She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Translation From Catullus.
Equal to Jove that youth must be—
Greater than Jove he seems to me—
Who, free from Jealousy’s alarms,
Securely views thy matchless charms;
That cheek, which ever dimpling glows,
That mouth, from whence such music flows,
To him, alike, are always known,
Reserv’d for him, and him alone.
Ah! Lesbia! though ’tis death to me,
I cannot choose but look on thee;
But, at the sight, my senses fly,
I needs must gaze, but, gazing, die;
Whilst trembling with a thousand fears,
Parch’d to the throat my tongue adheres,
My pulse beats quick, my breath heaves short,
My limbs deny their slight support;
Cold dews my pallid face o’erspread,
With deadly languor droops my head,
My ears with tingling echoes ring,
And Life itself is on the wing;
My eyes refuse the cheering light,
Their orbs are veil’d in starless night:
Such pangs my nature sinks beneath,
And feels a temporary death.
Who would not laugh, if Lawrence, hired to grace
His costly canvas with each flattered face,
Abused his art, till Nature, with a blush,
Saw cits grow Centaurs underneath his brush?
Or, should some limner join, for show or sale,
A Maid of Honour to a Mermaid’s tail?
Or low Dubost—as once the world has seen—
Degrade God’s creatures in his graphic spleen?
Not all that forced politeness, which defends
Fools in their faults, could gag his grinning friends.
Believe me, Moschus, like that picture seems
The book which, sillier than a sick man’s dreams,
Displays a crowd of figures incomplete,
Poetic Nightmares, without head or feet.
Poets and painters, as all artists know,
May shoot a little with a lengthened bow;
We claim this mutual mercy for our task,
And grant in turn the pardon which we ask;
But make not monsters spring from gentle dams—
Birds breed not vipers, tigers nurse not lambs.
A laboured, long Exordium, sometimes tends
(Like patriot speeches) but to paltry ends;
And nonsense in a lofty note goes down,
As Pertness passes with a legal gown:
Thus many a Bard describes in pompous strain
The clear brook babbling through the goodly plain:
The groves of Granta, and her Gothic halls,
King’s Coll-Cam’s stream-stained windows, and old walls:
Or, in adventurous numbers, neatly aims
To paint a rainbow, or the river Thames.
You sketch a tree, and so perhaps may shine—
But daub a shipwreck like an alehouse sign;
You plan a vase—it dwindles to a pot;
Then glide down Grub-street—fasting and forgot:
Laughed into Lethe by some quaint Review,
Whose wit is never troublesome till—true.
In fine, to whatsoever you aspire,
Let it at least be simple and entire.
The greater portion of the rhyming tribe
(Give ear, my friend, for thou hast been a scribe)
Are led astray by some peculiar lure.
I labour to be brief—become obscure;
One falls while following Elegance too fast;
Another soars, inflated with Bombast;
Too low a third crawls on, afraid to fly,
He spins his subject to Satiety;
Absurdly varying, he at last engraves
Fish in the woods, and boars beneath the waves!
Unless your care’s exact, your judgment nice,
The flight from Folly leads but into Vice;
None are complete, all wanting in some part,
Like certain tailors, limited in art.
For galligaskins Slowshears is your man
But coats must claim another artisan.
Now this to me, I own, seems much the same
As Vulcan’s feet to bear Apollo’s frame;
Or, with a fair complexion, to expose
Black eyes, black ringlets, but—a bottle nose!
Dear Authors! suit your topics to your strength,
And ponder well your subject, and its length;
Nor lift your load, before you’re quite aware
What weight your shoulders will, or will not, bear.
But lucid Order, and Wit’s siren voice,
Await the Poet, skilful in his choice;
With native Eloquence he soars along,
Grace in his thoughts, and Music in his song.
Let Judgment teach him wisely to combine
With future parts the now omitted line:
This shall the Author choose, or that reject,
Precise in style, and cautious to select;
Nor slight applause will candid pens afford
To him who furnishes a wanting word.
Then fear not, if ’tis needful, to produce
Some term unknown, or obsolete in use,
(As Pitt has furnished us a word or two,
Which Lexicographers declined to do;)
So you indeed, with care,—(but be content
To take this license rarely)—may invent.
New words find credit in these latter days,
If neatly grafted on a Gallic phrase;
What Chaucer, Spenser did, we scarce refuse
To Dryden’s or to Pope’s maturer Muse.
If you can add a little, say why not,
As well as William Pitt, and Walter Scott?
Since they, by force of rhyme and force of lungs,
Enriched our Island’s ill-united tongues;
’Tis then—and shall be—lawful to present
Reform in writing, as in Parliament.
As forests shed their foliage by degrees,
So fade expressions which in season please;
And we and ours, alas! are due to Fate,
And works and words but dwindle to a date.
Though as a Monarch nods, and Commerce calls,
Impetuous rivers stagnate in canals;
Though swamps subdued, and marshes drained, sustain
The heavy ploughshare and the yellow grain,
And rising ports along the busy shore
Protect the vessel from old Ocean’s roar,
All, all, must perish; but, surviving last,
The love of Letters half preserves the past.
True, some decay, yet not a few revive;
Though those shall sink, which now appear to thrive,
As Custom arbitrates, whose shifting sway
Our life and language must alike obey.
The immortal wars which Gods and Angels wage,
Are they not shown in Milton’s sacred page?
His strain will teach what numbers best belong
To themes celestial told in Epic song.
The slow, sad stanza will correctly paint
The Lover’s anguish, or the Friend’s complaint.
But which deserves the Laurel—Rhyme or Blank?
Which holds on Helicon the higher rank?
Let squabbling critics by themselves dispute
This point, as puzzling as a Chancery suit.
Satiric rhyme first sprang from selfish spleen.
You doubt—see Dryden, Pope, St. Patrick’s Dean.
Blank verse is now, with one consent, allied
To Tragedy, and rarely quits her side.
Though mad Almanzor rhymed in Dryden’s days,
No sing-song Hero rants in modern plays;
Whilst modest Comedy her verse foregoes
For jest and ‘pun’ in very middling prose.
Not that our Bens or Beaumonts show the worse,
Or lose one point, because they wrote in verse.
But so Thalia pleases to appear,
Poor Virgin! damned some twenty times a year!
Whate’er the scene, let this advice have weight:—
Adapt your language to your Hero’s state.
At times Melpomene forgets to groan,
And brisk Thalia takes a serious tone;
Nor unregarded will the act pass by
Where angry Townly “lifts his voice on high.”
Again, our Shakespeare limits verse to Kings,
When common prose will serve for common things;
And lively Hal resigns heroic ire,—
To “hollaing Hotspur” and his sceptred sire.
’Tis not enough, ye Bards, with all your art,
To polish poems; they must touch the heart:
Where’er the scene be laid, whate’er the song,
Still let it bear the hearer’s soul along;
Command your audience or to smile or weep,
Whiche’er may please you—anything but sleep.
The Poet claims our tears; but, by his leave,
Before I shed them, let me see ‘him’ grieve.
If banished Romeo feigned nor sigh nor tear,
Lulled by his languor, I could sleep or sneer.
Sad words, no doubt, become a serious face,
And men look angry in the proper place.
At double meanings folks seem wondrous sly,
And Sentiment prescribes a pensive eye;
For Nature formed at first the inward man,
And actors copy Nature—when they can.
She bids the beating heart with rapture bound,
Raised to the Stars, or levelled with the ground;
And for Expression’s aid, ’tis said, or sung,
She gave our mind’s interpreter—the tongue,
Who, worn with use, of late would fain dispense
(At least in theatres) with common sense;
O’erwhelm with sound the Boxes, Gallery, Pit,
And raise a laugh with anything—but Wit.
To skilful writers it will much import,
Whence spring their scenes, from common life or Court;
Whether they seek applause by smile or tear,
To draw a Lying Valet, or a Lear,
A sage, or rakish youngster wild from school,
A wandering Peregrine, or plain John Bull;
All persons please when Nature’s voice prevails,
Scottish or Irish, born in Wilts or Wales.
Or follow common fame, or forge a plot;
Who cares if mimic heroes lived or not!
One precept serves to regulate the scene:
Make it appear as if it might have been.
If some Drawcansir you aspire to draw,
Present him raving, and above all law:
If female furies in your scheme are planned,
Macbeth’s fierce dame is ready to your hand;
For tears and treachery, for good and evil,
Constance, King Richard, Hamlet, and the Devil!
But if a new design you dare essay,
And freely wander from the beaten way,
True to your characters, till all be past,
Preserve consistency from first to last.
Tis hard to venture where our betters fail,
Or lend fresh interest to a twice-told tale;
And yet, perchance,’tis wiser to prefer
A hackneyed plot, than choose a new, and err;
Yet copy not too closely, but record,
More justly, thought for thought than word for word;
Nor trace your Prototype through narrow ways,
But only follow where he merits praise.
For you, young Bard! whom luckless fate may lead
To tremble on the nod of all who read,
Ere your first score of cantos Time unrolls,
Beware—for God’s sake, don’t begin like Bowles!
“Awake a louder and a loftier strain,”—
And pray, what follows from his boiling brain?—
He sinks to Southey’s level in a trice,
Whose Epic Mountains never fail in mice!
Not so of yore awoke your mighty Sire
The tempered warblings of his master-lyre;
Soft as the gentler breathing of the lute,
“Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit”
He speaks, but, as his subject swells along,
Earth, Heaven, and Hades echo with the song.”
Still to the “midst of things” he hastens on,
As if we witnessed all already done;
Leaves on his path whatever seems too mean
To raise the subject, or adorn the scene;
Gives, as each page improves upon the sight,
Not smoke from brightness, but from darkness—light;
And truth and fiction with such art compounds,
We know not where to fix their several bounds.
If you would please the Public, deign to hear
What soothes the many-headed monster’s ear:
If your heart triumph when the hands of all
Applaud in thunder at the curtain’s fall,
Deserve those plaudits—study Nature’s page,
And sketch the striking traits of every age;
While varying Man and varying years unfold
Life’s little tale, so oft, so vainly told;
Observe his simple childhood’s dawning days,
His pranks, his prate, his playmates, and his plays:
Till time at length the mannish tyro weans,
And prurient vice outstrips his tardy teens!
Behold him Freshman! forced no more to groan
O’er Virgil’s devilish verses and his own;
Prayers are too tedious, Lectures too abstruse,
He flies from Tavell’s frown to “Fordham’s Mews;”
(Unlucky Tavell! doomed to daily cares
By pugilistic pupils, and by bears,)
Fines, Tutors, tasks, Conventions threat in vain,
Before hounds, hunters, and Newmarket Plain.
Rough with his elders, with his equals rash,
Civil to sharpers, prodigal of cash;
Constant to nought—save hazard and a whore,
Yet cursing both—for both have made him sore:
Unread (unless since books beguile disease,
The P——x becomes his passage to Degrees);
Fooled, pillaged, dunned, he wastes his terms away,
And unexpelled, perhaps, retires M.A.;
Master of Arts! as hells and clubs proclaim,
Where scarce a blackleg bears a brighter name!
Launched into life, extinct his early fire,
He apes the selfish prudence of his Sire;
Marries for money, chooses friends for rank,
Buys land, and shrewdly trusts not to the Bank;
Sits in the Senate; gets a son and heir;
Sends him to Harrow—for himself was there.
Mute, though he votes, unless when called to cheer,
His son’s so sharp—he’ll see the dog a Peer!
Manhood declines—Age palsies every limb;
He quits the scene—or else the scene quits him;
Scrapes wealth, o’er each departing penny grieves,
And Avarice seizes all Ambition leaves;
Counts cent per cent, and smiles, or vainly frets,
O’er hoards diminished by young Hopeful’s debts;
Weighs well and wisely what to sell or buy,
Complete in all life’s lessons—but to die;
Peevish and spiteful, doting, hard to please,
Commending every time, save times like these;
Crazed, querulous, forsaken, half forgot,
Expires unwept—is buried—Let him rot!
But from the Drama let me not digress,
Nor spare my precepts, though they please you less.
Though Woman weep, and hardest hearts are stirred,
When what is done is rather seen than heard,
Yet many deeds preserved in History’s page
Are better told than acted on the stage;
The ear sustains what shocks the timid eye,
And Horror thus subsides to Sympathy,
True Briton all beside, I here am French—
Bloodshed ’tis surely better to retrench:
The gladiatorial gore we teach to flow
In tragic scenes disgusts though but in show;
We hate the carnage while we see the trick,
And find small sympathy in being sick.
Not on the stage the regicide Macbeth
Appals an audience with a Monarch’s death;
To gaze when sable Hubert threats to sear
Young Arthur’s eyes, can ours or Nature bear?
A haltered heroine Johnson sought to slay—
We saved Irene, but half damned the play,
And (Heaven be praised!) our tolerating times
Stint Metamorphoses to Pantomimes;
And Lewis’ self, with all his sprites, would quake
To change Earl Osmond’s negro to a snake!
Because, in scenes exciting joy or grief,
We loathe the action which exceeds belief:
And yet, God knows! what may not authors do,
Whose Postscripts prate of dyeing “heroines blue”?
Above all things, Dan Poet, if you can,
Eke out your acts, I pray, with mortal man,
Nor call a ghost, unless some cursed scrape
Must open ten trap-doors for your escape.
Of all the monstrous things I’d fain forbid,
I loathe an Opera worse than Dennis did;
Where good and evil persons, right or wrong,
Rage, love, and aught but moralise—in song.
Hail, last memorial of our foreign friends,
Which Gaul allows, and still Hesperia lends!
Napoleon’s edicts no embargo lay
On whores—spies—singers—wisely shipped away.
Our giant Capital, whose squares are spread
Where rustics earned, and now may beg, their bread,
In all iniquity is grown so nice,
It scorns amusements which are not of price.
Hence the pert shopkeeper, whose throbbing ear
Aches with orchestras which he pays to hear,
Whom shame, not sympathy, forbids to snore,
His anguish doubling by his own “encore;”
Squeezed in “Fop’s Alley,” jostled by the beaux,
Teased with his hat, and trembling for his toes;
Scarce wrestles through the night, nor tastes of ease,
Till the dropped curtain gives a glad release:
Why this, and more, he suffers—can ye guess?—
Because it costs him dear, and makes him dress!
So prosper eunuchs from Etruscan schools;
Give us but fiddlers, and they’re sure of fools!
Ere scenes were played by many a reverend clerk,
(What harm, if David danced before the ark?)
In Christmas revels, simple country folks
Were pleased with morrice-mumm’ry and coarse jokes.
Improving years, with things no longer known,
Produced blithe Punch and merry Madame Joan,
Who still frisk on with feats so lewdly low,
’Tis strange Benvolio suffers such a show;
Suppressing peer! to whom each vice gives place,
Oaths, boxing, begging—all, save rout and race.
Farce followed Comedy, and reached her prime,
In ever-laughing Foote’s fantastic time:
Mad wag! who pardoned none, nor spared the best,
And turned some very serious things to jest.
Nor Church nor State escaped his public sneers,
Arms nor the Gown—Priests—Lawyers—Volunteers:
“Alas, poor Yorick!” now for ever mute!
Whoever loves a laugh must sigh for Foote.
We smile, perforce, when histrionic scenes
Ape the swoln dialogue of Kings and Queens,
When “Crononhotonthologos must die,”
And Arthur struts in mimic majesty.
Moschus! with whom once more I hope to sit,
And smile at folly, if we can’t at wit;
Yes, Friend! for thee I’ll quit my cynic cell,
And bear Swift’s motto, “Vive la bagatelle!”
Which charmed our days in each ægean clime,
As oft at home, with revelry and rhyme.
Then may Euphrosyne, who sped the past,
Soothe thy Life’s scenes, nor leave thee in the last;
But find in thine—like pagan Plato’s bed,
Some merry Manuscript of Mimes, when dead.
Now to the Drama let us bend our eyes,
Where fettered by whig Walpole low she lies;
Corruption foiled her, for she feared her glance;
Decorum left her for an Opera dance!
Yet Chesterfield, whose polished pen inveighs
‘Gainst laughter, fought for freedom to our Plays;
Unchecked by Megrims of patrician brains,
And damning Dulness of Lord Chamberlains.
Repeal that act! again let Humour roam
Wild o’er the stage—we’ve time for tears at home;
Let Archer plant the horns on Sullen’s brows,
And Estifania gull her “Copper” spouse;
The moral’s scant—but that may be excused,
Men go not to be lectured, but amused.
He whom our plays dispose to Good or Ill
Must wear a head in want of Willis’ skill;
Aye, but Macheath’s example—psha!—no more!
It formed no thieves—the thief was formed before;
And spite of puritans and Collier’s curse,
Plays make mankind no better, and no worse.
Then spare our stage, ye methodistic men!
Nor burn damned Drury if it rise again.
But why to brain-scorched bigots thus appeal?
Can heavenly Mercy dwell with earthly Zeal?
For times of fire and faggot let them hope!
Times dear alike to puritan or Pope.
As pious Calvin saw Servetus blaze,
So would new sects on newer victims gaze.
E’en now the songs of Solyma begin;
Faith cants, perplexed apologist of Sin!
While the Lord’s servant chastens whom he loves,
And Simeon kicks, where Baxter only “shoves.”
Whom Nature guides, so writes, that every dunce,
Enraptured, thinks to do the same at once;
But after inky thumbs and bitten nails,
And twenty scattered quires, the coxcomb fails.
Let Pastoral be dumb; for who can hope
To match the youthful eclogues of our Pope?
Yet his and Philips’ faults, of different kind,
For Art too rude, for Nature too refined,
Instruct how hard the medium ’tis to hit
‘Twixt too much polish and too coarse a wit.
A vulgar scribbler, certes, stands disgraced
In this nice age, when all aspire to taste;
The dirty language, and the noisome jest,
Which pleased in Swift of yore, we now detest;
Proscribed not only in the world polite,
But even too nasty for a City Knight!
Peace to Swift’s faults! his wit hath made them pass,
Unmatched by all, save matchless Hudibras!
Whose author is perhaps the first we meet,
Who from our couplet lopped two final feet;
Nor less in merit than the longer line,
This measure moves a favourite of the Nine.
Though at first view eight feet may seem in vain
Formed, save in Ode, to bear a serious strain,
Yet Scott has shown our wondering isle of late
This measure shrinks not from a theme of weight,
And, varied skilfully, surpasses far
Heroic rhyme, but most in Love and War,
Whose fluctuations, tender or sublime,
Are curbed too much by long-recurring rhyme.
But many a skilful judge abhors to see,
What few admire—irregularity.
This some vouchsafe to pardon; but ’tis hard
When such a word contents a British Bard.
And must the Bard his glowing thoughts confine,
Lest Censure hover o’er some faulty line?
Remove whate’er a critic may suspect,
To gain the paltry suffrage of “Correct”?
Or prune the spirit of each daring phrase,
To fly from Error, not to merit Praise?
Ye, who seek finished models, never cease,
By day and night, to read the works of Greece.
But our good Fathers never bent their brains
To heathen Greek, content with native strains.
The few who read a page, or used a pen,
Were satisfied with Chaucer and old Ben;
The jokes and numbers suited to their taste
Were quaint and careless, anything but chaste;
Yet, whether right or wrong the ancient rules,
It will not do to call our Fathers fools!
Though you and I, who eruditely know
To separate the elegant and low,
Can also, when a hobbling line appears,
Detect with fingers—in default of ears.
In sooth I do not know, or greatly care
To learn, who our first English strollers were;
Or if, till roofs received the vagrant art,
Our Muse, like that of Thespis, kept a cart;
But this is certain, since our Shakespeare’s days,
There’s pomp enough—if little else—in plays;
Nor will Melpomene ascend her Throne
Without high heels, white plume, and Bristol stone.
Old Comedies still meet with much applause,
Though too licentious for dramatic laws;
At least, we moderns, wisely, ’tis confest,
Curtail, or silence, the lascivious jest.
Whate’er their follies, and their faults beside,
Our enterprising Bards pass nought untried;
Nor do they merit slight applause who choose
An English subject for an English Muse,
And leave to minds which never dare invent
French flippancy and German sentiment.
Where is that living language which could claim
Poetic more, as philosophic, fame,
If all our Bards, more patient of delay,
Would stop, like Pope, to polish by the way?
Lords of the quill, whose critical assaults
O’erthrow whole quartos with their quires of faults,
Who soon detect, and mark where’er we fail,
And prove our marble with too nice a nail!
Democritus himself was not so bad;
He only ‘thought’—but ‘you’ would make us—mad!
But truth to say, most rhymers rarely guard
Against that ridicule they deem so hard;
In person negligent, they wear, from sloth,
Beards of a week, and nails of annual growth;
Reside in garrets, fly from those they meet,
And walk in alleys rather than the street.
With little rhyme, less reason, if you please,
The name of Poet may be got with ease,
So that not tuns of helleboric juice
Shall ever turn your head to any use;
Write but like Wordsworth—live beside a lake,
And keep your bushy locks a year from Blake;
Then print your book, once more return to town,
And boys shall hunt your Bardship up and down.
Am I not wise, if such some poets’ plight,
To purge in spring—like Bayes—before I write?
If this precaution softened not my bile,
I know no scribbler with a madder style;
But since (perhaps my feelings are too nice)
I cannot purchase Fame at such a price,
I’ll labour gratis as a grinders’ wheel,
And, blunt myself, give edge to other’s steel,
Nor write at all, unless to teach the art
To those rehearsing for the Poet’s part;
From Horace show the pleasing paths of song,,
And from my own example—what is wrong.
Though modern practice sometimes differs quite,
’Tis just as well to think before you write;
Let every book that suits your theme be read,
So shall you trace it to the fountain-head.
He who has learned the duty which he owes
To friends and country, and to pardon foes;
Who models his deportment as may best
Accord with Brother, Sire, or Stranger-guest;
Who takes our Laws and Worship as they are,
Nor roars reform for Senate, Church, and Bar;
In practice, rather than loud precept, wise,
Bids not his tongue, but heart, philosophize:
Such is the man the Poet should rehearse,
As joint exemplar of his life and verse.
Sometimes a sprightly wit, and tale well told,
Without much grace, or weight, or art, will hold
A longer empire o’er the public mind
Than sounding trifles, empty, though refined.
Unhappy Greece! thy sons of ancient days
The Muse may celebrate with perfect praise,
Whose generous children narrowed not their hearts
With Commerce, given alone to Arms and Arts.
Our boys (save those whom public schools compel
To “Long and Short” before they’re taught to spell)
From frugal fathers soon imbibe by rote,
“A penny saved, my lad, ’s a penny got.”
Babe of a city birth! from sixpence take
The third, how much will the remainder make?—
“A groat.”—”Ah, bravo! Dick hath done the sum!
He’ll swell my fifty thousand to a Plum.”
They whose young souls receive this rust betimes,
’Tis clear, are fit for anything but rhymes;
And Locke will tell you, that the father’s right
Who hides all verses from his children’s sight;
For Poets (says this Sage, and many more,)
Make sad mechanics with their lyric lore:
And Delphi now, however rich of old,
Discovers little silver, and less gold,
Because Parnassus, though a Mount divine,
Is poor as Irus, or an Irish mine.
Two objects always should the Poet move,
Or one or both,—to please or to improve.
Whate’er you teach, be brief, if you design
For our remembrance your didactic line;
Redundance places Memory on the rack,
For brains may be o’erloaded, like the back.
Fiction does best when taught to look like Truth,
And fairy fables bubble none but youth:
Expect no credit for too wondrous tales,
Since Jonas only springs alive from Whales!
Young men with aught but Elegance dispense;
Maturer years require a little Sense.
To end at once:—that Bard for all is fit
Who mingles well instruction with his wit;
For him Reviews shall smile; for him o’erflow
The patronage of Paternoster-row;
His book, with Longman’s liberal aid, shall pass
(Who ne’er despises books that bring him brass);
Through three long weeks the taste of London lead,
And cross St. George’s Channel and the Tweed.
But every thing has faults, nor is’t unknown
That harps and fiddles often lose their tone,
And wayward voices, at their owner’s call,
With all his best endeavours, only squall;
Dogs blink their covey, flints withhold the spark,
And double-barrels (damn them!) miss their mark.
Where frequent beauties strike the reader’s view,
We must not quarrel for a blot or two;
But pardon equally to books or men,
The slips of Human Nature, and the Pen.
Yet if an author, spite of foe or friend,
Despises all advice too much to mend,
But ever twangs the same discordant string,
Give him no quarter, howsoe’er he sing.
Let Havard’s fate o’ertake him, who, for once,
Produced a play too dashing for a dunce:
At first none deemed it his; but when his name
Announced the fact—what then?—it lost its fame.
Though all deplore when Milton deigns to doze,
In a long work ’tis fair to steal repose.
As Pictures, so shall Poems be; some stand
The critic eye, and please when near at hand;
But others at a distance strike the sight;
This seeks the shade, but that demands the light,
Nor dreads the connoisseur’s fastidious view,
But, ten times scrutinised, is ten times new.
Parnassian pilgrims! ye whom chance, or choice,
Hath led to listen to the Muse’s voice,
Receive this counsel, and be timely wise;
Few reach the Summit which before you lies.
Our Church and State, our Courts and Camps, concede
Reward to very moderate heads indeed!
In these plain common sense will travel far;
All are not Erskines who mislead the Bar:
But Poesy between the best and worst
No medium knows; you must be last or first;
For middling Poets’ miserable volumes
Are damned alike by Gods, and Men, and Columns.
Again, my Jeffrey—as that sound inspires,
How wakes my bosom to its wonted fires!
Fires, such as gentle Caledonians feel
When Southrons writhe upon their critic wheel,
Or mild Eclectics, when some, worse than Turks,
Would rob poor Faith to decorate “Good Works.”
Such are the genial feelings them canst claim—
My Falcon flies not at ignoble game.
Mightiest of all Dunedin’s beasts of chase!
For thee my Pegasus would mend his pace.
Arise, my Jeffrey! or my inkless pen
Shall never blunt its edge on meaner men;
Till thee or thine mine evil eye discerns,
“Alas! I cannot strike at wretched kernes.”
Inhuman Saxon! wilt thou then resign
A Muse and heart by choice so wholly thine?
Dear d—d contemner of my schoolboy songs,
Hast thou no vengeance for my Manhood’s wrongs?
If unprovoked thou once could bid me bleed,
Hast thou no weapon for my daring deed?
What! not a word!—and am I then so low?
Wilt thou forbear, who never spared a foe?
Hast thou no wrath, or wish to give it vent?
No wit for Nobles, Dunces by descent?
No jest on “minors,” quibbles on a name,
Nor one facetious paragraph of blame?
Is it for this on Ilion I have stood,
And thought of Homer less than Holyrood?
On shore of Euxine or ægean sea,
My hate, untravelled, fondly turned to thee.
Ah! let me cease! in vain my bosom burns,
From Corydon unkind Alexis turns:
Thy rhymes are vain; thy Jeffrey then forego,
Nor woo that anger which he will not show.
What then?—Edina starves some lanker son,
To write an article thou canst not shun;
Some less fastidious Scotchman shall be found,
As bold in Billingsgate, though less renowned.
As if at table some discordant dish,
Should shock our optics, such as frogs for fish;
As oil in lieu of butter men decry,
And poppies please not in a modern pie;
If all such mixtures then be half a crime,
We must have Excellence to relish rhyme.
Mere roast and boiled no Epicure invites;
Thus Poetry disgusts, or else delights.
Who shoot not flying rarely touch a gun:
Will he who swims not to the river run?
And men unpractised in exchanging knocks
Must go to Jackson ere they dare to box.
Whate’er the weapon, cudgel, fist, or foil,
None reach expertness without years of toil;
But fifty dunces can, with perfect ease,
Tag twenty thousand couplets, when they please.
Why not?—shall I, thus qualified to sit
For rotten boroughs, never show my wit?
Shall I, whose fathers with the “Quorum” sate,
And lived in freedom on a fair estate;
Who left me heir, with stables, kennels, packs,
To ‘all’ their income, and to—’twice’ its tax;
Whose form and pedigree have scarce a fault,
Shall I, I say, suppress my Attic Salt?
Thus think “the Mob of Gentlemen;” but you,
Besides all this, must have some Genius too.
Be this your sober judgment, and a rule,
And print not piping hot from Southey’s school,
Who (ere another Thalaba appears),
I trust, will spare us for at least nine years.
And hark’ye, Southey! pray—but don’t be vexed—
Burn all your last three works—and half the next.
But why this vain advice? once published, books
Can never be recalled—from pastry-cooks!
Though “Madoc,” with “Pucelle,” instead of Punk,
May travel back to Quito—on a trunk!
Orpheus, we learn from Ovid and Lempriere,
Led all wild beasts but Women by the ear;
And had he fiddled at the present hour,
We’d seen the Lions waltzing in the Tower;
And old Amphion, such were minstrels then,
Had built St. Paul’s without the aid of Wren.
Verse too was Justice, and the Bards of Greece
Did more than constables to keep the peace;
Abolished cuckoldom with much applause,
Called county meetings, and enforced the laws,
Cut down crown influence with reforming scythes,
And served the Church—without demanding tithes;
And hence, throughout all Hellas and the East,
Each Poet was a Prophet and a Priest,
Whose old-established Board of Joint Controls
Included kingdoms in the cure of souls.
Next rose the martial Homer, Epic’s prince,
And Fighting’s been in fashion ever since;
And old Tyrtæus, when the Spartans warred,
(A limping leader, but a lofty bard)
Though walled Ithome had resisted long,
Reduced the fortress by the force of song.
When Oracles prevailed, in times of old,
In song alone Apollo’s will was told.
Then if your verse is what all verse should be,
And Gods were not ashamed on’t, why should we?
The Muse, like mortal females, may be wooed;
In turns she’ll seem a Paphian, or a prude;
Fierce as a bride when first she feels affright,
Mild as the same upon the second night;
Wild as the wife of Alderman or Peer,
Now for His Grace, and now a grenadier!
Her eyes beseem, her heart belies, her zone—
Ice in a crowd—and Lava when alone.
If Verse be studied with some show of Art.
Kind Nature always will perform her part;
Though without Genius, and a native vein
Of wit, we loathe an artificial strain,
Yet Art and Nature joined will win the prize,
Unless they act like us and our allies.
The youth who trains to ride, or run a race,
Must bear privations with unruffled face,
Be called to labour when he thinks to dine,
And, harder still, leave wenching and his wine.
Ladies who sing, at least who sing at sight,
Have followed Music through her farthest flight;
But rhymers tell you neither more nor less,
“I’ve got a pretty poem for the Press;”
And that’s enough; then write and print so fast;—
If Satan take the hindmost, who’d be last?
They storm the Types, they publish, one and all,
They leap the counter, and they leave the stall.
Provincial Maidens, men of high command,
Yea! Baronets have inked the bloody hand!
Cash cannot quell them; Pollio played this prank,
(Then Phoebus first found credit in a Bank!)
Not all the living only, but the dead,
Fool on, as fluent as an Orpheus’ Head;
Damned all their days, they posthumously thrive,
Dug up from dust, though buried when alive!
Reviews record this epidemic crime,
Those Books of Martyrs to the rage for rhyme.
Alas! woe worth the scribbler! often seen
In Morning Post, or Monthly Magazine.
There lurk his earlier lays; but soon, hot pressed,
Behold a Quarto!—Tarts must tell the rest.
Then leave, ye wise, the Lyre’s precarious chords
To muse-mad baronets, or madder lords,
Or country Crispins, now grown somewhat stale,
Twin Doric minstrels, drunk with Doric ale!
Hark to those notes, narcotically soft!
The Cobbler-Laureats sing to Capel Lofft!
Till, lo! that modern Midas, as he hears,
Adds an ell growth to his egregious ears!
There lives one Druid, who prepares in time
‘Gainst future feuds his poor revenge of rhyme;
Racks his dull Memory, and his duller Muse,
To publish faults which Friendship should excuse.
If Friendship’s nothing, Self-regard might teach
More polished usage of his parts of speech.
But what is shame, or what is aught to him?
He vents his spleen, or gratifies his whim.
Some fancied slight has roused his lurking hate,
Some folly crossed, some jest, or some debate;
Up to his den Sir Scribbler hies, and soon
The gathered gall is voided in Lampoon.
Perhaps at some pert speech you’ve dared to frown,
Perhaps your Poem may have pleased the Town:
If so, alas! ’tis nature in the man—
May Heaven forgive you, for he never can!
Then be it so; and may his withering Bays
Bloom fresh in satire, though they fade in praise
While his lost songs no more shall steep and stink
The dullest, fattest weeds on Lethe’s brink,
But springing upwards from the sluggish mould,
Be (what they never were before) be—sold!
Should some rich Bard (but such a monster now,
In modern Physics, we can scarce allow),
Should some pretending scribbler of the Court,
Some rhyming Peer—there’s plenty of the sort—
All but one poor dependent priest withdrawn,
(Ah! too regardless of his Chaplain’s yawn!)
Condemn the unlucky Curate to recite
Their last dramatic work by candle-light,
How would the preacher turn each rueful leaf,
Dull as his sermons, but not half so brief!
Yet, since ’tis promised at the Rector’s death,
He’ll risk no living for a little breath.
Then spouts and foams, and cries at every line,
(The Lord forgive him!) “Bravo! Grand! Divine!”
Hoarse with those praises (which, by Flatt’ry fed,
Dependence barters for her bitter bread),
He strides and stamps along with creaking boot;
Till the floor echoes his emphatic foot,
Then sits again, then rolls his pious eye,
As when the dying vicar will not die!
Nor feels, forsooth, emotion at his heart;—
But all Dissemblers overact their part.
Ye, who aspire to “build the lofty rhyme,”
Believe not all who laud your false “sublime;”
But if some friend shall hear your work, and say,
“Expunge that stanza, lop that line away,”
And, after fruitless efforts, you return
Without amendment, and he answers, “Burn!”
That instant throw your paper in the fire,
Ask not his thoughts, or follow his desire;
But (if true Bard!) you scorn to condescend,
And will not alter what you can’t defend,
If you will breed this Bastard of your Brains,
We’ll have no words—I’ve only lost my pains.
Yet, if you only prize your favourite thought,
As critics kindly do, and authors ought;
If your cool friend annoy you now and then,
And cross whole pages with his plaguy pen;
No matter, throw your ornaments aside,—
Better let him than all the world deride.
Give light to passages too much in shade,
Nor let a doubt obscure one verse you’ve made;
Your friend’s a “Johnson,” not to leave one word,
However trifling, which may seem absurd;
Such erring trifles lead to serious ills,
And furnish food for critics, or their quills.
As the Scotch fiddle, with its touching tune,
Or the sad influence of the angry Moon,
All men avoid bad writers’ ready tongues,
As yawning waiters fly Fitzscribble’s lungs;
Yet on he mouths—ten minutes—tedious each
As Prelate’s homily, or placeman’s speech;
Long as the last years of a lingering lease,
When Riot pauses until Rents increase.
While such a minstrel, muttering fustian, strays
O’er hedge and ditch, through unfrequented ways,
If by some chance he walks into a well,
And shouts for succour with stentorian yell,
“A rope! help, Christians, as ye hope for grace!”
Nor woman, man, nor child will stir a pace;
For there his carcass he might freely fling,
From frenzy, or the humour of the thing.
Though this has happened to more Bards than one;
I’ll tell you Budgell’s story,—and have done.
Budgell, a rogue and rhymester, for no good,
(Unless his case be much misunderstood)
When teased with creditors’ continual claims,
“To die like Cato,” leapt into the Thames!
And therefore be it lawful through the town
For any Bard to poison, hang, or drown.
Who saves the intended Suicide receives
Small thanks from him who loathes the life he leaves;
And, sooth to say, mad poets must not lose
The Glory of that death they freely choose.
Nor is it certain that some sorts of verse
Prick not the Poet’s conscience as a curse;
Dosed with vile drams on Sunday he was found,
Or got a child on consecrated ground!
And hence is haunted with a rhyming rage—
Feared like a bear just bursting from his cage.
If free, all fly his versifying fit,
Fatal at once to Simpleton or Wit:
But ‘him’, unhappy! whom he seizes,—’him’
He flays with Recitation limb by limb;
Probes to the quick where’er he makes his breach,
And gorges like a Lawyer—or a Leech.
Still must I hear?—shall hoarse FITZGERALD bawl
His creaking couplets in a tavern hall,
And I not sing, lest, haply, Scotch Reviews
Should dub me scribbler, and denounce my Muse?
Prepare for rhyme—I’ll publish, right or wrong:
Fools are my theme, let Satire be my song.
Oh! Nature’s noblest gift—my grey goose-quill!
Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will,
Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen,
That mighty instrument of little men!
The pen! foredoomed to aid the mental throes
Of brains that labour, big with Verse or Prose;
Though Nymphs forsake, and Critics may deride,
The Lover’s solace, and the Author’s pride.
What Wits! what Poets dost thou daily raise!
How frequent is thy use, how small thy praise!
Condemned at length to be forgotten quite,
With all the pages which ’twas thine to write.
But thou, at least, mine own especial pen!
Once laid aside, but now assumed again,
Our task complete, like Hamet’s shall be free;
Though spurned by others, yet beloved by me:
Then let us soar to-day; no common theme,
No Eastern vision, no distempered dream
Inspires—our path, though full of thorns, is plain;
Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain.
When Vice triumphant holds her sov’reign sway,
Obey’d by all who nought beside obey;
When Folly, frequent harbinger of crime,
Bedecks her cap with bells of every Clime;
When knaves and fools combined o’er all prevail,
And weigh their Justice in a Golden Scale;
E’en then the boldest start from public sneers,
Afraid of Shame, unknown to other fears,
More darkly sin, by Satire kept in awe,
And shrink from Ridicule, though not from Law.
Such is the force of Wit! I but not belong
To me the arrows of satiric song;
The royal vices of our age demand
A keener weapon, and a mightier hand.
Still there are follies, e’en for me to chase,
And yield at least amusement in the race:
Laugh when I laugh, I seek no other fame,
The cry is up, and scribblers are my game:
Speed, Pegasus!—ye strains of great and small,
Ode! Epic! Elegy!—have at you all!
I, too, can scrawl, and once upon a time
I poured along the town a flood of rhyme,
A schoolboy freak, unworthy praise or blame;
I printed—older children do the same.
’Tis pleasant, sure, to see one’s name in print;
A Book’s a Book, altho’ there’s nothing in’t.
Not that a Title’s sounding charm can save
Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave:
This LAMB must own, since his patrician name
Failed to preserve the spurious Farce from shame.
No matter, GEORGE continues still to write,
Tho’ now the name is veiled from public sight.
Moved by the great example, I pursue
The self-same road, but make my own review:
Not seek great JEFFREY’S, yet like him will be
Self-constituted Judge of Poesy.
A man must serve his time to every trade
Save Censure—Critics all are ready made.
Take hackneyed jokes from MILLER, got by rote,
With just enough of learning to misquote;
A man well skilled to find, or forge a fault;
A turn for punning—call it Attic salt;
To JEFFREY go, be silent and discreet,
His pay is just ten sterling pounds per sheet:
Fear not to lie,’twill seem a sharper hit;
Shrink not from blasphemy, ’twill pass for wit;
Care not for feeling—pass your proper jest,
And stand a Critic, hated yet caress’d.
And shall we own such judgment? no—as soon
Seek roses in December—ice in June;
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff,
Believe a woman or an epitaph,
Or any other thing that’s false, before
You trust in Critics, who themselves are sore;
Or yield one single thought to be misled
By JEFFREY’S heart, or LAMB’S Boeotian head.
To these young tyrants, by themselves misplaced,
Combined usurpers on the Throne of Taste;
To these, when Authors bend in humble awe,
And hail their voice as Truth, their word as Law;
While these are Censors, ’twould be sin to spare;
While such are Critics, why should I forbear?
But yet, so near all modern worthies run,
’Tis doubtful whom to seek, or whom to shun;
Nor know we when to spare, or where to strike,
Our Bards and Censors are so much alike.
Then should you ask me, why I venture o’er
The path which POPE and GIFFORD trod before;
If not yet sickened, you can still proceed;
Go on; my rhyme will tell you as you read.
“But hold!” exclaims a friend,—”here’s some neglect:
This—that—and t’other line seem incorrect.”
What then? the self-same blunder Pope has got,
And careless Dryden—”Aye, but Pye has not:”—
Indeed!—’tis granted, faith!—but what care I?
Better to err with POPE, than shine with PYE.
Time was, ere yet in these degenerate days
Ignoble themes obtained mistaken praise,
When Sense and Wit with Poesy allied,
No fabled Graces, flourished side by side,
From the same fount their inspiration drew,
And, reared by Taste, bloomed fairer as they grew.
Then, in this happy Isle, a POPE’S pure strain
Sought the rapt soul to charm, nor sought in vain;
A polished nation’s praise aspired to claim,
And raised the people’s, as the poet’s fame.
Like him great DRYDEN poured the tide of song,
In stream less smooth, indeed, yet doubly strong.
Then CONGREVE’S scenes could cheer, or OTWAY’S melt;
For Nature then an English audience felt—
But why these names, or greater still, retrace,
When all to feebler Bards resign their place?
Yet to such times our lingering looks are cast,
When taste and reason with those times are past.
Now look around, and turn each trifling page,
Survey the precious works that please the age;
This truth at least let Satire’s self allow,
No dearth of Bards can be complained of now.
The loaded Press beneath her labour groans,
And Printers’ devils shake their weary bones;
While SOUTHEY’S Epics cram the creaking shelves,
And LITTLE’S Lyrics shine in hot-pressed twelves.
Thus saith the Preacher: “Nought beneath the sun
Is new,” yet still from change to change we run.
What varied wonders tempt us as they pass!
The Cow-pox, Tractors, Galvanism, and Gas,
In turns appear, to make the vulgar stare,
Till the swoln bubble bursts—and all is air!
Nor less new schools of Poetry arise,
Where dull pretenders grapple for the prize:
O’er Taste awhile these Pseudo-bards prevail;
Each country Book-club bows the knee to Baal,
And, hurling lawful Genius from the throne,
Erects a shrine and idol of its own;
Some leaden calf—but whom it matters not,
From soaring SOUTHEY, down to groveling STOTT.
Behold! in various throngs the scribbling crew,
For notice eager, pass in long review:
Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace,
And Rhyme and Blank maintain an equal race;
Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode;
And Tales of Terror jostle on the road;
Immeasurable measures move along;
For simpering Folly loves a varied song,
To strange, mysterious Dulness still the friend,
Admires the strain she cannot comprehend.
Thus Lays of Minstrels—may they be the last!—
On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast.
While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
That dames may listen to the sound at nights;
And goblin brats, of Gilpin Horner’s brood
Decoy young Border-nobles through the wood,
And skip at every step, Lord knows how high,
And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows why;
While high-born ladies in their magic cell,
Forbidding Knights to read who cannot spell,
Despatch a courier to a wizard’s grave,
And fight with honest men to shield a knave.
Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan,
The golden-crested haughty Marmion,
Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight,
Not quite a Felon, yet but half a Knight.
The gibbet or the field prepared to grace;
A mighty mixture of the great and base.
And think’st thou, SCOTT! by vain conceit perchance,
On public taste to foist thy stale romance,
Though MURRAY with his MILLER may combine
To yield thy muse just half-a-crown per line?
No! when the sons of song descend to trade,
Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade,
Let such forego the poet’s sacred name,
Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame:
Still for stern Mammon may they toil in vain!
And sadly gaze on Gold they cannot gain!
Such be their meed, such still the just reward
Of prostituted Muse and hireling bard!
For this we spurn Apollo’s venal son,
And bid a long “good night to Marmion.”
These are the themes that claim our plaudits now;
These are the Bards to whom the Muse must bow;
While MILTON, DRYDEN, POPE, alike forgot,
Resign their hallowed Bays to WALTER SCOTT.
The time has been, when yet the Muse was young,
When HOMER swept the lyre, and MARO sung,
An Epic scarce ten centuries could claim,
While awe-struck nations hailed the magic name:
The work of each immortal Bard appears
The single wonder of a thousand years.
Empires have mouldered from the face of earth,
Tongues have expired with those who gave them birth,
Without the glory such a strain can give,
As even in ruin bids the language live.
Not so with us, though minor Bards, content,
On one great work a life of labour spent:
With eagle pinion soaring to the skies,
Behold the Ballad-monger SOUTHEY rise!
To him let CAMOËNS, MILTON, TASSO yield,
Whose annual strains, like armies, take the field.
First in the ranks see Joan of Arc advance,
The scourge of England and the boast of France!
Though burnt by wicked BEDFORD for a witch,
Behold her statue placed in Glory’s niche;
Her fetters burst, and just released from prison,
A virgin Phoenix from her ashes risen.
Next see tremendous Thalaba come on,
Arabia’s monstrous, wild, and wond’rous son;
Domdaniel’s dread destroyer, who o’erthrew
More mad magicians than the world e’er knew.
Immortal Hero! all thy foes o’ercome,
For ever reign—the rival of Tom Thumb!
Since startled Metre fled before thy face,
Well wert thou doomed the last of all thy race!
Well might triumphant Genii bear thee hence,
Illustrious conqueror of common sense!
Now, last and greatest, Madoc spreads his sails,
Cacique in Mexico, and Prince in Wales;
Tells us strange tales, as other travellers do,
More old than Mandeville’s, and not so true.
Oh, SOUTHEY! SOUTHEY! cease thy varied song!
A bard may chaunt too often and too long:
As thou art strong in verse, in mercy, spare!
A fourth, alas! were more than we could bear.
But if, in spite of all the world can say,
Thou still wilt verseward plod thy weary way;
If still in Berkeley-Ballads most uncivil,
Thou wilt devote old women to the devil,
The babe unborn thy dread intent may rue:
“God help thee,” SOUTHEY, and thy readers too.
Next comes the dull disciple of thy school,
That mild apostate from poetic rule,
The simple WORDSWORTH, framer of a lay
As soft as evening in his favourite May,
Who warns his friend “to shake off toil and trouble,
And quit his books, for fear of growing double;”
Who, both by precept and example, shows
That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose;
Convincing all, by demonstration plain,
Poetic souls delight in prose insane;
And Christmas stories tortured into rhyme
Contain the essence of the true sublime.
Thus, when he tells the tale of Betty Foy,
The idiot mother of “an idiot Boy;”
A moon-struck, silly lad, who lost his way,
And, like his bard, confounded night with day
So close on each pathetic part he dwells,
And each adventure so sublimely tells,
That all who view the “idiot in his glory”
Conceive the Bard the hero of the story.
Shall gentle COLERIDGE pass unnoticed here,
To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear?
Though themes of innocence amuse him best,
Yet still Obscurity’s a welcome guest.
If Inspiration should her aid refuse
To him who takes a Pixy for a muse,
Yet none in lofty numbers can surpass
The bard who soars to elegize an ass:
So well the subject suits his noble mind,
He brays, the Laureate of the long-eared kind.
Oh! wonder-working LEWIS! Monk, or Bard,
Who fain would make Parnassus a church-yard!
Lo! wreaths of yew, not laurel, bind thy brow,
Thy Muse a Sprite, Apollo’s sexton thou!
Whether on ancient tombs thou tak’st thy stand,
By gibb’ring spectres hailed, thy kindred band;
Or tracest chaste descriptions on thy page,
To please the females of our modest age;
All hail, M.P.! from whose infernal brain
Thin-sheeted phantoms glide, a grisly train;
At whose command “grim women” throng in crowds,
And kings of fire, of water, and of clouds,
With “small grey men,”—”wild yagers,” and what not,
To crown with honour thee and WALTER SCOTT:
Again, all hail! if tales like thine may please,
St. Luke alone can vanquish the disease:
Even Satan’s self with thee might dread to dwell,
And in thy skull discern a deeper Hell.
Who in soft guise, surrounded by a choir
Of virgins melting, not to Vesta’s fire,
With sparkling eyes, and cheek by passion flushed
Strikes his wild lyre, whilst listening dames are hushed?
’Tis LITTLE! young Catullus of his day,
As sweet, but as immoral, in his Lay!
Grieved to condemn, the Muse must still be just,
Nor spare melodious advocates of lust.
Pure is the flame which o’er her altar burns;
From grosser incense with disgust she turns
Yet kind to youth, this expiation o’er,
She bids thee “mend thy line, and sin no more.”
For thee, translator of the tinsel song,
To whom such glittering ornaments belong,
Hibernian STRANGFORD! with thine eyes of blue,
And boasted locks of red or auburn hue,
Whose plaintive strain each love-sick Miss admires,
And o’er harmonious fustian half expires,
Learn, if thou canst, to yield thine author’s sense,
Nor vend thy sonnets on a false pretence.
Think’st thou to gain thy verse a higher place,
By dressing Camoëns in a suit of lace?
Mend, STRANGFORD! mend thy morals and thy taste;
Be warm, but pure; be amorous, but be chaste:
Cease to deceive; thy pilfered harp restore,
Nor teach the Lusian Bard to copy MOORE.
Behold—Ye Tarts!—one moment spare the text!—
HAYLEY’S last work, and worst—until his next;
Whether he spin poor couplets into plays,
Or damn the dead with purgatorial praise,
His style in youth or age is still the same,
For ever feeble and for ever tame.
Triumphant first see “Temper’s Triumphs” shine!
At least I’m sure they triumphed over mine.
Of “Music’s Triumphs,” all who read may swear
That luckless Music never triumph’d there.
Moravians, rise! bestow some meet reward
On dull devotion—Lo! the Sabbath Bard,
Sepulchral GRAHAME, pours his notes sublime
In mangled prose, nor e’en aspires to rhyme;
Breaks into blank the Gospel of St. Luke,
And boldly pilfers from the Pentateuch;
And, undisturbed by conscientious qualms,
Perverts the Prophets, and purloins the Psalms.
Hail, Sympathy! thy soft idea brings”
A thousand visions of a thousand things,
And shows, still whimpering thro’ threescore of years,
The maudlin prince of mournful sonneteers.
And art thou not their prince, harmonious Bowles!
Thou first, great oracle of tender souls?
Whether them sing’st with equal ease, and grief,
The fall of empires, or a yellow leaf;
Whether thy muse most lamentably tells
What merry sounds proceed from Oxford bells,
Or, still in bells delighting, finds a friend
In every chime that jingled from Ostend;
Ah! how much juster were thy Muse’s hap,
If to thy bells thou would’st but add a cap!
Delightful BOWLES! still blessing and still blest,
All love thy strain, but children like it best.
’Tis thine, with gentle LITTLE’S moral song,
To soothe the mania of the amorous throng!
With thee our nursery damsels shed their tears,
Ere Miss as yet completes her infant years:
But in her teens thy whining powers are vain;
She quits poor BOWLES for LITTLE’S purer strain.
Now to soft themes thou scornest to confine
The lofty numbers of a harp like thine;
“Awake a louder and a loftier strain,”
Such as none heard before, or will again!
Where all discoveries jumbled from the flood,
Since first the leaky ark reposed in mud,
By more or less, are sung in every book,
From Captain Noah down to Captain Cook.
Nor this alone—but, pausing on the road,
The Bard sighs forth a gentle episode,
And gravely tells—attend, each beauteous Miss!—
When first Madeira trembled to a kiss.
Bowles! in thy memory let this precept dwell,
Stick to thy Sonnets, Man!—at least they sell.
But if some new-born whim, or larger bribe,
Prompt thy crude brain, and claim thee for a scribe:
If ‘chance some bard, though once by dunces feared,
Now, prone in dust, can only be revered;
If Pope, whose fame and genius, from the first,
Have foiled the best of critics, needs the worst,
Do thou essay: each fault, each failing scan;
The first of poets was, alas! but man.
Rake from each ancient dunghill ev’ry pearl,
Consult Lord Fanny, and confide in CURLL;
Let all the scandals of a former age
Perch on thy pen, and flutter o’er thy page;
Affect a candour which thou canst not feel,
Clothe envy in a garb of honest zeal;
Write, as if St. John’s soul could still inspire,
And do from hate what MALLET did for hire.
Oh! hadst thou lived in that congenial time,
To rave with DENNIS, and with RALPH to rhyme;
Thronged with the rest around his living head,
Not raised thy hoof against the lion dead,
A meet reward had crowned thy glorious gains,
And linked thee to the Dunciad for thy pains.
Another Epic! Who inflicts again
More books of blank upon the sons of men?
Boeotian COTTLE, rich Bristowa’s boast,
Imports old stories from the Cambrian coast,
And sends his goods to market—all alive!
Lines forty thousand, Cantos twenty-five!
Fresh fish from Hippocrene! who’ll buy? who’ll buy?
The precious bargain’s cheap—in faith, not I.
Your turtle-feeder’s verse must needs be flat,
Though Bristol bloat him with the verdant fat;
If Commerce fills the purse, she clogs the brain,
And AMOS COTTLE strikes the Lyre in vain.
In him an author’s luckless lot behold!
Condemned to make the books which once he sold.
Oh, AMOS COTTLE!—Phoebus! what a name
To fill the speaking-trump of future fame!—
Oh, AMOS COTTLE! for a moment think
What meagre profits spring from pen and ink!
When thus devoted to poetic dreams,
Who will peruse thy prostituted reams?
Oh! pen perverted! paper misapplied!
Had COTTLE still adorned the counter’s side,
Bent o’er the desk, or, born to useful toils,
Been taught to make the paper which he soils,
Ploughed, delved, or plied the oar with lusty limb,
He had not sung of Wales, nor I of him.
As Sisyphus against the infernal steep
Rolls the huge rock whose motions ne’er may sleep,
So up thy hill, ambrosial Richmond! heaves
Dull MAURICE all his granite weight of leaves:
Smooth, solid monuments of mental pain!
The petrifactions of a plodding brain,
That, ere they reach the top, fall lumbering back again.
With broken lyre and cheek serenely pale,
Lo! sad Alcæus wanders down the vale;
Though fair they rose, and might have bloomed at last,
His hopes have perished by the northern blast:
Nipped in the bud by Caledonian gales,
His blossoms wither as the blast prevails!
O’er his lost works let classic SHEFFIELD weep;
May no rude hand disturb their early sleep!
Yet say! why should the Bard, at once, resign
His claim to favour from the sacred Nine?
For ever startled by the mingled howl
Of Northern Wolves, that still in darkness prowl;
A coward Brood, which mangle as they prey,
By hellish instinct, all that cross their way;
Aged or young, the living or the dead,”
No mercy find-these harpies must be fed.
Why do the injured unresisting yield
The calm possession of their native field?
Why tamely thus before their fangs retreat,
Nor hunt the blood-hounds back to Arthur’s Seat?
Health to immortal JEFFREY! once, in name,
England could boast a judge almost the same;
In soul so like, so merciful, yet just,
Some think that Satan has resigned his trust,
And given the Spirit to the world again,
To sentence Letters, as he sentenced men.
With hand less mighty, but with heart as black,
With voice as willing to decree the rack;
Bred in the Courts betimes, though all that law
As yet hath taught him is to find a flaw,—
Since well instructed in the patriot school
To rail at party, though a party tool—
Who knows? if chance his patrons should restore
Back to the sway they forfeited before,
His scribbling toils some recompense may meet,
And raise this Daniel to the Judgment-Seat.
Let JEFFREY’S shade indulge the pious hope,
And greeting thus, present him with a rope:
“Heir to my virtues! man of equal mind!
Skilled to condemn as to traduce mankind,
This cord receive! for thee reserved with care,
To wield in judgment, and at length to wear.”
Health to great JEFFREY! Heaven preserve his life,
To flourish on the fertile shores of Fife,
And guard it sacred in its future wars,
Since authors sometimes seek the field of Mars!
Can none remember that eventful day,
That ever-glorious, almost fatal fray,
When LITTLE’S leadless pistol met his eye,
And Bow-street Myrmidons stood laughing by?
Oh, day disastrous! on her firm-set rock,
Dunedin’s castle felt a secret shock;
Dark rolled the sympathetic waves of Forth,
Low groaned the startled whirlwinds of the north;
TWEED ruffled half his waves to form a tear,
The other half pursued his calm career;
ARTHUR’S steep summit nodded to its base,
The surly Tolbooth scarcely kept her place.
The Tolbooth felt—for marble sometimes can,
On such occasions, feel as much as man—
The Tolbooth felt defrauded of his charms,
If JEFFREY died, except within her arms:
Nay last, not least, on that portentous morn,
The sixteenth story, where himself was born,
His patrimonial garret, fell to ground,
And pale Edina shuddered at the sound:
Strewed were the streets around with milk-white reams,
Flowed all the Canongate with inky streams;
This of his candour seemed the sable dew,
That of his valour showed the bloodless hue;
And all with justice deemed the two combined
The mingled emblems of his mighty mind.
But Caledonia’s goddess hovered o’er
The field, and saved him from the wrath of Moore;
From either pistol snatched the vengeful lead,
And straight restored it to her favourite’s head;
That head, with greater than magnetic power,
Caught it, as Danäe caught the golden shower,
And, though the thickening dross will scarce refine,
Augments its ore, and is itself a mine.
“My son,” she cried, “ne’er thirst for gore again,
Resign the pistol and resume the pen;
O’er politics and poesy preside,
Boast of thy country, and Britannia’s guide!
For long as Albion’s heedless sons submit,
Or Scottish taste decides on English wit,
So long shall last thine unmolested reign,
Nor any dare to take thy name in vain.
Behold, a chosen band shall aid thy plan,
And own thee chieftain of the critic clan.
First in the oat-fed phalanx shall be seen
The travelled Thane, Athenian Aberdeen.
HERBERT shall wield THOR’S hammer, and sometimes
In gratitude, thou’lt praise his rugged rhymes.
Smug SYDNEY too thy bitter page shall seek,
And classic HALLAM, much renowned for Greek;
SCOTT may perchance his name and influence lend,
And paltry PILLANS shall traduce his friend;
While gay Thalia’s luckless votary, LAMB,
Damned like the Devil—Devil-like will damn.
Known be thy name! unbounded be thy sway!
Thy HOLLAND’S banquets shall each toil repay!
While grateful Britain yields the praise she owes
To HOLLAND’S hirelings and to Learning’s foes.
Yet mark one caution ere thy next Review
Spread its light wings of Saffron and of Blue,
Beware lest blundering BROUGHAM destroy the sale,
Turn Beef to Bannocks, Cauliflowers to Kail.”
Thus having said, the kilted Goddess kist
Her son, and vanished in a Scottish mist.
Then prosper, JEFFREY! pertest of the train
Whom Scotland pampers with her fiery grain!
Whatever blessing waits a genuine Scot,
In double portion swells thy glorious lot;
For thee Edina culls her evening sweets,
And showers their odours on thy candid sheets,
Whose Hue and Fragrance to thy work adhere—
This scents its pages, and that gilds its rear.
Lo! blushing Itch, coy nymph, enamoured grown,
Forsakes the rest, and cleaves to thee alone,
And, too unjust to other Pictish men,
Enjoys thy person, and inspires thy pen!
Illustrious HOLLAND! hard would be his lot,
His hirelings mentioned, and himself forgot!
HOLLAND, with HENRY PETTY at his back,
The whipper-in and huntsman of the pack.
Blest be the banquets spread at Holland House,
Where Scotchmen feed, and Critics may carouse!
Long, long beneath that hospitable roof
Shall Grub-street dine, while duns are kept aloof.
See honest HALLAM lay aside his fork,
Resume his pen, review his Lordship’s work,
And, grateful for the dainties on his plate,
Declare his landlord can at least translate!
Dunedin! view thy children with delight,
They write for food—and feed because they write:
And lest, when heated with the unusual grape,
Some glowing thoughts should to the press escape,
And tinge with red the female reader’s cheek,
My lady skims the cream of each critique;
Breathes o’er the page her purity of soul,
Reforms each error, and refines the whole.
Now to the Drama turn—Oh! motley sight!
What precious scenes the wondering eyes invite:
Puns, and a Prince within a barrel pent,
And Dibdin’s nonsense yield complete content.
Though now, thank Heaven! the Rosciomania’s o’er.
And full-grown actors are endured once more;
Yet what avail their vain attempts to please,
While British critics suffer scenes like these;
While REYNOLDS vents his “‘dammes!’” “poohs!” and
And common-place and common sense confounds?
While KENNEY’S “World”—ah! where is KENNEY’S wit?—
Tires the sad gallery, lulls the listless Pit;
And BEAUMONT’S pilfered Caratach affords
A tragedy complete in all but words?
Who but must mourn, while these are all the rage
The degradation of our vaunted stage?
Heavens! is all sense of shame and talent gone?
Have we no living Bard of merit?—none?
Awake, GEORGE COLMAN! CUMBERLAND, awake!
Ring the alarum bell! let folly quake!
Oh! SHERIDAN! if aught can move thy pen,
Let Comedy assume her throne again;
Abjure the mummery of German schools;
Leave new Pizarros to translating fools;
Give, as thy last memorial to the age,
One classic drama, and reform the stage.
Gods! o’er those boards shall Folly rear her head,
Where GARRICK trod, and SIDDONS lives to tread?
On those shall Farce display buffoonery’s mask,
And HOOK conceal his heroes in a cask?
Shall sapient managers new scenes produce
From CHERRY, SKEFFINGTON, and Mother GOOSE?
While SHAKESPEARE, OTWAY, MASSINGER, forgot,
On stalls must moulder, or in closets rot?
Lo! with what pomp the daily prints proclaim
The rival candidates for Attic fame!
In grim array though LEWIS’ spectres rise,
Still SKEFFINGTON and GOOSE divide the prize.
And sure ‘great’ Skeffington must claim our praise,
For skirtless coats and skeletons of plays
Renowned alike; whose genius ne’er confines
Her flight to garnish Greenwood’s gay designs;
Nor sleeps with “Sleeping Beauties,” but anon
In five facetious acts comes thundering on.
While poor John Bull, bewildered with the scene,
Stares, wondering what the devil it can mean;
But as some hands applaud, a venal few!
Rather than sleep, why John applauds it too.
Such are we now. Ah! wherefore should we turn
To what our fathers were, unless to mourn?
Degenerate Britons! are ye dead to shame,
Or, kind to dulness, do you fear to blame?
Well may the nobles of our present race
Watch each distortion of a NALDI’S face;
Well may they smile on Italy’s buffoons,
And worship CATALANI’s pantaloons,
Since their own Drama yields no fairer trace
Of wit than puns, of humour than grimace.
Then let Ausonia, skill’d in every art
To soften manners, but corrupt the heart,
Pour her exotic follies o’er the town,
To sanction Vice, and hunt Decorum down:
Let wedded strumpets languish o’er DESHAYES,
And bless the promise which his form displays;
While Gayton bounds before th’ enraptured looks
Of hoary Marquises, and stripling Dukes:
Let high-born lechers eye the lively Presle
Twirl her light limbs, that spurn the needless veil;
Let Angiolini bare her breast of snow,
Wave the white arm, and point the pliant toe;
Collini trill her love-inspiring song,
Strain her fair neck, and charm the listening throng!
Whet not your scythe, Suppressors of our Vice!
Reforming Saints! too delicately nice!
By whose decrees, our sinful souls to save,
No Sunday tankards foam, no barbers shave;
And beer undrawn, and beards unmown, display
Your holy reverence for the Sabbath-day.
Or hail at once the patron and the pile
Of vice and folly, Greville and Argyle!
Where yon proud palace, Fashion’s hallow’d fane,
Spreads wide her portals for the motley train,
Behold the new Petronius of the day,
Our arbiter of pleasure and of play!
There the hired eunuch, the Hesperian choir,
The melting lute, the soft lascivious lyre,
The song from Italy, the step from France,
The midnight orgy, and the mazy dance,
The smile of beauty, and the flush of wine,
For fops, fools, gamesters, knaves, and Lords combine:
Each to his humour—Comus all allows;
Champaign, dice, music, or your neighbour’s spouse.
Talk not to us, ye starving sons of trade!
Of piteous ruin, which ourselves have made;
In Plenty’s sunshine Fortune’s minions bask,
Nor think of Poverty, except “en masque,”
When for the night some lately titled ass
Appears the beggar which his grandsire was,
The curtain dropped, the gay Burletta o’er,
The audience take their turn upon the floor:
Now round the room the circling dow’gers sweep,
Now in loose waltz the thin-clad daughters leap;
The first in lengthened line majestic swim,
The last display the free unfettered limb!
Those for Hibernia’s lusty sons repair
With art the charms which Nature could not spare;
These after husbands wing their eager flight,
Nor leave much mystery for the nuptial night.
Oh! blest retreats of infamy and ease,
Where, all forgotten but the power to please,
Each maid may give a loose to genial thought,
Each swain may teach new systems, or be taught:
There the blithe youngster, just returned from Spain,
Cuts the light pack, or calls the rattling main;
The jovial Caster’s set, and seven’s the Nick,
Or—done!—a thousand on the coming trick!
If, mad with loss, existence ‘gins to tire,
And all your hope or wish is to expire,
Here’s POWELL’S pistol ready for your life,
And, kinder still, two PAGETS for your wife:
Fit consummation of an earthly race
Begun in folly, ended in disgrace,
While none but menials o’er the bed of death,
Wash thy red wounds, or watch thy wavering breath;
Traduced by liars, and forgot by all,
The mangled victim of a drunken brawl,
To live like CLODIUS, and like FALKLAND fall.
Truth! rouse some genuine Bard, and guide his hand
To drive this pestilence from out the land.
E’en I—least thinking of a thoughtless throng,
Just skilled to know the right and choose the wrong,
Freed at that age when Reason’s shield is lost,
To fight my course through Passion’s countless host,
Whom every path of Pleasure’s flow’ry way
Has lured in turn, and all have led astray—
E’en I must raise my voice, e’en I must feel
Such scenes, such men, destroy the public weal:
Altho’ some kind, censorious friend will say,
“What art thou better, meddling fool, than they?”
And every Brother Rake will smile to see
That miracle, a Moralist in me.
No matter—when some Bard in virtue strong,
Gifford perchance, shall raise the chastening song,
Then sleep my pen for ever! and my voice
Be only heard to hail him, and rejoice,
Rejoice, and yield my feeble praise, though I
May feel the lash that Virtue must apply.
As for the smaller fry, who swarm in shoals
From silly HAFIZ up to simple BOWLES,
Why should we call them from their dark abode,
In Broad St. Giles’s or Tottenham-Road?
Or (since some men of fashion nobly dare
To scrawl in verse) from Bond-street or the Square?
If things of Ton their harmless lays indite,
Most wisely doomed to shun the public sight,
What harm? in spite of every critic elf,
Sir T. may read his stanzas to himself;
MILES ANDREWS still his strength in couplets try,
And live in prologues, though his dramas die.
Lords too are Bards: such things at times befall,
And ’tis some praise in Peers to write at all.
Yet, did or Taste or Reason sway the times,
Ah! who would take their titles with their rhymes?
ROSCOMMON! SHEFFIELD! with your spirits fled,
No future laurels deck a noble head;
No Muse will cheer, with renovating smile,
The paralytic puling of CARLISLE.
The puny schoolboy and his early lay
Men pardon, if his follies pass away;
But who forgives the Senior’s ceaseless verse,
Whose hairs grow hoary as his rhymes grow worse?
What heterogeneous honours deck the Peer!
Lord, rhymester, petit-maître, pamphleteer!
So dull in youth, so drivelling in his age,
His scenes alone had damned our sinking stage;
But Managers for once cried, “Hold, enough!”
Nor drugged their audience with the tragic stuff.
Yet at their judgment let his Lordship laugh,
And case his volumes in congenial calf;
Yes! doff that covering, where Morocco shines,
And hang a calf-skin on those recreant lines.
With you, ye Druids! rich in native lead,
Who daily scribble for your daily bread:
With you I war not: GIFFORD’S heavy hand
Has crushed, without remorse, your numerous band.
On “All the Talents” vent your venal spleen;
Want is your plea, let Pity be your screen.
Let Monodies on Fox regale your crew,
And Melville’s Mantle prove a Blanket too!
One common Lethe waits each hapless Bard,
And, peace be with you! ’tis your best reward.
Such damning fame; as Dunciads only give
Could bid your lines beyond a morning live;
But now at once your fleeting labours close,
With names of greater note in blest repose.
Far be’t from me unkindly to upbraid
The lovely ROSA’S prose in masquerade,
Whose strains, the faithful echoes of her mind,
Leave wondering comprehension far behind.
Though Crusca’s bards no more our journals fill,
Some stragglers skirmish round the columns still;
Last of the howling host which once was Bell’s,
Matilda snivels yet, and Hafiz yells;
And Merry’s metaphors appear anew,
Chained to the signature of O. P. Q.
When some brisk youth, the tenant of a stall,
Employs a pen less pointed than his awl,
Leaves his snug shop, forsakes his store of shoes,
St. Crispin quits, and cobbles for the Muse,
Heavens! how the vulgar stare! how crowds applaud!
How ladies read, and Literati laud!
If chance some wicked wag should pass his jest,
’Tis sheer ill-nature—don’t the world know best?
Genius must guide when wits admire the rhyme,
And CAPEL LOFFT declares ’tis quite sublime.
Hear, then, ye happy sons of needless trade!
Swains! quit the plough, resign the useless spade!
Lo! BURNS and BLOOMFIELD, nay, a greater far,
GIFFORD was born beneath an adverse star,
Forsook the labours of a servile state,
Stemmed the rude storm, and triumphed over Fate:
Then why no more? if Phoebus smiled on you,
BLOOMFIELD! why not on brother Nathan too?
Him too the Mania, not the Muse, has seized;
Not inspiration, but a mind diseased:
And now no Boor can seek his last abode,
No common be inclosed without an ode.
Oh! since increased refinement deigns to smile
On Britain’s sons, and bless our genial Isle,
Let Poesy go forth, pervade the whole,
Alike the rustic, and mechanic soul!
Ye tuneful cobblers! still your notes prolong,
Compose at once a slipper and a song;
So shall the fair your handywork peruse,
Your sonnets sure shall please—perhaps your shoes.
May Moorland weavers boast Pindaric skill,
And tailors’ lays be longer than their bill!
While punctual beaux reward the grateful notes,
And pay for poems—when they pay for coats.
To the famed throng now paid the tribute due,
Neglected Genius! let me turn to you.
Come forth, oh CAMPBELL! give thy talents scope;
Who dares aspire if thou must cease to hope?
And thou, melodious ROGERS! rise at last,
Recall the pleasing memory of the past;
Arise! let blest remembrance still inspire,
And strike to wonted tones thy hallowed lyre;
Restore Apollo to his vacant throne,
Assert thy country’s honour and thine own.
What! must deserted Poesy still weep
Where her last hopes with pious COWPER sleep?
Unless, perchance, from his cold bier she turns,
To deck the turf that wraps her minstrel, BURNS!
No! though contempt hath marked the spurious brood,
The race who rhyme from folly, or for food,
Yet still some genuine sons ’tis hers to boast,
Who, least affecting, still affect the most:
Feel as they write, and write but as they feel—
Bear witness GIFFORD, SOTHEBY, MACNEIL.
“Why slumbers GIFFORD?” once was asked in vain;
Why slumbers GIFFORD? let us ask again.
Are there no follies for his pen to purge?
Are there no fools whose backs demand the scourge?
Are there no sins for Satire’s Bard to greet?
Stalks not gigantic Vice in every street?
Shall Peers or Princes tread pollution’s path,
And ’scape alike the Laws and Muse’s wrath?
Nor blaze with guilty glare through future time,
Eternal beacons of consummate crime?
Arouse thee, GIFFORD! be thy promise claimed,
Make bad men better, or at least ashamed.
Unhappy WHITE! while life was in its spring,
And thy young Muse just waved her joyous wing,
The Spoiler swept that soaring Lyre away,
Which else had sounded an immortal lay.
Oh! what a noble heart was here undone,
When Science’ self destroyed her favourite son!
Yes, she too much indulged thy fond pursuit,
She sowed the seeds, but Death has reaped the fruit.
’Twas thine own Genius gave the final blow,
And helped to plant the wound that laid thee low:
So the struck Eagle, stretched upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
Viewed his own feather on the fatal dart,
And winged the shaft that quivered in his heart;
Keen were his pangs, but keener far to feel
He nursed the pinion which impelled the steel;
While the same plumage that had warmed his nest
Drank the last life-drop of his bleeding breast.
There be who say, in these enlightened days,
That splendid lies are all the poet’s praise;
That strained Invention, ever on the wing,
Alone impels the modern Bard to sing:
Tis true, that all who rhyme—nay, all who write,
Shrink from that fatal word to Genius—Trite;
Yet Truth sometimes will lend her noblest fires,
And decorate the verse herself inspires:
This fact in Virtue’s name let CRABBE attest;
Though Nature’s sternest Painter, yet the best.
And here let SHEE and Genius find a place,
Whose pen and pencil yield an equal grace;
To guide whose hand the sister Arts combine,
And trace the Poet’s or the Painter’s line;
Whose magic touch can bid the canvas glow,
Or pour the easy rhyme’s harmonious flow;
While honours, doubly merited, attend
The Poet’s rival, but the Painter’s friend.
Blest is the man who dares approach the bower
Where dwelt the Muses at their natal hour;
Whose steps have pressed, whose eye has marked afar,
The clime that nursed the sons of song and war,
The scenes which Glory still must hover o’er,
Her place of birth, her own Achaian shore.
But doubly blest is he whose heart expands
With hallowed feelings for those classic lands;
Who rends the veil of ages long gone by,
And views their remnants with a poet’s eye!
WRIGHT! ’twas thy happy lot at once to view
Those shores of glory, and to sing them too;
And sure no common Muse inspired thy pen
To hail the land of Gods and Godlike men.
And you, associate Bards! who snatched to light
Those gems too long withheld from modern sight;
Whose mingling taste combined to cull the wreath
While Attic flowers Aonian odours breathe,
And all their renovated fragrance flung,
To grace the beauties of your native tongue;
Now let those minds, that nobly could transfuse
The glorious Spirit of the Grecian Muse,
Though soft the echo, scorn a borrowed tone:
Resign Achaia’s lyre, and strike your own.
Let these, or such as these, with just applause,
Restore the Muse’s violated laws;
But not in flimsy DARWIN’S pompous chime,
That mighty master of unmeaning rhyme,
Whose gilded cymbals, more adorned than clear,
The eye delighted, but fatigued the ear,
In show the simple lyre could once surpass,
But now, worn down, appear in native brass;
While all his train of hovering sylphs around
Evaporate in similes and sound:
Him let them shun, with him let tinsel die:
False glare attracts, but more offends the eye.
Yet let them not to vulgar WORDSWORTH stoop,
The meanest object of the lowly group,
Whose verse, of all but childish prattle void,
Seems blessed harmony to LAMB and LLOYD:
Let them—but hold, my Muse, nor dare to teach
A strain far, far beyond thy humble reach:
The native genius with their being given
Will point the path, and peal their notes to heaven.
And thou, too, SCOTT! resign to minstrels rude
The wilder Slogan of a Border feud:
Let others spin their meagre lines for hire;
Enough for Genius, if itself inspire!
Let SOUTHEY sing, altho’ his teeming muse,
Prolific every spring, be too profuse;
Let simple WORDSWORTH chime his childish verse,
And brother COLERIDGE lull the babe at nurse
Let Spectre-mongering LEWIS aim, at most,
To rouse the Galleries, or to raise a ghost;
Let MOORE still sigh; let STRANGFORD steal from MOORE,
And swear that CAMOËNS sang such notes of yore;
Let HAYLEY hobble on, MONTGOMERY rave,
And godly GRAHAME chant a stupid stave;
Let sonneteering BOWLES his strains refine,
And whine and whimper to the fourteenth line;
Let STOTT, CARLISLE, MATILDA, and the rest
Of Grub Street, and of Grosvenor Place the best,
Scrawl on, ’till death release us from the strain,
Or Common Sense assert her rights again;
But Thou, with powers that mock the aid of praise,
Should’st leave to humbler Bards ignoble lays:
Thy country’s voice, the voice of all the Nine,
Demand a hallowed harp—that harp is thine.
Say! will not Caledonia’s annals yield
The glorious record of some nobler field,
Than the vile foray of a plundering clan,
Whose proudest deeds disgrace the name of man?
Or Marmion’s acts of darkness, fitter food
For SHERWOOD’S outlaw tales of ROBIN HOOD?
Scotland! still proudly claim thy native Bard,
And be thy praise his first, his best reward!
Yet not with thee alone his name should live,
But own the vast renown a world can give;
Be known, perchance, when Albion is no more,
And tell the tale of what she was before;
To future times her faded fame recall,
And save her glory, though his country fall.
Yet what avails the sanguine Poet’s hope,
To conquer ages, and with time to cope?
New eras spread their wings, new nations rise,
And other Victors fill th’ applauding skies;
A few brief generations fleet along,
Whose sons forget the Poet and his song:
E’en now, what once-loved Minstrels scarce may claim
The transient mention of a dubious name!
When Fame’s loud trump hath blown its noblest blast,
Though long the sound, the echo sleeps at last;
And glory, like the Phoenix midst her fires,
Exhales her odours, blazes, and expires.
Shall hoary Granta call her sable sons,
Expert in science, more expert at puns?
Shall these approach the Muse? ah, no! she flies,
Even from the tempting ore of Seaton’s prize;
Though Printers condescend the press to soil
With rhyme by HOARE, and epic blank by HOYLE:
Not him whose page, if still upheld by whist,
Requires no sacred theme to bid us list.
Ye! who in Granta’s honours would surpass,
Must mount her Pegasus, a full-grown ass;
A foal well worthy of her ancient Dam,
Whose Helicon is duller than her Cam.
There CLARKE, still striving piteously “to please,”
Forgetting doggerel leads not to degrees,
A would-be satirist, a hired Buffoon,
A monthly scribbler of some low Lampoon,
Condemned to drudge, the meanest of the mean,
And furbish falsehoods for a magazine,
Devotes to scandal his congenial mind;
Himself a living libel on mankind.
Oh! dark asylum of a Vandal race!
At once the boast of learning, and disgrace!
So lost to Phoebus, that nor Hodgson’s verse
Can make thee better, nor poor Hewson’s worse.
But where fair Isis rolls her purer wave,
The partial Muse delighted loves to lave;
On her green banks a greener wreath she wove,
To crown the Bards that haunt her classic grove;
Where RICHARDS wakes a genuine poet’s fires,
And modern Britons glory in their Sires.
For me, who, thus unasked, have dared to tell
My country, what her sons should know too well,
Zeal for her honour bade me here engage
The host of idiots that infest her age;
No just applause her honoured name shall lose,
As first in freedom, dearest to the Muse.
Oh! would thy bards but emulate thy fame,
And rise more worthy, Albion, of thy name!
What Athens was in science, Rome in power,
What Tyre appeared in her meridian hour,
’Tis thine at once, fair Albion! to have been—
Earth’s chief Dictatress, Ocean’s lovely Queen:
But Rome decayed, and Athens strewed the plain,
And Tyre’s proud piers lie shattered in the main;
Like these, thy strength may sink, in ruin hurled,
And Britain fall, the bulwark of the world.
But let me cease, and dread Cassandra’s fate,
With warning ever scoffed at, till too late;
To themes less lofty still my lay confine,
And urge thy Bards to gain a name like thine.
Then, hapless Britain! be thy rulers blest,
The senate’s oracles, the people’s jest!
Still hear thy motley orators dispense
The flowers of rhetoric, though not of sense,
While CANNING’S colleagues hate him for his wit,
And old dame PORTLAND fills the place of PITT.
Yet once again, adieu! ere this the sail
That wafts me hence is shivering in the gale;
And Afric’s coast and Calpe’s adverse height,
And Stamboul’s minarets must greet my sight:
Thence shall I stray through Beauty’s native clime,
Where Kaff is clad in rocks, and crowned with snows sublime.
But should I back return, no tempting press
Shall drag my Journal from the desk’s recess;
Let coxcombs, printing as they come from far,
Snatch his own wreath of Ridicule from Carr;
Let ABERDEEN and ELGIN still pursue
The shade of fame through regions of Virtù;
Waste useless thousands on their Phidian freaks,
Misshapen monuments and maimed antiques;
And make their grand saloons a general mart
For all the mutilated blocks of art:
Of Dardan tours let Dilettanti tell,
I leave topography to rapid GELL;
And, quite content, no more shall interpose
To stun the public ear—at least with Prose.
Thus far I’ve held my undisturbed career,
Prepared for rancour, steeled ‘gainst selfish fear;
This thing of rhyme I ne’er disdained to own—
Though not obtrusive, yet not quite unknown:
My voice was heard again, though not so loud,
My page, though nameless, never disavowed;
And now at once I tear the veil away:—
Cheer on the pack! the Quarry stands at bay,
Unscared by all the din of MELBOURNE house,
By LAMB’S resentment, or by HOLLAND’S spouse,
By JEFFREY’S harmless pistol, HALLAM’S rage,
Edina’s brawny sons and brimstone page.
Our men in buckram shall have blows enough,
And feel they too are “penetrable stuff:”
And though I hope not hence unscathed to go,
Who conquers me shall find a stubborn foe.
The time hath been, when no harsh sound would fall
From lips that now may seem imbued with gall;
Nor fools nor follies tempt me to despise
The meanest thing that crawled beneath my eyes:
But now, so callous grown, so changed since youth,
I’ve learned to think, and sternly speak the truth;
Learned to deride the critic’s starch decree,
And break him on the wheel he meant for me;
To spurn the rod a scribbler bids me kiss,
Nor care if courts and crowds applaud or hiss:
Nay more, though all my rival rhymesters frown,
I too can hunt a Poetaster down;
And, armed in proof, the gauntlet cast at once
To Scotch marauder, and to Southern dunce.
Thus much I’ve dared; if my incondite lay
Hath wronged these righteous times, let others say:
This, let the world, which knows not how to spare,
Yet rarely blames unjustly, now declare.
High in the midst, surrounded by his peers,
Magnus his ample front sublime uprears:
Plac’d on his chair of state, he seems a God,
While Sophs and Freshmen tremble at his nod;
As all around sit wrapt in speechless gloom,
His voice, in thunder, shakes the sounding dome;
Denouncing dire reproach to luckless fools,
Unskill’d to plod in mathematic rules.
Happy the youth! in Euclid’s axioms tried,
Though little vers’d in any art beside;
Who, scarcely skill’d an English line to pen,
Scans Attic metres with a critic’s ken.
What! though he knows not how his fathers bled,
When civil discord pil’d the fields with dead,
When Edward bade his conquering bands advance,
Or Henry trampled on the crest of France:
Though marvelling at the name of Magna Charta,
Yet well he recollects the laws of Sparta;
Can tell, what edicts sage Lycurgus made,
While Blackstone’s on the shelf, neglected laid;
Of Grecian dramas vaunts the deathless fame,
Of Avon’s bard, rememb’ring scarce the name.
Such is the youth whose scientific pate
Class-honours, medals, fellowships, await;
Or even, perhaps, the declamation prize,
If to such glorious height, he lifts his eyes.
But lo! no common orator can hope
The envied silver cup within his scope:
Not that our heads much eloquence require,
Th’ ATHENIAN’S glowing style, or TULLY’S fire.
A manner clear or warm is useless, since
We do not try by speaking to convince;
Be other orators of pleasing proud,—
We speak to please ourselves, not move the crowd:
Our gravity prefers the muttering tone,
A proper mixture of the squeak and groan:
No borrow’d grace of action must be seen,
The slightest motion would displease the Dean;
Whilst every staring Graduate would prate,
Against what—he could never imitate.
The man, who hopes t’ obtain the promis’d cup,
Must in one posture stand, and ne’er look up;
Nor stop, but rattle over every word—
No matter what, so it can not be heard:
Thus let him hurry on, nor think to rest:
Who speaks the fastest’s sure to speak the best;
Who utters most within the shortest space,
May, safely, hope to win the wordy race.
The Sons of Science these, who, thus repaid,
Linger in ease in Granta’s sluggish shade;
Where on Cam’s sedgy banks, supine, they lie,
Unknown, unhonour’d live—unwept for die:
Dull as the pictures, which adorn their halls,
They think all learning fix’d within their walls:
In manners rude, in foolish forms precise,
All modern arts affecting to despise;
Yet prizing Bentley’s, Brunck’s, or Porson’s note,
More than the verse on which the critic wrote:
Vain as their honours, heavy as their Ale,
Sad as their wit, and tedious as their tale;
To friendship dead, though not untaught to feel,
When Self and Church demand a Bigot zeal.
With eager haste they court the lord of power,
(Whether ’tis PITT or PETTY rules the hour;)
To him, with suppliant smiles, they bend the head,
While distant mitres to their eyes are spread;
But should a storm o’erwhelm him with disgrace,
They’d fly to seek the next, who fill’d his place.
Such are the men who learning’s treasures guard!
Such is their practice, such is their reward!
This much, at least, we may presume to say—
The premium can’t exceed the price they pay.
When Man, expell’d from Eden’s bowers,
A moment linger’d near the gate,
Each scene recall’d the vanish’d hours,
And bade him curse his future fate.
But, wandering on through distant climes,
He learnt to bear his load of grief;
Just gave a sigh to other times,
And found in busier scenes relief.
Thus, Lady! will it be with me,
And I must view thy charms no more;
For, while I linger near to thee,
I sigh for all I knew before.
In flight I shall be surely wise,
Escaping from temptation’s snare:
I cannot view my Paradise
Without the wish of dwelling there.
How sweetly shines, through azure skies,
The lamp of Heaven on Lora’s shore;
Where Alva’s hoary turrets rise,
And hear the din of arms no more!
But often has yon rolling moon,
On Alva’s casques of silver play’d;
And view’d, at midnight’s silent noon,
Her chiefs in gleaming mail array’d:
And, on the crimson’d rocks beneath,
Which scowl o’er ocean’s sullen flow,
Pale in the scatter’d ranks of death,
She saw the gasping warrior low;
While many an eye, which ne’er again
Could mark the rising orb of day,
Turn’d feebly from the gory plain,
Beheld in death her fading ray.
Once, to those eyes the lamp of Love,
They blest her dear propitious light;
But, now, she glimmer’d from above,
A sad, funereal torch of night.
Faded is Alva’s noble race,
And grey her towers are seen afar;
No more her heroes urge the chase,
Or roll the crimson tide of war.
But, who was last of Alva’s clan?
Why grows the moss on Alva’s stone?
Her towers resound no steps of man,
They echo to the gale alone.
And, when that gale is fierce and high,
A sound is heard in yonder hall;
It rises hoarsely through the sky,
And vibrates o’er the mould’ring wall.
Yes, when the eddying tempest sighs,
It shakes the shield of Oscar brave;
But, there, no more his banners rise,
No more his plumes of sable wave.
Fair shone the sun on Oscar’s birth,
When Angus hail’d his eldest born;
The vassals round their chieftain’s hearth
Crowd to applaud the happy morn.
They feast upon the mountain deer,
The Pibroch rais’d its piercing note,
To gladden more their Highland cheer,
The strains in martial numbers float.
And they who heard the war-notes wild,
Hop’d that, one day, the Pibroch’s strain
Should play before the Hero’s child,
While he should lead the Tartan train.
Another year is quickly past,
And Angus hails another son;
His natal day is like the last,
Nor soon the jocund feast was done.
Taught by their sire to bend the bow,
On Alva’s dusky hills of wind,
The boys in childhood chas’d the roe,
And left their hounds in speed behind.
But ere their years of youth are o’er,
They mingle in the ranks of war;
They lightly wheel the bright claymore,
And send the whistling arrow far.
Dark was the flow of Oscar’s hair,
Wildly it stream’d along the gale;
But Allan’s locks were bright and fair,
And pensive seem’d his cheek, and pale.
But Oscar own’d a hero’s soul,
His dark eye shone through beams of truth;
Allan had early learn’d controul,
And smooth his words had been from youth.
Both, both were brave; the Saxon spear
Was shiver’d oft beneath their steel;
And Oscar’s bosom scorn’d to fear,
But Oscar’s bosom knew to feel;
While Allan’s soul belied his form,
Unworthy with such charms to dwell:
Keen as the lightning of the storm,
On foes his deadly vengeance fell.
From high Southannon’s distant tower
Arrived a young and noble dame;
With Kenneth’s lands to form her dower,
Glenalvon’s blue-eyed daughter came;
And Oscar claim’d the beauteous bride,
And Angus on his Oscar smil’d:
It soothed the father’s feudal pride
Thus to obtain Glenalvon’s child.
Hark! to the Pibroch’s pleasing note,
Hark! to the swelling nuptial song,
In joyous strains the voices float,
And, still, the choral peal prolong.
See how the Heroes’ blood-red plumes
Assembled wave in Alva’s hall;
Each youth his varied plaid assumes,
Attending on their chieftain’s call.
It is not war their aid demands,
The Pibroch plays the song of peace;
To Oscar’s nuptials throng the bands
Nor yet the sounds of pleasure cease.
But where is Oscar? sure ’tis late:
Is this a bridegroom’s ardent flame?
While thronging guests and ladies wait,
Nor Oscar nor his brother came.
At length young Allan join’d the bride;
“Why comes not Oscar?” Angus said:
“Is he not here?” the Youth replied;
“With me he rov’d not o’er the glade:
“Perchance, forgetful of the day,
’Tis his to chase the bounding roe;
Or Ocean’s waves prolong his stay:
Yet, Oscar’s bark is seldom slow.”
“Oh, no!” the anguish’d Sire rejoin’d,
“Nor chase, nor wave, my Boy delay;
Would he to Mora seem unkind?
Would aught to her impede his way?
“Oh, search, ye Chiefs! oh, search around!
Allan, with these, through Alva fly;
Till Oscar, till my son is found,
Haste, haste, nor dare attempt reply.”
All is confusion—through the vale,
The name of Oscar hoarsely rings,
It rises on the murm’ring gale,
Till night expands her dusky wings.
It breaks the stillness of the night,
But echoes through her shades in vain;
It sounds through morning’s misty light,
But Oscar comes not o’er the plain.
Three days, three sleepless nights, the Chief
For Oscar search’d each mountain cave;
Then hope is lost; in boundless grief,
His locks in grey-torn ringlets wave.
“Oscar! my son!—thou God of Heav’n,
Restore the prop of sinking age!
Or, if that hope no more is given,
Yield his assassin to my rage.
“Yes, on some desert rocky shore
My Oscar’s whiten’d bones must lie;
Then grant, thou God! I ask no more,
With him his frantic Sire may die!
“Yet, he may live,—away, despair!
Be calm, my soul! he yet may live;
T’ arraign my fate, my voice forbear!
O God! my impious prayer forgive.
“What, if he live for me no more,
I sink forgotten in the dust,
The hope of Alva’s age is o’er:
Alas! can pangs like these be just?”
Thus did the hapless Parent mourn,
Till Time, who soothes severest woe,
Had bade serenity return,
And made the tear-drop cease to flow.
For, still, some latent hope surviv’d
That Oscar might once more appear;
His hope now droop’d and now revived,
Till Time had told a tedious year.
Days roll’d along, the orb of light
Again had run his destined race;
No Oscar bless’d his father’s sight,
And sorrow left a fainter trace.
For youthful Allan still remain’d,
And, now, his father’s only joy:
And Mora’s heart was quickly gain’d,
For beauty crown’d the fair-hair’d boy.
She thought that Oscar low was laid,
And Allan’s face was wondrous fair;
If Oscar liv’d, some other maid
Had claim’d his faithless bosom’s care.
And Angus said, if one year more
In fruitless hope was pass’d away,
His fondest scruples should be o’er,
And he would name their nuptial day.
Slow roll’d the moons, but blest at last
Arriv’d the dearly destin’d morn:
The year of anxious trembling past,
What smiles the lovers’ cheeks adorn!
Hark to the Pibroch’s pleasing note!
Hark to the swelling nuptial song!
In joyous strains the voices float,
And, still, the choral peal prolong.
Again the clan, in festive crowd,
Throng through the gate of Alva’s hall;
The sounds of mirth re-echo loud,
And all their former joy recall.
But who is he, whose darken’d brow
Glooms in the midst of general mirth?
Before his eyes’ far fiercer glow
The blue flames curdle o’er the hearth.
Dark is the robe which wraps his form,
And tall his plume of gory red;
His voice is like the rising storm,
But light and trackless is his tread.
’Tis noon of night, the pledge goes round,
The bridegroom’s health is deeply quaff’d;
With shouts the vaulted roofs resound,
And all combine to hail the draught.
Sudden the stranger-chief arose,
And all the clamorous crowd are hush’d;
And Angus’ cheek with wonder glows,
And Mora’s tender bosom blush’d.
“Old man!” he cried, “this pledge is done,
Thou saw’st ’twas truly drunk by me;
It hail’d the nuptials of thy son:
Now will I claim a pledge from thee.
“While all around is mirth and joy,
To bless thy Allan’s happy lot,
Say, hadst thou ne’er another boy?
Say, why should Oscar be forgot?”
“Alas!” the hapless Sire replied,
The big tear starting as he spoke,
“When Oscar left my hall, or died,
This aged heart was almost broke.
“Thrice has the earth revolv’d her course
Since Oscar’s form has bless’d my sight;
And Allan is my last resource,
Since martial Oscar’s death, or flight.”
“’Tis well,” replied the stranger stern,
And fiercely flash’d his rolling eye;
“Thy Oscar’s fate, I fain would learn;
Perhaps the Hero did not die.
“Perchance, if those, whom most he lov’d,
Would call, thy Oscar might return;
Perchance, the chief has only rov’d;
For him thy Beltane, yet, may burn.
“Fill high the bowl the table round,
We will not claim the pledge by stealth;
With wine let every cup be crown’d;
Pledge me departed Oscar’s health.”
“With all my soul,” old Angus said,
And fill’d his goblet to the brim:
“Here’s to my boy! alive or dead,
I ne’er shall find a son like him.”
“Bravely, old man, this health has sped;
But why does Allan trembling stand?
Come, drink remembrance of the dead,
And raise thy cup with firmer hand.”
The crimson glow of Allan’s face
Was turn’d at once to ghastly hue;
The drops of death each other chace,
Adown in agonizing dew.
Thrice did he raise the goblet high,
And thrice his lips refused to taste;
For thrice he caught the stranger’s eye
On his with deadly fury plac’d.
“And is it thus a brother hails
A brother’s fond remembrance here?
If thus affection’s strength prevails,
What might we not expect from fear?”
Roused by the sneer, he rais’d the bowl,
“Would Oscar now could share our mirth!”
Internal fear appall’d his soul;
He said, and dash’d the cup to earth.
“’Tis he! I hear my murderer’s voice!”
Loud shrieks a darkly gleaming Form.
“A murderer’s voice!” the roof replies,
And deeply swells the bursting storm.
The tapers wink, the chieftains shrink,
The stranger’s gone,—amidst the crew,
A Form was seen, in tartan green,
And tall the shade terrific grew.
His waist was bound with a broad belt round,
His plume of sable stream’d on high;
But his breast was bare, with the red wounds there,
And fix’d was the glare of his glassy eye.
And thrice he smil’d, with his eye so wild
On Angus bending low the knee;
And thrice he frown’d, on a Chief on the ground,
Whom shivering crowds with horror see.
The bolts loud roll from pole to pole,
And thunders through the welkin ring,
And the gleaming form, through the mist of the storm,
Was borne on high by the whirlwind’s wing.
Cold was the feast, the revel ceas’d.
Who lies upon the stony floor?
Oblivion press’d old Angus’ breast,
At length his life-pulse throbs once more.
“Away, away! let the leech essay
To pour the light on Allan’s eyes:”
His sand is done,—his race is run;
Oh! never more shall Allan rise!
But Oscar’s breast is cold as clay,
His locks are lifted by the gale;
And Allan’s barbèd arrow lay
With him in dark Glentanar’s vale.
And whence the dreadful stranger came,
Or who, no mortal wight can tell;
But no one doubts the form of flame,
For Alva’s sons knew Oscar well.
Ambition nerv’d young Allan’s hand,
Exulting demons wing’d his dart;
While Envy wav’d her burning brand,
And pour’d her venom round his heart.
Swift is the shaft from Allan’s bow;
Whose streaming life-blood stains his side?
Dark Oscar’s sable crest is low,
The dart has drunk his vital tide.
And Mora’s eye could Allan move,
She bade his wounded pride rebel:
Alas! that eyes, which beam’d with love,
Should urge the soul to deeds of Hell.
Lo! see’st thou not a lonely tomb,
Which rises o’er a warrior dead?
It glimmers through the twilight gloom;
Oh! that is Allan’s nuptial bed.
Far, distant far, the noble grave
Which held his clan’s great ashes stood;
And o’er his corse no banners wave,
For they were stain’d with kindred blood.
What minstrel grey, what hoary bard,
Shall Allan’s deeds on harp-strings raise?
The song is glory’s chief reward,
But who can strike a murd’rer’s praise?
Unstrung, untouch’d, the harp must stand,
No minstrel dare the theme awake;
Guilt would benumb his palsied hand,
His harp in shuddering chords would break.
No lyre of fame, no hallow’d verse,
Shall sound his glories high in air:
A dying father’s bitter curse,
A brother’s death-groan echoes there.
Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
Along Morea’s hills the setting Sun;
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light;
O’er the hushed deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave that trembles as it glows;
On old ægina’s rock and Hydra’s isle
The God of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O’er his own regions lingering loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine.
Descending fast, the mountain-shadows kiss
Thy glorious Gulf, unconquered Salamis!
Their azure arches through the long expanse,
More deeply purpled, meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of Heaven;
Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian rock he sinks to sleep.
On such an eve his palest beam he cast
When, Athens! here thy Wisest looked his last.
How watched thy better sons his farewell ray,
That closed their murdered Sage’s latest day!
Not yet—not yet—Sol pauses on the hill,
The precious hour of parting lingers still;
But sad his light to agonizing eyes,
And dark the mountain’s once delightful dyes;
Gloom o’er the lovely land he seemed to pour,
The land where Phoebus never frowned before;
But ere he sunk below Cithaeron’s head,
The cup of Woe was quaffed—the Spirit fled;
The soul of Him that scorned to fear or fly,
Who lived and died as none can live or die.
But lo! from high Hymettus to the plain
The Queen of Night asserts her silent reign;
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
Hides her fair face, or girds her glowing form;
With cornice glimmering as the moonbeams play,
There the white column greets her grateful ray,
And bright around, with quivering beams beset,
Her emblem sparkles o’er the Minaret;
The groves of olive scattered dark and wide,
Where meek Cephisus sheds his scanty tide,
The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,
The gleaming turret of the gay kiosk,
And sad and sombre ’mid the holy calm,
Near Theseus’ fane, yon solitary palm;
All, tinged with varied hues, arrest the eye;
And dull were his that passed them heedless by.
Again the ægean, heard no more afar,
Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war:
Again his waves in milder tints unfold
Their long expanse of sapphire and of gold,
Mixed with the shades of many a distant isle
That frown, where gentler Ocean deigns to smile.
As thus, within the walls of Pallas’ fane,
I marked the beauties of the land and main,
Alone, and friendless, on the magic shore,
Whose arts and arms but live in poets’ lore;
Oft as the matchless dome I turned to scan,
Sacred to Gods, but not secure from Man,
The Past returned, the Present seemed to cease,
And Glory knew no clime beyond her Greece!
Hour rolled along, and Dian’s orb on high
Had gained the centre of her softest sky;
And yet unwearied still my footsteps trod
O’er the vain shrine of many a vanished God:
But chiefly, Pallas! thine, when Hecate’s glare
Checked by thy columns, fell more sadly fair
O’er the chill marble, where the startling tread
Thrills the lone heart like echoes from the dead.
Long had I mused, and treasured every trace
The wreck of Greece recorded of her race,
When, lo! a giant-form before me strode,
And Pallas hailed me in her own Abode!
Yes,’twas Minerva’s self; but, ah! how changed,
Since o’er the Dardan field in arms she ranged!
Not such as erst, by her divine command,
Her form appeared from Phidias’ plastic hand:
Gone were the terrors of her awful brow,
Her idle ægis bore no Gorgon now;
Her helm was dinted, and the broken lance
Seemed weak and shaftless e’en to mortal glance;
The Olive Branch, which still she deigned to clasp,
Shrunk from her touch, and withered in her grasp;
And, ah! though still the brightest of the sky,
Celestial tears bedimmed her large blue eye;
Round the rent casque her owlet circled slow,
And mourned his mistress with a shriek of woe!
“Mortal!”—’twas thus she spake—”that blush of shame
Proclaims thee Briton, once a noble name;
First of the mighty, foremost of the free,
Now honoured ‘less’ by all, and ‘least’ by me:
Chief of thy foes shall Pallas still be found.
Seek’st thou the cause of loathing!—look around.
Lo! here, despite of war and wasting fire,
I saw successive Tyrannies expire;
‘Scaped from the ravage of the Turk and Goth,
Thy country sends a spoiler worse than both.
Survey this vacant, violated fane;
Recount the relics torn that yet remain:
‘These’ Cecrops placed, ‘this’ Pericles adorned,
‘That’ Adrian reared when drooping Science mourned.
What more I owe let Gratitude attest—
Know, Alaric and Elgin did the rest.
That all may learn from whence the plunderer came,
The insulted wall sustains his hated name:
For Elgin’s fame thus grateful Pallas pleads,
Below, his name—above, behold his deeds!
Be ever hailed with equal honour here
The Gothic monarch and the Pictish peer:
Arms gave the first his right, the last had none,
But basely stole what less barbarians won.
So when the Lion quits his fell repast,
Next prowls the Wolf, the filthy Jackal last:
Flesh, limbs, and blood the former make their own,
The last poor brute securely gnaws the bone.
Yet still the Gods are just, and crimes are crossed:
See here what Elgin won, and what he lost!
Another name with his pollutes my shrine:
Behold where Dian’s beams disdain to shine!
Some retribution still might Pallas claim,
When Venus half avenged Minerva’s shame.”
She ceased awhile, and thus I dared reply,
To soothe the vengeance kindling in her eye:
“Daughter of Jove! in Britain’s injured name,
A true-born Briton may the deed disclaim.
Frown not on England; England owns him not:
Athena, no! thy plunderer was a Scot.
Ask’st thou the difference? From fair Phyles’ towers
Survey Boeotia;—Caledonia’s ours.
And well I know within that bastard land
Hath Wisdom’s goddess never held command;
A barren soil, where Nature’s germs, confined
To stern sterility, can stint the mind;
Whose thistle well betrays the niggard earth,
Emblem of all to whom the Land gives birth;
Each genial influence nurtured to resist;
A land of meanness, sophistry, and mist.
Each breeze from foggy mount and marshy plain
Dilutes with drivel every drizzly brain,
Till, burst at length, each wat’ry head o’erflows,
Foul as their soil, and frigid as their snows:
Then thousand schemes of petulance and pride
Despatch her scheming children far and wide;
Some East, some West, some—everywhere but North!
In quest of lawless gain, they issue forth.
And thus—accursed be the day and year!
She sent a Pict to play the felon here.
Yet Caledonia claims some native worth,
As dull Boeotia gave a Pindar birth;
So may her few, the lettered and the brave,
Bound to no clime, and victors of the grave,
Shake off the sordid dust of such a land,
And shine like children of a happier strand;
As once, of yore, in some obnoxious place,
Ten names (if found) had saved a wretched race.”
“Mortal!” the blue-eyed maid resumed, “once more
Bear back my mandate to thy native shore.
Though fallen, alas! this vengeance yet is mine,
To turn my counsels far from lands like thine.
Hear then in silence Pallas’ stern behest;
Hear and believe, for Time will tell the rest.
“First on the head of him who did this deed
My curse shall light,—on him and all his seed:
Without one spark of intellectual fire,
Be all the sons as senseless as the sire:
If one with wit the parent brood disgrace,
Believe him bastard of a brighter race:
Still with his hireling artists let him prate,
And Folly’s praise repay for Wisdom’s hate;
Long of their Patron’s gusto let them tell,
Whose noblest, native gusto is—to sell:
To sell, and make—may shame record the day!—
The State—Receiver of his pilfered prey.
Meantime, the flattering, feeble dotard, West,
Europe’s worst dauber, and poor Britain’s best,
With palsied hand shall turn each model o’er,
And own himself an infant of fourscore.
Be all the Bruisers culled from all St. Giles’,
That Art and Nature may compare their styles;
While brawny brutes in stupid wonder stare,
And marvel at his Lordship’s ’stone shop’ there.
Round the thronged gate shall sauntering coxcombs creep
To lounge and lucubrate, to prate and peep;
While many a languid maid, with longing sigh,
On giant statues casts the curious eye;
The room with transient glance appears to skim,
Yet marks the mighty back and length of limb;
Mourns o’er the difference of now and then;
Exclaims, ‘These Greeks indeed were proper men!’
Draws slight comparisons of ‘these’ with ‘those’,
And envies Laïs all her Attic beaux.
When shall a modern maid have swains like these?
Alas! Sir Harry is no Hercules!
And last of all, amidst the gaping crew,
Some calm spectator, as he takes his view,
In silent indignation mixed with grief,
Admires the plunder, but abhors the thief.
Oh, loathed in life, nor pardoned in the dust,
May Hate pursue his sacrilegious lust!
Linked with the fool that fired the Ephesian dome,
Shall vengeance follow far beyond the tomb,
And Eratostratus and Elgin shine
In many a branding page and burning line;
Alike reserved for aye to stand accursed,
Perchance the second blacker than the first.
“So let him stand, through ages yet unborn,
Fixed statue on the pedestal of Scorn;
Though not for him alone revenge shall wait,
But fits thy country for her coming fate:
Hers were the deeds that taught her lawless son
To do what oft Britannia’s self had done.
Look to the Baltic—blazing from afar,
Your old Ally yet mourns perfidious war.
Not to such deeds did Pallas lend her aid,
Or break the compact which herself had made;
Far from such counsels, from the faithless field
She fled—but left behind her Gorgon shield;
A fatal gift that turned your friends to stone,
And left lost Albion hated and alone.
“Look to the East, where Ganges’ swarthy race
Shall shake your tyrant empire to its base;
Lo! there Rebellion rears her ghastly head,
And glares the Nemesis of native dead;
Till Indus rolls a deep purpureal flood,
And claims his long arrear of northern blood.
So may ye perish!—Pallas, when she gave
Your free-born rights, forbade ye to enslave.
“Look on your Spain!—she clasps the hand she hates,
But boldly clasps, and thrusts you from her gates.
Bear witness, bright Barossa! thou canst tell
Whose were the sons that bravely fought and fell.
But Lusitania, kind and dear ally,
Can spare a few to fight, and sometimes fly.
Oh glorious field! by Famine fiercely won,
The Gaul retires for once, and all is done!
But when did Pallas teach, that one retreat
Retrieved three long Olympiads of defeat?
“Look last at home—ye love not to look there
On the grim smile of comfortless despair:
Your city saddens: loud though Revel howls,
Here Famine faints, and yonder Rapine prowls.
See all alike of more or less bereft;
No misers tremble when there’s nothing left.
‘Blest paper credit;’ who shall dare to sing?
It clogs like lead Corruption’s weary wing.
Yet Pallas pluck’d each Premier by the ear,
Who Gods and men alike disdained to hear;
But one, repentant o’er a bankrupt state,
On Pallas calls,—but calls, alas! too late:
Then raves for’——’; to that Mentor bends,
Though he and Pallas never yet were friends.
Him senates hear, whom never yet they heard,
Contemptuous once, and now no less absurd.
So, once of yore, each reasonable frog,
Swore faith and fealty to his sovereign ‘log.’
Thus hailed your rulers their patrician clod,
As Egypt chose an onion for a God.
“Now fare ye well! enjoy your little hour;
Go, grasp the shadow of your vanished power;
Gloss o’er the failure of each fondest scheme;
Your strength a name, your bloated wealth a dream.
Gone is that Gold, the marvel of mankind.
And Pirates barter all that’s left behind.
No more the hirelings, purchased near and far,
Crowd to the ranks of mercenary war.
The idle merchant on the useless quay
Droops o’er the bales no bark may bear away;
Or, back returning, sees rejected stores
Rot piecemeal on his own encumbered shores:
The starved mechanic breaks his rusting loom,
And desperate mans him ‘gainst the coming doom.
Then in the Senates of your sinking state
Show me the man whose counsels may have weight.
Vain is each voice where tones could once command;
E’en factions cease to charm a factious land:
Yet jarring sects convulse a sister Isle,
And light with maddening hands the mutual pile.
“’Tis done, ’tis past—since Pallas warns in vain;
The Furies seize her abdicated reign:
Wide o’er the realm they wave their kindling brands,
And wring her vitals with their fiery hands.
But one convulsive struggle still remains,
And Gaul shall weep ere Albion wear her chains,
The bannered pomp of war, the glittering files,
O’er whose gay trappings stern Bellona smiles;
The brazen trump, the spirit-stirring drum,
That bid the foe defiance ere they come;
The hero bounding at his country’s call,
The glorious death that consecrates his fall,
Swell the young heart with visionary charms.
And bid it antedate the joys of arms.
But know, a lesson you may yet be taught,
With death alone are laurels cheaply bought;
Not in the conflict Havoc seeks delight,
His day of mercy is the day of fight.
But when the field is fought, the battle won,
Though drenched with gore, his woes are but begun:
His deeper deeds as yet ye know by name;
The slaughtered peasant and the ravished dame,
The rifled mansion and the foe-reaped field,
Ill suit with souls at home, untaught to yield.
Say with what eye along the distant down
Would flying burghers mark the blazing town?
How view the column of ascending flames
Shake his red shadow o’er the startled Thames?
Nay, frown not, Albion! for the torch was thine
That lit such pyres from Tagus to the Rhine:
Now should they burst on thy devoted coast,
Go, ask thy bosom who deserves them most?
The law of Heaven and Earth is life for life,
And she who raised, in vain regrets, the strife.”
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light;
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those which dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanoes, and their mountain-torch;
A fearful hope was all the world contained;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguished with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them: some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnashed their teeth and howled; the wild birds shrieked,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled
And twined themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food;
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again;—a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death,
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famished men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the drooping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famished by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heaped a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage: they raked up,
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects—saw, and shrieked, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal; as they dropped
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The Moon, their mistress, had expired before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perished! Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe!
“I cannot but remember such things were,
And were most dear to me.”
[”That were most precious to me.”
‘Macbeth’, act iv, sc. 3.]
When slow Disease, with all her host of Pains,
Chills the warm tide, which flows along the veins;
When Health, affrighted, spreads her rosy wing,
And flies with every changing gale of spring;
Not to the aching frame alone confin’d,
Unyielding pangs assail the drooping mind:
What grisly forms, the spectre-train of woe,
Bid shuddering Nature shrink beneath the blow,
With Resignation wage relentless strife,
While Hope retires appall’d, and clings to life.
Yet less the pang when, through the tedious hour,
Remembrance sheds around her genial power,
Calls back the vanish’d days to rapture given,
When Love was bliss, and Beauty form’d our heaven;
Or, dear to youth, pourtrays each childish scene,
Those fairy bowers, where all in turn have been.
As when, through clouds that pour the summer storm,
The orb of day unveils his distant form,
Gilds with faint beams the crystal dews of rain
And dimly twinkles o’er the watery plain;
Thus, while the future dark and cheerless gleams,
The Sun of Memory, glowing through my dreams,
Though sunk the radiance of his former blaze,
To scenes far distant points his paler rays,
Still rules my senses with unbounded sway,
The past confounding with the present day.
Oft does my heart indulge the rising thought,
Which still recurs, unlook’d for and unsought;
My soul to Fancy’s fond suggestion yields,
And roams romantic o’er her airy fields.
Scenes of my youth, develop’d, crowd to view,
To which I long have bade a last adieu!
Seats of delight, inspiring youthful themes;
Friends lost to me, for aye, except in dreams;
Some, who in marble prematurely sleep,
Whose forms I now remember, but to weep;
Some, who yet urge the same scholastic course
Of early science, future fame the source;
Who, still contending in the studious race,
In quick rotation, fill the senior place!
These, with a thousand visions, now unite,
To dazzle, though they please, my aching sight.
IDA! blest spot, where Science holds her reign,
How joyous, once, I join’d thy youthful train!
Bright, in idea, gleams thy lofty spire,
Again, I mingle with thy playful quire;
Our tricks of mischief, every childish game,
Unchang’d by time or distance, seem the same;
Through winding paths, along the glade I trace
The social smile of every welcome face;
My wonted haunts, my scenes of joy or woe,
Each early boyish friend, or youthful foe,
Our feuds dissolv’d, but not my friendship past,—
I bless the former, and forgive the last.
Hours of my youth! when, nurtur’d in my breast,
To Love a stranger, Friendship made me blest,—
Friendship, the dear peculiar bond of youth,
When every artless bosom throbs with truth;
Untaught by worldly wisdom how to feign,
And check each impulse with prudential rein;
When, all we feel, our honest souls disclose,
In love to friends, in open hate to foes;
No varnish’d tales the lips of youth repeat,
No dear-bought knowledge purchased by deceit;
Hypocrisy, the gift of lengthen’d years,
Matured by age, the garb of Prudence wears:
When, now, the Boy is ripen’d into Man,
His careful Sire chalks forth some wary plan;
Instructs his Son from Candour’s path to shrink,
Smoothly to speak, and cautiously to think;
Still to assent, and never to deny—
A patron’s praise can well reward the lie:
And who, when Fortune’s warning voice is heard,
Would lose his opening prospects for a word?
Although, against that word, his heart rebel,
And Truth, indignant, all his bosom swell.
Away with themes like this! not mine the task,
From flattering friends to tear the hateful mask;
Let keener bards delight in Satire’s sting,
My Fancy soars not on Detraction’s wing:
Once, and but once, she aim’d a deadly blow,
To hurl Defiance on a secret Foe;
But when that foe, from feeling or from shame,
The cause unknown, yet still to me the same,
Warn’d by some friendly hint, perchance, retir’d,
With this submission all her rage expired.
From dreaded pangs that feeble Foe to save,
She hush’d her young resentment, and forgave.
Or, if my Muse a Pedant’s portrait drew,
POMPOSUS’ virtues are but known to few:
I never fear’d the young usurper’s nod,
And he who wields must, sometimes, feel the rod.
If since on Granta’s failings, known to all
Who share the converse of a college hall,
She sometimes trifled in a lighter strain,
’Tis past, and thus she will not sin again:
Soon must her early song for ever cease,
And, all may rail, when I shall rest in peace.
Here, first remember’d be the joyous band,
Who hail’d me chief, obedient to command;
Who join’d with me, in every boyish sport,
Their first adviser, and their last resort;
Nor shrunk beneath the upstart pedant’s frown,
Or all the sable glories of his gown;
Who, thus, transplanted from his father’s school,
Unfit to govern, ignorant of rule—
Succeeded him, whom all unite to praise,
The dear preceptor of my early days,
PROBUS, the pride of science, and the boast—
To IDA now, alas! for ever lost!
With him, for years, we search’d the classic page,
And fear’d the Master, though we lov’d the Sage:
Retir’d at last, his small yet peaceful seat
From learning’s labour is the blest retreat.
POMPOSUS fills his magisterial chair;
POMPOSUS governs,—but, my Muse, forbear:
Contempt, in silence, be the pedant’s lot,
His name and precepts be alike forgot;
No more his mention shall my verse degrade,—
To him my tribute is already paid.
High, through those elms with hoary branches crown’d
Fair IDA’S bower adorns the landscape round;
There Science, from her favour’d seat, surveys
The vale where rural Nature claims her praise;
To her awhile resigns her youthful train,
Who move in joy, and dance along the plain;
In scatter’d groups, each favour’d haunt pursue,
Repeat old pastimes, and discover new;
Flush’d with his rays, beneath the noontide Sun,
In rival bands, between the wickets run,
Drive o’er the sward the ball with active force,
Or chase with nimble feet its rapid course.
But these with slower steps direct their way,
Where Brent’s cool waves in limpid currents stray,
While yonder few search out some green retreat,
And arbours shade them from the summer heat:
Others, again, a pert and lively crew,
Some rough and thoughtless stranger plac’d in view,
With frolic quaint their antic jests expose,
And tease the grumbling rustic as he goes;
Nor rest with this, but many a passing fray
Tradition treasures for a future day:
“’Twas here the gather’d swains for vengeance fought,
And here we earn’d the conquest dearly bought:
Here have we fled before superior might,
And here renew’d the wild tumultuous fight.”
While thus our souls with early passions swell,
In lingering tones resounds the distant bell;
Th’ allotted hour of daily sport is o’er,
And Learning beckons from her temple’s door.
No splendid tablets grace her simple hall,
But ruder records fill the dusky wall:
There, deeply carv’d, behold! each Tyro’s name
Secures its owner’s academic fame;
Here mingling view the names of Sire and Son,
The one long grav’d, the other just begun:
These shall survive alike when Son and Sire,
Beneath one common stroke of fate expire;
Perhaps, their last memorial these alone,
Denied, in death, a monumental stone,
Whilst to the gale in mournful cadence wave
The sighing weeds, that hide their nameless grave.
And, here, my name, and many an early friend’s,
Along the wall in lengthen’d line extends.
Though, still, our deeds amuse the youthful race,
Who tread our steps, and fill our former place,
Who young obeyed their lords in silent awe,
Whose nod commanded, and whose voice was law;
And now, in turn, possess the reins of power,
To rule, the little Tyrants of an hour;
Though sometimes, with the Tales of ancient day,
They pass the dreary Winter’s eve away;
“And, thus, our former rulers stemm’d the tide,
And, thus, they dealt the combat, side by side;
Just in this place, the mouldering walls they scaled,
Nor bolts, nor bars, against their strength avail’d;
Here PROBUS came, the rising fray to quell,
And, here, he falter’d forth his last farewell;
And, here, one night abroad they dared to roam,
While bold POMPOSUS bravely staid at home;”
While thus they speak, the hour must soon arrive,
When names of these, like ours, alone survive:
Yet a few years, one general wreck will whelm
The faint remembrance of our fairy realm.
Dear honest race! though now we meet no more,
One last long look on what we were before—
Our first kind greetings, and our last adieu—
Drew tears from eyes unus’d to weep with you.
Through splendid circles, Fashion’s gaudy world,
Where Folly’s glaring standard waves unfurl’d,
I plung’d to drown in noise my fond regret,
And all I sought or hop’d was to forget:
Vain wish! if, chance, some well-remember’d face,
Some old companion of my early race,
Advanc’d to claim his friend with honest joy,
My eyes, my heart, proclaim’d me still a boy;
The glittering scene, the fluttering groups around,
Were quite forgotten when my friend was found;
The smiles of Beauty, (for, alas! I’ve known
What ’tis to bend before Love’s mighty throne;)
The smiles of Beauty, though those smiles were dear,
Could hardly charm me, when that friend was near:
My thoughts bewilder’d in the fond surprise,
The woods of IDA danc’d before my eyes;
I saw the sprightly wand’rers pour along,
I saw, and join’d again the joyous throng;
Panting, again I trac’d her lofty grove,
And Friendship’s feelings triumph’d over Love.
Yet, why should I alone with such delight
Retrace the circuit of my former flight?
Is there no cause beyond the common claim,
Endear’d to all in childhood’s very name?
Ah! sure some stronger impulse vibrates here,
Which whispers friendship will be doubly dear
To one, who thus for kindred hearts must roam,
And seek abroad, the love denied at home.
Those hearts, dear IDA, have I found in thee,
A home, a world, a paradise to me.
Stern Death forbade my orphan youth to share
The tender guidance of a Father’s care;
Can Rank, or e’en a Guardian’s name supply
The love, which glistens in a Father’s eye?
For this, can Wealth, or Title’s sound atone,
Made, by a Parent’s early loss, my own?
What Brother springs a Brother’s love to seek?
What Sister’s gentle kiss has prest my cheek?
For me, how dull the vacant moments rise,
To no fond bosom link’d by kindred ties!
Oft, in the progress of some fleeting dream,
Fraternal smiles, collected round me seem;
While still the visions to my heart are prest,
The voice of Love will murmur in my rest:
I hear—I wake—and in the sound rejoice!
I hear again,—but, ah! no Brother’s voice.
A Hermit, ’midst of crowds, I fain must stray
Alone, though thousand pilgrims fill the way;
While these a thousand kindred wreaths entwine,
I cannot call one single blossom mine:
What then remains? in solitude to groan,
To mix in friendship, or to sigh alone?
Thus, must I cling to some endearing hand,
And none more dear, than IDA’S social band.
Alonzo! best and dearest of my friends,
Thy name ennobles him, who thus commends:
From this fond tribute thou canst gain no praise;
The praise is his, who now that tribute pays.
Oh! in the promise of thy early youth,
If Hope anticipate the words of Truth!
Some loftier bard shall sing thy glorious name,
To build his own, upon thy deathless fame:
Friend of my heart, and foremost of the list
Of those with whom I lived supremely blest;
Oft have we drain’d the font of ancient lore,
Though drinking deeply, thirsting still the more;
Yet, when Confinement’s lingering hour was done,
Our sports, our studies, and our souls were one:
Together we impell’d the flying ball,
Together waited in our tutor’s hall;
Together join’d in cricket’s manly toil,
Or shar’d the produce of the river’s spoil;
Or plunging from the green declining shore,
Our pliant limbs the buoyant billows bore:
In every element, unchang’d, the same,
All, all that brothers should be, but the name.
Nor, yet, are you forgot, my jocund Boy!
DAVUS, the harbinger of childish joy;
For ever foremost in the ranks of fun,
The laughing herald of the harmless pun;
Yet, with a breast of such materials made,
Anxious to please, of pleasing half afraid;
Candid and liberal, with a heart of steel
In Danger’s path, though not untaught to feel.
Still, I remember, in the factious strife,
The rustic’s musket aim’d against my life:
High pois’d in air the massy weapon hung,
A cry of horror burst from every tongue:
Whilst I, in combat with another foe,
Fought on, unconscious of th’ impending blow;
Your arm, brave Boy, arrested his career—
Forward you sprung, insensible to fear;
Disarm’d, and baffled by your conquering hand,
The grovelling Savage roll’d upon the sand:
An act like this, can simple thanks repay?
Or all the labours of a grateful lay?
Oh no! whene’er my breast forgets the deed,
That instant, DAVUS, it deserves to bleed.
LYCUS! on me thy claims are justly great:
Thy milder virtues could my Muse relate,
To thee, alone, unrivall’d, would belong
The feeble efforts of my lengthen’d song.
Well canst thou boast, to lead in senates fit,
A Spartan firmness, with Athenian wit:
Though yet, in embryo, these perfections shine,
LYCUS! thy father’s fame will soon be thine.
Where Learning nurtures the superior mind,
What may we hope, from genius thus refin’d;
When Time, at length, matures thy growing years,
How wilt thou tower, above thy fellow peers!
Prudence and sense, a spirit bold and free,
With Honour’s soul, united beam in thee.
Shall fair EURYALUS, pass by unsung?
From ancient lineage, not unworthy, sprung:
What, though one sad dissension bade us part,
That name is yet embalm’d within my heart,
Yet, at the mention, does that heart rebound,
And palpitate, responsive to the sound;
Envy dissolved our ties, and not our will:
We once were friends,—I’ll think, we are so still.
A form unmatch’d in Nature’s partial mould,
A heart untainted, we, in thee, behold:
Yet, not the Senate’s thunder thou shall wield,
Nor seek for glory, in the tented field:
To minds of ruder texture, these be given—
Thy soul shall nearer soar its native heaven.
Haply, in polish’d courts might be thy seat,
But, that thy tongue could never forge deceit:
The courtier’s supple bow, and sneering smile,
The flow of compliment, the slippery wile,
Would make that breast, with indignation, burn,
And, all the glittering snares, to tempt thee, spurn.
Domestic happiness will stamp thy fate;
Sacred to love, unclouded e’er by hate;
The world admire thee, and thy friends adore;—
Ambition’s slave, alone, would toil for more.
Now last, but nearest, of the social band,
See honest, open, generous CLEON stand;
With scarce one speck, to cloud the pleasing scene,
No vice degrades that purest soul serene.
On the same day, our studious race begun,
On the same day, our studious race was run;
Thus, side by side, we pass’d our first career,
Thus, side by side, we strove for many a year:
At last, concluded our scholastic life,
We neither conquer’d in the classic strife:
As Speakers, each supports an equal name,
And crowds allow to both a partial fame:
To soothe a youthful Rival’s early pride,
Though Cleon’s candour would the palm divide,
Yet Candour’s self compels me now to own,
Justice awards it to my Friend alone.
Oh! Friends regretted, Scenes for ever dear,
Remembrance hails you with her warmest tear!
Drooping, she bends o’er pensive Fancy’s urn,
To trace the hours, which never can return;
Yet, with the retrospection loves to dwell,
And soothe the sorrows of her last farewell!
Yet greets the triumph of my boyish mind,
As infant laurels round my head were twin’d;
When PROBUS’ praise repaid my lyric song,
Or plac’d me higher in the studious throng;
Or when my first harangue receiv’d applause,
His sage instruction the primeval cause,
What gratitude, to him, my soul possest,
While hope of dawning honours fill’d my breast!
For all my humble fame, to him alone,
The praise is due, who made that fame my own.
Oh! could I soar above these feeble lays,
These young effusions of my early days,
To him my Muse her noblest strain would give,
The song might perish, but the theme might live.
Yet, why for him the needless verse essay?
His honour’d name requires no vain display:
By every son of grateful IDA blest,
It finds an echo in each youthful breast;
A fame beyond the glories of the proud,
Or all the plaudits of the venal crowd.
IDA! not yet exhausted is the theme,
Nor clos’d the progress of my youthful dream.
How many a friend deserves the grateful strain!
What scenes of childhood still unsung remain!
Yet let me hush this echo of the past,
This parting song, the dearest and the last;
And brood in secret o’er those hours of joy,
To me a silent and a sweet employ,
While, future hope and fear alike unknown,
I think with pleasure on the past alone;
Yes, to the past alone, my heart confine,
And chase the phantom of what once was mine.
IDA! still o’er thy hills in joy preside,
And proudly steer through Time’s eventful tide:
Still may thy blooming Sons thy name revere,
Smile in thy bower, but quit thee with a tear;—
That tear, perhaps, the fondest which will flow,
O’er their last scene of happiness below:
Tell me, ye hoary few, who glide along,
The feeble Veterans of some former throng,
Whose friends, like Autumn leaves by tempests whirl’d,
Are swept for ever from this busy world;
Revolve the fleeting moments of your youth,
While Care has yet withheld her venom’d tooth;
Say, if Remembrance days like these endears,
Beyond the rapture of succeeding years?
Say, can Ambition’s fever’d dream bestow
So sweet a balm to soothe your hours of woe?
Can Treasures hoarded for some thankless Son,
Can Royal Smiles, or Wreaths by slaughter won,
Can Stars or Ermine, Man’s maturer Toys,
(For glittering baubles are not left to Boys,)
Recall one scene so much belov’d to view,
As those where Youth her garland twin’d for you?
Ah, no! amid the gloomy calm of age
You turn with faltering hand life’s varied page,
Peruse the record of your days on earth,
Unsullied only where it marks your birth;
Still, lingering, pause above each chequer’d leaf,
And blot with Tears the sable lines of Grief;
Where Passion o’er the theme her mantle threw,
Or weeping Virtue sigh’d a faint adieu;
But bless the scroll which fairer words adorn,
Trac’d by the rosy finger of the Morn;
When Friendship bow’d before the shrine of truth,
And Love, without his pinion, smil’d on Youth.
“It is the voice of years, that are gone! they roll before me, with
all their deeds.”
NEWSTEAD! fast-falling, once-resplendent dome!
Religion’s shrine! repentant HENRY’S pride!
Of Warriors, Monks, and Dames the cloister’d tomb,
Whose pensive shades around thy ruins glide,
Hail to thy pile! more honour’d in thy fall,
Than modern mansions, in their pillar’d state;
Proudly majestic frowns thy vaulted hall,
Scowling defiance on the blasts of fate.
No mail-clad Serfs, obedient to their Lord,
In grim array, the crimson cross demand;
Or gay assemble round the festive board,
Their chief’s retainers, an immortal band.
Else might inspiring Fancy’s magic eye
Retrace their progress, through the lapse of time;
Marking each ardent youth, ordain’d to die,
A votive pilgrim, in Judea’s clime.
But not from thee, dark pile! departs the Chief;
His feudal realm in other regions lay:
In thee the wounded conscience courts relief,
Retiring from the garish blaze of day.
Yes! in thy gloomy cells and shades profound,
The monk abjur’d a world, he ne’er could view;
Or blood-stain’d Guilt repenting, solace found,
Or Innocence, from stern Oppression, flew.
A Monarch bade thee from that wild arise,
Where Sherwood’s outlaws, once, were wont to prowl;
And Superstition’s crimes, of various dyes,
Sought shelter in the Priest’s protecting cowl.
Where, now, the grass exhales a murky dew,
The humid pall of life-extinguish’d clay,
In sainted fame, the sacred Fathers grew,
Nor raised their pious voices, but to pray.
Where, now, the bats their wavering wings extend,
Soon as the gloaming spreads her waning shade;
The choir did, oft, their mingling vespers blend,
Or matin orisons to Mary paid.
Years roll on years; to ages, ages yield;
Abbots to Abbots, in a line, succeed:
Religion’s charter, their protecting shield,
Till royal sacrilege their doom decreed.
One holy HENRY rear’d the Gothic walls,
And bade the pious inmates rest in peace;
Another HENRY the kind gift recalls,
And bids devotion’s hallow’d echoes cease.
Vain is each threat, or supplicating prayer;
He drives them exiles from their blest abode,
To roam a dreary world, in deep despair—
No friend, no home, no refuge, but their God.
Hark! how the hall, resounding to the strain,
Shakes with the martial music’s novel din!
The heralds of a warrior’s haughty reign,
High crested banners wave thy walls within.
Of changing sentinels the distant hum,
The mirth of feasts, the clang of burnish’d arms,
The braying trumpet, and the hoarser drum,
Unite in concert with increas’d alarms.
An abbey once, a regal fortress now,
Encircled by insulting rebel powers;
War’s dread machines o’erhang thy threat’ning brow,
And dart destruction, in sulphureous showers.
Ah! vain defence! the hostile traitor’s siege,
Though oft repuls’d, by guile o’ercomes the brave;
His thronging foes oppress the faithful Liege,
Rebellion’s reeking standards o’er him wave.
Not unaveng’d the raging Baron yields;
The blood of traitors smears the purple plain;
Unconquer’d still, his falchion there he wields,
And days of glory, yet, for him remain.
Still, in that hour, the warrior wish’d to strew
Self-gather’d laurels on a self-sought grave;
But Charles’ protecting genius hither flew,
The monarch’s friend, the monarch’s hope, to save.
Trembling, she snatch’d him from th’ unequal strife,
In other fields the torrent to repel;
For nobler combats, here, reserv’d his life,
To lead the band, where godlike FALKLAND fell.
From thee, poor pile! to lawless plunder given,
While dying groans their painful requiem sound,
Far different incense, now, ascends to Heaven,
Such victims wallow on the gory ground.
There many a pale and ruthless Robber’s corse,
Noisome and ghast, defiles thy sacred sod;
O’er mingling man, and horse commix’d with horse,
Corruption’s heap, the savage spoilers trod.
Graves, long with rank and sighing weeds o’erspread,
Ransack’d resign, perforce, their mortal mould:
From ruffian fangs, escape not e’en the dead,
Racked from repose, in search for buried gold.
Hush’d is the harp, unstrung the warlike lyre,
The minstrel’s palsied hand reclines in death;
No more he strikes the quivering chords with fire,
Or sings the glories of the martial wreath.
At length the sated murderers, gorged with prey,
Retire: the clamour of the fight is o’er;
Silence again resumes her awful sway,
And sable Horror guards the massy door.
Here, Desolation holds her dreary court:
What satellites declare her dismal reign!
Shrieking their dirge, ill-omen’d birds resort,
To flit their vigils, in the hoary fane.
Soon a new Morn’s restoring beams dispel
The clouds of Anarchy from Britain’s skies;
The fierce Usurper seeks his native hell,
And Nature triumphs, as the Tyrant dies.
With storms she welcomes his expiring groans;
Whirlwinds, responsive, greet his labouring breath;
Earth shudders, as her caves receive his bones,
Loathing the offering of so dark a death.
The legal Ruler now resumes the helm,
He guides through gentle seas, the prow of state;
Hope cheers, with wonted smiles, the peaceful realm,
And heals the bleeding wounds of wearied Hate.
The gloomy tenants, Newstead! of thy cells,
Howling, resign their violated nest;
Again, the Master on his tenure dwells,
Enjoy’d, from absence, with enraptured zest.
Vassals, within thy hospitable pale,
Loudly carousing, bless their Lord’s return;
Culture, again, adorns the gladdening vale,
And matrons, once lamenting, cease to mourn.
A thousand songs, on tuneful echo, float,
Unwonted foliage mantles o’er the trees;
And, hark! the horns proclaim a mellow note,
The hunters’ cry hangs lengthening on the breeze.
Beneath their coursers’ hoofs the valleys shake;
What fears! what anxious hopes! attend the chase!
The dying stag seeks refuge in the lake;
Exulting shouts announce the finish’d race.
Ah happy days! too happy to endure!
Such simple sports our plain forefathers knew:
No splendid vices glitter’d to allure;
Their joys were many, as their cares were few.
From these descending, Sons to Sires succeed;
Time steals along, and Death uprears his dart;
Another Chief impels the foaming steed,
Another Crowd pursue the panting hart.
Newstead! what saddening change of scene is thine!
Thy yawning arch betokens slow decay;
The last and youngest of a noble line,
Now holds thy mouldering turrets in his sway.
Deserted now, he scans thy gray worn towers;
Thy vaults, where dead of feudal ages sleep;
Thy cloisters, pervious to the wintry showers;
These, these he views, and views them but to weep.
Yet are his tears no emblem of regret:
Cherish’d Affection only bids them flow;
Pride, Hope, and Love, forbid him to forget,
But warm his bosom, with impassion’d glow.
Yet he prefers thee, to the gilded domes,
Or gewgaw grottos, of the vainly great;
Yet lingers ’mid thy damp and mossy tombs,
Nor breathes a murmur ‘gainst the will of Fate.
Haply thy sun, emerging, yet, may shine,
Thee to irradiate with meridian ray;
Hours, splendid as the past, may still be thine,
And bless thy future, as thy former day.
When we two parted
In silence and tears,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sank chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame:
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well:—
Long, long shall I rue thee
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met—
In silence I grieve
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.
Thy verse is “sad” enough, no doubt:
A devilish deal more sad than witty!
Why we should weep I can’t find out,
Unless for thee we weep in pity.
Yet there is one I pity more;
And much, alas! I think he needs it:
For he, I’m sure, will suffer sore,
Who, to his own misfortune, reads it.
Thy rhymes, without the aid of magic,
May once be read—but never after:
Yet their effect’s by no means tragic,
Although by far too dull for laughter.
But would you make our bosoms bleed,
And of no common pang complain—
If you would make us weep indeed,
Tell us, you’ll read them o’er again.
To sit on rocks, to muse o’er flood and fell,
To slowly trace the forest’s shady scene,
Where things that own not man’s dominion dwell,
And mortal foot hath ne’er or rarely been;
To climb the trackless mountain all unseen,
With the wild flock that never needs a fold;
Alone o’er steeps and foaming falls to lean;
This is not solitude, ’tis but to hold
Converse with Nature’s charms, and view her stores unrolled.
But midst the crowd, the hurry, the shock of men,
To hear, to see, to feel and to possess,
And roam alone, the world’s tired denizen,
With none who bless us, none whom we can bless;
Minions of splendour shrinking from distress!
None that, with kindred consciousness endued,
If we were not, would seem to smile the less
Of all the flattered, followed, sought and sued;
This is to be alone; this, this is solitude!
When fierce conflicting passions urge
The breast, where love is wont to glow,
What mind can stem the stormy surge
Which rolls the tide of human woe?
The hope of praise, the dread of shame,
Can rouse the tortur’d breast no more;
The wild desire, the guilty flame,
Absorbs each wish it felt before.
But if affection gently thrills
The soul, by purer dreams possest,
The pleasing balm of mortal ills
In love can soothe the aching breast:
If thus thou comest in disguise,
Fair Venus! from thy native heaven,
What heart, unfeeling, would despise
The sweetest boon the Gods have given?
But, never from thy golden bow,
May I beneath the shaft expire!
Whose creeping venom, sure and slow,
Awakes an all-consuming fire:
Ye racking doubts! ye jealous fears!
With others wage internal war;
Repentance! source of future tears,
From me be ever distant far!
May no distracting thoughts destroy
The holy calm of sacred love!
May all the hours be winged with joy,
Which hover faithful hearts above!
Fair Venus! on thy myrtle shrine
May I with some fond lover sigh!
Whose heart may mingle pure with mine,
With me to live, with me to die!
My native soil! belov’d before,
Now dearer, as my peaceful home,
Ne’er may I quit thy rocky shore,
A hapless banish’d wretch to roam!
This very day, this very hour,
May I resign this fleeting breath!
Nor quit my silent humble bower;
A doom, to me, far worse than death.
Have I not heard the exile’s sigh,
And seen the exile’s silent tear,
Through distant climes condemn’d to fly,
A pensive, weary wanderer here?
Ah! hapless dame! no sire bewails,
No friend thy wretched fate deplores,
No kindred voice with rapture hails
Thy steps within a stranger’s doors.
Perish the fiend! whose iron heart
To fair affection’s truth unknown,
Bids her he fondly lov’d depart,
Unpitied, helpless, and alone;
Who ne’er unlocks with silver key,
The milder treasures of his soul;
May such a friend be far from me,
And Ocean’s storms between us roll!
Mingle with the genial bowl
The Rose, the ‘flow’ret’ of the Soul,
The Rose and Grape together quaff’d,
How doubly sweet will be the draught!
With Roses crown our jovial brows,
While every cheek with Laughter glows;
While Smiles and Songs, with Wine incite,
To wing our moments with Delight.
Rose by far the fairest birth,
Which Spring and Nature cull from Earth—
Rose whose sweetest perfume given,
Breathes our thoughts from Earth to Heaven.
Rose whom the Deities above,
From Jove to Hebe, dearly love,
When Cytherea’s blooming Boy,
Flies lightly through the dance of Joy,
With him the Graces then combine,
And rosy wreaths their locks entwine.
Then will I sing divinely crown’d,
With dusky leaves my temples bound—
Lyæus! in thy bowers of pleasure,
I’ll wake a wildly thrilling measure.
There will my gentle Girl and I,
Along the mazes sportive fly,
Will bend before thy potent throne—
Rose, Wine, and Beauty, all my own.
Away with your fictions of flimsy romance,
Those tissues of falsehood which Folly has wove;
Give me the mild beam of the soul-breathing glance,
Or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love.
Ye rhymers, whose bosoms with fantasy glow,
Whose pastoral passions are made for the grove;
From what blest inspiration your sonnets would flow,
Could you ever have tasted the first kiss of love.
If Apollo should e’er his assistance refuse,
Or the Nine be dispos’d from your service to rove,
Invoke them no more, bid adieu to the Muse,
And try the effect, of the first kiss of love.
I hate you, ye cold compositions of art,
Though prudes may condemn me, and bigots reprove;
I court the effusions that spring from the heart,
Which throbs, with delight, to the first kiss of love.
Your shepherds, your flocks, those fantastical themes,
Perhaps may amuse, yet they never can move:
Arcadia displays but a region of dreams;
What are visions like these, to the first kiss of love?
Oh! cease to affirm that man, since his birth,
From Adam, till now, has with wretchedness strove;
Some portion of Paradise still is on earth,
And Eden revives, in the first kiss of love.
When age chills the blood, when our pleasures are past—
For years fleet away with the wings of the dove—
The dearest remembrance will still be the last,
Our sweetest memorial, the first kiss of love.
If Fate should seal my Death to-morrow,
(Though much I hope she will postpone it,)
I’ve held a share Joy and Sorrow,
Enough for Ten; and here I own it.
I’ve lived, as many others live,
And yet, I think, with more enjoyment;
For could I through my days again live,
I’d pass them in the ’same’ employment.
That ‘is’ to say, with ’some exception’,
For though I will not make confession,
I’ve seen too much of man’s deception
Ever again to trust profession.
Some sage ‘Mammas’ with gesture haughty,
Pronounce me quite a youthful Sinner—
But ‘Daughters’ say, “although he’s naughty,
You must not check a ‘Young Beginner’!”
I’ve loved, and many damsels know it—
But whom I don’t intend to mention,
As ‘certain stanzas’ also show it,
‘Some’ say ‘deserving Reprehension’.
Some ancient Dames, of virtue fiery,
(Unless Report does much belie them,)
Have lately made a sharp Enquiry,
And much it ‘grieves’ me to ‘deny’ them.
Two whom I lov’d had ‘eyes’ of ‘Blue’,
To which I hope you’ve no objection;
The ‘Rest’ had eyes of ‘darker Hue’—
Each Nymph, of course, was ‘all perfection’.
But here I’ll close my ‘chaste’ Description,
Nor say the deeds of animosity;
For ’silence’ is the best prescription,
To ‘physic’ idle curiosity.
Of ‘Friends’ I’ve known a ‘goodly Hundred’—
For finding ‘one’ in each acquaintance,
By ’some deceived’, by others plunder’d,
‘Friendship’, to me, was not ‘Repentance’.
At ‘School’ I thought like other ‘Children’;
Instead of ‘Brains’, a fine Ingredient,
‘Romance’, my ‘youthful Head bewildering’,
To ‘Sense’ had made me disobedient.
A victim, ‘nearly’ from affection,
To certain ‘very precious scheming’,
The still remaining recollection
Has ‘cured’ my ‘boyish soul’ of ‘Dreaming’.
By Heaven! I rather would forswear
The Earth, and all the joys reserved me,
Than dare again the ’specious Snare’,
From which ‘my Fate’ and ‘Heaven preserved’ me.
Still I possess some Friends who love me—
In each a much esteemed and true one;
The Wealth of Worlds shall never move me
To quit their Friendship, for a new one.
But Becher! you’re a ‘reverend pastor’,
Now take it in consideration,
Whether for penance I should fast, or
Pray for my ’sins’ in expiation.
I own myself the child of ‘Folly’,
But not so wicked as they make me—
I soon must die of melancholy,
If ‘Female’ smiles should e’er forsake me.
‘Philosophers’ have ‘never doubted’,
That ‘Ladies’ Lips’ were made for ‘kisses!’
For ‘Love!’ I could not live without it,
For such a ‘cursed’ place as ‘This is’.
Say, Becher, I shall be forgiven!
If you don’t warrant my salvation,
I must resign all ‘Hopes’ of ‘Heaven’!
For, ‘Faith’, I can’t withstand Temptation.
P.S.—These were written between one and two,
after ’midnight’. I have not ‘corrected’, or ‘revised’.
Translation From Anacreon
I wish to tune my quivering lyre,
To deeds of fame, and notes of fire;
To echo, from its rising swell,
How heroes fought and nations fell,
When Atreus’ sons advanc’d to war,
Or Tyrian Cadmus rov’d afar;
But still, to martial strains unknown,
My lyre recurs to Love alone.
Fir’d with the hope of future fame,
I seek some nobler Hero’s name;
The dying chords are strung anew,
To war, to war, my harp is due:
With glowing strings, the Epic strain
To Jove’s great son I raise again;
Alcides and his glorious deeds,
Beneath whose arm the Hydra bleeds;
All, all in vain; my wayward lyre
Wakes silver notes of soft Desire.
Adieu, ye Chiefs renown’d in arms!
Adieu the clang of War’s alarms!
To other deeds my soul is strung,
And sweeter notes shall now be sung;
My harp shall all its powers reveal,
To tell the tale my heart must feel;
Love, Love alone, my lyre shall claim,
In songs of bliss and sighs of flame.
Rail on, Rail on, ye heartless crew!
My strains were never meant for you;
Remorseless Rancour still reveal,
And damn the verse you cannot feel.
Invoke those kindred passions’ aid,
Whose baleful stings your breasts pervade;
Crush, if you can, the hopes of youth,
Trampling regardless on the Truth:
Truth’s Records you consult in vain,
She will not blast her native strain;
She will assist her votary’s cause,
His will at least be her applause,
Your prayer the gentle Power will spurn;
To Fiction’s motley altar turn,
Who joyful in the fond address
Her favoured worshippers will bless:
And lo! she holds a magic glass,
Where Images reflected pass,
Bent on your knees the Boon receive—
This will assist you to deceive—
The glittering gift was made for you,
Now hold it up to public view;
Lest evil unforeseen betide,
A Mask each canker’d brow shall hide,
(Whilst Truth my sole desire is nigh,
Prepared the danger to defy,)
“There is the Maid’s perverted name,
And there the Poet’s guilty Flame,
Gloaming a deep phosphoric fire,
Threatening—but ere it spreads, retire.
Says Truth Up Virgins, do not fear!
The Comet rolls its Influence here;
’Tis Scandal’s Mirror you perceive,
These dazzling Meteors but deceive—
Approach and touch—Nay do not turn
It blazes there, but will not burn.”—
At once the shivering Mirror flies,
Teeming no more with varnished Lies;
The baffled friends of Fiction start,
Too late desiring to depart—
Truth poising high Ithuriel’s spear
Bids every Fiend unmask’d appear,
The vizard tears from every face,
And dooms them to a dire disgrace.
For e’er they compass their escape,
Each takes perforce a native shape—
The Leader of the wrathful Band,
Behold a portly Female stand!
She raves, impelled by private pique,
This mean unjust revenge to seek;
From vice to save this virtuous Age,
Thus does she vent indecent rage!
What child has she of promise fair,
Who claims a fostering Mother’s care?
Whose Innocence requires defence,
Or forms at least a smooth pretence,
Thus to disturb a harmless Boy,
His humble hope, and peace annoy?
She need not fear the amorous rhyme,
Love will not tempt her future time,
For her his wings have ceased to spread,
No more he flutters round her head;
Her day’s Meridian now is past,
The clouds of Age her Sun o’ercast;
To her the strain was never sent,
For feeling Souls alone ’twas meant—
The verse she seized, unask’d, unbade,
And damn’d, ere yet the whole was read!
Yes! for one single erring verse,
Pronounced an unrelenting Curse;
Yes! at a first and transient view,
Condemned a heart she never knew.—
Can such a verdict then decide,
Which springs from disappointed pride?
Without a wondrous share of Wit,
To judge is such a Matron fit?
The rest of the censorious throng
Who to this zealous Band belong,
To her a general homage pay,
And right or wrong her wish obey:
Why should I point my pen of steel
To break “such flies upon the wheel?”
With minds to Truth and Sense unknown,
Who dare not call their words their own.
Rail on, Rail on, ye heartless Crew!
Your Leader’s grand design pursue:
Secure behind her ample shield,
Yours is the harvest of the field.—
My path with thorns you cannot strew,
Nay more, my warmest thanks are due;
When such as you revile my Name,
Bright beams the rising Sun of Fame,
Chasing the shades of envious night,
Outshining every critic Light.—
Such, such as you will serve to show
Each radiant tint with higher glow.
Vain is the feeble cheerless toil,
Your efforts on yourselves recoil;
Then Glory still for me you raise,
Yours is the Censure, mine the Praise.