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VER. 29, 30—Originally thus in the MS.—
'Tis done, and Nature's changed since you are gone; Behold, the clouds have put their mourning on.
VER. 83, 84. Originally thus in the MS.—
While vapours rise, and driving snows descend, Thy honour, name, and praise shall never end.
A SACRED ECLOGUE, IN IMITATION OF VIRGIL'S 'POLLIO.'
In reading several passages of the Prophet Isaiah, which foretell the coming of Christ and the felicities attending it, I could not but observe a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts, and those in the 'Pollio' of Virgil. This will not seem surprising, when we reflect, that the eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same subject. One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line, but selected such ideas as best agreed with the nature of pastoral poetry, and disposed them in that manner which served most to beautify his piece. I have endeavoured the same in this imitation of him, though without admitting anything of my own; since it was written with this particular view, that the reader, by comparing the several thoughts, might see how far the images and descriptions of the prophet are superior to those of the poet. But as I fear I have prejudiced them by my management, I shall subjoin the passages of Isaiah and those of Virgil, under the same disadvantage of a literal translation.
Ye Nymphs of Solyma! begin the song: To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong. The mossy fountains, and the sylvan shades, The dreams of Pindus and the Aonian maids, Delight no more—O Thou my voice inspire Who touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fire!
Rapt into future times, the bard begun: A virgin shall conceive, a virgin bear a son! From Jesse's root behold the branch arise, Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies: 10 The ethereal Spirit o'er its leaves shall move, And on its top descends the mystic Dove. Ye Heavens! from high the dewy nectar pour, And in soft silence shed the kindly shower! The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid, From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade. All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail; Returning Justice lift aloft her scale; Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend, And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend. 20 Swift fly the years, and rise the expected morn! Oh spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born! See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring, With all the incense of the breathing spring! See lofty Lebanon his head advance, See nodding forests on the mountains dance: See spicy clouds from lowly Saron rise, And Carmel's flowery top perfumes the skies! Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers; 'Prepare the way! a God, a God appears:' 30 'A God, a God!' the vocal hills reply, The rocks proclaim the approaching Deity. Lo, Earth receives him from the bending skies! Sink down, ye mountains, and ye valleys, rise; With heads declined, ye cedars, homage pay; Be smooth, ye rocks, ye rapid floods, give way! The Saviour comes! by ancient bards foretold: Hear him, ye deaf, and all ye blind, behold! He from thick films shall purge the visual ray, And on the sightless eyeball pour the day: 40 'Tis he the obstructed paths of sound shall clear, And bid new music charm th' unfolding ear: The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego, And leap exulting like the bounding roe. No sigh, no murmur the wide world shall hear, From every face he wipes off every tear. In adamantine chains shall Death be bound, And Hell's grim tyrant feel th' eternal wound. As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care, Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air, 50 Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs, By day o'ersees them, and by night protects, The tender lambs he raises in his arms, Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms; Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage, The promised Father of the future age. No more shall nation against nation rise, Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes, Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'er, The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more; 60 But useless lances into scythes shall bend, And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end. Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun; Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield, And the same hand that sow'd, shall reap the field; The swain in barren deserts with surprise See lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise; And start, amidst the thirsty wilds, to hear New falls of water murmuring in his ear. 70 On rifted rocks, the dragons' late abodes, The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods, Waste sandy valleys, once perplex'd with thorn, The spiry fir, and shapely box adorn: To leafless shrubs the flowering palms succeed, And odorous myrtle to the noisome weed. The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead, And boys in flowery bands the tiger lead; The steer and lion at one crib shall meet, And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim's feet. 80 The smiling infant in his hand shall take The crested basilisk and speckled snake, Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey, And with their forky tongue shall innocently play. Rise, crown'd with light, imperial Salem, rise! Exalt thy towery head, and lift thy eyes! See, a long race thy spacious courts adorn; See future sons, and daughters yet unborn, In crowding ranks on every side arise, Demanding life, impatient for the skies! 90 See barbarous nations at thy gates attend, Walk in thy light and in thy temple bend; See thy bright altars throng'd with prostrate kings, And heap'd with products of Sabean springs! For thee Idume's spicy forests blow, And seeds of gold in Ophir's mountains glow. See Heaven its sparkling portals wide display, And break upon thee in a flood of day! No more the rising sun shall gild the morn, Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn; 100 But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays, One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze O'erflow thy courts: The Light himself shall shine Reveal'd, and God's eternal day be thine! The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay, Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away; But fix'd his word, his saving power remains; Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own MESSIAH reigns!
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCIX.
Introduction.—That 'tis as great a fault to judge ill, as to write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public, ver. 1. That a true taste is as rare to be found as a true genius, ver. 9-18. That most men are born with some taste, but spoiled by false education, ver. 19-25. The multitude of critics, and causes of them, ver. 26-45. That we are to study our own taste, and know the limits of it, ver. 46-67. Nature the best guide of judgment, ver. 68-87. Improved by art and rules, which are but methodised nature, ver. 88. Rules derived from the practice of the ancient poets, ver. 88-110. That therefore the ancients are necessary to be studied by a critic, particularly Homer and Virgil, ver. 120-138. Of licences, and the use of them by the ancients, ver. 140-180. Reverence due to the ancients, and praise of them, ver. 181, &c.
Causes hindering a true judgment—(1.) pride, ver. 208; (2.) imperfect learning, ver. 215; (3.) judging by parts and not by the whole, ver. 233-288.—Critics in wit, language, versification only, ver. 288, 305, 339, &c.; (4.) being too hard to please, or too apt to admire, ver. 384; (5.) partiality—too much love to a sect—to the ancients or moderns, ver. 394; (6.) prejudice or prevention, ver. 408; (7.) singularity, ver. 424; (8.) in constancy, ver. 430; (9.) party spirit, ver. 452, &c.; (10.) envy, ver. 466; against envy, and in praise of good-nature, ver. 508, &c. When severity is chiefly to be used by critics, ver. 526, &c.
Rules for the conduct of manners in a critic—(1.) candour, ver. 503; modesty, ver. 566; good-breeding, ver. 572; sincerity, and freedom of advice, ver. 578; (2.) when one's counsel is to be restrained, ver. 584. Character of an incorrigible poet, ver. 600. And of an impertinent critic, ver. 610, &c. Character of a good critic, ver. 629. The history of criticism, and characters of the best critics—Aristotle, ver. 645; Horace, ver. 653; Dionysius, ver. 665; Petronius, ver. 667; Quintillian, ver. 670; Longinus, ver. 675. Of the decay of criticism, and its revival. Erasmus, ver. 693; Vida, ver. 705; Boileau, ver. 714; Lord Roscommon, &c., ver. 725. CONCLUSION.
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill Appear in writing or in judging ill; But, of the two, less dangerous is the offence To tire our patience, than mislead our sense. Some few in that, but numbers err in this; Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss; A fool might once himself alone expose, Now one in verse makes many more in prose.
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none Go just alike, yet each believes his own. 10 In poets as true genius is but rare, True taste as seldom, is the critic's share; Both must alike from Heaven derive their light, These born to judge, as well as those to write. Let such teach others who themselves excel. And censure freely who have written well. Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true, But are not critics to their judgment too?
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind: 20 Nature affords at least a glimmering light; The lines, though touch'd but faintly, are drawn right. But as the slightest sketch, if justly traced, Is by ill colouring but the more disgraced, So by false learning is good sense defaced: Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools, And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools. In search of wit these lose their common sense, And then turn critics in their own defence: Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, 30 Or with a rival's, or an eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side; If Maevius scribble in Apollo's spite, There are who judge still worse than he can write.
Some have at first for wits, then poets pass'd, Turn'd critics next, and proved plain fools at last. Some neither can for wits nor critics pass, As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass. Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our isle, 40 As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile; Unfinished things, one knows not what to call, Their generation's so equivocal: To tell 'em would a hundred tongues require, Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire.
But you who seek to give and merit fame, And justly bear a critic's noble name, Be sure yourself and your own reach to know, How far your genius, taste, and learning go; Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, 50 And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit, And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit. As on the land while here the ocean gains, In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains; Thus in the soul while memory prevails, The solid power of understanding fails; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit, 60 So vast is art, so narrow human wit: Not only bounded to peculiar arts, But oft in those confined to single parts. Like kings, we lose the conquests gain'd before, By vain ambition still to make them more; Each might his several province well command, Would all but stoop to what they understand.
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same: Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, 70 One clear, unchanged, and universal light, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of Art. Art from that fund each just supply provides, Works without show, and without pomp presides; In some fair body thus the informing soul With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole, Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains, Itself unseen, but in the effects, remains. Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profuse, 80 Want as much more to turn it to its use; For wit and judgment often are at strife, Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife, 'Tis more to guide than spur the Muse's steed, Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed; The winged courser, like a generous horse, Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Those rules, of old discover'd, not devised, Are Nature still, but Nature methodised; Nature, like liberty, is but restrain'd 90 By the same laws which first herself ordain'd. Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites, When to repress, and when indulge our flights: High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd, And pointed out those arduous paths they trod; Held from afar, aloft, the immortal prize, And urged the rest by equal steps to rise. Just precepts thus from great examples given, She drew from them what they derived from Heaven. The generous critic fann'd the poet's fire, 100 And taught the world with reason to admire. Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid proved, To dress her charms, and make her more beloved: But following wits from that intention stray'd, Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid; Against the poets their own arms they turn'd, Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd. So modern 'pothecaries, taught the art, By doctor's bills to play the doctor's part, Bold in the practice of mistaken rules, 110 Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools. Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey, Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they. Some drily plain, without invention's aid, Write dull receipts how poems may be made. These leave the sense, their learning to display, And those explain the meaning quite away.
You then, whose judgment the right course would steer, Know well each ancient's proper character; His fable, subject, scope in every page; 120 Religion, country, genius of his age; Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticise. Be Homer's works your study and delight, Read them by day, and meditate by night; Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring, And trace the Muses upward to their spring. Still with itself compared, his text peruse; And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse. When first young Maro in his boundless mind, 130 A work t' outlast immortal Rome design'd, Perhaps he seem'd above the critic's law, And but from Nature's fountains scorn'd to draw: But when t' examine every part he came, Nature and Homer were, he found, the same. Convinced, amazed, he checks the bold design, And rules as strict his labour'd work confine, As if the Stagyrite o'erlook'd each line. Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem; To copy nature is to copy them. 140 Some beauties yet no precepts can declare, For there's a happiness as well as care. Music resembles poetry, in each Are nameless graces which no methods teach, And which a master-hand alone can reach. If, where the rules not far enough extend, (Since rules were made but to promote their end) Some lucky license answer to the full The intent proposed, that license is a rule; Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take, 150 May boldly deviate from the common track; Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to faults true critics dare not mend, From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Which, without passing through the judgment, gains The heart, and all its end at once attains. In prospects thus, some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise, The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. 160 But though the ancients thus their rules invade, (As kings dispense with laws themselves have made) Moderns, beware! or if you must offend Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end; Let it be seldom, and compell'd by need, And have at least their precedent to plead. The critic else proceeds without remorse, Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts, Those freer beauties, even in them, seem faults. 170 Some figures monstrous and misshaped appear, Consider'd singly, or beheld too near, Which, but proportion'd to their light, or place, Due distance reconciles to form and grace. A prudent chief not always must display His powers in equal ranks, and fair array, But with the occasion and the place comply, Conceal his force, nay, seem sometimes to fly. Those oft are stratagems which errors seem, Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream. 180
Still green with bays each ancient altar stands, Above the reach of sacrilegious hands; Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage, Destructive war, and all-involving age. See from each clime the learn'd their incense bring! Hear in all tongues consenting paeans ring! In praise so just let every voice be join'd, And fill the general chorus of mankind. Hail, Bards triumphant! born in happier days; Immortal heirs of universal praise! 190 Whose honours with increase of ages grow, As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow; Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound, And worlds applaud that must not yet be found! Oh may some spark of your celestial fire, The last, the meanest of your sons inspire, (That on weak wings, from far, pursues your flights, Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes) To teach vain wits a science little known, T' admire superior sense, and doubt their own! 200
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Between ver. 25 and 26 were these lines, since omitted by the author:—
Many are spoil'd by that pedantic throng, Who with great pains teach youth to reason wrong. Tutors, like virtuosos, oft inclined By strange transfusion to improve the mind, Draw off the sense we have, to pour in new; Which yet, with all their skill, they ne'er could do.
There are whom Heaven has bless'd with store of wit, Yet want as much again to manage it.
VER. 123. The author after this verse originally inserted the following, which he has however omitted in all the editions:—
Zoilus, had these been known, without a name Had died, and Perault ne'er been damn'd to fame; The sense of sound antiquity had reign'd, And sacred Homer yet been unprofaned. None e'er had thought his comprehensive mind To modern customs, modern rules confined; Who for all ages writ, and all mankind.
VER. 130, 131:—
When first young Maro sung of kings and wars, Ere warning Phoebus touch'd his trembling ears
Of all the causes which conspire to blind Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind, What the weak head with strongest bias rules, Is PRIDE, the never-failing vice of fools. Whatever Nature has in worth denied, She gives in large recruits of needless pride; For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find What wants in blood and spirits, swell'd with wind: Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence, And fills up all the mighty void of sense: 210 If once right reason drives that cloud away, Truth breaks upon us with resistless day. Trust not yourself; but your defects to know, Make use of every friend—and every foe.
A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again. Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts, In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts, 220 While from the bounded level of our mind, Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind; But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise, New distant scenes of endless science rise! So, pleased at first the towering Alps we try, Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky, The eternal snows appear already past, And the first clouds and mountains seem the last: But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey The growing labours of the lengthen'd way, 230 The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes, Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
A perfect judge will read each work of wit With the same spirit that its author writ: Survey the WHOLE, nor seek slight faults to find Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind; Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight, The generous pleasure to be charm'd with wit. But in such lays as neither ebb nor flow, Correctly cold, and regularly low, 240 That, shunning faults, one quiet tenor keep, We cannot blame indeed—but we may sleep. In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts Is not the exactness of peculiar parts; 'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call, But the joint force and full result of all. Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome, (The world's just wonder, and even thine, O Rome!) No single parts unequally surprise, All comes united to th' admiring eyes; 250 No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear; The whole at once is bold, and regular.
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the writer's end, Since none can compass more than they intend; And if the means be just, the conduct true, Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due. As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit, To avoid great errors, must the less commit: 260 Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays, For not to know some trifles is a praise. Most critics, fond of some subservient art, Still make the whole depend upon a part: They talk of principles, but notions prize, And all to one loved folly sacrifice.
Once on a time, La Mancha's knight, they say, A certain bard encountering on the way, Discoursed in terms as just, with looks as sage, As e'er could Dennis, of the Grecian stage; 270 Concluding all were desperate sots and fools, Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Our author, happy in a judge so nice, Produced his play, and begg'd the knight's advice; Made him observe the subject, and the plot, The Manners, Passions, Unities; what not? All which, exact to rule, were brought about, Were but a combat in the lists left out. 'What! leave the combat out?' exclaims the knight. 'Yes, or we must renounce the Stagyrite.' 280 'Not so, by Heaven!' (he answers in a rage); 'Knights, squires, and steeds must enter on the stage.' 'So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain.' 'Then build a new, or act it in a plain.'
Thus critics, of less judgment than caprice, Curious, not knowing, not exact but nice, Form short ideas, and offend in arts (As most in manners) by a love to parts.
Some to conceit alone their taste confine, And glittering thoughts struck out at every line; 290 Pleased with a work where nothing's just or fit; One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit. Poets, like painters, thus, unskill'd to trace The naked nature and the living grace, With gold and jewels cover every part, And hide with ornaments their want of art. True wit is nature to advantage dress'd; What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd; Something, whose truth convinced at sight we find, That gives us back the image of our mind. 300 As shades more sweetly recommend the light, So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit. For works may have more wit than does 'em good, As bodies perish through excess of blood.
Others for language all their care express, And value books, as women men, for dress: Their praise is still—'The style is excellent;' The sense, they humbly take upon content. Words are like leaves, and where they most abound, Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. 310 False eloquence, like the prismatic glass, Its gaudy colours spreads on every place; The face of Nature we no more survey, All glares alike, without distinction gay; But true expression, like the unchanging sun, Clears, and improves whate'er it shines upon; It gilds all objects, but it alters none. Expression is the dress of thought, and still Appears more decent, as more suitable; A vile conceit in pompous words express'd, 320 Is like a clown in regal purple dress'd: For different styles with different subjects sort, As several garbs with country, town, and court. Some by old words to fame have made pretence, Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense; Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style, Amaze the unlearn'd, and make the learned smile. Unlucky, as Fungoso in the play, These sparks with awkward vanity display What the fine gentleman wore yesterday; 330 And but so mimic ancient wits at best, As apes our grandsires, in their doublets dress'd. In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold; Alike fantastic, if too new, or old: Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
But most by numbers judge a poet's song; And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong: In the bright Muse, though thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire; 340 Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear, Not mend their minds; as some to church repair, Not for the doctrine, but the music there. These equal syllables alone require, Though oft the ear the open vowels tire; While expletives their feeble aid do join, And ten low words oft creep in one dull line: While they ring round the same unvaried chimes, With sure returns of still expected rhymes; Where'er you find 'the cooling western breeze,' 350 In the next line, it 'whispers through the trees:' If crystal streams 'with pleasing murmurs creep,' The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with 'sleep:' Then, at the last and only couplet fraught With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, A needless Alexandrine ends the song That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along. Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow; And praise the easy vigour of a line, 360 Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness join. True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance. 'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, The sound must seem an echo to the sense; Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows, And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows: But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar. When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, 370 The line too labours, and the words move slow; Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain, Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main. Hear how Timotheus' varied lays surprise, And bid alternate passions fall and rise! While, at each change, the son of Libyan Jove Now burns with glory, and then melts with love; Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow, Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow: Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found, 380 And the world's victor stood subdued by sound! The power of music all our hearts allow, And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now.
Avoid extremes; and shun the fault of such Who still are pleased, too little or too much. At every trifle scorn to take offence: That always shows great pride or little sense; Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest. Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture move, 390 For fools admire, but men of sense approve: As things seem large which we through mists descry, Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
Some, foreign writers, some, our own despise; The ancients only, or the moderns prize. Thus wit, like faith, by each man is applied To one small sect, and all are damn'd beside. Meanly they seek the blessing to confine, And force that sun but on a part to shine, Which not alone the southern wit sublimes, 400 But ripens spirits in cold northern climes; Which from the first has shone on ages past, Enlights the present, and shall warm the last; Though each may feel increases and decays, And see now clearer and now darker days. Regard not then if wit be old or new, But blame the false, and value still the true.
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own, But catch the spreading notion of the town; They reason and conclude by precedent, 410 And own stale nonsense which they ne'er invent. Some judge of authors' names, not works, and then Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men. Of all this servile herd, the worst is he That in proud dulness joins with quality; A constant critic at the great man's board, To fetch and carry nonsense for my lord. What woful stuff this madrigal would be, In some starved hackney sonnetteer, or me? But let a lord once own the happy lines 420 How the wit brightens! how the style refines! Before his sacred name flies every fault, And each exalted stanza teems with thought!
The vulgar thus through imitation err; As oft the learn'd by being singular: So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng By chance go right, they purposely go wrong: So schismatics the plain believers quit, And are but damn'd for having too much wit. Some praise at morning what they blame at night, 430 But always think the last opinion right. A Muse by these is like a mistress used, This hour she's idolised, the next abused; While their weak heads, like towns unfortified, 'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side. Ask them the cause; they're wiser still, they say; And still to-morrow's wiser than to-day. We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow; Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so. Once school-divines this zealous isle o'erspread; 440 Who knew most sentences, was deepest read; Faith, Gospel, all, seem'd made to be disputed, And none had sense enough to be confuted: Scotists and Thomists now in peace remain, Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane. If Faith itself has different dresses worn, What wonder modes in wit should take their turn? Oft, leaving what is natural and fit, The current folly proves the ready wit, And authors think their reputation safe 450 Which lives as long as fools are pleased to laugh.
Some valuing those of their own side or mind, Still make themselves the measure of mankind: Fondly we think we honour merit then, When we but praise ourselves in other men. Parties in wit attend on those of state, And public faction doubles private hate. Pride, malice, folly, against Dryden rose, In various shapes of parsons, critics, beaux; But sense survived, when merry jests were past; 460 For rising merit will buoy up at last. Might he return, and bless once more our eyes, New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise: Nay, should great Homer lift his awful head, Zoilus again would start up from the dead. Envy will Merit, as its shade, pursue, But like a shadow, proves the substance true; For envied wit, like Sol eclipsed, makes known The opposing body's grossness, not its own. When first that sun too powerful beams displays, 470 It draws up vapours which obscure its rays; But even those clouds at last adorn its way, Reflect new glories, and augment the day.
Be thou the first true merit to befriend; His praise is lost, who stays till all commend. Short is the date, alas! of modern rhymes, And 'tis but just to let them live betimes. No longer now that golden age appears, When patriarch-wits survived a thousand years: Now length of fame (our second life) is lost, 480 And bare threescore is all even that can boast; Our sons their fathers' failing language see, And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be. So when the faithful pencil has design'd Some bright idea of the master's mind, Where a new world leaps out at his command, And ready Nature waits upon his hand; When the ripe colours soften and unite, And sweetly melt into just shade and light; When mellowing years their full perfection give, 490 And each bold figure just begins to live, The treacherous colours the fair art betray, And all the bright creation fades away!
Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things, Atones not for that envy which it brings. In youth alone its empty praise we boast, But soon the short-lived vanity is lost: Like some fair flower the early spring supplies, That gaily blooms, but even in blooming dies. What is this wit, which must our cares employ? 500 The owner's wife, that other men enjoy; Then most our trouble still when most admired, And still the more we give, the more required; Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease, Sure some to vex, but never all to please; 'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun, By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone!
If wit so much from ignorance undergo, Ah, let not learning too commence its foe! Of old, those met rewards who could excel, 510 And such were praised who but endeavour'd well: Though triumphs were to generals only due, Crowns were reserved to grace the soldiers too. Now, they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown, Employ their pains to spurn some others down; And while self-love each jealous writer rules, Contending wits become the sport of fools: But still the worst with most regret commend, For each ill author is as bad a friend. 520 To what base ends, and by what abject ways, Are mortals urged through sacred lust of praise! Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast, Nor in the critic let the man be lost. Good-nature and good-sense must ever join; To err is human—to forgive, divine.
But if in noble minds some dregs remain, Not yet purged off, of spleen and sour disdain; Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes, Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times. 530 No pardon vile obscenity should find, Though wit and art conspire to move your mind; But dulness with obscenity must prove As shameful sure as impotence in love. In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease, Sprung the rank weed, and thrived with large increase: When love was all an easy monarch's care; Seldom at council, never in a war: Jilts ruled the state, and statesmen farces writ; Nay, wits had pensions, and young lords had wit; 540 The fair sat panting at a courtier's play, And not a mask went unimproved away: The modest fan was lifted up no more, And virgins smiled at what they blush'd before. The following license of a foreign reign Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain; Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation, And taught more pleasant methods of salvation; Where Heaven's free subjects might their rights dispute, Lest God himself should seem too absolute: 550 Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare, And vice admired to find a flatterer there! Encouraged thus, wit's Titans braved the skies, And the press groan'd with licensed blasphemies. These monsters, critics! with your darts engage, Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage! Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice, Will needs mistake an author into vice; All seems infected that the infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye. 560
* * * * *
So pleased at first the towering Alps to try, Fill'd with ideas of fair Italy, The traveller beholds with cheerful eyes The lessening vales, and seems to tread the skies.
VER. 447. Between this and ver. 448:—
The rhyming clowns that gladded Shakspeare's age, No more with crambo entertain the stage. Who now in anagrams their patron praise, Or sing their mistress in acrostic lays? Even pulpits pleased with merry puns of yore; Now all are banish'd to the Hibernian shore! Thus leaving what was natural and fit, The current folly proved their ready wit; And authors thought their reputation safe, Which lived as long as fools were pleased to laugh.
Learn, then, what MORALS critics ought to show, For 'tis but half a judge's task to know. 'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning join; In all you speak, let truth and candour shine: That not alone what to your sense is due All may allow; but seek your friendship too.
Be silent always when you doubt your sense; And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence: Some positive, persisting fops we know, Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so; 570 But you, with pleasure own your errors past, And make each day a critique on the last.
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do; Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown proposed as things forgot. Without good-breeding, truth is disapproved; That only makes superior sense beloved.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence; For the worst avarice is that of sense. 580 With mean complaisance ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust. Fear not the anger of the wise to raise; Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise.
'Twere well might critics still this freedom take, But Appius reddens at each word you speak, And stares tremendous, with a threatening eye, Like some fierce tyrant in old tapestry. Fear most to tax an Honourable fool, Whose right it is, uncensured, to be dull; 590 Such, without wit, are poets when they please, As without learning they can take degrees. Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires, And flattery to fulsome dedicators, Whom, when they praise, the world believes no more, Than when they promise to give scribbling o'er. 'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain, And charitably let the dull be vain: Your silence there is better than your spite, For who can rail so long as they can write? 600 Still humming on, their drowsy course they keep, And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep. False steps but help them to renew the race, As, after stumbling, jades will mend their pace. What crowds of these, impenitently bold, In sounds and jingling syllables grown old, Still run on poets, in a raging vein, Even to the dregs and squeezings of the brain, Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense, And rhyme with all the rage of impotence! 610
Such shameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true, There are as mad, abandon'd critics too. The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue still edifies his ears, And always listening to himself appears. All books he reads, and all he reads assails, From Dryden's Fables down to D'Urfey's Tales. With him, most authors steal their works, or buy; Garth did not write his own Dispensary. 620 Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend, Nay, show'd his faults—but when would poets mend? No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd, Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's churchyard: Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead: For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks, It still looks home, and short excursions makes; But rattling nonsense in full volleys breaks, And, never shock'd, and never turn'd aside, 630 Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering tide.
But where's the man, who counsel can bestow, Still pleased to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite; Not dully prepossess'd, nor blindly right; Though learn'd, well-bred; and though well-bred, sincere; Modestly bold, and humanly severe: Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe? Bless'd with a taste exact, yet unconfined; 640 A knowledge both of books and human kind; Generous converse; a soul exempt from pride; And love to praise, with reason on his side?
Such once were critics; such the happy few, Athens and Rome in better ages knew. The mighty Stagyrite first left the shore, Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore; He steer'd securely, and discover'd far, Led by the light of the Maeonian star. Poets, a race long unconfined, and free, 650 Still fond and proud of savage liberty, Received his laws; and stood convinced 'twas fit, Who conquer'd Nature, should preside o'er Wit.
Horace still charms with graceful negligence, And without method talks us into sense, Will, like a friend, familiarly convey The truest notions in the easiest way. He who, supreme in judgment, as in wit, Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ, Yet judged with coolness, though he sung with fire; His precepts teach but what his works inspire. 660 Our critics take a contrary extreme, They judge with fury, but they write with phlegm: Nor suffers Horace more in wrong translations By wits, than critics in as wrong quotations.
See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine, And call new beauties forth from every line!
Fancy and art in gay Petronius please, The scholar's learning, with the courtier's ease.
In grave Quintilian's copious work we find 670 The justest rules and clearest method join'd: Thus useful arms in magazines we place, All ranged in order, and disposed with grace, But less to please the eye, than arm the hand, Still fit for use, and ready at command.
Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire, And bless their critic with a poet's fire. An ardent judge, who, zealous in his trust, With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just; Whose own example strengthens all his laws; 680 And is himself that Great Sublime he draws.
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd, Licence repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd. Learning and Rome alike in empire grew; And arts still follow'd where her eagles flew; From the same foes, at last, both felt their doom, And the same age saw Learning fall, and Rome. With Tyranny then Superstition join'd, As that the body, this enslaved the mind; Much was believed, but little understood, 690 And to be dull was construed to be good; A second deluge Learning thus o'errun, And the Monks finish'd what the Goths begun.
At length Erasmus, that great injured name, (The glory of the priesthood, and the shame!) Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barbarous age, And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
But see! each Muse, in Leo's golden days, Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays, Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread, 700 Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head. Then Sculpture and her sister-arts revive; Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live; With sweeter notes each rising temple rung: A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung: Immortal Vida! on whose honour'd brow The poet's bays and critic's ivy grow; Cremona now shall ever boast thy name, As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon by impious arms from Latium chased, 710 Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd; Thence Arts o'er all the northern world advance, But critic-learning flourish'd most in France: The rules a nation, born to serve, obeys; And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despised, And kept unconquer'd and uncivilised; Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, We still defied the Romans, as of old. Yet some there were, among the sounder few 720 Of those who less presumed, and better knew, Who durst assert the juster ancient cause, And here restored Wit's fundamental laws. Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell, 'Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.' Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good, With manners generous as his noble blood; To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, And every author's merit, but his own. Such late was Walsh—the Muse's judge and friend, 730 Who justly knew to blame or to commend; To failings mild, but zealous for desert; The clearest head, and the sincerest heart. This humble praise, lamented Shade! receive, This praise at least a grateful Muse may give: The Muse, whose early voice you taught to sing, Prescribed her heights, and pruned her tender wing, (Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise, But in low numbers short excursions tries: Content, if hence the unlearn'd their wants may view, 740 The learn'd reflect on what before they knew: Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame; Still pleased to praise, yet not afraid to blame; Averse alike to flatter, or offend; Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
* * * * *
VER. 624. Between this and ver. 625:—
In vain you shrug, and sweat, and strive to fly; These know no manners but of poetry. They'll stop a hungry chaplain in his grace, To treat of unities of time and place.
Between ver. 647 and 648, were the following lines, afterwards suppressed by the author:—
That bold Columbus of the realms of wit, Whose first discovery's not exceeded yet. Led by the light of the Maeonian star, He steer'd securely, and discover'd far. He, when all Nature was subdued before, Like his great pupil, sigh'd, and long'd for more: Fancy's wild regions yet unvanquish'd lay, A boundless empire, and that own'd no sway. Poets, &c.
Between ver. 691 and 692, the author omitted these two:—
Vain wits and critics were no more allow'd, When none but saints had licence to be proud.
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK:
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCXII.
'Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos; Sed juvat, hoc precibus me tribuisse tuis.'
TO MRS ARABELLA FERMOR.
Madam,—It will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to you. Yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young ladies, who have good sense and good-humour enough to laugh not only at their sex's little unguarded follies, but at their own. But as it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offered to a bookseller, you had the good-nature for my sake to consent to the publication of one more correct: this I was forced to, before I had executed half my design, for the machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The machinery, Madam, is a term invented by the critics, to signify that part which the deities, angels, or demons are made to act in a poem: for the ancient poets are in one respect like many modern ladies: let an action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost importance. These machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation—the Rosicrucian doctrine of spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a lady; but 'tis so much the concern of a poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called 'Le Comte de Gabalis,' which both in its title and size is so like a novel, that many of the fair sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these gentlemen, the four elements are inhabited by spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes, or Demons of Earth, delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best-conditioned creatures imaginable. For they say, any mortals may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true adepts—an inviolate preservation of chastity.
As to the following cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous as the vision at the beginning, or the transformation at the end; (except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence). The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.
If this poem had as many graces as there are in your person, or in your mind, yet I could never hope it should pass through the world half so uncensured as you have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem, Madam, your most obedient, humble servant,
What dire offence from amorous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things, I sing—This verse to Caryll, Muse! is due: This, even Belinda may vouchsafe to view: Slight is the subject, but not so the praise, If she inspire, and he approve my lays.
Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel A well-bred lord t'assault a gentle belle? Oh, say what stranger cause, yet unexplored, Could make a gentle belle reject a lord? 10 In tasks so bold, can little men engage, And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?
Sol through white curtains shot a timorous ray, And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day: Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake, And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake: Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock'd the ground, And the press'd watch return'd a silver sound. Belinda still her downy pillow press'd, Her guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy rest: 20 'Twas he had summon'd to her silent bed The morning-dream that hover'd o'er her head, A youth more glittering than a birth-night beau, (That even in slumber caused her cheek to glow), Seem'd to her ear his willing lips to lay, And thus in whispers said, or seem'd to say:
'Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care Of thousand bright inhabitants of air! If e'er one vision touch thy infant thought, Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught; 30 Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen, The silver token, and the circled green, Or virgins visited by angel-powers, With golden crowns and wreaths of heavenly flowers; Hear and believe! thy own importance know, Nor bound thy narrow views to things below. Some secret truths, from learned pride conceal'd, To maids alone and children are reveal'd: What though no credit doubting wits may give? The fair and innocent shall still believe. 40 Know then, unnumber'd spirits round thee fly, The light militia of the lower sky: These, though unseen, are ever on the wing, Hang o'er the box, and hover round the ring. Think what an equipage thou hast in air, And view with scorn two pages and a chair. As now your own, our beings were of old, And once enclosed in woman's beauteous mould; Thence, by a soft transition, we repair From earthly vehicles to these of air. 50 Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled, That all her vanities at once are dead; Succeeding vanities she still regards, And though she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards. Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive, And love of ombre, after death survive. For when the fair in all their pride expire, To their first elements their souls retire: The sprites of fiery termagants in flame Mount up, and take a Salamander's name. 60 Soft yielding minds to water glide away, And sip, with Nymphs, their elemental tea. The graver prude sinks downward to a Gnome, In search of mischief still on earth to roam. The light coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair, And sport and flutter in the fields of air.
'Know further yet; whoever fair and chaste Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embraced: For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease Assume what sexes and what shapes they please. 70 What guards the purity of melting maids, In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades, Safe from the treacherous friend, the daring spark, The glance by day, the whisper in the dark, When kind occasion prompts their warm desires, When music softens, and when dancing fires? 'Tis but their Sylph, the wise celestials know, Though honour is the word with men below.
'Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face, For life predestined to the Gnomes' embrace. 80 These swell their prospects, and exalt their pride, When offers are disdain'd, and love denied; Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain, While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train, And garters, stars, and coronets appear, And in soft sounds, 'Your Grace' salutes their ear. 'Tis these that early taint the female soul, Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to roll, Teach infant cheeks a bidden blush to know, And little hearts to flutter at a beau. 90
'Oft, when the world imagine women stray, The Sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way, Through all the giddy circle they pursue, And old impertinence expel by new. What tender maid but must a victim fall To one man's treat, but for another's ball? When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand, If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand? With varying vanities, from every part, They shift the moving toyshop of their heart, 100 Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive, Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive. This erring mortals levity may call, Oh, blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.
'Of these am I, who thy protection claim, A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name. Late, as I ranged the crystal wilds of air, In the clear mirror of thy ruling star I saw, alas! some dread event impend, Ere to the main this morning sun descend, 110 But heaven reveals not what, or how, or where: Warn'd by the Sylph, oh, pious maid, beware! This to disclose is all thy guardian can: Beware of all, but most beware of man!'
He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long, Leap'd up, and waked his mistress with his tongue. 'Twas then, Belinda, if report say true, Thy eyes first open'd on a billet-doux; Wounds, charms, and ardours, were no sooner read, But all the vision vanish'd from thy head. 120
And now, unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd, Each silver vase in mystic order laid. First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores, With head uncover'd, the cosmetic powers. A heavenly image in the glass appears, To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears; The inferior priestess, at her altar's side, Trembling, begins the sacred rites of pride. Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here The various offerings of the world appear; 130 From each she nicely culls with curious toil, And decks the goddess with the glittering spoil. This casket India's glowing gems unlocks, And all Arabia breathes from yonder box. The tortoise here, and elephant unite, Transform'd to combs, the speckled and the white. Here files of pins extend their shining rows, Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux. Now awful beauty puts on all its arms; The fair each moment rises in her charms, 140 Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace, And calls forth all the wonders of her face; Sees by degrees a purer blush arise, And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes. The busy Sylphs surround their darling care, These set the head, and those divide the hair, Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown: And Betty's praised for labours not her own.
* * * * *
VER. 11,12. It was in the first editions:—
And dwells such rage in softest bosoms then, And lodge such daring souls in little men?
VER. 13-18 Stood thus in the first edition:—
Sol through white curtains did his beams display, And op'd those eyes which brighter shone than they; Shock just had given himself the rousing shake, And nymphs prepared their chocolate to take; Thrice the wrought slipper knock'd against the ground, And striking watches the tenth hour resound.
Not with more glories, in the ethereal plain, The sun first rises o'er the purpled main, Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams Launched on the bosom of the silver Thames. Fair nymphs and well-dress'd youths around her shone, But every eye was fix'd on her alone. On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore, Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore. Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose, Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those: 10 Favours to none, to all she smiles extends; Oft she rejects, but never once offends. Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike, And, like the sun, they shine on all alike. Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide: If to her share some female errors fall, Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
This nymph, to the destruction of mankind, Nourish'd two locks, which graceful hung behind 20 In equal curls, and well conspired to deck With shining ringlets the smooth ivory neck. Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains, And mighty hearts are held in slender chains. With hairy springes we the birds betray, Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey, Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare, And beauty draws us with a single hair.
The adventurous Baron the bright locks admired; He saw, he wished, and to the prize aspired. 30 Resolved to win, he meditates the way, By force to ravish, or by fraud betray; For when success a lover's toil attends, Few ask if fraud or force attain'd his ends.
For this, ere Phoebus rose, he had implored Propitious Heaven, and every power adored, But chiefly Love—to Love an altar built, Of twelve vast French romances, neatly gilt. There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves; And all the trophies of his former loves; 40 With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre, And breathes three amorous sighs to raise the fire. Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize: The powers gave ear, and granted half his prayer, The rest, the winds dispersed in empty air.
But now secure the painted vessel glides, The sunbeams trembling on the floating tides: While melting music steals upon the sky, And soften'd sounds along the waters die; 50 Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play, Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay. All but the Sylph—with careful thoughts oppress'd, The impending woe sat heavy on his breast. He summons straight his denizens of air; The lucid squadrons round the sails repair; Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe, That seem'd but zephyrs to the train beneath. Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold, Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold; 60 Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight, Their fluid bodies half dissolved in light. Loose to the wind their airy garments flew, Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew, Dipp'd in the richest tincture of the skies, Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes; While every beam new transient colours flings, Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings. Amid the circle, on the gilded mast, Superior by the head, was Ariel placed; 70 His purple pinions opening to the sun, He raised his azure wand, and thus begun:
'Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your chief give ear, Fays, fairies, genii, elves, and demons hear! Ye know the spheres, and various tasks assign'd By laws eternal to the aerial kind. Some in the fields of purest ether play, And bask and whiten in the blaze of day: Some guide the course of wandering orbs on high, Or roll the planets through the boundless sky: 80 Some, less refined, beneath the moon's pale light Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night, Or suck the mists in grosser air below, Or dip their pinions in the painted bow, Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main, Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain. Others on earth o'er human race preside, Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide: Of these the chief the care of nations own, And guard with arms divine the British throne. 90
'Our humbler province is to tend the fair, Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care; To save the powder from too rude a gale, Nor let the imprison'd essences exhale; To draw fresh colours from the vernal flowers; To steal from rainbows, ere they drop in showers, A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs, Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs; Nay, oft, in dreams, invention we bestow, To change a flounce, or add a furbelow. 100
'This day, black omens threat the brightest fair That e'er deserved a watchful spirit's care; Some dire disaster, or by force, or flight; But what, or where, the Fates have wrapt in night. Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law, Or some frail China jar receive a flaw; Or stain her honour, or her new brocade; Forget her prayers, or miss a masquerade; Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball; Or whether Heaven has doom'd that Shock must fall, 110 Haste then, ye spirits! to your charge repair: The fluttering fan be Zephyretta's care; The drops to thee, Brillante, we consign; And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine; Do thou, Crispissa, tend her favourite lock; Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock.
'To fifty chosen Sylphs, of special note, We trust the important charge, the petticoat: Oft have we known that sevenfold fence to fail, Though stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of whale; 120 Form a strong line about the silver bound, And guard the wide circumference around.
'Whatever spirit, careless of his charge, His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large, Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins, Be stopp'd in vials, or transfix'd with pins; Or plunged in lakes of bitter washes lie, Or wedged whole ages in a bodkin's eye: Gums and pomatums shall his flight restrain, While, clogg'd, he beats his silken wings in vain; 130 Or alum styptics with contracting power Shrink his thin essence like a rivell'd flower: Or, as Ixion fix'd, the wretch shall feel The giddy motion of the whirling mill, In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow, And tremble at the sea that froths below!'
He spoke; the spirits from the sails descend; Some, orb in orb, around the nymph extend; Some thread the mazy ringlets of her hair; Some hang upon the pendants of her ear; 140 With beating hearts the dire event they wait, Anxious, and trembling for the birth of Fate.
* * * * *
VER. 4. From hence the poem continues, in the first edition, to ver. 46:—
The rest the winds dispersed in empty air;
all after, to the end of this canto, being additional.
Close by those meads, for ever crown'd with flowers, Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers, There stands a structure of majestic frame, Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name. Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home; Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take—and sometimes tea.
Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort, To taste awhile the pleasures of a court; 10 In various talk the instructive hours they pass'd, Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last; One speaks the glory of the British Queen, And one describes a charming Indian screen; A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes; At every word a reputation dies. Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat, With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
Meanwhile, declining from the noon of day, The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray; 20 The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang that jurymen may dine; The merchant from the Exchange returns in peace, And the long labours of the toilet cease. Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites, Burns to encounter two adventurous knights, At ombre singly to decide their doom, And swells her breast with conquests yet to come. Straight the three bands prepare in arras to join, Each band the number of the sacred Nine. 30 Soon as she spreads her hand, the aerial guard Descend, and sit on each important card: First Ariel perch'd upon a Matadore, Then each, according to the rank they bore; For Sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient race, Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold, four Kings in majesty revered, With hoary whiskers and a forky beard; And four fair Queens, whose hands sustain a flower, Th' expressive emblem of their softer power; 40 Four Knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band, Caps on their heads, and halberts in their hand; And particolour'd troops, a shining train, Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain.
The skilful nymph reviews her force with care: 'Let Spades be Trumps!' she said, and Trumps they were.
Now move to war her sable Matadores, In show like leaders of the swarthy Moors. Spadillio first, unconquerable lord! Led off two captive Trumps, and swept the board. 50 As many more Manillio forced to yield, And march'd a victor from the verdant field. Him Basto follow'd, but his fate more hard Gain'd but one Trump and one plebeian card. With his broad sabre next, a chief in years, The hoary Majesty of Spades appears, Puts forth one manly leg, to sight reveal'd, The rest, his many-colour'd robe conceal'd. The rebel Knave, who dares his prince engage, Proves the just victim of his royal rage. 60 Even mighty Pam, that Kings and Queens o'erthrew And mow'd down armies in the fights of Loo, Sad chance of war! now destitute of aid, Falls undistinguish'd by the victor Spade!
Thus far both armies to Belinda yield; Now to the Baron fate inclines the field. His warlike Amazon her host invades, The imperial consort of the crown of Spades. The Club's black tyrant first her victim died, Spite of his haughty mien, and barbarous pride: 70 What boots the regal circle on his head, His giant limbs in state unwieldy spread; That long behind he trails his pompous robe, And, of all monarchs, only grasps the globe?
The Baron now his Diamonds pours apace; The embroider'd King who shows but half his face, And his refulgent Queen, with powers combined, Of broken troops an easy conquest find. Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, in wild disorder seen, With throngs promiscuous strew the level green. 80 Thus when dispersed a routed army runs, Of Asia's troops, and Afric's sable sons, With like confusion different nations fly, Of various habit and of various dye; The pierced battalions disunited fall In heaps on heaps; one fate o'erwhelms them all.
The Knave of Diamonds tries his wily arts, And wins (oh shameful chance!) the Queen of Hearts. At this, the blood the virgin's cheek forsook, A livid paleness spreads o'er all her look; 90 She sees, and trembles at the approaching ill, Just in the jaws of ruin, and Codille. And now, (as oft in some distemper'd state) On one nice trick depends the general fate, An Ace of Hearts steps forth: the King unseen Lurk'd in her hand, and mourn'd his captive Queen: He springs to vengeance with an eager pace, And falls like thunder on the prostrate Ace. The nymph, exulting, fills with shouts the sky; The walls, the woods, and long canals reply. 100
O thoughtless mortals! ever blind to fate, Too soon dejected, and too soon elate. Sudden these honours shall be snatch'd away, And cursed for ever this victorious day.
For lo! the board with cups and spoons is crown'd, The berries crackle, and the mill turns round; On shining altars of Japan they raise The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze: From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide, While China's earth receives the smoking tide: 110 At once they gratify their scent and taste, And frequent cups prolong the rich repast. Straight hover round the fair her airy band; Some, as she sipp'd, the fuming liquor fann'd, Some o'er her lap their careful plumes display'd, Trembling, and conscious of the rich brocade. Coffee (which makes the politician wise, And see through all things with his half-shut eyes) Sent up in vapours to the Baron's brain New stratagems, the radiant lock to gain. 120 Ah, cease, rash youth! desist ere 'tis too late, Fear the just gods, and think of Scylla's fate! Changed to a bird, and sent to flit in air, She dearly pays for Nisus' injured hair!
But when to mischief mortals bend their will, How soon they find fit instruments of ill! Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting grace A two-edged weapon from her shining case: So ladies in romance assist their knight, Present the spear, and arm him for the fight, 130 He takes the gift with reverence, and extends The little engine on his fingers' ends: This just behind Belinda's neck he spread, As o'er the fragrant steams she bends her head. Swift to the lock a thousand sprites repair, A thousand wings, by turns, blow back the hair; And thrice they twitch'd the diamond in her ear; Thrice she look'd back, and thrice the foe drew near. Just in that instant, anxious Ariel sought The close recesses of the virgin's thought; 140 As on the nosegay in her breast reclined, He watch'd the ideas rising in her mind, Sudden he view'd, in spite of all her art, An earthly lover lurking at her heart. Amazed, confused, he found his power expired, Resign'd to fate, and with a sigh retired.
The Peer now spreads the glittering forfex wide, To inclose the lock; now joins it to divide. Even then, before the fatal engine closed, A wretched Sylph too fondly interposed; 150 Fate urged the shears, and cut the Sylph in twain, (But airy substance soon unites again) The meeting points the sacred hair dissever From the fair head, for ever, and for ever!
Then flash'd the living lightning from her eyes, And screams of horror rend the affrighted skies. Not louder shrieks to pitying heaven are cast, When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last; Or when rich China vessels, fallen from high, In glittering dust and painted fragments lie! 160
'Let wreaths of triumph now my temples twine, (The victor cried) the glorious prize is mine! While fish in streams, or birds delight in air, Or in a coach-and-six the British fair, As long as Atalantis shall be read, Or the small pillow grace a lady's bed, While visits shall be paid on solemn days, When numerous wax-lights in bright order blaze, While nymphs take treats, or assignations give, So long my honour, name, and praise shall live!' 170
What Time would spare, from steel receives its date, And monuments, like men, submit to fate! Steel could the labour of the gods destroy, And strike to dust the imperial towers of Troy; Steel could the works of mortal pride confound, And hew triumphal arches to the ground. What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel, The conquering force of unresisted steel?
* * * * *
VER. 1. The first edition continues from this line to ver. 24 of this canto.
VER. 12. Originally in the first edition:—
In various talk the cheerful hours they pass'd, Of who was bit, or who capotted last.
VER. 24. All that follows of the game at ombre, was added since the first edition, till ver. 105, which connected thus:—
Sudden the board with cups and spoons is crown'd.
VER. 105. From hence, the first edition continues to ver 134.
VER. 134. In the first edition it was thus:—
As o'er the fragrant stream she bends her head. First he expands the glittering forfex wide To inclose the lock; then joins it to divide: The meeting points the sacred hair dissever, From the fair head for ever and for ever.
Ver. 154. All that is between was added afterwards.
But anxious cares the pensive nymph oppress'd, And secret passions labour'd in her breast. Not youthful kings in battle seized alive, Not scornful virgins who their charms survive, Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss, Not ancient ladies when refused a kiss, Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die, Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry, E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair, As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravish'd hair. 10
For, that sad moment, when the Sylphs withdrew, And Ariel weeping from Belinda flew, Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite, As ever sullied the fair face of light, Down to the central earth, his proper scene, Repair'd, to search the gloomy cave of Spleen.
Swift on his sooty pinions flits the Gnome, And in a vapour reach'd the dismal dome. No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows, The dreaded east is all the wind that blows; 20 Here in a grotto, shelter'd close from air, And screened in shades from day's detested glare, She sighs for ever on her pensive bed, Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head.
Two handmaids wait the throne: alike in place, But differing far in figure and in face. Here stood Ill-nature like an ancient maid, Her wrinkled form in black and white array'd; With store of prayers for mornings, nights, and noons Her hand is fill'd; her bosom with lampoons. 30
There Affectation, with a sickly mien, Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen; Practised to lisp, and hang the head aside, Faints into airs, and languishes with pride; On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe, Wrapp'd in a gown, for sickness, and for show. The fair ones feel such maladies as these, When each new night-dress gives a new disease.
A constant vapour o'er the palace flies, Strange phantoms rising as the mists arise; 40 Dreadful, as hermits' dreams in haunted shades, Or bright, as visions of expiring maids. Now glaring fiends, and snakes on rolling spires, Pale spectres, gaping tombs, and purple fires: Now lakes of liquid gold, Elysian scenes, And crystal domes, and angels in machines. Unnumber'd throngs on every side are seen Of bodies changed to various forms by Spleen. Here living teapots stand, one arm held out, One bent; the handle this, and that the spout: 50 A pipkin there, like Homer's tripod walks; Here sighs a jar, and there a goose-pie talks; Men prove with child, as powerful fancy works, And maids turn'd bottles, call aloud for corks.
Safe pass'd the Gnome through this fantastic band, A branch of healing spleenwort in his hand. Then thus address'd the power—'Hail, wayward Queen! Who rule the sex to fifty from fifteen: Parent of vapours and of female wit, Who give the hysteric, or poetic fit, 60 On various tempers act by various ways, Make some take physic, others scribble plays; Who cause the proud their visits to delay, And send the godly in a pet to pray; A nymph there is, that all thy power disdains, And thousands more in equal mirth maintains. But oh! if e'er thy Gnome could spoil a grace, Or raise a pimple on a beauteous face, Like citron-waters matrons' cheeks inflame, Or change complexions at a losing game; 70 If e'er with airy horns I planted heads, Or rumpled petticoats, or tumbled beds, Or caused suspicion when no soul was rude, Or discomposed the head-dress of a prude, Or e'er to costive lapdog gave disease, Which not the tears of brightest eyes could ease: Hear me, and touch Belinda with chagrin, That single act gives half the world the spleen.'
The goddess with a discontented air Seems to reject him, though she grants his prayer. 80 A wondrous bag with both her hands she binds, Like that where once Ulysses held the winds; There she collects the force of female lungs, Sighs, sobs, and passions, and the war of tongues. A vial next she fills with fainting fears, Soft sorrows, melting griefs, and flowing tears. The Gnome rejoicing bears her gifts away, Spreads his black wings, and slowly mounts to day.
Sunk in Thalestris' arms the nymph he found, Her eyes dejected and her hair unbound. 90 Full o'er their heads the swelling bag he rent, And all the furies issued at the vent. Belinda burns with more than mortal ire, And fierce Thalestris fans the rising fire. 'O wretched maid!' she spread her hands, and cried, (While Hampton's echoes 'wretched maid!' replied) 'Was it for this you took such constant care The bodkin, comb, and essence to prepare? For this your locks in paper durance bound, For this with torturing irons wreath'd around? 100 For this with fillets strain'd your tender head, And bravely bore the double loads of lead? Gods! shall the ravisher display your hair, While the fops envy, and the ladies stare? Honour forbid! at whose unrivall'd shrine Ease, pleasure, virtue, all our sex resign. Methinks already I your tears survey, Already hear the horrid things they say, Already see you a degraded toast, And all your honour in a whisper lost! 110 How shall I, then, your helpless fame defend? 'Twill then be infamy to seem your friend! And shall this prize, the inestimable prize, Exposed through crystal to the gazing eyes, And heighten'd by the diamond's circling rays, On that rapacious hand for ever blaze? Sooner shall grass in Hyde-park Circus grow, And wits take lodgings in the sound of Bow; Sooner let earth, air, sea to chaos fall, Men, monkeys, lapdogs, parrots, perish all!' 120
She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs, And bids her beau demand the precious hairs: (Sir Plume of amber snuff-box justly vain, And the nice conduct of a clouded cane.) With earnest eyes, and round, unthinking face, He first the snuff-box open'd, then the case, And thus broke out—'My Lord, why, what the devil? Z—ds! damn the lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil! Plague on't! 'tis past a jest—nay, prithee, pox! Give her the hair'—he spoke, and rapp'd his box. 130
'It grieves me much' (replied the Peer again) Who speaks so well should ever speak in vain; 'But by this lock, this sacred lock I swear, (Which never more shall join its parted hair; Which never more its honours shall renew, Clipp'd from the lovely head where late it grew) That while my nostrils draw the vital air, This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.' He spoke, and, speaking, in proud triumph spread The long-contended honours of her head. 140
But Umbriel, hateful Gnome! forbears not so; He breaks the vial whence the sorrows flow. Then see! the nymph in beauteous grief appears, Her eyes half-languishing, half-drown'd in tears; On her heaved bosom hung her drooping head, Which, with a sigh, she raised; and thus she said:
'For ever cursed be this detested day, Which snatch'd my best, my favourite curl away! Happy! ah, ten times happy had I been, If Hampton Court these eyes had never seen! 150 Yet am not I the first mistaken maid, By love of courts to numerous ills betray'd. Oh, had I rather unadmired remain'd In some lone isle, or distant northern land; Where the gilt chariot never marks the way, Where none learn ombre, none e'er taste bohea! There kept my charms conceal'd from mortal eye, Like roses that in deserts bloom and die. What moved my mind with youthful lords to roam? Oh, had I stay'd, and said my prayers at home! 160 'Twas this the morning omens seem'd to tell: Thrice from my trembling hand the patch-box fell; The tottering china shook without a wind, Nay, Poll sat mute, and Shock was most unkind! A Sylph too warn'd me of the threats of Fate, In mystic visions, now believed too late. See the poor remnants of these slighted hairs! My hands shall rend what ev'n thy rapine spares: These in two sable ringlets taught to break, Once gave new beauties to the snowy neck; 170 The sister-lock now sits uncouth, alone, And in its fellow's fate foresees its own; Uncurl'd it hangs, the fatal shears demands, And tempts, once more, thy sacrilegious hands. Oh hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!'
* * * * *
VER. 11. All the lines from hence to the 94th verse, that describe the house of Spleen, are not in the first edition; instead of them followed only these:—
While her rack'd soul repose and peace requires, The fierce Thalestris fans the rising fires.
And continued at the 94th verse of this canto.
She said: the pitying audience melt in tears; But Fate and Jove had stopp'd the Baron's ears. In vain Thalestris with reproach assails, For who can move when fair Belinda fails? Not half so fix'd the Trojan could remain, While Anna begg'd and Dido raged in vain. Then grave Clarissa graceful waved her fan; Silence ensued, and thus the nymph began:
'Say, why are beauties praised and honour'd most, The wise man's passion, and the vain man's toast? 10 Why deck'd with all that land and sea afford? Why angels call'd, and angel-like adored? Why round our coaches crowd the white-gloved beaux? Why bows the side-box from its inmost rows? How vain are all these glories, all our pains, Unless good sense preserve what beauty gains: That men may say, when we the front-box grace, Behold the first in virtue as in face! Oh! if to dance all night, and dress all day, Charm'd the small-pox, or chased old-age away; 20 Who would not scorn what housewife's cares produce, Or who would learn one earthly thing of use? To patch, nay ogle, might become a saint, Nor could it, sure, be such a sin to paint. But since, alas! frail beauty must decay, Curl'd or uncurl'd, since locks will turn to gray; Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade, And she who scorns a man, must die a maid; What then remains, but well our power to use, And keep good-humour still, whate'er we lose? 30 And trust me, dear! good-humour can prevail, When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail. Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.'
So spoke the dame, but no applause ensued; Belinda frown'd, Thalestris call'd her prude. 'To arms, to arms!' the fierce virago cries, And swift as lightning to the combat flies. All side in parties, and begin the attack; Fans clap, silks rustle, and tough whalebones crack; 40 Heroes' and heroines' shouts confusedly rise, And bass and treble voices strike the skies. No common weapons in their hands are found, Like gods they fight, nor dread a mortal wound.
So when bold Homer makes the gods engage, And heavenly breasts with human passions rage; 'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms, And all Olympus rings with loud alarms: Jove's thunder roars, heaven trembles all around, Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound: 50 Earth shakes her nodding towers, the ground gives way, And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day!
Triumphant Umbriel on a sconce's height Clapp'd his glad wings, and sat to view the fight; Propp'd on their bodkin spears, the sprites survey The growing combat, or assist the fray.
While through the press enraged Thalestris flies, And scatters death around from both her eyes, A beau and witling perish'd in the throng, One died in metaphor, and one in song. 60 'O cruel nymph! a living death I bear,' Cried Dapperwit, and sunk beside his chair. A mournful glance Sir Fopling upwards cast, 'Those eyes are made so killing!'—was his last. Thus on Maeander's flowery margin lies The expiring swan, and as he sings he dies.
When bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down, Chloe stepped in, and kill'd him with a frown; She smiled to see the doughty hero slain, But, at her smile, the beau revived again. 70
Now Jove suspends his golden scales in air, Weighs the men's wits against the lady's hair; The doubtful beam long nods from side to side; At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside.
See fierce Belinda on the Baron flies, With more than usual lightning in her eyes: Nor fear'd the chief th' unequal fight to try, Who sought no more than on his foe to die. But this bold lord, with manly strength endued, She with one finger and a thumb subdued: 80 Just where the breath of life his nostrils drew, A charge of snuff the wily virgin threw; The Gnomes direct, to every atom just, The pungent grains of titillating dust. Sudden, with starting tears each eye o'erflows, And the high dome re-echoes to his nose. 'Now meet thy fate!' incensed Belinda cried, And drew a deadly bodkin from her side, (The same, his ancient personage to deck, Her great-great-grandsire wore about his neck, 90 In three seal-rings; which after, melted down, Form'd a vast buckle for his widow's gown: Her infant grandame's whistle next it grew, The bells she jingled, and the whistle blew; Then in a bodkin graced her mother's hairs, Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.) 'Boast not my fall,' (he cried) 'insulting foe! Thou by some other shalt be laid as low. Nor think, to die dejects my lofty mind: 100 All that I dread is leaving you behind! Rather than so, ah! let me still survive, And burn in Cupid's flames,—but burn alive.'
'Restore the lock!' she cries; and all around 'Restore the lock!' the vaulted roofs rebound. Not fierce Othello in so loud a strain Roar'd for the handkerchief that caused his pain. But see how oft ambitious aims are cross'd, And chiefs contend till all the prize is lost! The lock, obtain'd with guilt, and kept with pain, In every place is sought, but sought in vain: 110 With such a prize no mortal must be blest, So Heaven decrees! with Heaven who can contest?
Some thought it mounted to the lunar sphere, Since all things lost on earth are treasured there. There heroes' wits are kept in ponderous vases, And beaux' in snuff-boxes and tweezer-cases. There broken vows, and death-bed alms are found, And lovers' hearts with ends of ribbon bound, The courtier's promises, and sick man's prayers, The smiles of harlots, and the tears of heirs, 120 Cages for gnats, and chains to yoke a flea, Dried butterflies, and tomes of casuistry.
But trust the Muse—she saw it upward rise, Though mark'd by none but quick, poetic eyes: (So Rome's great founder to the heavens withdrew, To Proculus alone confess'd in view) A sudden star, it shot through liquid air, And drew behind a radiant trail of hair. Not Berenice's locks first rose so bright, The heaven's bespangling with dishevell'd light. 130 The Sylphs behold it kindling as it flies, And, pleased, pursue its progress through the skies.
This the beau-monde shall from the Mall survey, And hail with music its propitious ray. This the bless'd lover shall for Venus take, And send up vows from Rosamonda's lake. This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless skies, When next he looks through Galileo's eyes; And hence th' egregious wizard shall foredoom The fate of Louis, and the fall of Rome. 140
Then cease, bright nymph! to mourn thy ravish'd hair, Which adds new glory to the shining sphere! Not all the tresses that fair head can boast, Shall draw such envy as the lock you lost. For, after all the murders of your eye, When, after millions slain, yourself shall die; When those fair suns shall set, as set they must, And all those tresses shall be laid in dust, This lock the Muse shall consecrate to fame, And 'midst the stars inscribe Belinda's name. 150
* * * * *
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE GEORGE LORD LANSDOWNE.
'Non injussa cano: te nostrae, Vare, myricae, Te nemus omne canet; nee Phoebo gratior ulla est, Quam sibi quae Vari praescripsit pagina nomen.'
Thy forests, Windsor! and thy green retreats, At once the Monarch's and the Muse's seats, Invite my lays. Be present, sylvan Maids! Unlock your springs, and open all your shades. Granville commands; your aid, O Muses, bring! What Muse for Granville can refuse to sing?
The groves of Eden, vanish'd now so long, Live in description, and look green in song: These, were my breast inspired with equal flame, Like them in beauty, should be like in fame. 10 Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain, Here earth and water seem to strive again; Not chaos-like, together crush'd and bruised, But, as the world, harmoniously confused; Where order in variety we see, And where, though all things differ, all agree. Here waving groves a chequer'd scene display, And part admit, and part exclude the day; As some coy nymph her lover's warm address Nor quite indulges, nor can quite repress. 20 There, interspersed in lawns and opening glades, Thin trees arise that shun each other's shades. Here in full light the russet plains extend: There, wrapt in clouds the bluish hills ascend. Ev'n the wild heath displays her purple dyes, And 'midst the desert fruitful fields arise, That crown'd with tufted trees and springing corn, Like verdant isles the sable waste adorn. Let India boast her plants, nor envy we The weeping amber or the balmy tree, 30 While by our oaks the precious loads are born, And realms commanded which those trees adorn. Not proud Olympus yields a nobler sight, Though gods assembled grace his towering height. Than what more humble mountains offer here, Where, in their blessings, all those gods appear. See Pan with flocks, with fruits Pomona crown'd, Here blushing Flora paints the enamell'd ground, Here Ceres' gifts in waving prospect stand, And nodding tempt the joyful reaper's hand; 40 Rich industry sits smiling on the plains, And peace and plenty tell a Stuart reigns.
Not thus the land appear'd in ages past, A dreary desert, and a gloomy waste, To savage beasts and savage laws a prey, And kings more furious and severe than they; Who claim'd the skies, dispeopled air and floods, The lonely lords of empty wilds and woods: Cities laid waste, they storm'd the dens and caves, (For wiser brutes were backward to be slaves). 50 What could be free, when lawless beasts obey'd, And even the elements a tyrant sway'd? In vain kind seasons swell'd the teeming grain, Soft showers distill'd, and suns grew warm in vain; The swain with tears his frustrate labour yields, And famish'd dies amidst his ripen'd fields. What wonder, then, a beast or subject slain Were equal crimes in a despotic reign? Both doom'd alike, for sportive tyrants bled, But while the subject starved, the beast was fed. 60 Proud Nimrod first the bloody chase began, A mighty hunter, and his prey was man: Our haughty Norman boasts that barbarous name, And makes his trembling slaves the royal game. The fields are ravish'd from the industrious swains, From men their cities, and from gods their fanes: The levell'd towns with weeds lie cover'd o'er; The hollow winds through naked temples roar; Round broken columns clasping ivy twined; O'er heaps of ruin stalk'd the stately hind; 70 The fox obscene to gaping tombs retires, And savage howlings fill the sacred choirs. Awed by his Nobles, by his Commons cursed, The oppressor ruled tyrannic where he durst, Stretch'd o'er the poor and Church his iron rod, And served alike his vassals and his God. Whom even the Saxon spared, and bloody Dane, The wanton victims of his sport remain. But see, the man who spacious regions gave A waste for beasts, himself denied a grave! 80 Stretch'd on the lawn, his second hope survey, At once the chaser, and at once the prey: Lo Rufus, tugging at the deadly dart, Bleeds in the forest like a wounded hart. Succeeding monarchs heard the subjects' cries, Nor saw displeased the peaceful cottage rise. Then gathering flocks on unknown mountains fed, O'er sandy wilds were yellow harvests spread, The forests wonder'd at the unusual grain, And secret transport touch'd the conscious swain. 90 Fair Liberty, Britannia's goddess, rears Her cheerful head, and leads the golden years.
Ye vigorous swains! while youth ferments your blood, And purer spirits swell the sprightly flood, Now range the hills, the gameful woods beset, Wind the shrill horn, or spread the waving net. When milder autumn summer's heat succeeds, And in the new-shorn field the partridge feeds, Before his lord the ready spaniel bounds, Panting with hope, he tries the furrow'd grounds; 100 But when the tainted gales the game betray, Couch'd close he lies, and meditates the prey: Secure they trust the unfaithful field beset, Till hovering o'er 'em sweeps the swelling net. Thus (if small things we may with great compare) When Albion sends her eager sons to war, Some thoughtless town, with ease and plenty blest, Near, and more near, the closing lines invest; Sudden they seize the amazed, defenceless prize, And high in air Britannia's standard flies. 110
See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springs, And mounts exulting on triumphant wings: Short is his joy; he feels the fiery wound, Flutters in blood, and panting beats the ground. Ah! what avail his glossy, varying dyes, His purple crest, and scarlet-circled eyes, The vivid green his shining plumes unfold, His painted wings, and breast that flames with gold?
Nor yet, when moist Arcturus clouds the sky, The woods and fields their pleasing toils deny. 120 To plains with well-breath'd beagles we repair, And trace the mazes of the circling hare; (Beasts, urged by us, their fellow-beasts pursue, And learn of man each other to undo.) With slaughtering gun the unwearied fowler roves, When frosts have whiten'd all the naked groves; Where doves in flocks the leafless trees o'ershade, And lonely woodcocks haunt the watery glade. He lifts the tube, and levels with his eye; Straight a short thunder breaks the frozen sky; 130 Oft, as in airy rings they skim the heath, The clamorous lapwings feel the leaden death: Oft, as the mounting larks their notes prepare, They fall, and leave their little lives in air.
In genial spring, beneath the quivering shade, Where cooling vapours breathe along the mead, The patient fisher takes his silent stand, Intent, his angle trembling in his hand: With looks unmoved, he hopes the scaly breed, And eyes the dancing cork, and bending reed. 140 Our plenteous streams a various race supply, The bright-eyed perch with fins of Tyrian dye, The silver eel, in shining volumes roll'd, The yellow carp, in scales bedropp'd with gold, Swift trouts, diversified with crimson stains, And pikes, the tyrants of the watery plains.
Now Cancer glows with Phoebus' fiery car: The youth rush eager to the sylvan war, Swarm o'er the lawns, the forest walks surround, Rouse the fleet hart, and cheer the opening hound. 150 The impatient courser pants in every vein, And pawing, seems to beat the distant plain: Hills, vales, and floods appear already cross'd, And ere he starts, a thousand steps are lost. See the bold youth strain up the threatening steep, Rush through the thickets, down the valleys sweep, Hang o'er their coursers' heads with eager speed, And earth rolls back beneath the flying steed. Let old Arcadia boast her ample plain, The immortal huntress, and her virgin-train; 160 Nor envy, Windsor! since thy shades have seen As bright a goddess, and as chaste a queen, Whose care, like hers, protects the sylvan reign, The earth's fair light, and empress of the main.
Here too, 'tis sung, of old Diana stray'd, And Cynthus' top forsook for Windsor shade; Here was she seen o'er airy wastes to rove, Seek the clear spring, or haunt the pathless grove; Here, arm'd with silver bows, in early dawn, Her buskin'd virgins traced the dewy lawn. 170
Above the rest a rural nymph was famed, Thy offspring, Thames! the fair Lodona named; (Lodona's fate, in long oblivion cast, The Muse shall sing, and what she sings shall last). Scarce could the goddess from her nymph be known, But by the crescent and the golden zone. She scorn'd the praise of beauty, and the care; A belt her waist, a fillet binds her hair; A painted quiver on her shoulder sounds, And with her dart the flying deer she wounds. It chanced, as eager of the chase, the maid Beyond the forest's verdant limits stray'd, 180 Pan saw and loved, and, burning with desire, Pursued her flight, her flight increased his fire. Not half so swift the trembling doves can fly, When the fierce eagle cleaves the liquid sky; Not half so swiftly the fierce eagle moves, When through the clouds he drives the trembling doves; As from the god she flew with furious pace, Or as the god, more furious, urged the chase. Now fainting, sinking, pale the nymph appears; Now close behind, his sounding steps she hears; 190 And now his shadow reach'd her as she run, His shadow lengthen'd by the setting sun; And now his shorter breath, with sultry air, Pants on her neck, and fans her parting hair. In vain on father Thames she calls for aid, Nor could Diana help her injured maid. Faint, breathless, thus she pray'd, nor pray'd in vain: 'Ah, Cynthia! ah—though banish'd from thy train, Let me, oh! let me, to the shades repair, My native shades—there weep, and murmur there.' 200 She said, and melting as in tears she lay, In a soft, silver stream dissolved away. The silver stream her virgin coldness keeps, For ever murmurs, and for ever weeps; Still bears the name the hapless virgin bore, And bathes the forest where she ranged before. In her chaste current oft the goddess laves, And with celestial tears augments the waves. Oft in her glass the musing shepherd spies The headlong mountains and the downward skies, 210 The watery landscape of the pendent woods, And absent trees that tremble in the floods; In the clear azure gleam the flocks are seen, And floating forests paint the waves with green, Through the fair scene roll slow the lingering streams, Then foaming pour along, and rush into the Thames.
Thou, too, great Father of the British floods! With joyful pride survey'st our lofty woods; Where towering oaks their growing honours rear, And future navies on thy shores appear. 220 Not Neptune's self from all her streams receives A wealthier tribute, than to thine he gives. No seas so rich, so gay no banks appear, No lake so gentle, and no spring so clear. Nor Po so swells the fabling poet's lays, While led along the skies his current strays, As thine, which visits Windsor's famed abodes, To grace the mansion of our earthly gods: Nor all his stars above a lustre show, Like the bright beauties on thy banks below; 230 Where Jove, subdued by mortal passion still, Might change Olympus for a nobler hill.
Happy the man whom this bright court approves, His sovereign favours, and his country loves: Happy next him who to these shades retires, Whom Nature charms, and whom the Muse inspires: Whom humbler joys of home-felt quiet please, Successive study, exercise, and ease. He gathers health from herbs the forest yields, And of their fragrant physic spoils the fields: 240 With chemic art exalts the mineral powers, And draws the aromatic souls of flowers: Now marks the course of rolling orbs on high; O'er figured worlds now travels with his eye; Of ancient writ unlocks the learned store, Consults the dead, and lives past ages o'er: Or wandering thoughtful in the silent wood, Attends the duties of the wise and good, To observe a mean, be to himself a friend, To follow nature, and regard his end; 250 Or looks on Heaven with more than mortal eyes, Bids his free soul expatiate in the skies, Amid her kindred stars familiar roam, Survey the region, and confess her home! Such was the life great Scipio once admired, Thus Atticus, and Trumbull thus retired.
Ye sacred Nine! that all my soul possess, Whose raptures fire me, and whose visions bless, Bear me, oh, bear me to sequester'd scenes, The bowery mazes, and surrounding greens: 260 To Thames's banks which fragrant breezes fill, Or where ye Muses sport on Cooper's Hill. (On Cooper's Hill eternal wreaths shall grow, While lasts the mountain, or while Thames shall flow.) I seem through consecrated walks to rove, I hear soft music die along the grove: Led by the sound, I roam from shade to shade, By godlike poets venerable made: Here his first lays majestic Denham sung; There the last numbers flow'd from Cowley's tongue. 270 Oh early lost! what tears the river shed, When the sad pomp along his banks was led! His drooping swans on every note expire, And on his willows hung each Muse's lyre.