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Cephalus and Procris

From Cephalus's tragic story, read
What fatal mischiefs jealousy may breed.
Hear that unhappy wretched huntsman tell,
How by his hands his much-lov'd Procris fell.
Hear him, lamenting his mischance, complain
In the soft Ovid's sadly charming strain.
"Happy a while, thrice happy was my life,
Blest in a beautiful and virtuous wife.
Love join'd us first, and love made life so sweet,
We prais'd the gods that 'twas our lot to meet.
Our breasts glow'd gently with a mutual flame,
The same were our desires, our fears the same.
Whate'er one did, the other would approve,
For one our liking was, as one our love.
Then happy days were crown'd with happier nights
And some few months roll'd on in full delights.
Joys crowded to appear, and pleasures ran
Awhile in circles, ere our woe began.
Till I one fatal morn the chase pursu'd
Of a wild boar, through an adjacent wood.
Where, as I hunted eager on my prey,
Aurora stopp'd me in my hasty way.
You may believe I do not dare to feign,
For mis'ry never made a man so vain;
She, though a goddess, straight began to move
A fruitless suit, and vainly talk'd of love.
Tho' she look'd bright as when she shines on high,
In all the glories of a morning sky;
Though earlier than the sun's, her beams display,
And shows the first approaches of the day;
I told her Procris all my soul possess'd;
That she alone reign'd sovereign of my breast,
Which never would admit another guest.
'Enjoy thy Procris then,' the goddess cried,
'Whom thou shalt one day wishthou'dst ne'er enjoy'd.'
Stung with her words, with doubts and fears oppress'd,
A sudden jealousy destroys my rest,
Mads all my brain, and poisons all my breast.
I thought the sex all false, e'en Procris too,
Again I thought she could not but be true.
Her youth and beauty kindled anxious cares,
But her known chastity condemn'd my fears.
But then my absence does again revive,
And keep the torturing fancy still alive.
I thought her faith too firmly fix'd to fall,
Yet a true lover is afraid of all.
I knew not what to think, but straight I go,
Resolv'd to cure, or to complete my woe.
A habit different from my own I took,
While with curs'd aid Aurora chang'd my look.
To Athens straight, unknown by all, I came,
E'en to myself I scarce could seem the same.
Hardly I got admission to my house,
But far, far harder to my weeping spouse.
The house itself from aught of blame was free,
And every place express'd its grief for me.
A dismal silence reign'd through ev'ry room,
To mourn my loss, already safe at home.
E'en that sad pomp of woe, some charms could boast,
But when my Procris came, she charm'd me most.
Black were her robes, her solemn pace was slow,
Her dress was careless, yet becoming too.
A virtuous grief dwelt deeply on her face,
But matchless beauty gave that grief a grace.
Whole showers of tears her streaming eyes let fall.
Yet something wondrous lovely shone through all
Scarce could I at the charming sight forbear
From running to embrace my mournful fair,
Scarce hold from telling whom she saw, though
alter'd, there.
But yet at length, my first design pursu'd,
With words I flattered, and with gifts I woo'd;
All the most moving arguments I used,
Oft pray'd and press'd, but was as oft refus'd.
She said another had before engross'd
All her affection, and my suit was lost,
Would any but a madman further try?
But ah! that mad, that desp'rate fool was I.
I grew the more industrious to destroy
Her matchless truth, and ruin all my joy.
Redoubled presents, and redoubled vows,
I made and offer'd, to betray my spouse.
At last her stagg'ring faith began to yield,
And I'd just won the long disputed field.
'Thy falsehood,' straight I cried, 'too late I see.
False to thy Cephalus, for I am he;
Since you are perjur'd, since my Procris grew
Forsworn and false, what woman can be true?'
She, at these words, almost of sense bereav'd,
With sad confusion found herself deceiv'd,
Fix'd on the ground she kept her downcast eye,
And silent with her shame, made no reply,
But to the mountains like a huntress hies,
And for my sake from all mankind she flies.
Which when I found, abandon'd and alone,
My dear half through my own folly gone;
Love fiercer than before began to burn,
Till I was raging for my wife's return.
My prayers dispatch'd with eagerness and haste,
That she would pardon all offences past;
Found her as kind, as she was truly chaste.
She came and crown'd my joys a second time;
Forgot my jealousy, forgave my crime.
'Twas then I thought my greatest mis'ries o'er,
But fate it seems had worse, far worse in store.
Soon as each early sun began to rise,
To glad the enlighten'd earth, and gild the skies,
I with his first appearance rise, and trace
The woods, and hills, that yielding game to chase
Alone I hunt, a long and tedious way,
And seldom fail to kill sufficient prey.
Then spent with toil, to cooler shades retreat,
And seek a refuge from a scorching heat.
Where pleasant valleys breathe a freer air,
For my refreshment I address this prayer.
'Come, air, I cry, joy of o'er-labour'd swains,
Come, and diffuse thyself through all my veins;
Breathe on my burning lips, and fev'rish breast,
And reign at large an ever-grateful guest.
Glide to my soul, and ev'ry vital part,
Distil thyself upon my panting heart.
By chance I other blandishments bestow
Or destiny decreed it should be so.
As 0, thou greatest pleasure of the plains,
Thou who assuagest all my raging pains;
Thou, who dost nature's richest sweets excite,
And mak'st me in these desert woods delight:
'Breathless and dead without thee should I be,
For all the life I have I draw from thee.'
While this I sung, some one who chanc'd to hear,
Thought her a nymph to whom I made my prayer,
And told my Procris of her rival, air.
She, kind, good soul, half-dying at the news,
Would now condemn me, now again excuse.
Now hopes 'tis all a falsehood, now she fears;
Suspects my faith as I suspected hers.
Resolv'd, at last, to trust no busy tongue,
But be herself the witness of her wrong;
When the next day with fatal haste came on,
And I was to my lov'd diversion gone,
She rose, and sought the solitary shade,
Where after hunting I was daily laid;
Close in a thicket undiscern'd she stood,
When I took shelter in the shady wood.
Then stretching on the grass my fainting weight,
'Come, much-lov'd air,' I cry, 'oh! come, abate
With thy sweet breath this most immoderate hate.'
At this a sudden noise invades my ear,
And rustling boughs shew'd something living there.
I rashly thinking it some savage beast,
Threw my unerring dart with heedless haste,
Which pierc'd, 0 gods! my Procris thro' the breast,
She, at the wound, with fearful shrieking fell,
And I, alas! knew the dear voice too well.
Thither, distracted with my grief, I flew,
To give my dying love a sad adieu.
All bloody was her lately snowy breast,
Her soul was hast'ning to eternal rest.
With rage I tore my robe, which close I bound,
To stop the blood, about the gaping wound.
What pardons did I beg? what curses frame,
For my damn'd fate, that was alone in blame?
When weakly raising up her dying head,
With a faint voice, these few sad words she said,
'Draw nearer yet, dear author of my death,
lear my last sighs, and snatch my parting breath.
But ere I die, by all that's sacred swear,
That you will never let my rival, air,
Profane my bed, or find reception there.
This I conjure you by your nuptial vow;
The faith you gave me then renew me now.
By all your love, if any love remain,
And by that love, which dying I retain;
Assure me but of this before I go,
And I shall bless thee for the fatal blow.'
" To her sad speech abruptly I replied,
In haste to shew her error ere she died.
Quickly I ran the tragic story o'er,
Which made herpleas'd amidst the pangs she bore.
This done, she rolls in death her dizzy eyes,
And with a sigh, which I receiv'd, she dies."
Here did the youth his doleful tale conclude,
A tale too doleful to be long pursu'd.
But this ill chosen instance will not do,
Unless my Delia could bejealous too.
But she, whene'er I woo some other fair,
Shows no resentment and betrays no care.
She sees me court another, as unmov'd
As she has always seen herself belov'd.
That dreadful thought redoubles all my fear,
That drowns my hopes and drives me to despair.

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