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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century



Manuscript image of a juniper tree.
Miniature of a Juniper tree.
British Library MS Egerton 747 f.49.


by Aphra Behn

Whilst happy I triumphant stood,
The pride and glory of the wood;
My aromatic boughs and fruit,
Did with all other trees dispute.
Had right by nature to excel,
In pleasing both the taste and smell:
But to the touch I must confess,
Bore an ungrateful sullenness.
My wealth, like bashful virgins, I
Yielded with some reluctancy;
For which my value should be more,
Not giving easily my store.
My verdant branches all the year
Did an eternal beauty wear;
Did ever young and gay appear.
Nor needed any tribute pay,
For bounties from the God of Day:
Nor do I hold supremacy,
(In all the wood) o'er every tree.
But even those too of my own race,
That grow not in this happy place.
But that in which I glory most,
And do myself with reason boast,
Beneath my shade the other day,
Young Philocles and Cloris lay;
Upon my root she leaned her head,
And where I grew, he made their bed:
Whilst I the canopy more largely spread.
Their trembling limbs did largely press,
The kind, supporting, yielding grass:
Ne'er half so blest as now, to bear
A swain so young, a nymph so fair:
My grateful shade I kindly lent,
And every aiding bough I bent.
So low, as sometimes had the bliss,
To rob the shepherd of a kiss,
Whilst he in pleasures far above
The sense of that degree of love,
Permitted every stealth I made,
Unjealous of his rival shade.
I saw 'em kindle to desire,
Whilst with soft sighs they blew the fire;
Saw the approaches of their joy,
He growing more fierce, and she less coy,
Saw how they mingled melting rays,
Exchanging love a thousand ways.
Kind was the force on every side,
Her new desire she could not hide:
Nor would the shepherd be denied.
Impatient he waits no consent
But what she gave by languishment,
The blessed minute he pursued;
While love and shame her soul subdued.
And now transported in his arms,
Yields to the conqueror all her charms;
His panting breast, to hers now joined,
They feast on raptures unconfined;
Vast and luxuriant, such as prove
The immortality of love.
For who but a divinity,
Could mingle souls to that degree;
Now like the Phoenix, both expire,
While from the ashes of their fire,
Sprung up a new, and soft desire.
Like charmers, thrice they did invoke
The god! and thrice new vigor took.
Nor had the mystery ended there,
But Cloris reassumed her fear,
And chid the swain, for having prest,
What she alas, would not resist:
Whilst he in whom love's sacred flame,
Before and after was the same,
Fondly implored she would forget
A fault which he would yet repeat.
From active joys with some they haste,
To a reflection on the past;
A thousand times my covert bless,
That did secure their happiness:
Their gratitude to every tree
They pay, but most to happy me;
The shepherdess my bark carest,
Whilst he my root, love's pillow, kist;
And did with sighs their fate deplore,
Since I must shelter them no more;
And if before my joys were such
In having heard, and seen too much,
My grief must be as great and high,
When all abandoned I shall be,
Doomed to a silent destiny.
No more the charming strife to hear,
The shepherd's vows, the virgin's fear:
No more a joyful looker-on,
Whilst love's soft battle's lost and won.

     With grief I bowed my murmuring head,
And all my crystal dew I shed.
Which did in Cloris pity move,
(Cloris whose soul is made of love;)
She cut me down and did translate
My being to a happier state.
No martyr for religion died
With half so unconsidering pride;
My top was on that altar laid
Where love his softest offerings paid:
And was as fragrant incense burned,
My body into busks was turned:
Where I still guard the sacred store,
And of Love's temple keep the door.

Selected Writings of the Ingenious Mrs. Aphra Behn. Robert Phelps, ed.
New York: The Grove Press, 1950. 234-236.

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