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To the fell house of Busyrane, he led
Th' unshaken Britomart; or Milton knew,
When in abstracted thought he first conceived
All heav'n in tumult, and the seraphim
Come tow'ring, armed in adamant and gold.
Through Pope's soft song though all the Graces
And happiest art adorn his Attic page,
Yet does my mind with sweeter transport glow,
As, at the root of mossy trunk reclined,
In magic Spenser's wildly-warbled song
I see deserted Una wander wide
Through wasteful solitudes and lurid heaths,
Weary, forlorn, than when the fated fair
Upon the bosom bright of silver Thames
Launches in all the lustre of brocade,
Amid the splendours of the laughing sun:
The gay description palls upon the sense,
And coldly strikes the mind with feeble bliss.
The tapered choir, at the late hour of pray'r,
Oft let me tread, while to th' according voice
The many-sounding organ peals on high
The clear slow-dittied chaunt or varied hymn,
Till all my soul is bathed in ecstasies
And lapped in Paradise. Or let me sit
Far in sequestered aisles of the deep dome;
There lonesome listen to the sacred sounds,
Which, as they lengthen through the Gothic vaults,
In hollow murmurs reach my ravished ear.
Nor when the lamps, expiring, yield to night,
And solitude returns, would forsake
The solemn mansion, but attentive mark
The due clock swinging slow with sweepy sway,
Measuring Time's flight with momentary sound.
Mindful of disaster past,
And shrinking at the northern blast.
The sleety storm returning still,
The morning hoar, and evening chill,
Reluctant comes the timid Spring.
Scarce a bee, with airy ring,
Murmurs the blossomed boughs around
That clothe the garden's southern bound;
Scarce a sickly straggling flower
Decks the rough castle's rifted tower;
Scarce the hardy primrose peeps
From the dark dell's entangled steeps;
O'er the field of waving broom
Slowly shoots the golden bloom;
And but by fits the furze-clad dale
Tinctures the transitory gale;
While from the shrubbery's naked maze,
Where the vegetable blaze
Of Flora's brightest 'broidery shone,
Every chequered charm is flown,
Save that the lilac hangs to view
Its bursting gems in clusters blue.
Scant along the ridgy land
The beans their new-born ranks expand;
The fresh-turned soil with tender blades
Thinly the sprouting barley shades;
Fringing the forest's devious edge,
Half-robed appears the hawthorn hedge,
Or to the distant eye displays
Weakly green its budding sprays.
TO THE RIVER LODON
Ah, what a weary race my feet have run
Since first I trod thy banks with alders crowned,
And thought my way was all through fairy ground,
Beneath thy azure sky and golden sun,
Where first my Muse to lisp her notes begun!
While pensive Memory traces back the round,
Which fills the varied interval between,
Much pleasure, more of sorrow, marks the scene.
Sweet native stream, those skies and suns so pure
No more return, to cheer my evening road.
Yet still one joy remains: that not obscure
Nor useless all my vacant days have flowed,
From youth's gay dawn to manhood's prime mature,
Nor with the Muse's laurel unbestowed.
His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll,
Proclaimed the sullen habit of his soul.
Heavy and phlegmatic he trod the stage,
Too proud for tenderness, too dull for rage.
When Hector's lovely widow shines in tears,
Or Rowe's gay rake dependent virtue jeers,
With the same cast of features he is seen
To chide the libertine and court the queen.
From the tame scene which without passion flows,
With just desert his reputation rose.
Nor less he pleased when, on some surly plan,
He was at once the actor and the man.
In Brute he shone unequalled: all agree
Garrick's not half so great a brute as he.
When Cato's laboured scenes are brought to view,
With equal praise the actor laboured too;
For still you'll find, trace passions to their root,
Small diff'rence 'twixt the Stoic and the brute
In fancied scenes, as in life's real plan,
He could not for a moment sink the man.
In whate'er cast his character was laid,
Self still, like oil, upon the surface played.
Nature, in spite of all his skill, crept in:
Horatio, Dorax, Falstaff-still 't was Quin.
The Muse's office was by Heaven designed
To please, improve, instruct, reform mankind;
To make dejected Virtue nobly rise
Above the tow'ring pitch of splendid Vice;
To make pale Vice, abashed, her head hang down,
And trembling crouch at Virtue's awful frown.
Now armed with wrath, she bids eternal shame,
With strictest justice, brand the villain's name;
Now in the milder garb of ridicule
She sports, and pleases while she wounds the fool.
Her shape is often varied; but her aim,
To prop the cause of virtue, still the same.
In praise of mercy let the guilty bawl,
When vice and folly for correction call;
Silence the mark of weakness justly bears,
And is partaker of the crimes it spares.
But if the Muse, too cruel in her mirth,
With harsh reflections wounds the man of worth;
If wantonly she deviates from her plan,
And quits the actor to expose the man;
Ashamed, she marks that passage with a blot,
And hates the line where candour was forgot.
But what is candour, what is humour's vein,
Though judgment join to consecrate the strain,
If curious numbers will not aid afford,
Nor choicest music play in ev'ry word?
Verses must run, to charm a modern ear,
From all harsh, rugged interruptions clear;
Soft let them breathe as zephyr's balmy breeze,
Smooth let their current flow as summer seas,
Perfect then only deemed when they dispense
A happy tuneful vacancy of sense. . . . .
Henceforth farewell, then, fev'rish thirst of fame;
Farewell the longings for a poet's name;
Perish my Muse-a wish 'bove all severe
To him who ever held the Muses dear-
If e'er her labours weaken to refine
The gen'rous roughness of a nervous line.
Others affect the stiff and swelling phrase:
Their Muse must walk in stilts, and strut in stays;
The sense they murder, and the words transpose,
Lest poetry approach too near to prose.
See tortured Reason how they pare and trim,
And, like Procrustes, stretch or lop the limb.
Waller, whose praise succeeding bards rehearse,
Parent of harmony in English verse,
Whose tuneful Muse in sweetest accents flows,
In couplets first taught straggling sense to close.
In polished numbers and majestic sound,
Where shall thy rival, Pope, be ever found?
But whilst each line with equal beauty flows,
E'en excellence, unvaried, tedious grows.
Nature, through all her works, in great degree,
Borrows a blessing from Variety.
Music itself her needful aid requires
To rouse the soul and wake our dying fires.
Still in one key, the nightingale would tease;
Still in one key, not Brent would always please.
Here let me bend, great Dryden, at thy shrine,
Thou dearest name to all the tuneful Nine.
What if some dull lines in cold order creep,
And with his theme the poet seems to sleep?
Still, when his subject rises proud to view,
With equal strength the poet rises too;
With strong invention, noblest vigour fraught,
Thought still springs up and rises out of thought;
Numbers ennobling numbers in their course
In varied sweetness flow, in varied force;
The pow'rs of genius and of judgment join,
And the whole art of poetry is thine.