Love: An Elegy
Too much my heart of Beauty's power hath known,
Too long to Love hath reason left her throne;
Too long my genius mourn'd his myrtle chain,
And three rich years of youth consum'd in vain.
My wishes, lull'd with soft inglorious dreams,
Forgot the patriot's and the sage's themes:
Through each Elysian vale and fairy grove,
Through all the enchanted paradise of love,
Misled by sickly hope's deceitful flame,
Averse to action, and renouncing fame.
At last the visionary scenes decay,
My eyes, exulting, bless the new-born day,
Whose faithful beams detect the dangerous road
In which my heedless feet securely trod,
And strip the phantoms of their lying charms
That lur'd my soul from Wisdom's peaceful arms.
For silver streams and banks bespread with flowers,
For mossy couches and harmonious bowers,
Lo! barren heaths appear, and pathless woods,
And rocks hung dreadful o'er unfathom'd floods:
For openness of heart, for tender smiles,
Looks fraught with love, and wrath-disarming wiles;
Lo! sullen Spite, and perjur'd Lust of Gain,
And cruel Pride, and crueller Disdain;
Lo! cordial Faith to idiot airs refin'd,
Now coolly civil, now transporting kind.
For graceful Ease, lo! Affectation walks;
And dull Half-sense, for Wit and Wisdom talks.
New to each hour what low delight succeeds,
What precious furniture of hearts and heads!
By nought their prudence, but by getting, known,
And all their courage in deceiving shown.
See next what plagues attend the lover's state,
What frightful forms of Terror, Scorn, and Hate!
See burning Fury heaven and earth defy!
See Dumb Despair in icy fetters lie!
See black Suspicion bend his gloomy brow,
The hideous image of himself to view!
And fond Belief, with all a lover's flame,
Sink in those arms that point his head with shame!
There wan Dejection, faltering as he goes,
In shades and silence vainly seeks repose;
Musing through pathless wilds, consumes the day,
Then lost in darkness weeps the hours away.
Here the gay crowd of Luxury advance,
Some touch the lyre, and others urge the dance;
On every head the rosy garland glows,
In every hand the golden goblet flows
The Syren views them with exulting eyes,
And laughs at bashful Virtue as she flies.
But see behind, where Scorn and Want appear,
The grave remonstrance and the witty sneer;
See fell Remorse in action, prompt to dart
Her snaky poison through the conscious heart;
And Sloth to cancel, with oblivious shame,
The fair memorial of recording Fame.
Are these delights that one would wish to gain?
Is this the Elysium of a sober brain?
To wait for happiness in female smiles,
Bear all her scorn, be caught with all her wiles,
With prayers, with bribes, with lies, her pity crave,
Bless her hard bonds, and boast to be her slave;
To feel, for trifles, a distracting train
Of hopes and terrors equally in vain;
This hour to tremble, and the next to glow,
Can Pride, can Sense, can Reason, stoop so low?
When Virtue, at an easier price, displays
The sacred wreaths of honourable praise;
When Wisdom utters her divine decree,
To laugh at pompous Folly, and be free.
I bid adieu, then, to these woful scenes;
I bid adieu to all the sex of queens;
Adieu to every suffering, simple soul,
That lets a woman's will his ease control.
There laugh, ye witty; and rebuke, ye grave!
For me, I scorn to boast that I'm a slave.
I bid the whining brotherhood be gone:
Joy to my heart! my wishes are my own!
Farewell the female heaven, the female hell;
To the great God of Love a glad farewell.
Is this the triumph of thy awful name?
Are these the splendid hopes that urg'd thy aim,
When first my bosom own'd thy haughty sway?
When thus Minerva heard thee boasting, say,
“Go, martial maid, elsewhere thy arts employ,
Nor hope to shelter that devoted boy,
Go teach the solemn sons of Care and Age,
The pensive statesman, and the midnight sage:
The young with me must other lessons prove,
Youth calls for Pleasure, Pleasure calls for Love.
Behold, his heart thy grave advice disdains;
Behold, I bind him in eternal chains.”
Alas! great Love, how idle was the boast!
Thy chains are broken, and thy lessons lost;
Thy wilful rage has tir'd my suffering heart,
And passion, reason, forc'd thee to depart.
But wherefore dost thou linger on thy way?
Why vainly search for some pretence to stay,
When crowds of vassals court thy pleasing yoke,
And countless victims bow them to the stroke?
Lo! round thy shrine a thousand youths advance,
Warm with the gentle ardours of romance;
Each longs to assert thy cause with feats of arms,
And make the world confess Dulcinea's charms.
Ten thousand girls with flowery chaplets crown'd,
To groves and streams thy tender triumph sound:
Each bids the stream in murmurs speak her flame,
Each calls the grove to sigh her shepherd's name.
But, if thy pride such easy honour scorn,
If nobler trophies must thy toil adorn,
Behold yon flowery antiquated maid
Bright in the bloom of threescore years display'd;
Her shalt thou bind in thy delightful chains,
And thrill with gentle pangs her wither'd veins,
Her frosty cheek with crimson blushes dye,
With dreams of rapture melt her maudlin eye.
Turn then thy labours to the servile crowd,
Entice the wary, and control the proud;
Make the sad miser his best gains forego,
The solemn statesman sigh to be a beau,
The bold coquette with fondest passions burn,
The Bacchanalian o'er his bottle mourn;
And that chief glory of thy power maintain,
“To poise ambition in a female brain.”
Be these thy triumphs; but no more presume
That my rebellious heart will yield thee room:
I know thy puny force, thy simple wiles;
I break triumphant through thy flimsy toils;
I see thy dying lamp's last languid glow,
Thy arrows blunted and unbrac'd thy bow.
I feel diviner fires my breast inflame,
To active science, and ingenuous fame;
Resume the paths my earliest choice began,
And lose, with pride, the lover in the man.
Ode Vi: Hymn To Cheerfulness
How thick the shades of evening close!
How pale the sky with weight of snows!
Haste, light the tapers, urge the fire,
And bid the joyless day retire.
—Alas, in vain i try within
To brighten the dejected scene,
While rouz'd by grief these fiery pains
Tear the frail texture of my veins;
While winter's voice, that storms around,
And yon deep death-bell's groaning sound
Renew my mind's oppressive gloom,
Till starting horror shakes the room.
Is there in nature no kind power
To sooth affliction's lonely hour?
To blunt the edge of dire disease,
And teach these wintry shades to please?
Come, Cheerfulness, triumphant fair,
Shine through the hovering cloud of care:
O sweet of language, mild of mien,
O virtue's friend and pleasure's queen,
Asswage the flames that burn my breast,
Compose my jarring thoughts to rest;
And while thy gracious gifts i feel,
My song shall all thy praise reveal.
As once ('twas in Astræa's reign)
The vernal powers renew'd their train,
It happen'd that immortal Love
Was ranging through the spheres above,
And downward hither cast his eye
The year's returning pomp to spy.
He saw the radiant god of day,
Waft in his car the rosy May;
The fragrant Airs and genial Hours
Were shedding round him dews and flowers;
Before his wheels Aurora pass'd,
And Hesper's golden lamp was last.
But, fairest of the blooming throng,
When Health majestic mov'd along,
Delighted to survey below
The joys which from her presence flow,
While earth enliven'd hears her voice,
And swains, and flocks, and fields rejoice;
Then mighty Love her charms confess'd,
And soon his vows inclin'd her breast,
And, known from that auspicious morn,
The pleasing Cheerfulness was born.
Thou, Cheerfulness, by heaven design'd
To sway the movements of the mind,
Whatever fretful passion springs,
Whatever wayward fortune brings
To disarrange the power within,
And strain the musical machine;
Thou, Goddess, thy attempering hand
Doth each discordant string command,
Refines the soft, and swells the strong;
And, joining nature's general song,
Through many a varying tone unfolds
The harmony of human souls.
Fair guardian of domestic life,
Kind banisher of homebred strife,
Nor sullen lip, nor taunting eye
Deforms the scene where thou art by:
No sickening husband damns the hour
Which bound his joys to female power;
No pining mother weeps the cares
Which parents waste on thankless heirs:
The officious daughters pleas'd attend;
The brother adds the name of friend:
By thee with flowers their board is crown'd,
With songs from thee their walks resound;
And morn with welcome lustre shines,
And evening unperceiv'd declines.
Is there a youth, whose anxious heart
Labors with love's unpitied smart?
Though now he stray by rills and bowers,
And weeping waste the lonely hours,
Or if the nymph her audience deign,
Debase the story of his pain
With slavish looks, discolor'd eyes,
And accents faltering into sighs;
Yet thou, auspicious power, with ease
Can'st yield him happier arts to please,
Inform his mien with manlier charms,
Instruct his tongue with nobler arms,
With more commanding passion move,
And teach the dignity of love.
Friend to the Muse and all her train,
For thee i court the Muse again:
The Muse for thee may well exert
Her pomp, her charms, her fondest art,
Who owes to thee that pleasing sway
Which earth and peopled heaven obey.
Let melancholy's plaintive tongue
Repeat what later bards have sung;
But thine was Homer's ancient might,
And thine victorious Pindar's flight:
Thy hand each Lesbian wreathe attir'd:
Thy lip Sicilian reeds inspir'd:
Thy spirit lent the glad perfume
Whence yet the flowers of Teos bloom;
Whence yet from Tibur's Sabine vale
Delicious blows the inlivening gale,
While Horace calls thy sportive choir,
Heroes and nymphs, around his lyre.
But see where yonder pensive sage
(A prey perhaps to fortune's rage,
Perhaps by tender griefs oppress'd,
Or glooms congenial to his breast)
Retires in desart scenes to dwell,
And bids the joyless world farewell.
Alone he treads the autumnal shade,
Alone beneath the mountain laid
He sees the nightly damps ascend,
And gathering storms aloft impend;
He hears the neighbouring surges roll,
And raging thunders shake the pole:
Then, struck by every object round,
And stunn'd by every horrid sound,
He asks a clue for nature's ways;
But evil haunts him through the maze:
He sees ten thousand demons rise
To wield the empire of the skies,
And chance and fate assume the rod,
And malice blot the throne of God.
—O thou, whose pleasing power i sing,
Thy lenient influence hither bring;
Compose the storm, dispell the gloom,
Till nature wear her wonted bloom,
Till fields and shades their sweets exhale,
And music swell each opening gale:
Then o'er his breast thy softness pour,
And let him learn the timely hour
To trace the world's benignant laws,
And judge of that presiding cause
Who founds on discord beauty's reign,
Converts to pleasure every pain,
Subdues each hostile form to rest,
And bids the universe be bless'd.
O thou, whose pleasing power i sing,
If right i touch the votive string,
If equal praise i yield thy name,
Still govern thou thy poet's flame;
Still with the Muse my bosom share,
And sooth to peace intruding care.
But most exert thy pleasing power
On friendship's consecrated hour;
And while my Sophron points the road
To godlike wisdom's calm abode,
Or warm in freedom's ancient cause
Traceth the source of Albion's laws,
Add thou o'er all the generous toil
The light of thy unclouded smile.
But, if by fortune's stubborn sway
From him and friendship torn away,
I court the Muse's healing spell
For griefs that still with absence dwell,
Do thou conduct my fancy's dreams
To such indulgent placid themes,
As just the struggling breast may cheer
And just suspend the starting tear,
Yet leave that sacred sense of woe
Which none but friends and lovers know.
Ode Xi: To The Country Gentlemen Of England
Whither is Europe's ancient spirit fled?
Where are those valiant tenants of her shore,
Who from the warrior bow the strong dart sped,
Or with firm hand the rapid pole-ax bore?
Freeman and soldier was their common name.
Who late with reapers to the furrow came,
Now in the front of battle charg'd the foe:
Who taught the steer the wintry plough to indure,
Now in full councils check'd incroaching power,
And gave the guardian laws their majesty to know.
But who are ye? from Ebro's loitering sons
To Tiber's pageants, to the sports of Seine;
From Rhine's frail palaces to Danube's thrones
And cities looking on the Cimbric main,
Ye lost, ye self-deserted? whose proud lords
Have baffled your tame hands, and given your swords
To slavish ruffians, hir'd for their command:
These, at some greedy monk's or harlot's nod,
See rifled nations crouch beneath their rod:
These are the public will, the reason of the land.
Thou, heedless Albion, what, alas, the while
Dost thou presume? O inexpert in arms,
Yet vain of freedom, how dost thou beguile,
With dreams of hope, these near and loud alarms?
Thy splendid home, thy plan of laws renown'd,
The praise and envy of the nations round,
What care hast thou to guard from fortune's sway?
Amid the storms of war, how soon may all
The lofty pile from its foundations fall,
Of ages the proud toil, the ruin of a day!
No: thou art rich, thy streams and fertile vales
Add industry's wise gifts to nature's store:
And every port is crouded with thy sails,
And every wave throws treasure on thy shore.
What boots it? If luxurious plenty charm
Thy selfish heart from glory, if thy arm
Shrink at the frowns of danger and of pain,
Those gifts, that treasure is no longer thine.
Oh rather far be poor. Thy gold will shine
Tempting the eye of force, and deck thee to thy bane.
But what hath force or war to do with thee?
Girt by the azure tide and thron'd sublime
Amid thy floating bulwarks, thou canst see,
With scorn, the fury of each hostile clime
Dash'd ere it reach thee. Sacred from the foe
Are thy fair fields. athwart thy guardian prow
No bold invader's foot shall tempt the strand—
Yet say, my country, will the waves and wind
Obey thee? Hast thou all thy hopes resign'd
To the sky's fickle faith? the pilot's wavering hand?
For oh may neither fear nor stronger love
(Love, by thy virtuous princes nobly won)
Thee, last of many wretched nations, move,
With mighty armies station'd round the throne
To trust thy safety. Then, farewell the claims
Of freedom! Her proud records to the flames
Then bear, an offering at ambition's shrine;
Whate'er thy ancient patriots dar'd demand
From furious John's, or faithless Charles's hand,
Or what great William seal'd for his adopted line.
But if thy sons be worthy of their name,
If liberal laws with liberal hearts they prize,
Let them from conquest, and from servile shame
In war's glad school their own protectors rise.
Ye chiefly, heirs of Albion's cultur'd plains,
Ye leaders of her bold and faithful swains,
Now not unequal to your birth be found:
The public voice bids arm your rural state,
Paternal hamlets for your ensigns wait,
And grange and fold prepare to pour their youth around.
Why are ye tardy? what inglorious care
Detains you from their head, your native post?
Who most their country's fame and fortune share,
'Tis theirs to share her toils, her perils most.
Each man his task in social life sustains.
With partial labours, with domestic gains
Let others dwell: to you indulgent heaven
By counsel and by arms the public cause
To serve for public love and love's applause,
The first imployment far, the noblest hire, hath given.
Have ye not heard of Lacedæmon's fame?
Of Attic chiefs in freedom's war divine?
Of Rome's dread generals? the Valerian name?
The Fabian sons? the Scipios, matchless line?
Your lot was theirs. the farmer and the swain
Met his lov'd patron's summons from the plain;
The legions gather'd; the bright eagles flew:
Barbarian monarchs in the triumph mourn'd;
The conquerors to their houshold gods return'd,
And fed Calabrian flocks, and steer'd the Sabine plough.
Shall then this glory of the antique age,
This pride of men, be lost among mankind?
Shall war's heroic arts no more ingage
The unbought hand, the unsubjected mind?
Doth valour to the race no more belong?
No more with scorn of violence and wrong
Doth forming nature now her sons inspire,
That, like some mystery to few reveal'd,
The skill of arms abash'd and aw'd they yield,
And from their own defence with hopeless hearts retire?
O shame to human life, to human laws!
The loose adventurer, hireling of a day,
Who his fell sword without affection draws,
Whose God, whose country, is a tyrant's pay,
This man the lessons of the field can learn;
Can every palm, which decks a warrior, earn,
And every pledge of conquest: while in vain,
To guard your altars, your paternal lands,
Are social arms held out to your free hands:
Too arduous is the lore; too irksome were the pain.
Meantime by pleasure's lying tales allur'd,
From the bright sun and living breeze ye stray;
And deep in London's gloomy haunts immur'd,
Brood o'er your fortune's, freedom's, health's decay.
O blind of choice and to yourselves untrue!
The young grove shoots, their bloom the fields renew,
The mansion asks its lord, the swains their friend;
While he doth riot's orgies haply share,
Or tempt the gamester's dark, destroying snare,
Or at some courtly shrine with slavish incense bend.
And yet full oft your anxious tongues complain
That lawless tumult prompts the rustic throng;
That the rude village-inmates now disdain
Those homely ties which rul'd their fathers long.
Alas, your fathers did by other arts
Draw those kind ties around their simple hearts,
And led in other paths their ductile will;
By succour, faithful counsel, courteous cheer,
Won them the ancient manners to revere,
To prize their country's peace and heaven's due rites fulfill.
But mark rhe judgement of experienc'd Time,
Tutor of nations. Doth light discord tear
A state? and impotent sedition's crime?
The powers of warlike prudence dwell not there;
The powers who to command and to obey,
Instruct the valiant. There would civil sway
The rising race to manly concord tame?
Oft let the marshal'd field their steps unite,
And in glad splendor bring before their sight
One common cause and one hereditary fame.
Nor yet be aw'd, nor yet your task disown,
Though war's proud votaries look on severe;
Though secrets, taught erewhile to them alone,
They deem profan'd by your intruding ear.
Let them in vain, your martial hope to quell,
Of new refinements, fiercer weapons tell,
And mock the old simplicity, in vain:
To the time's warfare, simple or refin'd,
The time itself adapts the warrior's mind;
And equal prowess still shall equal palms obtain.
Say then; if England's youth, in earlier days,
On glory's field with well-train'd armies vy'd,
Why shall they now renounce that generous praise?
Why dread the foreign mercenary's pride?
Though Valois brav'd young Edward's gentle hand,
And Albret rush'd on Henry's way-worn band,
With Europe's chosen sons in arms renown'd,
Yet not on Vere's bold archers long they look'd,
Nor Audley's squires nor Mowbray's yeomen brook'd:
They saw their standard fall, and left their monarch bound.
Such were the laurels which your fathers won;
Such glory's dictates in their dauntless breast:
—Is there no voice that speaks to every son?
No nobler, holier call to You address'd?
O! by majestic freedom, righteous laws,
By heavenly truth's, by manly reason's cause,
Awake; attend; be indolent no more:
By friendship, social peace, domestic love,
Rise; arm; your country's living safety prove;
And train her valiant youth, and watch around her shore.
The Pleasures Of Imagination: Book The Third
What wonder therefore, since the indearing ties
Of passion link the universal kind
Of man so close, what wonder if to search
This common nature through the various change
Of sex, and age, and fortune, and the frame
Of each peculiar, draw the busy mind
With unresisted charms? The spacious west,
And all the teeming regions of the south
Hold not a quarry, to the curious flight
Of knowledge, half so tempting or so fair,
As man to man. Nor only where the smiles
Of love invite; nor only where the applause
Of cordial honour turns the attentive eye
On virtue's graceful deeds. For since the course
Of things external acts in different ways
On human apprehensions, as the hand
Of nature temper'd to a different frame.
Peculiar minds; so haply where the powers
Of fancy neither lessen nor enlarge
The images of things, but paint in all
Their genuine hues, the features which they wore
In nature; there opinion will be true,
And action right. For action treads the path
In which opinion says he follows good,
Or flies from evil; and opinion gives
Report of good or evil, as the scene
Was drawn by fancy, lovely or deform'd:
Thus her report can never there be true
Where fancy cheats the intellectual eye,
With glaring colours and distorted lines.
Is there a man, who at the sound of death
Sees ghastly shapes of terror conjur'd up,
And black before him; nought but death-bed groans
And fearful prayers, and plunging from the brink
Of light and being, down the gloomy air,
An unknown depth? Alas! in such a mind,
If no bright forms of excellence attend
The image of his country; nor the pomp
Of sacred senates, nor the guardian voice
Of justice on her throne, nor aught that wakes
The conscious bosom with a patriot's flame;
Will not opinion tell him, that to die,
Or stand the hazard, is a greater ill
Than to betray his country? And in act
Will he not chuse to be a wretch and live?
Here vice begins then. From the inchanting cup
Which fancy holds to all, the unwary thirst
Of youth oft swallows a Circæan draught,
That sheds a baleful tincture o'er the eye
Of reason, till no longer he discerns,
And only guides to err. Then revel forth
A furious band that spurn him from the throne;
And all is uproar. Thus ambition grasps
The empire of the soul: thus pale revenge
Unsheaths her murderous dagger; and the hands
Of lust and rapine, with unholy arts,
Watch to o'erturn the barrier of the laws
That keeps them from their prey: thus all the plagues
The wicked bear, or o'er the trembling scene
The tragic muse discloses, under shapes
Of honour, safety, pleasure, ease or pomp,
Stole first into the mind. Yet not by all
Those lying forms which fancy in the brain
Engenders, are the kindling passions driven,
To guilty deeds; nor reason bound in chains,
That vice alone may lord it: oft adorn'd
With solemn pageants, folly mounts the throne,
And plays her idiot-anticks, like a queen.
A thousand garbs she wears; a thousand ways
She wheels her giddy empire.—Lo! thus far
With bold adventure, to the Mantuan lyre
I sing of nature's charms, and touch well-pleas'd
A stricter note: now haply must my song
Unbend her serious measure, and reveal
In lighter strains, how folly's aukward arts
Excite impetuous laughter's gay rebuke;
The sportive province of the comic muse.
See! in what crouds the uncouth forms advance:
Each would outstrip the other, each prevent
Our careful search, and offer to your gaze,
Unask'd, his motley features. Wait awhile,
My curious friends! and let us first arrange
In proper order your promiscuous throng.
Behold the foremost band; of slender thought,
And easy faith; whom flattering fancy sooths
With lying spectres, in themselves to view
Illustrious forms of excellence and good,
That scorn the mansion. With exulting hearts
They spread their spurious treasures to the sun,
And bid the world admire! but chief the glance
Of wishful envy draws their joy-bright eyes,
And lists with self-applause each lordly brow.
In number boundless as the blooms of spring,
Behold their glaring idols, empty shades
By fancy gilded o'er, and then set up
For adoration. Some in learning's garb,
With formal band, and sable-cinctur'd gown,
And rags of mouldy volumes. Some elate
With martial splendor, steely pikes and swords
Of costly frame, and gay Phœnician robes
Inwrought with flowery gold, assume the port
Of stately valour: listening by his side
There stands a female form; to her, with looks
Of earnest import, pregnant with amaze,
He talks of deadly deeds, of breaches, storms,
And sulphurous mines, and ambush: then at once
Breaks off, and smiles to see her look so pale,
And asks some wondering question of her fears.
Others of graver mien; behold, adorn'd
With holy ensigns, how sublime they move,
And bending oft their sanctimonious eyes
Take homage of the simple-minded throng;
Ambassadors of heaven! Nor much unlike
Is he whose visage, in the lazy mist
That mantles every feature, hides a brood
Of politic conceits; of whispers, nods,
And hints deep omen'd with unwieldy schemes,
And dark portents of state. Ten thousand more,
Prodigious habits and tumultuous tongues,
Pour dauntless in and swell the boastful band.
Then comes the second order; all who seek
The debt of praise, where watchful unbelief
Darts through the thin pretence her squinting eye
On some retir'd appearance which belies
The boasted virtue, or annuls the applause
That justice else would pay. Here side by side
I see two leaders of the solemn train
Approaching: one a female old and grey,
With eyes demure, and wrinkle-furrow'd brow,
Pale as the cheeks of death; yet still she stuns
The sickening audience with a nauseous tale;
How many youths her myrtle-chains have worn,
How many virgins at her triumphs pin'd!
Yet how resolv'd she guards her cautious heart;
Such is her terror at the risques of love,
And man's seducing tongue! The other seems
A bearded sage, ungentle in his mien,
And sordid all his habit; peevish want
Grins at his heels, while down the gazing throng
He stalks, resounding in magnific phrase
The vanity of riches, the contempt
Of pomp and power. Be prudent in your zeal,
Ye grave associates! let the silent grace
Of her who blushes at the fond regard
Her charms inspire, more eloquent unfold
The praise of spotless honour: let the man
Whose eye regards not his illustrious pomp
And ample store, but as indulgent streams
To cheer the barren soil and spread the fruits
Of joy, let him by juster measures fix
The price of riches and the end of power.
Another tribe succeeds; deluded long
By fancy's dazling optics, these behold
The images of some peculiar things
With brighter hues resplendent, and portray'd
With features nobler far than e'er adorn'd
Their genuine objects. Hence the fever'd heart
Pants with delirious hope for tinsel charms;
Hence oft obtrusive on the eye of scorn,
Untimely zeal her witless pride betrays!
And serious manhood from the towering aim
Of wisdom, stoops to emulate the boast
Of childish toil. Behold yon mystic form,
Bedeck'd with feathers, insects, weeds and shells!
Not with intenser view the Samian sage
Bent his fixt eye on heaven's intenser fires,
When first the order of that radiant scene
Swell'd his exulting thought, than this surveys
A muckworm's entrails or a spider's sang.
Next him a youth, with flowers and myrtles crown'd,
Attends that virgin form, and blushing kneels,
With fondest gesture and a suppliant's tongue,
To win her coy regard: adieu, for him,
The dull ingagements of the bustling world!
Adieu the sick impertinence of praise!
And hope, and action! for with her alone,
By streams and shades, to steal these sighing hours,
Is all he asks, and all that fate can give!
Thee too, facetious Momion, wandering here,
Thee, dreaded censor, oft have i beheld
Bewilder'd unawares: alas! too long
Flush'd with thy comic triumphs and the spoils
Of sly derision! till on every side
Hurling thy random bolts, offended truth
Assign'd thee here thy station with the slaves
Of folly. Thy once formidable name
Shall grace her humble records, and be heard
In scoffs and mockery bandied from the lips
Of all the vengeful brotherhood around,
So oft the patient victims of thy scorn.
But now, ye gay! to whom indulgent fate,
Of all the muse's empire hath assign'd
The fields of folly, hither each advance
Your sickles; here the teeming soil affords
Its richest growth. A favourite brood appears;
In whom the dæmon, with a mother's joy,
Views all her charms reflected, all her cares
At full repay'd. Ye most illustrious band!
Who, scorning reason's tame, pedantic rules,
And order's vulgar bondage, never meant
For souls sublime as yours, with generous zeal
Pay vice the reverence virtue long usurp'd,
And yield deformity the fond applause
Which beauty wont to claim; forgive my song,
That for the blushing diffidence of youth,
It shuns the unequal province of your praise.
Thus far triumphant in the pleasing guile
Of bland imagination, folly's train
Have dar'd our search: but now a dastard-kind
Advance reluctant, and with faultering feet
Shrink from the gazer's eye: infeebled hearts
Whom fancy chills with visionary fears,
Or bends to servile tameness with conceits
Of shame, of evil, or of base defect,
Fantastic and delusive. Here the slave
Who droops abash'd when sullen pomp surveys
His humbler habit; here the trembling wretch
Unnerv'd and struck with terror's icy bolts,
Spent in weak wailings, drown'd in shameful tears,
At every dream of danger: here subdued
By frontless laughter and the hardy scorn
Of old, unfeeling vice, the abject soul,
Who blushing half resigns the candid praise
Of temperance and honour; half disowns
A freeman's hatred of tyrannic pride;
And hears with sickly smiles the venal mouth
With foulest licence mock the patriot's name.
Last of the motley bands on whom the power
Of gay derision bends her hostile aim,
Is that where shameful ignorance presides.
Beneath her sordid banners, lo! they march,
Like blind and lame. Whate'er their doubtful hands
Attempt, confusion straight appears behind,
And troubles all the work. Through many a maze,
Perplex'd they struggle, changing every path,
O'erturning every purpose; then at last
Sit down dismay'd, and leave the entangled scene
For scorn to sport with. Such then is the abode
Of folly in the mind; and such the shapes
In which she governs her obsequious train.
Through every scene of ridicule in things
To lead the tenour of my devious lay;
Through every swift occasion, which the hand
Of laughter points at, when the mirthful sting
Distends her sallying nerves and choaks her tongue;
What were it but to count each crystal drop
Which morning's dewy fingers on the blooms
Of May distill? Suffice it to have said,
Where'er the power of ridicule displays
Her quaint-ey'd visage, some incongruous form,
Some stubborn dissonance of things combin'd,
Strikes on the quick observer: whether pomp,
Or praise, or beauty, mix their partial claim
Where sordid fashions, where ignoble deeds,
Where foul deformity are wont to dwell;
Or whether these with violation loath'd,
Invade resplendent pomp's imperious mien,
The charms of beauty, or the boast of praise.
Ask we for what fair end, the almighty sire
In mortal bosoms wakes this gay contempt,
These grateful stings of laughter, from disgust
Educing pleasure? Wherefore, but to aid
The tardy steps of reason, and at once
By this prompt impulse urge us to depress
The giddy aims of folly? Though the light
Of truth slow-dawning on the inquiring mind,
At length unfolds, through many a subtile tie,
How these uncouth disorders end at last
In public evil! yet benignant heaven,
Conscious how dim the dawn of truth appears
To thousands; conscious what a scanty pause
From labours and from care, the wider lot
Of humble life affords for studious thought
To scan the maze of nature; therefore stamp'd
The glaring scenes with characters of scorn,
As broad, as obvious, to the passing clown,
As to the letter'd sage's curious eye.
Such are the various aspects of the mind—
Some heavenly genius, whose unclouded thoughts
Attain that secret harmony which blends
The æthereal spirit with its mold of clay;
O! teach me to reveal the grateful charm
That searchless nature o'er the sense of man
Diffuses, to behold, in lifeless things,
The inexpressive semblance of himself,
Of thought and passion. Mark the sable woods
That shade sublime yon mountain's nodding brow;
With what religious awe the solemn scene
Commands your steps! as if the reverend form
Of Minos or of Numa should forsake
The Elysian seats, and down the embowering glade
Move to your pausing eye! Behold the expanse
Of yon gay landscape, where the silver clouds
Flit o'er the heavens before the sprightly breeze:
Now their grey cincture skirts the doubtful sun;
Now streams of splendor, through their opening veil
Effulgent, sweep from off the gilded lawn
The aërial shadows; on the curling brook,
And on the shady margin's quivering leaves
With quickest lustre glancing; while you view
The prospect, say, within your cheerful breast
Plays not the lively sense of winning mirth
With clouds and sun-shine chequer'd, while the round
Of social converse, to the inspiring tongue
Of some gay nymph amid her subject train,
Moves all obsequious? Whence is this effect,
This kindred power of such discordant things?
Or flows their semblance from that mystic tone
To which the new-born mind's harmonious powers
At first were strung? Or rather from the links
Which artful custom twines around her frame?
For when the different images of things
By chance combin'd, have struck the attentive soul
With deeper impulse, or connected long,
Have drawn her frequent eye; howe'er distinct
The external scenes, yet oft the ideas gain
From that conjunction an eternal tie,
And sympathy unbroken. Let the mind
Recall one partner of the various league,
Immediate, lo! the firm confederates rise,
And each his former station strait resumes:
One movement governs the consenting throng,
And all at once with rosy pleasure shine,
Or all are sadden'd with the glooms of care.
'Twas thus, if ancient fame the truth unfold,
Two faithful needles, from the informing touch
Of the same parent-stone, together drew
Its mystic virtue, and at first conspir'd
With fatal impulse quivering to the pole:
Then, though disjoin'd by kingdoms, though the main
Rowl'd its broad surge betwixt, and different stars
Beheld their wakeful motions, yet preserv'd
The former friendship, and remember'd still
The alliance of their birth: whate'er the line
Which one possess'd, nor pause, nor quiet knew
The sure associate, ere with trembling speed
He found its path and fix'd unnerring there.
Such is the secret union, when we feel
A song, a flower, a name, at once restore
Those long connected scenes where first they mov'd
The attention: backward through her mazy walks
Guiding the wanton fancy to her scope,
To temples, courts or fields; with all the band
Of painted forms, of passions and designs
Attendant: whence, if pleasing in itself,
The prospect from that sweet accession gains
Redoubled influence o'er the listening mind.
By these mysterious ties the busy power
Of memory her ideal train preserves
Intire; or when they would elude her watch,
Reclaims their fleeting footsteps from the waste
Of dark oblivion; thus collecting all
The various forms of being to present,
Before the curious aim of mimic art,
Their largest choice: like spring's unfolded blooms
Exhaling sweetness, that the skillful bee
May taste at will, from their selected spoils
To work her dulcet food. For not the expanse
Of living lakes in summer's noontide calm,
Reflects the bordering shade, and sun-bright heavens
With fairer semblance; not the sculptur'd gold
More faithful keeps the graver's lively trace,
Than he whose birth the sister powers of art
Propitious view'd, and from his genial star
Shed influence to the seeds of fancy kind;
Than his attemper'd bosom must preserve
The seal of nature. There alone unchang'd,
Her form remains. The balmy walks of May
There breathe perennial sweets: the trembling chord
Resounds for ever in the abstracted car,
Melodious: and the virgin's radiant eye,
Superior to disease, to grief, and time,
Shines with unbating lustre. Thus at length
Indow'd with all that nature can bestow,
The child of fancy oft in silence bends
O'er these mixt treasures of his pregnant breast,
With conscious pride. From them he oft resolves
To frame he knows not what excelling things;
And win he knows not what sublime reward
Of praise and wonder. By degrees, the mind
Feels her young nerves dilate: the plastic powers
Labour for action: blind emotions heave
His bosom; and with loveliest frenzy caught,
From earth to heaven he rowls his daring eye,
From heaven to earth. Anon ten thousand shapes,
Like spectres trooping to the wisard's call,
Flit swift before him. From the womb of earth,
From ocean's bed they come: the eternal heavens
Disclose their splendors, and the dark abyss
Pours out her births unknown: With fixed gaze
He marks the rising phantoms. Now compares
Their different forms; now blends them, now divides,
Inlarges and extenuates by turns;
Opposes, ranges in fantastic bands,
And infinitely varies. Hither now,
Now thither fluctuates his inconstant aim,
With endless choice perplex'd. At length his plan
Begins to open. Lucid order dawns;
And as from Chaos old the jarring seeds
Of nature at the voice divine repair'd
Each to its place, till rosy earth unveil'd
Her fragrant bosom, and the joyful sun
Sprung up the blue serene; by swift degrees
Thus disentangled, his entire design
Emerges. Colours mingle, features join,
And lines converge: the fainter parts retire;
The fairer eminent in light advance;
And every image on its neighbour smiles.
A while he stands, and with a father's joy
Contemplates. Then with Promethéan art,
Into its proper vehicle he breathes
The fair conception; which, imbodied thus,
And permanent, becomes to eyes or ears
An object ascertain'd: while thus inform'd,
The various organs of his mimic skill,
The consonance of sounds, the featur'd rock,
The shadowy picture and impassion'd verse,
Beyond their proper powers attract the soul
By that expressive semblance, while in sight
Of nature's great original we scan
The lively child of art; while line by line,
And feature after feature we refer
To that sublime exemplar whence it stole
Those animating charms. Thus beauty's palm
Betwixt them wavering hangs: applauding love
Doubts where to chuse; and mortal man aspires
To tempt creative praise. As when a cloud
Of gathering hail with limpid crusts of ice
Inclos'd and obvious to the beaming sun,
Collects his large effulgence; strait the heavens
With equal flames present on either hand
The radiant visage: Persia stands at gaze,
Appall'd; and on the brink of Ganges doubts
The snowy-vested seer, in Mithra's name,
To which the fragrance of the south shall burn,
To which his warbled orisons ascend.
Such various bliss the well-tun'd heart enjoys,
Favour'd of heaven! while plung'd in sordid cares,
The unfeeling vulgar mocks the boon divine:
And harsh austerity, from whose rebuke
Young love and smiling wonder shrink away
Abash'd and chill of heart, with sager frowns
Condemns the fair inchantment. On my strain,
Perhaps even now, some cold, fastidious judge
Casts a disdainful eye; and calls my toil,
And calls the love and beauty which i sing,
The dream of folly. Thou, grave censor! say,
Is beauty then a dream, because the glooms
Of dulness hang too heavy on thy sense,
To let her shine upon thee? So the man
Whose eye ne'er open'd on the light of heaven,
Might smile with scorn while raptur'd vision tells
Of the gay-colour'd radiance flushing bright
O'er all creation. From the wise be far
Such gross unhallow'd pride; nor needs my song
Descend so low; but rather now unfold,
If human thought could reach, or words unfold,
By what mysterious fabric of the mind,
The deep-felt joys and harmony of sound
Result from airy motion; and from shape
The lovely phantoms of sublime and fair.
By what fine ties hath God connected things
When present in the mind, which in themselves
Have no connection? Sure the rising sun
O'er the cærulean convex of the sea,
With equal brightness and with equal warmth
Might rowl his fiery orb; nor yet the soul
Thus feel her frame expanded, and her powers
Exulting in the splendor she beholds;
Like a young conqueror moving through the pomp
Of some triumphal day. When join'd at eve,
Soft-murmuring streams and gales of gentlest breath
Melodious Philomela's wakeful strain
Attemper, could not man's discerning ear
Through all its tones the sympathy pursue;
Nor yet this breath divine of nameless joy
Steal through his veins and fan the awaken'd heart,
Mild as the breeze, yet rapturous as the song.
But were not nature still endow'd at large
With all which life requires, though unadorn'd
With such inchantment? Wherefore then her form
So exquisitely fair? her breath perfum'd
With such æthereal sweetness? whence her voice
Inform'd at will to raise or to depress
The impassion'd soul? and whence the robes of light
Which thus invest her with more lovely pomp
Than fancy can describe? Whence but from thee,
O source divine of ever-flowing love,
And thy unmeasur'd goodness? Not content
With every food of life to nourish man,
By kind illusions of the wondering sense
Thou mak'st all nature beauty to his eye,
Or music to his ear: well-pleas'd he scans
The goodly prospect; and with inward smiles
Treads the gay verdure of the painted plain;
Beholds the azure canopy of heaven,
And living lamps that over-arch his head
With more than regal splendor; bends his ears
To the full choir of water, air, and earth;
Nor heeds the pleasing error of his thought,
Nor doubts the painted green or azure arch,
Nor questions more the music's mingling sounds
Than space, or motion, or eternal time;
So sweet he feels their influence to attract
The fixed soul; to brighten the dull glooms
Of care, and make the destin'd road of life
Delightful to his feet. So fables tell,
The adventurous heroe, bound on hard exploits,
Beholds with glad surprise, by secret spells
Of some kind sage, the patron of his toils,
A visionary paradise disclos'd
Amid the dubious wild: with streams, and shades,
And airy songs, the enchanted landscape smiles,
Cheers his long labours and renews his frame.
What then is taste, but these internal powers
Active, and strong, and feelingly alive
To each fine impulse? a discerning sense
Of decent and sublime, with quick disgust
From things deform'd, or disarrang'd, or gross
In species? This, nor gems, nor stores of gold,
Nor purple state, nor culture can bestow;
But God alone, when first his active hand
Imprints the secret byass of the soul.
He, mighty parent! wise and just in all,
Free as the vital breeze or light of heaven,
Reveals the charms of nature. Ask the swain
Who journeys homeward from a summer day's
Long labour, why, forgetful of his toils
And due repose, he loiters to behold
The sunshine gleaming as through amber clouds,
O'er all the western sky; full soon, I ween,
His rude expression and untutor'd airs,
Beyond the power of language, will unfold
The form of beauty smiling at his heart,
How lovely! how commanding! But though heaven
In every breast hath sown these early seeds
Of love and admiration, yet in vain,
Without fair culture's kind parental aid,
Without inlivening suns, and genial showers,
And shelter from the blast, in vain we hope
The tender plant should rear its blooming head,
Or yield the harvest promis'd in its spring.
Nor yet will every soil with equal stores
Repay the tiller's labour; or attend
His will, obsequious, whether to produce
The olive or the laurel. Different minds
Incline to different objects: one pursues
The vast alone, the wonderful, the wild;
Another sighs for harmony, and grace,
And gentlest beauty. Hence when lightening fires
The arch of heaven, and thunders rock the ground,
When furious whirlwinds rend the howling air,
And ocean, groaning from his lowest bed,
Heaves his tempestuous billows to the sky;
Amid the mighty uproar, while below
The nations tremble, Shakespeare looks abroad
From some high cliff, superior, and enjoys
The elemental war. But Waller longs,
All on the margin of some flowery stream
To spread his careless limbs amid the cool
Of plantane shades, and to the listening deer
The tale of slighted vows and love's disdain
Resound soft-warbling all the live-long day:
Consenting Zephyr sighs; the weeping rill
Joins in his plaint, melodious; mute the groves;
And hill and dale with all their echoes mourn.
Such and so various are the tastes of men.
Oh! blest of heaven, whom not the languid songs
Of luxury, the Siren! not the bribes
Of sordid wealth, nor all the gaudy spoils
Of pageant honour can seduce to leave
Those ever blooming sweets, which from the store
Of nature fair imagination culls
To charm the inliven'd soul! What though not all
Of mortal offspring can attain the heights
Of envied life; though only few possess
Patrician treasures or imperial state;
Yet nature's care, to all her children just,
With richer treasures and an ampler state,
Indows at large whatever happy man
Will deign to use them. His the city's pomp,
The rural honors his. Whate'er adorns
The princely dome, the column and the arch,
The breathing marbles and the sculptur'd gold,
Beyond the proud possessor's narrow claim,
His tuneful breast injoys. For him, the spring
Distills her dews, and from the silken gem
Its lucid leaves unfolds: for him, the hand
Of autumn tinges every fertile branch
With blooming gold and blushes like the morn.
Each passing hour sheds tribute from her wings;
And still new beauties meet his lonely walk,
And loves unfelt attract him. Not a breeze
Flies o'er the meadow, not a cloud imbibes
The setting sun's effulgence, not a strain
From all the tenants of the warbling shade
Ascends, but whence his bosom can partake
Fresh pleasure, unreprov'd. Nor thence partakes
Fresh pleasure only: for the attentive mind,
By this harmonious action on her powers
Becomes herself harmonious: wont so oft
In outward things to meditate the charm
Of sacred order, soon she seeks at home
To find a kindred order, to exert
Within herself this elegance of love,
This fair-inspir'd delight: her temper'd powers
Refine at length, and every passion wears
A chaster, milder, more attractive mien.
But if to ampler prospects, if to gaze
On nature's form, where, negligent of all
These lesser graces, she assumes the port
Of that eternal majesty that weigh'd
The world's foundations, if to these the mind
Exalts her daring eye; then mightier far
Will be the change, and nobler. Would the forms
Of servile custom cramp her generous powers?
Would sordid policies, the barbarous growth
Of ignorance and rapine, bow her down
To tame pursuits, to indolence and fear?
Lo! she appeals to nature, to the winds
And rowling waves, the sun's unwearied course,
The elements and seasons: all declare
For what the eternal maker has ordain'd
The powers of man: we feel within ourselves
His energy divine: he tells the heart,
He meant, he made us to behold and love
What he beholds and loves, the general orb
Of life and being; to be great like him,
Beneficent and active. Thus the men
Whom nature's works can charm, with God himself
Hold converse; grow familiar, day by day,
With his conceptions, act upon his plan;
And form to his, the relish of their souls.
The Pleasures Of Imagination: Book The Second
When shall the laurel and the vocal string
Resume their honours? When shall we behold
The tuneful tongue, the Promethéan hand
Aspire to ancient praise? Alas! how faint,
How slow the dawn of beauty and of truth
Breaks the reluctant shades of Gothic night
Which yet involve the nations! Long they groan'd
Beneath the furies of rapacious force;
Oft as the gloomy north, with iron-swarms
Tempestuous pouring from her frozen caves,
Blasted the Italian shore, and swept the works
Of liberty and wisdom down the gulph
Of all-devouring night. As long immur'd
In noon-tide darkness by the glimmering lamp,
Each muse and each fair science pin'd away
The sordid hours: while foul, barbarian hands
Their mysteries profan'd, unstrung the lyre,
And chain'd the soaring pinion down to earth.
At last the muses rose, and spurn'd their bonds,
And wildly warbling, scatter'd, as they flew,
Their blooming wreaths from fair Valclusa's bowers
Arno's myrtle border and the shore of soft Parthenope.
But still the rage of dire ambition and gigantic power,
From public aims and from the busy walk
Of civil commerce, drove the bolder train
Of penetrating science to the cells,
Where studious ease consumes the silent hour
In shadowy searches and unfruitful care.
Thus from their guardians torn, the tender arts
Of mimic fancy and harmonious joy,
To priestly domination and the lust
Of lawless courts, their amiable toil
For three inglorious ages have resign'd,
In vain reluctant: and Torquato's tongue
Was tun'd for slavish pæans at the throne
Of tinsel pomp: and Raphael's magic hand
Effus'd its fair creation to enchant
The fond adoring herd in Latian fanes
To blind belief; while on their prostrate necks
The sable tyrant plants his heel secure.
But now behold! the radiant æra dawns,
When freedom's ample fabric, fix'd at length
For endless years on Albion's happy shore
In full proportion, once more shall extend
To all the kindred powers of social bliss
A common mansion, a parental roof.
There shall the virtues, there shall wisdom's train,
Their long-lost friends rejoining, as of old,
Embrace the smiling family of arts,
The muses and the graces. Then no more
Shall vice, distracting their delicious gifts
To aims abhorr'd, with high distaste and scorn
Turn from their charms the philosophic eye,
The patriot-bosom; then no more the paths
Of public care or intellectual toil,
Alone by footsteps haughty and severe
In gloomy state be trod: the harmonious Muse
And her persuasive sisters then shall plant
Their sheltering laurels o'er the bleak ascent,
And scatter flowers along the rugged way.
Arm'd with the lyre, already have we dar'd
To pierce divine philosophy's retreats,
And teach the Muse her lore; already strove
Their long-divided honours to unite,
While tempering this deep argument we sang
Of truth and beauty. Now the same glad task
Impends; now urging our ambitious toil,
We hasten to recount the various springs
Of adventitious pleasure, which adjoin
Their grateful influence to the prime effect
Of objects grand or beauteous, and inlarge
The complicated joy. The sweets of sense,
Do they not oft with kind accession flow,
To raise harmonious fancy's native charm?
So while we taste the fragrance of the rose,
Glows not her blush the fairer? While we view
Amid the noontide walk a limpid rill
Gush through the trickling herbage, to the thirst
Of summer yielding the delicious draught
Of cool refreshment; o'er the mossy brink
Shines not the surface clearer, and the waves
With sweeter music murmur as they flow?
Nor this alone; the various lot of life
Oft from external circumstance assumes
A moment's disposition to rejoice
In those delights which at a different hour
Would pass unheeded. Fair the face of spring,
When rural songs and odours wake the morn,
To every eye; but how much more to his
Round whom the bed of sickness long diffus'd
Its melancholy gloom! how doubly fair,
When first with fresh-born vigour he inhales
The balmy breeze, and feels the blessed sun
Warm at his bosom, from the springs of life
Chasing oppressive damps and languid pain!
Or shall i mention, where cœlestial truth
Her awful light discloses, to bestow
A more majestic pomp on beauty's frame?
For man loves knowledge, and the beams of truth
More welcome touch his understanding's eye,
Than all the blandishments of sound his ear,
Than all of taste his tongue. Nor ever yet
The melting rainbow's vernal-tinctur'd hues
To me have shone so pleasing, as when first
The hand of science pointed out the path
In which the sun-beams gleaming from the west
Fall on the watry cloud, whose darksome veil
Involves the orient; and that trickling shower
Piercing through every crystalline convex
Of clustering dew-drops to their flight oppos'd,
Recoil at length where concave all behind
The internal surface of each glassy orb
Repells their forward passage into air;
That thence direct they seek the radiant goal
From which their course began; and, as they strike
In different lines the gazer's obvious eye,
Assume a different lustre, through the brede
Of colours changing from the splendid rose
To the pale violet's dejected hue.
Or shall we touch that kind access of joy,
That springs to each fair object, while we trace
Through all its fabric, wisdom's artful aim
Disposing every part, and gaining still
By means proportion'd her benignant end?
Speak, ye, the pure delight, whose favour'd steps
The lamp of science through the jealous maze
Of nature guides, when haply you reveal
Her secret honours: whether in the sky,
The beauteous laws of light, the central powers
That wheel the pensile planets round the year;
Whether in wonders of the rowling deep,
Or the rich fruits of all-sustaining earth,
Or fine-adjusted springs of life and sense,
Ye scan the counsels of their author's hand.
What, when to raise the meditated scene,
The flame of passion, through the struggling soul
Deep-kindled, shows across that sudden blaze
The object of its rapture, vast of size,
With fiercer colours and a night of shade?
What? like a storm from their capacious bed
The sounding seas o'erwhelming, when the might
Of these eruptions, working from the depth
Of man's strong apprehension, shakes his frame
Even to the base; from every naked sense
Of pain or pleasure dissipating all
Opinion's feeble coverings, and the veil
Spun from the cobweb fashion of the times
To hide the feeling heart? Then nature speaks
Her genuine language, and the words of men,
Big with the very motion of their souls,
Declare with what accumulated force,
The impetuous nerve of passion urges on
The native weight and energy of things.
Yet more: her honours where nor beauty claims,
Nor shews of good the thirsty sense allure,
From passion's power alone our nature holds
Essential pleasure. Passion's fierce illapse
Rouzes the mind's whole fabric; with supplies
Of daily impulse keeps the elastic powers
Intensely poiz'd, and polishes anew
By that collision all the fine machine:
Else rust would rise, and foulness, by degrees
Incumbering, choak at last what heaven design'd
For ceaseless motion and a round of toil.
—But say, does every passion thus to man
Administer delight? That name indeed
Becomes the rosy breath of love; becomes
The radiant smiles of joy, the applauding hand
Of admiration: but the bitter shower
That sorrow sheds upon a brother's grave,
But the dumb palsy of nocturnal fear,
Or those consuming fires that gnaw the heart
Of panting indignation, find we there
To move delight?—Then listen while my tongue
The unalter'd will of heaven with faithful awe
Reveals; what old Harmodius wont to teach
My early age; Harmodius, who had weigh'd
Within his learned mind whate'er the schools
Of wisdom, or thy lonely-whispering voice,
O faithful nature! dictate of the laws
Which govern and support this mighty frame
Of universal being. Oft the hours
From morn to eve have stolen unmark'd away,
While mute attention hung upon his lips,
As thus the sage his awful tale began.
'Twas in the windings of an ancient wood,
When spotless youth with solitude resigns
To sweet philosophy the studious day,
What time pale autumn shades the silent eve,
Musing i rov'd. Of good and evil much,
And much of mortal man my thought revolv'd;
When starting full on fancy's gushing eye
The mournful image of Parthenia's fate,
That hour, o long belov'd and long deplor'd!
When blooming youth, nor gentlest wisdom's arts,
Nor Hymen's honours gather'd for thy brow,
Nor all thy lover's, all thy father's tears
Avail'd to snatch thee from the cruel grave;
Thy agonizing looks, thy last farewel
Struck to the inmost feeling of my soul
As with the hand of death. At once the shade
More horrid nodded o'er me, and the winds
With hoarser murmuring shook the branches. Dark
As midnight storms, the scene of human things
Appear'd before me; desarts, burning sands,
Where the parch'd adder dies; the frozen south,
And desolation blasting all the west
With rapine and with murder: tyrant power
Here sits enthron'd with blood; the baleful charms
Of superstition there infect the skies,
And turn the sun to horror. Gracious heaven!
What is the life of man? Or cannot these,
Not these portents thy awful will suffice?
That, propagated thus beyond their scope,
They rise to act their cruelties anew
In my afflicted bosom, thus decreed
The universal sensitive of pain,
The wretched heir of evils not its own!
Thus I impatient; when, at once effus'd,
A flashing torrent of cœlestial day
Burst through the shadowy void. With slow descent
A purple cloud came floating through the sky,
And pois'd at length within the circling trees,
Hung obvious to my view; till opening wide
Its lucid orb, a more than human form
Emerging lean'd majestic o'er my head,
And instant thunder shook the conscious grove.
Then melted into air the liquid cloud,
And all the shining vision stood reveal'd.
A wreath of palm his ample forehead bound,
And o'er his shoulder, mantling to his knee,
Flow'd the transparent robe, around his waist
Collected with a radiant zone of gold
Æthereal: there in mystic signs ingrav'd,
I read his office high and sacred name,
Genius of human kind. Appall'd i gaz'd
The godlike presence; for athwart his brow
Displeasure, temper'd with a mild concern,
Look'd down reluctant on me, and his words
Like distant thunders broke the murmuring air.
Vain are thy thoughts, o child of mortal birth!
And impotent thy tongue. Is thy short span
Capacious of this universal frame?
Thy wisdom all-sufficient? Thou, alas!
Dost thou aspire to judge between the Lord
Of nature and his works? to lift thy voice
Against the sovran order he decreed,
All good and lovely? to blaspheme the bands
Of tenderness innate and social love,
Holiest of things! by which the general orb
Of being, as by adamantine links,
Was drawn to perfect union and sustain'd
From everlasting? Hast thou felt the pangs
Of softening sorrow, of indignant zeal
So grievous to the soul, as thence to wish
The ties of nature broken from thy frame;
That so thy selfish, unrelenting heart
Might cease to mourn its lot, no longer then
The wretched heir of evils not its own?
O fair benevolence of generous minds!
O man by nature form'd for all mankind!
He spoke; abash'd and silent i remain'd,
As conscious of my tongue's offence, and aw'd
Before his presence, though my secret soul
Disdain'd the imputation. On the ground
I fix'd my eyes; till from his airy couch
He stoop'd sublime, and touching with his hand
My dazling forehead, Raise thy sight, he cry'd
And let thy sense convince thy erring tongue.
I look'd, and lo! the former scene was chang'd;
For verdant alleys and surrounding trees,
A solitary prospect, wide and wild,
Rush'd on my senses. 'Twas an horrid pile
Of hills with many a shaggy forest mix'd,
With many a sable cliff and glittering stream.
Aloft recumbent o'er the hanging ridge,
The brown woods wav'd; while ever-trickling springs
Wash'd from the naked roots of oak and pine
The crumbling soil; and still at every fall
Down the steep windings of the channel'd rock,
Remurmuring rush'd the congregated floods
With hoarser inundation; till at last
They reach'd a grassy plain, which from the skirts
Of that high desart spread her verdant lap,
And drank the gushing moisture, where confin'd
In one smooth current, o'er the lilied vale
Clearer than glass it flow'd. Autumnal spoils
Luxuriant spreading to the rays of morn,
Blush'd o'er the cliffs, whose half-incircling mound
As in a sylvan theatre inclos'd
That flowery level. On the river's brink
I spy'd a fair pavilion, which diffus'd
Its floating umbrage 'mid the silver shade
Of osiers. Now the western sun reveal'd
Between two parting cliffs his golden orb,
And pour'd across the shadow of the hills,
On rocks and floods, a yellow stream of light
That cheer'd the solemn scene. My listening powers
Were aw'd, and every thought in silence hung,
And wondering expectation. Then the voice
Of that cœlestial power, the mystic show
Declaring, thus my deep attention call'd.
Inhabitant of earth, to whom is given
The gracious ways of providence to learn,
Receive my sayings with a stedfast ear—
Know then, the sovran spirit of the world,
Though self-collected from eternal time,
Within his own deep essence he beheld
The bounds of true felicity complete;
Yet by immense benignity inclin'd
To spread around him that primæval joy
Which fill'd himself, he rais'd his plastic arm,
And sounded through the hollow depth of space
The strong, creative mandate. Strait arose
These heavenly orbs, the glad abodes of life
Effusive kindled by his breath divine
Through endless forms of being. Each inhal'd
From him its portion of the vital flame,
In measure such, that, from the wide complex
Of coexistent orders, one might rise,
One order, all-involving and intire.
He too beholding in the sacred light
Of his essential reason, all the shapes
Of swift contingence, all successive ties
Of action propagated through the sum
Of possible existence, he at once,
Down the long series of eventful time,
So fix'd the dates of being, so dispos'd,
To every living soul of every kind
The field of motion and the hour of rest,
That all conspir'd to his supreme design,
To universal good: with full accord
Answering the mighty model he had chosen,
The best and fairest of unnumber'd worlds
That lay from everlasting in the store
Of his divine conceptions. Nor content,
By one exertion of creative power
His goodness to reveal; through every age,
Through every moment up the tract of time
His parent-hand with ever-new increase
Of happiness and virtue has adorn'd
The vast harmonious frame: his parent-hand,
From the mute shell-fish gasping on the shore,
To men, to angels, to cœlestial minds
For ever leads the generations on
To higher scenes of being; while supply'd
From day to day with his enlivening breath,
Inferior orders in succession rise
To fill the void below. As flame ascends,
As bodies to their proper center move,
As the pois'd ocean to the attracting moon
Obedient swells, and every headlong stream
Devolves its winding waters to the main;
So all things which have life aspire to God,
The sun of being, boundless, unimpair'd,
Center of souls! Nor does the faithful voice
Of nature cease to prompt their eager steps
Aright; nor is the care of heaven withheld
From granting to the task proportion'd aid;
That in their stations all may persevere
To climb the ascent of being, and approach
For ever nearer to the life divine.
That rocky pile thou seest, that verdant lawn
Fresh-water'd from the mountains. Let the scene
Paint in thy fancy the primæval seat
Of man, and where the will supreme ordain'd
His mansion, that pavilion fair-diffus'd
Along the shady brink; in this recess
To wear the appointed season of his youth,
Till riper hours should open to his toil
The high communion of superior minds,
Of consecrated heroes and of gods.
Nor did the sire omnipotent forget
His tender bloom to cherish; nor withheld
Cœlestial footsteps from his green abode.
Oft from the radiant honours of his throne,
He sent whom most he lov'd, the sovran fair,
The effluence of his glory, whom he plac'd
Before his eyes for ever to behold;
The goddess from whose inspiration flows
The toil of patriots, the delight of friends;
Without whose work divine, in heaven or earth,
Nought lovely, nought propitious comes to pass,
Nor hope, nor praise, nor honour. Her the sire
Gave it in charge to rear the blooming mind,
The folded powers to open, to direct
The growth luxuriant of his young desires,
And from the laws of this majestic world
To teach him what was good. As thus the nymph
Her daily care attended, by her side
With constant steps her gay companion stay'd,
The fair Euphrosyné, the gentle queen
Of smiles, and graceful gladness, and delights
That cheer alike the hearts of mortal men
And powers immortal. See the shining pair!
Behold, where from his dwelling now disclos'd
They quit their youthful charge and seek the skies.
I look'd, and on the flowery turf there stood
Between two radiant forms a smiling youth
Whose tender cheeks display'd the vernal flower
Of beauty; sweetest innocence illum'd
His bashful eyes, and on his polish'd brow
Sate young simplicity. With fond regard
He view'd the associates, as their steps they mov'd;
The younger chief his ardent eyes detain'd,
With mild regret invoking her return.
Bright as the star of evening she appear'd
Amid the dusky scene. Eternal youth
O'er all her form its glowing honours breath'd;
And smiles eternal from her candid eyes
Flow'd, like the dewy lustre of the morn
Effusive trembling on the placid waves.
The spring of heaven had shed its blushing spoils
To bind her sable tresses: full diffus'd
Her yellow mantle floated in the breeze;
And in her hand she wav'd a living branch
Rich with immortal fruits, of power to calm
The wrathful heart, and from the brightening eyes,
To chase the cloud of sadness. More sublime
The heavenly partner mov'd. The prime of age
Compos'd her steps. The presence of a god,
High on the circle of her brow inthron'd,
From each majestic motion darted awe,
Devoted awe! till, cherish'd by her looks
Benevolent and meek, confiding love
To filial rapture soften'd all the soul.
Free in her graceful hand she pois'd the sword
Of chaste dominion. An heroic crown
Display'd the old simplicity of pomp
Around her honour'd head. A matron's robe,
White as the sunshine streams through vernal clouds,
Her stately form invested. Hand in hand
The immortal pair forsook the enamel'd green,
Ascending slowly. Rays of limpid light
Gleam'd round their path; cœlestial sounds were heard,
And through the fragrant air æthereal dews
Distill'd around them; till at once the clouds
Disparting wide in midway sky, withdrew
Their airy veil, and left a bright expanse
Of empyréan flame, where spent and drown'd,
Afflicted vision plung'd in vain to scan
What object it involv'd. My feeble eyes
Indur'd not. Bending down to earth i stood,
With dumb attention. Soon a female voice,
As watry murmurs sweet, or warbling shades,
With sacred invocation thus began.
Father of gods and mortals! whose right arm
With reins eternal guides the moving heavens,
Bend thy propitious ear. Behold well-pleas'd
I seek to finish thy divine decree.
With frequent steps I visit yonder seat
Of man, thy offspring; from the tender seeds
Of justice and of wisdom, to evolve
The latent honours of his generous frame;
Till thy conducting hand shall raise his lot
From earth's dim scene to these æthereal walks,
The temple of thy glory. But not me,
Not my directing voice he oft requires,
Or hears delighted: this inchanting maid,
The associate thou hast given me, her alone
He loves, o Father! absent, her he craves;
And but for her glad presence ever join'd,
Rejoices not in mine: that all my hopes
This thy benignant purpose to fulfil,
I deem uncertain; and my daily cares
Unfruitful all and vain, unless by thee
Still farther aided in the work divine.
She ceas'd; a voice more awful thus reply'd.
O thou! in whom for ever i delight,
Fairer than all the inhabitants of heaven,
Best image of thy author! far from thee
Be disappointment, or distaste, or blame;
Who soon or late shalt every work fulfil,
And no resistance find. If man refuse
To hearken to thy dictates; or allur'd
By meaner joys, to any other power
Transfer the honours due to thee alone;
That joy which he pursues he ne'er shall taste,
That power in whom delighteth ne'er behold.
Go then, once more, and happy be thy toil;
Go then! but let not this thy smiling friend
Partake thy footsteps. In her stead, behold!
With thee the son of Nemesis i send;
The fiend abhorr'd! whose vengeance takes account
Of sacred order's violated laws.
See where he calls thee, burning to be gone,
Fierce to exhaust the tempest of his wrath
On yon devoted head. But thou, my child,
Controul his cruel phrenzy, and protect
Thy tender charge; that when despair shall grasp
His agonizing bosom, he may learn,
Then he may learn to love the gracious hand
Alone sufficient in the hour of ill,
To save his feeble spirit; then confess
Thy genuine honours, o excelling fair!
When all the plagues that wait the deadly will.
Of this avenging dæmon, all the storms
Of night infernal, serve but to display
The energy of thy superior charms
With mildest awe triumphant o'er his rage,
And shining clearer in the horrid gloom.
Here ceas'd that awful voice, and soon i felt
The cloudy curtain of refreshing eve
Was clos'd once more, from that immortal fire
Sheltering my eye-lids. Looking up, i view'd
A vast gigantic spectre striding on
Through murmuring thunders and a waste of clouds,
With dreadful action. Black as night his brow
Relentless frowns involv'd. His savage limbs
With sharp impatience violent he writh'd,
As through convulsive anguish; and his hand,
Arm'd with a scorpion-lash, full oft he rais'd
In madness to his bosom; while his eyes
Rain'd bitter tears, and bellowing loud he shook
The void with horror. Silent by his side
The virgin came. No discomposure stirr'd
Her features. From the glooms which hung around
No stain of darkness mingled with the beam
Of her divine effulgence. Now they stoop
Upon the river-bank; and now to hail
His wonted guests, with eager steps advanc'd
The unsuspecting inmate of the shade.
As when a famish'd wolf, that all night long
Had rang'd the Alpine snows, by chance at morn
Sees from a cliff incumbent o'er the smoke
Of some lone village, a neglected kid
That strays along the wild for herb or spring;
Down from the winding ridge he sweeps amain,
And thinks he tears him: so with tenfold rage,
The monster sprung remorseless on his prey.
Amaz'd the stripling stood: with panting breast
Feebly he pour'd the lamentable wail
Of helpless consternation, struck at once,
And rooted to the ground. The queen beheld
His terror, and with looks of tenderest care
Advanc'd to save him. Soon the tyrant felt
Her awful power. His keen, tempestuous arm
Hung nerveless, nor descended where his rage
Had aim'd the deadly blow: then dumb retir'd
With sullen rancour. Lo! the sovran maid
Folds with a mother's arms the fainting boy,
Till life rekindles in his rosy cheek;
Then grasps his hands, and cheers him with her tongue.
O wake thee, rouze thy spirit! Shall the spite
Of yon tormentor thus appall thy heart,
While i, thy friend and guardian, am at hand
To rescue and to heal? O let thy soul
Remember, what the will of heaven ordains
Is ever good for all; and if for all,
Then good for thee. Nor only by the warmth
And soothing sunshine of delightful things,
Do minds grow up and flourish. Oft misled
By that bland light, the young unpractis'd views
Of reason wander through a fatal road,
Far from their native aim: as if to lye
Inglorious in the fragrant shade, and wait
The soft access of ever-circling joys,
Were all the end of being. Ask thyself,
This pleasing error did it never lull
Thy wishes? Has thy constant heart refus'd
The silken fetters of delicious ease?
Or when divine Euphrosyné appear'd
Within this dwelling, did not thy desires
Hang far below the measure of thy fate,
Which i reveal'd before thee? and thy eyes,
Impatient of my counsels, turn away
To drink the soft effusion of her smiles?
Know then, for this the everlasting sire
Deprives thee of her presence, and instead,
O wise and still benevolent! ordains
This horrid visage hither to pursue
My steps; that so thy nature may discern
Its real good, and what alone can save
Thy feeble spirit in this hour of ill
From folly and despair. O yet belov'd!
Let not this headlong terror quite o'erwhelm
Thy scatter'd powers; nor fatal deem the rage
Of this tormentor, nor his proud assault,
While i am here to vindicate thy toil,
Above the generous question of thy arm.
Brave by thy fears and in thy weakness strong,
This hour he triumphs: but confront his might,
And dare him to the combat, then with ease
Disarm'd and quell'd, his fierceness he resigns
To bondage and to scorn: while thus inur'd
By watchful danger, by unceasing toil,
The immortal mind, superior to his fate,
Amid the outrage of external things,
Firm as the solid base of this great world,
Rests on his own foundations. Blow, ye winds!
Ye waves! ye thunders! rowl your tempest on;
Shake, ye old pillars of the marble sky!
Till all its orbs and all its worlds of fire
Be loosen'd from their seats; yet still serene,
The unconquer'd mind looks down upon the wreck;
And ever stronger as the storms advance,
Firm through the closing ruin holds his way,
Where nature calls him to the destin'd goal.
So spake the goddess; while through all her frame
Cœlestial raptures flow'd, in every word,
In every motion kindling warmth divine
To seize who listen'd. Vehement and swift
As lightening fires the aromatic shade
In Æthiopian fields, the stripling felt
Her inspiration catch his fervid soul,
And starting from his languor thus exclaim'd.
Then let the trial come! and witness thou,
If terror be upon me; if i shrink
To meet the storm, or faulter in my strength
When hardest it besets me. Do not think
That i am fearful and infirm of soul,
As late thy eyes beheld: for thou hast chang'd
My nature; thy commanding voice has wak'd
My languid powers to bear me boldly on,
Where'er the will divine my path ordains
Through toil or peril: only do not thou
Forsake me; o be thou for ever near,
That i may listen to thy sacred voice,
And guide by thy decrees my constant feet.
But say, for ever are my eyes bereft?
Say, shall the fair Euphrosyné not once
Appear again to charm me? Thou, in heaven!
O thou eternal arbiter of things!
Be thy great bidding done: for who am i,
To question thy appointment? Let the frowns
Of this avenger every morn o'ercast
The cheerful dawn, and every evening damp
With double night my dwelling; i will learn
To hail them both, and unrepining bear
His hateful presence: but permit my tongue
One glad request, and if my deeds may find
Thy awful eye propitious, o restore
The rosy-featur'd maid; again to cheer
This lonely seat, and bless me with her smiles.
He spoke; when instant through the sable glooms
With which that furious presence had involv'd
The ambient air, a flood of radiance came
Swift as the lightening flash; the melting clouds
Flew diverse, and amid the blue serene
Euphrosyné appear'd. With sprightly step
The nymph alighted on the irriguous lawn,
And to her wondering audience thus began.
Lo! i am here to answer to your vows,
And be the meeting fortunate! i come
With joyful tidings; we shall part no more—
Hark! how the gentle echo from her cell
Talks through the cliffs, and murmuring o'er the stream
Repeats the accents; we shall part no more.
O my delightful friends! well-pleas'd on high
The father has beheld you, while the might
Of that stern foe with bitter trial prov'd
Your equal doings; then for ever spake
The high decree: that thou, cœlestial maid!
Howe'er that griesly phantom on thy steps
May sometimes dare intrude, yet never more
Shalt thou, descending to the abode of man,
Alone endure the rancour of his arm,
Or leave thy lov'd Euphrosyné behind.
She ended; and the whole romantic scene
Immediate vanish'd; rocks, and woods, and rills,
The mantling tent, and each mysterious form
Flew like the pictures of a morning dream,
When sun-shine fills the bed. A while i stood
Perplex'd and giddy; till the radiant power
Who bade the visionary landscape rise,
As up to him i turn'd, with gentlest looks
Preventing my enquiry, thus began.
There let thy soul acknowledge its complaint
How blind, how impious! There behold the ways
Of heaven's eternal destiny to man,
For ever just, benevolent and wise:
That virtue's awful steps, howe'er pursu'd
By vexing fortune and intrusive pain,
Should never be divided from her chaste,
Her fair attendant, pleasure. Need i urge
Thy tardy thought through all the various round
Of this existence, that thy softening soul
At length may learn what energy the hand
Of virtue mingles in the bitter tide
Of passion swelling with distress and pain,
To mitigate the sharp with gracious drops
Of cordial pleasure? Ask the faithful youth,
Why the cold urn of her whom long he lov'd
So often fills his arms; so often draws
His lonely footsteps at the silent hour,
To pay the mournful tribute of his tears?
O! he will tell thee, that the wealth of worlds
Should ne'er seduce his bosom to forego
That sacred hour, when, stealing from the noise
Of care and envy, sweet remembrance sooths
With virtue's kindest looks his aking breast,
And turns his tears to rapture.—Ask the croud
Which flies impatient from the village-walk
To climb the neighbouring cliffs, when far below
The cruel winds have hurl'd upon the coast
Some helpless bark; while sacred pity melts
The general eye, or terror's icy hand
Smites their distorted limbs and horrent hair;
While every mother closer to her breast
Catches her child, and pointing where the waves
Foam through the shatter'd vessel, shrieks aloud
As one poor wretch that spreads his piteous arms
For succour, swallow'd by the roaring surge,
As now another, dash'd against the rock,
Drops lifeless down: o! deemest thou indeed
No kind endearment here by nature given
To mutual terror and compassion's tears?
No sweetly-melting softness which attracts,
O'er all that edge of pain, the social powers
To this their proper action and their end?
—Ask thy own heart; when at the midnight hour,
Slow through that studious gloom thy pausing eye
Led by the glimmering taper moves around
The sacred volumes of the dead, the songs
Of Grecian bards, and records writ by fame
For Grecian heroes, where the present power
Of heaven and earth surveys the immortal page,
Even as a father blessing, while he reads
The praises of his son. If then thy soul,
Spurning the yoke of these inglorious days,
Mix in their deeds and kindle with their flame;
Say, when the prospect blackens on thy view,
When rooted from the base, heroic states
Mourn in the dust and tremble at the frown
Of curst ambition; when the pious band
Of youths who fought for freedom and their sires,
Lie side by side in gore; when ruffian pride
Usurps the throne of justice, turns the pomp
Of public power, the majesty of rule,
The sword, the laurel, and the purple robe,
To slavish empty pageants, to adorn
A tyrant's walk, and glitter in the eyes
Of such as bow the knee; when honour'd urns
Of patriots and of chiefs, the awful bust
And storied arch, to glut the coward-rage
Of regal envy, strew the public way
With hallow'd ruins; when the Muse's haunt,
The marble porch where wisdom wont to talk
With Socrates or Tully, hears no more,
Save the hoarse jargon of contentious monks,
Or female superstition's midnight prayer;
When ruthless rapine from the hand of time
Tears the destroying scythe, with surer blow
To sweep the works of glory from their base;
Till desolation o'er the grass-grown street
Expands his raven-wings, and up the wall,
Where senates once the price of monarchs doom'd,
Hisses the gliding snake through hoary weeds
That clasp the mouldering column; thus defac'd,
Thus widely mournful when the prospect thrills
Thy beating bosom, when the patriot's tear
Starts from thine eye, and thy extended arm
In fancy hurls the thunderbolt of Jove
To fire the impious wreath on Philip's
Or dash Octavius from the trophied car;
Say, does thy secret soul repine to taste
The big distress? Or would'st thou then exchange
Those heart-ennobling sorrows for the lot
Of him who sits amid the gaudy herd
Of mute barbarians bending to his nod,
And bears aloft his gold-invested front,
And says within himself, “i am a king,
“And wherefore should the clamorous voice of woe
“Intrude upon mine ear?—” The baleful dregs
Of these late ages, this inglorious draught
Of servitude and folly, have not yet,
Blest be the eternal ruler of the world!
Defil'd to such a depth of sordid shame
The native honours of the human soul,
Nor so effac'd the image of its sire.