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John Cunningham (Джон Каннингем)


When Chloe, with a blush comply'd,
To be the fond Nicander's bride,
His wild imagination ran
On raptures never known by man.
How high the tides of fancy swell,
Expression must despair to tell.

A painter call'd, — — Nicander cries,
" Descending from the radiant skies,
Draw me a bright, a beauteous boy,
The herald of connubial joy!
Draw him with all peculiar care,
Make him beyond Adonis fair;
Give to his cheeks a roseate hue,
Let him have eyes of heav'nly blue,
Lips softening in nectarious dew;
A lustre o'er his charms display,
More glorious than the beams of day.
Expect, sir, if you can succeed,
A premium for a Prince indeed. "

His talents straight the painter try'd,
And, ere the nuptial-knot was ty'd,
A picture in the noblest taste
Before the fond Nicander plac'd.

The lover thus arraign'd his skill; —
" Your execution's monst'rous ill!
A different form my fancy made;
You're quite a bungler at the trade.
Where is the robe's luxuriant flow?
Where is the cheek's celestial glow?
Where are the looks so fond and free?
'Tis not an Hymen, sir, for me! "

The painter bow'd — with this reply; —
" My colours an't, your Honour, dry;
When time has mellow'd ev'ry tint,
'Twill please you — or the deuce is in't:
I'll watch the happy change, and then
Attend you with my piece again. "

In a few months the painter came
With a performance — (still the same:)

" Take it away, " — the husband cry'd,
" I have repeated cause to chide:
Sir, you should all excesses shun;
This is a picture overdone!
There's too much ardour in that eye.
The tincture on the cheeks too high!
The robes have a lascivious play,
The attitude's too loosely gay.
Friend, on the whole, this piece, for me,
Is too luxuriant — far too free. "

The painter thus — " The faults you find
Are form'd in your capricious mind;
To passion a devoted slave,
The first directions, sir, you gave;
Possession has repell'd the flame,
Nor left a sentiment the same.

My picture is design'd to prove
The changes of precarious love.

On the next stair-case rais'd on high,
Regard it with a curious eye;
As to the first steps you proceed,
'Tis an accomplish'd piece indeed!
But as you mount some paces higher,
Is there a grace that don't expire? "

So various is the human mind,
Such are the frailties of mankind,
What at a distance charm'd our eyes,
After attainment — droops — and dies.

John Cunningham's other poems:
  1. A Landscape
  2. Anacreon: Ode 58
  3. Fanny of the Dell
  4. The Respite
  5. Palemon

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