Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Mad Moments: Or First Verse Attempts by a Born Natural (1833).
III. To Psyche (Ode I)
By Henry Ellison (1811–1880)
 
(As revised for “The Poetry of Real Life.” 1844.)

          First made immortal by Apuleius in his “Golden Ass,” the classical story of Psyche and Cupid has exercised a strange fascination over poets of all lands and languages. Psyche is made to represent the human soul as embodied in woman, and Cupid, heavenly love as embodied in man. They are united under the condition (itself a subtle fancy) that their entire intercourse is to be limited to night and darkness, under the inexorable penalty on either of separation on any attempt to see one or other with the bodily eyes. Anger and Desire tempt Psyche to violate the bond of union, and, bearing a lit lamp with her, she enters their bed-chamber and gazes on the sleeping Cupid, but only to lose him.—A. B. G.

LET not a sigh be breathed, or he is flown!
  With tip-toe stealth she glides, and throbbing breast
Towards the bed, like one who dares not own
  Her purpose to herself, yet cannot rest
From her rash essay: in her trembling hand        5
  She bears a lamp, which sparkles on a sword:
In the dim light she seems a wandering dream
  Of loveliness: ’tis Psyche and her lord,
Her yet unseen, who slumbers like a beam
Of moonlight, vanishing as soon as scann’d!        10
 
One moment, and all bliss hath fled her heart;
  She with her eyes the vision will dispel,
And break the dreamy charm no magic art
  Can e’er replace; alas! we learn full well
How beautiful the Past but to deplore;        15
  While with seal’d eyes we hurry to the brink,
Blind as the waterfall: oh, stay thy feet,
Thou rash one! let thine eye not covet more
  Of bliss than thy heart feels, nor vainly think
That sight will make thy vision more complete!        20
 
Onward she glides, and gliding, doth infuse
  Her beauty into the dim air, that fain
Would dally with it; and, as the faint hues
  Flicker around, her charmèd eye-balls strain;
For there he lies in dreamy loveliness!        25
  Softly she steals towards him, and bends o’er
His eyes, sleep-curtained, as a lily droops
Faint o’er a folded rose: one meek caress
She would, but dares not take; and as she stoops
  A drop fell from the lamp, she trembling, bore.        30
 
Thereat, sleep-fray’d, dreamlike the god takes wing,
  And soars to his own skies, while Psyche strives
To clasp his foot, and fain thereon would cling
  But falls insensate; so must he who gives
His love to sensual forms sink still to earth;        35
  Whose soul doth cater to a wanton eye.
Psyche! thou should’st have taken that high gift
  Of love, as it was meant, that mystery
Had use divine; the gods do test our worth,
And, ere they grant high boons, our hearts would sift!        40
 
Hadst thou no divine vision of thine own?
  Didst thou not see the object of thy love
Clothed with a beauty to mere sense unknown?
  And could not that bright image, far above
The reach of sere decay, content thy thought?        45
  Which with its glory would have wrapp’d thee round,
To the grave’s brink, untouched by age or pain!
Alas! we mar what Fancy’s womb has brought
  Of loveliest forth, and to the narrow bound
Of sense reduce the Helen of the brain!        50
 
 
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