WRITTEN AT THE REQUEST OF A GENTLEMAN, TO WHOM A LADY HAD GIVEN A SPRIG
OF MYRTLE [a].
What hopes, what terrours, does thy gift create!
Ambiguous emblem of uncertain fate!
The myrtle (ensign of supreme command,
Consign’d by Venus to Melissa’s hand)
Not less capricious than a reigning fair,
Oft favours, oft rejects, a lover’s pray’r.
In myrtle shades oft sings the happy swain,
In myrtle shades despairing ghosts complain.
The myrtle crowns the happy lovers’ heads,
Th’ unhappy lovers’ graves the myrtle spreads.
Oh! then, the meaning of thy gift impart,
And ease the throbbings of an anxious heart.
Soon must this bough, as you shall fix its doom,
Adorn Philander’s head, or grace his tomb.
[a] These verses were first printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1768, p. 439, but were written many years earlier. Elegant as they are, Dr. Johnson assured me, they were composed in the short space of five minutes.–N.