The Nightmare. Painting by Henry Fuseli.
Poem by Erasmus Darwin.
So on his Nightmare through the evening fog
Flits the squab Fiend o'er fen, and lake, and bog;
Seeks some love-wilder'd maid with sleep oppress'd,
Alights, and grinning sits upon her breast.
Such as of late amid the murky sky
Was mark'd by Fuseli's poetic eye;
Whose daring tints, with Shakespeare's happiest grace,
Gave to the airy phantom form and place.--
Back o'er her pillow sinks her blushing head,
Her snow-white limbs hang helpless from the bed;
Her interrupted heart-pulse swims in death.
O'er her fair limbs convulsive tremors fleet,
Start in her hands, and struggle in her feet;
In vain to scream with quivering lips she tries,
And strains in palsy'd lids her tremulous eyes;
In vain she wills to run, fly, swim, walk, creep;
The Will presides not in the bower of Sleep.
—On her fair bosom sits the Demon-Ape
Erect, and balances his bloated shape;
Rolls in their marble orbs his Gorgon-eyes,
And drinks with leathern ears her tender cries.
Erasmus Darwin. Expanded in his "The Loves of the Plants" (1789), for which Fuseli provided the frontispiece.
Noemi A. Bolton