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Belinda still her downy pillow prest, Her guardian sylph prolong'u the balmy rest : 20 'Twas he had summon'd to her silent bed The morning dream that hover'd o'er her head: A youth more glitt'ring than a birth-night beau, (That e’en in slumber caus’d her cheek’to glow) Seem'd to her ear his winning lips to lay,
25 And thus in whispers said, or seem'd to say:
Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care
Of thousand bright inhabitants of air!
If e'er one vision touch'd thy infant-thought,
Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught;
Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen,
The silver token, and the circled green,
Or virgins visited by angel pow'rs,
With golden crowns and wreaths of heav'nly flow'rs;
Hear and believe! thy own importance know, 35
Nor bound thy narrow views to things below.
Some secret truths, from learned pride conceal'd,
To maids alone and children are reveal'd;
What though no credit doubting wits may give?
The fair and innocent shall still believe.
40 Know then, unnumber'd spirits round thee fly, The light militia of the lower sky: These, though unseen, are ever on the wing, Hang o'er the box, and hover round the ring.
Think what an equipage thou hast iu air,
45 And view with scorn two pages and a chair. As now your own, our beings were of old, And once inclos'd in woman's beauteous mould; Thence, by a soft transition, we repair From earthly vehicles to those of air.
50 Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled, That all her vanities at once are dead; Succeeding vanities she still regards, And though she plays no more, o’erlooks the cards. Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive,
55 And love of Ombre after death survive. For when the fair in all their pride expire, To their first elements their souls retire : The sprites of fiery termagants in flame Mount
and take a salamander's name.
Soft yielding minds to water glide away,
And sip, with nymphs, their elemental tea.
The graver prude sinks downward to a gnome,
In search of mischief still on earth to roam.
The light coquettes in sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and flutter in the fields of air.
Know further yet; whoever, fair and chaste,
Rejects mankind, is by some sylph embrac'd:
For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
Assume what sexes and what shapes they please. 70
What guards the purity of melting maids,
In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades,
Safe from the treach'rous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark,
When kind occasion prompts their warm desires, 75
When music softens, and when dancing fires ?
'Tis but their sylph, the wise celestials know,
Though honour is the word with men below.
Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face,
For life predestin'd to the gnomes' embrace. 80
These swell their prospects, and exalt their pride,
When offers are disdain'd, and love deny'd:
Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain,
While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train,
And garters, stars, and coronets appear,
And in soft sounds, Your Grace salutes their ear.
'Tis these that early taint the female soul,
Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to roll,
Teach infant cheeks a bidden blush to know,
And little hearts to flutter at a beau.
Óft, when the world imagine women stray,
The sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way;
Through all the giddy circle they pursue,
And old impertinence expel by new.
- What tender maid but must a victim fall 95 To one man's treat, but for another's ball ?
When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand,
If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand ?
With varying vanities, from ev'ry part,
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart; 100
Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots
Beaus banish beaus, and coaches coaches drive,
This erring mortals levity may call :
Oh blind to truth! the sylphs contrive it all.
Of these am I, who thy protection claim, 105
A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name;
Late, as I rang'd the crystal wilds of air,
In the clear mirror of thy ruling star
I saw, alas! some dread event impend,
Ere to the main this morning sun descend; 110
But heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where :
Warn’d by the sylph, oh, pious maid, beware!
This to disclose is all thy guardian can:
Beware of all, but most beware of man!
He said ; when Shock, who thought she slept too long,
Leap'd up, and wak'd his mistress with his tongue.
'Twas then, Belinda, if report say true,
first open'd on a billet-doux; Wounds, charms, and ardours, were no sooner read, But all the vision vanish'd from thy head. 120
And, now unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd, Each silver vase in mystic order laid.
First, rob’d in white, the nymph intent adores,
With head uncover'd, the cosmetic pow'rs.
A heav'nly image in the glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears;
Th’ inferior priestess, at her altar's side,
Trenubling begins the sacred rites of pride.
Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here
The various off'rings of the world appear; 130
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the goddess with the glittring spoil.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia-breathes from yonder box;
The tortoise here and elephant unite,
135 Transform’d to combs, the speckled and the white. Here files of pins extend their shining rows, Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billet-douxs. Now awful beauty puts on all its arms; The fair each moment rises in her charms, 140 Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace, And calls forth all the wonders of her face; Sees by degrees a purer blush arise, And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes. The busy sylphs surround their darling care; 145 These set the head, and those divide the hair; Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown; And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own.