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ABELARD and Eloisa flourished in the twelfth century; they were two of the most distinguished persons of their age in learning and beauty, but for nothing more famous than for their unfortunate passion. After a long course of calamities, they retired each to a several convent, and consecrated the remainder of their days to religion. It was many years after this separation that a letter of Abelard's to a friend, which contained the history of his misfortune, fell into the hands of Eloisa. This awakening all her tenderness, occasioned those celebrated letters (out of which the following is partly extracted), which give so lively a picture of the struggles of grace and nature, virtue and passion.
ELOISA TO ABELARD.
In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Dear fatal name! rest ever unreveal’d,
prays, Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys. Relentless walls! whose darksome round con
tains Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains : Ye rugged rocks, which holy knees have worn; Ye grots and caverns shagg’d with horrid thorn! Shrines ! where their vigils pale-ey'd virgins keep, And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep!
Though cold like you, unmov'd and silent grown,
my Nor prayers nor fasts its stubborn pulse restrain, Nor tears, for ages taught to flow in vain.
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose, That well known name awakens all my woes. Oh name for ever sad ! for ever dear! Still breath'd in sighs, still usher'd with a tear. I tremble too, where'er my own I find, Some dire misfortune follows close behind. Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow, Led through a sad variety of woe: Now warm in love, now withering in my bloom, Lost in a convent's solitary gloom ! There stern religion quench'd th' unwilling flame, There died the best of passions, love and fame.
Yet write, O write me all, that I may join Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine. Nor foes nor fortune take this power away ; And is my Abelard less kind than they? Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare ; Love but demands what else were shed in prayer; No happier task these faded eyes pursue ; To read and weep is all they now can do.
Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief; Ah, more than share it, give me all thy grief. Heaven first taught letters for some wretch's aid, Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid;
They live, they speak, they breathe what love in
Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame, When Love approach'd me under Friendship's
name; My fancy form'd thee of angelic kind, Some emanation of th' all-beauteous Mind. Those smiling eyes, attempering every ray, Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day. Guiltless I gaz'd; Heaven listen'd while you sung; And truths divine came mended from that tongue. From lips like those what precept fail'd to move? . Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love: Back through the paths of pleasing sense I ran, Nor wish'd an angel whom I lov’d a man. Dim and remote the joys of saints I see; Nor
envy them that heaven I lose for thee. How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said, Curse on all laws but those which love has made? Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies. Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame, August her deed, and sacred be her fame; Before true passion all those views remove; Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to love?