The Poetry Corner

Eloisa To Abelard

By Alexander Pope

In these deep solitudes and awful cells, Where heavnly-pensive contemplation dwells, And ever-musing melancholy reigns; What means this tumult in a vestals veins? Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat? Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat? Yet, yet I love!From Abelard it came, And Eloisa yet must kiss the name. Dear fatal name! rest ever unreveald, Nor pass these lips in holy silence seald. Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise, Where mixd with Gods, his lovd idea lies: O write it not, my handthe name appears Already writtenwash it out, my tears! In vain lost Eloisa weeps and prays, Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys. Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains: Ye rugged rocks! which holy knees have worn; Ye grots and caverns shaggd with horrid thorn! Shrines! where their vigils pale-eyd virgins keep, And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep! Though cold like you, unmovd, and silent grown, I have not yet forgot myself to stone. All is not Heavns while Abelard has part, Still rebel nature holds out half my heart; Nor prayrs nor fasts its stubborn pulse restrain, Nor tears, for ages, taught to flow in vain. Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose, That well-known name awakens all my woes. Oh name for ever sad! for ever dear! Still breathd in sighs, still usherd with a tear. I tremble too, whereer my own I find, Some dire misfortune follows close behind. Line after line my gushing eyes oerflow, Led through a sad variety of woe: Now warm in love, now withring in thy bloom, Lost in a convents solitary gloom! There stern religion quenchd th unwilling flame, There died the best of passions, love and fame. Yet write, oh write me all, that I may join Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine. Nor foes nor fortune take this powr away; And is my Abelard less kind than they? Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare, Love but demands what else were shed in prayr; No happier task these faded eyes pursue; To read and weep is all they now can do. Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief; Ah, more than share it! give me all thy grief. Heavn first taught letters for some wretchs aid, Some banishd lover, or some captive maid; They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires, Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires, The virgins wish without her fears impart, Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart, Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul, And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole. Thou knowst how guiltless first I met thy flame, When Love approachd me under Friendships name; My fancy formd thee of angelic kind, Some emanation of th all-beauteous Mind. Those smiling eyes, attempring evry day, Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day. Guiltless I gazd; heavn listend while you sung; And truths divine came mended from that tongue. From lips like those what precept faild to move? Too soon they taught me twas no sin to love. Back through the paths of pleasing sense I ran, Nor wishd an Angel whom I lovd a Man. Dim and remote the joys of saints I see; Nor envy them, that heavn I lose for thee. How oft, when pressd to marriage, have I said, Curse on all laws but those which love has made! Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies, Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame, August her deed, and sacred be her fame; Before true passion all those views remove, Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to Love? The jealous God, when we profane his fires, Those restless passions in revenge inspires; And bids them make mistaken mortals groan, Who seek in love for aught but love alone. Should at my feet the worlds great master fall, Himself, his throne, his world, Id scorn em all: Not Caesars empress would I deign to prove; No, make me mistress to the man I love; If there be yet another name more free, More fond than mistress, make me that to thee! Oh happy state! when souls each other draw, When love is liberty, and nature, law: All then is full, possessing, and possessd, No craving void left aching in the breast: Evn thought meets thought, ere from the lips it part, And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart. This sure is bliss (if bliss on earth there be) And once the lot of Abelard and me. Alas, how changd! what sudden horrors rise! A naked lover bound and bleeding lies! Where, where was Eloise? her voice, her hand, Her poniard, had opposd the dire command. Barbarian, stay! that bloody stroke restrain; The crime was common, common be the pain. I can no more; by shame, by rage suppressd, Let tears, and burning blushes speak the rest. Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day, When victims at yon altars foot we lay? Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell, When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell? As with cold lips I kissd the sacred veil, The shrines all trembld, and the lamps grew pale: Heavn scarce believd the conquest it surveyd, And saints with wonder heard the vows I made. Yet then, to those dread altars as I drew, Not on the Cross my eyes were fixd, but you: Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call, And if I lose thy love, I lose my all. Come! with thy looks, thy words, relieve my woe; Those still at least are left thee to bestow. Still on that breast enamourd let me lie, Still drink delicious poison from thy eye, Pant on thy lip, and to thy heart be pressd; Give all thou canstand let me dream the rest. Ah no! instruct me other joys to prize, With other beauties charm my partial eyes, Full in my view set all the bright abode, And make my soul quit Abelard for God. Ah, think at least thy flock deserves thy care, Plants of thy hand, and children of thy prayr. From the false world in early youth they fled, By thee to mountains, wilds, and deserts led. You raisd these hallowd walls; the desert smild, And Paradise was opend in the wild. No weeping orphan saw his fathers stores Our shrines irradiate, or emblaze the floors; No silver saints, by dying misers givn, Here bribd the rage of ill-requited heavn: But such plain roofs as piety could raise, And only vocal with the Makers praise. In these lone walls (their days eternal bound) These moss-grown domes with spiry turrets crownd, Where awful arches make a noonday night, And the dim windows shed a solemn light; Thy eyes diffusd a reconciling ray, And gleams of glory brightend all the day. But now no face divine contentment wears, Tis all blank sadness, or continual tears. See how the force of others prayrs I try, (O pious fraud of amrous charity!) But why should I on others prayrs depend? Come thou, my father, brother, husband, friend! Ah let thy handmaid, sister, daughter move, And all those tender names in one, thy love! The darksome pines that oer yon rocks reclind Wave high, and murmur to the hollow wind, The wandring streams that shine between the hills, The grots that echo to the tinkling rills, The dying gales that pant upon the trees, The lakes that quiver to the curling breeze; No more these scenes my meditation aid, Or lull to rest the visionary maid. But oer the twilight groves and dusky caves, Long-sounding aisles, and intermingled graves, Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws A death-like silence, and a dread repose: Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene, Shades evry flowr, and darkens evry green, Deepens the murmur of the falling floods, And breathes a browner horror on the woods. Yet here for ever, ever must I stay; Sad proof how well a lover can obey! Death, only death, can break the lasting chain; And here, evn then, shall my cold dust remain, Here all its frailties, all its flames resign, And wait till tis no sin to mix with thine. Ah wretch! believd the spouse of God in vain, Confessd within the slave of love and man. Assist me, Heavn! but whence arose that prayr? Sprung it from piety, or from despair? Evn here, where frozen chastity retires, Love finds an altar for forbidden fires. I ought to grieve, but cannot what I ought; I mourn the lover, not lament the fault; I view my crime, but kindle at the view, Repent old pleasures, and solicit new; Now turnd to Heavn, I weep my past offence, Now think of thee, and curse my innocence. Of all affliction taught a lover yet, Tis sure the hardest science to forget! How shall I lose the sin, yet keep the sense, And love th offender, yet detest th offence? How the dear object from the crime remove, Or how distinguish penitence from love? Unequal task! a passion to resign, For hearts so touchd, so piercd, so lost as mine. Ere such a soul regains its peaceful state, How often must it love, how often hate! How often hope, despair, resent, regret, Conceal, disdaindo all things but forget. But let Heavn seize it, all at once tis fird; Not touchd, but rapt; not wakend, but inspird! Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue, Renounce my love, my life, myselfand you. Fill my fond heart with God alone, for he Alone can rival, can succeed to thee. How happy is the blameless vestals lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each prayr accepted, and each wish resignd; Labour and rest, that equal periods keep; Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep; Desires composd, affections ever evn, Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to Heavn. Grace shines around her with serenest beams, And whispring angels prompt her golden dreams. For her th unfading rose of Eden blooms, And wings of seraphs shed divine perfumes, For her the Spouse prepares the bridal ring, For her white virgins hymeneals sing, To sounds of heavnly harps she dies away, And melts in visions of eternal day. Far other dreams my erring soul employ, Far other raptures, of unholy joy: When at the close of each sad, sorrowing day, Fancy restores what vengeance snatchd away, Then conscience sleeps, and leaving nature free, All my loose soul unbounded springs to thee. Oh cursd, dear horrors of all-conscious night! How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight! Provoking Daemons all restraint remove, And stir within me every source of love. I hear thee, view thee, gaze oer all thy charms, And round thy phantom glue my clasping arms. I wakeno more I hear, no more I view, The phantom flies me, as unkind as you. I call aloud; it hears not what I say; I stretch my empty arms; it glides away. To dream once more I close my willing eyes; Ye soft illusions, dear deceits, arise! Alas, no moremethinks we wandring go Through dreary wastes, and weep each others woe, Where round some mouldring tower pale ivy creeps, And low-browd rocks hang nodding oer the deeps. Sudden you mount, you beckon from the skies; Clouds interpose, waves roar, and winds arise. I shriek, start up, the same sad prospect find, And wake to all the griefs I left behind. For thee the fates, severely kind, ordain A cool suspense from pleasure and from pain; Thy life a long, dead calm of fixd repose; No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows. Still as the sea, ere winds were taught to blow, Or moving spirit bade the waters flow; Soft as the slumbers of a saint forgivn, And mild as opening gleams of promisd heavn. Come, Abelard! for what hast thou to dread? The torch of Venus burns not for the dead. Nature stands checkd; Religion disapproves; Evn thou art coldyet Eloisa loves. Ah hopeless, lasting flames! like those that burn To light the dead, and warm th unfruitful urn. What scenes appear whereer I turn my view? The dear ideas, where I fly, pursue, Rise in the grove, before the altar rise, Stain all my soul, and wanton in my eyes. I waste the matin lamp in sighs for thee, Thy image steals between my God and me, Thy voice I seem in evry hymn to hear, With evry bead I drop too soft a tear. When from the censer clouds of fragrance roll, And swelling organs lift the rising soul, One thought of thee puts all the pomp to flight, Priests, tapers, temples, swim before my sight: In seas of flame my plunging soul is drownd, While altars blaze, and angels tremble round. While prostrate here in humble grief I lie, Kind, virtuous drops just gathring in my eye, While praying, trembling, in the dust I roll, And dawning grace is opning on my soul: Come, if thou darst, all charming as thou art! Oppose thyself to Heavn; dispute my heart; Come, with one glance of those deluding eyes Blot out each bright idea of the skies; Take back that grace, those sorrows, and those tears; Take back my fruitless penitence and prayrs; Snatch me, just mounting, from the blest abode; Assist the fiends, and tear me from my God! No, fly me, fly me, far as pole from pole; Rise Alps between us! and whole oceans roll! Ah, come not, write not, think not once of me, Nor share one pang of all I felt for thee. Thy oaths I quit, thy memory resign; Forget, renounce me, hate whateer was mine. Fair eyes, and tempting looks (which yet I view!) Long lovd, adord ideas, all adieu! Oh Grace serene! oh virtue heavnly fair! Divine oblivion of low-thoughted care! Fresh blooming hope, gay daughter of the sky! And faith, our early immortality! Enter, each mild, each amicable guest; Receive, and wrap me in eternal rest! See in her cell sad Eloisa spread, Proppd on some tomb, a neighbour of the dead. In each low wind methinks a spirit calls, And more than echoes talk along the walls. Here, as I watchd the dying lamps around, From yonder shrine I heard a hollow sound. Come, sister, come! (it said, or seemd to say) Thy place is here, sad sister, come away! Once like thyself, I trembled, wept, and prayd, Loves victim then, though now a sainted maid: But all is calm in this eternal sleep; Here grief forgets to groan, and love to weep, Evn superstition loses evry fear: For God, not man, absolves our frailties here. I come, I come! prepare your roseate bowrs, Celestial palms, and ever-blooming flowrs. Thither, where sinners may have rest, I go, Where flames refind in breasts seraphic glow: Thou, Abelard! the last sad office pay, And smooth my passage to the realms of day; See my lips tremble, and my eye-balls roll, Suck my last breath, and catch my flying soul! Ah noin sacred vestments mayst thou stand, The hallowd taper trembling in thy hand, Present the cross before my lifted eye, Teach me at once, and learn of me to die. Ah then, thy once-lovd Eloisa see! It will be then no crime to gaze on me. See from my cheek the transient roses fly! See the last sparkle languish in my eye! Till evry motion, pulse, and breath be oer; And evn my Abelard be lovd no more. O Death all-eloquent! you only prove What dust we dote on, when tis man we love. Then too, when fate shall thy fair frame destroy, (That cause of all my guilt, and all my joy) In trance ecstatic may thy pangs be drownd, Bright clouds descend, and angels watch thee round, From opning skies may streaming glories shine, And saints embrace thee with a love like mine. May one kind grave unite each hapless name, And graft my love immortal on thy fame! Then, ages hence, when all my woes are oer, When this rebellious heart shall beat no more; If ever chance two wandring lovers brings To Paracletes white walls and silver springs, Oer the pale marble shall they join their heads, And drink the falling tears each other sheds; Then sadly say, with mutual pity movd, Oh may we never love as these have lovd! From the full choir when loud Hosannas rise, And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice, Amid that scene if some relenting eye Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie, Devotions self shall steal a thought from Heavn, One human tear shall drop and be forgivn. And sure, if fate some future bard shall join In sad similitude of griefs to mine, Condemnd whole years in absence to deplore, And image charms he must behold no more; Such if there be, who loves so long, so well; Let him our sad, our tender story tell; The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost; He best can paint em, who shall feel em most.