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Pygmalion.

PYGMALION AND THE STATUE

Pygmalion saw these women waste their lives
in wretched shame, and critical of faults
which nature had so deeply planted through
their female hearts, he lived in preference,
for many years unmarried.—But while he
was single, with consummate skill, he carved
a statue out of snow-white ivory,
and gave to it exquisite beauty, which
no woman of the world has ever equalled:
she was so beautiful, he fell in love
with his creation. It appeared in truth
a perfect virgin with the grace of life,
but in the expression of such modesty
all motion was restrained—and so his art
concealed his art. Pygmalion gazed, inflamed
with love and admiration for the form,
in semblance of a woman, he had carved.

He lifts up both his hands to feel the work,
and wonders if it can be ivory,
because it seems to him more truly flesh. —
his mind refusing to conceive of it
as ivory, he kisses it and feels
his kisses are returned. And speaking love,
caresses it with loving hands that seem
to make an impress, on the parts they touch,
so real that he fears he then may bruise
her by his eager pressing. Softest tones
are used each time he speaks to her. He brings
to her such presents as are surely prized
by sweet girls; such as smooth round pebbles, shells,
and birds, and fragrant flowers of thousand tints,
lilies, and painted balls, and amber tears
of Heliads, which distill from far off trees.—
he drapes her in rich clothing and in gems:
rings on her fingers, a rich necklace round
her neck, pearl pendants on her graceful ears;
and golden ornaments adorn her breast.
All these are beautiful—and she appears
most lovable, if carefully attired,—
or perfect as a statue, unadorned.

He lays her on a bed luxurious, spread
with coverlets of Tyrian purple dye,
and naming her the consort of his couch,
lays her reclining head on the most soft
and downy pillows, trusting she could feel.

The festal day of Venus, known throughout
all Cyprus, now had come, and throngs were there
to celebrate. Heifers with spreading horns,
all gold-tipped, fell when given the stroke of death
upon their snow-white necks; and frankincense
was smoking on the altars. There, intent,
Pygmalion stood before an altar, when
his offering had been made; and although he
feared the result, he prayed: “If it is true,
O Gods, that you can give all things, I pray
to have as my wife—” but, he did not dare
to add “my ivory statue-maid,” and said,
“One like my ivory—.” Golden Venus heard,
for she was present at her festival,
and she knew clearly what the prayer had meant.
She gave a sign that her Divinity
favored his plea: three times the flame leaped high
and brightly in the air.

When he returned,
he went directly to his image-maid,
bent over her, and kissed her many times,
while she was on her couch; and as he kissed,
she seemed to gather some warmth from his lips.
Again he kissed her; and he felt her breast;
the ivory seemed to soften at the touch,
and its firm texture yielded to his hand,
as honey-wax of Mount Hymettus turns
to many shapes when handled in the sun,
and surely softens from each gentle touch.

He is amazed; but stands rejoicing in his doubt;
while fearful there is some mistake, again
and yet again, gives trial to his hopes
by touching with his hand. It must be flesh!
The veins pulsate beneath the careful test
of his directed finger. Then, indeed,
the astonished hero poured out lavish thanks
to Venus; pressing with his raptured lips
his statue's lips. Now real, true to life—
the maiden felt the kisses given to her,
and blushing, lifted up her timid eyes,
so that she saw the light and sky above,
as well as her rapt lover while he leaned
gazing beside her—and all this at once—
the goddess graced the marriage she had willed,
and when nine times a crescent moon had changed,
increasing to the full, the statue-bride
gave birth to her dear daughter Paphos. From
which famed event the island takes its name.

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load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
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