Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Poetical Works of Akenside by Mark Akenside

Part 1 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Jonathon Ingram, Robert Prince
and the Online Distribted Proofreading Team







Mark Akenside was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 9th of November
1721. His family were Presbyterian Dissenters, and on the 30th of
that month he was baptized in the meeting, then held in Hanover
Square, by a Mr. Benjamin Bennet. His father, Mark, was a butcher in
respectable circumstances--his mother's name was Mary Lumsden. There
may seem something grotesque in finding the author of the "Pleasures
of Imagination" born in a place usually thought so anti-poetical as
a butcher's shop. And yet similar anomalies abound in the histories
of men of genius. Henry Kirke White, too, was a butcher's son, and
for some time carried his father's basket. The late Thomas Atkinson,
a very clever _littérateur_ of the West of Scotland, was also what
the Scotch call a "flesher's" son. The case of Cardinal Wolsey is
well known. Indeed, we do not understand why any decent calling
should be inimical to the existence--however it may be to the
adequate development--of genius. That is a spark of supernal
inspiration, lighting where it pleases, often conforming, and always
striving to conform, circumstances to itself, and sometimes even
strengthened and purified by the contradictions it meets in life. Nay,
genius has sprung up in stranger quarters than in butcher's shops or
tailor's attics--it has lived and nourished in the dens of robbers,
and in the gross and fetid atmosphere of taverns. There was an
Allen-a-Dale in Robin Hood's gang; it was in the Bell Inn, at
Gloucester, that George Whitefield, the most gifted of popular
orators, was reared; and Bunyan's Muse found him at the
disrespectable trade of a tinker, and amidst the clatter of pots,
and pans, and vulgar curses, made her whisper audible in his ear,
"Come up hither to the Mount of Vision--to the summit of Mount Clear!"

It is said that Akenside was ashamed of his origin--and if so, he
deserved the perpetual recollection of it, produced by a life-long
lameness, originating in a cut from his father's cleaver. It is
fitting that men, and especially great men, should suffer through
their smallnesses of character. The boy was first sent to the
Free School of Newcastle, and thence to a private academy kept by
Mr. Wilson, a Dissenting minister of the place. He began rather early
to display a taste for poetry and verse-writing; and, in April 1737,
we find in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ a set of stanzas, entitled,
"The Virtuoso, in imitation of Spenser's style and stanza," prefaced
by a letter signed Marcus, in which the author, while requesting the
insertion of his piece, pleads the apology of his extreme youth. One
may see something of the future political zeal of the man in the
boy's selection of one of the names of Brutus. The _Gentleman's
Magazine_ was then rising toward that character of a readable medley
and agreeable _olla podrida_, which it long bore, although its
principal contributor--Johnson--did not join its staff till the next
year. Its old numbers will even still repay perusal--at least we
seldom enjoyed a greater treat than when in our boyhood we lighted
on and read some twenty of its brown-hued, stout-backed,
strong-bound volumes, filled with the debates in the Senate of
Lilliput--with Johnson's early Lives and Essays--with mediocre
poetry--interesting scraps of meteorological and scientific
information--ghost stories and fairy tales--alternating with timid
politics, and with sarcasms at the great, veiled under initials,
asterisks, and innuendoes; and even now many, we believe, feel it
quite a luxury to recur from the personalities and floridities of
modern periodicals to its quiet, cool, sober, and sensible pages. To
it Akenside contributed afterwards a fable, called "Ambition and
Content," a "Hymn to Science," and a few more poetical pieces
(written not, as commonly said, in Edinburgh, but in Newcastle, in
1739). It has been asserted that he composed his "Pleasures of
Imagination" while visiting some relations at Morpeth, when only
seventeen years of age; but although he himself assures us that he
spent many happy and inspired hours in that region,

In silence by some powerful hand unseen,"

there is no direct evidence that he then fixed his vague, tumultuous,
youthful impressions in verse. Indeed, the texture and style of the
"Pleasures" forbid the thought that it was a hasty improvisation.
When nearly eighteen years old, Akenside was sent to Edinburgh, to
commence his studies for the pulpit, and received some pecuniary
assistance from the Dissenters' Society. One winter, however, served
to disgust him with the prospects of the profession--which he
resigned for the pursuit of medicine, repaying the contribution he
had received from the society. We know a similar case in the present
day of a well-known, able _littérateur_--once the editor of the
_Westminster Review_--who had been educated at the expense of the
Congregational body in Scotland, but who, after a change of
religious view and of profession, honourably refunded the whole sum.
What were the special reasons why Akenside turned aside from the
Church we are not informed. Perhaps he had fallen into youthful
indiscretions or early scepticism; or perhaps he felt that the
business of a Dissenting pastor was not then, any more than it is now,
a very lucrative one. Presbyterian Dissent at that time, besides,
did not stand very high in England. The leading Dissenting divines
were Independents--and the Presbyterian body was fast sinking into
Unitarian or Arian heresy. On the other hand, the Church of England
was in the last state of lukewarmness; the Church of Scotland was
groaning under the load of patronage; and the Secession body was
newly formed, and as yet insignificant. In such circumstances we
cannot wonder that an ardent, ambitious mind like that of Akenside
should revolt from divinity as a study, and the pulpit as a goal,
although some may think it strange how the pursuit of medicine
should commend itself instead to a genial and poetic mind. Yet let
us remember that some eminent poets have been students or practisers
of the art of medicine. Such--to name only a few--were Armstrong,
Smollett, Crabbe, Darwin, Delta, Keats, and the two Thomas Browns,
the Knight of the "Religio Medici," and the Philosopher of the
"Lectures," both genuine poets, although their best poetry is in
prose. There are, besides, connected with medicine, some departments
of thought and study peculiarly exciting to the imagination. Such is
anatomy, with its sad yet instructive revelations of the structure
of the human frame--so "fearfully and wonderfully made"--wielding in
its hand a scalpel which at first seems ruthless and disenchanting
as the scythe of death, but which afterwards becomes a key to unlock
some of the deepest mysteries, and leads us down whole galleries of
wonder. There is botany, culling from every nook and corner of the
earth weeds which are flowers, and flowers of all hues, and every
plant, from the "cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop which springs out of
the wall," and finding a terrible and imaginative pleasure in
handling the fell family of poisons, and in deriving the means of
protracting life and healing sickness from the very blossoms of death.
And there is chemistry, most poetical save astronomy of all the
sciences, seeking to spiritualise the material--to hunt the atom to
the point where it trembles over the gulf of nonentity--to weigh
gases in scales, and the elements in a balance, and, in its more
transcendental and daring shape, trying to interchange one kind of
metal with another, and all kinds of forms with all, as in a
music-led and mystic dance. Hence we find that such men as Beddoes,
the author of the "Bride's Tragedy," have turned away from poetry to
physiology, and found in it a grander if also ghastlier stimulus to
their imaginative faculty. Hence Crabbe delighted to load himself
with grasses and duckweed, and Goëthe to fill his carriage with
every variety of plant and mountain flower. Hence Davy, and the late
lamented Samuel Brown, analysed, in the spirit of poets as well as
of philosophers, and gave to the crucible what it had long lost,
something of the air of a weird cauldron, bubbling over with magical
foam, and shining, not so much in the severe light of science as in

"Light that never was on sea or shore.
The consecration and the poet's dream."

And hence, in the then state of Church matters, and of his own
effervescent soul, Akenside felt probably in medicine a deeper charm
than in theology, and imagined that it opened up a more congenial
field for his powers both of reason and of imagination.

In December 1740, Akenside was elected a member of the Edinburgh
Medical Society. This society held meetings for discussion, and
in them our poet set himself to shine as a speaker. His ambition,
it is said, at this time, was to be a member of Parliament; and
Dr. Robertson, then a student in the University, used to attend the
meetings of the society chiefly to hear the speeches of the young
and fiery Southron. Indeed, the rhetoric of the "Pleasures of
Imagination" is finer than its poetry; and none but an orator could
have painted Brutus rising "refulgent from the stroke" which slew
Caesar, when he

"Call'd on Tully's name,
And bade the father of his country hail!"

Englishmen are naturally more eloquent than the Scotch; and once and
again has the Mark Akenside, the Joseph Gerald, or the George
Thompson overpowered and captivated even the sober and critical
children of the Modern Athens. While electrifying the Medical Society,
Akenside did not neglect, if he did not eminently excel in his
professional studies; and he continued to write sonorous verse, some
specimens of which, including an "Ode on the Winter Solstice," and
"Love, an Elegy," he is said to have printed for private distribution.

In Edinburgh he became acquainted with Jeremiah Dyson, a young
law-student of fortune, who was afterwards our poet's principal
patron. He seems to have returned to Newcastle in 1741; and we find
him dating a letter to Dyson thence on the 18th of August 1742, and
directing his correspondent to address his reply to him as "Surgeon,
in Newcastle-upon-Tyne." It is doubtful, however, if he had yet
begun to practise; and there is reason to believe that he was busily
occupied with his great poem. This he completed in the close of 1743.
He offered the manuscript to Dodsley for £150. The bookseller,
although a liberal and generous man, was disposed at first to
_boggle_ a little at such a price for a didactic poem by an
unknown man. He carried the "Pleasures of Imagination" to Pope, who
glanced at it, saw its merit, and advised Dodsley not to make a
niggardly offer--for "this was no everyday writer." It appeared in
January 1744, and, in spite of its faults, nay, perhaps, partly in
consequence of them, was received with loud applause; and the
author--only twenty-three years of age--"awoke one morning, and found
himself famous;" for although his name was not attached to the poem,
it soon transpired. One Rolt, an obscure scribbler, then in Ireland,
claimed the authorship, transcribed the poem with his own hand; nay,
according to Dr. Johnson, published an edition with his own name,
and was invited to the best tables as the ingenious Mr. Rolt. His
conversation did not indeed sparkle with poetic fire, nor was his
appearance that of a poet, but people remembered that both Dryden
and Addison were dull or silent in company till warmed with wine, and
that it was not uncommon for authors to have sold all their thoughts
to their booksellers. Akenside, hearing of this, was obliged to
vindicate his claims by printing the next edition with his name, and
then the bubble of the ingenious Mr. Rolt burst.

All fame, and especially all sudden fame, has its drawbacks. Gray
read the poem, and wrote of it to his friends, in a style thought at
the time depreciatory, although it comes pretty near the truth. He
says, "It seems to me above the middling, and now and then for a
little while rises even to the best, particularly in description. It
is often obscure and even unintelligible. In short, its great fault
is, that it was published at least nine years too early." Gray,
however, had not as yet himself emerged as a poet, and his word had
chiefly weight with his friends. Warburton was a more formidable
opponent. This divine acted then a good deal in the style of a
gigantic Church-bully, and seemed disposed to knock down all and
sundry who differed from him either on great or small theological
matters; and Humes, Churchills, Jortins, Middletons, Lowths,
Shaftesburys, Wesleys, Whitefields, and Akensides all felt the fury
of his onset, and the force of the "punishment" inflicted by his
strong fists. Akenside, in his poem, and in one of his notes, had
defended Shaftesbury's ridiculous notion that ridicule is the test
of truth, and for this Warburton assailed him in the preface to
"Remarks in Answer to Dr. Middleton." In this, while indirectly
disparaging the poem, he accuses the poet of infidelity, atheism,
and insulting the clergy. The preface appeared in March 1744, and in
the following May (Akenside being then in Holland) came forth a reply,
in "An Epistle to the Rev. Mr. Warburton, occasioned by his
Treatment of the Author of the Pleasures of Imagination," which had
been concocted between Dyson and our poet. This pamphlet was written
with considerable spirit; and although it left the question where it
found it, it augured no little courage on the part of the young
physician and the young lawyer mating themselves against the matured
author of the "Divine Legation of Moses." As to the question in
dispute, Johnson disposes of it satisfactorily in a single sentence.
"If ridicule be applied to any position as the test of truth, it
will then become a question whether such ridicule be just, and this
can only be decided by the application of truth as the test of
ridicule." How easy to make any subject or any person ridiculous! To
hold that ridicule is paramount to the discovery or attestation of
truth, is to exalt the ape-element in man above the human and the
angelic principles, which also belong to his nature, and to enthrone
a Voltaire over a Newton or a Milton. Those who laugh proverbially
do not always win, nor do they always deserve to win. Do we think
less of "Paradise Lost," and Shakspeare, because Cobbett has derided
both, or of the Old and New Testaments, because Paine has subjected
parts of them to his clumsy satire? When we find, indeed, a system
such as Jesuitism blasted by the ridicule of Pascal, we conclude
that it was not true,--but why? not merely because ridicule assailed
it, for ridicule has assailed ten thousand systems which never even
shook in the storm, but because, in the view of all candid and
liberal thinkers, the ridicule _prevailed_. Should it be said that
the question still recurs, How are we to be certain of the candour
and liberality of the men who think that Pascal's satire damaged
Jesuitism? we simply say, that it is not ridicule, but some stricter
and more satisfactory method that can determine _this_ inquiry. It
is remarkable that Akenside modified his statements on this subject
in his after revision of his poem.

In April 1744 we find our bard in Leyden, and Mr. Dyce has published
some interesting letters dated thence to Mr. Dyson. He does not seem
to have admired Holland much, whether in its scenery, manners, taste,
or genius. On the 16th of May, he took his degree of Doctor of
Physic at Leyden, the subject of his Dissertation (which, according
to the usual custom, he published) being the "Origin and Growth of
the Human Foetus," in which he is reported to have opposed the views
then prevalent, and to have maintained the theory which is now
generally held. As soon as he received his diploma he returned to
England, signalising his departure by an "Ode to Holland," as dull
as any ditch in that country itself. In June he settled as a
physician in Northampton, where the eminent Doddridge was at the
time labouring. With him he is said to have held a friendly contest
about the opinions of the old heathens in reference to a future state,
Akenside, in keeping with the whole tenor of his intellectual history,
supporting the side of the ancients. Indeed, he never appears to
have had much religion, except that of the Pagan philosophy, Plato
being his Paul, and Socrates his Christ; and most cordially would he
have joined in Thorwaldsen's famous toast (announced at an evening
party in Rome, while the planet Jupiter was shining in great glory),
"Here's in honour of the ancient gods." In Northampton, partly owing
to the overbearing influence of Dr. Stonehouse, a long-established
practitioner, and partly to his violent political zeal, he did not
prosper. While residing there he produced his manly and spirited
"Epistle to Curio." Curio was Pulteney, who had been a flaming
patriot, but who, like the majority of such characters, had, for the
sake of a title--the earldom of Bath--subsided into a courtier. Him
Akenside lashes with unsparing energy. He committed afterwards an
egregious blunder in reference to this production. He frittered it
down into a stupid ode. Indeed, he had always an injudicious
trick--whether springing from fastidiousness or undue ambition--of
tinkering and tampering with his very best poems.

In March 1745 he collected his odes into a quarto tract. It appeared
at a time when lyrical poetry was all but extinct. Dryden was gone;
Collins and Gray had not yet published their odes; and hence, and
partly too from the prestige of his former poem, Akenside's odes,
poor as they now seem, met with considerable acceptance, although
they did not reach a new edition till 1760. In 1747 his friend Dyson,
having been elected clerk to the House of Commons, took Akenside with
him to his house at Northend, Hampstead. Here, however, he felt
himself out of place, and in fine, in 1748, he settled down in
Bloomsbury Square, London, where Dyson very generously allowed him
£300 a-year, which, being equal to the value of twice that sum now,
enabled him to keep a chariot, and live like a gentleman. During the
years 1746, 1747, 1748, he composed a number of pieces, both in
prose and verse--his "Hymn to the Naiads," his "Ode to the Evening
Star," and several essays in _Dodsley's Museum_; such as these,
"On Correctness;" "The Table of Modern Fame, a Vision;" "Letter from
a Swiss Gentleman on English Liberty;" and "The Balance of Poets;"
besides an ode to Caleb Hardinge, M. D., and another to the Earl of
Huntingdon, which has been esteemed one of his best lyric poems. In
London he did not attain rapidly a good practice, nor was it ever
extensive. But for Mr. Dyson's aid he might have written a chapter on
"Early Struggles," nearly as rich and interesting as that famous one
in Warren's "Diary of a late Physician." Even his poetical name was
adverse to his prospects. His manners, too, were unconciliating and
haughty. At Tom's Coffeehouse, in Devereux Court, night after night,
appeared the author of the "Pleasures of Imagination," full of
knowledge, dogmatism, and a love of self-display; eager for talk,
fond of arguing--especially on politics and literature--and sometimes
narrowly escaping duels and other misadventures springing from his
hot and imperious temper. In sick chambers he was stiff, formal, and
reserved, carrying a frown about with him, which itself damped the
spirits and accelerated the pulse of his patients. It was only among
intimate friends that he descended to familiarity, and even then it
was with

"Compulsion and laborious flight."

One of these intimates for a while was Charles Townshend, a man
whose name now lives chiefly in the glowing encomium of Burke, a
part of which we may quote:--"Before this splendid orb (Lord Chatham)
was entirely set, and while the western horizon was in a blaze with
his descending glory, on the opposite quarter of the heavens arose
another luminary, and for his hour became lord of the ascendant.
Townshend was the delight and ornament of this House, and the charm
of every private society which he honoured with his presence.
Perhaps there never arose in this country, nor in any country, a man
of more pointed and finished wit, and of a more refined, exquisite,
and penetrating judgment. He stated his matter skilfully and
powerfully. He particularly excelled in a most luminous explanation
and display of the subject. His style of argument was neither trite
and vulgar, nor subtle and abstruse. He hit the House between wind
and water. He had no failings which were not owing to a noble cause,
to an ardent, generous, perhaps an immoderate passion for fame; a
passion which is the instinct of all great souls. He worshipped that
goddess wheresoever she appeared: but he paid his particular
devotions to her in her favourite habitation, in her chosen temple,
the House of Commons." With this distinguished man Akenside was for
some time on friendly terms, but for causes not well known, their
friendship came to an abrupt termination; it might have been owing
to Townshend's rapid rise, or to Akenside's presumptuous and
overbearing disposition. Two odes, addressed by the latter to the
former, immortalise this incomplete and abortive amity.

The years 1750 and 1751 were only signalised in Akenside's history
by one or two dull odes from his pen. But if not witty at that time
himself, he gave occasion to wit in others. Smollett, provoked, it
is said, by some aspersions Akenside had in conversation cast on
Scotland, and at all times prone to bitter and sarcastic views of
men and manners, fell foul of him in "Peregrine Pickle." If our
readers care for wading through that filthy novel--the most
disagreeable, although not the dullest of Smollett's fictions--they
will find a caricature of our poet in the character of the "Doctor,"
who talks nonsense about liberty, quotes and praises his own poetry,
and invites his friends to an entertainment in the manner of the
ancients--a feast hideously accurate in its imitation of antique
cookery, and forming, if not an "entertainment" to the guests, a very
rich one to the readers of the tale. How Akenside bore this we are
not particularly informed. Probably he writhed in secret, but was
too proud to acknowledge his feelings. In 1753 he was consoled by
receiving a doctor's degree from Cambridge, and by being elected
Fellow of the Royal Society. The next year he became Fellow of the
College of Physicians.

In June 1755 he read the Galstonian lectures in anatomy before the
College of Physicians, and in the next year the Croonian lectures
before the same institution. The subject of the latter course was
the "History of the Revival of Letters," which some of the learned
Thebans thought not germane to the matter; and, consequently, after
he had delivered three lectures, he desisted in disgust. This fact
seems somewhat to contradict Dr. Johnson's assertion, that "Akenside
appears not to have been wanting to his own success, and placed
himself in view by all the common methods." Had he been a thoroughly
self-seeking man, he never would have committed the blunder of
choosing literature as a subject of predilection to men who were
probably most of them materialists, or at least destitute of
literary taste. The Doctor says also, "He very eagerly forced
himself into notice, by an ambitious ostentation of elegance and
literature." But surely the author of such a popular poem as the
"Pleasures of Imagination" had no need to claim notice by an
ostentatious display of his parts, and had too much good sense to
imagine that such a vain display would conciliate any acute and
sensible person. Johnson, in fact, throughout his cursory and
careless "Life of Akenside," is manifestly labouring under deep
prejudice against the poet--prejudice founded chiefly on Akenside's
political sentiments.

In 1759 our poet was appointed physician to St. Thomas's Hospital,
and afterwards to Christ's Hospital. Here he ruled the patients and
the under officials with a rod of iron. Dr. Lettsom became a
surgeon's dresser in St. Thomas's Hospital. He was an admirer of
poetry, especially of the "Pleasures of Imagination," and
anticipated much delight from intercourse with the author. He was
disappointed first of all with his personal appearance. He found him
a stiff-limbed, starched personage, with a lame foot, a pale
strumous face, a long sword, and a large white wig. Worse than this,
he was cruel, almost barbarous, to the patients, particularly to
females. Owing to an early love-disappointment, he had contracted a
disgust and aversion to the sex, and chose to express it in a
callous and cowardly harshness to those under his charge. It is
possible, however, that Lettsom might be influenced by some private
pique. Nothing is more common than for the hero-worshipper,
disenchanted of his early idolatry, to rush to the opposite extreme,
and to become the hero-hater; and the fault is as frequently
his own as that of his idol. And it must be granted that an
hospital--especially of that age--was no congenial atmosphere for a
poet so Platonic and ideal as Akenside.

In October 1759 he delivered the Harveian oration before the College
of Physicians, and by their order it was published the next year. In
1761 Mr. T. Hollis presented him with a bed which had once belonged
to Milton, on the condition that he would write an ode to the memory
of that great poet. Akenside joyfully accepted the bed, had it set
up in his house, and, we suppose, slept in it; but the muse forgot
to visit _his_ "slumbers nightly," and no ode was ever produced.
We think that Akenside had sympathy enough with Milton's politics and
poetry to have written a fine blank-verse tribute to his memory,
resembling that of Thomson to Sir Isaac Newton; but odes of much
merit he could not produce, and yet at odes he was always sweltering

"With labour dire and weary woe."

In 1760, George the Third mounted the throne, and the author of the
"Epistle to Curio" began to follow the precise path of Pulteney. In
this he was preceded by Dyson, who became suddenly a supporter of
Lord Bute, and drew his friend in his train. By Dyson's influence
Akenside was appointed, in 1761, physician to the Queen. His
secession from the Whig ranks cost him a great deal of obloquy.
Dr. Hardinge had told the two turncoats long before "that, like a
couple of idiots, they did not leave themselves a loophole--they
could not _sidle away_ into the opposite creed." He never, however,
became a violent Tory partisan. It is singular how Johnson, with all
his aversion to Akenside, has no allusion to his apostasy, in which
we might have _à priori_ expected him to glory, as a proof of the
poet's inconsistency, if not corruption.

In one point Akenside differed from the majority of his tuneful
brethren, before, then, or since. He was a warm and wide-hearted
commender of the works of other poets. Most of our sweet singers
rather resemble birds of prey than nightingales or doves, and are at
least as strong in their talons as they are musical in their tongues.
And hence the groves of Parnassus have in all ages rung with the
screams of wrath and contest, frightfully mingling with the melodies
of song. Akenside, by a felicitous conjunction of elements, which
you could not have expected from other parts of his character, was
entirely exempted from this defect, and not only warmly admired Pope,
Young, Thomson, and Dyer, whose "Fleece" he corrected, but had kind
words to spare for even such "small deer" as Welsted and Fenton.

In 1763, he read a paper before the Royal Society, on the "Effects
of a Blow on the Heart," which was published in the _Philosophical
Transactions_ of the year. And, in 1764 he established his character
as a medical writer by an elegant and elaborate treatise on
"The Dysentery," still, we believe, consulted for its information,
and studied for the purity and precision of its Latin style. About
this time, too, he commenced a recasting of his "Pleasures of
Imagination," which he did not live to finish; and in which, on the
whole, there is more of laborious alteration than of felicitous
improvement. In 1766, Warburton, his old foe, who had now been made a
bishop, reprinted, in a new edition of his "Divine Legation of Moses,"
his attack on Akenside's notions about ridicule, without deigning to
take any notice of the explanations he had given in his reply. This
renewal of hostilities, coming, especially as it did, from the
vantage ground of the Episcopal bench, enraged our poet, and, by way
of rejoinder, he issued a lyrical satire which he had had lying past
him in pickle for fifteen years, and which nothing but a fresh
provocation would have induced him to publish. It was entitled
"An Ode to the late Thomas Edwards, Esq." Edwards had opposed
Warburton ably in a book entitled "Canons of Criticism," and was
himself a poet. The real sting of this attack lay in Akenside's
production of a letter from Warburton to Concanen, dated 2d January
1726, which had fallen accidentally into the hands of our poet; and
in which Warburton had accused Addison of plagiarism, and said that
when "Pope borrows it is from want of genius." Concanen was one of
the "Dunces," and it was, of course, Akenside's purpose to shew
Warburton's inconsistency in the different opinions he had expressed
at different times of them and of their great adversary. We know not
if the sturdy bishop took any notice of this ode. Even his Briarean
arms were sometimes too full of the controversial work which his
overbearing temper and fierce passions were constantly giving him.

In 1766, Akenside received the thanks of the College of Physicians
for an edition of Harvey's works, which he prepared for the press,
and to which he had prefixed a preface. In June 1767 he read before
the College two papers, one on "Cancers and Asthmas," and the other
on "White Swelling of the Joints," both of which were published the
next year in the first volume of the _Medical Transactions_. In the
same year, one Archibald Campbell, a Scotchman, a purser in the navy,
and called, from his ungainly countenance, "horrible Campbell,"
produced a small _jeu d'esprit_, entitled "Lexiphanes, imitated from
Lucian, and suited to the present times," in which he tries to
ridicule Johnson's prose and Akenside's poetry. His object was
probably to attract their notice, but both passed over this grin of
the "Grim Feature" in silent contempt. Akenside was still busy with
the revisal of his poem, had finished two books, "made considerable
progress with the third, and written a fragment of the fourth;" but
death stepped in and blighted his prospects, both as a physician,
with increasing practice and reputation, and as a poet, whose
favourite work was approaching what he deemed perfection. He was
seized with putrid fever; and, after a short illness, died on the 23
d June 1770 at an age when many men are in their very prime, both of
body and mind--that of 49. He died in his house in Burlington Street,
and was buried on the 28th in St. James's Church.

Akenside had been, notwithstanding his many acquaintances and friends,
on the whole, a lonely man; without domestic connexions, and having,
so far as we are informed, either no surviving relations or no
intercourse with those who might be still alive. He was not
especially loved in society; he wanted humour and good-humour both,
and had little of that frank cordiality which, according to Sidney
Smith, "warms and cheers more than meat or wine." He had far less
geniality than genius. Yet, in certain select circles, his mind,
which was richly stored with all knowledge, opened delightfully, and
men felt that he _was_ the author of his splendid poem. One of his
biographers gives him the palm for learning, next to Ben Jonson,
Milton, and Gray (he might perhaps have also excepted Landor and
Coleridge), over all our English poets.

In 1772, Mr. Dyson published an edition of his friend's poems,
containing the original form of the "Pleasures of Imagination," as
well as its half-finished second shape; his "Odes," "Inscriptions,"
"Hymn to the Naiads," etc., omitting, however, his poem to Curio in
its first and best version, and some of his smaller pieces. This
edition, too, contained an account of Akenside's life by his friend,
so short and so cold as either to say little for Dyson's heart, or a
great deal for his modesty and reticence. His uniform and munificent
kindness to the poet during his lifetime, however, determines us in
favour of the latter side of the alternative.

Of Akenside, as a man, our previous remarks have perhaps indicated
our opinion. He was rather a scholar somewhat out of his element,
and unreconciled to the world, than a thorough gentleman; irritable,
vehement, and proud--his finer traits were only known to his
intimates, who probably felt that in Wordsworth's words,

"You must love him ere to you
He doth, seem worthy of your love."

In religion his opinions seem to have been rather unsettled; but, of
whatever doubts he had, he gave the benefit latterly to the
Christian side--at least he was ever ready to rebuke noisy and
dogmatic infidelity. It is said that he intended to have included
the doctrine of immortality in his later version of the "Pleasures
of Imagination"--and even as the poem is, it contains some transient
allusions to that great object of human hope, although none, it must
be admitted, to its special Christian grounds.

We have now a very few sentences to enounce about his poetry, or,
more properly speaking, about his two or three good poems, for we
must dismiss the most of his odes, in their deep-sounding dulness,
as nearly unworthy of their author's genius. Up to the days of
Keats' "Endymion" and "Hyperion," Akenside's "Hymn to the Naiads"
was thought one of the best attempts to reproduce the classical
spirit and ideas. It now takes a secondary place; and at no time
could be compared to an actual hymn of Callimachus or Pindar, any
more than Smollett's "Supper after the Manner of the Ancients" was
equal to a real Roman Coena, the ideal of which Croly has so
superbly described in "Salathiel." His "Epistle to Curio" is a
masterpiece of vigorous composition, terse sentiment, and glowing
invective. It gathers around Pulteney as a ring of fire round the
scorpion, and leaves him writhing and shrivelled. Out of Dryden and
Pope, it is perhaps the best satiric piece in our poetry.

Of the "Pleasures of Imagination," it is not necessary to say a
great deal. A poem that has been so widely circulated, so warmly
praised, so frequently quoted and imitated--the whole of which
nearly a man like Thomas Brown has quoted in the course of his
lectures--must possess no ordinary merit. Its great beauty is its
richness of description and language--its great fault is its
obscurity; a beauty and a fault closely connected together, even as
the luxuriance of a tropical forest implies intricacy, and its
lavish loveliness creates a gloom. His attempt to express Plato's
philosophy in blank verse is not always successful. Perhaps prose
might better have answered his purpose in expressing the awfully
sublime thought of the "archetypes of all things existing in God."
We know that in certain objects of nature--in certain rocks, for
instance (such as Coleridge describes in his "Wanderings of Cain")--
there lie silent prefigurations and aboriginal types of artificial
objects, such as ships, temples, and other orders of architecture;
and it is so also in certain shells, woods, and even in clouds. How
interesting and beautiful those painted prophecies of nature, those
quiet hieroglyphics of God, those mystic letters, which, unlike
those on the Babylonian wall, do _not_,

"Careering shake,
And blaze IMPATIENT to be read,"

but bide calmly the time when their artificial archetypes shall
appear, and the "wisdom" in them shall be "justified" in these its
children! So, according to Plato, comparing great to small things,
there lay in the Divine mind the archetypes of all that was to be
created, with this important difference, that they lay in God
_spiritually_ and consciously. How poetical and how solemn to
approach, under the guidance of this thought, and gaze on the mind
of God as on an ancient awful mirror; and even as in a clear lake we
behold the forms of the surrounding scenery reflected from the white
strip of pebbled shore up to the gray scalp of the mountain summit,
and tremble as we look down on the "skies of a far nether world," on
an inverted sun, and on snow unmelted amidst the water; so to see
the entire history of man, from the first glance of life in the eye
of Adam, down to the last sparkle of the last ember of the general
conflagration, lying silently and inverted there--how sublime, but
at the same time how bewildering and how appalling! Our readers will
find, in the "Pleasures of Imagination," an expansion--perhaps they
may think it a dilution--of this Platonic idea.

They will find there, too, the germ of the famous theory of Alison
and Jeffrey about Beauty. These theorists held 'that beauty resides
not so much in the object as in the mind; that we receive but what
we give; that our own soul is the urn whence beauty is showered over
the universe; that flower and star are lovely because the mind has
breathed on them; that the imagination and the heart of man are the
twin beautifiers of creation; that the dwelling of beauty is not in
the light of setting suns, nor in the beams of morning stars, nor in
the waves of summer seas, but in the human spirit; that sublimity
tabernacles not in the palaces of the thunder, walks not on the
wings of the wind, rides not on the forked lightning, but that it is
the soul which is lifted up there; that it is the soul which, in its
high aspirings,'

"Yokes with whirlwinds and the northern blast,
and scatters grandeur around it on its way."

All this seems anticipated, and, as it were, coiled up in the words
of our poet:--

"Mind, mind alone (bear witness earth and heaven!)
The living fountains in itself contains
Of beauteous and sublime."

That Akenside was a real poet many expressions in his "Pleasures of
Imagination" prove, such as that just quoted--

"Yoked with whirlwinds and the northern blast
Sweeps the long tract of day;"

but, taking his poem as a whole, it is rather a tissue of eloquence
and philosophical declamation than of imagination. He deals rather
in sheet lightning than in forked flashes. As a didactic poem it has
a high, but not the highest place. It must not be named beside the
"De Rerum Natura" of Lucretius, or the "Georgics" of Virgil, or the
"Night Thoughts" of Young; and in poetry, yields even to the
"Queen Mab" of Shelley. It ranks high, however, amongst that fine
class of works which have called themselves, by no misnomer,
"Pleasures;" and to recount all the names of which were to give an
"enumeration of sweets" as delightful as that in "Don Juan." How
cheering to think of that beautiful bead-roll--of which the
"Pleasures of Memory," "Pleasures of Hope," "Pleasures of Melancholy,"
"Pleasures of Imagination," are only a few! We may class, too, with
them, Addison's essays on the "Pleasures of Imagination" in _The
Spectator_, which, although in prose, glow throughout with the
mildest and truest spirit of poetry; and if inferior to Akenside in
richness and swelling pomp of words, and in dashing rhetorical force,
far excel him in clearness, in chastened beauty, and in those
inimitable touches and unconscious felicities of thought and
expression which drop down, like ripe apples falling suddenly across
your path from a laden bough, and which could only have proceeded
from Addison's exquisite genius.



Book I.

Book II.

Book III.

Notes to Book I.

Notes to Book II.

Notes to Book III.


Book I.

Book II.

Book III.

Book IV.


Book I.--

Ode I. Preface.

Ode II. On the Winter-solstice, 1740.

Ode II. For the Winter-solstice, December 11, 1740.
As originally written.

Ode III. To a Friend, Unsuccessful in Love.

Ode IV. Affected Indifference. To the same.

Ode V. Against Suspicion.

Ode VI. Hymn to Cheerfulness.

Ode VII. On the Use of Poetry.

Ode VIII. On leaving Holland.

Ode IX. To Curio.

Ode X. To the Muse.

Ode XI. On Love. To a Friend.

Ode XII. To Sir Francis Henry Drake, Baronet.

Ode XIII. On Lyric Poetry.

Ode XIV. To the Honourable Charles Townshend; from the

Ode XV. To the Evening Star.

Ode XVI. To Caleb Hardinge, M. D.

Ode XVII. On a Sermon against Glory.

Ode XVIII. To the Right Honourable Francis, Earl of Huntingdon.

Book II.--

Ode I. The Remonstrance of Shakspeare.

Ode II. To Sleep.

Ode III. To the Cuckoo.

Ode IV. To the Honourable Charles Townshend; in the Country.

Ode V. On Love of Praise.

Ode VI. To William Hall, Esquire; with the Works of

Ode VII. To the Right Reverend Benjamin, Lord Bishop of


Ode IX. At Study.

Ode X. To Thomas Edwards, Esq.; on the late Edition
of Mr. Pope's Works.

Ode XI. To the Country Gentlemen of England.

Ode XII. On Recovering from a Fit of Sickness; in the

Ode XIII. To the Author of Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg.

Ode XIV. The Complaint.

Ode XV. On Domestic Manners.

Notes to Book I.

Notes to Book II.




I. For a Grotto.

II. For a Statue of Chaucer at Woodstock.




VI. For a Column at Runnymede.

VII. The Wood Nymph.















[Greek: 'Asebous men 'estin 'anthropou tas para tou theou
charitas 'atimazein.]
EPICT. apud Arrian. II. 23.


There are certain powers in human nature which seem to hold a middle
place between the organs of bodily sense and the faculties of moral
perception: they have been called by a very general name, the Powers
of Imagination. Like the external senses, they relate to matter and
motion; and, at the same time, give the mind ideas analogous to
those of moral approbation and dislike. As they are the inlets of
some of the most exquisite pleasures with which we are acquainted,
it has naturally happened that men of warm and sensible tempers have
sought means to recall the delightful perceptions which they afford,
independent of the objects which originally produced them. This gave
rise to the imitative or designing arts; some of which, as painting
and sculpture, directly copy the external appearances which were
admired in nature; others, as music and poetry, bring them back to
remembrance by signs universally established and understood.

But these arts, as they grew more correct and deliberate, were, of
course, led to extend their imitation beyond the peculiar objects of
the imaginative powers; especially poetry, which, making use of
language as the instrument by which it imitates, is consequently
become an unlimited representative of every species and mode of being.
Yet as their intention was only to express the objects of imagination,
and as they still abound chiefly in ideas of that class, they, of
course, retain their original character; and all the different
pleasures which they excite, are termed, in general, Pleasures of

The design of the following poem is to give a view of these in the
largest acceptation of the term; so that whatever our imagination
feels from the agreeable appearances of nature, and all the various
entertainment we meet with, either in poetry, painting, music, or
any of the elegant arts, might be deducible from one or other of
those principles in the constitution of the human mind which are
here established and explained.

In executing this general plan, it was necessary first of all to
distinguish the imagination from our other faculties; and in the
next place to characterise those original forms or properties of
being, about which it is conversant, and which are by nature adapted
to it, as light is to the eyes, or truth to the understanding. These
properties Mr. Addison had reduced to the three general classes of
greatness, novelty, and beauty; and into these we may analyse every
object, however complex, which, properly speaking, is delightful to
the imagination. But such an object may also include many other
sources of pleasure; and its beauty, or novelty, or grandeur, will
make a stronger impression by reason of this concurrence. Besides
which, the imitative arts, especially poetry, owe much of their
effect to a similar exhibition of properties quite foreign to the
imagination, insomuch that in every line of the most applauded poems,
we meet with either ideas drawn from the external senses, or truths
discovered to the understanding, or illustrations of contrivance and
final causes, or, above all the rest, with circumstances proper to
awaken and engage the passions. It was, therefore, necessary to
enumerate and exemplify these different species of pleasure;
especially that from the passions, which, as it is supreme in the
noblest work of human genius, so being in some particulars not a
little surprising, gave an opportunity to enliven the didactic turn
of the poem, by introducing an allegory to account for the appearance.

After these parts of the subject which hold chiefly of admiration,
or naturally warm and interest the mind, a pleasure of a very
different nature, that which arises from ridicule, came next to be
considered. As this is the foundation of the comic manner in all the
arts, and has been but very imperfectly treated by moral writers, it
was thought proper to give it a particular illustration, and to
distinguish the general sources from which the ridicule of
characters is derived. Here, too, a change of style became necessary;
such a one as might yet be consistent, if possible, with the general
taste of composition in the serious parts of the subject: nor is it
an easy task to give any tolerable force to images of this kind,
without running either into the gigantic expressions of the mock
heroic, or the familiar and poetical raillery of professed satire;
neither of which would have been proper here.

The materials of all imitation being thus laid open, nothing now
remained but to illustrate some particular pleasures which arise
either from the relations of different objects one to another, or
from the nature of imitation itself. Of the first kind is that
various and complicated resemblance existing between several parts
of the material and immaterial worlds, which is the foundation of
metaphor and wit. As it seems in a great measure to depend on the
early association of our ideas, and as this habit of associating is
the source of many pleasures and pains in life, and on that account
bears a great share in the influence of poetry and the other arts,
it is therefore mentioned here, and its effects described. Then
follows a general account of the production of these elegant arts,
and of the secondary pleasure, as it is called, arising from the
resemblance of their imitations to the original appearances of nature.
After which, the work concludes with some reflections on the general
conduct of the powers of imagination, and on their natural and moral
usefulness in life.

Concerning the manner or turn of composition which prevails in this
piece, little can be said with propriety by the author. He had two
models; that ancient and simple one of the first Grecian poets, as
it is refined by Virgil in the Georgics, and the familiar epistolary
way of Horace. This latter has several advantages. It admits of a
greater variety of style; it more readily engages the generality of
readers, as partaking more of the air of conversation; and,
especially with the assistance of rhyme, leads to a closer and more
concise expression. Add to this the example of the most perfect of
modern poets, who has so happily applied this manner to the noblest
parts of philosophy, that the public taste is in a great measure
formed to it alone. Yet, after all, the subject before us, tending
almost constantly to admiration and enthusiasm, seemed rather to
demand a more open, pathetic, and figured style. This, too, appeared
more natural, as the author's aim was not so much to give formal
precepts, or enter into the way of direct argumentation, as, by
exhibiting the most engaging prospects of nature, to enlarge and
harmonise the imagination, and by that means insensibly dispose the
minds of men to a similar taste and habit of thinking in religion,
morals, and civil life. 'Tis on this account that he is so careful
to point out the benevolent intention of the Author of Nature in
every principle of the human constitution here insisted on; and also
to unite the moral excellencies of life in the same point of view
with the mere external objects of good taste; thus recommending them
in common to our natural propensity for admiring what is beautiful
and lovely. The same views have also led him to introduce some
sentiments which may perhaps be looked upon as not quite direct to
the subject; but since they bear an obvious relation to it, the
authority of Virgil, the faultless model of didactic poetry, will
best support him in this particular. For the sentiments themselves
he makes no apology.



The subject proposed. Difficulty of treating it poetically. The
ideas of the Divine Mind the origin of every quality pleasing to the
imagination. The natural variety of constitution in the minds of men;
with its final cause. The idea of a fine imagination, and the state
of the mind in the enjoyment of those pleasures which it affords.
All the primary pleasures of the imagination result from the
perception of greatness, or wonderfulness, or beauty in objects. The
pleasure from greatness, with its final cause. Pleasure from novelty
or wonderfulness, with its final cause. Pleasure from beauty, with
its final cause. The connexion of beauty with truth and good,
applied to the conduct of life. Invitation to the study of moral
philosophy. The different degrees of beauty in different species of
objects; colour, shape, natural concretes, vegetables, animals, the
mind. The sublime, the fair, the wonderful of the mind. The
connexion of the imagination and the moral faculty. Conclusion.

With what attractive charms this goodly frame
Of Nature touches the consenting hearts
Of mortal men; and what the pleasing stores
Which beauteous Imitation thence derives
To deck the poet's or the painter's toil,
My verse unfolds. Attend, ye gentle Powers
Of musical delight! and while I sing
Your gifts, your honours, dance around my strain.
Thou, smiling queen of every tuneful breast,
Indulgent Fancy! from the fruitful banks 10
Of Avon, whence thy rosy fingers cull
Fresh flowers and dews to sprinkle on the turf
Where Shakspeare lies, be present: and with thee
Let Fiction come, upon her vagrant wings
Wafting ten thousand colours through the air,
Which, by the glances of her magic eye,
She blends and shifts at will, through countless forms,
Her wild creation. Goddess of the lyre,
Which rules the accents of the moving sphere,
Wilt thou, eternal Harmony, descend 20
And join this festive train? for with thee comes
The guide, the guardian of their lovely sports,
Majestic Truth; and where Truth deigns to come,
Her sister Liberty will not be far.
Be present all ye Genii, who conduct
The wandering footsteps of the youthful bard,
New to your springs and shades: who touch his ear
With finer sounds: who heighten to his eye
The bloom of Nature, and before him turn
The gayest, happiest attitude of things. 30
Oft have the laws of each poetic strain
The critic-verse employ'd; yet still unsung
Lay this prime subject, though importing most
A poet's name: for fruitless is the attempt,
By dull obedience and by creeping toil
Obscure to conquer the severe ascent
Of high Parnassus. Nature's kindling breath
Must fire the chosen genius; Nature's hand
Must string his nerves, and imp his eagle-wings,
Impatient of the painful steep, to soar 40
High as the summit; there to breathe at large
AEthereal air, with bards and sages old,
Immortal sons of praise. These flattering scenes,
To this neglected labour court my song;
Yet not unconscious what a doubtful task
To paint the finest features of the mind,
And to most subtile and mysterious things
Give colour, strength, and motion. But the love
Of Nature and the Muses bids explore,
Through secret paths erewhile untrod by man, 50
The fair poetic region, to detect
Untasted springs, to drink inspiring draughts,
And shade my temples with unfading flowers
Cull'd from the laureate vale's profound recess,
Where never poet gain'd a wreath before.
From Heaven my strains begin: from Heaven descends
The flame of genius to the human breast,
And love and beauty, and poetic joy
And inspiration. Ere the radiant sun
Sprang from the east, or 'mid the vault of night 60
The moon suspended her serener lamp;
Ere mountains, woods, or streams adorn'd the globe,
Or Wisdom taught the sons of men her lore;
Then lived the Almighty One: then, deep retired
In his unfathom'd essence, view'd the forms,
The forms eternal of created things;
The radiant sun, the moon's nocturnal lamp,
The mountains, woods, and streams, the rolling globe,
And Wisdom's mien celestial. From the first
Of days, on them his love divine he fix'd, 70
His admiration: till in time complete
What he admired and loved, his vital smile
Unfolded into being. Hence the breath
Of life informing each organic frame;
Hence the green earth, and wild resounding wares;
Hence light and shade alternate, warmth and cold,
And clear autumnal skies and vernal showers,
And all the fair variety of things.
But not alike to every mortal eye
Is this great scene unveil'd. For, since the claims 80
Of social life to different labours urge
The active powers of man, with wise intent
The hand of Nature on peculiar minds
Imprints a different bias, and to each
Decrees its province in the common toil.
To some she taught the fabric of the sphere,
The changeful moon, the circuit of the stars,
The golden zones of heaven; to some she gave
To weigh the moment of eternal things,
Of time, and space, and fate's unbroken chain, 90
And will's quick impulse; others by the hand
She led o'er vales and mountains, to explore
What healing virtue swells the tender veins
Of herbs and flowers; or what the beams of morn
Draw forth, distilling from the clifted rind
In balmy tears. But some, to higher hopes
Were destined; some within a finer mould
She wrought and temper'd with a purer flame.
To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds
The world's harmonious volume, there to read 100
The transcript of Himself. On every part
They trace the bright impressions of his hand:
In earth or air, the meadow's purple stores,
The moon's mild radiance, or the virgin's form
Blooming with rosy smiles, they see portray'd
That uncreated beauty, which delights
The Mind Supreme. They also feel her charms,
Enamour'd; they partake the eternal joy.

For as old Memnon's image, long renown'd
By fabling Nilus, to the quivering touch 110
Of Titan's ray, with each repulsive string
Consenting, sounded through the warbling air
Unbidden strains, even so did Nature's hand
To certain species of external things,
Attune the finer organs of the mind;
So the glad impulse of congenial powers,
Or of sweet sound, or fair proportion'd form,
The grace of motion, or the bloom of light,
Thrills through Imagination's tender frame,
From nerve to nerve; all naked and alive 120
They catch the spreading rays; till now the soul
At length discloses every tuneful spring,
To that harmonious movement from without
Responsive. Then the inexpressive strain
Diffuses its enchantment: Fancy dreams
Of sacred fountains and Elysian groves,
And vales of bliss: the intellectual power
Bends from his awful throne a wondering ear,
And smiles: the passions, gently soothed away,
Sink to divine repose, and love and joy 130
Alone are waking; love and joy, serene
As airs that fan the summer. Oh! attend,
Whoe'er thou art, whom these delights can touch,
Whose candid bosom the refining love
Of Nature warms, oh! listen to my song;
And I will guide thee to her favourite walks,
And teach thy solitude her voice to hear,
And point her loveliest features to thy view.

Know then, whate'er of Nature's pregnant stores,
Whate'er of mimic Art's reflected forms 140
With love and admiration thus inflame
The powers of Fancy, her delighted sons
To three illustrious orders have referr'd;
Three sister graces, whom the painter's hand,
The poet's tongue confesses--the Sublime,
The Wonderful, the Fair. I see them dawn!
I see the radiant visions, where they rise,
More lovely than when Lucifer displays
His beaming forehead through the gates of morn,
To lead the train of Phoebus and the spring. 150

Say, why was man [Endnote A] so eminently raised
Amid the vast Creation; why ordain'd
Through life and death to dart his piercing eye,
With thoughts beyond the limit of his frame;
But that the Omnipotent might send him forth
In sight of mortal and immortal powers,
As on a boundless theatre, to run
The great career of justice; to exalt
His generous aim to all diviner deeds;
To chase each partial purpose from his breast; 160
And through the mists of passion and of sense,
And through the tossing tide of chance and pain,
To hold his course unfaltering, while the voice
Of truth and virtue, up the steep ascent
Of nature, calls him to his high reward,
The applauding smile of Heaven? Else wherefore burns
In mortal bosoms this unquenched hope,
That breathes from day to day sublimer things,
And mocks possession? Wherefore darts the mind,
With such resistless ardour to embrace 170
Majestic forms; impatient to be free,
Spurning the gross control of wilful might;
Proud of the strong contention of her toils;
Proud to be daring? Who but rather turns
To heaven's broad fire his unconstrained view, 175
Than to the glimmering of a waxen flame?
Who that, from Alpine heights, his labouring eye
Shoots round the wide horizon, to survey
Nilus or Ganges rolling his bright wave
Through mountains, plains, through empires black with shade, 180
And continents of sand, will turn his gaze
To mark the windings of a scanty rill
That murmurs at his feet? The high-born soul
Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing
Beneath its native quarry. Tired of earth
And this diurnal scene, she springs aloft
Through fields of air; pursues the flying storm;
Rides on the vollied lightning through the heavens;
Or, yoked with whirlwinds and the northern blast,
Sweeps the long tract of day. Then high she soars 190
The blue profound, and hovering round the sun
Beholds him pouring the redundant stream
Of light; beholds his unrelenting sway
Bend the reluctant planets to absolve
The fated rounds of Time. Thence far effused
She darts her swiftness up the long career
Of devious comets; through its burning signs
Exulting measures the perennial wheel
Of Nature, and looks back on all the stars,
Whose blended light, as with a milky zone, 200
Invests the orient. Now amazed she views
The empyreal waste, [Endnote B] where happy spirits hold,
Beyond this concave heaven, their calm abode;
And fields of radiance, whose unfading light [Endnote C]

Has travell'd the profound six thousand years,
Nor yet arrives in sight of mortal things.
Even on the barriers of the world untired
She meditates the eternal depth below; 208
Till, half recoiling, down the headlong steep
She plunges; soon o'erwhelm'd and swallow'd up
In that immense of being. There her hopes
Rest at the fated goal. For from the birth
Of mortal man, the Sovereign Maker said,
That not in humble nor in brief delight,
Not in the fading echoes of renown,
Power's purple robes, nor pleasure's flowery lap,
The soul should find enjoyment: but from these
Turning disdainful to an equal good,
Through all the ascent of things enlarge her view,
Till every bound at length should disappear, 220
And infinite perfection close the scene.

Call now to mind what high capacious powers
Lie folded up in man; how far beyond
The praise of mortals, may the eternal growth
Of Nature to perfection half divine,
Expand the blooming soul! What pity then
Should sloth's unkindly fogs depress to earth
Her tender blossom; choke the streams of life,
And blast her spring! Far otherwise design'd
Almighty Wisdom; Nature's happy cares 230
The obedient heart far otherwise incline.
Witness the sprightly joy when aught unknown
Strikes the quick sense, and wakes each active power
To brisker measures: witness the neglect
Of all familiar prospects, [Endnote D] though beheld
With transport once; the fond attentive gaze
Of young astonishment; the sober zeal
Of age, commenting on prodigious things.
For such the bounteous providence of Heaven,
In every breast implanting this desire 240
Of objects new and strange, [Endnote E] to urge us on
With unremitted labour to pursue
Those sacred stores that wait the ripening soul,
In Truth's exhaustless bosom. What need words
To paint its power? For this the daring youth
Breaks from his weeping mother's anxious arms,
In foreign climes to rove; the pensive sage,
Heedless of sleep, or midnight's harmful damp,
Hangs o'er the sickly taper; and untired
The virgin follows, with enchanted step, 250
The mazes of some wild and wondrous tale,
From morn to eve; unmindful of her form,
Unmindful of the happy dress that stole
The wishes of the youth, when every maid
With envy pined. Hence, finally, by night
The village matron, round the blazing hearth,
Suspends the infant audience with her tales,
Breathing astonishment! of witching rhymes,
And evil spirits; of the death-bed call
Of him who robb'd the widow, and devour'd 260
The orphan's portion; of unquiet souls
Risen from the grave to ease the heavy guilt
Of deeds in life conceal'd; of shapes that walk
At dead of night, and clank their chains, and wave
The torch of hell around the murderer's bed.
At every solemn pause the crowd recoil,
Gazing each other speechless, and congeal'd
With shivering sighs: till eager for the event,
Around the beldame all erect they hang,
Each trembling heart with grateful terrors quell'd. 270

But lo! disclosed in all her smiling pomp,
Where Beauty onward moving claims the verse
Her charms inspire: the freely-flowing verse
In thy immortal praise, O form divine,
Smooths her mellifluent stream. Thee, Beauty, thee
The regal dome, and thy enlivening ray
The mossy roofs adore: thou, better sun!
For ever beamest on the enchanted heart
Love, and harmonious wonder, and delight
Poetic. Brightest progeny of Heaven! 280
How shall I trace thy features? where select
The roseate hues to emulate thy bloom?
Haste then, my song, through Nature's wide expanse,
Haste then, and gather all her comeliest wealth,
Whate'er bright spoils the florid earth contains,
Whate'er the waters, or the liquid air,
To deck thy lovely labour. Wilt thou fly
With laughing Autumn to the Atlantic isles,
And range with him the Hesperian field, and see
Where'er his fingers touch the fruitful grove, 290
The branches shoot with gold; where'er his step
Marks the glad soil, the tender clusters grow
With purple ripeness, and invest each hill
As with the blushes of an evening sky?
Or wilt thou rather stoop thy vagrant plume,
Where gliding through his daughters honour'd shades,
The smooth Penéus from his glassy flood
Reflects purpureal Tempo's pleasant scene?
Fair Tempe! haunt beloved of sylvan Powers,
Of Nymphs and Fauns; where in the golden age 300
They play'd in secret on the shady brink
With ancient Pan: while round their choral steps
Young Hours and genial Gales with constant hand
Shower'd blossoms, odours, shower'd ambrosial dews,
And spring's Elysian bloom. Her flowery store
To thee nor Tempe shall refuse; nor watch
Of winged Hydra guard Hesperian fruits
From thy free spoil. Oh, bear then, unreproved,
Thy smiling treasures to the green recess
Where young Dione stays. With sweetest airs 310
Entice her forth to lend her angel form
For Beauty's honour'd image. Hither turn
Thy graceful footsteps; hither, gentle maid,
Incline thy polish'd forehead: let thy eyes
Effuse the mildness of their azure dawn;
And may the fanning breezes waft aside
Thy radiant locks: disclosing, as it bends
With airy softness from the marble neck,
The cheek fair-blooming, and the rosy lip,
Where winning smiles and pleasures sweet as love, 320
With sanctity and wisdom, tempering blend
Their soft allurement. Then the pleasing force
Of Nature, and her kind parental care
Worthier I'd sing: then all the enamour'd youth,
With each admiring virgin, to my lyre
Should throng attentive, while I point on high
Where Beauty's living image, like the Morn
That wakes in Zephyr's arms the blushing May,
Moves onward; or as Venus, when she stood
Effulgent on the pearly car, and smiled, 330
Fresh from the deep, and conscious of her form,
To see the Tritons tune their vocal shells,
And each cerulean sister of the flood
With loud acclaim attend her o'er the waves,
To seek the Idalian bower. Ye smiling band
Of youths and virgins, who through all the maze
Of young desire with rival steps pursue
This charm of Beauty, if the pleasing toil
Can yield a moment's respite, hither turn
Your favourable ear, and trust my words. 340
I do not mean to wake the gloomy form
Of Superstition dress'd in Wisdom's garb,
To damp your tender hopes; I do not mean
To bid the jealous thunderer fire the heavens,
Or shapes infernal rend the groaning earth
To fright you from your joys: my cheerful song
With better omens calls you to the field,
Pleased with your generous ardour in the chase,
And warm like you. Then tell me, for ye know,
Does Beauty ever deign to dwell where health 350
And active use are strangers? Is her charm
Confess'd in aught, whose most peculiar ends
Are lame and fruitless? Or did Nature mean
This pleasing call the herald of a lie,
To hide the shame of discord and disease,
And catch with fair hypocrisy the heart
Of idle faith? Oh, no! with better cares
The indulgent mother, conscious how infirm
Her offspring tread the paths of good and ill,
By this illustrious image, in each kind 360
Still most illustrious where the object holds
Its native powers most perfect, she by this
Illumes the headstrong impulse of desire,
And sanctifies his choice. The generous glebe
Whose bosom smiles with verdure, the clear tract
Of streams delicious to the thirsty soul,
The bloom of nectar'd fruitage ripe to sense,
And every charm of animated things,
Are only pledges of a state sincere,
The integrity and order of their frame, 370
When all is well within, and every end
Accomplish'd. Thus was Beauty sent from heaven,
The lovely ministries of Truth and Good
In this dark world: for Truth and Good are one,
And Beauty dwells in them, [Endnote F] and they in her,
With like participation. Wherefore then,
O sons of earth! would ye dissolve the tie?
Oh! wherefore, with a rash impetuous aim,
Seek ye those flowery joys with which the hand
Of lavish Fancy paints each flattering scene 380
Where Beauty seems to dwell, nor once inquire
Where is the sanction of eternal Truth,
Or where the seal of undeceitful Good,
To save your search from folly! Wanting these,
Lo! Beauty withers in your void embrace,
And with the glittering of an idiot's toy
Did Fancy mock your vows. Nor let the gleam
Of youthful hope that shines upon your hearts,
Be chill'd or clouded at this awful task,
To learn the lore of undeceitful Good, 390
And Truth eternal. Though the poisonous charms
Of baleful Superstition guide the feet
Of servile numbers, through a dreary way
To their abode, through deserts, thorns, and mire;
And leave the wretched pilgrim all forlorn
To muse at last, amid the ghostly gloom
Of graves, and hoary vaults, and cloister'd cells;
To walk with spectres through the midnight shade,
And to the screaming owl's accursed song
Attune the dreadful workings of his heart; 400
Yet be not ye dismay'd. A gentler star
Your lovely search illumines. From the grove
Where Wisdom talk'd with her Athenian sons,
Could my ambitious hand entwine a wreath
Of Plato's olive with the Mantuan bay,
Then should my powerful verse at once dispel
Those monkish horrors: then in light divine
Disclose the Elysian prospect, where the steps
Of those whom Nature charms, through blooming walks,
Through fragrant mountains and poetic streams, 410
Amid the train of sages, heroes, bards,
Led by their winged Genius, and the choir
Of laurell'd science and harmonious art,
Proceed exulting to the eternal shrine,
Where Truth conspicuous with her sister-twins,
The undivided partners of her sway,
With Good and Beauty reigns. Oh, let not us,
Lull'd by luxurious Pleasure's languid strain,
Or crouching to the frowns of bigot rage,
Oh, let us not a moment pause to join 420
That godlike band. And if the gracious Power
Who first awaken'd my untutor'd song,
Will to my invocation breathe anew
The tuneful spirit; then through all our paths,
Ne'er shall the sound of this devoted lyre
Be wanting; whether on the rosy mead,
When summer smiles, to warn the melting heart
Of luxury's allurement; whether firm
Against the torrent and the stubborn hill
To urge bold Virtue's unremitted nerve, 430
And wake the strong divinity of soul
That conquers chance and fate; or whether struck
For sounds of triumph, to proclaim her toils
Upon the lofty summit, round her brow
To twine the wreath of incorruptive praise;
To trace her hallow'd light through future worlds,
And bless Heaven's image in the heart of man.

Thus with a faithful aim have we presumed,
Adventurous, to delineate Nature's form;
Whether in vast, majestic pomp array'd, 440
Or dress'd for pleasing wonder, or serene
In Beauty's rosy smile. It now remains,
Through various being's fair proportion'd scale,
To trace the rising lustre of her charms,
From their first twilight, shining forth at length
To full meridian splendour. Of degree
The least and lowliest, in the effusive warmth
Of colours mingling with a random blaze,
Doth Beauty dwell. Then higher in the line
And variation of determined shape, 450
Where Truth's eternal measures mark the bound
Of circle, cube, or sphere. The third ascent
Unites this varied symmetry of parts
With colour's bland allurement; as the pearl
Shines in the concave of its azure bed,
And painted shells indent their speckled wreath.
Then more attractive rise the blooming forms
Through which the breath of Nature has infused
Her genial power to draw with pregnant veins
Nutritious moisture from the bounteous earth, 460
In fruit and seed prolific: thus the flowers
Their purple honours with the Spring resume;
And such the stately tree which Autumn bends
With blushing treasures. But more lovely still
Is Nature's charm, where to the full consent
Of complicated members, to the bloom
Of colour, and the vital change of growth,
Life's holy flame and piercing sense are given,
And active motion speaks the temper'd soul:
So moves the bird of Juno; so the steed 470
With rival ardour beats the dusty plain,
And faithful dogs with eager airs of joy
Salute their fellows. Thus doth Beauty dwell
There most conspicuous, even in outward shape,
Where dawns the high expression of a mind:
By steps conducting our enraptured search
To that eternal origin, whose power,
Through all the unbounded symmetry of things,
Like rays effulging from the parent sun,
This endless mixture of her charms diffused. 480
Mind, mind alone, (bear witness, earth and heaven!)
The living fountains in itself contains
Of beauteous and sublime: here hand in hand,
Sit paramount the Graces; here enthroned,
Celestial Venus, with divinest airs,
Invites the soul to never-fading joy.
Look then abroad through nature, to the range
Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres
Wheeling unshaken through the void immense;
And speak, O man! does this capacious scene 490
With half that kindling majesty dilate
Thy strong conception, as when Brutus rose [Endnote G]
Refulgent from the stroke of Caesar's fate,
Amid the crowd of patriots; and his arm
Aloft extending, like eternal Jove
When guilt brings down the thunder, call'd aloud
On Tully's name, and shook his crimson steel,
And bade the father of his country, hail!
For lo! the tyrant prostrate on the dust,
And Rome again is free! Is aught so fair 500
In all the dewy landscapes of the Spring,
In the bright eye of Hesper, or the morn,
In Nature's fairest forms, is aught so fair
As virtuous friendship? as the candid blush
Of him who strives with fortune to be just?
The graceful tear that streams for others' woes?
Or the mild majesty of private life,
Where Peace with ever blooming olive crowns
The gate; where Honour's liberal hands effuse
Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings 510
Of Innocence and Love protect the scene?
Once more search, undismay'd, the dark profound
Where Nature works in secret; view the beds
Of mineral treasure, and the eternal vault
That bounds the hoary ocean; trace the forms
Of atoms moving with incessant change
Their elemental round; behold the seeds
Of being, and the energy of life
Kindling the mass with ever-active flame;
Then to the secrets of the working mind 520
Attentive turn; from dim oblivion call
Her fleet, ideal band; and bid them, go!
Break through time's barrier, and o'ertake the hour
That saw the heavens created: then declare
If aught were found in those external scenes
To move thy wonder now. For what are all
The forms which brute, unconscious matter wears,
Greatness of bulk, or symmetry of parts?
Not reaching to the heart, soon feeble grows
The superficial impulse; dull their charms, 530
And satiate soon, and pall the languid eye.
Not so the moral species, nor the powers
Of genius and design; the ambitious mind
There sees herself: by these congenial forms
Touch'd and awaken'd, with intenser act
She bends each nerve, and meditates well pleased
Her features in the mirror. For, of all
The inhabitants of earth, to man alone
Creative Wisdom gave to lift his eye
To Truth's eternal measures; thence to frame 540
The sacred laws of action and of will,
Discerning justice from unequal deeds,
And temperance from folly. But beyond
This energy of Truth, whose dictates bind
Assenting reason, the benignant Sire,
To deck the honour'd paths of just and good,
Has added bright Imagination's rays:
Where Virtue, rising from the awful depth
Of Truth's mysterious bosom, [Endnote H] doth forsake
The unadorn'd condition of her birth; 550
And dress'd by Fancy in ten thousand hues,
Assumes a various feature, to attract,
With charms responsive to each gazer's eye,
The hearts of men. Amid his rural walk,
The ingenuous youth, whom solitude inspires
With purest wishes, from the pensive shade
Beholds her moving, like a virgin muse
That wakes her lyre to some indulgent theme
Of harmony and wonder: while among
The herd of servile minds, her strenuous form 560
Indignant flashes on the patriot's eye,
And through the rolls of memory appeals
To ancient honour; or in act serene,
Yet watchful, raises the majestic sword
Of public Power, from dark Ambition's reach
To guard the sacred volume of the laws.

Genius of ancient Greece! whose faithful steps
Well pleased I follow through the sacred paths
Of Nature and of Science; nurse divine
Of all heroic deeds and fair desires! 570
Oh! let the breath of thy extended praise
Inspire my kindling bosom to the height
Of this untempted theme. Nor be my thoughts
Presumptuous counted, if, amid the calm
That soothes this vernal evening into smiles,
I steal impatient from the sordid haunts
Of strife and low ambition, to attend
Thy sacred presence in the sylvan shade,
By their malignant footsteps ne'er profaned.
Descend, propitious, to my favour'd eye! 580
Such in thy mien, thy warm, exalted air,
As when the Persian tyrant, foil'd and stung
With shame and desperation, gnash'd his teeth
To see thee rend the pageants of his throne;
And at the lightning of thy lifted spear
Crouch'd like a slave. Bring all thy martial spoils,
Thy palms, thy laurels, thy triumphal songs,
Thy smiling band of art, thy godlike sires
Of civil wisdom, thy heroic youth
Warm from the schools of glory. Guide my way 590
Through fair Lycéum's [Endnote I] walk, the green retreats
Of Academus, [Endnote J] and the thymy vale,
Where oft enchanted with Socratic sounds,
Ilissus [Endnote K] pure devolved his tuneful stream
In gentler murmurs. From the blooming store
Of these auspicious fields, may I unblamed
Transplant some living blossoms to adorn
My native clime: while far above the flight
Of Fancy's plume aspiring, I unlock
The springs of ancient wisdom! while I join 600
Thy name, thrice honour'd! with the immortal praise
Of Nature; while to my compatriot youth
I point the high example of thy sons,
And tune to Attic themes the British lyre.



The separation of the works of Imagination from Philosophy, the
cause of their abuse among the moderns. Prospect of their reunion
under the influence of public Liberty. Enumeration of accidental
pleasures, which increase the effect of objects delightful to the
Imagination. The pleasures of sense. Particular circumstances of the
mind. Discovery of truth. Perception of contrivance and design.
Emotion of the passions. All the natural passions partake of a
pleasing sensation; with the final cause of this constitution
illustrated by an allegorical vision, and exemplified in sorrow, pity,
terror, and indignation.

When shall the laurel and the vocal string
Resume their honours? When shall we behold
The tuneful tongue, the Promethéan band
Aspire to ancient praise? Alas! how faint,
How slow the dawn of Beauty and of Truth
Breaks the reluctant shades of Gothic night
Which yet involves the nations! Long they groan'd
Beneath the furies of rapacious force;
Oft as the gloomy north, with iron swarms
Tempestuous pouring from her frozen caves, 10
Blasted the Italian shore, and swept the works
Of Liberty and Wisdom down the gulf
Of all-devouring night. As long immured
In noontide darkness, by the glimmering lamp,
Each Muse and each fair Science pined away
The sordid hours: while foul, barbarian hands
Their mysteries profaned, unstrung the lyre,
And chain'd the soaring pinion down to earth.
At last the Muses rose, [Endnote L] and spurn'd their bonds,
And, wildly warbling, scatter'd as they flew, 20
Their blooming wreaths from fair Valclusa's [Endnote M] bowers
To Arno's [Endnote N] myrtle border and the shore
Of soft Parthenopé. [Endnote O] But still the rage
Of dire ambition [Endnote P] and gigantic power,
From public aims and from the busy walk
Of civil commerce, drove the bolder train
Of penetrating Science to the cells,
Where studious Ease consumes the silent hour
In shadowy searches and unfruitful care.
Thus from their guardians torn, the tender arts [Endnote Q] 30
Of mimic fancy and harmonious joy,
To priestly domination and the lust
Of lawless courts, their amiable toil
For three inglorious ages have resign'd,
In vain reluctant: and Torquato's tongue
Was tuned for slavish pasans at the throne
Of tinsel pomp: and Raphael's magic hand
Effused its fair creation to enchant
The fond adoring herd in Latian fanes
To blind belief; while on their prostrate necks 40
The sable tyrant plants his heel secure.
But now, behold! the radiant era dawns,
When freedom's ample fabric, fix'd at length
For endless years on Albion's happy shore
In full proportion, once more shall extend
To all the kindred powers of social bliss
A common mansion, a parental roof.
There shall the Virtues, there shall Wisdom's train,
Their long-lost friends rejoining, as of old,
Embrace the smiling family of Arts, 50
The Muses and the Graces. Then no more
Shall Vice, distracting their delicious gifts
To aims abhorr'd, with high distaste and scorn
Turn from their charms the philosophic eye,
The patriot bosom; then no more the paths
Of public care or intellectual toil,
Alone by footsteps haughty and severe
In gloomy state be trod: the harmonious Muse
And her persuasive sisters then shall plant
Their sheltering laurels o'er the bleak ascent, 60
And scatter flowers along the rugged way.
Arm'd with the lyre, already have we dared
To pierce divine Philosophy's retreats,
And teach the Muse her lore; already strove
Their long-divided honours to unite,
While tempering this deep argument we sang
Of Truth and Beauty. Now the same glad task
Impends; now urging our ambitious toil,
We hasten to recount the various springs
Of adventitious pleasure, which adjoin 70
Their grateful influence to the prime effect
Of objects grand or beauteous, and enlarge
The complicated joy. The sweets of sense,
Do they not oft with kind accession flow,
To raise harmonious Fancy's native charm?
So while we taste the fragrance of the rose,
Glows not her blush the fairer? While we view
Amid the noontide walk a limpid rill
Gush through the trickling herbage, to the thirst
Of summer yielding the delicious draught 80
Of cool refreshment, o'er the mossy brink
Shines not the surface clearer, and the waves
With sweeter music murmur as they flow?

Nor this alone; the various lot of life
Oft from external circumstance assumes
A moment's disposition to rejoice
In those delights which, at a different hour,
Would pass unheeded. Fair the face of Spring,
When rural songs and odours wake the morn,
To every eye; but how much more to his 90
Round whom the bed of sickness long diffused
Its melancholy gloom! how doubly fair,
When first with fresh-born vigour he inhales
The balmy breeze, and feels the blessed sun
Warm at his bosom, from the springs of life
Chasing oppressive damps and languid pain!

Or shall I mention, where celestial Truth
Her awful light discloses, to bestow
A more majestic pomp on Beauty's frame?
For man loves knowledge, and the beams of Truth 100
More welcome touch his understanding's eye,
Than all the blandishments of sound his ear,
Than all of taste his tongue. Nor ever yet
The melting rainbow's vernal-tinctured hues
To me have shown so pleasing, as when first
The hand of Science pointed out the path
In which the sunbeams, gleaming from the west,
Fall on the watery cloud, whose darksome veil
Involves the orient; and that trickling shower
Piercing through every crystalline convex 110
Of clustering dewdrops to their flight opposed,
Recoil at length where concave all behind
The internal surface of each glassy orb
Repels their forward passage into air;
That thence direct they seek the radiant goal
From which their course began; and, as they strike
In different lines the gazer's obvious eye,
Assume a different lustre, through the brede
Of colours changing from the splendid rose
To the pale violet's dejected hue. 120

Or shall we touch that kind access of joy,
That springs to each fair object, while we trace,
Through all its fabric, Wisdom's artful aim,
Disposing every part, and gaining still,
By means proportion'd, her benignant end?
Speak ye, the pure delight, whose favour'd steps
The lamp of Science through the jealous maze
Of Nature guides, when haply you reveal
Her secret honours: whether in the sky,
The beauteous laws of light, the central powers 130
That wheel the pensile planets round the year;
Whether in wonders of the rolling deep,
Or the rich fruits of all-sustaining earth,
Or fine-adjusted springs of life and sense,
Ye scan the counsels of their Author's hand.

What, when to raise the meditated scene,
The flame of passion, through the struggling soul
Deep-kindled, shows across that sudden blaze
The object of its rapture, vast of size,
With fiercer colours and a night of shade? 140
What, like a storm from their capacious bed
The sounding seas o'erwhelming, when the might
Of these eruptions, working from the depth
Of man's strong apprehension, shakes his frame
Even to the base; from every naked sense
Of pain or pleasure, dissipating all
Opinion's feeble coverings, and the veil
Spun from the cobweb fashion of the times
To hide the feeling heart? Then Nature speaks
Her genuine language, and the words of men, 150
Big with the very motion of their souls,
Declare with what accumulated force
The impetuous nerve of passion urges on
The native weight and energy of things.

Yet more: her honours where nor Beauty claims,
Nor shows of good the thirsty sense allure,
From passion's power alone [Endnote R] our nature holds
Essential pleasure. Passion's fierce illapse
Rouses the mind's whole fabric; with supplies
Of daily impulse keeps the elastic powers 160
Intensely poised, and polishes anew
By that collision all the fine machine:
Else rust would rise, and foulness, by degrees
Encumbering, choke at last what heaven design'd
For ceaseless motion and a round of toil.--
But say, does every passion thus to man
Administer delight? That name indeed
Becomes the rosy breath of love; becomes
The radiant smiles of joy, the applauding hand
Of admiration: but the bitter shower 170
That sorrow sheds upon a brother's grave;
But the dumb palsy of nocturnal fear,
Or those consuming fires that gnaw the heart
Of panting indignation, find we there
To move delight?--Then listen while my tongue
The unalter'd will of Heaven with faithful awe
Reveals; what old Harmodius wont to teach
My early age; Harmodius, who had weigh'd
Within his learned mind whate'er the schools
Of Wisdom, or thy lonely-whispering voice, 180
O faithful Nature! dictate of the laws
Which govern and support this mighty frame
Of universal being. Oft the hours
From morn to eve have stolen unmark'd away,
While mute attention hung upon his lips,
As thus the sage his awful tale began:--

''Twas in the windings of an ancient wood,
When spotless youth with solitude resigns
To sweet philosophy the studious day,
What time pale Autumn shades the silent eve, 190
Musing I roved. Of good and evil much,
And much of mortal man my thought revolved;
When starting full on fancy's gushing eye
The mournful image of Parthenia's fate,
That hour, O long beloved and long deplored!
When blooming youth, nor gentlest wisdom's arts,
Nor Hymen's honours gather'd for thy brow,
Nor all thy lover's, all thy father's tears
Avail'd to snatch thee from the cruel grave;
Thy agonising looks, thy last farewell 200
Struck to the inmost feeling of my soul
As with the hand of Death. At once the shade
More horrid nodded o'er me, and the winds
With hoarser murmuring shook the branches. Dark
As midnight storms, the scene of human things
Appear'd before me; deserts, burning sands,
Where the parch'd adder dies; the frozen south,
And desolation blasting all the west
With rapine and with murder: tyrant power
Here sits enthroned with blood; the baleful charms 210
Of superstition there infect the skies,
And turn the sun to horror. Gracious Heaven!
What is the life of man? Or cannot these,
Not these portents thy awful will suffice,
That, propagated thus beyond their scope,
They rise to act their cruelties anew
In my afflicted bosom, thus decreed
The universal sensitive of pain,
The wretched heir of evils not its own?'

Thus I impatient: when, at once effused, 220
A flashing torrent of celestial day
Burst through the shadowy void. With slow descent
A purple cloud came floating through the sky,
And, poised at length within the circling trees,
Hung obvious to my view; till opening wide
Its lucid orb, a more than human form
Emerging lean'd majestic o'er my head,
And instant thunder shook the conscious grove.
Then melted into air the liquid cloud,
And all the shining vision stood reveal'd. 230
A wreath of palm his ample forehead bound,
And o'er his shoulder, mantling to his knee,
Flow'd the transparent robe, around his waist
Collected with a radiant zone of gold
Aethereal: there in mystic signs engraved,
I read his office high and sacred name,
Genius of human kind! Appall'd I gazed
The godlike presence; for athwart his brow
Displeasure, temper'd with a mild concern,
Look'd down reluctant on me, and his words 240
Like distant thunders broke the murmuring air:

'Vain are thy thoughts, O child of mortal birth!
And impotent thy tongue. Is thy short span
Capacious of this universal frame?--
Thy wisdom all-sufficient? Thou, alas!
Dost thou aspire to judge between the Lord
Of Nature and his works--to lift thy voice
Against the sovereign order he decreed,
All good and lovely--to blaspheme the bands
Of tenderness innate and social love, 250
Holiest of things! by which the general orb
Of being, as by adamantine links,
Was drawn to perfect union, and sustain'd
From everlasting? Hast thou felt the pangs
Of softening sorrow, of indignant zeal,
So grievous to the soul, as thence to wish
The ties of Nature broken from thy frame,
That so thy selfish, unrelenting heart
Might cease to mourn its lot, no longer then
The wretched heir of evils not its own? 260
O fair benevolence of generous minds!
O man by Nature form'd for all mankind!'

He spoke; abash'd and silent I remain'd,
As conscious of my tongue's offence, and awed
Before his presence, though my secret soul
Disdain'd the imputation. On the ground
I fix'd my eyes, till from his airy couch
He stoop'd sublime, and touching with his hand
My dazzling forehead, 'Raise thy sight,' he cried,
'And let thy sense convince thy erring tongue.' 270

I look'd, and lo! the former scene was changed;
For verdant alleys and surrounding trees,
A solitary prospect, wide and wild,
Rush'd on my senses. 'Twas a horrid pile
Of hills with many a shaggy forest mix'd,
With many a sable cliff and glittering stream.
Aloft, recumbent o'er the hanging ridge,
The brown woods waved; while ever-trickling springs
Wash'd from the naked roots of oak and pine
The crumbling soil; and still at every fall 280
Down the steep windings of the channel'd rock,
Remurmuring rush'd the congregated floods
With hoarser inundation; till at last
They reach'd a grassy plain, which from the skirts
Of that high desert spread her verdant lap,
And drank the gushing moisture, where confined
In one smooth current, o'er the lilied vale
Clearer than glass it flow'd. Autumnal spoils
Luxuriant spreading to the rays of morn,
Blush'd o'er the cliffs, whose half-encircling mound 290
As in a sylvan theatre enclosed
That flowery level. On the river's brink
I spied a fair pavilion, which diffused
Its floating umbrage 'mid the silver shade
Of osiers. Now the western sun reveal'd
Between two parting cliffs his golden orb,
And pour'd across the shadow of the hills,
On rocks and floods, a yellow stream of light
That cheer'd the solemn scene. My listening powers
Were awed, and every thought in silence hung, 300
And wondering expectation. Then the voice
Of that celestial power, the mystic show
Declaring, thus my deep attention call'd:--

'Inhabitant of earth, [Endnote S] to whom is given
The gracious ways of Providence to learn,
Receive my sayings with a steadfast ear--
Know then, the Sovereign Spirit of the world,
Though, self-collected from eternal time,
Within his own deep essence he beheld
The bounds of true felicity complete, 310
Yet by immense benignity inclined
To spread around him that primeval joy
Which fill'd himself, he raised his plastic arm,
And sounded through the hollow depths of space
The strong, creative mandate. Straight arose
These heavenly orbs, the glad abodes of life,
Effusive kindled by his breath divine
Through endless forms of being. Each inhaled
From him its portion of the vital flame,
In measure such, that, from the wide complex 320
Of coexistent orders, one might rise,
One order, [Endnote T] all-involving and entire.
He too, beholding in the sacred light
Of his essential reason, all the shapes
Of swift contingence, all successive ties
Of action propagated through the sum
Of possible existence, he at once,
Down the long series of eventful time,
So fix'd the dates of being, so disposed,
To every living soul of every kind 330
The field of motion and the hour of rest,
That all conspired to his supreme design,
To universal good: with full accord
Answering the mighty model he had chose,
The best and fairest [Endnote U] of unnumber'd worlds
That lay from everlasting in the store
Of his divine conceptions. Nor content,
By one exertion of creative power
His goodness to reveal; through every age,
Through every moment up the tract of time, 340
His parent hand with ever new increase
Of happiness and virtue has adorn'd
The vast harmonious frame: his parent hand,

Book of the day: