Meanwhile between the princes rose debate,
About the wond'rous steed the Syrian brought,
Algarsife urging not devoid of heat,
The motion some informing genius wrought:
But calm Camballo, with a sceptic air,
Seem'd to believe the secret lay within,
That hid remain'd the wheels of action there,
And mov'd or ceas'd directed by the pin.
Each brings new proofs the other to confute,
Till to the monarch's ear arriv'd the warm dispute.
Silent a while the king reflection made,
And saw the point not easy to decide;
Till kind rememb'rance offer'd to his aid
A hoary Sage, whose skill he oft had try'd,
Of Median birth, but whose enquiring sight
The travell'd regions of the east had known;
Wisdom, sole object of his calm delight.
And every art and science was his own.
Nor read in books alone, his generous mind
Embrac'd with cordial zeal the good of human kind.
The various faiths the peopled world divide
Truly impartial had his thoughts survey'd;
Reason his standard still, and truth his guide,
Nor passion, prejudice, or interest sway'd:
The Magi's antient laws, the Brachmin's lore,
Th' Egyptian character, and Jewish rite,
The christian faith intended to restore,
But now defac'd by superstition quite
With [illeg.] plan: th' Arabian prophet
O'er Ajar now which spread as new religions do!
He saw that nature thro' her wide command
O'er all her works had spread one equal smile;
Nor kept the bounties of her lavish hand,
Conn'd to this or that peculiar soil:
He knew that vain was every art design'd
To curb the native freedom of the will:
That by a thousand motives sway'd, the mind
Stood firm to virtue, or declin'd to ill:
And in th' extended scene of human race,
As different were the thoughts, as varied was the face!
Hence Cosroes (such the reverend sage's Name)
This healing principle reflective drew;
Candid to judge, devoid of selfish aim,
And calm the paths of wisdom to pursue;
Pleas'd with the little nature just requires,
Wealth, honours, pleasures, titles he disdain'd;
Few were his wants, as moderate his desires.
The happy master of himself he reign'd!
A joy to all but purer minds unknown,
Beyond the pride of crowns, or splendors of a throne.
By Oxus' bank, along the winding shore
Inclos'd with wood a little spot he found;
There had he fix'd his rest, and greatly poor,
Liv'd on the fruits of his domestic ground:
Oft had Cambuscan, tir'd with cares of state,
Delighted sought the refuge of his Cave,
There philosophic held the cool debate,
Nor scorn'd the councils which the hermit gave,
Whose life reveal'd the value of his art,
And to the learned head conjoin'd the friendly heart.
For him, immediate then the monarch sends,
His seasonable presence to require.
The honest sage the messenger attends,
And comes obedient to the king's desire:
His head with age's frost was Silver'd o'er,
Yet on his cheek still blush'd the temperate rose.
Decent, tho' plain, a flowing robe he wore,
And manly dignity his person shows:
For such his carriage seem'd and gentle port,
As if his life had been conversant with a court.
The Syrian knight (for so requests the king)
The nature of the caliph's gifts explains;
The horse, the sword, the mirror, and the ring,
And points the qualities which each retains;
When thus the prince — 'It suits thee to declare,
Wise Cosroes, for thy knowledge can impart;
Whence boast these presents their perfections rare!
From nature flows their virtue, or from art?
Or animates the steed some power divine?
Or do mechanic springs direct the bold design?'
To whom the sage — 'Not, mighty prince, I boast
Of such mysterious things to judge the cause!
Least knows the wisest mind in knowing most
Of matter's properties, and motion's laws;
Form'd of two principles distinguish'd quite,
Compos'd we find our own corporeal frame;
We know that spirit and earth in one unite,
Yet search in vain from whence the union came,
Or where subsists invisible the tye?
That Life itself maintains, and failing which, we dye!
'What gives commission to the wintry war,
When the loud storm enchafes the troubled deep?
Or sooths to peace the elemental jar,
And hushes the relenting winds to sleep?
What bids the moon's revolving light
By turns replenish and by turns decay?
Fair as she glides along the face of night,
Shaping through many a cloud her pathless way.
Or whence those clouds themselves unseen arise?
To paint with figur'd robes the ever-changing skies!
'All the phenomena of boundless air,
That strike with wonder the unletter'd eye,
The meteor's flash, the ruddy comet's glare,
Or the loud thunder bursting from the sky!
The dark eclipse, when o'er the lamp of day
Its gloomy blot prevailing darkness bends,
The painted bow, whose variegated ray
O'er the pale cloud its glittering arch distends:
All these, in vain, enquiry would pursue
With narrow schemes of sense, and systems still untrue.
'Yet science sees direct — far as it may,
While ignorance its dubious passage pores;
Safe walks the sage as reason lights the way,
One sovereign cause discovers and adores!
The more in nature's road he thoughtful treads,
He sees eternal wisdom rule the whole:
The more the book of heav'n intent he reads,
He feels that wisdom penetrate his soul.
And what the world beholds with careless eyes,
Silent he contemplates with reverence and surprize!
'Matter he views still struggling to a birth,
Through all her elemental forms aspire;
Earth rise from water, air refine from earth,
To purify itself at last in fire:
Fire! — the fix'd principle whose vital ray,
Heat, motion, action, and sensation breeds,
Which, shed eternal from exhaustless day,
Wakens to life the dull material seeds,
That to itself attractive all invites,
Till in its radiant cause each particle unites.
'Hence would it seem, that this mysterious horse,
Tho' form'd to semblance of material mold,
Is taught by sympathy to guide his course,
And act unerring all the wonders told;
This sure we know, that matter has its Laws,
By which impell'd the stubborn mass obeys;
That this [illeg.] pow'r; and undiscover'd cause,
Can seeming miracles in nature raise:
As the Greek Pegasus, is fam'd to bear
The bold Bellerophon thro' fields of trackless air.
'Hence taught, in matter can the sage infuse
New qualities, as suit his just design;
Can shape the form subservient to his views,
And stamp the workmanship with skill divine.
Thus, in the honour'd caliph's precious sword,
Opposing virtues may their influence shed;
The salutary hilt a balm afford,
To heal the cruel hurt the edge had made;
As the bruis'd scorpion press'd upon the wound,
Extracts his proper gall and leaves the patient sound.
'Thus may the mystick mirror and the ring
The gentle knight's description well maintain,
From planetary signs their virtues spring,
Which only deep-read science can attain.
As o'er affrighted Misraim's fruitful land
The word of Mousa once destruction spread,
Or grac'd the signet Solomon's right hand,
Whose power could wake the slumbers of the dead;
Could from the eye remove the veil of night,
And place the worlds unseen before th' astonish'd sight.
'But whether thou, great king, exalt thy head
In peaceful sway and foreign friendships blest;
Remember heav'n, that all thy grandeur made,
Nor let vain pride pollute thy royal breast!
All that we see in life's deceitful dream,
Like us, the thin beholders, glides away,
Only great Orosmanes shines the same
Unwasting fountain of eternal day!
The centre, where creation fondly tends,
Whence every being springs, in whom all being ends!'
He ceas'd — attentive as the Syrian knight
Heard the soft accents issue from his tongue,
Such mild instructions sweeten the delight,
He had not thought a midnight audience long.
Cambuscan thanks return'd, th' applauding crowd
With common justice spoke the sage's praise.
Sleep now began to spread his gentle shroud,
And summon nature to her wonted ease.
The king arose — the court retire to rest,
And thro' the palace wide — deep silence reigns confess'd.
- steel arms