Salmacis and Hermaphroditus

The lovely Salmacis the fountain own'd,
A nymph with ev'ry blooming beauty crown'd.
Unpractis'd in the chase, untaught to throw
The thrilling dart, or bend the stubborn bow.
Never engaged in races on the plain,
Nor ever mingling with Diana's train.
Oft would her sister say, "Rise, rise, for shame,
And join with us in some laborious game.
Seize on a quiver, or a pointed spear,
Hunt the wild boar, or chase the tim'rous deer;"
No quiver would she seize, no jav'lin shake,
No toil endure, in no fatigue partake.
But in her fountain is her sole delight,
For there she bathes by day, and rests by night;
Still in that liquid glass herself she dress'd,
And learn'd from thence what looks became her best.
Now in this lawn, her lovely limbs array'd,
Stretch'd at her length, on the soft moss were laid,
Through the transparent robes, to the full view display'd.
Now languishing she lies, and gathers flowers,
Pluck'd from the blooming sides of neighb'ring bow'rs:
Thus was she busied, when she chanced to spy
The lovely son of Hermes passing by.
At the first sight she found her wishes fired,
And the fair youth, as soon as seen, desired.
Yet would she not approach, though mad to meet,
Though she could scarce hold back her eager feet,
Till she might first her utmost skill bestow,
To make her beauties to advantage show :
Use all her art to let her charms appear,
Who, without art, might well be reckon'd fair.
At last attir'd she comes, at once she breaks
Into these moving words, and meltingly she speaks.
"Such charms, dear youth, dwell in your lovely face,
I cannot think you born of human race.
If then a god descended from above,
You are not, sure, less than the god of love.
But if you spring not from the race divine,
If come from any of a mortal line;
Happy, thrice happy, must thy parents be,
And all thy kindred bless'd, and proud of thee.
Blest were that woman's breasts who fed thee first
In whose fond arms thy infancy was nurs'd.
But more, -- Oh! infinitely more than all the rest,
Must the fair partner of thy bed be bless'd!
If there be such, let us the bliss divide,
Too great to be by any one enjoy'd.
If not already bound by nuptial vows,
Seal them with me, make me the joyful spouse."
Here stopt the love-sick nymph; whose boldness made
The bashful youth blush for the things she said.
Still lovelier in his blushes look'd the boy,
Still her desires grew fiercer to enjoy.
So blushes fruit upon the sunny-side,
So iv'ry shows with deep vermilion died.
So in eclipses looks the lab'ring moon,
When stain'd with red, her struggling face is shown.
Nearer and nearer now the virgin moved,
Ready to seize upon the swain she loved.
Disdainfully he flies her fond embrace,
And cries, with bashful anger in his face,
"Forbear, loose nyrmph, or I'll forsake the place."
She at that menace from the man she loved,
Replied, "'Tis yours, fair youth," and so removed.
Yet at some distance, in a thicket hid,
The maid observ'd whate'er the charmer did.
Who now believing that he was not seen,
With bolder steps trips o'er the flow'ry green.
Now to the banks of that delightful stream,
Which the fair nymph that loved him own'd, he came,
Dipt in his feet, and thence by small degrees,
Pleased with the warmth he waded to the knees:
Then back unto the banks again he goes,
Down on the ground his silken garments throws,
And to the ravish'd maid, all, all the man he shows.
His naked charms her wondering sight amaz'd
Who now with more impatient longings gaz'd.
Her eyes shoot fires, and shine with sparkling flames,
As when the sun plays on the silver streams,
Or when a crystal glass reflects the beams.
Mad to possess her bliss, about to fly,
To seize and fasten on the lovely boy,
She burns with the delay of the transporting joy.
Now from the flow'ry bank on which he stood,
The lovely youth leap'd down into the flood.
His skillful arms support his snowy limbs,
Still glittering thro' the streams in which he swims
Like iv'ry statues which the life surpass,
Or lilies cover'd with a crystal glass.
"He's mine, he's mine," the ravish'd virgin cries;
And straight disrob'd of all, impatient flies,
And plunging in the flood, pursues her joys.
Now o'er his neck her circling arms she cast,
Now threw them lower, o'er his struggling waist.
Her twining limbs on ev'ry side she wound,
Lock'd him all o'er, and clasp'd him all around.
"So when a tow'ring eagle's talons bear
A Snake close grip'd, and hissing thro' the air
About his neck the curling serpent clings,
And fetters with his tail his spacious wings."
Still, tho' detain'd, the boy the bliss denies,
Still struggles to resist the virgin's joys.
"In vain you strive," she cries," this proud disdain,
Foolish, ungrateful youth, is all in vain.
Grant ye, good gods, no day, no time may see
Me sever'd from this youth, or he from me."
To the maid's prayer propitious gods inclin'd,
Straight into one their different forms were twin'd,
And as they mingled souls, their bodies join'd.

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