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Not all the tresses that fair-head can boast,
ELOISA TO ABELARD.
ARGUMENT. Abelard and Eloisa flourished in the twelfth century; they
were two of the most distinguished persons of their age in learning and beauty, but for nothing more famous than for their unfortunate passion. After a long course of calainities, they retired each to a several convent, and consecrated the remainder of their days to religion. It was many years after this separation that a letter of Abelard's to a friend, which contained the history of his misfortune, fell into the hands of Eloisa. This awakening all her teuderness, occasioned those celebrated letters (out of which the following is partly extracted) which give so lively a picture of the struggles of grace and nature, virtue and passion.
In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Dear fatal name! rest ever upreveal'd,
write it not, my hand the name appears
Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose, That wellknown name awakens all my woes. Oh, name for ever sad ! for ever dear! Still breath'd in sighs, still usher'd with a tear. I'tremble too, where'er my own I find, Some dire misfortune follows close behind. Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow, Led through a sad variety of woe: Now warm in love, now withering in my bloom, Lost in a convent's solitary gloom! There stern religion quench'd the' unwilling flame; There died the best of passions, love and fame.
Yet write, O write me all, that I may join Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine. Nor foes nor fortune take this power away ; And is my Abelard less kind than they? Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare, Love but demands what else were shed in pray'r;
No happier task these faded eyes pursue;
Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief;
Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame, When Love approach'd me under Friendship's,
name; My fancy form'd thee of angelic kind, Some emanation of the’all-beauteous Mind. Those smiling eyes, attempering every ray, Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day. Gniltless I gaz'd; Heay'n listen'd while you sung; And truths divine came mended from that tongue. From lips like those what precept fail'd to move?: Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love : Back through the paths of pleasing sense I ran, Nor wish'd an angel whom I lov'd a man. Dim and remote the joys of saints I see; Nor envy them that Heav'n I lose for thee.
How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said, Curse on all laws but those which love has made! Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads bis light wings, and in a moment fies. Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame, August her deed, and sacred be her fame;
Before true passion all those views remore ;
Alas, how chang'd! what sudden horrors rise !
Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day, When victims at yon altar's foot we lay? Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell, When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell ? As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil, ' The shrines all trembled, and the lamps grew pale ;