TO THE HONOURABLE MRS. FINCH,
UNDER HER NAME OF ARDELIA
Phoebus, now short'ning every shade, Up to the northern tropic came, And thence beheld a lovely maid, Attending on a royal dame.
The god laid down his feeble rays, Then lighted from his glitt'ring coach; But fenc'd his head with his own bays, Before he durst the nymph approach.
Under those sacred leaves, secure From common lightning of the skies, He fondly thought he might endure The flashes of Ardelia's eyes.
The nymph, who oft had read in books Of that bright god whom bards invoke, Soon knew Apollo by his looks, And guess'd his business ere he spoke.
He, in the old celestial cant, Confess'd his flame, and swore by Styx, Whate'er she would desire, to grant-- But wise Ardelia knew his tricks.
Ovid had warn'd her to beware Of strolling gods, whose usual trade is, Under pretence of taking air, To pick up sublunary ladies.
Howe'er, she gave no flat denial, As having malice in her heart; And was resolv'd upon a trial, To cheat the god in his own art.
"Hear my request," the virgin said; "Let which I please of all the Nine Attend, whene'er I want their aid, Obey my call, and only mine."
By vow oblig'd, by passion led, The god could not refuse her prayer: He way'd his wreath thrice o'er her head, Thrice mutter'd something to the air.
And now he thought to seize his due; But she the charm already try'd: Thalia heard the call, and flew To wait at bright Ardelia's side.
On sight of this celestial prude, Apollo thought it vain to stay; Nor in her presence durst be rude, But made his leg and went away.
He hop'd to find some lucky hour, When on their queen the Muses wait; But Pallas owns Ardelia's power: For vows divine are kept by Fate.
Then, full of rage, Apollo spoke: "Deceitful nymph! I see thy art; And, though I can't my gift revoke, I'll disappoint its nobler part.
"Let stubborn pride possess thee long, And be thou negligent of fame; With ev'ry Muse to grace thy song, May'st thou despise a poet's name!
"Of modest poets be thou first; To silent shades repeat thy verse, Till Fame and Echo almost burst, Yet hardly dare one line rehearse.
"And last, my vengeance to compleat, May you descend to take renown, Prevail'd on by the thing you hate, A Whig! and one that wears a gown!"
[Footnote 1: Afterwards Countess of Winchelsea.--Scott. See Journal to Stella Aug. 7, 1712. The Countess was one of Swift's intimate friends and correspondents. See "Prose Works," xi, 121.--W. E. B.]
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