Littell's Living Age/Volume 135/Issue 1740/Love's Arrows

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From Macmillan’s Magazine.


At a league's distance from the town of Ponteille in Provence, and hard by the shrine of our Lady of Marten, there is in the midst of verdant meadows a little pool, overshadowed on all sides by branching oak-trees, and surrounded at the waters edge by a green sward so fruitful that in spring it seemeth, for the abundance of white lilies, as covered with half-melted snow. Unto this fair place a damsel from out a near village once came to gather white flowers for the decking of our Lady's chapel; and while so doing saw lying in the grass a naked boy: in his hair were tangled blue water-flowers, and at his side lay a bow and marvellously wrought quiver of two arrows, one tipped at the point with gold, the other with lead. These the damsel, taking up the quiver, drew out; but as she did so the gold arrow did prick her finger, and so sorely that, starting at the pain, she let fall the leaden one upon the sleeping boy. He at the touch of that arrow sprang up, and crying against her with much loathing, fled over the meadows. She followed him to overtake him, but could not, albeit she strove greatly; and soon, wearied with her running, fell upon the grass in a swoon. Here had she lain, had not a goatherd of those parts found her and brought her to the village. Thus was much woe wrought unto the damsel, for after this she never again knew any joy, nor delighted in aught, save only it were to sit waiting and watching among the lilies by the pool. By these things it seemeth that the boy was not mortal as she supposed, but rather the Demon or Spirit of Love, whom John of Dreux for his two arrows holdeth to be that same Eros of Greece. — MSS. Mus. Aix., B. 754.

The story that I write of shows how Love
Once wandering in the woodlands, to a grove
Of oak-trees came, within which was a pool,
Fed by a stream of water, clear and cool.
Such a lovely pool as this
Love had hardly seen, I wis:
All about its edges grew
Blue forget-me-nots, as blue
As the hue of summer skies,
Or the light of Love's own eyes.
From this belt of flowers the sward
Upward sloped, and did afford
Footing soft as is most meet
For the soles of bathers' feet:
And upon this sward oak-trees
Stretched their branches to the breeze,
And with pleasant sound and shade
Covert from the sun's heat made.
'Neath the trees were violets seen
Mixing with the grass's green,
And white lilies, at whose sight
Life seemed merged in one delight.
When Love saw the oak-tree's shade,
And how soft the sward was laid,
He at once did throw aside
Bow and arrows — nought beside
Was he cumbered with — and then
Plunged into the pool. Again
Will not be a sight so fair
As the love-god bathing there.
How can I, poor modern, write
Of his beauty, or how white
Were his limbs, how gold his hair,
Or how passing fine and fair
Was his form: I should but spoil
Beauty's bloom, and waste my toil.
If great Marlowe could not sing
All Leander's praise, nor bring
All his beauties in his line,
Shall it be allowed to mine?
When Love tired of swimming grew,
From the pool his limbs he drew,
And on the sward himself down threw.
Love upon the green sward lay,
Flowers about him every way.
The soft turf that formed his bed
Was with lilies overspread;
And from out his hair there gleamed
Blue forget-me-nots (that seemed
Like to turquoise stones when gold
Their blue beauty doth enfold);
They had caught and tangled there
As he swam with streaming hair.
Thus Love lay and laughing played
With a grass's spiky blade,
Watching with half-closing eyes
The green-crested dragon-flies,
That about the pool did skim,
Or the bird that on its rim
Came, with outstretched thirsty bill,
From the pool to drink its fill.
But not long did Eros keep
His blue eyes from coming sleep:
For the humming of the bees,
And the murmurs from the trees
That his bed of wild flowers shaded,
All to drowsiness persuaded;
Soon he did begin to feel
Sleep o'er all his limbs to steal;
Soon the pool and meadow grew
Less distinct upon his view;
Soon his sleep-o'erweighted head
On his arm dropped down; then fled
From the eyes of conquered Love
Flowers and meadow, pool and grove.
Now, as chance had it, to the pool-side came
This very day a maiden, one by name
Margaret, a comely damsel, full of grace
Both in her form and in her fair young face.
Tall and upright she was, with black hair crowned;
Her eyes were black, and seemed to look around
With gentleness on all things, and did show
Her love for all things lovely; and here now
White flowers she sought wherewith to deck the shrine
Of Christ his Mother, and to intertwine
Their stems upon her altar. When she drew
Near to the pool a something met her view
That glittered in the grass: she nears to see,
And, lo! a naked boy! At first thinks she
To fly and hide her blushes, but some power
Holdeth her spell-bound, and she doth devour
The sleeper with her eyes till all her soul
Grows drunken with his beauty, and the whole
Of her fair heart is moved. She presently
Among the grass his quiver doth espy,
And takes it up. Two arrows doth it hold,
One with lead barbed, the other barbed with gold.
Ah! little does she know the evils dread
Roused by these arrows; that which bears the lead
In those it touches a fierce loathing wakes;
But that which has the gold for loving makes.

Not witting this, poor maid, she draws them out.
The gold one pricks her finger — then about
Her body runs a trembling, and a joy
Unspeakable doth hold her. On the boy
She looks, and straight doth love him. But, ah woe!
As she stands gazing thus on him below,
The leaden arrow from her fingers falls,
And strikes the boy. He, springing upright, calls
With hate upon her; she with love replies,
Feasting the while upon him with her eyes;
In haste he turns to fly; around his neck
She casts white clinging arms. But little reck
Immortal limbs such binding; forth he flies,
Crying, "Thou burn'st me;" after him she hies;
But all in vain. Soon spent she falls, and would
Have died had not a goatherd in the wood
Found her, and led her home. From this sad day
Margaret ne'er joined in any youthful play,
But lived disconsolately. In the grove
She would sit oft, waiting her scarce-known love,
Who never came. Thus was much woe to thee
Fair Margaret — and the Love-god, how fares he?
St. Loe Strachey.