Did fairies still on ev’ry gale
Unseen in cobweb-chariots sail,
Or in the dew-dropp’d lily dwell,
Or lurk beneath the cowslip’s bell,
My pray’r should be, from gem to gem
To rove invisible like them:
Or, wing’d like summer’s painted fly,
To skim o’er vales and mountains high;
Then safe on cluster’d flow’rs to rest
A brief, but gay and welcome guest!
Couch’d in a tulip’s dappled bed,
The royal insect heard and said —
“Vain supplicant! asks thy feeble pride
These wings in gold and azure dyed,
These diamond eyes, this feath’ry crown,
This vesture fring’d with softest down?
Ah! rather let thy fate be blest
For pow’r and beauty unpossessed!
Hadst thou this crest of downy gold,
This spangled wing’s enamell’d fold,
Like mine, thy transient joy had been
To grace one brief and busy scene!
To rove from fading flow’r to flow’r
The gaudy empress of an hour!
One winter-day’s relentless storm
Had smash’d to dust thy tender form;
Or tyrant-hands in wanton strife
Had spoil’d thy liberty of life.
Such is my envied doom — art thou
Less blest, less free than I am now?
Thy doom is in a quiet cell
Amidst the honied store to dwell;
Or on the calm and healthful breeze
Of social life, to float at ease;
Unenvied and unchain’d to stray
O’er ev’ry flow’r in Pleasure’s way!
For thee her purest dew distills,
Her ready hand thy banquet fills;
While Fancy’s pinions, soft and bright,
Beyond my sphere exalt thy flight:
But if a guardian sylphid’s aid
Can raise to bliss a peevish maid,
Behold my pow’r!” then back he threw
His filmy wings of rainbow hue
And stood reveal’d in form and face
The monarch of the elfin race.
“Now ask what woman’s whim requires
Ere Ariel’s transient pow’r expires!
Does sparkling pomp enchant your eyes?
A brainless peer shall be your prize:
A gorgeous dome in Portman Square,
Another in still purer air;
A chariot and three pair of bays
A gold-fring’d chair for gala-days —
Are these enough?” “No; none of these!”
“Well, would a new-cut mantle please?
A scarf of true ethereal blue,
Or, some of our cosmetic due?”
“Ariel! a modest supplicant know!
Thy bounty may a boon bestow;
She only asks of pow’r divine
A cap invisible like thine;
A magic cap to hide the wearer
From critic, ’quisitor, or starer,
When freckles rise or dimples fail,
Or when the faded cheek is pale;
Or stubborn curls refuse to twine
Or hollow eyes no longer shine.”
The sylph replied — “My magic treasure,
This cap, invisible at pleasure,
No mortal wears — but mortal skill
Can make thy faults invisible:
The pow’r my magic might supply,
Good nature gives to Friendship’s eye:
When Friendship’s precious veil is near,
Thy faded face shall disappear;
Thy frown shall change, thy freckles fade,
And thy best dimples be display’d;
No faults in form or face are seen
If true affection spreads her screen:
Go! ask my magic cap no more —
For hark! a friend is at the door!”