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Title/Paratext] "[Prose translation by J. R. [...]" H.W. Starr/J.R. Hendrickson, 1966.
"[Prose translation by J. R. Hendrickson:]
Ignorant our minds and dull our hearts when we pity the cares of kings and the narrow lot that chains them to the throne and forbids them to glow with that sweet fire which, by the gift of the gods, most gratefully creeps through our vitals and softly entwines gentle warmth in our souls; they (we say) know neither tender sensations nor the joys of love, neither the eloquent language of the eye nor the eloquent silence of the tongue.
In reality they are ignorant only of tears and cruel pangs, the painful preliminaries and kindling of the raging flame; they know nothing of the shafts that Venus dyed in the bitter stream nor the weapons of the blind god, nor fits of anger and deceptions, nor the silent wound in the depths of the heart. For, as everyone knows, at the entrance of the temple of Love, on the outer threshold, Grief and avenging Cares have placed their couches. But within sweet Laughter and Harmony have their seat, and rose-lipped Pleasure reclining on beds of roses. It is easy for kings to enter here; they scorn the public doors, and instantly, with no hindrance from the implacable guards that bar the way of ordinary mortals, the entrance is thrown open for them—yea, even the inmost sanctuary of the temple.
And you, O Prince, best hope of the British realms, should not even think of fear. Why do you linger, the captive of a portrait, and feed your passion on a lifeless picture? Now you gaze in wonder and awe at the shadow; soon the flesh-and-blood woman will enter your embrace and will adorn the joyous marriage chamber. But for the moment the prince, gazing in a rapture of desire, drains a long draught of love from the canvas, enjoys a wordless conversation, and, forgetting the artist's brush, hears her even though she is silent—hears her laugh and sees the blush on her cheeks and the red in the lips of the pictured maiden. Such great power has Venus; so great is the delusion that holds lovers.
Dawn, great Day, on which Augusta will entrust herself to the British sea and leave her pleasant home-land. Against her arrival three realms have already begun to rouse themselves to joyous applause, and, on fire with sweet madness, to recite verses and chant songs. But the prince himself accompanies her in spirit as she draws near; he tests the winds and strains his ears for every breath of air, and calls the breezes and the stars cruel; his eagerly waiting heart rejoices and burning desire leaps up; sick with longing he rails at the deep, and the sea seems to stretch out wider than it has ever been, and the waves that keep her from him.
Dawn, greater Day, when Augusta will entrust herself wholly to the British prince, and will declare herself all his. But Oh! (I pray) may you give way with all speed to the stars, for they are even better; let Night have power to put an end to the wedding festivities and an end to cares, and let her lead the bride sheltered in darkness into the marriage chamber; let her provide rest for men and shadows for lovers. May Hymen be present and may smiling Cupid with his mother approach and spread the couch and tend the fire. From this moment the prince will no longer be inflamed by a mere painted representation of beauty; he will know love in reality.
Thus, the poets sing, Pygmalion burned with love for the charming beauty of the sculptured ivory. He was standing before the statue, sighing and in his madness speaking to it and recounting the wounds caused by the flame of love, when Venus, responsive to his prayers, bade the statue live, breathing into it a woman's soul. What joys awoke when he heard the quickening sounds of her first speech and raptly beheld her struggling into life and saw her eyes little by little begin to roll and glow with new-found fire. He sweeps the living woman into his arms and rains fierce kisses on her lips—again and again he takes and gives them, unmindful now of his former passion, completely forgetful of the nymph of ivory."
- The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966.
Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Initial letters of sentences have been capitalized, all accents have been removed. The editor would like to express his gratitude to library staff at Pembroke College, Cambridge, at the British Library, and at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, for their invaluable assistance.