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Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew,
Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies,
Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes,
While every beam new transient colours flings,
Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings.
Amid the circle, on the gilded mast,
Superior by the head, was Ariel plac'd;
His purple pinions opening to the sun,
He rais'd his azure wand, and thus begun :
Ye sylphs and sylphids, to your chief give ear,
Fays, fairies, genii, elves, and demons, hear!
Ye know the spheres, and various tasks assign'd
By laws eternal to the' aërial kind.
Some in the fields of purest ether play,
And bask and whiten in the blaze of day:
Some guide the course of wandering orbs on high,
Or roll the planets through the boundless sky:
Some, less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light
Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night,
Or suck the mists in grosser air below,
Or dip their pinions in the painted bow,
Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main,
Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain.
Others, on earth, o'er human race preside,
Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide :
Of these the chief the care of nations own,
And guard with arms divine the British throne.
* Our humbler province is to tend the fair, Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care; To save the powder from too rude a gale, Nor let the imprison'd essences exhale; To draw fresh colours from the vernal flowers; To steal from rainbows ere they drop in showers A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs, Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs; Nay oft, in dreams, invention we bestow, To change a flounce, or add a furbelow.
*This day black omens threat the brightest fair That e'er desery'd a watchful spirit's care;
Some dire disaster, or by force or slight;
But what, or where, the fates lave wrapp'd in night.
Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law,
Or some frail china-jar receive a flaw;
Or stain her honour, or her new brocade;
Forget her pray’rs, or miss a masquerade;
Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
Or whether heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall.
Haste then, ye spirits ! to your charge repair :
The fluttering fan be Zephyretta's care;
The drops to thee, Brillante, we consign;
And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine;
Do thou, Crispissa, tend her favourite
ock; Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock.
. To fifty chosen sylphs, of special note, . We trust the important charge, the petticoat: Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail, Though stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of whale; Form a strong line about the silver bound, And guard the wide circumference around.
• Whatever spirit, careless of his charge,
His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large,
Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins,
Be stopp'd in vials, or transfix'd with pins;
Or plung'd in lakes of bitter washes lie,
Or wedg'd whole ages in a bodkin's eye:
Gums and pomatums shall his fight restrain,
While clogg'd he beats his silken wings in vain;
Or allum styptics with contracting power
Shrink his thin essence like a shrivell'd flower :
Or, as Ixion fix'd, the wretch shall feel
The giddy motion of the whirling mill,
In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow,
And tremble at the sea that froths below !"
He spoke; the spirits from the sails descend;
Some, orb in orb, around the nymph extend;
Some thread the mazy ringlets of her hair;
Some hang upon the pendants of her ear;
With beating hearts the dire event they wait,
Anxious, and trembling for the birth of fate.
CANTO III. CLOSE LOSE by those meads, for ever crown'd with
flowers, Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers, There stands a structure of majestic frame, Which from the neighbouring Hampton takes its
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home;
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take-and sometimes tea.
Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort,
To taste awhile the pleasures of a court;
In various talk the instructive hours they past,
Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last;
One speaks the glory of the British queen,
And one describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;
At every word a reputation dies.
Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
Meanwhile, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine;
The merchant from the Exchange returns in peace,
And the long labours of the toilet cease.
Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites,
Burns to encounter two adventurous knights,
At ombre singly to decide their doom,
And swells her breast with conquests yet to come.
Straight the three bands prepare in arms to join,
Each band the number of the sacred nine.
Soon as she spreads her hand, the aërial guard
Descend, and sit on each important card :
First Ariel perch'd upon a matadore,
Then each according to the rank they bore;
For sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient race,
Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold four kings in majesty rever'd,
With hoary whiskers and a forky beard;
And four fair queens, whose hands sustain a flower,
The expressive emblem of their softer power;
Four knaves, in garbs succinct, a trusty band,
Caps on their heads, and halberts in their hand;
And party-colour'd troops, a shining train,
Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain.
The skilful nymph reviews her force with care: • Let spades be trumps !' she said, and trumps they
Now move to war her sable matadores,
In show like leaders of the swarthy moors.
Spadillio first, unconquerable lord !
Led off two captive trumps, and swept the board.
As many more manilio forc'd to yield,
And march'd a victor from the verdant field.
Him basto follow'd, but his fate more hard,
Gain'd but one trump and one plebeian card.
With his broad sabre next, a chief in years,
The hoary majesty of spades appears,
Puts forth one manly leg, to sight reveal'd,
The rest his many-colour'd robe conceald.
The rebel knave, who dares his prince engage,
Proves the just victim of his royal rage.
Ev'n mighty pam, that kings and queens o'erthrew,
And mow'd down armies in the fights of loo,
Sad chance of war! now destitute of aid,
Falls undistinguish'd by the victor spade!
Thus far both armies to Belinda yield;
Now to the baron fate inclines the field.
His warlike amazon her host invades,
The imperial consort of the crown of spades.
The club's black tyrant first her victim died,
Spite of his haughty mien, and barbarous pride:
What boots the regal circle on his head,
His giant limbs, in state vnwieldy spread ;
That long behind he trails his pompous robe,
And, of all monarchs, only grasps the globe?
The baron now his diamonds pours apace;
The' embroider'd king wlo shows but half his face,
And his refulgent queen, with pow'rs combin'd,
Of broken troops an easy conquest find.
Clubs, diamonds, hearts, in wild disorder seen,
With throngs promiscuous strow the level green.
Thus when dispersd a routed army runs,
Of Asia's troops, and Afric's sable sons,
With like confusion different nations fiy,
Of various habit, and of various dye;
The pierc'd battalions disunited fall
In beaps on heaps; one fate o'erwhelms them all.
The knave of diamonds tries his wily arts,
And wins (oh shameful chance!) the queen of hearts.
At this, the blood the virgin's cheek forsook,
A livid paleness spreads o'er all her look;
She sees, and trembles at the approaching ill,
Just in the jaws of ruin, and codille.
And now (as oft in some distemper'd state)
On one nice trick depends the general fate :
An ace of hearts steps forth: the king unseen
Lurk'd in her hand, and mourn’d his captive queen:
He springs to vengeance with an eager pace,
And falls like thunder on the prostrate ace.
The nymph, exulting, fills with shouts the sky;
The walls, the woods, and long canals, reply.
Oh thoughtless niortals ! ever blind to fate,
Too soon dejected, and too soon elate,
Sudden these honours shall be snatch'd away,
And curs'd for ever this victorious day.
For lo! the board with cups and spoons is crown'd;
The berries crackle, and the mill turns round;
On shining altars of japan they raise
The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze:
From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide,
While China's earth receives the smoking tide:
At once they gratify their scent and taste,
And frequent cups prolong the rich repasta