I’ve always been curious about this poem. I love the artwork and play/films it has inspired, but I confess that the classic-ness of the poem eludes me. Maybe it’s because it’s John Milton – I’ve never been able to really enjoy him.
This poem is nice, and pleasant to read, but it doesn’t stir my heart and wrench my gut like most classic poetry. But I wanted to share it, just to see if, by investing in it, I can appreciate it the way Arthur Rackham clearly did. Enjoy his gorgeous illustrations!
Sweet Echo, sweetest Nymph that livst unseen
Within thy airy shell
By slow Meander’s margent green,
And in the violet imbroider’d vale
Where the love-lorn Nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad Song mourneth well.
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle Pair
That likest thy Narcissus are?
O if thou have
Hid them in som flowry Cave,
Tell me but where
Sweet Queen of Parly, Daughter of the Sphear,
So maist thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all Heavns Harmonies
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of Lillies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,
Listen for dear honour’s sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save.
Listen and appear to us
In name of great Oceanus,
By the earth-shaking Neptune’s mace,
And Tethys grave majestick pace,
By hoary Nereus wrincled look,
And the Carpathian wisards hook,
By scaly Tritons winding shell,
And old sooth-saying Glaucus spell,
By Leucothea’s lovely hands,
And her son that rules the strands,
By Thetis tinsel-slipper’d feet,
And the Songs of Sirens sweet,
By dead Parthenope’s dear tomb,
And fair Ligea’s golden comb,
Wherwith she sits on diamond rocks
Sleeking her soft alluring locks,
By all the Nymphs that nightly dance
Upon thy streams with wily glance,
Rise, rise, and heave thy rosie head
From thy coral-pav’n bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answered have.
Listen and save.
Sabrina rises, attended by water-Nymphes, and sings.
By the rushy-fringed bank,
Where grows the Willow and the Osier dank,
My sliding Chariot stayes,
Thick set with Agat, and the azurn sheen
Of Turkis blew, and Emrauld green
That in the channell strayes,
Whilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
O’re the Cowslips Velvet head,
That bends not as I tread,
Gentle swain at thy request
I am here.
Spirit. Goddess dear
We implore thy powerful band
To’ undo the charmed band
Of true Virgin here distrest,
Through the force, and through the wile
Of unblest inchanter vile.
Sabrina Shepherd, ’tis my office best
To help insnared chastity.
Brightest Lady look on me,
Thus I sprinkle on thy brest
Drops that from my fountain pure,
I have kept of pretious cure,
Thrice upon thy fingers tip
Thrice upon thy rubied lip,
Next this marble venom’d seat
Smear’d with gumms of glutenous heat
I touch with chaste palms moist and cold,
Now the spell hath lost his hold;
And I must haste ere morning hour
To wait in Amphitrite’s bowr.
Gorgeous Illustrations all done by Arthur Rackham