The Fan : A Poem. Book Iii. Poem by John Gay

The Fan : A Poem. Book Iii.

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Thus Mommus spoke. When sage Minerva rose,
From her sweet lips smooth elocution flows,
Her skilful hand an ivory pallet grac'd,
Where shining colours were in order plac'd.
As gods are bless'd with a superior skill,
And, swift as mortal thought, perform their will,
Straight she proposes, by her art divine,
To bid the paint express her great design.
The assembled powers consent. She now began,
And her creating pencil stain'd the fan.

O'er the fair field, trees spread, and rivers flow,
Towers rear their heads, and distant mountains grow;
Life seems to move within the glowing veins,
And in each face some lively passion reigns.
Thus have I seen woods, hills, and dales appear,
Flocks graze the plains, birds wing the silent air
In darken'd rooms, where light can only pass
Through the small circle of a convex glass;
On the white sheet the moving figures rise,
The forest waves, clouds float along the skies.

She various fables on the piece design'd,
That spoke the follies of the female kind.

The fate of pride in Niobe she drew;
Be wise, ye nymphs, that scornful vice subdue,
In a wide plain the imperious mother stood,
Whose distant bounds rose in a winding wood;
Upon her shoulders flows her mantling hair,
Pride marks her brow, and elevates her air:
A purple robe behind her sweeps the ground,
Whose spacious border golden flowers surround;
She made Latona's altars cease to flam,
And of due honours robb'd her sacred name,
To her own charms she bade fresh incense rise,
And adoration own her brighter eyes.
Seven daughters from her fruitful loins were born,
Seven graceful sons her nuptial bed adorn,
Who, from a mother's arrogant disdain,
Were by Latona's double offspring slain.
Here Phoebus his unerring arrow drew,
And from his rising steed her first-born threw,
His opening fingers drop the slacken'd rein,
And the pale corse falls headlong to the plain.
Beneath her pencil here two wrestlers bend,
See, to the grasp their swelling nerves distend,
Diana's arrow joins them face to face,
And death unites them in a strict embrace.
Another her flies trembling o'er the plain;
When heaven pursues we shun the stroke in vain.
This lifts his supplicating hands and eyes,
And midst his humble adoration dies.
As from his thigh this tears the barbed dart,
A surer weapon strikes this throbbing heart
While that to raise his wounded brother tries,
Death blasts his bloom, and locks his frozen eyes
The tender sisters bath'd in grief appear,
With sable garments and dishevell'd hair,
And o'er their grasping brothers weeping stood;
Some with their tresses stopp'd the gushing blood,
They strive to stay the fleeting life too late,
And in the pious action share their fate.
Now the proud dame o'ercome by trembling fear,
With her wide robe protects her only care;
To save her only care in vain she tries,
Close at her feet the latest victim dies.
Down her fair cheek the trickling sorrow flows,
Like dewy spangles on the blushing rose,
Fix'd in astonishment she weeping stood,
The plain all purple with her children's blood;
She stiffens with her woes: no more her hair
In easy ringlets wantons the air;
Motion forsakes her eyes, her veins are dried,
And beat not longer with the sanguine tide;
All life is fled, firm marble now she grows,
Which still in tears the mother's anguish shows.

Ye haughty fair, your painted fans display,
And the just fate of lofty pride survey;
Though lovers oft extol your beauty's pow'r,
And in celestial similies adore,
Though from your features Cupid borrows arms,
And goddesses confess inferior charms,
Do not, vain maid, the flattering tale believe,
Alike thy lovers and thy glass deceive.

Here lively colours Procris' passion tell,
Who to her jealous fears a victim fell.
Here kneels the trembling hunter o'er his wife,
Who rolls her sick'ning eyes, and gasps for life;
Her drooping head upon her shoulder lies,
And purple gore her snowy bosom dies.
What guilt, what horror on his face appears!
See, his red eye-lids seem to swell with tears,
With agony his wringing hands he stains,
And strong convulsions stretch his branching veins.

Learn hence, ye wives; bid vain suspicion cease,
Lose not in sulien discontent your peace.
For when fierce love to jealousy ferments,
A thousand doubts and fears the soul invents,
No more the days in pleasing converse flow,
And nights no more their soft endearments know.

There on the piece the Volscian Queen expir'd,
The love of spoils her female bosom fir'd;
Gay Chloreus' arms attract her longing eyes,
And for the painted plume and helm she sighs;
Fearless she follows, bent on gaudy prey,
Till an ill-fated dart obstructs her way;
Down drops the martial maid; the bloody ground,
Floats with a torrent from the purple wound.
The mournful nymphs her drooping head sustain,
And try to stop the gushing life in vain.

Thus the raw maid some tawdry coat surveys,
Where the fop's fancy in embroidery plays;
His snowy feather edg'd with crimson dies,
And his bright sword-knot lure her wandering eyes;
Fring'd gloves and gold brocade conspire to move,
Till the nymph falls a sacrifice to love.

Here young Narcissus o'er the fountains stood,
And view'd his image in the crystal flood;
The crystal flood reflects his lovely charms,
And the pleas'd image strives to meet his arms.
No nymph his unexperienc'd breast subdu'd,
Echo in vain the flying boy pursu'd,
Himself alone the foolish youth admires,
And with fond look the smiling shade desires:
O'er the smooth lake with fruitless tears he grieves,
His spreading fingers shoot in verdant leaves,
Through his pale veins green sap now gently flows,
And in a short-liv'd flower his beauty blows.

Let vain Narcissus warn each female breast,
That beauty's but a transient good at best.
Like flowers it withers with the advancing year,
And age, like winter, robs the blooming fair.
Oh Araminta, cease thy wonted pride,
Nor longer in thy faithless charms confide;
Even while the glass reflects thy sparkling eyes,
Their lustre and thy rosy colour flies!

Thus on the fan the breathing figures shine,
And all the powers applaud the wise design.

The Cyprian Queen the painted gift receives,
And with a grateful bow the synod leaves.
To the low world she bends her steepy way,
Where Strephon pass'd the solitary day;
She found him in a melancholy grove,
His down-cast eyes betray'd desponding love,
The wounded bark confess'd his slighted flame,
And every tree bore false Corinna's name;
In a cool shade he lay with folded arms,
Curses his fortune, and upbraids her charms,
When Venus to his wondering eyes appears,
And with these words relieves his amorous cares.

Rise, happy youth, this bright machine survey
Whose rattling sticks my busy fingers sway,
This present shall thy cruel charmer move,
And in her fickle bosom kindle love.

The fan shall flutter in all female hands,
And various fashions learn from various lands.
For this, shall elephants their ivory shed;
And polish'd sticks the waving engine spread:
His clouded mail the tortoise shall resign,
And round the rivet pearly circles shine.
On this shall Indians all their art employ,
And with bright colours stain the gaudy toy;
Their paint shall here in wildest fancies flow,
Their dress, their customs, their religion show
So shall the British fair their minds improve,
And on the fan to distant climates rove.
Here China's ladies shall their pride display,
And silver figures gild their loose array;
This boasts her little feet in winking eyes;
That tunes the fife, or tinkling cymbal plies:
Here cross-legg'd nobles in rich state shall dine,
There in bright mail distorted heroes shine.
The peeping fan in modern times shall rise,
Through which, unseen, the female ogle flies;
This shall in temples the sly maid conceal,
And shelter love beneath devotion's veil.
Gay France shall make the fan her artist's care,
And with the costly trinket arm the fair.
As learned orators that touch the heart,
With various action raise their soothing art,
Both head and hand affect the listening throng,
And humour each expression of the tongue.
So shall each passion by the fan be seen,
From noisy anger to the sullen spleen.

White Venus spoke, joy shone in Strephon's eyes,
Proud of the gift, he to Corinna flies.
But Cupid (who delights in amorous ill,
Wounds hearts, and leaves them to a woman's will)
With certain aim a golden arrow drew,
Which to Leander's panting bosom flew:
Leander lov'd; and to the sprightly dame
In gentle sighs reveal'd his growing flame
Sweet smiles Corinna to his sighs returns,
And for the fop in equal passion burns.

Lo, Strephon comes! and, with a suppliant bow,
Offers the present, and renews his vow.

When she the fate of Niobe beheld,
Why has my pride against my heart rebell'd?
She sighing cried: disdain forsook her breast,
And Strephon now was thought a worthy guest.

In Procris' bosom when she saw the dart;
She justly blames her own suspicious heart,
Imputes her discontent to jealous fear,
And knows her Strephon's constancy sincere.

When on Camilla's fate her eye she turns,
No more for show and equipage she burns;
She learns Leander's passion to despise,
And looks on merit with discerning eyes.

Narcissus' change to the vain virgin shows
Who trusts her beauty, trusts the fading rose.
Youth flies apace, with youth your beauty flies,
Love then, ye virgins, e'er the blossom dies.

Thus Pallas taught her, Strephon weds the dame,
And Hymen's torch diffus'd the brightest flame.

John Gay

John Gay

Barnstaple, England
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