Landon in The Literary Gazette 1822/Scene 2
Literary Gazette, 2nd November, 1822, Pages 697-698
DRAMATIC SCENES. — II.
Leonardi. 'Tis finished now: look on my picture. Love!
Alvine. Oh, that sweet ring of graceful figures! one
Flings her white arms on high, and gaily strikes
Her golden cymbals—I can almost deem
I hear their beatings; one with glancing feet
Follows her music, while her crimson cheek
Is flushed with exercise, till the red grape
'Mid the dark tresses of a sister nymph
Is scarcely brighter; there another stands,
A darker spirit yet, with joyous brow,
And holding a rich goblet; oh, that child!
With eyes as blue as spring-days, and those curls
Throwing their auburn shadow o'er a brow
So arch, so playful—have you bodied forth
Young Cupid in your colours ?
Leonardi. No—oh no,
I could not paint Love as a careless boy,—
That passionate Divinity, whose life
Is of such deep and intense feeling! No,
I am too true, too earnest, and too happy,
To ever image by a changeful child
That which is so unchangeable. But mark
How sweet, how pale, the light that I have thrown
Over the picture: it is just the time
When Dian's dewy kiss lights up the dreams
That make Endymion's sleep so beautiful.
Look on the calm blue sky, so set with stars:
Is it not like some we can both recall?
Those azure shadows of a summer night,
That veiled the cautious lutanist who waked
Thy slumbers with his song. How more than fair,
How like a spirit of that starry hour,
I used to think you, as your timid hand
Unbarr'd the casement and you leant to hear,
Your long hair floating loose amid the vines
Around your lattice; and how very sweet
Your voice, scarce audible, with the soft fear
That mingled in its low and tender tones!
Alvine. Nay, now I will not listen to the tales
Our memory is so rich in. I have much
For question here. Who is this glorious shape,
That, placed on a bright chariot in the midst,
Stands radiant in his youth and loveliness?
Around his sunny locks there is a wreath
Of the green vine leaves, and his ivory brow
Shines out like marble, when a golden ray
Of summer light is on it, and his step
Scarce seems to touch his pard-drawn car, but floats
Buoyant upon the air;—and who is she
On whom his ardent gaze is turned? So pale,—
Her dark hair gathered round her like a shroud,
Yet far more lovely than the sparkling nymphs
Dancing around that chariot. Yet how sweet,
Though dimmed with tears, those deep blue eyes, that smile
Half turned and half averted timidly
From the youth's lightning glance. Oh tell me now
One of those legends that I love so well:
Has not this picture some old history?
Leonardi. 'Tis one of those bright fictions that have made
The name of Greece only another word
For love and poetry; with a green earth—
Groves of the graceful myrtle—summer skies,
Whose stars are mirror'd in ten thousand streams—
Winds that move but in perfume and in music,
And, more than all, the gift of woman's beauty.
What marvel that the earth, the sky, the sea,
Were filled with all those fine imaginings
That love creates, and that the lyre preserves!
Alvine. But for the history of that pale girl
Who stands so desolate on the sea shore?
Leonardi. She was the daughter of a Cretan king—
A tyrant. Hidden in the dark recess
Of a wide labyrinth, a monster dwelt,
And every year was human tribute paid
By the Athenians. They had bowed in war,
And every Spring the flowers of all the city,
Young maids in their first beauty—stately youths,
Were sacrificed to the fierce King ! They died
In the unfathomable den of want,
Or served the Minotaur for food. At length
There came a royal Youth, who vowed to slay
The monster or to perish!—Look, Alvine,
That statue is young Theseus.
How like a god he stands, one haughty hand
Raised in defiance! I have often looked
Upon the marble, wondering it could give
Such truth to life and majesty.
Leonardi. You will not marvel Ariadne loved.
She gave the secret clue that led him safe
Through all the labyrinth, and she fled with him.
Alvine. Ah, now I know your tale: he proved untrue.
This ever has been woman's fate,—to love,
To know one summer day of happiness,
And then to be most wretched!
Leonardi. She was left
By her so heartless lover while she slept,
She woke from pleasant dreams—she dreamt of him—
Love's power is felt in slumber—woke, and found
Herself deserted on the lonely shore!
The bark of the false Theseus was a speck
Scarce seen upon the waters, less and less,
Like hope diminishing, till wholly past.
I will not say, for you can fancy well,
Her desolate feelings as she roamed the beach,
Hurled from the highest heaven of happy love!
But evening crimsoned the blue sea—a sound
Of music and of mirth came on the wind,
And radiant shapes and laughing nymphs danced by,
And he, the Theban God, looked on the maid,
And looked and loved, and was beloved again.
This is the moment that the picture gives:
He has just flung her starry crown on high,
And bade it there a long memorial shine
How a god loved a mortal. He is springing
From out his golden car—another bound—
Bacchus is by his Ariadne's side!
Alvine, She loved again! Oh cold inconstancy.
This is not woman's love; her love should be
A feeling pure and holy as the flame
The vestal virgin kindles, fresh as flowers
The spring has but just coloured, innocent
As the young dove, and changeless as the faith
The martyr seals in blood. 'Tis beautiful
This picture, but it wakes no sympathy,
Leonardi. Next time, Alvine, my pencil shall but give
Existence to the memory of love's truth.
Alvine. Do you recall a tale you told me once,
Of the forsaken Nymph that Paris left
For new love and ambition; at his death
He bade them bear him to Enone's arms.
She never had forgotten him: her heart,
Which beat so faithfully, became his pillow ;
She closed his eyes, and pardoned him and died!
Leonardi. Love, yes I'll paint their meeting: the wan youth,
Dying, but yet so happy in forgiveness;
The sweet Enone, with her gentle tears,
Filled with meek tenderness, her pensive brow
Arching so gracefully, with deep blue eyes
Half hidden by the shadowy lash—a look
So patient, yet so fraught with tenderest feeling,
Like to an idol placed upon the shrine
Of faith, for all to worship. She shall be,
Saving thine own inimitable smile,
In all like thee, Alvine! L. E. L.
- This scene appears as 'Bacchus and Ariadne' in The Vow of the Peacock and Other Poems (1835)