in search of a muse: in search of love


Pygmalion and the Statue
April 28, 2006, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Others' poetry, Pygmalion

Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

[From Ovid's Metamorphosis, translated by John Dryden]
Pygmalion loathing their lascivious Life,
Abhorred all Womankind, but most a Wife:
So single chose to live, and shunned to wed,
Well pleased to want a Consort of his Bed.
Yet fearing Idleness, the Nurse of Ill,
In Sculpture exercised his happy Skill;
And carved in Ivory such a Maid, so fair,
As Nature could not with his Art compare,
Were she to work; but in her own Defence,
Must take her Pattern here, and copy hence.
Pleased with his Idol, he commends, admires,
Adores; and last, the Thing adored, desires.
A very Virgin in her Face was seen,
And she had moved, a living Maid had been:
One would have thought she could have stirred; but strove
With Modesty, and was ashamed to move.
Art hid with Art, so well performed the Cheat,
It caught the Carver with his own Deceit:
He knows 'tis Madness, yet he must adore,
And still the more he knows it, loves the more:
The Flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
Fired with his Thought, at once he strained the Breast,
And on the Lips a burning Kiss impressed.
'Tis true, the hardened Breast resists the Gripe,
And the cold Lips return a Kiss unripe:
But when, retiring back, he looked again,
To think it Ivory, was a thought too mean:
So would believe she kissed, and courting more,
Again embraced her naked Body o'er;
And straining hard the Statue, was afraid
His Hands had made a Dint, and hurt his Maid:
Explored her, Limb by Limb, and feared to find
So rude a Gripe had left a livid Mark behind
With Flatt'ry now he seeks her Mind to move,
And now with Gifts (the powerful bribe of Love):
He furnishes her Closet first; and fills
The crowded Shelves with Rarities of Shells;
Adds Orient Pearls, which from the Conches he drew,
And all the sparkling Stones of various Hue:
And Parrots, imitating Human Tongue,
And singing-birds in Silver Cages hung;
And ev'ry fragrant Flower, and odorous Green,
Were sorted well, with Lumps of Amber laid between:
Rich, fashionable Robes her person Deck:
Pendants her Ears, and Pearls adorn her neck:
Her tapered Fingers too With Rings are graced,
And an embroidered Zone surrounds her slender Waist.
Thus like a Queen arrayed, so richly dressed,
Beauteous she shewed, but naked shewed the best.
Then, from the Floor, he raised a Royal Bed,
With Cov'rings of Sydonian Purple spread:
The Solemn Rites performed, he calls her Bride,
With Blandishments invites her to his Side,
And as she were with Vital Sense possessed,
Her Head did on a plumy Pillow rest.
The Feast of Venus came, a Solemn Day,
To which the Cypriots due Devotion pay;
With gilded Horns the milk-white Heifers led,
Slaughtered before the sacred Altars, bled:
Pygmalion offering, first approached the Shrine,
And then with Pray'rs implored the Powers Divine:
Almighty Gods, if all we Mortals want,
If all we can require, be yours to grant;
Make this fair Statue mine, he would have said,
But changed his Words for shame; and only prayed,
Give me the likeness of my Ivory Maid.
The Golden Goddess, present at the Prayer,
Well knew he meant th' inanimated Fair,
And gave the Sign of granting his Desire;
For thrice in cheerful Flames ascends the Fire.
The Youth, returning to his Mistress, hies,
And, impudent in Hope, with ardent Eyes,
And beating Breast, by the dear Statue lies.
He kisses her white Lips, renews the Bliss,
And looks and thinks they redden at the Kiss:
He thought them warm before: Nor longer stays,
But next his Hand on her hard Bosom lays:
Hard as it was, beginning to relent,
It seemed, the Breast beneath his Fingers bent;
He felt again, his Fingers made a Print,
'Twas Flesh, but Flesh so firm, it rose against the Dint:
The pleasing Task he fails not to renew;
Soft, and more soft at every Touch it grew;
Like pliant Wax, when chafing Hands reduce
The former Mass to Form, and frame for Use
He would believe, but yet is still in pain,
And tries his Argument of Sense again,
Presses the Pulse, and feels the leaping Vein.
Convinced, o'erjoyed, his studied Thanks and Praise,
To her who made the Miracle, he pays:
Then Lips to Lips he joined; now freed from Fear,
He found the Savour of the Kiss sincere:
At this the wakened image oped her Eyes,
And viewed at once the Light and Lover, with surprise.
The Goddess present at the Match she made,
So blessed the Bed, such Fruitfulness conveyed,
That e'er ten Moons had sharpened either Horn,
To crown their Bliss, a lovely Boy was born;
Paphos his Name, who, grown to manhood, walled
The City Paphos, from the Founder called.
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