As when stern Winter's desolating power,
Arm'd with the piercing frost, and sleety shower,
O'er shivering Nature spreads it's iron reign,
Bare stands the grove, and waste extends the plain;
Yet in the scatter'd seed, and buried root
The embryo blossom hides, prepar'd to shoot
When Spring with milder influence shall prevail,
And balmy Zephyrs breathe the genial gale:
So, wrapp'd in Ignorance, though the human heart
No vivid hues retain of ancient art,
Yet still the dormant seeds expectant there
Await the hour of Cultivation's care;
Still verdant scions from the root shall grow
When mild Occasion's fostering breezes blow,
To bud and bloom again with Parent worth,
And emulate the stock that gave them birth.
Yet as the culture asks severer toil
When poisonous weeds o'errun the useless soil;
So Reason labors long to bend the breast
Where Error's barbarous tenets are impress'd:
Soon learns the untutor'd thought with generous aim
To catch the glow of Virtue's holy flame,
But where strong forms of Prejudice deprave
The simpler rules that untaught Nature gave,
Ere yet Refinement with her gentle rein
The impatient course of giddy sense restrain.
There every dreadful passion will impart
Superior horror to the vicious heart,
And fill the annals of the unhappy times
With dire events, and unexampled crimes.
The ruffian tribes that pour'd tumultuous forth
In countless myriads from the frozen North,
By no soft touch of milder manners graced,
Rapacious inmates of the howling waste,
'Mid the vast wild of Scandinavian plains,
Of tempest and of cold the drear domains,
A system fram'd, whose universal sway
The varied race with common zeal obey,
From where the wintry surges foaming break
Of the loud Baltic, to the Caspian lake.—
Boldly they vaunt with unsubmitting soul
To scorn of sovereign power the strong control,
Yet to the rule of martial order yield,
And own a Monarch on the embattled field.
By Victory crown'd, the chiefs with equal pride
In different lots the subject realms divide,
And the fierce leader of each separate hord
Reigns o'er his share an independent lord,
What arms had won maintaining by the sword.
For though each stern commander homage paid
When War's loud clarion claim'd the promis'd aid,
The tumult o'er, no civil force remain'd
That Anarchy's impetuous rage restrain'd:
Each haughty chief could regal justice awe,
And mock the uncertain rules of feeble law.
In constant feuds the ungovern'd tribes engage,
And the dire battle Hate and Vengeance wage.
No pity unrelenting Conquest shews,
But the fell tyrant spoils his weaker foes,
Licentious Rapine leads the furious train
And Age, and Rank, and Beauty plead in vain.
Though Prejudice may warp, or Passion blind
Awhile, the honest purpose of the mind,
Yet to the conscious soul of man belong
The love of Justice, and the hate of Wrong;
Firm, though obscur'd, the sacred dictates stand
Implanted there by Heaven's creative hand.
Hence while loud Discord bids with giant pride
Sad Desolation o'er the realms preside,
Some nobler breasts neglected Virtue draws
To arm and vindicate her injur'd cause:
Uncheck'd by doubt, by danger undismay'd,
Prompt to redress when sorrow claims their aid,
With equal hand they deal the avenging blow,
And lay with joy the oppressive tyrant low;
But chief they glory when the generous care
Of weeping Beauty calls them to the war,
With dauntless arms her suppliant power they guard,
And deem her favoring smiles a full reward.
For the rough tribes thro' Northern wilds that stray'd
To female merit early deference paid,
The gentler sex partook the grave debate,
And more than shar'd the arduous toils of state.
The hardy warrior whose indignant mind
No arm could vanquish, and no law could bind,
To their commands a willing homage gave,
And each unconquer'd knight was Beauty's slave.
Amid the crimes that barbarous rudeness knows
Thus the fair form of Chivalry arose,
Join'd love's soft glow to valor's fiercer flame,
And mildly sooth'd the intemperate thirst of fame.
It's influence still, defying change and time,
Spreads o'er each modern European clime,
Lives spite of fickle mode's capricious rage,
And marks the manners of a polish'd age.
Though the rude Nations in their inroads bore
The wild Mythology of Northern lore,
Yet soon the splendor of the Roman rite
Caught with it's mystic glare their dazzled sight.
To charm their grosser sense the Priests combine
Each monstrous fiction with a faith divine;
And all that feverish Fancy knows to paint,
The virgin martyr, and the warrior saint,
The fabled cure, and legendary tale,
With force resistless o'er their thoughts prevail.
While such the general impulse of the mind,
To Superstition, and to Arms inclin'd,
A frantic Hermit with enthusiast breath
Kindles the dreadful flames of war and death:
‘Arouse ye chiefs of valiant fame!’ He cries,
‘Lo! Heaven and Glory, point the bold emprise!—
‘No more at human pity's humbler call
‘On man's oppressors let your vengeance fall,
‘Behold on Solyma's afflicted lands
‘The injur'd Deity your zeal demands!
‘The sacred ground by dying martyrs trod,
‘The seats made holy by a bleeding GOD,
‘Mohammed's sons with impious orgies stain,
‘And soil the hallow'd earth with rites profane,
‘Bid resignation's patient votaries feel
‘The pangs of trying flame, and torturing steel,
‘Pollute with murder'd saints the dome divine,
‘And wash with blood Jehovah's awful shrine.
‘Go forth my sons! and with religious care
‘Spread your cross-banners streaming to the air!
‘Secure of praise! secure of conquest go!
‘And wreak heaven's vengeance on a heathen foe;
‘Fame's deathless guerdon shall the victor gain,
‘And crowns immortal sanctify the slain!’
Fired by such words unusual ardors rise,
And far and wide the swift contagion flies,
All ranks, all orders to the impression yield,
And swarming millions croud the tented field.
Not such the numbers Xerxes led of yore
From hostile Persia to the Grecian shore,
When his proud fleet the indignant billows chain'd,
And thirsty hosts the failing river drain'd.
The rash design though pious folly plann'd,
Though discord soon dissolv'd the inconstant band,
From scenes of war yet milder manners grew,
And man advantage from destruction drew.
The haughty chief to arm his numerous train,
And grace with martial pomp the glittering plain,
The wide demesnes of ancient tenure sold,
And fiefs enfranchis'd for the wanted gold:
Whence the freed peasant chearful tills the soil,
And busy Commerce plies her active toil.
While as the countless hosts in long array
Through eastern Europe bend their tedious way,
And view with wondering eyes the gay resort
Of wealth, and splendor, to Byzantium's court,
The wrecks of Roman pride, and Grecian skill
With new delight the astonish'd bosom fill.
Though lur'd by Rapine, war unjust they wage,
And waste the Arts with more than Vandal rage,
Yet soon to scenes of elegance awake,
A softer turn, and nobler aims they take,
Each curious relic while they spoil admire,
And plundering works of taste, that taste acquire.
Even from the mixture of Arabian foes
On the barbarian West improvement rose:
The Saracen had learn'd with liberal heart
To love the paths of Science, and of Art,
The splendors of magnificence had known,
And deck'd in pomp each oriental throne,
But most his glowing Fancy lov'd to rove
Amid the devious maze of Fiction's grove,
And the luxuriance of the fabling lay
Struck Europe's ruder Bards with forceful sway;
The minstrel now who tun'd his Gothic lyre
To teach the son the achievements of the sire,
Blends with the dreadful tale of blood and arms,
What eastern legends tell of magic charms,
Heightens the horror of the furious fight
With the wing'd dragon, and the enchanted knight,
And bids the bold Romance the hearer move
With the mix'd powers of Wonder, War, and Love.
While thus the Muse enjoys her infant dream,
Coy Reason still conceals her golden beam.
Rome's ancient language in impervious folds
From vulgar eyes each source of Wisdom holds,
And as they list the subtle Priests dispense
The scanty shares of knowledge and of sense.
Hence Learning rose, who insolent, and proud,
Looks down contemptuous on the admiring croud:
While, as unmeaning rules the hearer vex,
And artful doubts the wilder'd thought perplex,
In the strict bands of letter'd form confin'd,
Peculiar prejudice enslaves the mind.
Unlike Philosophy's bold sons of old
Who freely question'd what the instructor told,
O'eraw'd by Pride in education's hours
The timid mind distrusts it's opening powers,
Worships each mystic knot by Error tied,
And blindly follows where it's teachers guide.
Rome's legal Code at length on Naples' coast
By chance recover'd, as by ravage lost,
Soon wiser laws, the work of many an age,
Plann'd by the Prince, the Statesman, and the Sage,
Mix with the edicts fram'd in Error's school,
And smooth the rigid form of Gothic rule;
Wisdom unseals charm'd Reason's drowsy eyes,
And once again Astræa leaves the skies.
Themis abash'd, her folly taught to feel,
Less frequent makes to heaven the rash appeal,
And blushes to decide the doubtful right
By burning Ordeal, or the listed fight.
The haughty noble quits the civil sword,
And the gown'd Judge succeeds the feudal Lord,
Impartial Justice curbs the oppressive deed,
And Science smiles from savage licence freed.
Now from the Abbey's solitary site
The imperfect glimmerings shone of classic light.
The still recluse condemn'd for years to pore
O'er the dull leaf of theologic lore,
Awhile would quit fatigu'd the toilsome page
To view the spoils of learning's happier age.
As there his curious eyes delighted trace
The thoughts congenial of a warrior race,
The attractive charm his ruder style refines,
And with more art romantic fable shines.
Those precious relics of imperial Rome
That haply chanc'd to 'scape the general doom,
The scatter'd monuments of old delight,
Strike the warm Fancy, and her powers excite:
The Latian Muse avows her native clime,
And drops the fervile bands of monkish rhyme:
While flying from Romania's ruin'd shore
Westward the Greeks their exil'd learning bore.
O had bright Science then with perfect grace
Her potent influence shed o'er Europe's race!
Their victor armies at Musurus' call,
Had chased the foe from fad Byzantium's wall.
That source whence verse it's purest charms deriv'd,
The glorious voice of Greece, had then surviv'd;
The docile ear by living masters taught
Had from their speech the genuine accents caught,
In native tones the Attic Muse had sung,
Nor mourn'd like Philomel her mangled tongue.
Again Hesperia's happy seats behold
The sacred laurels bud that bloom'd of old.
Chear'd and protected by the papal throne,
The rising arts a Leo's bounty own.
Starts from the sculptur'd stone the breathing frame
To emulate the forms of ancient fame;
The speaking canvass boasts a livelier hue
Than e'er Apelles' plastic pencil drew,
As Raphael's lines, or Titian's glowing dye,
Bid the bold picture strike the enchanted eye.
In Tuscan numbers Tasso's powers display
The solemn grandeur of the Epic lay;
While Vida tunes to Roman strains the wire
With Virgil's sweetness, and with Virgil's fire.
And even from northern Belgia Science draws
Superior strength to vindicate her cause.
The tedious manuscript no longer foils
The verbal copyist's persevering toils,
No more the expensive volumes only wait
To deck the palace of the rich and great,
On letter'd art the press new strength bestows,
And ampler rays diffusive learning throws.
The increasing powers of ripening sense pervade
The gloomy stillness of the cloister's shade,
Destroy the bonds that Reason's force confin'd,
And burst the fetters that enchain'd the mind.
Though the lone Abbey from barbarian rage
Sav'd the bright ruins of the classic page;
Though sometimes meek Religion's holy form
Would faintly shine through Superstition's storm:
Yet every vice that shuns the face of day
Work'd in monastic night it's secret way;
Each impious wile the Church unceasing tries,
That spreads her empire, or her stores supplies;
Now on the expiring votary's heart employs
The enchanting vision of seraphic joys,
Now bids despair attend the parting breath,
And plants with thorns the trembling bed of death;
Draws from the fears of langour and of pain
The rich possession, and the wide domain,
On the sad Widow's spoil the altar rears,
And bathes the sacred fane with Orphan tears.
Drunk with the vast excess of wealth and power,
Unmindful of returning Reason's hour,
She boldly prostitutes the laws of Heaven,
And for vile lucre is the indulgence given.
Crimes even that Nature shudders to behold
Obtain their pardon for the stated gold,
And impious leave for future Vice is sold.
But the long reign of Gothic night is pass'd,
And Wisdom's awful morning dawns at last,
The fierce anathemas unheeded come,
And Luther shakes the enormous power of Rome.
The forms of Falshood strive in vain to bear
The trying search of Truth's ethereal spear.
Even those less happy regions that remain
Press'd by the weight of Error's galling chain,
Immers'd in clouds of darkness though they seem,
Catch a faint twilight from the distant beam:
Convinc'd that true Religion's piercing eye
Will every source of pious fraud descry,
The furious Priest corrects his cruel zeal,
And milder sway the breathing nations feel,
Mercy's soft calls the bigot's wrath assuage,
And papal thunder loses half it's rage.
In Gaul the contrast strongly mark'd appears
Of Reason's force, and Error's gloomy fears:
With fond delight her partial eye surveys
Each hallow'd prejudice of earlier days,
Yet though her sons with ancient rite adore
The legendary saints that liv'd of yore,
Oft arm'd by hate though Persecution stood,
And drench'd Lutetia's walls with native blood;
Her's was the earliest boast with lenient care
To form soft Courtesy's attractive air;
Throw o'er the willing mind Politeness' chains,
And raise that empire which she yet maintains.
But on Britannia's shores with ample sway
Religion's purest charms their power display.—
As the dread earthquake and the raging storm
The high behests of awful heaven perform,
So a proud tyrant's disappointed aims
Broke the strong tie of Rome's despotic claims.
The labors by the haughty sire begun
Attain perfection from the pious son;
And though a female's bigot zeal succeeds,
Burns the firm martyr, and the patriot bleeds,
While stand Iberia's sons exulting by
And civil Freedom mark with harpy eye,
The transient terror flies, like vapors driven
By sweeping Eurus o'er the face of heaven,
And Worship freed from each polluting stain,
Adorns the annals of Eliza's reign.
Hail glorious Queen! in whose propitious hour
The towering structure rose of Britain's power.
Let the Historian laboring to impart
His favorite paradox with envious art,
Invoke capricious Malice to deface
The scene of Albion's ripening strength and grace:
Still shall the voice of former times be heard
To vindicate that worth our sires rever'd.
'Twas thine to bid Britannia's native force
Check rash Invasion in her headlong course,
Old Ocean's waves with prows triumphant sweep,
And reign unrivall'd o'er the subject deep:
Thine too the milder glory to increase
The gentle sway of Courtesy and Peace.
Though Artists with fastidious look behold
The dome it's rude magnificence unfold,
Though modern Elegance affect to scorn
The rougher Manners which thy court adorn,
Yet sure some reverential awe shall wait
Each venerable pile of ancient state;
Yet sure some bosom even those days shall charm,
When Love romantic, strengthening Valor's arm,
Call'd each heroic passion boldly forth,
And gave the admiring world a Sydney's worth.
The expectant Muse at length with joyful eyes
The rising hope of ancient fame descries.
Melodious Spenser while his cares refine
The wild redundance of the Saxon line,
On Gothic fable rears his rich machine,
And sings the paynim foe and elfin Queen:
While like the laurel'd son of Grecian fame
Immortal Shakespear burns with native flame.—
Unequall'd Bard! the grateful Muse shall raise
To thee the monument of deathless praise,
Nor interweave one flower of foreign bloom
Amid the votive wreaths that deck thy tomb:
For no faint blaze from elder learning caught
Rais'd in thy breast the imitative thought;
Nor shall my verse compare thy wonderous page
With the best scenes of Athens' perfect stage,
Or of thy Phœnix wing a rival own
Save the Mæonian Prodigy alone.
A numerous train of tuneful Bards succeed,
Strike the loud lyre, or fill the warbling reed.
In the just pride of inborn Genius bold,
Yet taught by every Muse that charm'd of old,
Soaring with eagle eye, and eagle flight,
Amid the realms of empyrean light,
Lo Milton throws with daring hand away
The splendid fetters of the Runic lay!
While Dryden's clear harmonious notes rehearse
The humblest subject in the sweetest verse,
Nor ask the figur'd style or pompous phrase,
From common speech his simplest lines to raise;
Yet when some theme with energy sublime,
Calls forth the wonders of his varied rhyme,
'Tis his to catch the animating fire,
Bid the bold strain to giddy heights aspire,
Rival the Mantuan swan, or mate the Theban lyre.
But while fair Poesy with favoring smile
Beholds her votaries thrive in Albion's isle,
The meeker Arts with trembling step explore
Some safe asylum on a foreign shore,
For o'er her fields stern War terrific stood,
And long and dreadful raged the thirst of blood.—
Though the poetic bay with changeless form
Braves the worst fury of the thundering storm,
The inferior flowers that paint the shelter'd vale,
Shrink at the breath of every ruder gale.—
Soon polish'd Gallia's hospitable plain
Yields a kind refuge to the exil'd train,
For civil Fury from her seats was flown,
And Monarchy had fix'd her stable throne,
Their gifts the smiling powers of Peace disclose,
And Lewis there a new Augustus rose:
A Prince's wiles again the Arts invoke
With magic touch to lighten Slavery's yoke,
Reason's keen eye with skilful care to blind,
And turn from Freedom's view the active mind.
The grateful race encourag'd by his sway
The patronage with ample bounty pay,
Give what his fleets and armies ne'er could claim,
Unsullied glory, and unenvied fame.
For though a British Muse would blush to aid
The guilty fabric by Ambition made,
Yet to impartial rules of Justice true
She gives the praise to real Merit due.—
Not opening Science nor encourag'd Art
Alone their lustre to his reign impart:
The splendid period by his care refin'd
Marks a strong era of the improving Mind.
By him new modell'd wondering Europe saw
Her ancient Arms, her Manners, and her Law.
Though dear the price each fair attainment cost,
When in the exchange was Independence lost.
Beauty with sense endow'd, with sweetness graced,
Sits the chief arbitress of soften'd taste,
And fame attends, as her applauding eyes
Of valor or of wit, award the prize.
No more the rural Lord mid distant plains
O'er vassal fiefs a little tyrant reigns;
To the gay circle of the Monarch's court
All Power, all Splendor, and all Arts resort,
There steep'd in joy the nobler race reside
And change for royal smiles provincial pride.
While marshall'd Discipline with studious care
Gives a new semblance to the forms of War:
No more, their stated service forced to yield,
Untrain'd the hasty levies throng the field,
No more the stripling of illustrious birth
Leads armies by hereditary worth:
An order of the state the Soldier stands,
And though a slave himself the rest commands,
Derives his rank from regal will alone,
And only pays obedience to the throne.
While Gallia thus a general power obtains
And guides mankind by soft Opinion's reins,
Long was the scene of bleeding Britain's woes
Ere from the strife emerging Peace arose.
Each party yields at times, at times prevails,
As changing Fortune lifts her dubious scales;
Till lost, or scatter'd, Virtue's Patriot train,
Her cause deserted, and her Hambden slain,
Contending sects fulfill'd a Tyrant's view,
And Faction seiz'd the sword that Freedom drew;
In civil rage each gentler care was drown'd,
And fierce on joy the wild Enthusiast frown'd.
Nor when reviving Albion saw restor'd
Her ravish'd sceptre, and her legal lord,
Did liberal art the polish'd lustre boast
That mark'd each work of Gallia's rival coast,
Licentious Vice a laughing court debas'd,
And looser Manners tainted public Taste.
Nor could a graver prince intent alone
To change religion on his tottering throne,
From a short reign of struggle and of care
One transient smile to prostrate Science spare.
And though we own with deference and with awe,
The public virtues that adorn'd Nassau,
Yet candor must confess his rigid mind
No Pleasure sooth'd, no Elegance refin'd.
At length Britannia's sons with transport view
Another Queen their ancient fame renew,
Once more the prize in Arts and Arms obtain,
And see Eliza's days reviv'd in Anna's reign.
Whate'er of wisdom, and whate'er of grace,
Could form or dignify the human race,
Taught Albion now her splendid worth to raise,
Beyond the envied height of classic praise.
For say could all the learned sage display'd
In Academus, or the Tuscan shade,
Compare with Newton, whose immortal force
Pursued coy Nature to her inmost source,
Or Locke who knew with lynx's eye to find
Man's secret Soul, and analyse the Mind?
Or shall Refinement in the brightest page
Of Roman Splendor rival Anna's Age?
Where, though Politeness now of freer school.
Condemn Formality's too rigid rule,
Adorn'd by Reason, Converse learn'd to please,
And manly Dignity attemper'd Ease,
Public attention waited conscious Worth,
And liberal Manners mark'd illustrious Birth.
The Muses too their tuneful powers employ,
And the loud Pæan join of general joy:
What though their voice strikes not the ravish'd ear
With notes that Greece and Rome were wont to hear,
Yet when sweet Pope's melodious lines convey
The moral subject in the perfect lay,
To British numbers charms unknown impart,
And varied sounds combine with happiest art,
Rapp'd with delight Aonia's listening throng
Drink the soft accents of the dulcet song,
And own the immortal strains of earlier time
Are nearly rivall'd in a northern clime,
By verse of Gothic frame and manacled with rhime.
Though Britain must revere the kings who draw
Their royal claims from Liberty and Law,
In holy Freedom's pure regalia shine,
And deem a People's Voice their Right Divine:
Yet midst her patrons Science cannot place
The earliest monarchs of the Brunswick race.
No princely favor kindles Genius' flame;
Or raises modest worth to wealth or fame;
To private vanity the artists trust,
Whence the stiff portrait, and the unmeaning bust,
While her Pagodas gaudy China rears,
And Cibber's brow the sullied laurel wears.
But see! a Prince succeeds whose generous heart
The liberal Patron glows of every art,
The slumbering train warm'd by his chearing smile
Break from their trance, and polish Albion's isle.
Yet though Medusa's charm revers'd is shewn
As Sculpture animates the Parian stone,
By Architecture though the dome is graced
With all the ornaments of Attic taste,
Though drawn by Painting's animating hand
With life, with character, the portraits stand;
Yet Britain's candid sons must yield the prize
To the bright influence of Italian skies,
Where Guido's touch enthusiast rapture fir'd,
And holy zeal a Raphael's tints inspir'd.
Theirs be the unenvied triumph!—while applause
From her inventive powers Britannia draws.
The stores in Nature's rural empire placed
To chuse with judgment, and arrange with taste,
O'er the soft grace her genuine forms impart
To throw the simple stole of decent Art,
For the high fountain, and the pent cascade,
Cyphers of turf, and cabinets of shade,
To teach the wave in graceful bends to flow,
To crown with wood the mountain's heathy brow,
And bid the flower and blooming shrub succeed
The rugged bramble, and the loathsome weed,
This be her glory!—pleas'd to shine alone
In native charms, and Beauty all her own:
Secure her fame unhurt by time shall stand
Since Mason's verse records what Brown has plann'd.
But ah! while thus the Arts inferior train
Thrive in the sunshine of a George's reign;
Sweet Poesy, whose sacred powers exceed
The Sculptor's chisel, and the Painter's reed,
Whose pen has Virtue's moral shape design'd,
And drawn the immortal image of the Mind,
Whose magic sounds to melody dispense
The flowers of Fancy, and the force of Sense;
Sweet Poesy, neglected and forlorn,
The feeble rays of patronage must mourn.
By wealth or wisdom placed in happier state
Though a bold few disdain to court the great;
Though Mason frame the warm descriptive lay,
Or strike the lyre with Pindar, and with Gray;
Though listening Harmony with raptur'd ear
Attentive stand, the enchanting notes to hear,
As sailing on the rainbow-tinctur'd wings
Of chaste Imagination, Hayley sings:
In plaintive strains at sighing Friendship's call
Though tuneful Seward mourn her Andre's fall,
And wrap the felon cord that clos'd his breath
In radiant Glory's amaranthine wreath;
Tho' Warton young-ey'd Fancy's favorite child,
On whose auspicious birth the Muses smil'd,
And taught his glowing colors to portray
The rural landscape, and the vernal day,
With classic Art his flowing numbers fill,
And join the Critic's to the Poet's skill;
Yet as with streaming eye the sorrowing Muse
Pale Chatterton's untimely urn bedews,
Her accents shall arraign the partial care
That shielded not her son from cold despair:
And many a bard by frowning Fortune led
To abject interest bows the venal head,
Compell'd to point with cruel wit the dart
That wing'd by malice rives the blameless heart,
Or ideot pride by slavish notes to raise,
And cast to swine the precious gems of praise.
O let, Imperial George! the Muses share
The kindly dews of thy parental care.
Too oft has Poesy with servile aim
By tyrants favor'd, sung a tyrant's fame,
O let one monarch wake her nobler rage,
And consecrate to Truth her holy page!
Rais'd by thy hand, I see on Albion's plain
The seeds of Grecian glory bloom again!
See Genius plume once more her eagle wing,
Hear other Homers, other Shakespears sing!
And while their voice down time's eternal flood
Wafts the clear honors of the Wise and Good,
Ages unborn shall bless the just decree,
And future Heroes owe their fame to thee.
Here let us pause,—attentive to survey
The present æra of Refinement's sway.
As in some perfect scene of Britain's isle,
Where all the charms of cultur'd Nature smile,
To velvet lawns, and flowery shades, succeed
The furrow'd champain, and the irriguous mead,
Then woods, and heaths in soft perspective rise,
Till rough the distant mountains meet the skies;
So let our search the changing picture trace
Through all the different tribes of human race;
The strong gradations mark with curious eye
Midst civil and barbarian life that lie,
From Europe's crouded towns and inmates mild,
To the rude savage, and the dreary wild.
Conspicuous rising o'er the various scene,
Of Arts and Arms, though Europe shine the Queen
Yet even her offspring from Refinement share
Unequal influence, and a partial care.
With studious zeal the polish'd sons of France
Lead up attractive Pleasure's airy dance,
Each varied mark of character forsake
One pliant form of general mode to take,
The fairest wreaths from Courtesy to claim
Their first ambition, and their proudest aim.
Not so Britannia, on her bleaker plains
Still wild Caprice in spite of Science reigns,
No central court there all distinction draws,
No judge directs of critic art the laws,
All as they list presume to regulate
The page of learning and the powers of state,
Indignant cast each servile rule away,
Nor even in Taste admit despotic sway.—
No ductile texture can the mind acquire
Mid Faction's storms, and Freedom's glowing fire:
The amorous youth at Party's noisy call
Quits for the grave debate the lively ball;
And in the social scenes of softer grace
Will Business oft intrude with serious face,
While Politics on public cares decide,
And settle Europe's rights by Beauty's side.
Though Italy first saw reviving Art,
And wakening Science sooth again the heart,
She loiters now in Glory's bright career,
Nor longer pants the prize of fame to wear;
No more her pencil bids the canvas glow,
But yields the envied wreath to Reynolds' brow;
Damp'd is the bold Historian's generous fire,
Numb'd the free hand, and mute the living lyre.
Yet her's the boast with skilful touch to bring
The sweetest sounds from Music's trembling string,
To bid full Harmony with swelling note
In undulating lays of Rapture float,
The liquid strains of melody prolong,
And lap the soul in extasy of song.
Iberia's sons, of yore who foremost strove
In the bright lists of Valor and of Love,
Who caught in early time each softer grace
From their brave victors of the Moorish race,
(No more to Emulation's call awake,)
The paths of Glory and of Art forsake.—
What time Columbus taught them to explore
The treasur'd wonders of the Atlantic shore,
Gold, all corrupting gold with fatal charm
Entranced the bosom, and unnerv'd the arm,
And lazy Avarice every wish confines
To the rich produce of the Indian mines.
While Bigotry, whose blast no power survives,
Thro' the waste realms with furious whirlwind drives,
And bids them Heaven's avenging Justice feel
For fell Pizarro's flames, and Cortez' murderous steel.
In Belgia o'er a people's prostrate heads
Her universal reign where Commerce spreads,
The thirst of gain absorbs all other care,
And few the votaries of Refinement there.
While in Germania endless forms conspire
To damp the ingenuous glow of native fire,
The Herald's blazon, and the Noble's pride,
The different ranks so rigidly divide,
That deepest Science, and exalted worth
Can ne'er o'erleap the casual bar of Birth.
Besides such empty claims the thoughts employ,
So clog the free exchange of social joy,
Such serious trifles so engage the taste,
Such dire effects attend a name misplaced,
That far the gentler Graces wing their flight,
Nor bear the drudgery to grow polite.
Yet the strong marks of characters like these
Fade every hour and vanish by degrees.—
Those numerous causes that with different force
Have biass'd, or oppos'd, Refinement's course,
Have dimm'd her radiant beams with sullen gloom,
Or veil'd the lustre of her native bloom,
With daily lapse their weaken'd influence lose,
One general form as Gallia's arts diffuse,
What Prejudice destroy'd, or Error stain'd,
By imitative Zeal is now regain'd,
And Europe's changing race with common care
Affect her manners, and assume her air.
Piercing the midnight gloom of Northern skies
At length in Russian climes the Arts arise:
Already by a patriot Monarch sought,
Had Industry each rougher Science taught,
And now those joys that graver toil beguile,
The favoring warmth confess of Catherine's smile.
O glorious Princess! lo the sorrowing Muse
Thy great designs with anxious look pursues!
For as she frequent bends her weeping eye
To scenes on Europe's utmost bound that lie,
And sees pale Tyranny's oppressive throne
Triumphant rear'd o'er regions once her own,
A gleam of hope awhile her anguish charms
Drawn from thy generous aims, and conquering arms:
She views in Fancy's dream thy Victor host
Drive the grim Despot from the Grecian coast,
Sees European Freedom bless the shore,
And Science grace her favorite seats once more.
Asia's wide realms, on whose propitious earth
First teeming Genius gave Refinement birth,
Lie the sad objects of barbarian sway,
To tyrants fierce, and fiercer lusts a prey.
For on her eastern plain's extremest verge
Her early claims though distant China urge,
Though Arts which Europe saw of late unfold
Inform'd she boasts her wiser chiefs of old;
Yet as her jealous sons have never join'd
The common intercourse of human kind,
To each fond tale the traveller displays
A doubtful credit wavering Reason pays,
And Learning fears the incurious race to own,
Of all unknowing, and by all unknown.
What else exists beneath the cope of heaven
Is to the savage tribe of wanderers given,
Who unrestrain'd by precept or by law,
From climate, and from soil, their difference draw.
The sable African no culture boasts,
Fierce as his sun, and ruthless as his coasts;
And where the immeasurable forests spread
Beyond the extent of Ocean's western bed,
Unsocial, uninform'd, the tawney race
Range the drear wild, and urge the incessant chace.
Amid the wide expanse of southern seas
Where the blest isles inhale the genial breeze,
The happier native in the fragrant grove
Woos the soft powers of Indolence and Love:
But where more keen the ray, more rude the gale,
Manners less mild and harsher cares prevail;
Till in the sad extremes of polar frost,
The sacred beam of human reason lost,
Man scarcely rises from the shaggy brood
That prowl insatiate o'er the icy flood.
Dire were the scene!—but Europe's gentler kind,
Tempting the billowy deep and fickle wind,
With venturous prows each distant seat explore,
And boldly tread the inhospitable shore;
Tame the wild waste, correct the unwholesome air,
And fix of polish'd life the empire there.
On Afric's southmost point their happy toil
Bids gay Pomona clothe the sultry soil,
Their power on Asia's eastern coast commands,
And Ganges flows by European lands:
In the vast tracts beyond the Atlantic main
Their Arts, their Science, and their Manners reign,
Where rising Glory soars with pinion young,
And imitates the parent whence she sprung:
While, (civil Discord's bloody storm o'erblown,)
Albion, her brave descendants proud to own,
‘Lo these my sons!’ exulting shall exclaim,
‘Who caught from me immortal Freedom's flame,
‘And firmly zealous in the holy cause,
‘Extend o'er half the globe Britannia's laws.’
May Europe's race the generous toil pursue,
And Truth's broad mirror spread to every view;
Awake to Reason's voice the savage mind,
Check Error's force, and civilize mankind;
Faith's radiant beam impart to farthest climes,
And teach pure Wisdom undebas'd by crimes;
To the free breeze the swelling sail unfold
Impell'd by Virtue, not allur'd by Gold.
No more with arms the trembling tribes destroy,
But soft Persuasion's gentler Powers employ,
Till, from her throne barbarian Rudeness hurl'd,
Refinement spread her Empire o'er the world.
- steel arms