Read, lovely nymph, and tremble not to read,
by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
I have no more to wish, nor you to dread;
I ask not life, for life to me were vain,
And death a refuge from severer pain.
My only hope in these last lines I try --
I would be pitied, and I then would die.
Long had I liv'd as sordid as my fate,
Nor curs'd the destiny that made me wait
A servile slave: content with homely food,
The gross instinct of happiness pursued:
Youth gave me sleep at night and warmth of blood.
Ambition yet had never touch'd my breast;
My lordly master knew no sounder rest;
With labour healthy, in obedience blest.
But when I saw -- oh! had I never seen
That wounding softness, that engaging mien!
The mist of wretched education flies,
Shame, fear, desire, despair, and love arise,
The new creation of those beauteous eyes.
But yet that love pursu'd no guilty aim;
Deep in my heart I hid the secret flame:
I never hop'd my fond desire to tell,
And all my wishes were to serve you well.
Heav'ns! how I flew when wing'd by your command,
And kiss'd the letters giv'n me by your hand.
How pleas'd, how proud, how fond I was to wait,
Present the sparkling wine, or change the plate!
How, when you sung, my soul devour'd the sound,
And ev'ry sense was in the rapture drown'd!
Though bid to go, I quite forgot to move;
-- You knew not that stupidity was love!
But oh! the torment not to be express'd,
The grief, the rage, the hell, that fir'd this breast,
When my great rivals, in embroidery gay,
Sate by your side, or led you from the play!
I still contriv'd near as I could to stand
(the flambeau trembling in my shaking hand);
I saw, or thought I saw, those fingers press'd,
For thus their passion by my own I guess'd,
And jealous fury all my soul possess'd.
Like torrents, love and indignation meet,
And madness would have thrown me at your feet.
Turn, lovely nymph (for so I would have said),
Turn from those triflers who make love a trade;
This is true passion in my eyes you see;
They cannot, no -- they cannot love like me;
Frequent debauch has pall'd their sickly taste,
Faint their desire, and in a moment past;
They sigh not from the heart, but from the brain;
Vapours of vanity and strong champagne.
Too dull to feel what forms like yours inspire,
After long talking of their painted fire,
To some lewd brothel they at night retire;
There, pleas'd with fancy'd quality and charms,
Enjoy your beauties in a strumpet's arms.
Such are the joys those toasters have in view,
And such the wit and pleasure they pursue;
-- And is this love that ought to merit you?
Each opera night a new address begun,
They swear to thousands what they swear to one.
Not thus I sigh -- but all my sighs are vain --
Die, wretched Arthur, and conceal thy pain:
'Tis impudence to wish, and madness to complain.
Fix'd on this view, my only hope of ease,
I waited not the aid of slow disease;
The keenest instruments of death I sought,
And death alone employ'd my lab'ring thought.
This all the night -- when I remember well
The charming tinkle of your morning bell!
Fir'd by the sound, I hasten'd with your tea,
With one last look to smooth the darksome way --
But oh! how dear that fatal look has cost!
In that fond moment my resolves were lost.
Hence all my guilt, and all your sorrows rise --
I saw the languid softness of your eyes;
I saw the dear disorder of your bed;
Your cheeks all glowing with a tempting red;
Your night-clothes tumbled with resistless grace,
Your flowing hair play'd careless down your face
Your night-gown fasten'd with a single pin;
-- Fancy improv'd the wondrous charms within!
I fix'd my eyes upon that heaving breast,
And hardly, hardly, I forbore the rest:
Eager to gaze, unsatisfied with sight,
My head grew giddy with the near delight!
-- Too well you know the fatal following night!
Th'extremest proof of my desire I give,
And since you will not love, I will not live.
Condemn'd by you, I wait the righteous doom.
Careless and fearless of the woes to come.
But when you see me waver in the wind,
My guilty flame extinct, my soul resign'd,
Sure you may pity what you can't approve,
The cruel consequence of furious love.
Think the bold wretch, that could so greatly dare,
Was tender, faithful, ardent, and sincere;
Think when I held the pistol to your breast, --
Had I been of the world's large rule possess'd, --
That world had then been yours, and I been blest;
Think that my life was quite below my care,
Nor fear'd I any hell beyond despair. --
If these reflections, though they seize you late,
Give some compassion for your Arthur's fate:
Enough you give, nor ought I to complain:
You pay my pangs, nor have I died in vain.