Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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THE BIRTH OF LOVE

          WHEN Love was born of heavenly line,
            What dire intrigues disturbed Cythera's joy!
          Till Venus cried, "A mother's heart is mine;
            None but myself shall nurse my boy,"

          But, infant as he was, the child
            In that divine embrace enchanted lay;
          And, by the beauty of the vase beguiled,
            Forgot the beverage--and pined away.

          "And must my offspring languish in my sight?"
            (Alive to all a mother's pain,                            10
          The Queen of Beauty thus her court addressed)
            "No: Let the most discreet of all my train
          Receive him to her breast:
          Think all, he is the God of young delight."

          Then TENDERNESS with CANDOUR joined,
            And GAIETY the charming office sought;
          Nor even DELICACY stayed behind:
            But none of those fair Graces brought

          Wherewith to nurse the child--and still he pined.
          Some fond hearts to COMPLIANCE seemed inclined;             20
            But she had surely spoiled the boy:
              And sad experience forbade a thought
          On the wild Goddess of VOLUPTUOUS JOY.

          Long undecided lay th' important choice,
          Till of the beauteous court, at length, a voice
          Pronounced the name of HOPE:--The conscious child
          Stretched forth his little arms, and smiled.

          'Tis said ENJOYMENT (who averred
            The charge belonged to her alone)
          Jealous that HOPE had been preferred                        30
            Laid snares to make the babe her own.

          Of INNOCENCE the garb she took,
          The blushing mien and downcast look;
            And came her services to proffer:
          And HOPE (what has not Hope believed!)
          By that seducing air deceived,
            Accepted of the offer.

          It happened that, to sleep inclined,
            Deluded HOPE: for one short hour
            To that false INNOCENCE'S power                           40
          Her little charge consigned.

          The Goddess then her lap with sweetmeats filled
            And gave, in handfuls gave, the treacherous store:
          A wild delirium first the infant thrilled;
            But soon upon her breast he sunk--to wake no more.

                                                              1795.


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