vision :-all was blight;
Lamia, no longer fair, there sat a deadly white.
“Shut, shut those juggling eyes, thou ruthless man
Turn them aside, wretch or the righteous ban
Of all the Gods, whose dreadful images
Here represent their shadowy presences,
May pierce them on the sudden with the thorn
Of painful blindness; leaving thee forlorn,
In trembling dotage to the feeblest fright
Of conscience, for their long-offended might,
For all thine impious proud-heart sophistries,
Unlawful magic, and enticing lies.
Corinthians ! look upon that grey-beard wretch!
Mark how, possess'd, his lashless eyelids stretch
Around his demon eyes! Corinthians, see '
My sweet bride withers at their potency.”
“Fool s” said the sophist, in an under tone,
Gruff with contempt; which a death-nighing moan
From Lycius answer'd, as heart-struck and lost,
He sank supine beside the aching ghost.
“Fool Fools” repeated he, while his eyes still
Relented not, nor moved ; “from every ill
Of life have I preserved thee to this day,
And shall I see thee made a serpent’s prey !”
Then Lamia breathed death-breath ; the sophist's eye,
Like a sharp spear, went through her utterly,
Keen, cruel, perceant, stinging : she, as well
As her weak hand could any meaning tell,
Motion'd him to be silent; vainly so,
He look’d and look’d again a level—No 1
“A serpent s” echoed he ; no sooner said,
Than with a frightful scream she vanished:
And Lycius' arms were empty of delight,
As were his limbs of life, from that same night.
On the high couch he lay !—his friends came round—
Supported him—no pulse or breath they found,
And, in its marriage robe, the heavy body wound.*
* “Philostratus, in his fourth book de Vita.1pollonii, hath a memorable instance in this kind, which I may not omit, of one Menippus Lycius, a young
man twenty-five years of age, that going betwixt Cenchreas and Corinth, met such a phantasm in the habit of a fair gentlewoman, which, taking him by the hand, carried him home to her house, in the suburbs of Corinth, and told him she was a Phoenician by birth, and if he would tarry with her, he should hear her sing and play, and drink such wine as never any drank, and no man should molest him : but she, being fair and lovely, would die with him, that was fair and lovely to behold. The young man, a philosopher, otherwise staid and discreet, able to moderate his passions, though not this of love, tarried with her awhile to his great content, and at last married her, to whose wedding, amongst other guests, came Apollonius; who, by some probable conjectures, found her out to be a serpent, a lamia; and that all her furniture was, like Tantalus' gold, described by Homer, no substance but mere illusions. When she saw herself descried, she wept, and desired Apollonius to be silent, but he would not be moved, and thereupon she, plate, house, and all that was in it, vanished in an instant: many thousands took notice of this fact, for it was done in the midst of Greece.”—BURToN’s .Anatomy of JMelancholy, Part 3, See Memb, I., Subs. I.