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SOLOMON'S ACCOUNT OF ABRA's Love.
(From Solomon on the Vanity of the World.)
Another nymph, amongst the many fair,
That made my softer hours their solemn care,
Before the rest affected still to stand,
And watched my eye, preventing my command.
Abra, she so was called, did soonest haste
To grace my presence ; Abra went the last;
:\bra was ready ere I called her name;
And, though I called another, Abra came.
Her equals first observed her growing zeal,
And laughing, glossed that Abra served so well.
To me her actions did unheeded die,
Or were remarked but with a common eye;
Till, more apprised of what the rumour said,
More I observed peculiar in the maid.
The sun declined had shot his western ray,
When, tired with business of the solemn day,
I purposed to unbend the evening hours,
And banquet private in the women's bowers.
I called before I sat to wash my hands
(For so the precept of the law commands):
Love had ordained that it was Abra's turn
To mix the sweets, and minister the urn.
With awful homage, and submissive dread,
The maid approached, on my declining head
the oils : she trembled as she poured ;
With an unguarded look she now devoured
My nearer face; and now recalled her eye,
And heaved, and strove to hide, a sudden sigh.
And whence, said I, canst thou have dread or pain ?
What can thy imagery of sorrow mean?
Secluded from the world and all its care,
Hast thou to grieve or joy, to hope or fear?
For sure, I added, sure thy little heart
Ne'er felt love's anger, or received his dart.
Abashed she blushed, and with disorder spoke:
Her rising shame adorned the words it broke.
If the great master will descend to hear
The humble series of his handmaid's care;
0! while she tells it, let him not put on
The look that awes the nations from the throne !
0! let not death severe in glory lie
In the king's frown and terror of his eye!
Mine to obey, thy part is to ordain;
And though to mention be to suffer pain,
If the king smile whilst I my woe recite,
If weeping, I find favour in his sight,
Flow fast, my tears, full rising his delight.
0! witness earth beneath, and heaven above!
For can I hide it? I am sick of love;
If madness may the name of passion bear,
Or love be called 'what is indeed despair.
Thou Sovereign Power, whose secret will controls
The inward bent and motion of our souls !
Why hast thou placed such infinite degrees
Between the cause and cure of my disease?
The mighty object of that raging fire,
In which, unpitied, Abra must expire.
Had he been born some simple shepherd's heir,
The lowing herd or fleecy sheep his care,
At morn with him I o'er the hills had run,
Scornful of winter's frost and summer's sun,
Still asking where he made his flock to rest at noon
For him at night, the dear expected guest,
I had with hasty joy prepared the feast;
And from the cottage, o'er the distant plain,
Sent forth my longing eye to meet the swain,
Wavering, impatient, tossed by hope and fear,
Till he and joy together should appear,
And the loved dog declare his master near.
And from beneath his head, at dawning day,
With softest care have stolen my arm away,
To rise, and from the fold release his sheep,
Fond of his flock, indulgent to his slecp.
Or if kind heaven, propitious to my
(For sure from heaven the faithful ardour came).
Had blest my life, and decked my natal hour
With height of title, and extent of power ;
Without a crime my passion had aspired,
Found the loved prince, and told what I desired.
Then I had come, preventing Sheba's queen,
To see the comeliest of the sons of men,
To hear the charming poet's amorous song,
And gather honey falling from his tongue,
To take the fragrant kisses of his mouth,
Sweeter than breezes of her native south,
Likening his grace, his person, and his mien,
To all that great or beauteous I had seen.
Serene and bright his eyes, as solar beams
Reflecting tempered light from crystal streams;
Ruddy as gold his cheek; his bosom fair
As silver; the curled ringlets of his hair
Black as the raven's wing; his lip more red
Than eastern coral, or the scarlet thread;
Even his teeth, and white like a young flock
Coeval, newly shorn, from the clear brook
Recent, and branching on the sunny rock.
Ivory, with sapphires interspersed, explains
How white his hands, how blue the manly veins.
Columns of polished marble, firmly set
On golden bases, are his legs and feet;
His stature all majestic, all divine,
Straight as the palm-tree, strong as is the pine.
Saffron and myrrh are on bis garments shed,
And everlasting sweets bloom round his head.
What utter I? where am I? wretched maid !
Die, Abra, die: too plainly hast thou said
Thy soul's desire.
Here o'er her speech her flowing eyes prevalle
O foolish maid! and oh, unhappy tale!
I saw her; 't was humanity: it gave
Some respite to the sorrows of my
slave. Her fond excess proclaimed her passion true, And generous pity to that truth was due. Well I entreated her, who well deserved; I called her often, for she always served. Use made her person easy to my sight, And ease insensibly produced delight. The apples she had gathered smelt most sweet, The cake she kneaded was the savoury meat:
But fruits their odour lost, and meats their taste,
If gentle Abra had not decked the feast.
Dishonoured did the sparkling goblet stand,
Unless received from gentle Abra's hand;
And, when the virgins formed the evening choir,
Raising their voices to the master lyre,
Too flat I thought this voice, and that too shrill,
One showed too much, and one too little skill;
Nor could my soul approve the music's tone,
Till all was hushed, and Abra sung
Fairer she seemed distinguished from the rest,
And better mien disclosed, as better drest.
A bright tiara round her forehead tied,
To juster bounds confined its rising pride.
The blushing ruby on her snowy breast
Rendered its panting whiteness more confessed;
Bracelets of pearl gave roundness to her arm,
And every gem augmented every charm.
Her senses p.eased, her beauty still improved,
And she more lovely grew, as more beloved.