The Bleeding Rock: Or, The Metamorphosis Of A Nymph Into Stone Poem by Hannah More

The Bleeding Rock: Or, The Metamorphosis Of A Nymph Into Stone

Where beauteous Belmont rears her modest brow
To view Sabrina's silver waves below,
Lived young Ianthe, fair as beauty's Queen;
She reign'd unrivall'd in the sylvan scene;
Here every charm of symmetry and grace,
Which aids the triumph of the fairest face;
With all that softer elegance of mind,
By genius heighten'd, and by taste refined.
Yet early was she doom'd the child of care,
For hapless love subdued th' ill-fated fair.
Ah! what avails each captivating grace,
The form enchanting, or the fairest face!
Or what each beauty of the heaven-born mind,
The soul superior, or the taste refined?

but serves destruction to ensure,
, to feel the pang it cannot cure.

Each neighbouring youth aspired to gain her hand,
And many a suitor came from many a land:
But all in vain each neighbouring youth aspired,
And distant suitors all in vain admired.
Averse to hear, yet fearful to offend,
The lover she refused she made a friend:
Her meek rejection wore so mild a face,
More like acceptance seem'd it, than disgrace.

Young Polydore, the pride of rural swains,
Was wont to visit Helmont's blooming plains:
Who has not heard how Polydore could throw
Th' unerring dart to wound the flying doe?
How leave the swiftest at the race behind,
How mount the courser, and outstrip the wind?
With melting sweetness, or with magic fire,
Breathe the soft lute, or sweep the well-strung lyre?
From that famed lyre no vulgar music sprung,
The Graces tun'd it, and Apollo strung.

Apollo too was once a shepherd swain,
And fed the flock, and grac'd the rustic plain,
He taught what charms to rural life belong,
The social sweetness, and the sylvan song;
He taught fair Wisdom in her grove to woo,
Her joys how precious, and her wants how few!
The savage herds in mute attention stood,
And ravish'd Echo fill'd the vocal wood;
The sacred Sisters, stooping from their sphere,
Forgot their golden harps, intent to hear:
Till Heaven the scene survey'd with jealous eyes,
And Jove, in envy, call'd him to the skies.

Young Polydore was rich in large domains,
In smiling pastures, and in flow'ry plains;
With these, he boasted each exterior charm,
To win the prudent, and the cold to warm;
The fairest semblance of desert he bore,
And each fictitious mark of goodness wore;
Could act the tenderness he never felt,
In sorrow soften, and in anguish melt.
The sight elaborate, the fraudful tear,
The joy dissembled, and the well-feign'd fear,
All these were his; and his each treach'rous art
That steals the guileless and unpractis'd heart.

Too soon he heard of fair Ianthe's fame,
'Twas each enamour'd Shepherd's fav'rite theme;
Return'd the rising, and the setting sun,
The Shepherd's fav'rite theme was never done.
They prais'd her wit, her worth, her shape, her air!
And even interior beauties own'd her fair.

Such sweet perfection all his wonder mov'd;
He saw, admired, nay, fancied that he loved:
But Polydore no gen'rous passion knew,
Lost to all truth in feigning to be true.
No lasting tenderness could warm a heart,
Too vain to feel, too selfish to impart.

Cold as the snows of Rhodope descend,
And with the chilling waves of Hebrus blend
So cold the breast where Vanity presides,
And the whole subject soul absorbs and guides.

Too well he knew to make his conquest sure,
Win her soft heart, yet keep his own secure.
So oft he told the well-imagin'd tale,
So oft he swore - how should he
The well-imagin'd tale the nymph believ'd;
Too unsuspecting not to be deceiv'd:
She loved the youth, she thought herself beloved,
Nor blush'd to praise whom every maid approved.
The conquest once achiev'd, the brightest fair
When conquer'd, was no longer worth his care:
When to the world her passion he could prove,
Vain of his pow'r, he jested at her love,
The perjured youth, from sad Ianthe far,
To win fresh triumphs, wages cruel war.
With other nymphs behold the wand'rer rove,
And tell the story of Ianthe's love;
He mocks her easy faith, insults her woe,
Nor pities tears himself had taught to flow.
To sad Ianthe soon the tale was borne,
How Polydore to treach'ry added scorn.

And now her eyes'' soft radiance 'gan to fail,
And now the crimson of her cheek grew pale;
The lily there, in faded beauty shows,
Its sickly empire o'er the vanquish'd rose.
Devouring Sorrow marks her for his prey,
And, slow and certain, mines his silent way.
Yet, as apace her ebbing life declined,
Increasing strength sustain'd her firmer mind.
'O had my heart been hard as his,' she cried,
'An hapless victim thus I had not died:
If there be gods, and gods there surely are,
Insulted virtue doubtless is their care.
Then hasten, righteous powers! my tedious fate,
Shorten my woes, and end my mortal date:
Quick let your power transform this failing frame,
Let me be any thing but what I am!
And since the cruel woes I'm doom'd to feel,
Proceed, alas! from having lov'd too well:
Grant me some form where love can have no part,
No human weakness reach my guarded heart;
Where no soft touch of passion can be felt,
No fond affection this weak bosom melt.
If pity has not left your blest abodes,
Change me to flinty adamant, ye gods!
To hardest rock, or monumental stone,
So may I know no more the pangs I've known;
So shall I thus no farther torment prove,
Nor taunting rivals say she died for love:
For sure, if ought can aggravate our woe,
'Tis the feign'd pity of a prosp'rous foe.'
Thus pray'd the nymph - and straight the Pow'rs addrest,
Accord the weeping suppliant's sad request.

Then, strange to tell! if rural folks say true,
To harden'd Rock the stiff'ning damsel grew;
No more her shapeless features can be known,
Stone is her body, and her limbs are stone;
The growing Rock invades her beauteous face,
And quickly petrifies each living grace:
The stone, her stature nor her shape retains,
The Nymph is vanish'd, but the rock remains.
No vestige now of human shape appears,
No cheek for blushes, and no eyes for tears:
Yet - strange the marvels Poets can impart!
Unchang'd, unchill'd, remain'd the glowing heart;
Its vital spirits destin'd still to keep,
It scorn'd to mingle with the marble heap.

When babbling Fame the wondrous tidings bore,
Grief seiz'd the soul of perjur'd Polydore;
And now the falsehood of his soul appears,
And now his broken vows assail his ears.
Appall'd, his smitten fancy seems to view
The nymph so lovely, and the friend so true.
For since her absense, all the virgin train,
His admiration sought to win in vain.

Tho' not to keep him even Ianthe knew,
From vanity alone his falsehood grew:
O let the youthful heart, thus warn'd, beware,
Of vanity, how deep, how wide the snare;
That half the mischiefs youth and beauty know,
From Vanity's exhaustless fountain flow.

Now deep remorse deprives his soul of rest,
And deep compunction wounds his guilty breast;
Then to the fatal spot in haste he flew,
Eager some vestige of the maid to view;
The shapeless Rock he mark'd, but found no trace
Of lost Ianthe's form, Ianthe's face.
He fix'd his streaming eyes upon the stone,
'And take, sweet maid,' he cried, 'my parting groan;
Since we are doom'd thus terribly to part,
No other nymph shall ever share my heart;
Thus only I'm absolv'd' - he rashly cried,
Then plung'd a deadly poniard in his side!
Fainting, the steel he grasp'd, and as he fell,
The weapon pierc'd the Rock he loved so well;
The guiltless steel assail'd the living part,
And stabb'd the vital, vulnerable heart.
And tho' the rocky mass was pale before,
Behold it ting'd with ruddy streams of gore!
The life-blood issuing from the wounded stone,
Blends with the crimson current of his own;
From Polydore's fresh wound it flow'd in part,
But chief emitted from Ianthe's heart.
And tho' revolving ages since have past,
The meeting torrents undiminish'd last:
Still gushes out the sanguine stream amain,
The standing wonder of the stranger swain.

Now once a ear, so rustic records tell,
When o'er the heath resounds the midnight bell;
On eve of midsummer, that foe to sleep,
What time young maids their annual vigils keep,
The tell-tale shrub, fresh gather'd to declare
The swains who false, from those who constant are;
When ghosts in clanking chains the church-yard walk,
And to the wond'ring ear of fancy talk;
When the scar'd maid steals trembling thro' the grove,
To kiss the grave of him who died for love:
When, with long watchings, Care, at length opprest,
Steals broken pauses of uncertain rest;
Nay, Grief short snatches of repose can take,
And nothing but Despair is quite awake:
Then, at the hour, so still, so full of fear,
When all things horrible to thought appear,
Is perjured Polydore observ'd to rove
A ghastly spectre thro' the gloomy grove;
Then to the Rock, the Bleeding Rock repair,
Where, sadly sighing, it dissolves to air,

Still when the hours of solemn rites return,
The village train in sad procession mourn;
Pluck ev'ry weed which might the spot disgrace,
And plant the fairest field-flowers in their place.
Around no noxious plant or flow'ret grows,
But the first daffodil, and earliest rose:
The snow-drop spreads its whitest bosom here,
And golden cowslips grace the vernal year:
Here the pale primrose takes a fairer hue,
And ev'ry violet boasts a brighter blue.
Here builds the wood-lark, here the faithful dove
Laments his lost, or wooes his living love.
Secure from harm is ev'ry hallow'd nest,
The spot is sacred where true lovers rest.
To guard the Rock from each malignant sprite,
A troop of guardian spirits watch by night;
Aloft in air each takes his little stand,
The neighb'ring hill is hence call'd Fairy Land.

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