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Were strewn rich gifts, unknown to any Muse,
Though Fancy's casket were unlock'd to choose.
Ah, what a world of love was at her feet!
So Hermes thought, and a celestial heat
Burn'd from his winged heels to either ear,
That from a whiteness, as the lily clear,
Blush'd into roses 'mid his golden hair,
Fallen in jealous curls about his shoulders bare.
From vale to vale, from wood to wood, he flew,
Breathing upon the flowers his passion new,
And wound with many a river to its head,

To find where this sweet nymph prepared her secret bed:

In vain; the sweet nymph might nowhere be found,

And so he rested, on the lonely ground,
Pensive, and full of painful jealousies

Of the Wood-Gods, and even the very trees.
There as he stood, he heard a mournful voice,
Such as once heard, in gentle heart, destroys
All pain but pity: thus the lone voice spake :
"When from this wreathed tomb shall I awake!
When move in a sweet body fit for life,
And love, and pleasure, and the ruddy strife
Of hearts and lips! Ah, miserable me!"

The God, dove-footed, glided silently

Round bush and tree, soft-brushing, in his speed,
The taller grasses and full-flowering weed,
Until he found a palpitating snake,

Bright, and cirque-couchant in a dusky brake.

She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue, Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue; Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard, Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr'd; And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed, Dissolved, or brighter shone, or interwreathed Their lustres with the gloomier tapestriesSo rainbow-sided, touch'd with miseries, She seem'd at once, some penanced lady elf, Some demon's mistress, or the demon's self. Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne's tiar : Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet! She had a woman's mouth with all its pearls complete :

And for her eyes—what could such eyes do there But weep, and weep, that they were born so

fair?

As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air.
Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love's
sake,

And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
Like a stoop'd falcon .ere he takes his prey:

"Fair Hermes! crown'd with feathers, fluttering light,

I had a splendid dream of thee last night:
I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold,
Among the Gods, upon Olympus old,

The only sad one; for thou didst not hear
The soft, lute-finger'd Muses chanting clear,
Nor even Apollo when he sang alone,

Deaf to his throbbing throat's long, long melodious moan.

I dreamt I saw thee, robed in purple flakes, Break amorous through the clouds, as morning breaks,

And, swiftly as a bright Phœbean dart,

Strike for the Cretan isle; and here thou art ! Too gentle Hermes, hast thou found the maid?" Whereat the star of Lethe not delay'd

His rosy eloquence, and thus inquired: "Thou smooth-lipp'd serpent, surely high-inspired!

Thou beauteous wreath, with melancholy eyes, Possess whatever bliss thou canst devise,

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Telling me only where my nymph is fled,Where she doth breathe! "Bright planet, thou hast said,"

Return'd the snake, "but seal with oaths, fair God!"

"I swear," said Hermes, "by my serpent rod, And by thine eyes, and by thy starry crown!" Light flew his earnest words, among the blossoms blown.

Then thus again the brilliance feminine:

"Too frail of heart! for this lost nymph of thine, Free as the air, invisibly, she strays

About these thornless wilds; her pleasant days

She tastes unseen; unseen her nimble feet
Leave traces in the grass and flowers sweet:
From weary tendrils, and bow'd branches green,
She plucks the fruit unseen, she bathes unseen:
And by my power is her beauty veil'd
To keep it unaffronted, unassail'd

By the love-glances of unlovely eyes,
Of Satyrs, Fauns, and blear'd Silenus' sighs.
Pale grew her immortality, for woe
Of all these lovers, and she grieved so
I took compassion on her, bade her steep
Her hair in weird syrops, that would keep
Her loveliness invisible, yet free

To wander as she loves, in liberty.

Thou shalt behold her, Hermes, thou alone,
If thou wilt, as thou swearest, grant my boon!"
Then, once again, the charmed God began
An oath, and through the serpent's ears it ran
Warm, tremulous, devout, psalterian.

Ravish'd she lifted her Circean head,
Blush'd a live damask, and swift-lisping said,
"I was a woman, let me have once more
A woman's shape, and charming as before.
I love a youth of Corinth-O the bliss!

Give me my woman's form, and place me where

he is.

Stoop, Hermes, let me breathe upon thy brow,
And thou shalt see thy sweet nymph even now."
The God on half-shut feathers sank serene,
She breathed upon his eyes, and swift was seen

Of both the guarded nymph near-smiling on the

green.

It was no dream; or say a dream it was,

Real are the dreams of Gods, and smoothly pass Their pleasures in a long immortal dream.

One warm, flush'd moment, hovering, it might

seem

Dash'd by the wood-nymph's beauty, so he burn'd;
Then, lighting on the printless verdure, turn'd
To the swoon'd serpent, and with languid arm,
Delicate, put to proof the lithe Caducean charm.
So done, upon the nymph his eyes he bent
Full of adoring tears and blandishment,
And towards her stept: she, like a moon in
wane,

Faded before him, cower'd, nor could restrain
Her fearful sobs, self-folding like a flower
That faints into itself at evening hour:
But the God fostering her chilled hand,
She felt the warmth, her eyelids open'd bland,
And, like new flowers at morning song of bees,
Bloom'd, and gave up her honey to the lees.
Into the green-recessed woods they flew ;
Nor grew they pale, as mortal lovers do.

Left to herself, the serpent now began To change; her elfin blood in madness ran, Her mouth foam'd, and the grass, therewith

besprent,

Wither'd at dew so sweet and virulent;

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