Poetical Works of Akenside
Mark Akenside

Part 2 out of 7

From the mute shell-fish gasping on the shore,
To men, to angels, to celestial minds,
For ever leads the generations on
To higher scenes of being; while, supplied
From day to day with his enlivening breath,
Inferior orders in succession rise
To fill the void below. As flame ascends, [Endnote V] 350
As bodies to their proper centre move,
As the poised ocean to the attracting moon
Obedient swells, and every headlong stream
Devolves its winding waters to the main;
So all things which have life aspire to God,
The sun of being, boundless, unimpair'd,
Centre of souls! Nor does the faithful voice
Of Nature cease to prompt their eager steps
Aright; nor is the care of Heaven withheld
From granting to the task proportion'd aid; 360
That in their stations all may persevere
To climb the ascent of being, and approach
For ever nearer to the life divine.--

'That rocky pile thou seest, that verdant lawn
Fresh-water'd from the mountains. Let the scene
Paint in thy fancy the primeval seat
Of man, and where the Will Supreme ordain'd
His mansion, that pavilion fair-diffused
Along the shady brink; in this recess
To wear the appointed season of his youth, 370
Till riper hours should open to his toil
The high communion of superior minds,
Of consecrated heroes and of gods.
Nor did the Sire Omnipotent forget
His tender bloom to cherish; nor withheld
Celestial footsteps from his green abode.
Oft from the radiant honours of his throne,
He sent whom most he loved, the sovereign fair,
The effluence of his glory, whom he placed
Before his eyes for ever to behold; 380
The goddess from whose inspiration flows
The toil of patriots, the delight of friends;
Without whose work divine, in heaven or earth,
Nought lovely, nought propitious, conies to pass,
Nor hope, nor praise, nor honour. Her the Sire
Gave it in charge to rear the blooming mind,
The folded powers to open, to direct
The growth luxuriant of his young desires,
And from the laws of this majestic world
To teach him what was good. As thus the nymph 390
Her daily care attended, by her side
With constant steps her gay companion stay'd,
The fair Euphrosyné, the gentle queen
Of smiles, and graceful gladness, and delights
That cheer alike the hearts of mortal men
And powers immortal. See the shining pair!
Behold, where from his dwelling now disclosed
They quit their youthful charge and seek the skies.'

I look'd, and on the flowery turf there stood
Between two radiant forms a smiling youth 400
Whose tender cheeks display'd the vernal flower
Of beauty: sweetest innocence illumed
His bashful eyes, and on his polish'd brow
Sate young simplicity. With fond regard
He view'd the associates, as their steps they moved;
The younger chief his ardent eyes detain'd,
With mild regret invoking her return.
Bright as the star of evening she appear'd
Amid the dusky scene. Eternal youth
O'er all her form its glowing honours breathed; 410
And smiles eternal from her candid eyes
Flow'd, like the dewy lustre of the morn
Effusive trembling on the placid waves.
The spring of heaven had shed its blushing spoils
To bind her sable tresses: full diffused
Her yellow mantle floated in the breeze;
And in her hand she waved a living branch
Rich with immortal fruits, of power to calm
The wrathful heart, and from the brightening eyes
To chase the cloud of sadness. More sublime 420
The heavenly partner moved. The prime of age
Composed her steps. The presence of a god,
High on the circle of her brow enthroned,
From each majestic motion darted awe,
Devoted awe! till, cherish'd by her looks
Benevolent and meek, confiding love
To filial rapture soften'd all the soul.
Free in her graceful hand she poised the sword
Of chaste dominion. An heroic crown
Display'd the old simplicity of pomp 430
Around her honour'd head. A matron's robe,
White as the sunshine streams through vernal clouds,
Her stately form invested. Hand in hand
The immortal pair forsook the enamel'd green,
Ascending slowly. Rays of limpid light
Gleam'd round their path; celestial sounds were heard,
And through the fragrant air ethereal dews
Distill'd around them; till at once the clouds,
Disparting wide in midway sky, withdrew
Their airy veil, and left a bright expanse 440
Of empyrean flame, where, spent and drown'd,
Afflicted vision plunged in vain to scan
What object it involved. My feeble eyes
Endured not. Bending down to earth I stood,
With dumb attention. Soon a female voice,
As watery murmurs sweet, or warbling shades,
With sacred invocation thus began:

'Father of gods and mortals! whose right arm
With reins eternal guides the moving heavens,
Bend thy propitious ear. Behold well pleased 450
I seek to finish thy divine decree.
With frequent steps I visit yonder seat
Of man, thy offspring; from the tender seeds
Of justice and of wisdom, to evolve
The latent honours of his generous frame;
Till thy conducting hand shall raise his lot
From earth's dim scene to these ethereal walks,
The temple of thy glory. But not me,
Not my directing voice he oft requires,
Or hears delighted: this enchanting maid, 460
The associate thou hast given me, her alone
He loves, O Father! absent, her he craves;
And but for her glad presence ever join'd,
Rejoices not in mine: that all my hopes
This thy benignant purpose to fulfil,
I deem uncertain: and my daily cares
Unfruitful all and vain, unless by thee
Still further aided in the work divine.'

She ceased; a voice more awful thus replied:--
'O thou, in whom for ever I delight, 470
Fairer than all the inhabitants of Heaven,
Best image of thy Author! far from thee
Be disappointment, or distaste, or blame;
Who soon or late shalt every work fulfil,
And no resistance find. If man refuse
To hearken to thy dictates; or, allured
By meaner joys, to any other power
Transfer the honours due to thee alone;
That joy which he pursues he ne'er shall taste,
That power in whom delighteth ne'er behold. 480
Go then, once more, and happy be thy toil;
Go then! but let not this thy smiling friend
Partake thy footsteps. In her stead, behold!
With thee the son of Nemesis I send;
The fiend abhorr'd! whose vengeance takes account
Of sacred order's violated laws.
See where he calls thee, burning to be gone,
Pierce to exhaust the tempest of his wrath
On yon devoted head. But thou, my child,
Control his cruel frenzy, and protect 490
Thy tender charge; that when despair shall grasp
His agonising bosom, he may learn,
Then he may learn to love the gracious hand
Alone sufficient in the hour of ill,
To save his feeble spirit; then confess
Thy genuine honours, O excelling fair!
When all the plagues that wait the deadly will
Of this avenging demon, all the storms
Of night infernal, serve but to display
The energy of thy superior charms 500
With mildest awe triumphant o'er his rage,
And shining clearer in the horrid gloom.'

Here ceased that awful voice, and soon I felt
The cloudy curtain of refreshing eve
Was closed once more, from that immortal fire
Sheltering my eyelids. Looking up, I view'd
A vast gigantic spectre striding on
Through murmuring thunders and a waste of clouds,
With dreadful action. Black as night his brow
Relentless frowns involved. His savage limbs 510
With sharp impatience violent he writhed,
As through convulsive anguish; and his hand,
Arm'd with a scorpion lash, full oft he raised
In madness to his bosom; while his eyes
Rain'd bitter tears, and bellowing loud he shook
The void with horror. Silent by his side
The virgin came. No discomposure stirr'd
Her features. From the glooms which hung around,
No stain of darkness mingled with the beam
Of her divine effulgence. Now they stoop 520
Upon the river bank; and now to hail
His wonted guests, with eager steps advanced
The unsuspecting inmate of the shade.

As when a famish'd wolf, that all night long
Had ranged the Alpine snows, by chance at morn
Sees from a cliff, incumbent o'er the smoke
Of some lone village, a neglected kid
That strays along the wild for herb or spring;
Down from the winding ridge he sweeps amain,
And thinks he tears him: so with tenfold rage, 530
The monster sprung remorseless on his prey.
Amazed the stripling stood: with panting breast
Feebly he pour'd the lamentable wail
Of helpless consternation, struck at once,
And rooted to the ground. The Queen beheld
His terror, and with looks of tenderest care
Advanced to save him. Soon the tyrant felt
Her awful power. His keen tempestuous arm
Hung nerveless, nor descended where his rage
Had aim'd the deadly blow: then dumb retired 540
With sullen rancour. Lo! the sovereign maid
Folds with a mother's arms the fainting boy,
Till life rekindles in his rosy cheek;
Then grasps his hands, and cheers him with her tongue:--

'Oh, wake thee, rouse thy spirit! Shall the spite
Of yon tormentor thus appal thy heart,
While I, thy friend and guardian, am at hand
To rescue and to heal? Oh, let thy soul
Remember, what the will of heaven ordains
Is ever good for all; and if for all, 550
Then good for thee. Nor only by the warmth
And soothing sunshine of delightful things,
Do minds grow up and flourish. Oft misled
By that bland light, the young unpractised views
Of reason wander through a fatal road,
Far from their native aim; as if to lie
Inglorious in the fragrant shade, and wait
The soft access of ever circling joys,
Were all the end of being. Ask thyself,
This pleasing error did it never lull 560
Thy wishes? Has thy constant heart refused
The silken fetters of delicious ease?
Or when divine Euphrosyné appear'd
Within this dwelling, did not thy desires
Hang far below the measure of thy fate,
Which I reveal'd before thee, and thy eyes,
Impatient of my counsels, turn away
To drink the soft effusion of her smiles?
Know then, for this the everlasting Sire
Deprives thee of her presence, and instead, 570
O wise and still benevolent! ordains
This horrid visage hither to pursue
My steps; that so thy nature may discern
Its real good, and what alone can save
Thy feeble spirit in this hour of ill
From folly and despair. O yet beloved!
Let not this headlong terror quite o'erwhelm
Thy scatter'd powers; nor fatal deem the rage
Of this tormentor, nor his proud assault,
While I am here to vindicate thy toil, 580
Above the generous question of thy arm.
Brave by thy fears and in thy weakness strong,
This hour he triumphs: but confront his might,
And dare him to the combat, then with ease
Disarm'd and quell'd, his fierceness he resigns
To bondage and to scorn: while thus inured
By watchful danger, by unceasing toil,
The immortal mind, superior to his fate,
Amid the outrage of external things,
Firm as the solid base of this great world, 590
Rests on his own foundations. Blow, ye winds!
Ye waves! ye thunders! roll your tempest on;
Shake, ye old pillars of the marble sky!
Till all its orbs and all its worlds of fire
Be loosen'd from their seats; yet still serene,
The unconquer'd mind looks down upon the wreck;
And ever stronger as the storms advance,
Firm through the closing ruin holds his way,
Where Nature calls him to the destined goal.'

So spake the goddess; while through all her frame 600
Celestial raptures flow'd, in every word,
In every motion kindling warmth divine
To seize who listen'd. Vehement and swift
As lightning fires the aromatic shade
In Aethiopian fields, the stripling felt
Her inspiration catch his fervid soul,
And starting from his languor thus exclaim'd:--

'Then let the trial come! and witness thou,
If terror be upon me; if I shrink
To meet the storm, or falter in my strength 610
When hardest it besets me. Do not think
That I am fearful and infirm of soul,
As late thy eyes beheld: for thou hast changed
My nature; thy commanding voice has waked
My languid powers to bear me boldly on,
Where'er the will divine my path ordains
Through toil or peril: only do not thou
Forsake me; Oh, be thou for ever near,
That I may listen to thy sacred voice,
And guide by thy decrees my constant feet. 620
But say, for ever are my eyes bereft?
Say, shall the fair Euphrosyné not once
Appear again to charm me? Thou, in heaven!
O thou eternal arbiter of things!
Be thy great bidding done: for who am I,
To question thy appointment? Let the frowns
Of this avenger every morn o'ercast
The cheerful dawn, and every evening damp
With double night my dwelling; I will learn
To hail them both, and unrepining bear 630
His hateful presence: but permit my tongue
One glad request, and if my deeds may find
Thy awful eye propitious, oh! restore
The rosy-featured maid; again to cheer
This lonely seat, and bless me with her smiles.'

He spoke; when instant through the sable glooms
With which that furious presence had involved
The ambient air, a flood of radiance came
Swift as the lightning flash; the melting clouds
Flew diverse, and amid the blue serene 640
Euphrosyné appear'd. With sprightly step
The nymph alighted on the irriguous lawn,
And to her wondering audience thus began:--

'Lo! I am here to answer to your vows,
And be the meeting fortunate! I come
With joyful tidings; we shall part no more--
Hark! how the gentle echo from her cell
Talks through the cliffs, and murmuring o'er the stream
Repeats the accents; we shall part no more.--
O my delightful friends! well pleased on high 650
The Father has beheld you, while the might
Of that stern foe with bitter trial proved
Your equal doings: then for ever spake
The high decree, that thou, celestial maid!
Howe'er that grisly phantom on thy steps
May sometimes dare intrude, yet never more
Shalt thou, descending to the abode of man,
Alone endure the rancour of his arm,
Or leave thy loved Euphrosyné behind.'

She ended, and the whole romantic scene 660
Immediate vanish'd; rocks, and woods, and rills,
The mantling tent, and each mysterious form
Flew like the pictures of a morning dream,
When sunshine fills the bed. Awhile I stood
Perplex'd and giddy; till the radiant power
Who bade the visionary landscape rise,
As up to him I turn'd, with gentlest looks
Preventing my inquiry, thus began:--

'There let thy soul acknowledge its complaint
How blind, how impious! There behold the ways 670
Of Heaven's eternal destiny to man,
For ever just, benevolent, and wise:
That Virtue's awful steps, howe'er pursued
By vexing fortune and intrusive pain,
Should never be divided from her chaste,
Her fair attendant, Pleasure. Need I urge
Thy tardy thought through all the various round
Of this existence, that thy softening soul
At length may learn what energy the hand
Of virtue mingles in the bitter tide 680
Of passion swelling with distress and pain,
To mitigate the sharp with gracious drops
Of cordial pleasure? Ask the faithful youth,
Why the cold urn of her whom long he loved
So often fills his arms; so often draws
His lonely footsteps at the silent hour,
To pay the mournful tribute of his tears?
Oh! he will tell thee, that the wealth of worlds
Should ne'er seduce his bosom to forego
That sacred hour, when, stealing from the noise 690
Of care and envy, sweet remembrance soothes
With virtue's kindest looks his aching breast,
And turns his tears to rapture.--Ask the crowd
Which flies impatient from the village walk
To climb the neighbouring cliffs, when far below
The cruel winds have hurl'd upon the coast
Some helpless bark; while sacred Pity melts
The general eye, or Terror's icy hand
Smites their distorted limbs and horrent hair;
While every mother closer to her breast 700
Catches her child, and pointing where the waves
Foam through the shatter'd vessel, shrieks aloud
As one poor wretch that spreads his piteous arms
For succour, swallow'd by the roaring surge,
As now another, dash'd against the rock,
Drops lifeless down: Oh! deemest thou indeed
No kind endearment here by Nature given
To mutual terror and compassion's tears?
No sweetly melting softness which attracts,
O'er all that edge of pain, the social powers 710
To this their proper action and their end?--
Ask thy own heart, when, at the midnight hour,
Slow through that studious gloom thy pausing eye,
Led by the glimmering taper, moves around
The sacred volumes of the dead, the songs
Of Grecian bards, and records writ by Fame
For Grecian heroes, where the present power
Of heaven and earth surveys the immortal page,
Even as a father blessing, while he reads
The praises of his son. If then thy soul, 720
Spurning the yoke of these inglorious days,
Mix in their deeds, and kindle with their flame,
Say, when the prospect blackens on thy view,
When, rooted from the base, heroic states
Mourn in the dust, and tremble at the frown
Of cursed ambition; when the pious band
Of youths who fought for freedom and their sires,
Lie side by side in gore; when ruffian pride
Usurps the throne of Justice, turns the pomp
Of public power, the majesty of rule, 730
The sword, the laurel, and the purple robe,
To slavish empty pageants, to adorn
A tyrant's walk, and glitter in the eyes
Of such as bow the knee; when honour'd urns
Of patriots and of chiefs, the awful bust
And storied arch, to glut the coward rage
Of regal envy, strew the public way
With hallow'd ruins; when the Muse's haunt,
The marble porch where Wisdom wont to talk
With Socrates or Tully, hears no more, 740
Save the hoarse jargon of contentious monks,
Or female Superstition's midnight prayer;
When ruthless Rapine from the hand of Time
Tears the destroying scythe, with surer blow
To sweep the works of glory from their base;
Till Desolation o'er the grass-grown street
Expands his raven wings, and up the wall,
Where senates once the price of monarchs doom'd,
Hisses the gliding snake through hoary weeds
That clasp the mouldering column; thus defaced, 750
Thus widely mournful when the prospect thrills
Thy beating bosom, when the patriot's tear
Starts from thine eye, and thy extended arm
In fancy hurls the thunderbolt of Jove
To fire the impious wreath on Philip's [Endnote W] brow,
Or dash Octavius from the trophied car;
Say, does thy secret soul repine to taste
The big distress? Or wouldst thou then exchange
Those heart-ennobling sorrows for the lot
Of him who sits amid the gaudy herd 760
Of mute barbarians bending to his nod,
And bears aloft his gold-invested front,
And says within himself, I am a king,
And wherefore should the clamorous voice of woe
Intrude upon mine ear?--The baleful dregs
Of these late ages, this inglorious draught
Of servitude and folly, have not yet,
Bless'd be the eternal Ruler of the world!
Defiled to such a depth of sordid shame
The native honours of the human soul, 770
Nor so effaced the image of its Sire.'



Pleasure in observing the tempers and manners of men, even where
vicious or absurd. The origin of Vice, from false representations of
the fancy, producing false opinions concerning good and evil.
Inquiry into ridicule. The general sources of ridicule in the minds
and characters of men, enumerated. Final cause of the sense of
ridicule. The resemblance of certain aspects of inanimate things to
the sensations and properties of the mind. The operations of the
mind in the production of the works of Imagination, described. The
secondary pleasure from Imitation. The benevolent order of the world
illustrated in the arbitrary connexion of these pleasures with the
objects which excite them. The nature and conduct of taste.
Concluding with an account of the natural and moral advantages
resulting from a sensible and well formed imagination.

What wonder therefore, since the endearing ties
Of passion link the universal kind
Of man so close, what wonder if to search
This common nature through the various change
Of sex, and age, and fortune, and the frame
Of each peculiar, draw the busy mind
With unresisted charms? The spacious west,
And all the teeming regions of the south,
Hold not a quarry, to the curious flight
Of Knowledge, half so tempting or so fair, 10
As man to man. Nor only where the smiles
Of Love invite; nor only where the applause
Of cordial Honour turns the attentive eye
On Virtue's graceful deeds. For, since the course
Of things external acts in different ways
On human apprehensions, as the hand
Of Nature temper'd to a different frame
Peculiar minds; so haply where the powers
Of Fancy [Endnote X] neither lessen nor enlarge
The images of things, but paint in all 20
Their genuine hues, the features which they wore
In Nature; there Opinion will be true,
And Action right. For Action treads the path
In which Opinion says he follows good,
Or flies from evil; and Opinion gives
Report of good or evil, as the scene
Was drawn by Fancy, lovely or deform'd:
Thus her report can never there be true
Where Fancy cheats the intellectual eye,
With glaring colours and distorted lines. 30
Is there a man, who, at the sound of death,
Sees ghastly shapes of terror conjured up,
And black before him; nought but death-bed groans
And fearful prayers, and plunging from the brink
Of light and being, down the gloomy air,
An unknown depth? Alas! in such a mind,
If no bright forms of excellence attend
The image of his country; nor the pomp
Of sacred senates, nor the guardian voice
Of Justice on her throne, nor aught that wakes 40
The conscious bosom with a patriot's flame;
Will not Opinion tell him, that to die,
Or stand the hazard, is a greater ill
Than to betray his country? And in act
Will he not choose to be a wretch and live?
Here vice begins then. From the enchanting cup
Which Fancy holds to all, the unwary thirst
Of youth oft swallows a Circaean draught,
That sheds a baleful tincture o'er the eye
Of Reason, till no longer he discerns, 50
And only guides to err. Then revel forth
A furious band that spurn him from the throne,
And all is uproar. Thus Ambition grasps
The empire of the soul; thus pale Revenge
Unsheaths her murderous dagger; and the hands
Of Lust and Rapine, with unholy arts,
Watch to o'erturn the barrier of the laws
That keeps them from their prey; thus all the plagues
The wicked bear, or o'er the trembling scone
The tragic Muse discloses, under shapes 60
Of honour, safety, pleasure, ease, or pomp,
Stole first into the mind. Yet not by all
Those lying forms, which Fancy in the brain
Engenders, are the kindling passions driven
To guilty deeds; nor Reason bound in chains,
That Vice alone may lord it: oft adorn'd
With solemn pageants, Folly mounts the throne,
And plays her idiot antics, like a queen.
A thousand garbs she wears; a thousand ways
She wheels her giddy empire.--Lo! thus far 70
With bold adventure, to the Mantuan lyre
I sing of Nature's charms, and touch well pleased
A stricter note: now haply must my song
Unbend her serious measure, and reveal
In lighter strains, how Folly's awkward arts [Endnote Y]
Excite impetuous Laughter's gay rebuke;
The sportive province of the comic Muse.

See! in what crowds the uncouth forms advance:
Each would outstrip the other, each prevent
Our careful search, and offer to your gaze, 80
Unask'd, his motley features. Wait awhile,
My curious friends! and let us first arrange
In proper order your promiscuous throng.

Behold the foremost band; [Endnote Z] of slender thought,
And easy faith; whom flattering Fancy soothes
With lying spectres, in themselves to view
Illustrious forms of excellence and good,
That scorn the mansion. With exulting hearts
They spread their spurious treasures to the sun,
And bid the world admire! But chief the glance 90
Of wishful Envy draws their joy-bright eyes,
And lifts with self-applause each lordly brow.
In number boundless as the blooms of Spring,
Behold their glaring idols, empty shades
By Fancy gilded o'er, and then set up
For adoration. Some in Learning's garb,
With formal band, and sable-cinctured gown,
And rags of mouldy volumes. Some elate
With martial splendour, steely pikes and swords
Of costly frame, and gay Phoenician robes 100
Inwrought with flowery gold, assume the port
Of stately Valour: listening by his side
There stands a female form; to her, with looks
Of earnest import, pregnant with amaze,
He talks of deadly deeds, of breaches, storms,
And sulphurous mines, and ambush: then at once
Breaks off, and smiles to see her look so pale,
And asks some wondering question of her fears.
Others of graver mien; behold, adorn'd
With holy ensigns, how sublime they move, 110
And bending oft their sanctimonious eyes
Take homage of the simple-minded throng;
Ambassadors of Heaven! Nor much unlike
Is he, whose visage in the lazy mist
That mantles every feature, hides a brood
Of politic conceits, of whispers, nods,
And hints deep omen'd with unwieldy schemes,
And dark portents of state. Ten thousand more,
Prodigious habits and tumultuous tongues,
Pour dauntless in and swell the boastful band. 120

Then comes the second order; [Endnote AA] all who seek
The debt of praise, where watchful Unbelief
Darts through the thin pretence her squinting eye
On some retired appearance which belies
The boasted virtue, or annuls the applause
That Justice else would pay. Here side by side
I see two leaders of the solemn train
Approaching: one a female old and gray,
With eyes demure, and wrinkle-furrow'd brow,
Pale as the cheeks of death; yet still she stuns 130
The sickening audience with a nauseous tale,
How many youths her myrtle chains have worn,
How many virgins at her triumphs pined!
Yet how resolved she guards her cautious heart;
Such is her terror at the risks of love,
And man's seducing tongue! The other seems
A bearded sage, ungentle in his mien,
And sordid all his habit; peevish Want
Grins at his heels, while down the gazing throng
He stalks, resounding in magnific praise 140
The vanity of riches, the contempt
Of pomp and power. Be prudent in your zeal,
Ye grave associates! let the silent grace
Of her who blushes at the fond regard
Her charms inspire, more eloquent unfold
The praise of spotless honour: let the man,
Whose eye regards not his illustrious pomp
And ample store, but as indulgent streams
To cheer the barren soil and spread the fruits
Of joy, let him by juster measures fix 150
The price of riches and the end of power.

Another tribe succeeds; [Endnote BB] deluded long
By Fancy's dazzling optics, these behold
The images of some peculiar things
With brighter hues resplendent, and portray'd
With features nobler far than e'er adorn'd
Their genuine objects. Hence the fever'd heart
Pants with delirious hope for tinsel charms;
Hence oft obtrusive on the eye of scorn,
Untimely zeal her witless pride betrays! 160
And serious manhood from the towering aim
Of wisdom, stoops to emulate the boast
Of childish toil. Behold yon mystic form
Bedeck'd with feathers, insects, weeds, and shells!
Not with intenser view the Samian sage
Bent his fix'd eye on heaven's intenser fires,
When first the order of that radiant scene
Swell'd his exulting thought, than this surveys
A muckworm's entrails, or a spider's fang.
Next him a youth, with flowers and myrtles crown'd, 170
Attends that virgin form, and blushing kneels,
With fondest gesture and a suppliant's tongue,
To win her coy regard: adieu, for him,
The dull engagements of the bustling world!
Adieu the sick impertinence of praise!
And hope, and action! for with her alone,
By streams and shades, to steal these sighing hours,
Is all he asks, and all that fate can give!
Thee too, facetious Momion, wandering here,
Thee, dreaded censor, oft have I beheld 180
Bewilder'd unawares: alas! too long
Flush'd with thy comic triumphs and the spoils
Of sly derision! till on every side
Hurling thy random bolts, offended Truth
Assign'd thee here thy station with the slaves
Of Folly. Thy once formidable name
Shall grace her humble records, and be heard
In scoffs and mockery bandied from the lips
Of all the vengeful brotherhood around,
So oft the patient victims of thy scorn. 190

But now, ye gay! [Endnote CC] to whom indulgent fate,
Of all the Muse's empire hath assign'd
The fields of folly, hither each advance
Your sickles; here the teeming soil affords
Its richest growth. A favourite brood appears,
In whom the demon, with a mother's joy,
Views all her charms reflected, all her cares
At full repaid. Ye most illustrious band!
Who, scorning Reason's tame, pedantic rules,
And Order's vulgar bondage, never meant 200
For souls sublime as yours, with generous zeal
Pay Vice the reverence Virtue long usurp'd,
And yield Deformity the fond applause
Which Beauty wont to claim, forgive my song,
That for the blushing diffidence of youth,
It shuns the unequal province of your praise.

Thus far triumphant [Endnote DD] in the pleasing guile
Of bland Imagination, Folly's train
Have dared our search: but now a dastard kind
Advance reluctant, and with faltering feet 210
Shrink from the gazer's eye: enfeebled hearts
Whom Fancy chills with visionary fears,
Or bends to servile tameness with conceits
Of shame, of evil, or of base defect,
Fantastic and delusive. Here the slave
Who droops abash'd when sullen Pomp surveys
His humbler habit; here the trembling wretch
Unnerved and struck with Terror's icy bolts,
Spent in weak wailings, drown'd in shameful tears,
At every dream of danger: here, subdued 220
By frontless laughter and the hardy scorn
Of old, unfeeling vice, the abject soul,
Who, blushing, half resigns the candid praise
Of Temperance and Honour; half disowns
A freeman's hatred of tyrannic pride;
And hears with sickly smiles the venal mouth
With foulest licence mock the patriot's name.

Last of the motley bands [Endnote EE] on whom the power
Of gay Derision bends her hostile aim,
Is that where shameful Ignorance presides. 230
Beneath her sordid banners, lo! they march
Like blind and lame. Whate'er their doubtful hands
Attempt, Confusion straight appears behind,
And troubles all the work. Through many a maze,
Perplex'd they struggle, changing every path,
O'erturning every purpose; then at last
Sit down dismay'd, and leave the entangled scene
For Scorn to sport with. Such then is the abode
Of Folly in the mind; and such the shapes
In which she governs her obsequious train. 240

Through every scene of ridicule in things
To lead the tenor of my devious lay;
Through every swift occasion, which the hand
Of Laughter points at, when the mirthful sting
Distends her sallying nerves and chokes her tongue;
What were it but to count each crystal drop
Which Morning's dewy fingers on the blooms
Of May distil? Suffice it to have said, [Endnote FF]
Where'er the power of Ridicule displays
Her quaint-eyed visage, some incongruous form, 250
Some stubborn dissonance of things combined,
Strikes on the quick observer: whether Pomp,
Or Praise, or Beauty, mix their partial claim
Where sordid fashions, where ignoble deeds,
Where foul Deformity are wont to dwell;
Or whether these with violation loathed,
Invade resplendent Pomp's imperious mien,
The charms of Beauty, or the boast of Praise.

Ask we for what fair end, [Endnote GG] the Almighty Sire
In mortal bosoms wakes this gay contempt, 260
These grateful stings of laughter, from disgust
Educing pleasure? Wherefore, but to aid
The tardy steps of Reason, and at once
By this prompt impulse urge us to depress
The giddy aims of Folly? Though the light
Of Truth slow dawning on the inquiring mind,
At length unfolds, through many a subtile tie,
How these uncouth disorders end at last
In public evil! yet benignant Heaven,
Conscious how dim the dawn of truth appears 270
To thousands; conscious what a scanty pause
From labours and from care, the wider lot
Of humble life affords for studious thought
To scan the maze of Nature; therefore stamp'd
The glaring scenes with characters of scorn,
As broad, as obvious, to the passing clown,
As to the letter'd sage's curious eye.

Such are the various aspects of the mind--
Some heavenly genius, whose unclouded thoughts
Attain that secret harmony which blends 280
The etherial spirit with its mould of clay,
Oh! teach me to reveal the grateful charm
That searchless Nature o'er the sense of man
Diffuses, to behold, in lifeless things,
The inexpressive semblance [Endnote HH] of himself,
Of thought and passion. Mark the sable woods
That shade sublime yon mountain's nodding brow:
With what religious awe the solemn scene
Commands your steps! as if the reverend form
Of Minos or of Numa should forsake 290
The Elysian seats, and down the embowering glade
Move to your pausing eye! Behold the expanse
Of yon gay landscape, where the silver clouds
Flit o'er the heavens before the sprightly breeze:
Now their gray cincture skirts the doubtful sun;
Now streams of splendour, through their opening veil
Effulgent, sweep from off the gilded lawn
The aërial shadows, on the curling brook,
And on the shady margin's quivering leaves
With quickest lustre glancing; while you view 300
The prospect, say, within your cheerful breast
Plays not the lively sense of winning mirth
With clouds and sunshine chequer'd, while the round
Of social converse, to the inspiring tongue
Of some gay nymph amid her subject train,
Moves all obsequious? Whence is this effect,
This kindred power of such discordant things?
Or flows their semblance from that mystic tone
To which the new-born mind's harmonious powers
At first were strung? Or rather from the links 310
Which artful custom twines around her frame?

For when the different images of things,
By chance combined, have struck the attentive soul
With deeper impulse, or, connected long,
Have drawn her frequent eye; howe'er distinct
The external scenes, yet oft the ideas gain
From that conjunction an eternal tie,
And sympathy unbroken. Let the mind
Recall one partner of the various league,
Immediate, lo! the firm confederates rise, 320
And each his former station straight resumes:
One movement governs the consenting throng,
And all at once with rosy pleasure shine,
Or all are sadden'd with the glooms of care.
'Twas thus, if ancient fame the truth unfold,
Two faithful needles, [Endnote II] from the informing touch
Of the same parent stone, together drew
Its mystic virtue, and at first conspired
With fatal impulse quivering to the pole:
Then, though disjoin'd by kingdoms, though the main 330
Roll'd its broad surge betwixt, and different stars
Beheld their wakeful motions, yet preserved
The former friendship, and remember'd still
The alliance of their birth: whate'er the line
Which one possess'd, nor pause, nor quiet knew
The sure associate, ere with trembling speed
He found its path and fix'd unerring there.
Such is the secret union, when we feel
A song, a flower, a name, at once restore
Those long-connected scenes where first they moved 340
The attention, backward through her mazy walks
Guiding the wanton fancy to her scope,
To temples, courts, or fields, with all the band
Of painted forms, of passions and designs
Attendant; whence, if pleasing in itself,
The prospect from that sweet accession gains
Redoubled influence o'er the listening mind.

By these mysterious ties, [Endnote JJ] the busy power
Of Memory her ideal train preserves
Entire; or when they would elude her watch, 350
Reclaims their fleeting footsteps from the waste
Of dark oblivion; thus collecting all
The various forms of being to present,
Before the curious aim of mimic art,
Their largest choice; like Spring's unfolded blooms
Exhaling sweetness, that the skilful bee
May taste at will, from their selected spoils
To work her dulcet food. For not the expanse
Of living lakes in Summer's noontide calm,
Reflects the bordering shade, and sun-bright heavens, 360
With fairer semblance; not the sculptured gold
More faithful keeps the graver's lively trace,
Than he whose birth the sister powers of Art
Propitious view'd, and from his genial star
Shed influence to the seeds of fancy kind,
Than his attemper'd bosom must preserve
The seal of Nature. There alone unchanged,
Her form remains. The balmy walks of May
There breathe perennial sweets; the trembling chord
Resounds for ever in the abstracted ear, 370
Melodious; and the virgin's radiant eye,
Superior to disease, to grief, and time,
Shines with unbating lustre. Thus at length
Endow'd with all that nature can bestow,
The child of Fancy oft in silence bends
O'er these mix'd treasures of his pregnant breast
With conscious pride. From them he oft resolves
To frame he knows not what excelling things,
And win he knows not what sublime reward
Of praise and wonder. By degrees, the mind 380
Feels her young nerves dilate: the plastic powers
Labour for action: blind emotions heave
His bosom; and with loveliest frenzy caught,
From earth to heaven he rolls his daring eye,
From heaven to earth. Anon ten thousand shapes,
Like spectres trooping to the wizard's call,
Flit swift before him. From the womb of earth,
From ocean's bed they come: the eternal heavens
Disclose their splendours, and the dark abyss
Pours out her births unknown. With fixed gaze 390
He marks the rising phantoms. Now compares
Their different forms; now blends them, now divides,
Enlarges and extenuates by turns;
Opposes, ranges in fantastic bands,
And infinitely varies. Hither now,
Now thither fluctuates his inconstant aim,
With endless choice perplex'd. At length his plan
Begins to open. Lucid order dawns;
And as from Chaos old the jarring seeds
Of Nature at the voice divine repair'd 400
Each to its place, till rosy earth unveil'd
Her fragrant bosom, and the joyful sun
Sprung up the blue serene; by swift degrees
Thus disentangled, his entire design
Emerges. Colours mingle, features join,
And lines converge: the fainter parts retire;
The fairer eminent in light advance;
And every image on its neighbour smiles.
Awhile he stands, and with a father's joy
Contemplates. Then with Promethéan art, 410
Into its proper vehicle [Endnote KK] he breathes
The fair conception; which, embodied thus,
And permanent, becomes to eyes or ears
An object ascertain'd: while thus inform'd,
The various organs of his mimic skill,
The consonance of sounds, the featured rock,
The shadowy picture and impassion'd verse,
Beyond their proper powers attract the soul
By that expressive semblance, while in sight
Of Nature's great original we scan 420
The lively child of Art; while line by line,
And feature after feature we refer
To that sublime exemplar whence it stole
Those animating charms. Thus Beauty's palm
Betwixt them wavering hangs: applauding Love
Doubts where to choose; and mortal man aspires
To tempt creative praise. As when a cloud
Of gathering hail, with limpid crusts of ice
Enclosed and obvious to the beaming sun,
Collects his large effulgence; straight the heavens 430
With equal flames present on either hand
The radiant visage; Persia stands at gaze,
Appall'd; and on the brink of Ganges doubts
The snowy-vested seer, in Mithra's name,
To which the fragrance of the south shall burn,
To which his warbled orisons ascend.

Such various bliss the well-tuned heart enjoys,
Favour'd of Heaven! while, plunged in sordid cares,
The unfeeling vulgar mocks the boon divine;
And harsh Austerity, from whose rebuke 440
Young Love and smiling Wonder shrink away
Abash'd and chill of heart, with sager frowns
Condemns the fair enchantment. On my strain,
Perhaps even now, some cold, fastidious judge
Casts a disdainful eye; and calls my toil,
And calls the love and beauty which I sing,
The dream of folly. Thou, grave censor! say,
Is Beauty then a dream, because the glooms
Of dulness hang too heavy on thy sense,
To let her shine upon thee? So the man 450
Whose eye ne'er open'd on the light of heaven,
Might smile with scorn while raptured vision tells
Of the gay-colour'd radiance flushing bright
O'er all creation. From the wise be far
Such gross unhallow'd pride; nor needs my song
Descend so low; but rather now unfold,
If human thought could reach, or words unfold,
By what mysterious fabric of the mind,
The deep-felt joys and harmony of sound
Result from airy motion; and from shape 460
The lovely phantoms of sublime and fair.
By what fine ties hath God connected things
When present in the mind, which in themselves
Have no connexion? Sure the rising sun
O'er the cerulean convex of the sea,
With equal brightness and with equal warmth
Might roll his fiery orb, nor yet the soul
Thus feel her frame expanded, and her powers
Exulting in the splendour she beholds,
Like a young conqueror moving through the pomp 470
Of some triumphal day. When join'd at eve,
Soft murmuring streams and gales of gentlest breath
Melodious Philomela's wakeful strain
Attemper, could not man's discerning ear
Through all its tones the sympathy pursue,
Nor yet this breath divine of nameless joy
Steal through his veins and fan the awaken'd heart,
Mild as the breeze, yet rapturous as the song?

But were not Nature still endow'd at large
With all that life requires, though unadorn'd 480
With such enchantment? Wherefore then her form
So exquisitely fair? her breath perfumed
With such ethereal sweetness? whence her voice
Inform'd at will to raise or to depress
The impassion'd soul? and whence the robes of light
Which thus invest her with more lovely pomp
Than Fancy can describe? Whence but from Thee,
O source divine of ever-flowing love!
And Thy unmeasured goodness? Not content
With every food of life to nourish man, 490
By kind illusions of the wondering sense
Thou mak'st all Nature beauty to his eye,
Or music to his ear; well pleased he scans
The goodly prospect, and with inward smiles
Treads the gay verdure of the painted plain,
Beholds the azure canopy of heaven,
And living lamps that over-arch his head
With more than regal splendour; bends his ears
To the full choir of water, air, and earth;
Nor heeds the pleasing error of his thought, 500
Nor doubts the painted green or azure arch,
Nor questions more the music's mingling sounds,
Than space, or motion, or eternal time;
So sweet he feels their influence to attract
The fixed soul, to brighten the dull glooms
Of care, and make the destined road of life
Delightful to his feet. So fables tell,
The adventurous hero, bound on hard exploits,
Beholds with glad surprise, by secret spells
Of some kind sage, the patron of his toils, 510
A visionary paradise disclosed
Amid the dubious wild; with streams, and shades,
And airy songs, the enchanted landscape smiles,
Cheers his long labours and renews his frame.

What then is taste, but these internal powers
Active, and strong, and feelingly alive
To each fine impulse,--a discerning sense
Of decent and sublime, with quick disgust
From things deform'd, or disarranged, or gross
In species? This, nor gems, nor stores of gold, 520
Nor purple state, nor culture can bestow;
But God alone, when first His active hand
Imprints the secret bias of the soul.
He, mighty Parent! wise and just in all,
Free as the vital breeze or light of heaven,
Reveals the charms of Nature. Ask the swain
Who journeys homeward from a summer day's
Long labour, why, forgetful of his toils
And due repose, he loiters to behold
The sunshine gleaming as through amber clouds, 530
O'er all the western sky; full soon, I ween,
His rude expression and untutor'd airs,
Beyond the power of language, will unfold
The form of beauty, smiling at his heart,
How lovely! how commanding! But though Heaven
In every breast hath sown these early seeds
Of love and admiration, yet in vain,
Without fair culture's kind parental aid,
Without enlivening suns, and genial showers,
And shelter from the blast, in vain we hope 540
The tender plant should rear its blooming head,
Or yield the harvest promised in its spring.
Nor yet will every soul with equal stores
Repay the tiller's labour, or attend
His will, obsequious, whether to produce
The olive or the laurel. Different minds
Incline to different objects; one pursues
The vast alone, [Endnote LL] the wonderful, the wild;
Another sighs for harmony, and grace,
And gentlest beauty. Hence, when lightning fires 550
The arch of heaven, and thunders rock the ground,
When furious whirlwinds rend the howling air,
And ocean, groaning from his lowest bed,
Heaves his tempestuous billows to the sky;
Amid the mighty uproar, while below
The nations tremble, Shakspeare looks abroad
Prom some high cliff, superior, and enjoys
The elemental war. But Waller longs, [Endnote MM]
All on the margin of some flowery stream
To spread his careless limbs amid the cool 560
Of plantane shades, and to the listening deer
The tale of slighted vows and love's disdain
Resound soft-warbling all the livelong day;
Consenting Zephyr sighs; the weeping rill
Joins in his plaint, melodious; mute the groves;
And hill and dale with all their echoes mourn.
Such and so various are the tastes of men.

Oh! bless'd of Heaven, whom not the languid songs
Of Luxury, the siren! not the bribes
Of sordid Wealth, nor all the gaudy spoils 570
Of pageant Honour, can seduce to leave
Those ever-blooming sweets, which from the store
Of Nature fair Imagination culls
To charm the enliven'd soul! What though not all
Of mortal offspring can attain the heights
Of envied life; though only few possess
Patrician treasures or imperial state;
Yet Nature's care, to all her children just,
With richer treasures and an ampler state,
Endows at large whatever happy man 580
Will deign to use them. His the city's pomp,
The rural honours his. Whate'er adorns
The princely dome, the column, and the arch,
The breathing marbles and the sculptured gold,
Beyond the proud possessor's narrow claim,
His tuneful breast enjoys. For him, the Spring
Distils her dews, and from the silken gem
Its lucid leaves unfolds; for him, the hand
Of Autumn tinges every fertile branch
With blooming gold and blushes like the morn. 590
Each passing Hour sheds tribute from her wings;
And still new beauties meet his lonely walk,
And loves unfelt attract him. Not a breeze [Endnote NN]
Flies o'er the meadow, not a cloud imbibes
The setting sun's effulgence, not a strain
From all the tenants of the warbling shade
Ascends, but whence his bosom can partake
Fresh pleasure, unreproved. Nor thence partakes
Fresh pleasure only; for the attentive mind,
By this harmonious action on her powers 600
Becomes herself harmonious; wont so oft
In outward things to meditate the charm
Of sacred order, soon she seeks at home
To find a kindred order, to exert
Within herself this elegance of love,
This fair-inspired delight; her temper'd powers
Refine at length, and every passion wears
A chaster, milder, more attractive mien.
But if to ampler prospects, if to gaze
On Nature's form, where, negligent of all 610
These lesser graces, she assumes the port
Of that Eternal Majesty that weigh'd
The world's foundations, if to these the mind
Exalts her daring eye, then mightier far
Will be the change, and nobler. Would the forms
Of servile custom cramp her generous powers?
Would sordid policies, the barbarous growth
Of ignorance and rapine, bow her down
To tame pursuits, to indolence and fear?
Lo! she appeals to Nature, to the winds 620
And rolling waves, the sun's unwearied course,
The elements and seasons; all declare
For what the Eternal Maker has ordain'd
The powers of man; we feel within ourselves
His energy divine; he tells the heart,
He meant, he made us to behold and love
What he beholds and loves, the general orb
Of life and being; to be great like him,
Beneficent and active. Thus the men
Whom Nature's works can charm, with God himself 630
Hold converse; grow familiar, day by day,
With his conceptions, act upon his plan;
And form to his, the relish of their souls.


* * * * *



_'Say why was man'_, etc.--P.8.

In apologising for the frequent negligences of the sublimest authors
of Greece, 'Those godlike geniuses,' says Longinus, 'were well
assured, that Nature had not intended man for a low-spirited or
ignoble being: but bringing us into life and the midst of this wide
universe, as before a multitude assembled at some heroic solemnity,
that we might be spectators of all her magnificence, and candidates
high in emulation for the prize of glory; she has therefore
implanted in our souls an inextinguishable love of everything great
and exalted, of everything which appears divine beyond our
comprehension. Whence it comes to pass, that even the whole world is
not an object sufficient for the depth and rapidity of human
imagination, which often sallies forth beyond the limits of all that
surrounds us. Let any man cast his eye through the whole circle of
our existence, and consider how especially it abounds in excellent
and grand objects, he will soon acknowledge for what enjoyments
and pursuits we were destined. Thus by the very propensity of
nature we are led to admire, not little springs or shallow rivulets,
however clear and delicious, but the Nile, the Rhine, the Danube,
and, much more than all, the Ocean,' etc.
--_Dionys. Longin. de Sublim_. ss. xxiv.


_'The empyreal waste'_.--P. 9.

'Ne se peut-il point qu'il y a un grand espace au-delà de la région
des étoiles? Que ce soit le ciel empyrée, ou non, toujours cet
espace immense quî environne toute cette region, pourra être rempli
de bonheur et de gloire. Il pourra être conçu comme l'océan, òu se
rendent les fleuves de toutes les créatures bienheureuses, quand
elles seront venues à leur perfection dans le système des étoiles.'
--_Leibnitz dans la Theodicée_, part i. par. 19.


_'Whose unfading light'_, etc.--P. 9.

It was a notion of the great Mr. Huygens, that there may be fixed
stars at such a distance from our solar system, as that their light
should not have had time to reach us, even from the creation of the
world to this day.


_'The neglect
Of all familiar prospects'_, etc.--P. 10.

It is here said, that in consequence of the love of novelty, objects
which at first were highly delightful to the mind, lose that effect
by repeated attention to them. But the instance of habit is opposed
to this observation; for there, objects at first distasteful are in
time rendered entirely agreeable by repeated attention.

The difficulty in this case will be removed if we consider, that,
when objects at first agreeable, lose that influence by frequently
recurring, the mind is wholly passive, and the perception involuntary;
but habit, on the other hand, generally supposes choice and activity
accompanying it: so that the pleasure arises here not from the object,
but from the mind's conscious determination of its own activity; and
consequently increases in proportion to the frequency of that

It will still be urged perhaps, that a familiarity with disagreeable
objects renders them at length acceptable, even when there is no
room for the mind to resolve or act at all. In this case, the
appearance must be accounted for one of these ways.

The pleasure from habit may be merely negative. The object at first
gave uneasiness: this uneasiness gradually wears off as the object
grows familiar: and the mind, finding it at last entirely removed,
reckons its situation really pleasurable, compared with what it had
experienced before.

The dislike conceived of the object at first, might be owing to
prejudice or want of attention. Consequently the mind being
necessitated to review it often, may at length perceive its own
mistake, and be reconciled to what it had looked on with aversion.
In which case, a sort of instinctive justice naturally leads it to
make amends for the injury, by running toward the other extreme of
fondness and attachment.

Or lastly, though the object itself should always continue
disagreeable, yet circumstances of pleasure or good fortune may
occur along with it. Thus an association may arise in the mind, and
the object never be remembered without those pleasing circumstances
attending it; by which means the disagreeable impression which it at
first occasioned will in time be quite obliterated.


_'This desire
Of objects new and strange'_.--P. 10.

These two ideas are oft confounded; though it is evident the mere
novelty of an object makes it agreeable, even where the mind is not
affected with the least degree of wonder: whereas wonder indeed
always implies novelty, being never excited by common or well-known
appearances. But the pleasure in both cases is explicable from the
same final cause, the acquisition of knowledge and enlargement of
our views of nature: on this account it is natural to treat of them


_'Truth and Good are one,
And Beauty dwells in them'_, etc.--P. 14.

'Do you imagine,' says Socrates to Aristippus, 'that what is good is
not beautiful? Have you not observed that these appearances always
coincide? Virtue, for instance, in the same respect as to which we
call it good, is ever acknowledged to be beautiful also. In the
characters of men we always [1] join the two denominations together.
The beauty of human bodies corresponds, in like manner, with that
economy of parts which constitutes them good; and in every
circumstance of life, the same object is constantly accounted both
beautiful and good, inasmuch as it answers the purposes for which it
was designed.'
--_Xenophont. Memorab. Socrat_. 1.iii.c.8.

This excellent observation has been illustrated and extended by the
noble restorer of ancient philosophy. (See the _Characteristics_, vol.
ii., pp. 339 and 422, and vol. iii., p. 181.) And another ingenious
author has particularly shewn, that it holds in the general laws of
nature, in the works of art, and the conduct of the sciences
(_Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue_,
treat, i. Section 8). As to the connexion between beauty and truth,
there are two opinions concerning it. Some philosophers assert an
independent and invariable law in nature, in consequence of which
all rational beings must alike perceive beauty in some certain
proportions, and deformity in the contrary. And this necessity being
supposed the same with that which commands the assent or dissent of
the understanding, it follows, of course, that beauty is founded on
the universal and unchangeable law of truth.

But others there are who believe beauty to be merely a relative and
arbitrary thing; that, indeed, it was a benevolent provision in
nature to annex so delightful a sensation to those objects which are
best and most perfect in themselves, that so we might be engaged to
the choice of them at once, and without staying to infer their
usefulness from their structure and effects; but that it is not
impossible, in a physical sense, that two beings, of equal
capacities for truth, should perceive, one of them beauty, and the
other deformity, in the same proportions. And upon this supposition,
by that truth which is always connected with beauty, nothing more
can be meant than the conformity of any object to those proportions
upon which, after careful examination, the beauty of that species is
found to depend. Polycletus, for instance, a famous ancient sculptor,
from an accurate mensuration of the several parts of the most perfect
human bodies, deduced a canon or system of proportions, which was
the rule of all succeeding artists. Suppose a statue modelled
according to this: a man of mere natural taste, upon looking at it,
without entering into its proportions, confesses and admires its
beauty; whereas a professor of the art applies his measures to the
head, the neck, or the hand, and, without attending to its beauty,
pronounces the workmanship to be just and true.

[Footnote 1: This the Athenians did in a peculiar manner, by the
words [Greek: kalokagathus] and [Greek: kalokagathia].]


'_As when Brutus rose_,' etc.--P. 18.

Cicero himself describes this fact--'Cassare interfecto--statim
cruentum alte extollens M. Brutus pugionem, Ciceronem nominatim
exclamavit, atque ei recuperatam libertatem est gratulatus.'
--_Cic. Philipp_. ii. 12.


'_Where Virtue rising from the awful depth
Of Truth's mysterious bosom_,' etc.--P. 20.

According to the opinion of those who assert moral obligation to be
founded on an immutable and universal law; and that which is usually
called the moral sense, to be determined by the peculiar temper of
the imagination and the earliest associations of ideas.


'_Lycéum_.'--P. 21.

The school of Aristotle.


'_Academus_.'--P. 21.

The school of Plato.


'_Ilissus_.'--P. 21.

One of the rivers on which Athens was situated. Plato, in some of
his finest dialogues, lays the scene of the conversation with
Socrates on its banks.

* * * * *



'_At last the Muses rose_,' etc.--P. 22.

About the age of Hugh Capet, founder of the third race of French
kings, the poets of Provence were in high reputation; a sort of
strolling bards or rhapsodists, who went about the courts of princes
and noblemen, entertaining them at festivals with music and poetry.
They attempted both the epic, ode, and satire; and abounded in a
wild and fantastic vein of fable, partly allegorical, and partly
founded on traditionary legends of the Saracen wars. These were the
rudiments of Italian poetry. But their taste and composition must
have been extremely barbarous, as we may judge by those who followed
the turn of their fable in much politer times; such as Boiardo,
Bernardo, Tasso, Ariosto, etc.


'_Valclusa_.'--P. 22.

The famous retreat of Francisco Petrarcha, the father of Italian
poetry, and his mistress, Laura, a lady of Avignon.


'_Arno_.'--P. 22.

The river which runs by Florence, the birth-place of Dante and


'_Parthenopé_.'--P. 23.

Or Naples, the birth-place of Sannazaro. The great Torquato Tasso was
born at Sorrento in the kingdom of Naples.


'_The rage
Of dire ambition_,' etc.--P. 23.

This relates to the cruel wars among the republics of Italy, and
abominable politics of its little princes, about the fifteenth
century. These, at last, in conjunction with the papal power,
entirely extinguished the spirit of liberty in that country, and
established that abuse of the fine arts which has been since
propagated over all Europe.


'_Thus from their guardians torn, the tender arts_,' etc.--P. 23.

Nor were they only losers by the separation. For philosophy itself,
to use the words of a noble philosopher, 'being thus severed from
the sprightly arts and sciences, must consequently grow dronish,
insipid, pedantic, useless, and directly opposite to the real
knowledge and practice of the world.' Insomuch that 'a gentleman,'
says another excellent writer, 'cannot easily bring himself to like
so austere and ungainly a form: so greatly is it changed from what
was once the delight of the finest gentlemen of antiquity, and their
recreation after the hurry of public affairs! From this condition it
cannot be recovered but by uniting it once more with the works of
imagination; and we have had the pleasure of observing a very great
progress made towards their union in England within these few years.
It is hardly possible to conceive them at a greater distance from
each other than at the Revolution, when Locke stood at the head of
one party, and Dryden of the other. But the general spirit of liberty,
which has ever since been growing, naturally invited our men of wit
and genius to improve that influence which the arts of persuasion
gave them with the people, by applying them to subjects of
importance to society. Thus poetry and eloquence became considerable;
and philosophy is now, of course, obliged to borrow of their
embellishments, in order even to gain audience with the public.


'_From passion's power alone_,' etc.--P. 26.

This very mysterious kind of pleasure, which is often found in the
exercise of passions generally counted painful, has been taken
notice of by several authors. Lucretius resolves it into self-love:--

'Suave mari magno,' etc., lib. ii. 1.

As if a man was never pleased in being moved at the distress of a
tragedy, without a cool reflection that though these fictitious
personages were so unhappy, yet he himself was perfectly at ease and
in safety. The ingenious author of the _Reflections Critiques sur la
Poésie et sur la Peinture_ accounts for it by the general delight
which the mind takes in its own activity, and the abhorrence it
feels of an indolent and inattentive state: and this, joined with the
moral approbation of its own temper, which attends these emotions
when natural and just, is certainly the true foundation of the
pleasure, which, as it is the origin and basis of tragedy and epic,
deserved a very particular consideration in this poem.


'_Inhabitant of earth_,' etc.--P. 31.

The account of the economy of Providence here introduced, as the
most proper to calm and satisfy the mind when under the compunction
of private evils, seems to have come originally from the Pythagorean
school: but of the ancient philosophers, Plato has most largely
insisted upon it, has established it with all the strength of his
capacious understanding, and ennobled it with all the magnificence
of his divine imagination. He has one passage so full and clear on
this head, that I am persuaded the reader will be pleased to see it
here, though somewhat long. Addressing himself to such as are not
satisfied concerning divine Providence: 'The Being who presides over
the whole,' says he, 'has disposed and complicated all things for
the happiness and virtue of the whole, every part of which,
according to the extent of its influence, does and suffers what is
fit and proper. One of these parts is yours, O unhappy man, which
though in itself most inconsiderable and minute, yet being connected
with the universe, ever seeks to co-operate with that supreme order.
You in the meantime are ignorant of the very end for which all
particular natures are brought into existence, that the
all-comprehending nature of the whole may be perfect and happy;
existing, as it does, not for your sake, but the cause and reason of
your existence, which, as in the symmetry of every artificial work,
must of necessity concur with the general design of the artist, and
be subservient to the whole of which it is a part. Your complaint
therefore is ignorant and groundless; since, according to the
various energy of creation, and the common laws of nature, there is
a constant provision of that which is best at the same time for you
and for the whole.--For the governing intelligence clearly beholding
all the actions of animated and self-moving creatures, and that
mixture of good and evil which diversifies them, considered first of
all by what disposition of things, and by what situation of each
individual in the general system, vice might be depressed and subdued,
and virtue made secure of victory and happiness with the greatest
facility and in the highest degree possible. In this manner he
ordered through the entire circle of being, the internal
constitution of every mind, where should be its station in the
universal fabric, and through what variety of circumstances it
should proceed in the whole tenor of its existence.' He goes on in
his sublime manner to assert a future state of retribution, 'as well
for those who, by the exercise of good dispositions being harmonised
and assimilated into the divine virtue, are consequently removed to
a place of unblemished sanctity and happiness; as of those who by
the most flagitious arts have risen from contemptible beginnings to
the greatest affluence and power, and whom you therefore look upon
as unanswerable instances of negligence in the gods, because you are
ignorant of the purposes to which they are subservient, and in what
manner they contribute to that supreme intention of good to the whole.'
--_Plato de Leg_. x. 16.

This theory has been delivered of late, especially abroad, in a
manner which subverts the freedom of human actions; whereas Plato
appears very careful to preserve it, and has been in that respect
imitated by the best of his followers.


'_One might rise,
One order_,' etc.--P. 31.

See the _Meditations_ of Antoninus and the _Characteristics_, passim.


'_The best and fairest_,' etc.--P. 32.

This opinion is so old, that Timaeus Locrus calls the Supreme Being
[Greek: demiourgos tou beltionos], the artificer of that which is
best; and represents him as resolving in the beginning to produce
the most excellent work, and as copying the world most exactly from
his own intelligible and essential idea; 'so that it yet remains, as
it was at first, perfect in beauty, and will never stand in need of
any correction or improvement.' There can be no room for a caution
here, to understand the expressions, not of any particular
circumstances of human life separately considered, but of the sum or
universal system of life and being. See also the vision at the end
of the _Theodicée_ of Leibnitz.


'_As flame ascends_,' etc.--P. 32.

This opinion, though not held by Plato nor any of the ancients, is
yet a very natural consequence of his principles. But the
disquisition is too complex and extensive to be entered upon here.


'_Philip_.'--P. 44.

The Macedonian.



'_Where the powers
Of Fancy_,' etc.--P. 46.

The influence of the imagination on the conduct of life is one of
the most important points in moral philosophy. It were easy, by an
induction of facts, to prove that the imagination directs almost all
the passions, and mixes with almost every circumstance of action or
pleasure. Let any man, even of the coldest head and soberest industry,
analyse the idea of what he calls his interest; he will find that it
consists chiefly of certain degrees of decency, beauty, and order,
variously combined into one system, the idol which he seeks to enjoy
by labour, hazard, and self-denial. It is, on this account, of the
last consequence to regulate these images by the standard of nature
and the general good; otherwise the imagination, by heightening some
objects beyond their real excellence and beauty, or by representing
others in a more odions or terrible shape than they deserve, may, of
course, engage us in pursuits utterly inconsistent with the moral
order of things.

If it be objected that this account of things supposes the passions
to be merely accidental, whereas there appears in some a natural and
hereditary disposition to certain passions prior to all
circumstances of education or fortune, it may be answered, that
though no man is born ambitious or a miser, yet he may inherit from
his parents a peculiar temper or complexion of mind, which shall
render his imagination more liable to be struck with some particular
objects, consequently dispose him to form opinions of good and ill,
and entertain passions of a particular turn. Some men, for instance,
by the original frame of their minds, are more delighted with the
vast and magnificent, others, on the contrary, with the elegant and
gentle aspects of nature. And it is very remarkable, that the
disposition of the moral powers is always similar to this of the
imagination; that those who are most inclined to admire prodigious
and sublime objects in the physical world, are also most inclined to
applaud examples of fortitude and heroic virtue in the moral. While
those who are charmed rather with the delicacy and sweetness of
colours, and forms, and sounds, never fail in like manner to yield
the preference to the softer scenes of virtue and the sympathies of
a domestic life. And this is sufficient to account for the objection.

Among the ancient philosophers, though we have several hints
concerning this influence of the imagination upon morals among the
remains of the Socratic school, yet the Stoics were the first who
paid it a due attention. Zeno, their founder, thought it impossible
to preserve any tolerable regularity in life, without frequently
inspecting those pictures or appearances of things, which the
imagination offers to the mind (_Diog. Laërt_. I. vii.) The
meditations of M. Aurelius, and the discourses of Epictetus, are
full of the same sentiment; insomuch that the latter makes the
[Greek: Chresis oia dei, fantasion], or right management of the
fancies, the only thing for which we are accountable to Providence,
and without which a man is no other than stupid or frantic (_Arrian_.
I. i. c. 12. and I. ii. c. 22). See also the _Characteristics_,
vol. i. from p. 313 to 321, where this Stoical doctrine is embellished
with all the elegance and graces of Plato.


'_How Folly's awkward arts_,' etc.--P. 47.

Notwithstanding the general influence of ridicule on private and
civil life, as well as on learning and the sciences, it has been
almost constantly neglected or misrepresented, by divines especially.
The manner of treating these subjects in the science of human nature,
should be precisely the same as in natural philosophy; from
particular facts to investigate the stated order in which they appear,
and then apply the general law, thus discovered, to the explication
of other appearances and the improvement of useful arts.


'_Behold the foremost band_,' etc.--P. 48.

The first and most general source of ridicule in the characters
of men, is vanity or self-applause for some desirable quality or
possession which evidently does not belong to those who assume it.


'_Then comes the second order_,' etc.--P, 49.

Ridicule from the same vanity, where, though the possession be real,
yet no merit can arise from it, because of some particular
circumstances, which, though obvious to the spectator, are yet
overlooked by the ridiculous character.


'_Another tribe succeeds_,' etc.--P. 50.

Ridicule from a notion of excellence in particular objects
disproportioned to their intrinsic value, and inconsistent with the
order of nature.


'_But now, ye gay_,' etc.--P. 51.

Ridicule from a notion of excellence, when the object is absolutely
odious or contemptible. This is the highest degree of the ridiculous;
as in the affectation of diseases or vices.


'_Thus far triumphant_,' etc.--P. 51

Ridicule from false shame or groundless fear.


'_Last of the motley bands_,' etc.--P. 52.

Ridicule from the ignorance of such things as our circumstances
require us to know.


'_Suffice it to have said_,' etc.--P. 52.

By comparing these general sources of ridicule with each other, and
examining the ridiculous in other objects, we may obtain a general
definition of it, equally applicable to every species. The most
important circumstance of this definition is laid down in the lines
referred to; but others more minute we shall subjoin here.
Aristotle's account of the matter seems both imperfect and false.
[Greek: To ghar geloion], says he, [Greek: estin hamartaema ti kai
aischos]: 'The ridiculous is some certain fault or turpitude without
pain, and not destructive to its subject' (_Poet_. c. 5). For
allowing it to be true, as it is not, that the ridiculous is never
accompanied with pain, yet we might produce many instances of such a
fault or turpitude which cannot with any tolerable propriety be
called ridiculous. So that the definition does not distinguish the
thing designed. Nay, further, even when we perceive the turpitude
tending to the destruction of its subject, we may still be sensible
of a ridiculous appearance, till the ruin become imminent, and the
keener sensations of pity or terror banish the ludicrous
apprehension from our minds; for the sensation of ridicule is not a
bare perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas, but a
passion or emotion of the mind consequential to that perception; so
that the mind may perceive the agreement or disagreement, and yet
not feel the ridiculous, because it is engrossed by a more violent
emotion. Thus it happens that some men think those objects ridiculous,
to which others cannot endure to apply the name, because in them
they excite a much intenser and more important feeling. And this
difference, among other causes, has brought a good deal of confusion
into this question.

'That which makes objects ridiculous is some ground of admiration or
esteem connected with other more general circumstances comparatively
worthless or deformed; or it is some circumstance of turpitude or
deformity connected with what is in general excellent or beautiful:
the inconsistent properties existing either in the objects themselves,
or in the apprehension of the person to whom they relate, belonging
always to the same order or class of being, implying sentiment or
design, and exciting no acute or vehement emotion of the heart.'

To prove the several parts of this definition: 'The appearance of
excellence or beauty connected with a general condition
comparatively sordid or deformed' is ridiculous; for instance,
pompous pretensions of wisdom joined with ignorance or folly in the
Socrates of Aristophanes, and the ostentations of military glory
with cowardice and stupidity in the Thraso of Terence.

'The appearance of deformity or turpitude in conjunction with what
is in general excellent or venerable,' is also ridiculous: for
instance, the personal weaknesses of a magistrate appearing in the
solemn and public functions of his station.

'The incongruous properties may either exist in the objects
themselves, or in the apprehension of the person to whom they relate:'
in the last--mentioned instance, they both exist in the objects; in
the instances from Aristophanes and Terence, one of them is
objective and real, the other only founded in the apprehension of
the ridiculous character.

'The inconsistent properties must belong to the same order or class
of being.' A coxcomb in fine clothes, bedaubed by accident in foul
weather, is a ridiculous object, because his general apprehension of
excellence and esteem is referred to the splendour and expense of
his dress. A man of sense and merit, in the same circumstances, is
not counted ridiculous, because the general ground of excellence and
esteem in him is, both in fact and in his own apprehension, of a
very different species.

'Every ridiculous object implies sentiment or design.' A column
placed by an architect without a capital or base is laughed at: the
same column in a ruin causes a very different sensation.

And lastly, 'the occurrence must excite no acute or vehement emotion
of the heart,' such as terror, pity, or indignation; for in that case,
as was observed above, the mind is not at leisure to contemplate the
ridiculous. Whether any appearance not ridiculous be involved in
this description, and whether it comprehend every species and form
of the ridiculous, must be determined by repeated applications of it
to particular instances.


_'Ask we for what fair end'_, etc.--P. 53.

Since it is beyond all contradiction evident that we have a natural
sense or feeling of the ridiculous, and since so good a reason may
be assigned to justify the supreme Being for bestowing it, one cannot,
without astonishment, reflect on the conduct of those men who
imagine it is for the service of true religion to vilify and blacken
it without distinction, and endeavour to persuade us that it is
never applied but in a bad cause. Ridicule is not concerned with
mere speculative truth or falsehood. It is not in abstract
propositions or theorems, but in actions and passions, good and evil,
beauty and deformity, that we find materials for it; and all these
terms are relative, implying approbation or blame. To ask them
whether ridicule be a test of truth, is, in other words, to ask
whether that which is ridiculous can be morally true, can be just and
becoming; or whether that which is just and becoming can be
ridiculous?--a question that does not deserve a serious answer. For
it is most evident, that, as in a metaphysical proposition offered
to the understanding for its assent, the faculty of reason examines
the terms of the proposition, and finding one idea, which was
supposed equal to another, to be in fact unequal, of consequence
rejects the proposition as a falsehood; so, in objects offered to
the mind for its esteem or applause, the faculty of ridicule,
finding an incongruity in the claim, urges the mind to reject it
with laughter and contempt. When, therefore, we observe such a claim
obtruded upon mankind, and the inconsistent circumstances carefully
concealed from the eye of the public, it is our business, if the
matter be of importance to society, to drag out those latent
circumstances, and, by setting them in full view, to convince the
world how ridiculous the claim is: and thus a double advantage is
gained; for we both detect the moral falsehood sooner than in the
way of speculative inquiry, and impress the minds of men with a
stronger sense of the vanity and error of its authors. And this, and
no more, is meant by the application of ridicule.

But it is said, the practice is dangerous, and may be inconsistent
with the regard we owe to objects of real dignity and excellence. I
answer, the practice fairly managed can never be dangerous; men may
be dishonest in obtruding circumstances foreign to the object, and
we may be inadvertent in allowing those circumstances to impose upon
us: but the sense of ridicule always judges right. The Socrates of
Aristophanes is as truly ridiculous a character as ever was drawn:
--true; but it is not the character of Socrates, the divine moralist
and father of ancient wisdom. What then? did the ridicule of the
poet hinder the philosopher from detecting and disclaiming those
foreign circumstances which he had falsely introduced into his
character, and thus rendered the satirist doubly ridiculous in his
turn? No; but it nevertheless had an ill influence on the minds of
the people. And so has the reasoning of Spinoza made many atheists:
he has founded it, indeed, on suppositions utterly false; but allow
him these, and his conclusions are unavoidably true. And if we must
reject the use of ridicule, because, by the imposition of false
circumstances, things may be made to seem ridiculous, which are not
so in themselves; why we ought not in the same manner to reject the
use of reason, because, by proceeding on false principles,
conclusions will appear true which are impossible in nature, let the
vehement and obstinate declaimers against ridicule determine.


_'The inexpressive semblance'_, etc.--P. 53.

This similitude is the foundation of almost all the ornaments of
poetic diction.


_'Two faithful needles'_, etc.--P. 55.

See the elegant poem recited by Cardinal Bembo in the character of
Lucretius.-_Strada Prolus_. vi. _Academ_. 2. c. v.


_'By these mysterious ties'_, etc.--P. 55.

The act of remembering seems almost wholly to depend on the
association of ideas.


_'Into its proper vehicle'_, etc.--P. 57.

This relates to the different sorts of corporeal mediums, by which
the ideas of the artists are rendered palpable to the senses: as by
sounds, in music; by lines and shadows, in painting; by diction, in
poetry, etc.


_'One pursues
The vast alone'_, etc.--P. 61.

See the note to ver. 18 of this book.


_'Waller longs'_, etc.--P. 61.

Oh! how I long my careless limbs to lay
Under the plantane shade; and all the day
With amorous airs my fancy entertain, etc.
_WALLER, Battle of the Summer-Islands_, Canto I.

And again,
While in the park I sing, the list'ning deer
Attend my passion, and forget to fear, etc.
At Pens-hurst.


_'Not a breeze'_, etc.--P. 63.

That this account may not appear rather poetically extravagant than
just in philosophy, it may be proper to produce the sentiment of one
of the greatest, wisest, and best of men on this head; one so little
to be suspected of partiality in the case, that he reckons it among
those favours for which he was especially thankful to the gods, that
they had not suffered him to make any great proficiency in the arts
of eloquence and poetry, lest by that means he should have been
diverted from pursuits of more importance to his high station.
Speaking of the beauty of universal nature, he observes, that there
'is a pleasing and graceful aspect in every object we perceive,'
when once we consider its connexion with that general order. He
instances in many things which at first sight would be thought
rather deformities; and then adds, 'that a man who enjoys a
sensibility of temper with a just comprehension of the universal
order--will discern many amiable things, not credible to every mind,
but to those alone who have entered into an honourable familiarity
with nature and her works.'
--_M. Antonin_. iii. 2.





The pleasures of the imagination proceed either from natural objects,
as from a flourishing grove, a clear and murmuring fountain, a calm
sea by moonlight; or from works of art, such as a noble edifice, a
musical tune, a statue, a picture, a poem. In treating of these
pleasures, we must begin with the former class; they being original
to the other; and nothing more being necessary, in order to explain
them, than a view of our natural inclination toward greatness and
beauty, and of those appearances, in the world around us, to which
that inclination is adapted. This is the subject of the first book
of the following poem.

But the pleasures which we receive from the elegant arts, from music,
sculpture, painting, and poetry, are much more various and
complicated. In them (besides greatness and beauty, or forms proper
to the imagination) we find interwoven frequent representations of
truth, of virtue and vice, of circumstances proper to move us with
laughter, or to excite in us pity, fear, and the other passions.
These moral and intellectual objects are described in the second book;
to which the third properly belongs as an episode, though too large
to have been included in it.

With the above-mentioned causes of pleasure, which are universal in
the course of human life, and appertain to our higher faculties,
many others do generally occur, more limited in their operation, or
of an inferior origin: such are the novelty of objects, the
association of ideas, affections of the bodily senses, influences of
education, national habits, and the like. To illustrate these, and
from the whole to determine the character of a perfect taste, is the
argument of the fourth book.

Hitherto the pleasures of the imagination belong to the human
species in general. But there are certain particular men whose
imagination is endowed with powers, and susceptible of pleasures,
which the generality of mankind never participate. These are the men
of genius, destined by nature to excel in one or other of the arts
already mentioned. It is proposed, therefore, in the last place, to
delineate that genius which in some degree appears common to them all;
yet with a more peculiar consideration of poetry: inasmuch as poetry
is the most extensive of those arts, the most philosophical, and the
most useful.

BOOK I. 1757.


The subject proposed. Dedication. The ideas of the Supreme Being, the
exemplars of all things. The variety of constitution in the minds of
men; with its final cause. The general character of a fine
imagination. All the immediate pleasures of the human imagination
proceed either from Greatness or Beauty in external objects. The
pleasure from Greatness; with its final cause. The natural connexion
of Beauty with truth [2] and good. The different orders of Beauty in
different objects. The infinite and all-comprehending form of Beauty,
which belongs to the Divine Mind. The partial and artificial forms
of Beauty, which belong to inferior intellectual beings. The origin
and general conduct of beauty in man. The subordination of local
beauties to the beauty of the Universe. Conclusion.

With what enchantment Nature's goodly scene
Attracts the sense of mortals; how the mind
For its own eye doth objects nobler still
Prepare; how men by various lessons learn
To judge of Beauty's praise; what raptures fill
The breast with fancy's native arts endow'd,
And what true culture guides it to renown,
My verse unfolds. Ye gods, or godlike powers,
Ye guardians of the sacred task, attend
Propitious. Hand in hand around your bard 10
Move in majestic measures, leading on
His doubtful step through many a solemn path,
Conscious of secrets which to human sight
Ye only can reveal. Be great in him:
And let your favour make him wise to speak
Of all your wondrous empire; with a voice
So temper'd to his theme, that those who hear
May yield perpetual homage to yourselves.
Thou chief, O daughter of eternal Love,
Whate'er thy name; or Muse, or Grace, adored 20
By Grecian prophets; to the sons of Heaven
Known, while with deep amazement thou dost there
The perfect counsels read, the ideas old,
Of thine omniscient Father; known on earth
By the still horror and the blissful tear
With which thou seizest on the soul of man;
Thou chief, Poetic Spirit, from the banks
Of Avon, whence thy holy fingers cull
Fresh flowers and dews to sprinkle on the turf
Where Shakspeare lies, be present. And with thee 30
Let Fiction come, on her aërial wings
Wafting ten thousand colours, which in sport,


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