Eloisa to Abelard

Original Text: 
Alexander Pope, Works (London: W. Bowyer for Bernard Lintot, 1717). E-10 884 and E-10 885 and E-10 3947 and E-10 3938 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2Where heav'nly-pensive contemplation dwells,
3And ever-musing melancholy reigns;
4What means this tumult in a vestal's veins?
5Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
6Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?
7Yet, yet I love!--From Abelard it came,
8And Eloisa yet must kiss the name.
9      Dear fatal name! rest ever unreveal'd,
10Nor pass these lips in holy silence seal'd.
11Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise,
13O write it not, my hand--the name appears
14Already written--wash it out, my tears!
15In vain lost Eloisa weeps and prays,
16Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys.
17      Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains
18Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains:
19Ye rugged rocks! which holy knees have worn;
21Shrines! where their vigils pale-ey'd virgins keep,
22And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep!
23Though cold like you, unmov'd, and silent grown,
25All is not Heav'n's while Abelard has part,
26Still rebel nature holds out half my heart;
27Nor pray'rs nor fasts its stubborn pulse restrain,
28Nor tears, for ages, taught to flow in vain.
29      Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose,
30That well-known name awakens all my woes.
31Oh name for ever sad! for ever dear!
32Still breath'd in sighs, still usher'd with a tear.
33I tremble too, where'er my own I find,
34Some dire misfortune follows close behind.
35Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow,
36Led through a sad variety of woe:
37Now warm in love, now with'ring in thy bloom,
38Lost in a convent's solitary gloom!
39There stern religion quench'd th' unwilling flame,
41      Yet write, oh write me all, that I may join
42Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine.
43Nor foes nor fortune take this pow'r away;
44And is my Abelard less kind than they?
45Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare,
46Love but demands what else were shed in pray'r;
47No happier task these faded eyes pursue;
48To read and weep is all they now can do.
49      Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief;
50Ah, more than share it! give me all thy grief.
51Heav'n first taught letters for some wretch's aid,
52Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid;
53They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires,
54Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires,
55The virgin's wish without her fears impart,
56Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart,
57Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul,
58And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole.
59      Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame,
60When Love approach'd me under Friendship's name;
61My fancy form'd thee of angelic kind,
62Some emanation of th' all-beauteous Mind.
63Those smiling eyes, attemp'ring ev'ry day,
64Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day.
65Guiltless I gaz'd; heav'n listen'd while you sung;
66And truths divine came mended from that tongue.
67From lips like those what precept fail'd to move?
68Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love.
69Back through the paths of pleasing sense I ran,
70Nor wish'd an Angel whom I lov'd a Man.
71Dim and remote the joys of saints I see;
72Nor envy them, that heav'n I lose for thee.
73      How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said,
74Curse on all laws but those which love has made!
75Love, free as air, at sight of human ties,
76Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies,
77Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame,
78August her deed, and sacred be her fame;
79Before true passion all those views remove,
80Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to Love?
81The jealous God, when we profane his fires,
82Those restless passions in revenge inspires;
83And bids them make mistaken mortals groan,
84Who seek in love for aught but love alone.
85Should at my feet the world's great master fall,
86Himself, his throne, his world, I'd scorn 'em all:
87Not Caesar's empress would I deign to prove;
88No, make me mistress to the man I love;
89If there be yet another name more free,
90More fond than mistress, make me that to thee!
91Oh happy state! when souls each other draw,
92When love is liberty, and nature, law:
93All then is full, possessing, and possess'd,
94No craving void left aching in the breast:
95Ev'n thought meets thought, ere from the lips it part,
96And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart.
97This sure is bliss (if bliss on earth there be)
98And once the lot of Abelard and me.
99      Alas, how chang'd! what sudden horrors rise!
100A naked lover bound and bleeding lies!
101Where, where was Eloise? her voice, her hand,
102Her poniard, had oppos'd the dire command.
103Barbarian, stay! that bloody stroke restrain;
105I can no more; by shame, by rage suppress'd,
106Let tears, and burning blushes speak the rest.
108When victims at yon altar's foot we lay?
109Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell,
110When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell?
111As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil,
112The shrines all trembl'd, and the lamps grew pale:
113Heav'n scarce believ'd the conquest it survey'd,
114And saints with wonder heard the vows I made.
115Yet then, to those dread altars as I drew,
116Not on the Cross my eyes were fix'd, but you:
117Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call,
118And if I lose thy love, I lose my all.
119Come! with thy looks, thy words, relieve my woe;
120Those still at least are left thee to bestow.
121Still on that breast enamour'd let me lie,
122Still drink delicious poison from thy eye,
123Pant on thy lip, and to thy heart be press'd;
124Give all thou canst--and let me dream the rest.
125Ah no! instruct me other joys to prize,
126With other beauties charm my partial eyes,
127Full in my view set all the bright abode,
128And make my soul quit Abelard for God.
130Plants of thy hand, and children of thy pray'r.
131From the false world in early youth they fled,
132By thee to mountains, wilds, and deserts led.
134And Paradise was open'd in the wild.
135No weeping orphan saw his father's stores
137No silver saints, by dying misers giv'n,
138Here brib'd the rage of ill-requited heav'n:
139But such plain roofs as piety could raise,
140And only vocal with the Maker's praise.
141In these lone walls (their days eternal bound)
143Where awful arches make a noonday night,
144And the dim windows shed a solemn light;
145Thy eyes diffus'd a reconciling ray,
146And gleams of glory brighten'd all the day.
147But now no face divine contentment wears,
148'Tis all blank sadness, or continual tears.
149See how the force of others' pray'rs I try,
150(O pious fraud of am'rous charity!)
151But why should I on others' pray'rs depend?
153Ah let thy handmaid, sister, daughter move,
154And all those tender names in one, thy love!
155The darksome pines that o'er yon rocks reclin'd
156Wave high, and murmur to the hollow wind,
157The wand'ring streams that shine between the hills,
158The grots that echo to the tinkling rills,
159The dying gales that pant upon the trees,
160The lakes that quiver to the curling breeze;
161No more these scenes my meditation aid,
162Or lull to rest the visionary maid.
163But o'er the twilight groves and dusky caves,
164Long-sounding aisles, and intermingled graves,
165Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws
166A death-like silence, and a dread repose:
167Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene,
168Shades ev'ry flow'r, and darkens ev'ry green,
169Deepens the murmur of the falling floods,
170And breathes a browner horror on the woods.
171     Yet here for ever, ever must I stay;
172Sad proof how well a lover can obey!
173Death, only death, can break the lasting chain;
174And here, ev'n then, shall my cold dust remain,
175Here all its frailties, all its flames resign,
176And wait till 'tis no sin to mix with thine.
177     Ah wretch! believ'd the spouse of God in vain,
178Confess'd within the slave of love and man.
179Assist me, Heav'n! but whence arose that pray'r?
180Sprung it from piety, or from despair?
181Ev'n here, where frozen chastity retires,
182Love finds an altar for forbidden fires.
183I ought to grieve, but cannot what I ought;
185I view my crime, but kindle at the view,
186Repent old pleasures, and solicit new;
187Now turn'd to Heav'n, I weep my past offence,
188Now think of thee, and curse my innocence.
189Of all affliction taught a lover yet,
190'Tis sure the hardest science to forget!
192And love th' offender, yet detest th' offence?
193How the dear object from the crime remove,
194Or how distinguish penitence from love?
195Unequal task! a passion to resign,
196For hearts so touch'd, so pierc'd, so lost as mine.
197Ere such a soul regains its peaceful state,
198How often must it love, how often hate!
199How often hope, despair, resent, regret,
200Conceal, disdain--do all things but forget.
201But let Heav'n seize it, all at once 'tis fir'd;
202Not touch'd, but rapt; not waken'd, but inspir'd!
203Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue,
204Renounce my love, my life, myself--and you.
205Fill my fond heart with God alone, for he
206Alone can rival, can succeed to thee.
207     How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
208The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
209Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
210Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;
211Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;
213Desires compos'd, affections ever ev'n,
214Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to Heav'n.
215Grace shines around her with serenest beams,
216And whisp'ring angels prompt her golden dreams.
217For her th' unfading rose of Eden blooms,
218And wings of seraphs shed divine perfumes,
219For her the Spouse prepares the bridal ring,
220For her white virgins hymeneals sing,
221To sounds of heav'nly harps she dies away,
222And melts in visions of eternal day.
223     Far other dreams my erring soul employ,
224Far other raptures, of unholy joy:
225When at the close of each sad, sorrowing day,
226Fancy restores what vengeance snatch'd away,
227Then conscience sleeps, and leaving nature free,
228All my loose soul unbounded springs to thee.
230How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight!
231Provoking Daemons all restraint remove,
232And stir within me every source of love.
233I hear thee, view thee, gaze o'er all thy charms,
234And round thy phantom glue my clasping arms.
235I wake--no more I hear, no more I view,
236The phantom flies me, as unkind as you.
237I call aloud; it hears not what I say;
238I stretch my empty arms; it glides away.
239To dream once more I close my willing eyes;
240Ye soft illusions, dear deceits, arise!
241Alas, no more--methinks we wand'ring go
242Through dreary wastes, and weep each other's woe,
243Where round some mould'ring tower pale ivy creeps,
244And low-brow'd rocks hang nodding o'er the deeps.
245Sudden you mount, you beckon from the skies;
246Clouds interpose, waves roar, and winds arise.
247I shriek, start up, the same sad prospect find,
248And wake to all the griefs I left behind.
249     For thee the fates, severely kind, ordain
250A cool suspense from pleasure and from pain;
251Thy life a long, dead calm of fix'd repose;
252No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows.
253Still as the sea, ere winds were taught to blow,
255Soft as the slumbers of a saint forgiv'n,
256And mild as opening gleams of promis'd heav'n.
257     Come, Abelard! for what hast thou to dread?
259Nature stands check'd; Religion disapproves;
260Ev'n thou art cold--yet Eloisa loves.
261Ah hopeless, lasting flames! like those that burn
262To light the dead, and warm th' unfruitful urn.
263     What scenes appear where'er I turn my view?
264The dear ideas, where I fly, pursue,
265Rise in the grove, before the altar rise,
266Stain all my soul, and wanton in my eyes.
267I waste the matin lamp in sighs for thee,
268Thy image steals between my God and me,
269Thy voice I seem in ev'ry hymn to hear,
270With ev'ry bead I drop too soft a tear.
271When from the censer clouds of fragrance roll,
272And swelling organs lift the rising soul,
273One thought of thee puts all the pomp to flight,
274Priests, tapers, temples, swim before my sight:
275In seas of flame my plunging soul is drown'd,
276While altars blaze, and angels tremble round.
277     While prostrate here in humble grief I lie,
278Kind, virtuous drops just gath'ring in my eye,
279While praying, trembling, in the dust I roll,
280And dawning grace is op'ning on my soul:
281Come, if thou dar'st, all charming as thou art!
282Oppose thyself to Heav'n; dispute my heart;
283Come, with one glance of those deluding eyes
284Blot out each bright idea of the skies;
285Take back that grace, those sorrows, and those tears;
286Take back my fruitless penitence and pray'rs;
287Snatch me, just mounting, from the blest abode;
288Assist the fiends, and tear me from my God!
289     No, fly me, fly me, far as pole from pole;
290Rise Alps between us! and whole oceans roll!
291Ah, come not, write not, think not once of me,
292Nor share one pang of all I felt for thee.
293Thy oaths I quit, thy memory resign;
294Forget, renounce me, hate whate'er was mine.
295Fair eyes, and tempting looks (which yet I view!)
296Long lov'd, ador'd ideas, all adieu!
297Oh Grace serene! oh virtue heav'nly fair!
299Fresh blooming hope, gay daughter of the sky!
300And faith, our early immortality!
301Enter, each mild, each amicable guest;
302Receive, and wrap me in eternal rest!
303     See in her cell sad Eloisa spread,
304Propp'd on some tomb, a neighbour of the dead.
305In each low wind methinks a spirit calls,
306And more than echoes talk along the walls.
307Here, as I watch'd the dying lamps around,
308From yonder shrine I heard a hollow sound.
309"Come, sister, come!" (it said, or seem'd to say)
310"Thy place is here, sad sister, come away!
311Once like thyself, I trembled, wept, and pray'd,
312Love's victim then, though now a sainted maid:
313But all is calm in this eternal sleep;
314Here grief forgets to groan, and love to weep,
315Ev'n superstition loses ev'ry fear:
316For God, not man, absolves our frailties here."
317     I come, I come! prepare your roseate bow'rs,
318Celestial palms, and ever-blooming flow'rs.
319Thither, where sinners may have rest, I go,
320Where flames refin'd in breasts seraphic glow:
321Thou, Abelard! the last sad office pay,
322And smooth my passage to the realms of day;
323See my lips tremble, and my eye-balls roll,
324Suck my last breath, and catch my flying soul!
325Ah no--in sacred vestments may'st thou stand,
326The hallow'd taper trembling in thy hand,
327Present the cross before my lifted eye,
328Teach me at once, and learn of me to die.
329Ah then, thy once-lov'd Eloisa see!
330It will be then no crime to gaze on me.
331See from my cheek the transient roses fly!
332See the last sparkle languish in my eye!
333Till ev'ry motion, pulse, and breath be o'er;
334And ev'n my Abelard be lov'd no more.
335O Death all-eloquent! you only prove
336What dust we dote on, when 'tis man we love.
337     Then too, when fate shall thy fair frame destroy,
338(That cause of all my guilt, and all my joy)
339In trance ecstatic may thy pangs be drown'd,
340Bright clouds descend, and angels watch thee round,
341From op'ning skies may streaming glories shine,
342And saints embrace thee with a love like mine.
343     May one kind grave unite each hapless name,
344And graft my love immortal on thy fame!
345Then, ages hence, when all my woes are o'er,
346When this rebellious heart shall beat no more;
347If ever chance two wand'ring lovers brings
348To Paraclete's white walls and silver springs,
349O'er the pale marble shall they join their heads,
350And drink the falling tears each other sheds;
351Then sadly say, with mutual pity mov'd,
352"Oh may we never love as these have lov'd!"
353From the full choir when loud Hosannas rise,
354And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice,
355Amid that scene if some relenting eye
356Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie,
357Devotion's self shall steal a thought from Heav'n,
358One human tear shall drop and be forgiv'n.
359And sure, if fate some future bard shall join
360In sad similitude of griefs to mine,
361Condemn'd whole years in absence to deplore,
362And image charms he must behold no more;
363Such if there be, who loves so long, so well;
364Let him our sad, our tender story tell;
365The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost;
366He best can paint 'em, who shall feel 'em most.


1] Published in 1717 in Pope's Works. The subject was partially selected because John Hughes, an acquaintance of Pope's, had published an English translation. The Latin text had originally been published in 1616 and had been translated into French in 1697. Hughes translated the French version. Pope's poem draws heavily on Hughes' translation. The poem is an example of a genre represented in Latin by Ovid's Heroides. These heroic epistles are always addressed by a woman to a man who has abandoned her. The situations require an "heroic" treatment because they involved important personages. The heroes represent what one critic has described as "sorrowing or rebellious love." Peter Abailard (1079-1142), at thirty-eight a famous scholar, became at this time the tutor of Eloisa, the eighteen-year-old niece of Fulbert, the canon of Paris. Their passionate secret love resulted in Eloisa's conceiving, whereupon Abelard removed her to Brittany. After refusing to agree to marriage for a long time because it would ruin Abelard's career in the church, Eloisa finally consented and the couple returned to Paris for a secret wedding. But the uncle's anger revived. Abelard took Eloisa to a convent at Argenteuil where she was professed as a novice. Her uncle then paid ruffians to attack Abelard in his lodgings and castrate him. After his various attempts at monastic life, students again gathered about Abelard and built him the halls and church of the Paraclete, sixty miles from Paris. Further persecution by his enemies or fear of them eventually led him to accept the Abbey of St. Gildeas in Brittany. When Eloisa's nuns were expelled from Argenteuil, he offered them the Paraclete and visited them as a spiritual director, until his visits caused scandal. Eloisa began the correspondence after a letter, addressed to an unfortunate friend, describing his adversities as a means of comforting the friend, fell into her hands. Back to Line
12] idea: image; cf. Rape of The Lock, 1, note to line 83. Back to Line
20] Cf. Milton's Comus, line 429: "By grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid shades." "horrid" is from Latin horridus (bristling). Back to Line
24] Cf. Milton's Il Penseroso, line 42: "Forget thy self to marble." Back to Line
40] Fame: used here in the sense of ambition. Back to Line
104] pain: in the Latin sense poena (punishment), as well as the usual meaning. Back to Line
107] day: the day of Eloisa's profession as a religious. Abelard was present. Back to Line
129] thy flock: i.e., Abelard, as spiritual director and founder of the monastery. Back to Line
133] "[Pope] He [Abelard] founded the monastery." Back to Line
136] irradiate: "to adorn with splendour."
emblaze: "to light up, cause to glow" (OED). Back to Line
142] domes: see Rape of the Lock, IV, note to line 18. Back to Line
152] father, brother: i.e., as her priest and her religious brother. This follows the original correspondence where Eloisa writes: "To her Lord, her Father, her Husband, her Brother; his Servant, his Child, his Wife, his Sister." Back to Line
184] fault: see Essay on Criticism, 170. Back to Line
191] sense: both the notion of sensation and the notion of perception are involved here. Back to Line
212] "[Pope] Taken from Crashaw [description of a Religious House, line 16]." Back to Line
229] all-conscious. To the usual sense of intense awareness, the Latinate sense (conscius) sharing knowledge, usually of a guilty kind, should be added. Back to Line
254] "The spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2). This refers to Abelard's dead calm (251). Back to Line
258] Pope suppressed the following couplet, following line 258, after 1720: "Cut from the roots my perish'd joys I see,/And love's warm tide forever stopp'd in thee." Back to Line
298] low thoughted care: see Comus, 6. 343. "[Pope] Abelard and Eloisa were interred in the same grave, or in monuments adjoining in the Monastery of the Paraclete. He died in the year 1142, she in 1163." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
D. F. Theall
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.122.