THE INVISIBLE CAP
A TRADITION OF TABBY-HALL *
DID fairies now on ev’ry gale,
Unseen in cobweb-chariots sail,
Or in the velvet rosebud dwell,
Or feast beneath the cowslip’s bell,
My pray’r should be from gem to gem
To glide invisible like them:
Or wing’d like summer’s painted fly,
To skim o’er vales and mountains high;
Then safe on cluster’d roses rest,
A brief, but gay and welcome guest!
Couch’d on a tulip’s dappled bed,
The royal insect heard, and said,
“Vain suppliant!—asks thy feeble pride
These wings in gold and azure dyed,
These diamond eyes, this feath’ry crown,
This vesture fring’d with shining down?
Ah!—rather let thy fate be blest
For pomp and beauty unpossest!
Hadst thou this crest of downy gold,
This spangled wing’s enamell’d fold,
Like mine, thy transient joy had been
To grace one brief and busy scene;
To rove from fading flow’r to flow’r,
The gaudy empress of an hour;
One winter-day’s relentless storm
Had crush’d to dust thy tender form,
Or tyrant hands in wanton strife
Had wreck’d thy liberty and life.
Such is the flutterer’s doom!—art thou
Less blest, less free, than I am now?
Thy doom is in a downy cell
Amidst thy honied store to dwell.
Or on the calm and healthfull breeze
Of life’s mild noon to float at ease:
Unenvied and unchain’d to stray
O’er ev’ry flow’r in Pleasure’s way.
For thee her purest dew distills,
Her rosy hand thy banquet fills,
And Fancy’s pinions, soft and bright,
May far as mine exalt thy flight:
But if a guardian sylphid’s aid
Can raise to bliss a peevish maid,
Behold my pow’r!”—then back he threw
His filmy wings of rainbow hue.
And stood reveal’d in form and grace
The monarch of the elfin race.
“Now ask what woman’s whim requires,
Ere Ariel’s transient pow’r expires!
Does purple pomp enchant your eye?
A witless peer shall be your prize,
A chariot and three pair of bays,
A gold-fring’d chair for gala-days.
If rural joys your fancy charm,
Your lot shall be a lowland farm;
There with round cheeks of rosy red,
Smooth apron starch’d and close-capp’d head,
Your tale shall be of fowls and kine,
Choice drops distill’d, and home-made wine
Will these suffice?”
No, none of these—
“Well, would a new-cut mantle please?
A vest of pure ethereal blue,
Or—some of our cosmetic dew?”
“Ariel!—a modest suppliant know—
Thy bounty may a boon bestow:
She only asks of pow’r divine
A cap invisible like thine;
A magic cap, to hide the wearer
From critic, ’quisitor, or starer,
When freckles rise or dimples fail,
Or when the fading cheek is pale,
Or stubborn curls refuse to twine,
Or hollow eyes no longer shine.”
The sylph replied—“My magic treasure,
My cap invisible at pleasure,
No mortal wears—but mortal skill
May make thy faults invisible:
The pow’r my magic might supply
Good nature lends to Friendship’s eye.
When Friendship’s precious veil is near,
Thy graceless curls shall disappear,
Thy cheek shall bloom, thy freckles fade,
And thy best dimples be display’d;
No faults of form or face are seen,
When Candour lends her crystal screen—
Go!—seek Enchantment’s aid no more,
For hark!—a friend is at the door!”
* "Common sense (according to the “last Legend”) having dispersed the Hermits, a female society seized their mansion, and gave it this appropriate name. As might be expected, they have left less dignified records. ↩