REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN.
THE LIFE OF AKENSIDE.
Mark Akenside was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 9th of November 1721. His family were Presbyterian Dissenters, and on the 30th of that month he was baptized in the meeting, then held in Hanover Square, by a Mr. Benjamin Bennet. His father, Mark, was a butcher in respectable circumstances—his mother's name was Mary Lumsden. There may seem something grotesque in finding the author of the "Pleasures of Imagination" born in a place usually thought so anti-poetical as a butcher's shop. And yet similar anomalies abound in the histories of men of genius. Henry Kirke White, too, was a butcher's son, and for some time carried his father's basket. The late Thomas Atkinson, a very clever litterateur of the West of Scotland, was also what the Scotch call a "flesher's" son. The case of Cardinal Wolsey is well known. Indeed, we do not understand why any decent calling should be inimical to the existence—however it may be to the adequate development—of genius. That is a spark of supernal inspiration, lighting where it pleases, often conforming, and always striving to conform, circumstances to itself, and sometimes even strengthened and purified by the contradictions it meets in life. Nay, genius has sprung up in stranger quarters than in butcher's shops or tailor's attics—it has lived and nourished in the dens of robbers, and in the gross and fetid atmosphere of taverns. There was an Allen-a-Dale in Robin Hood's gang; it was in the Bell Inn, at Gloucester, that George Whitefield, the most gifted of popular orators, was reared; and Bunyan's Muse found him at the disrespectable trade of a tinker, and amidst the clatter of pots, and pans, and vulgar curses, made her whisper audible in his ear, "Come up hither to the Mount of Vision—to the summit of Mount Clear!"
It is said that Akenside was ashamed of his origin—and if so, he deserved the perpetual recollection of it, produced by a life-long lameness, originating in a cut from his father's cleaver. It is fitting that men, and especially great men, should suffer through their smallnesses of character. The boy was first sent to the Free School of Newcastle, and thence to a private academy kept by Mr. Wilson, a Dissenting minister of the place. He began rather early to display a taste for poetry and verse-writing; and, in April 1737, we find in the Gentleman's Magazine a set of stanzas, entitled, "The Virtuoso, in imitation of Spenser's style and stanza," prefaced by a letter signed Marcus, in which the author, while requesting the insertion of his piece, pleads the apology of his extreme youth. One may see something of the future political zeal of the man in the boy's selection of one of the names of Brutus. The Gentleman's Magazine was then rising toward that character of a readable medley and agreeable olla podrida, which it long bore, although its principal contributor—Johnson—did not join its staff till the next year. Its old numbers will even still repay perusal—at least we seldom enjoyed a greater treat than when in our boyhood we lighted on and read some twenty of its brown-hued, stout-backed, strong-bound volumes, filled with the debates in the Senate of Lilliput—with Johnson's early Lives and Essays—with mediocre poetry—interesting scraps of meteorological and scientific information—ghost stories and fairy tales—alternating with timid politics, and with sarcasms at the great, veiled under initials, asterisks, and innuendoes; and even now many, we believe, feel it quite a luxury to recur from the personalities and floridities of modern periodicals to its quiet, cool, sober, and sensible pages. To it Akenside contributed afterwards a fable, called "Ambition and Content," a "Hymn to Science," and a few more poetical pieces (written not, as commonly said, in Edinburgh, but in Newcastle, in 1739). It has been asserted that he composed his "Pleasures of Imagination" while visiting some relations at Morpeth, when only seventeen years of age; but although he himself assures us that he spent many happy and inspired hours in that region,
"Led In silence by some powerful hand unseen,"
there is no direct evidence that he then fixed his vague, tumultuous, youthful impressions in verse. Indeed, the texture and style of the "Pleasures" forbid the thought that it was a hasty improvisation. When nearly eighteen years old, Akenside was sent to Edinburgh, to commence his studies for the pulpit, and received some pecuniary assistance from the Dissenters' Society. One winter, however, served to disgust him with the prospects of the profession—which he resigned for the pursuit of medicine, repaying the contribution he had received from the society. We know a similar case in the present day of a well-known, able litterateur—once the editor of the Westminster Review—who had been educated at the expense of the Congregational body in Scotland, but who, after a change of religious view and of profession, honourably refunded the whole sum. What were the special reasons why Akenside turned aside from the Church we are not informed. Perhaps he had fallen into youthful indiscretions or early scepticism; or perhaps he felt that the business of a Dissenting pastor was not then, any more than it is now, a very lucrative one. Presbyterian Dissent at that time, besides, did not stand very high in England. The leading Dissenting divines were Independents—and the Presbyterian body was fast sinking into Unitarian or Arian heresy. On the other hand, the Church of England was in the last state of lukewarmness; the Church of Scotland was groaning under the load of patronage; and the Secession body was newly formed, and as yet insignificant. In such circumstances we cannot wonder that an ardent, ambitious mind like that of Akenside should revolt from divinity as a study, and the pulpit as a goal, although some may think it strange how the pursuit of medicine should commend itself instead to a genial and poetic mind. Yet let us remember that some eminent poets have been students or practisers of the art of medicine. Such—to name only a few—were Armstrong, Smollett, Crabbe, Darwin, Delta, Keats, and the two Thomas Browns, the Knight of the "Religio Medici," and the Philosopher of the "Lectures," both genuine poets, although their best poetry is in prose. There are, besides, connected with medicine, some departments of thought and study peculiarly exciting to the imagination. Such is anatomy, with its sad yet instructive revelations of the structure of the human frame—so "fearfully and wonderfully made"—wielding in its hand a scalpel which at first seems ruthless and disenchanting as the scythe of death, but which afterwards becomes a key to unlock some of the deepest mysteries, and leads us down whole galleries of wonder. There is botany, culling from every nook and corner of the earth weeds which are flowers, and flowers of all hues, and every plant, from the "cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop which springs out of the wall," and finding a terrible and imaginative pleasure in handling the fell family of poisons, and in deriving the means of protracting life and healing sickness from the very blossoms of death. And there is chemistry, most poetical save astronomy of all the sciences, seeking to spiritualise the material—to hunt the atom to the point where it trembles over the gulf of nonentity—to weigh gases in scales, and the elements in a balance, and, in its more transcendental and daring shape, trying to interchange one kind of metal with another, and all kinds of forms with all, as in a music-led and mystic dance. Hence we find that such men as Beddoes, the author of the "Bride's Tragedy," have turned away from poetry to physiology, and found in it a grander if also ghastlier stimulus to their imaginative faculty. Hence Crabbe delighted to load himself with grasses and duckweed, and Goethe to fill his carriage with every variety of plant and mountain flower. Hence Davy, and the late lamented Samuel Brown, analysed, in the spirit of poets as well as of philosophers, and gave to the crucible what it had long lost, something of the air of a weird cauldron, bubbling over with magical foam, and shining, not so much in the severe light of science as in the
"Light that never was on sea or shore. The consecration and the poet's dream."
And hence, in the then state of Church matters, and of his own effervescent soul, Akenside felt probably in medicine a deeper charm than in theology, and imagined that it opened up a more congenial field for his powers both of reason and of imagination.
In December 1740, Akenside was elected a member of the Edinburgh Medical Society. This society held meetings for discussion, and in them our poet set himself to shine as a speaker. His ambition, it is said, at this time, was to be a member of Parliament; and Dr. Robertson, then a student in the University, used to attend the meetings of the society chiefly to hear the speeches of the young and fiery Southron. Indeed, the rhetoric of the "Pleasures of Imagination" is finer than its poetry; and none but an orator could have painted Brutus rising "refulgent from the stroke" which slew Caesar, when he
"Call'd on Tully's name, And bade the father of his country hail!"
Englishmen are naturally more eloquent than the Scotch; and once and again has the Mark Akenside, the Joseph Gerald, or the George Thompson overpowered and captivated even the sober and critical children of the Modern Athens. While electrifying the Medical Society, Akenside did not neglect, if he did not eminently excel in his professional studies; and he continued to write sonorous verse, some specimens of which, including an "Ode on the Winter Solstice," and "Love, an Elegy," he is said to have printed for private distribution.
In Edinburgh he became acquainted with Jeremiah Dyson, a young law-student of fortune, who was afterwards our poet's principal patron. He seems to have returned to Newcastle in 1741; and we find him dating a letter to Dyson thence on the 18th of August 1742, and directing his correspondent to address his reply to him as "Surgeon, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne." It is doubtful, however, if he had yet begun to practise; and there is reason to believe that he was busily occupied with his great poem. This he completed in the close of 1743. He offered the manuscript to Dodsley for L150. The bookseller, although a liberal and generous man, was disposed at first to boggle a little at such a price for a didactic poem by an unknown man. He carried the "Pleasures of Imagination" to Pope, who glanced at it, saw its merit, and advised Dodsley not to make a niggardly offer—for "this was no everyday writer." It appeared in January 1744, and, in spite of its faults, nay, perhaps, partly in consequence of them, was received with loud applause; and the author—only twenty-three years of age—"awoke one morning, and found himself famous;" for although his name was not attached to the poem, it soon transpired. One Rolt, an obscure scribbler, then in Ireland, claimed the authorship, transcribed the poem with his own hand; nay, according to Dr. Johnson, published an edition with his own name, and was invited to the best tables as the ingenious Mr. Rolt. His conversation did not indeed sparkle with poetic fire, nor was his appearance that of a poet, but people remembered that both Dryden and Addison were dull or silent in company till warmed with wine, and that it was not uncommon for authors to have sold all their thoughts to their booksellers. Akenside, hearing of this, was obliged to vindicate his claims by printing the next edition with his name, and then the bubble of the ingenious Mr. Rolt burst.
All fame, and especially all sudden fame, has its drawbacks. Gray read the poem, and wrote of it to his friends, in a style thought at the time depreciatory, although it comes pretty near the truth. He says, "It seems to me above the middling, and now and then for a little while rises even to the best, particularly in description. It is often obscure and even unintelligible. In short, its great fault is, that it was published at least nine years too early." Gray, however, had not as yet himself emerged as a poet, and his word had chiefly weight with his friends. Warburton was a more formidable opponent. This divine acted then a good deal in the style of a gigantic Church-bully, and seemed disposed to knock down all and sundry who differed from him either on great or small theological matters; and Humes, Churchills, Jortins, Middletons, Lowths, Shaftesburys, Wesleys, Whitefields, and Akensides all felt the fury of his onset, and the force of the "punishment" inflicted by his strong fists. Akenside, in his poem, and in one of his notes, had defended Shaftesbury's ridiculous notion that ridicule is the test of truth, and for this Warburton assailed him in the preface to "Remarks in Answer to Dr. Middleton." In this, while indirectly disparaging the poem, he accuses the poet of infidelity, atheism, and insulting the clergy. The preface appeared in March 1744, and in the following May (Akenside being then in Holland) came forth a reply, in "An Epistle to the Rev. Mr. Warburton, occasioned by his Treatment of the Author of the Pleasures of Imagination," which had been concocted between Dyson and our poet. This pamphlet was written with considerable spirit; and although it left the question where it found it, it augured no little courage on the part of the young physician and the young lawyer mating themselves against the matured author of the "Divine Legation of Moses." As to the question in dispute, Johnson disposes of it satisfactorily in a single sentence. "If ridicule be applied to any position as the test of truth, it will then become a question whether such ridicule be just, and this can only be decided by the application of truth as the test of ridicule." How easy to make any subject or any person ridiculous! To hold that ridicule is paramount to the discovery or attestation of truth, is to exalt the ape-element in man above the human and the angelic principles, which also belong to his nature, and to enthrone a Voltaire over a Newton or a Milton. Those who laugh proverbially do not always win, nor do they always deserve to win. Do we think less of "Paradise Lost," and Shakspeare, because Cobbett has derided both, or of the Old and New Testaments, because Paine has subjected parts of them to his clumsy satire? When we find, indeed, a system such as Jesuitism blasted by the ridicule of Pascal, we conclude that it was not true,—but why? not merely because ridicule assailed it, for ridicule has assailed ten thousand systems which never even shook in the storm, but because, in the view of all candid and liberal thinkers, the ridicule prevailed. Should it be said that the question still recurs, How are we to be certain of the candour and liberality of the men who think that Pascal's satire damaged Jesuitism? we simply say, that it is not ridicule, but some stricter and more satisfactory method that can determine this inquiry. It is remarkable that Akenside modified his statements on this subject in his after revision of his poem.
In April 1744 we find our bard in Leyden, and Mr. Dyce has published some interesting letters dated thence to Mr. Dyson. He does not seem to have admired Holland much, whether in its scenery, manners, taste, or genius. On the 16th of May, he took his degree of Doctor of Physic at Leyden, the subject of his Dissertation (which, according to the usual custom, he published) being the "Origin and Growth of the Human Foetus," in which he is reported to have opposed the views then prevalent, and to have maintained the theory which is now generally held. As soon as he received his diploma he returned to England, signalising his departure by an "Ode to Holland," as dull as any ditch in that country itself. In June he settled as a physician in Northampton, where the eminent Doddridge was at the time labouring. With him he is said to have held a friendly contest about the opinions of the old heathens in reference to a future state, Akenside, in keeping with the whole tenor of his intellectual history, supporting the side of the ancients. Indeed, he never appears to have had much religion, except that of the Pagan philosophy, Plato being his Paul, and Socrates his Christ; and most cordially would he have joined in Thorwaldsen's famous toast (announced at an evening party in Rome, while the planet Jupiter was shining in great glory), "Here's in honour of the ancient gods." In Northampton, partly owing to the overbearing influence of Dr. Stonehouse, a long-established practitioner, and partly to his violent political zeal, he did not prosper. While residing there he produced his manly and spirited "Epistle to Curio." Curio was Pulteney, who had been a flaming patriot, but who, like the majority of such characters, had, for the sake of a title—the earldom of Bath—subsided into a courtier. Him Akenside lashes with unsparing energy. He committed afterwards an egregious blunder in reference to this production. He frittered it down into a stupid ode. Indeed, he had always an injudicious trick—whether springing from fastidiousness or undue ambition—of tinkering and tampering with his very best poems.
In March 1745 he collected his odes into a quarto tract. It appeared at a time when lyrical poetry was all but extinct. Dryden was gone; Collins and Gray had not yet published their odes; and hence, and partly too from the prestige of his former poem, Akenside's odes, poor as they now seem, met with considerable acceptance, although they did not reach a new edition till 1760. In 1747 his friend Dyson, having been elected clerk to the House of Commons, took Akenside with him to his house at Northend, Hampstead. Here, however, he felt himself out of place, and in fine, in 1748, he settled down in Bloomsbury Square, London, where Dyson very generously allowed him L300 a-year, which, being equal to the value of twice that sum now, enabled him to keep a chariot, and live like a gentleman. During the years 1746, 1747, 1748, he composed a number of pieces, both in prose and verse—his "Hymn to the Naiads," his "Ode to the Evening Star," and several essays in Dodsley's Museum; such as these, "On Correctness;" "The Table of Modern Fame, a Vision;" "Letter from a Swiss Gentleman on English Liberty;" and "The Balance of Poets;" besides an ode to Caleb Hardinge, M. D., and another to the Earl of Huntingdon, which has been esteemed one of his best lyric poems. In London he did not attain rapidly a good practice, nor was it ever extensive. But for Mr. Dyson's aid he might have written a chapter on "Early Struggles," nearly as rich and interesting as that famous one in Warren's "Diary of a late Physician." Even his poetical name was adverse to his prospects. His manners, too, were unconciliating and haughty. At Tom's Coffeehouse, in Devereux Court, night after night, appeared the author of the "Pleasures of Imagination," full of knowledge, dogmatism, and a love of self-display; eager for talk, fond of arguing—especially on politics and literature—and sometimes narrowly escaping duels and other misadventures springing from his hot and imperious temper. In sick chambers he was stiff, formal, and reserved, carrying a frown about with him, which itself damped the spirits and accelerated the pulse of his patients. It was only among intimate friends that he descended to familiarity, and even then it was with
"Compulsion and laborious flight."
One of these intimates for a while was Charles Townshend, a man whose name now lives chiefly in the glowing encomium of Burke, a part of which we may quote:—"Before this splendid orb (Lord Chatham) was entirely set, and while the western horizon was in a blaze with his descending glory, on the opposite quarter of the heavens arose another luminary, and for his hour became lord of the ascendant. Townshend was the delight and ornament of this House, and the charm of every private society which he honoured with his presence. Perhaps there never arose in this country, nor in any country, a man of more pointed and finished wit, and of a more refined, exquisite, and penetrating judgment. He stated his matter skilfully and powerfully. He particularly excelled in a most luminous explanation and display of the subject. His style of argument was neither trite and vulgar, nor subtle and abstruse. He hit the House between wind and water. He had no failings which were not owing to a noble cause, to an ardent, generous, perhaps an immoderate passion for fame; a passion which is the instinct of all great souls. He worshipped that goddess wheresoever she appeared: but he paid his particular devotions to her in her favourite habitation, in her chosen temple, the House of Commons." With this distinguished man Akenside was for some time on friendly terms, but for causes not well known, their friendship came to an abrupt termination; it might have been owing to Townshend's rapid rise, or to Akenside's presumptuous and overbearing disposition. Two odes, addressed by the latter to the former, immortalise this incomplete and abortive amity.
The years 1750 and 1751 were only signalised in Akenside's history by one or two dull odes from his pen. But if not witty at that time himself, he gave occasion to wit in others. Smollett, provoked, it is said, by some aspersions Akenside had in conversation cast on Scotland, and at all times prone to bitter and sarcastic views of men and manners, fell foul of him in "Peregrine Pickle." If our readers care for wading through that filthy novel—the most disagreeable, although not the dullest of Smollett's fictions—they will find a caricature of our poet in the character of the "Doctor," who talks nonsense about liberty, quotes and praises his own poetry, and invites his friends to an entertainment in the manner of the ancients—a feast hideously accurate in its imitation of antique cookery, and forming, if not an "entertainment" to the guests, a very rich one to the readers of the tale. How Akenside bore this we are not particularly informed. Probably he writhed in secret, but was too proud to acknowledge his feelings. In 1753 he was consoled by receiving a doctor's degree from Cambridge, and by being elected Fellow of the Royal Society. The next year he became Fellow of the College of Physicians.
In June 1755 he read the Galstonian lectures in anatomy before the College of Physicians, and in the next year the Croonian lectures before the same institution. The subject of the latter course was the "History of the Revival of Letters," which some of the learned Thebans thought not germane to the matter; and, consequently, after he had delivered three lectures, he desisted in disgust. This fact seems somewhat to contradict Dr. Johnson's assertion, that "Akenside appears not to have been wanting to his own success, and placed himself in view by all the common methods." Had he been a thoroughly self-seeking man, he never would have committed the blunder of choosing literature as a subject of predilection to men who were probably most of them materialists, or at least destitute of literary taste. The Doctor says also, "He very eagerly forced himself into notice, by an ambitious ostentation of elegance and literature." But surely the author of such a popular poem as the "Pleasures of Imagination" had no need to claim notice by an ostentatious display of his parts, and had too much good sense to imagine that such a vain display would conciliate any acute and sensible person. Johnson, in fact, throughout his cursory and careless "Life of Akenside," is manifestly labouring under deep prejudice against the poet—prejudice founded chiefly on Akenside's political sentiments.
In 1759 our poet was appointed physician to St. Thomas's Hospital, and afterwards to Christ's Hospital. Here he ruled the patients and the under officials with a rod of iron. Dr. Lettsom became a surgeon's dresser in St. Thomas's Hospital. He was an admirer of poetry, especially of the "Pleasures of Imagination," and anticipated much delight from intercourse with the author. He was disappointed first of all with his personal appearance. He found him a stiff-limbed, starched personage, with a lame foot, a pale strumous face, a long sword, and a large white wig. Worse than this, he was cruel, almost barbarous, to the patients, particularly to females. Owing to an early love-disappointment, he had contracted a disgust and aversion to the sex, and chose to express it in a callous and cowardly harshness to those under his charge. It is possible, however, that Lettsom might be influenced by some private pique. Nothing is more common than for the hero-worshipper, disenchanted of his early idolatry, to rush to the opposite extreme, and to become the hero-hater; and the fault is as frequently his own as that of his idol. And it must be granted that an hospital—especially of that age—was no congenial atmosphere for a poet so Platonic and ideal as Akenside.
In October 1759 he delivered the Harveian oration before the College of Physicians, and by their order it was published the next year. In 1761 Mr. T. Hollis presented him with a bed which had once belonged to Milton, on the condition that he would write an ode to the memory of that great poet. Akenside joyfully accepted the bed, had it set up in his house, and, we suppose, slept in it; but the muse forgot to visit his "slumbers nightly," and no ode was ever produced. We think that Akenside had sympathy enough with Milton's politics and poetry to have written a fine blank-verse tribute to his memory, resembling that of Thomson to Sir Isaac Newton; but odes of much merit he could not produce, and yet at odes he was always sweltering
"With labour dire and weary woe."
In 1760, George the Third mounted the throne, and the author of the "Epistle to Curio" began to follow the precise path of Pulteney. In this he was preceded by Dyson, who became suddenly a supporter of Lord Bute, and drew his friend in his train. By Dyson's influence Akenside was appointed, in 1761, physician to the Queen. His secession from the Whig ranks cost him a great deal of obloquy. Dr. Hardinge had told the two turncoats long before "that, like a couple of idiots, they did not leave themselves a loophole—they could not sidle away into the opposite creed." He never, however, became a violent Tory partisan. It is singular how Johnson, with all his aversion to Akenside, has no allusion to his apostasy, in which we might have a priori expected him to glory, as a proof of the poet's inconsistency, if not corruption.
In one point Akenside differed from the majority of his tuneful brethren, before, then, or since. He was a warm and wide-hearted commender of the works of other poets. Most of our sweet singers rather resemble birds of prey than nightingales or doves, and are at least as strong in their talons as they are musical in their tongues. And hence the groves of Parnassus have in all ages rung with the screams of wrath and contest, frightfully mingling with the melodies of song. Akenside, by a felicitous conjunction of elements, which you could not have expected from other parts of his character, was entirely exempted from this defect, and not only warmly admired Pope, Young, Thomson, and Dyer, whose "Fleece" he corrected, but had kind words to spare for even such "small deer" as Welsted and Fenton.
In 1763, he read a paper before the Royal Society, on the "Effects of a Blow on the Heart," which was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the year. And, in 1764 he established his character as a medical writer by an elegant and elaborate treatise on "The Dysentery," still, we believe, consulted for its information, and studied for the purity and precision of its Latin style. About this time, too, he commenced a recasting of his "Pleasures of Imagination," which he did not live to finish; and in which, on the whole, there is more of laborious alteration than of felicitous improvement. In 1766, Warburton, his old foe, who had now been made a bishop, reprinted, in a new edition of his "Divine Legation of Moses," his attack on Akenside's notions about ridicule, without deigning to take any notice of the explanations he had given in his reply. This renewal of hostilities, coming, especially as it did, from the vantage ground of the Episcopal bench, enraged our poet, and, by way of rejoinder, he issued a lyrical satire which he had had lying past him in pickle for fifteen years, and which nothing but a fresh provocation would have induced him to publish. It was entitled "An Ode to the late Thomas Edwards, Esq." Edwards had opposed Warburton ably in a book entitled "Canons of Criticism," and was himself a poet. The real sting of this attack lay in Akenside's production of a letter from Warburton to Concanen, dated 2d January 1726, which had fallen accidentally into the hands of our poet; and in which Warburton had accused Addison of plagiarism, and said that when "Pope borrows it is from want of genius." Concanen was one of the "Dunces," and it was, of course, Akenside's purpose to shew Warburton's inconsistency in the different opinions he had expressed at different times of them and of their great adversary. We know not if the sturdy bishop took any notice of this ode. Even his Briarean arms were sometimes too full of the controversial work which his overbearing temper and fierce passions were constantly giving him.
In 1766, Akenside received the thanks of the College of Physicians for an edition of Harvey's works, which he prepared for the press, and to which he had prefixed a preface. In June 1767 he read before the College two papers, one on "Cancers and Asthmas," and the other on "White Swelling of the Joints," both of which were published the next year in the first volume of the Medical Transactions. In the same year, one Archibald Campbell, a Scotchman, a purser in the navy, and called, from his ungainly countenance, "horrible Campbell," produced a small jeu d'esprit, entitled "Lexiphanes, imitated from Lucian, and suited to the present times," in which he tries to ridicule Johnson's prose and Akenside's poetry. His object was probably to attract their notice, but both passed over this grin of the "Grim Feature" in silent contempt. Akenside was still busy with the revisal of his poem, had finished two books, "made considerable progress with the third, and written a fragment of the fourth;" but death stepped in and blighted his prospects, both as a physician, with increasing practice and reputation, and as a poet, whose favourite work was approaching what he deemed perfection. He was seized with putrid fever; and, after a short illness, died on the 23 d June 1770 at an age when many men are in their very prime, both of body and mind—that of 49. He died in his house in Burlington Street, and was buried on the 28th in St. James's Church.
Akenside had been, notwithstanding his many acquaintances and friends, on the whole, a lonely man; without domestic connexions, and having, so far as we are informed, either no surviving relations or no intercourse with those who might be still alive. He was not especially loved in society; he wanted humour and good-humour both, and had little of that frank cordiality which, according to Sidney Smith, "warms and cheers more than meat or wine." He had far less geniality than genius. Yet, in certain select circles, his mind, which was richly stored with all knowledge, opened delightfully, and men felt that he was the author of his splendid poem. One of his biographers gives him the palm for learning, next to Ben Jonson, Milton, and Gray (he might perhaps have also excepted Landor and Coleridge), over all our English poets.
In 1772, Mr. Dyson published an edition of his friend's poems, containing the original form of the "Pleasures of Imagination," as well as its half-finished second shape; his "Odes," "Inscriptions," "Hymn to the Naiads," etc., omitting, however, his poem to Curio in its first and best version, and some of his smaller pieces. This edition, too, contained an account of Akenside's life by his friend, so short and so cold as either to say little for Dyson's heart, or a great deal for his modesty and reticence. His uniform and munificent kindness to the poet during his lifetime, however, determines us in favour of the latter side of the alternative.
Of Akenside, as a man, our previous remarks have perhaps indicated our opinion. He was rather a scholar somewhat out of his element, and unreconciled to the world, than a thorough gentleman; irritable, vehement, and proud—his finer traits were only known to his intimates, who probably felt that in Wordsworth's words,
"You must love him ere to you He doth, seem worthy of your love."
In religion his opinions seem to have been rather unsettled; but, of whatever doubts he had, he gave the benefit latterly to the Christian side—at least he was ever ready to rebuke noisy and dogmatic infidelity. It is said that he intended to have included the doctrine of immortality in his later version of the "Pleasures of Imagination"—and even as the poem is, it contains some transient allusions to that great object of human hope, although none, it must be admitted, to its special Christian grounds.
We have now a very few sentences to enounce about his poetry, or, more properly speaking, about his two or three good poems, for we must dismiss the most of his odes, in their deep-sounding dulness, as nearly unworthy of their author's genius. Up to the days of Keats' "Endymion" and "Hyperion," Akenside's "Hymn to the Naiads" was thought one of the best attempts to reproduce the classical spirit and ideas. It now takes a secondary place; and at no time could be compared to an actual hymn of Callimachus or Pindar, any more than Smollett's "Supper after the Manner of the Ancients" was equal to a real Roman Coena, the ideal of which Croly has so superbly described in "Salathiel." His "Epistle to Curio" is a masterpiece of vigorous composition, terse sentiment, and glowing invective. It gathers around Pulteney as a ring of fire round the scorpion, and leaves him writhing and shrivelled. Out of Dryden and Pope, it is perhaps the best satiric piece in our poetry.
Of the "Pleasures of Imagination," it is not necessary to say a great deal. A poem that has been so widely circulated, so warmly praised, so frequently quoted and imitated—the whole of which nearly a man like Thomas Brown has quoted in the course of his lectures—must possess no ordinary merit. Its great beauty is its richness of description and language—its great fault is its obscurity; a beauty and a fault closely connected together, even as the luxuriance of a tropical forest implies intricacy, and its lavish loveliness creates a gloom. His attempt to express Plato's philosophy in blank verse is not always successful. Perhaps prose might better have answered his purpose in expressing the awfully sublime thought of the "archetypes of all things existing in God." We know that in certain objects of nature—in certain rocks, for instance (such as Coleridge describes in his "Wanderings of Cain")— there lie silent prefigurations and aboriginal types of artificial objects, such as ships, temples, and other orders of architecture; and it is so also in certain shells, woods, and even in clouds. How interesting and beautiful those painted prophecies of nature, those quiet hieroglyphics of God, those mystic letters, which, unlike those on the Babylonian wall, do not,
"Careering shake, And blaze IMPATIENT to be read,"
but bide calmly the time when their artificial archetypes shall appear, and the "wisdom" in them shall be "justified" in these its children! So, according to Plato, comparing great to small things, there lay in the Divine mind the archetypes of all that was to be created, with this important difference, that they lay in God spiritually and consciously. How poetical and how solemn to approach, under the guidance of this thought, and gaze on the mind of God as on an ancient awful mirror; and even as in a clear lake we behold the forms of the surrounding scenery reflected from the white strip of pebbled shore up to the gray scalp of the mountain summit, and tremble as we look down on the "skies of a far nether world," on an inverted sun, and on snow unmelted amidst the water; so to see the entire history of man, from the first glance of life in the eye of Adam, down to the last sparkle of the last ember of the general conflagration, lying silently and inverted there—how sublime, but at the same time how bewildering and how appalling! Our readers will find, in the "Pleasures of Imagination," an expansion—perhaps they may think it a dilution—of this Platonic idea.
They will find there, too, the germ of the famous theory of Alison and Jeffrey about Beauty. These theorists held 'that beauty resides not so much in the object as in the mind; that we receive but what we give; that our own soul is the urn whence beauty is showered over the universe; that flower and star are lovely because the mind has breathed on them; that the imagination and the heart of man are the twin beautifiers of creation; that the dwelling of beauty is not in the light of setting suns, nor in the beams of morning stars, nor in the waves of summer seas, but in the human spirit; that sublimity tabernacles not in the palaces of the thunder, walks not on the wings of the wind, rides not on the forked lightning, but that it is the soul which is lifted up there; that it is the soul which, in its high aspirings,'
"Yokes with whirlwinds and the northern blast, and scatters grandeur around it on its way."
All this seems anticipated, and, as it were, coiled up in the words of our poet:—
"Mind, mind alone (bear witness earth and heaven!) The living fountains in itself contains Of beauteous and sublime."
That Akenside was a real poet many expressions in his "Pleasures of Imagination" prove, such as that just quoted—
"Yoked with whirlwinds and the northern blast Sweeps the long tract of day;"
but, taking his poem as a whole, it is rather a tissue of eloquence and philosophical declamation than of imagination. He deals rather in sheet lightning than in forked flashes. As a didactic poem it has a high, but not the highest place. It must not be named beside the "De Rerum Natura" of Lucretius, or the "Georgics" of Virgil, or the "Night Thoughts" of Young; and in poetry, yields even to the "Queen Mab" of Shelley. It ranks high, however, amongst that fine class of works which have called themselves, by no misnomer, "Pleasures;" and to recount all the names of which were to give an "enumeration of sweets" as delightful as that in "Don Juan." How cheering to think of that beautiful bead-roll—of which the "Pleasures of Memory," "Pleasures of Hope," "Pleasures of Melancholy," "Pleasures of Imagination," are only a few! We may class, too, with them, Addison's essays on the "Pleasures of Imagination" in The Spectator, which, although in prose, glow throughout with the mildest and truest spirit of poetry; and if inferior to Akenside in richness and swelling pomp of words, and in dashing rhetorical force, far excel him in clearness, in chastened beauty, and in those inimitable touches and unconscious felicities of thought and expression which drop down, like ripe apples falling suddenly across your path from a laden bough, and which could only have proceeded from Addison's exquisite genius.
THE PLEASURES OF IMAGINATION.
Notes to Book I.
Notes to Book II.
Notes to Book III.
THE PLEASURES OF THE IMAGINATION.
ODES ON SEVERAL SUBJECTS:—
Ode I. Preface.
Ode II. On the Winter-solstice, 1740.
Ode II. For the Winter-solstice, December 11, 1740. As originally written.
Ode III. To a Friend, Unsuccessful in Love.
Ode IV. Affected Indifference. To the same.
Ode V. Against Suspicion.
Ode VI. Hymn to Cheerfulness.
Ode VII. On the Use of Poetry.
Ode VIII. On leaving Holland.
Ode IX. To Curio.
Ode X. To the Muse.
Ode XI. On Love. To a Friend.
Ode XII. To Sir Francis Henry Drake, Baronet.
Ode XIII. On Lyric Poetry.
Ode XIV. To the Honourable Charles Townshend; from the Country.
Ode XV. To the Evening Star.
Ode XVI. To Caleb Hardinge, M. D.
Ode XVII. On a Sermon against Glory.
Ode XVIII. To the Right Honourable Francis, Earl of Huntingdon.
Ode I. The Remonstrance of Shakspeare.
Ode II. To Sleep.
Ode III. To the Cuckoo.
Ode IV. To the Honourable Charles Townshend; in the Country.
Ode V. On Love of Praise.
Ode VI. To William Hall, Esquire; with the Works of Chaulieu.
Ode VII. To the Right Reverend Benjamin, Lord Bishop of Winchester.
Ode IX. At Study.
Ode X. To Thomas Edwards, Esq.; on the late Edition of Mr. Pope's Works.
Ode XI. To the Country Gentlemen of England.
Ode XII. On Recovering from a Fit of Sickness; in the Country.
Ode XIII. To the Author of Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg.
Ode XIV. The Complaint.
Ode XV. On Domestic Manners.
Notes to Book I.
Notes to Book II.
HYMN TO THE NAIADS.
I. For a Grotto.
II. For a Statue of Chaucer at Woodstock.
VI. For a Column at Runnymede.
VII. The Wood Nymph.
AN EPISTLE TO CURIO.
AMBITION AND CONTENT. A FABLE.
THE POET. A RHAPSODY.
A BRITISH PHILIPPIC.
HYMN TO SCIENCE.
LOVE. AN ELEGY.
AKENSIDE'S POETICAL WORKS.
THE PLEASURES OF IMAGINATION.
A POEM, IN THREE BOOKS.
[Greek: 'Asebous men 'estin 'anthropou tas para tou theou charitas 'atimazein.] EPICT. apud Arrian. II. 23.
There are certain powers in human nature which seem to hold a middle place between the organs of bodily sense and the faculties of moral perception: they have been called by a very general name, the Powers of Imagination. Like the external senses, they relate to matter and motion; and, at the same time, give the mind ideas analogous to those of moral approbation and dislike. As they are the inlets of some of the most exquisite pleasures with which we are acquainted, it has naturally happened that men of warm and sensible tempers have sought means to recall the delightful perceptions which they afford, independent of the objects which originally produced them. This gave rise to the imitative or designing arts; some of which, as painting and sculpture, directly copy the external appearances which were admired in nature; others, as music and poetry, bring them back to remembrance by signs universally established and understood.
But these arts, as they grew more correct and deliberate, were, of course, led to extend their imitation beyond the peculiar objects of the imaginative powers; especially poetry, which, making use of language as the instrument by which it imitates, is consequently become an unlimited representative of every species and mode of being. Yet as their intention was only to express the objects of imagination, and as they still abound chiefly in ideas of that class, they, of course, retain their original character; and all the different pleasures which they excite, are termed, in general, Pleasures of Imagination.
The design of the following poem is to give a view of these in the largest acceptation of the term; so that whatever our imagination feels from the agreeable appearances of nature, and all the various entertainment we meet with, either in poetry, painting, music, or any of the elegant arts, might be deducible from one or other of those principles in the constitution of the human mind which are here established and explained.
In executing this general plan, it was necessary first of all to distinguish the imagination from our other faculties; and in the next place to characterise those original forms or properties of being, about which it is conversant, and which are by nature adapted to it, as light is to the eyes, or truth to the understanding. These properties Mr. Addison had reduced to the three general classes of greatness, novelty, and beauty; and into these we may analyse every object, however complex, which, properly speaking, is delightful to the imagination. But such an object may also include many other sources of pleasure; and its beauty, or novelty, or grandeur, will make a stronger impression by reason of this concurrence. Besides which, the imitative arts, especially poetry, owe much of their effect to a similar exhibition of properties quite foreign to the imagination, insomuch that in every line of the most applauded poems, we meet with either ideas drawn from the external senses, or truths discovered to the understanding, or illustrations of contrivance and final causes, or, above all the rest, with circumstances proper to awaken and engage the passions. It was, therefore, necessary to enumerate and exemplify these different species of pleasure; especially that from the passions, which, as it is supreme in the noblest work of human genius, so being in some particulars not a little surprising, gave an opportunity to enliven the didactic turn of the poem, by introducing an allegory to account for the appearance.
After these parts of the subject which hold chiefly of admiration, or naturally warm and interest the mind, a pleasure of a very different nature, that which arises from ridicule, came next to be considered. As this is the foundation of the comic manner in all the arts, and has been but very imperfectly treated by moral writers, it was thought proper to give it a particular illustration, and to distinguish the general sources from which the ridicule of characters is derived. Here, too, a change of style became necessary; such a one as might yet be consistent, if possible, with the general taste of composition in the serious parts of the subject: nor is it an easy task to give any tolerable force to images of this kind, without running either into the gigantic expressions of the mock heroic, or the familiar and poetical raillery of professed satire; neither of which would have been proper here.
The materials of all imitation being thus laid open, nothing now remained but to illustrate some particular pleasures which arise either from the relations of different objects one to another, or from the nature of imitation itself. Of the first kind is that various and complicated resemblance existing between several parts of the material and immaterial worlds, which is the foundation of metaphor and wit. As it seems in a great measure to depend on the early association of our ideas, and as this habit of associating is the source of many pleasures and pains in life, and on that account bears a great share in the influence of poetry and the other arts, it is therefore mentioned here, and its effects described. Then follows a general account of the production of these elegant arts, and of the secondary pleasure, as it is called, arising from the resemblance of their imitations to the original appearances of nature. After which, the work concludes with some reflections on the general conduct of the powers of imagination, and on their natural and moral usefulness in life.
Concerning the manner or turn of composition which prevails in this piece, little can be said with propriety by the author. He had two models; that ancient and simple one of the first Grecian poets, as it is refined by Virgil in the Georgics, and the familiar epistolary way of Horace. This latter has several advantages. It admits of a greater variety of style; it more readily engages the generality of readers, as partaking more of the air of conversation; and, especially with the assistance of rhyme, leads to a closer and more concise expression. Add to this the example of the most perfect of modern poets, who has so happily applied this manner to the noblest parts of philosophy, that the public taste is in a great measure formed to it alone. Yet, after all, the subject before us, tending almost constantly to admiration and enthusiasm, seemed rather to demand a more open, pathetic, and figured style. This, too, appeared more natural, as the author's aim was not so much to give formal precepts, or enter into the way of direct argumentation, as, by exhibiting the most engaging prospects of nature, to enlarge and harmonise the imagination, and by that means insensibly dispose the minds of men to a similar taste and habit of thinking in religion, morals, and civil life. 'Tis on this account that he is so careful to point out the benevolent intention of the Author of Nature in every principle of the human constitution here insisted on; and also to unite the moral excellencies of life in the same point of view with the mere external objects of good taste; thus recommending them in common to our natural propensity for admiring what is beautiful and lovely. The same views have also led him to introduce some sentiments which may perhaps be looked upon as not quite direct to the subject; but since they bear an obvious relation to it, the authority of Virgil, the faultless model of didactic poetry, will best support him in this particular. For the sentiments themselves he makes no apology.
The subject proposed. Difficulty of treating it poetically. The ideas of the Divine Mind the origin of every quality pleasing to the imagination. The natural variety of constitution in the minds of men; with its final cause. The idea of a fine imagination, and the state of the mind in the enjoyment of those pleasures which it affords. All the primary pleasures of the imagination result from the perception of greatness, or wonderfulness, or beauty in objects. The pleasure from greatness, with its final cause. Pleasure from novelty or wonderfulness, with its final cause. Pleasure from beauty, with its final cause. The connexion of beauty with truth and good, applied to the conduct of life. Invitation to the study of moral philosophy. The different degrees of beauty in different species of objects; colour, shape, natural concretes, vegetables, animals, the mind. The sublime, the fair, the wonderful of the mind. The connexion of the imagination and the moral faculty. Conclusion.
With what attractive charms this goodly frame Of Nature touches the consenting hearts Of mortal men; and what the pleasing stores Which beauteous Imitation thence derives To deck the poet's or the painter's toil, My verse unfolds. Attend, ye gentle Powers Of musical delight! and while I sing Your gifts, your honours, dance around my strain. Thou, smiling queen of every tuneful breast, Indulgent Fancy! from the fruitful banks 10 Of Avon, whence thy rosy fingers cull Fresh flowers and dews to sprinkle on the turf Where Shakspeare lies, be present: and with thee Let Fiction come, upon her vagrant wings Wafting ten thousand colours through the air, Which, by the glances of her magic eye, She blends and shifts at will, through countless forms, Her wild creation. Goddess of the lyre, Which rules the accents of the moving sphere, Wilt thou, eternal Harmony, descend 20 And join this festive train? for with thee comes The guide, the guardian of their lovely sports, Majestic Truth; and where Truth deigns to come, Her sister Liberty will not be far. Be present all ye Genii, who conduct The wandering footsteps of the youthful bard, New to your springs and shades: who touch his ear With finer sounds: who heighten to his eye The bloom of Nature, and before him turn The gayest, happiest attitude of things. 30 Oft have the laws of each poetic strain The critic-verse employ'd; yet still unsung Lay this prime subject, though importing most A poet's name: for fruitless is the attempt, By dull obedience and by creeping toil Obscure to conquer the severe ascent Of high Parnassus. Nature's kindling breath Must fire the chosen genius; Nature's hand Must string his nerves, and imp his eagle-wings, Impatient of the painful steep, to soar 40 High as the summit; there to breathe at large AEthereal air, with bards and sages old, Immortal sons of praise. These flattering scenes, To this neglected labour court my song; Yet not unconscious what a doubtful task To paint the finest features of the mind, And to most subtile and mysterious things Give colour, strength, and motion. But the love Of Nature and the Muses bids explore, Through secret paths erewhile untrod by man, 50 The fair poetic region, to detect Untasted springs, to drink inspiring draughts, And shade my temples with unfading flowers Cull'd from the laureate vale's profound recess, Where never poet gain'd a wreath before. From Heaven my strains begin: from Heaven descends The flame of genius to the human breast, And love and beauty, and poetic joy And inspiration. Ere the radiant sun Sprang from the east, or 'mid the vault of night 60 The moon suspended her serener lamp; Ere mountains, woods, or streams adorn'd the globe, Or Wisdom taught the sons of men her lore; Then lived the Almighty One: then, deep retired In his unfathom'd essence, view'd the forms, The forms eternal of created things; The radiant sun, the moon's nocturnal lamp, The mountains, woods, and streams, the rolling globe, And Wisdom's mien celestial. From the first Of days, on them his love divine he fix'd, 70 His admiration: till in time complete What he admired and loved, his vital smile Unfolded into being. Hence the breath Of life informing each organic frame; Hence the green earth, and wild resounding wares; Hence light and shade alternate, warmth and cold, And clear autumnal skies and vernal showers, And all the fair variety of things. But not alike to every mortal eye Is this great scene unveil'd. For, since the claims 80 Of social life to different labours urge The active powers of man, with wise intent The hand of Nature on peculiar minds Imprints a different bias, and to each Decrees its province in the common toil. To some she taught the fabric of the sphere, The changeful moon, the circuit of the stars, The golden zones of heaven; to some she gave To weigh the moment of eternal things, Of time, and space, and fate's unbroken chain, 90 And will's quick impulse; others by the hand She led o'er vales and mountains, to explore What healing virtue swells the tender veins Of herbs and flowers; or what the beams of morn Draw forth, distilling from the clifted rind In balmy tears. But some, to higher hopes Were destined; some within a finer mould She wrought and temper'd with a purer flame. To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds The world's harmonious volume, there to read 100 The transcript of Himself. On every part They trace the bright impressions of his hand: In earth or air, the meadow's purple stores, The moon's mild radiance, or the virgin's form Blooming with rosy smiles, they see portray'd That uncreated beauty, which delights The Mind Supreme. They also feel her charms, Enamour'd; they partake the eternal joy.
For as old Memnon's image, long renown'd By fabling Nilus, to the quivering touch 110 Of Titan's ray, with each repulsive string Consenting, sounded through the warbling air Unbidden strains, even so did Nature's hand To certain species of external things, Attune the finer organs of the mind; So the glad impulse of congenial powers, Or of sweet sound, or fair proportion'd form, The grace of motion, or the bloom of light, Thrills through Imagination's tender frame, From nerve to nerve; all naked and alive 120 They catch the spreading rays; till now the soul At length discloses every tuneful spring, To that harmonious movement from without Responsive. Then the inexpressive strain Diffuses its enchantment: Fancy dreams Of sacred fountains and Elysian groves, And vales of bliss: the intellectual power Bends from his awful throne a wondering ear, And smiles: the passions, gently soothed away, Sink to divine repose, and love and joy 130 Alone are waking; love and joy, serene As airs that fan the summer. Oh! attend, Whoe'er thou art, whom these delights can touch, Whose candid bosom the refining love Of Nature warms, oh! listen to my song; And I will guide thee to her favourite walks, And teach thy solitude her voice to hear, And point her loveliest features to thy view.
Know then, whate'er of Nature's pregnant stores, Whate'er of mimic Art's reflected forms 140 With love and admiration thus inflame The powers of Fancy, her delighted sons To three illustrious orders have referr'd; Three sister graces, whom the painter's hand, The poet's tongue confesses—the Sublime, The Wonderful, the Fair. I see them dawn! I see the radiant visions, where they rise, More lovely than when Lucifer displays His beaming forehead through the gates of morn, To lead the train of Phoebus and the spring. 150
Say, why was man [Endnote A] so eminently raised Amid the vast Creation; why ordain'd Through life and death to dart his piercing eye, With thoughts beyond the limit of his frame; But that the Omnipotent might send him forth In sight of mortal and immortal powers, As on a boundless theatre, to run The great career of justice; to exalt His generous aim to all diviner deeds; To chase each partial purpose from his breast; 160 And through the mists of passion and of sense, And through the tossing tide of chance and pain, To hold his course unfaltering, while the voice Of truth and virtue, up the steep ascent Of nature, calls him to his high reward, The applauding smile of Heaven? Else wherefore burns In mortal bosoms this unquenched hope, That breathes from day to day sublimer things, And mocks possession? Wherefore darts the mind, With such resistless ardour to embrace 170 Majestic forms; impatient to be free, Spurning the gross control of wilful might; Proud of the strong contention of her toils; Proud to be daring? Who but rather turns To heaven's broad fire his unconstrained view, 175 Than to the glimmering of a waxen flame? Who that, from Alpine heights, his labouring eye Shoots round the wide horizon, to survey Nilus or Ganges rolling his bright wave Through mountains, plains, through empires black with shade, 180 And continents of sand, will turn his gaze To mark the windings of a scanty rill That murmurs at his feet? The high-born soul Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing Beneath its native quarry. Tired of earth And this diurnal scene, she springs aloft Through fields of air; pursues the flying storm; Rides on the vollied lightning through the heavens; Or, yoked with whirlwinds and the northern blast, Sweeps the long tract of day. Then high she soars 190 The blue profound, and hovering round the sun Beholds him pouring the redundant stream Of light; beholds his unrelenting sway Bend the reluctant planets to absolve The fated rounds of Time. Thence far effused She darts her swiftness up the long career Of devious comets; through its burning signs Exulting measures the perennial wheel Of Nature, and looks back on all the stars, Whose blended light, as with a milky zone, 200 Invests the orient. Now amazed she views The empyreal waste, [Endnote B] where happy spirits hold, Beyond this concave heaven, their calm abode; And fields of radiance, whose unfading light [Endnote C]
Has travell'd the profound six thousand years, Nor yet arrives in sight of mortal things. Even on the barriers of the world untired She meditates the eternal depth below; 208 Till, half recoiling, down the headlong steep She plunges; soon o'erwhelm'd and swallow'd up In that immense of being. There her hopes Rest at the fated goal. For from the birth Of mortal man, the Sovereign Maker said, That not in humble nor in brief delight, Not in the fading echoes of renown, Power's purple robes, nor pleasure's flowery lap, The soul should find enjoyment: but from these Turning disdainful to an equal good, Through all the ascent of things enlarge her view, Till every bound at length should disappear, 220 And infinite perfection close the scene.
Call now to mind what high capacious powers Lie folded up in man; how far beyond The praise of mortals, may the eternal growth Of Nature to perfection half divine, Expand the blooming soul! What pity then Should sloth's unkindly fogs depress to earth Her tender blossom; choke the streams of life, And blast her spring! Far otherwise design'd Almighty Wisdom; Nature's happy cares 230 The obedient heart far otherwise incline. Witness the sprightly joy when aught unknown Strikes the quick sense, and wakes each active power To brisker measures: witness the neglect Of all familiar prospects, [Endnote D] though beheld With transport once; the fond attentive gaze Of young astonishment; the sober zeal Of age, commenting on prodigious things. For such the bounteous providence of Heaven, In every breast implanting this desire 240 Of objects new and strange, [Endnote E] to urge us on With unremitted labour to pursue Those sacred stores that wait the ripening soul, In Truth's exhaustless bosom. What need words To paint its power? For this the daring youth Breaks from his weeping mother's anxious arms, In foreign climes to rove; the pensive sage, Heedless of sleep, or midnight's harmful damp, Hangs o'er the sickly taper; and untired The virgin follows, with enchanted step, 250 The mazes of some wild and wondrous tale, From morn to eve; unmindful of her form, Unmindful of the happy dress that stole The wishes of the youth, when every maid With envy pined. Hence, finally, by night The village matron, round the blazing hearth, Suspends the infant audience with her tales, Breathing astonishment! of witching rhymes, And evil spirits; of the death-bed call Of him who robb'd the widow, and devour'd 260 The orphan's portion; of unquiet souls Risen from the grave to ease the heavy guilt Of deeds in life conceal'd; of shapes that walk At dead of night, and clank their chains, and wave The torch of hell around the murderer's bed. At every solemn pause the crowd recoil, Gazing each other speechless, and congeal'd With shivering sighs: till eager for the event, Around the beldame all erect they hang, Each trembling heart with grateful terrors quell'd. 270
But lo! disclosed in all her smiling pomp, Where Beauty onward moving claims the verse Her charms inspire: the freely-flowing verse In thy immortal praise, O form divine, Smooths her mellifluent stream. Thee, Beauty, thee The regal dome, and thy enlivening ray The mossy roofs adore: thou, better sun! For ever beamest on the enchanted heart Love, and harmonious wonder, and delight Poetic. Brightest progeny of Heaven! 280 How shall I trace thy features? where select The roseate hues to emulate thy bloom? Haste then, my song, through Nature's wide expanse, Haste then, and gather all her comeliest wealth, Whate'er bright spoils the florid earth contains, Whate'er the waters, or the liquid air, To deck thy lovely labour. Wilt thou fly With laughing Autumn to the Atlantic isles, And range with him the Hesperian field, and see Where'er his fingers touch the fruitful grove, 290 The branches shoot with gold; where'er his step Marks the glad soil, the tender clusters grow With purple ripeness, and invest each hill As with the blushes of an evening sky? Or wilt thou rather stoop thy vagrant plume, Where gliding through his daughters honour'd shades, The smooth Peneus from his glassy flood Reflects purpureal Tempo's pleasant scene? Fair Tempe! haunt beloved of sylvan Powers, Of Nymphs and Fauns; where in the golden age 300 They play'd in secret on the shady brink With ancient Pan: while round their choral steps Young Hours and genial Gales with constant hand Shower'd blossoms, odours, shower'd ambrosial dews, And spring's Elysian bloom. Her flowery store To thee nor Tempe shall refuse; nor watch Of winged Hydra guard Hesperian fruits From thy free spoil. Oh, bear then, unreproved, Thy smiling treasures to the green recess Where young Dione stays. With sweetest airs 310 Entice her forth to lend her angel form For Beauty's honour'd image. Hither turn Thy graceful footsteps; hither, gentle maid, Incline thy polish'd forehead: let thy eyes Effuse the mildness of their azure dawn; And may the fanning breezes waft aside Thy radiant locks: disclosing, as it bends With airy softness from the marble neck, The cheek fair-blooming, and the rosy lip, Where winning smiles and pleasures sweet as love, 320 With sanctity and wisdom, tempering blend Their soft allurement. Then the pleasing force Of Nature, and her kind parental care Worthier I'd sing: then all the enamour'd youth, With each admiring virgin, to my lyre Should throng attentive, while I point on high Where Beauty's living image, like the Morn That wakes in Zephyr's arms the blushing May, Moves onward; or as Venus, when she stood Effulgent on the pearly car, and smiled, 330 Fresh from the deep, and conscious of her form, To see the Tritons tune their vocal shells, And each cerulean sister of the flood With loud acclaim attend her o'er the waves, To seek the Idalian bower. Ye smiling band Of youths and virgins, who through all the maze Of young desire with rival steps pursue This charm of Beauty, if the pleasing toil Can yield a moment's respite, hither turn Your favourable ear, and trust my words. 340 I do not mean to wake the gloomy form Of Superstition dress'd in Wisdom's garb, To damp your tender hopes; I do not mean To bid the jealous thunderer fire the heavens, Or shapes infernal rend the groaning earth To fright you from your joys: my cheerful song With better omens calls you to the field, Pleased with your generous ardour in the chase, And warm like you. Then tell me, for ye know, Does Beauty ever deign to dwell where health 350 And active use are strangers? Is her charm Confess'd in aught, whose most peculiar ends Are lame and fruitless? Or did Nature mean This pleasing call the herald of a lie, To hide the shame of discord and disease, And catch with fair hypocrisy the heart Of idle faith? Oh, no! with better cares The indulgent mother, conscious how infirm Her offspring tread the paths of good and ill, By this illustrious image, in each kind 360 Still most illustrious where the object holds Its native powers most perfect, she by this Illumes the headstrong impulse of desire, And sanctifies his choice. The generous glebe Whose bosom smiles with verdure, the clear tract Of streams delicious to the thirsty soul, The bloom of nectar'd fruitage ripe to sense, And every charm of animated things, Are only pledges of a state sincere, The integrity and order of their frame, 370 When all is well within, and every end Accomplish'd. Thus was Beauty sent from heaven, The lovely ministries of Truth and Good In this dark world: for Truth and Good are one, And Beauty dwells in them, [Endnote F] and they in her, With like participation. Wherefore then, O sons of earth! would ye dissolve the tie? Oh! wherefore, with a rash impetuous aim, Seek ye those flowery joys with which the hand Of lavish Fancy paints each flattering scene 380 Where Beauty seems to dwell, nor once inquire Where is the sanction of eternal Truth, Or where the seal of undeceitful Good, To save your search from folly! Wanting these, Lo! Beauty withers in your void embrace, And with the glittering of an idiot's toy Did Fancy mock your vows. Nor let the gleam Of youthful hope that shines upon your hearts, Be chill'd or clouded at this awful task, To learn the lore of undeceitful Good, 390 And Truth eternal. Though the poisonous charms Of baleful Superstition guide the feet Of servile numbers, through a dreary way To their abode, through deserts, thorns, and mire; And leave the wretched pilgrim all forlorn To muse at last, amid the ghostly gloom Of graves, and hoary vaults, and cloister'd cells; To walk with spectres through the midnight shade, And to the screaming owl's accursed song Attune the dreadful workings of his heart; 400 Yet be not ye dismay'd. A gentler star Your lovely search illumines. From the grove Where Wisdom talk'd with her Athenian sons, Could my ambitious hand entwine a wreath Of Plato's olive with the Mantuan bay, Then should my powerful verse at once dispel Those monkish horrors: then in light divine Disclose the Elysian prospect, where the steps Of those whom Nature charms, through blooming walks, Through fragrant mountains and poetic streams, 410 Amid the train of sages, heroes, bards, Led by their winged Genius, and the choir Of laurell'd science and harmonious art, Proceed exulting to the eternal shrine, Where Truth conspicuous with her sister-twins, The undivided partners of her sway, With Good and Beauty reigns. Oh, let not us, Lull'd by luxurious Pleasure's languid strain, Or crouching to the frowns of bigot rage, Oh, let us not a moment pause to join 420 That godlike band. And if the gracious Power Who first awaken'd my untutor'd song, Will to my invocation breathe anew The tuneful spirit; then through all our paths, Ne'er shall the sound of this devoted lyre Be wanting; whether on the rosy mead, When summer smiles, to warn the melting heart Of luxury's allurement; whether firm Against the torrent and the stubborn hill To urge bold Virtue's unremitted nerve, 430 And wake the strong divinity of soul That conquers chance and fate; or whether struck For sounds of triumph, to proclaim her toils Upon the lofty summit, round her brow To twine the wreath of incorruptive praise; To trace her hallow'd light through future worlds, And bless Heaven's image in the heart of man.
Thus with a faithful aim have we presumed, Adventurous, to delineate Nature's form; Whether in vast, majestic pomp array'd, 440 Or dress'd for pleasing wonder, or serene In Beauty's rosy smile. It now remains, Through various being's fair proportion'd scale, To trace the rising lustre of her charms, From their first twilight, shining forth at length To full meridian splendour. Of degree The least and lowliest, in the effusive warmth Of colours mingling with a random blaze, Doth Beauty dwell. Then higher in the line And variation of determined shape, 450 Where Truth's eternal measures mark the bound Of circle, cube, or sphere. The third ascent Unites this varied symmetry of parts With colour's bland allurement; as the pearl Shines in the concave of its azure bed, And painted shells indent their speckled wreath. Then more attractive rise the blooming forms Through which the breath of Nature has infused Her genial power to draw with pregnant veins Nutritious moisture from the bounteous earth, 460 In fruit and seed prolific: thus the flowers Their purple honours with the Spring resume; And such the stately tree which Autumn bends With blushing treasures. But more lovely still Is Nature's charm, where to the full consent Of complicated members, to the bloom Of colour, and the vital change of growth, Life's holy flame and piercing sense are given, And active motion speaks the temper'd soul: So moves the bird of Juno; so the steed 470 With rival ardour beats the dusty plain, And faithful dogs with eager airs of joy Salute their fellows. Thus doth Beauty dwell There most conspicuous, even in outward shape, Where dawns the high expression of a mind: By steps conducting our enraptured search To that eternal origin, whose power, Through all the unbounded symmetry of things, Like rays effulging from the parent sun, This endless mixture of her charms diffused. 480 Mind, mind alone, (bear witness, earth and heaven!) The living fountains in itself contains Of beauteous and sublime: here hand in hand, Sit paramount the Graces; here enthroned, Celestial Venus, with divinest airs, Invites the soul to never-fading joy. Look then abroad through nature, to the range Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres Wheeling unshaken through the void immense; And speak, O man! does this capacious scene 490 With half that kindling majesty dilate Thy strong conception, as when Brutus rose [Endnote G] Refulgent from the stroke of Caesar's fate, Amid the crowd of patriots; and his arm Aloft extending, like eternal Jove When guilt brings down the thunder, call'd aloud On Tully's name, and shook his crimson steel, And bade the father of his country, hail! For lo! the tyrant prostrate on the dust, And Rome again is free! Is aught so fair 500 In all the dewy landscapes of the Spring, In the bright eye of Hesper, or the morn, In Nature's fairest forms, is aught so fair As virtuous friendship? as the candid blush Of him who strives with fortune to be just? The graceful tear that streams for others' woes? Or the mild majesty of private life, Where Peace with ever blooming olive crowns The gate; where Honour's liberal hands effuse Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings 510 Of Innocence and Love protect the scene? Once more search, undismay'd, the dark profound Where Nature works in secret; view the beds Of mineral treasure, and the eternal vault That bounds the hoary ocean; trace the forms Of atoms moving with incessant change Their elemental round; behold the seeds Of being, and the energy of life Kindling the mass with ever-active flame; Then to the secrets of the working mind 520 Attentive turn; from dim oblivion call Her fleet, ideal band; and bid them, go! Break through time's barrier, and o'ertake the hour That saw the heavens created: then declare If aught were found in those external scenes To move thy wonder now. For what are all The forms which brute, unconscious matter wears, Greatness of bulk, or symmetry of parts? Not reaching to the heart, soon feeble grows The superficial impulse; dull their charms, 530 And satiate soon, and pall the languid eye. Not so the moral species, nor the powers Of genius and design; the ambitious mind There sees herself: by these congenial forms Touch'd and awaken'd, with intenser act She bends each nerve, and meditates well pleased Her features in the mirror. For, of all The inhabitants of earth, to man alone Creative Wisdom gave to lift his eye To Truth's eternal measures; thence to frame 540 The sacred laws of action and of will, Discerning justice from unequal deeds, And temperance from folly. But beyond This energy of Truth, whose dictates bind Assenting reason, the benignant Sire, To deck the honour'd paths of just and good, Has added bright Imagination's rays: Where Virtue, rising from the awful depth Of Truth's mysterious bosom, [Endnote H] doth forsake The unadorn'd condition of her birth; 550 And dress'd by Fancy in ten thousand hues, Assumes a various feature, to attract, With charms responsive to each gazer's eye, The hearts of men. Amid his rural walk, The ingenuous youth, whom solitude inspires With purest wishes, from the pensive shade Beholds her moving, like a virgin muse That wakes her lyre to some indulgent theme Of harmony and wonder: while among The herd of servile minds, her strenuous form 560 Indignant flashes on the patriot's eye, And through the rolls of memory appeals To ancient honour; or in act serene, Yet watchful, raises the majestic sword Of public Power, from dark Ambition's reach To guard the sacred volume of the laws.
Genius of ancient Greece! whose faithful steps Well pleased I follow through the sacred paths Of Nature and of Science; nurse divine Of all heroic deeds and fair desires! 570 Oh! let the breath of thy extended praise Inspire my kindling bosom to the height Of this untempted theme. Nor be my thoughts Presumptuous counted, if, amid the calm That soothes this vernal evening into smiles, I steal impatient from the sordid haunts Of strife and low ambition, to attend Thy sacred presence in the sylvan shade, By their malignant footsteps ne'er profaned. Descend, propitious, to my favour'd eye! 580 Such in thy mien, thy warm, exalted air, As when the Persian tyrant, foil'd and stung With shame and desperation, gnash'd his teeth To see thee rend the pageants of his throne; And at the lightning of thy lifted spear Crouch'd like a slave. Bring all thy martial spoils, Thy palms, thy laurels, thy triumphal songs, Thy smiling band of art, thy godlike sires Of civil wisdom, thy heroic youth Warm from the schools of glory. Guide my way 590 Through fair Lyceum's [Endnote I] walk, the green retreats Of Academus, [Endnote J] and the thymy vale, Where oft enchanted with Socratic sounds, Ilissus [Endnote K] pure devolved his tuneful stream In gentler murmurs. From the blooming store Of these auspicious fields, may I unblamed Transplant some living blossoms to adorn My native clime: while far above the flight Of Fancy's plume aspiring, I unlock The springs of ancient wisdom! while I join 600 Thy name, thrice honour'd! with the immortal praise Of Nature; while to my compatriot youth I point the high example of thy sons, And tune to Attic themes the British lyre.
The separation of the works of Imagination from Philosophy, the cause of their abuse among the moderns. Prospect of their reunion under the influence of public Liberty. Enumeration of accidental pleasures, which increase the effect of objects delightful to the Imagination. The pleasures of sense. Particular circumstances of the mind. Discovery of truth. Perception of contrivance and design. Emotion of the passions. All the natural passions partake of a pleasing sensation; with the final cause of this constitution illustrated by an allegorical vision, and exemplified in sorrow, pity, terror, and indignation.
When shall the laurel and the vocal string Resume their honours? When shall we behold The tuneful tongue, the Promethean band 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 involves 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, 10 Blasted the Italian shore, and swept the works Of Liberty and Wisdom down the gulf Of all-devouring night. As long immured In noontide darkness, by the glimmering lamp, Each Muse and each fair Science pined away The sordid hours: while foul, barbarian hands Their mysteries profaned, unstrung the lyre, And chain'd the soaring pinion down to earth. At last the Muses rose, [Endnote L] and spurn'd their bonds, And, wildly warbling, scatter'd as they flew, 20 Their blooming wreaths from fair Valclusa's [Endnote M] bowers To Arno's [Endnote N] myrtle border and the shore Of soft Parthenope. [Endnote O] But still the rage Of dire ambition [Endnote P] 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 [Endnote Q] 30 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 tuned for slavish pasans at the throne Of tinsel pomp: and Raphael's magic hand Effused its fair creation to enchant The fond adoring herd in Latian fanes To blind belief; while on their prostrate necks 40 The sable tyrant plants his heel secure. But now, behold! the radiant era 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, 50 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, 60 And scatter flowers along the rugged way. Arm'd with the lyre, already have we dared 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 70 Their grateful influence to the prime effect Of objects grand or beauteous, and enlarge 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 80 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 90 Round whom the bed of sickness long diffused 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 celestial Truth Her awful light discloses, to bestow A more majestic pomp on Beauty's frame? For man loves knowledge, and the beams of Truth 100 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-tinctured hues To me have shown so pleasing, as when first The hand of Science pointed out the path In which the sunbeams, gleaming from the west, Fall on the watery cloud, whose darksome veil Involves the orient; and that trickling shower Piercing through every crystalline convex 110 Of clustering dewdrops to their flight opposed, Recoil at length where concave all behind The internal surface of each glassy orb Repels 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. 120
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 130 That wheel the pensile planets round the year; Whether in wonders of the rolling 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? 140 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, 150 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 shows of good the thirsty sense allure, From passion's power alone [Endnote R] our nature holds Essential pleasure. Passion's fierce illapse Rouses the mind's whole fabric; with supplies Of daily impulse keeps the elastic powers 160 Intensely poised, and polishes anew By that collision all the fine machine: Else rust would rise, and foulness, by degrees Encumbering, choke 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 170 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, 180 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, 190 Musing I roved. Of good and evil much, And much of mortal man my thought revolved; When starting full on fancy's gushing eye The mournful image of Parthenia's fate, That hour, O long beloved and long deplored! 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 agonising looks, thy last farewell 200 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; deserts, 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 enthroned with blood; the baleful charms 210 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 effused, 220 A flashing torrent of celestial day Burst through the shadowy void. With slow descent A purple cloud came floating through the sky, And, poised 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. 230 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 Aethereal: there in mystic signs engraved, I read his office high and sacred name, Genius of human kind! Appall'd I gazed The godlike presence; for athwart his brow Displeasure, temper'd with a mild concern, Look'd down reluctant on me, and his words 240 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 sovereign order he decreed, All good and lovely—to blaspheme the bands Of tenderness innate and social love, 250 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? 260 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 awed 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 dazzling forehead, 'Raise thy sight,' he cried, 'And let thy sense convince thy erring tongue.' 270
I look'd, and lo! the former scene was changed; For verdant alleys and surrounding trees, A solitary prospect, wide and wild, Rush'd on my senses. 'Twas a 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 waved; while ever-trickling springs Wash'd from the naked roots of oak and pine The crumbling soil; and still at every fall 280 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 desert spread her verdant lap, And drank the gushing moisture, where confined 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-encircling mound 290 As in a sylvan theatre enclosed That flowery level. On the river's brink I spied a fair pavilion, which diffused 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 awed, and every thought in silence hung, 300 And wondering expectation. Then the voice Of that celestial power, the mystic show Declaring, thus my deep attention call'd:—