The Rape of the Veil

Miss Porden


Once by the ocean’s shingly side
 The fair Maria strayed;
Her graceful form, with female pride,
 In purple robe arrayed.


A bonnet on her head she bore,
 With snow-white ribbands grac’d;
On which a lucid veil she wore,
 Depending to her waist


Thus as the heedless damsel strayed,
 Pleased ocean stopt his roar;
Th’amourous sylphs, the lovely maid,
 Pursued along the shore.


And oft those sylphs would strive to gain,
Enamoured of her grace —
But still as oft they strove in vain,
To view her lovely face.


And oft as shining shells to cull
 She stopped upon the shore:
Or wished the plants marine to pull
 Her veil they upward bore.


But still her ready hand the veil,
 In its right place supplied;
The sylphs distrest so oft to fail,
 With disappointment sighed.


To every wat’ry god they prayed —
 The Tritons would not hear;
And, jealous of the beauteous maid,
 No sea nymph lent an ear


The syrens as they blew their shells
 Were deaf to every prayer;
The gods superior, in their cells,
 Deemed such beneath their care.


At length arising from his cave,
 Where gems supply the day;
Far, far beneath the ocean wave —
 A gnome now took his way.


Long had the sprite the damsel known,
 And sought her for his bride;
But still the maid as cold as stone,
 His earnest suit denied.


Although in Henry’s shape he strove,
 The nymph obdurate hears
His vows of never-ending love;
 Till wearied with his prayers,


At length she said, “Get thou this veil,
 Which ne’er shall be untied;
And then, (my promise shall not fail!)
 I’ll be thy faithful bride.”


At this the gnome was sore dismayed,
 From him all hopes did fly;
For ne’er, unless the sylphs would aid,
 Could he the knot untie.


And Ever Gnomes and sylphs between,
 Since first their races rose;
A dreadful enmity has been,
 And they must still be foes,


And many a sylph the gnome besought,
 But none would hear his prayer;
And but for this, ’twas now he brought
 His aid with speedy care.


He showed them where the ribbands white,
 In mazy folds combined,
By her fair hands, a curious sight,
 Held fast the veil behind.


He showed two ends, the springs that hold
 The various knots confined,
That the white ribbands various fold,
 So fast together bind.


And now each end three sylphs are pulling
 With force on either side.
Th’unheeding maid her shells is culling —
 And now her veil’s untied —


The veils untied, and by her side
 It fell; the sylphs amazed,
Unheeding now of ought beside,
 Upon her beauty gazed.


Admiring too, upon the shore,
 The gnome one moment stood;
Then high the fatal veil he bore,
 And plunged amid the flood.


Close by the waves th’ astonished maid
 Her eyes suffused with tears,
Intent the sinking veil surveyed,
 That filled her heart with fears.


The sylphids who the cause now guest,
 Swift to redeem it flew;
But ere they reached the spot, their quest
 Was vanished from their view.


With drooping wings they back return,
 And wail the nymph around;
But scarce had they began to mourn,
 An earthquake rocked the ground.


The affrighted maiden sought to fly
 When lo, her feet before,
An hideous chasm met her eye,
 Full thirty feet and more.


And through the chasm the victor gnome,
 With smile triumphant rose;
To bear her to his secret home,
 And in the Earth inclose.


Kneeling before him now appears,
 The trembling weeping maid;
He pitying viewed her streaming tears,
 Then raised her up and said,


“A twelvemonth more behold the sun,
 And taste the sweets of day;
But when one year his course has run,
 I bear thee hence away.”


“Till then forbade by mightier powers,
 To bear thee to my cell;
Or pass on Earth my tedious hours,
 Within my cave I dwell.”


The ground swift closed upon the gnome —
 The sorrowing nymph returned;
Where she repentant, in her home,
 Her promise vainly mourned.