Dulcis conscia lectuli lucerna.
MARTIAL, lib. xiv. epig. 89.
"Oh! love the Lamp" (my Mistress said),
"The faithful Lamp that, many a night,
"Beside thy Lais' lonely bed?
"Has kept its little watch of light.
"Full often has it seen her weep,
"And fix her eye upon its flame.
"Till, weary, she has sunk to sleep,
"Repeating her beloved's name.
"Then love the Lamp--'twill often lead
"Thy step through learning's sacred way;
"And when those studious eyes shall read,
"At midnight, by its lonely ray,
"Of things sublime, of nature's birth,
"Of all that's bright in heaven or earth,
Oh, think that she, by whom 'twas given,
"Adores thee more than earth or heaven!"
Yes--dearest Lamp, by every charm
On which thy midnight beam has hung;
The head reclined, the graceful arm
Across the brow of ivory flung;
The heaving bosom, partly hid,
The severed lips unconscious sighs,
The fringe that from the half-shut lid
Adown the cheek of roses lies;
By these, by all that bloom untold,
And long as all shall charm my heart,
I'll love my little Lamp of gold--
My Lamp and I shall never part.
And often, as she smiling said,
In fancy's hour thy gentle rays
Shall guide my visionary tread
Through poesy's enchanting maze.
Thy flame shall light the page refined,
Where still we catch the Chian's breath,
Where still the bard though cold in death,
Has left his soul unquenched behind.
Or, o'er thy humbler legend shine,
Oh man of Ascra's dreary glades,
To whom the nightly warbling Nine
A wand of inspiration gave,
Plucked from the greenest tree, that shades
The crystal of Castalia's wave.
Then, turning to a purer lore,
We'll cull the sage's deep-hid store,
From Science steal her golden clue,
And every mystic path pursue,
Where Nature, far from vulgar eyes,
Through labyrinths of wonder flies.
'Tis thus my heart shall learn to know
How fleeting is this world below,
Where all that meets the morning light,
Is changed before the fall of night!
I'll tell thee, as I trim thy fire,
"Swift, swift the tide of being runs,
"And Time, who bids thy flame expire,
"Will also quench yon heaven of suns."
Oh, then if earth's united power
Can never chain one feathery hour;
If every print we leave to-day
To-morrow's wave will sweep away;
Who pauses to inquire of heaven
Why were the fleeting treasures given,
The sunny days, the shady nights,
And all their brief but dear delights,
Which heaven has made for man to use,
And man should think it crime to lose?
Who that has culled a fresh-blown rose
Will ask it why it breathes and glows,
Unmindful of the blushing ray,
In which it shines its soul away;
Unmindful of the scented sigh,
With which it dies and loves to die.
Pleasure, thou only good on earth
One precious moment given to thee--
Oh! by my Lais' lip, 'tis worth
The sage's immortality.
Then far be all the wisdom hence,
That would our joys one hour delay!
Alas, the feast of soul and sense
Love calls us to in youth's bright day,
If not soon tasted, fleets away.
Ne'er wert thou formed, my Lamp, to shed
Thy splendor on a lifeless page;--
Whate'er my blushing Lais said
Of thoughtful lore and studies sage,
'Twas mockery all--her glance of joy
Told me thy dearest, best employ.
And, soon, as night shall close the eye
Of heaven's young wanderer in the west;
When seers are gazing on the sky,
To find their future orbs of rest;
Then shall I take my trembling way,
Unseen but to those worlds above,
And, led by thy mysterious ray,
Steal to the night-bower of my love.