Safe in the cloud O naked Moon full-orbed!
But what means this? The downy swathes combine,
Conglobe, the smothery coy-caressing stuff
Curdles about her! Vain each twist and twine
Those lithe limbs try, encroached on by a fluff
Fitting as close as fits the dented spine
Its flexible ivory outside-flesh: enough!
The plumy drifts contract, condense, constringe,
Till she is swallowed by the feathery springe.
As when a pearl slips lost in the thin foam
Churned on a sea-shore, and, o’er-frothed, conceits
Herself safe-housed in Amphitrite’s dome,
If, through the bladdery wave-worked yeast, she meets
What most she loathes and leaps from, elf from gnome
No gladlier, finds that safest of retreats
Bubble about a treacherous hand wide ope
To grasp her (divers who pick pearls so grope)
So lay this Maid-Moon clasped around and caught
By rough red Pan, the god of all that tract:
He it was schemed the snare thus subtly wrought
With simulated earth-breath, wool-tufts packed
Into a billowy wrappage. Sheep far-sought
For spotless shearings yield such: take the fact
As learned Virgil gives it, how the breed
Whitens itself forever: yes, indeed!
If one forefather ram, though pure as chalk
From tinge on fleece, should still display a tongue
Black ‘neath the beast’s moist palate, prompt men balk
The propagating plague: he gets no young:
They rather slay him, sell his hide to calk
Ships with, first steeped with pitch, nor hands are wrung
In sorrow for his fate: protected thus,
The purity we loved is gained for us. So did girl-Moon, by just her attribute
Of unmatched modesty betrayed, lie trapped,
Bruised to the breast of Pan, half god half brute,
Raked by his bristly boar-sward while he lapped
Never say, kissed her! that were to pollute
Love’s language which moreover proves unapt
To tell how she recoiled as who finds thorns
Where she sought flowers when, feeling, she touched horns!
Then does the legend say? first moon-eclipse
Happened, first swooning-fit which puzzled sore
The early sages? Is that why she dips
Into the dark, a minute and no more,
Only so long as serves her while she rips
The cloud’s womb through and, faultless as before,
Pursues her way? No lesson for a maid
Left she, a maid herself thus trapped, betrayed?
Ha, Virgil? Tell the rest, you! “To the deep
Of his domain the wildwood, Pan forthwith
Called her, and so she followed” in her sleep,
Surely? “by no means spurning him.” The myth
Explain who may! Let all else go, I keep
As of a ruin just a monolith
Thus much, one verse of five words, each a boon:
Arcadia, night, a cloud, Pan, and the moon.