Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Silver Thimble

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge


She had lost her silver thimble, and her complaint being accidentally overheard by him, her friend, he immediately sent her four others to take her choice of.

As oft mine eye with careless glance
Has gallop'd through some old romance,
Of speaking birds and steeds with wings,
Giants and dwarfs, and fiends and kings ;
Beyond the rest with more attentive care
I've loved to read of elfin-favoured fair
How if she long'd for aught beneath the sky
And suffer'd to escape one votive sigh,
Wafted along on viewless pinions aery
It laid itself obsequious at her feet:
Such things, I thought, one might not hope to meet
Save in the dear delicious land of Faery !
But now (by proof I know it well)
There's still some peril in free wishing——
Politeness is a licensed spell,
And you, dear sir ! the arch-magician.

You much perplex'd me by the various set:
They were indeed an elegant quartette !
My mind went to and fro, and wavered long ;
At length I've chosen (Samuel thinks me wrong)
That, around whose azure rim
Silver figures seem to swim,
Like fleece-white clouds, that on the skyey blue,
Waked by no breeze, the selfsame shapes retain ;
Or ocean-nymphs with limbs of snowy hue
Slow-floating o'er the calm cerulean plain.

Just such a one, mon cher ami,
(The finger shield of industry)
Th' inventive gods, I deem, to Pallas gave
What time the vain Arachne, madly brave,
Challenged the blue-eyed virgin of the sky
A duel in embroidered work to try.
And hence the thimbled finger of grave Pallas
To th' erring needle's point was more than callous.
But ah the poor Arachne ! She unarmed
Blundering through hasty eagerness, alarmed
With all a rival's hopes, a mortal's fears,
Still miss'd the stitch, and stain'd the web with tears.
Unnumber'd punctures small yet sore
Full fretfully the maiden bore,
Till she her lily finger found
Crimson'd with many a tiny wound ;
And to her eyes, suffused with watery woe,
Her flowei-embroider'd web danced dim, I wist,
Like blossom'd shrubs in a quick-moving mist:
Till vanquish'd the despairing maid sunk low.

O bard! whom sure no common muse inspires,
1 heard your verse that glows with vestal firas !
And I from unwatch'd needle's erring point
Had surely suffer'd on each finger joint
Those wounds, which erst did poor Arachne meet;
While he, the much-loved object of my choice
(My bosom thrilling with enthusiast heat),
Pour'd on mine ear with deep impressive voice,
How the great Prophet of the desert stood
And preach'd of penitence by Jordan's flood;
On war; or else the legendary lays
In simplest measures hymned to Alla's praise ;
Or what the bard from his heart's inmost stores
O'er his friend's grave in loftier numbers pours:
Yes, bard polite ! you but obey'd the laws
Of justice, when the thimble you had sent;
What wounds your thought-bewildering muse might
cause Tis well your finger-shielding gifts prevent.

[From: The poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.]

No comments: