Poetical Works of Akenside
Mark Akenside

Part 3 out of 7

By the light glances of her magic eye,
She blends and shifts at will through countless forms,
Her wild creation. Goddess of the lyre,
Whose awful tones control the moving sphere,
Wilt thou, eternal Harmony, descend,
And join this happy train? for with thee comes
The guide, the guardian of their mystic rites,
Wise Order: and, where Order deigns to come, 40
Her sister, Liberty, will not be far.
Be present all ye Genii, who conduct
Of youthful bards the lonely wandering step
New to your springs and shades; who touch their ear
With finer sounds, and heighten to their eye
The pomp of nature, and before them place
The fairest, loftiest countenance of things.

Nor thou, my Dyson, [3] to the lay refuse
Thy wonted partial audience. What though first,
In years unseason'd, haply ere the sports 50
Of childhood yet were o'er, the adventurous lay
With many splendid prospects, many charms,
Allured my heart, nor conscious whence they sprung,
Nor heedful of their end? yet serious Truth
Her empire o'er the calm, sequester'd theme
Asserted soon; while Falsehood's evil brood,
Vice and deceitful Pleasure, she at once
Excluded, and my fancy's careless toil
Drew to the better cause. Maturer aid
Thy friendship added, in the paths of life, 60
The busy paths, my unaccustom'd feet
Preserving: nor to Truth's recess divine,
Through this wide argument's unbeaten space,
Withholding surer guidance; while by turns
We traced the sages old, or while the queen
Of sciences (whom manners and the mind
Acknowledge) to my true companion's voice
Not unattentive, o'er the wintry lamp
Inclined her sceptre, favouring. Now the fates
Have other tasks imposed;--to thee, my friend, 70
The ministry of freedom and the faith
Of popular decrees, in early youth,
Not vainly they committed; me they sent
To wait on pain, and silent arts to urge,
Inglorious; not ignoble, if my cares,
To such as languish on a grievous bed,
Ease and the sweet forgetfulness of ill
Conciliate; nor delightless, if the Muse,
Her shades to visit and to taste her springs,
If some distinguish'd hours the bounteous Muse 80
Impart, and grant (what she, and she alone,
Can grant to mortals) that my hand those wreaths
Of fame and honest favour, which the bless'd
Wear in Elysium, and which never felt
The breath of envy or malignant tongues,
That these my hand for thee and for myself
May gather. Meanwhile, O my faithful friend,
O early chosen, ever found the same,
And trusted and beloved, once more the verse
Long destined, always obvious to thine ear, 90
Attend, indulgent: so in latest years,
When time thy head with honours shall have clothed
Sacred to even virtue, may thy mind,
Amid the calm review of seasons past,
Fair offices of friendship, or kind peace,
Or public zeal, may then thy mind well pleased
Recall these happy studies of our prime.
From Heaven my strains begin: from Heaven descends
The flame of genius to the chosen breast,
And beauty with poetic wonder join'd, 100
And inspiration. Ere the rising sun
Shone o'er the deep, or 'mid the vault of night
The moon her silver lamp suspended; ere
The vales with springs were water'd, or with groves
Of oak or pine the ancient hills were crown'd;
Then the Great Spirit, whom his works adore,
Within his own deep essence view'd the forms,
The forms eternal of created things:
The radiant sun; the moon's nocturnal lamp;
The mountains and the streams; the ample stores 110
Of earth, of heaven, of nature. From the first,
On that full scene his love divine he fix'd,
His admiration: till, in time complete,
What he admired and loved his vital power
Unfolded into being. Hence the breath
Of life informing each organic frame:
Hence the green earth, and wild-resounding waves:
Hence light and shade, alternate; warmth and cold;
And bright autumnal skies, and vernal showers,
And all the fair variety of things. 120
But not alike to every mortal eye
Is this great scene unveil'd. For while the claims
Of social life to different labours urge
The active powers of man, with wisest care
Hath Nature on the multitude of minds
Impress'd a various bias, and to each
Decreed 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 130
To search the story of eternal thought;
Of space, and time; of fate's unbroken chain,
And will's quick movement; others by the hand
She led o'er vales and mountains, to explore
What healing virtue dwells in every vein
Of herbs or trees. But some to nobler hopes
Were destined; some within a finer mould
She wrought, and temper'd with a purer flame.
To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds,
In fuller aspects and with fairer lights, 140
This picture of the world. Through every part
They trace the lofty sketches of his hand;
In earth, or air, the meadow's flowery store,
The moon's mild radiance, or the virgin's mien
Dress'd in attractive smiles, they see portray'd
(As far as mortal eyes the portrait scan)
Those lineaments of beauty which delight
The Mind Supreme. They also feel their force,
Enamour'd; they partake the eternal joy.

For as old Memnon's image, long renown'd 150
Through fabling Egypt, at the genial touch
Of morning, from its inmost frame sent forth
Spontaneous music, so doth Nature's hand,
To certain attributes which matter claims,
Adapt the finer organs of the mind;
So the glad impulse of those kindred powers
(Of form, of colour's cheerful pomp, of sound
Melodious, or of motion aptly sped),
Detains the enliven'd sense; till soon the soul
Feels the deep concord, and assents through all 160
Her functions. Then the charm by fate prepared
Diffuseth its enchantment Fancy dreams,
Rapt into high discourse with prophets old,
And wandering through Elysium, Fancy dreams
Of sacred fountains, of o'ershadowing groves,
Whose walks with godlike harmony resound:
Fountains, which Homer visits; happy groves,
Where Milton dwells; the intellectual power,
On the mind's throne, suspends his graver cares,
And smiles; the passions, to divine repose 170
Persuaded yield, and love and joy alone
Are waking: love and joy, such as await
An angel's meditation. Oh! attend,
Whoe'er thou art whom these delights can touch;
Whom Nature's aspect, Nature's simple garb
Can thus command; oh! listen to my song;
And I will guide thee to her blissful walks,
And teach thy solitude her voice to hear,
And point her gracious features to thy view.

Know then, whate'er of the world's ancient store, 180
Whate'er of mimic Art's reflected scenes,
With love and admiration thus inspire
Attentive Fancy, her delighted sons
In two illustrious orders comprehend,
Self-taught: from him whose rustic toil the lark
Cheers warbling, to the bard whose daring thoughts
Range the full orb of being, still the form,
Which Fancy worships, or sublime or fair,
Her votaries proclaim. I see them dawn:
I see the radiant visions where they rise, 190
More lovely than when Lucifer displays
His glittering forehead through the gates of morn,
To lead the train of Phoebus and the Spring.

Say, why was man so eminently raised
Amid the vast creation; why empower'd
Through life and death to dart his watchful eye,
With thoughts beyond the limit of his frame;
But that the Omnipotent might send him forth,
In sight of angels and immortal minds,
As on an ample theatre to join 200
In contest with his equals, who shall best
The task achieve, the course of noble toils,
By wisdom and by mercy preordain'd?
Might send him forth the sovereign good to learn;
To chase each meaner purpose from his breast;
And through the mists of passion and of sense,
And through the pelting storms of chance and pain,
To hold straight on, with constant heart and eye
Still fix'd upon his everlasting palm,
The approving smile of Heaven? Else wherefore burns 210
In mortal bosoms this unquenchèd hope,
That seeks from day to day sublimer ends,
Happy, though restless? Why departs the soul
Wide from the track and journey of her times,
To grasp the good she knows not? In the field
Of things which may be, in the spacious field
Of science, potent arts, or dreadful arms,
To raise up scenes in which her own desires
Contented may repose; when things, which are,
Pall on her temper, like a twice-told tale: 220
Her temper, still demanding to be free;
Spurning the rude control of wilful might;
Proud of her dangers braved, her griefs endured,
Her strength severely proved? To these high aims,
Which reason and affection prompt in man,
Not adverse nor unapt hath Nature framed
His bold imagination. For, amid
The various forms which this full world presents
Like rivals to his choice, what human breast
E'er doubts, before the transient and minute, 230
To prize the vast, the stable, the sublime?
Who, that from heights aërial sends his eye
Around a wild horizon, and surveys
Indus or Ganges rolling his broad wave
Through mountains, plains, through spacious cities old,
And regions dark with woods, will turn away
To mark the path of some penurious rill
Which murmureth at his feet? Where does the soul
Consent her soaring fancy to restrain,
Which bears her up, as on an eagle's wings, 240
Destined for highest heaven; or which of fate's
Tremendous barriers shall confine her flight
To any humbler quarry? The rich earth
Cannot detain her; nor the ambient air
With all its changes. For a while with joy
She hovers o'er the sun, and views the small
Attendant orbs, beneath his sacred beam,
Emerging from the deep, like cluster'd isles
Whose rocky shores to the glad sailor's eye
Reflect the gleams of morning; for a while 250
With pride she sees his firm, paternal sway
Bend the reluctant planets to move each
Round its perpetual year. But soon she quits
That prospect; meditating loftier views,
She darts adventurous up the long career
Of comets; through the constellations holds
Her course, and now looks back on all the stars
Whose blended flames as with a milky stream
Part the blue region. Empyréan tracts,
Where happy souls beyond this concave heaven 260
Abide, she then explores, whence purer light
For countless ages travels through the abyss,
Nor hath in sight of mortals yet arrived.
Upon the wide creation's utmost shore
At length she stands, and the dread space beyond
Contemplates, half-recoiling: nathless, down
The gloomy void, astonish'd, yet unquell'd,
She plungeth; down the unfathomable gulf
Where God alone hath being. There her hopes
Rest at the fated goal. For, from the birth 270
Of human kind, the Sovereign Maker said
That not in humble, nor in brief delight,
Not in the fleeting echoes of renown,
Power's purple robes, nor Pleasure's flowery lap,
The soul should find contentment; but, from these
Turning disdainful to an equal good,
Through Nature's opening walks enlarge her aim,
Till every bound at length should disappear,
And infinite perfection fill the scene.

But lo, where Beauty, dress'd in gentler pomp, 280
With comely steps advancing, claims the verse
Her charms inspire. O Beauty, source of praise,
Of honour, even to mute and lifeless things;
O thou that kindlest in each human heart
Love, and the wish of poets, when their tongue
Would teach to other bosoms what so charms
Their own; O child of Nature and the soul,
In happiest hour brought forth; the doubtful garb
Of words, of earthly language, all too mean,
Too lowly I account, in which to clothe 290
Thy form divine; for thee the mind alone
Beholds, nor half thy brightness can reveal
Through those dim organs, whose corporeal touch
O'ershadoweth thy pure essence. Yet, my Muse,
If Fortune call thee to the task, wait thou
Thy favourable seasons; then, while fear
And doubt are absent, through wide nature's bounds
Expatiate with glad step, and choose at will
Whate'er bright spoils the florid earth contains,
Whate'er the waters, or the liquid air, 300
To manifest unblemish'd Beauty's praise,
And o'er the breasts of mortals to extend
Her gracious empire. Wilt thou to the isles
Atlantic, to the rich Hesperian clime,
Fly in the train of Autumn, and look on,
And learn from him; while, as he roves around,
Where'er his fingers touch the fruitful grove,
The branches bloom with gold; where'er his foot
Imprints the soil, the ripening clusters swell,
Turning aside their foliage, and come forth 310
In purple lights, till every hillock glows
As with the blushes of an evening sky?
Or wilt thou that Thessalian landscape trace,
Where slow Penéus his clear glassy tide
Draws smooth along, between the winding cliffs
Of Ossa and the pathless woods unshorn
That wave o'er huge Olympus? Down the stream,
Look how the mountains with their double range
Embrace the vale of Tempé: from each side
Ascending steep to heaven, a rocky mound 320
Cover'd with ivy and the laurel boughs
That crown'd young Phoebus for the Python slain.
Fair Tempé! on whose primrose banks the morn
Awoke most fragrant, and the noon reposed
In pomp of lights and shadows most sublime:
Whose lawns, whose glades, ere human footsteps yet
Had traced an entrance, were the hallow'd haunt
Of sylvan powers immortal: where they sate
Oft in the golden age, the Nymphs and Fauns,
Beneath some arbour branching o'er the flood, 330
And leaning round hung on the instructive lips
Of hoary Pan, or o'er some open dale
Danced in light measures to his sevenfold pipe,
While Zephyr's wanton hand along their path
Flung showers of painted blossoms, fertile dews,
And one perpetual spring. But if our task
More lofty rites demand, with all good vows
Then let us hasten to the rural haunt
Where young Melissa dwells. Nor thou refuse
The voice which calls thee from thy loved retreat, 340
But hither, gentle maid, thy footsteps turn:
Here, to thy own unquestionable theme,
O fair, O graceful, bend thy polish'd brow,
Assenting; and the gladness of thy eyes
Impart to me, like morning's wishèd light
Seen through the vernal air. By yonder stream,
Where beech and elm along the bordering mead
Send forth wild melody from every bough,
Together let us wander; where the hills
Cover'd with fleeces to the lowing vale 350
Reply; where tidings of content and peace
Each echo brings. Lo, how the western sun
O'er fields and floods, o'er every living soul,
Diffuseth glad repose! There,--while I speak
Of Beauty's honours, thou, Melissa, thou
Shalt hearken, not unconscious, while I tell
How first from Heaven she came: how, after all
The works of life, the elemental scenes,
The hours, the seasons, she had oft explored,
At length her favourite mansion and her throne 360
She fix'd in woman's form; what pleasing ties
To virtue bind her; what effectual aid
They lend each other's power; and how divine
Their union, should some unambitious maid,
To all the enchantment of the Idalian queen,
Add sanctity and wisdom; while my tongue
Prolongs the tale, Melissa, thou may'st feign
To wonder whence my rapture is inspired;
But soon the smile which dawns upon thy lip
Shall tell it, and the tenderer bloom o'er all 370
That soft cheek springing to the marble neck,
Which bends aside in vain, revealing more
What it would thus keep silent, and in vain
The sense of praise dissembling. Then my song
Great Nature's winning arts, which thus inform
With joy and love the rugged breast of man,
Should sound in numbers worthy such a theme:
While all whose souls have ever felt the force
Of those enchanting passions, to my lyre
Should throng attentive, and receive once more 380
Their influence, unobscured by any cloud
Of vulgar care, and purer than the hand
Of Fortune can bestow; nor, to confirm
Their sway, should awful Contemplation scorn
To join his dictates to the genuine strain
Of Pleasure's tongue; nor yet should Pleasure's ear
Be much averse. Ye chiefly, gentle band
Of youths and virgins, who through many a wish
And many a fond pursuit, as in some scene
Of magic bright and fleeting, are allured 390
By various Beauty, if the pleasing toil
Can yield a moment's respite, hither turn
Your favourable ear, and trust my words.
I do not mean on bless'd Religion's seat,
Presenting Superstition's gloomy form,
To dash your soothing hopes; I do not mean
To bid the jealous thunderer fire the heavens,
Or shapes infernal rend the groaning earth,
And scare you from your joys. My cheerful song
With happier omens calls you to the field, 400
Pleased with your generous ardour in the chase,
And warm like you. Then tell me (for ye know),
Doth Beauty ever deign to dwell where use
And aptitude are strangers? is her praise
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 win each fond admirer into snares,
Foil'd, baffled? No; with better providence 410
The general mother, conscious how infirm
Her offspring tread the paths of good and ill,
Thus, to the choice of credulous desire,
Doth objects the completest of their tribe
Distinguish and commend. Yon flowery bank
Clothed in the soft magnificence of Spring,
Will not the flocks approve it? will they ask
The reedy fen for pasture? That clear rill
Which trickleth murmuring from the mossy rock,
Yields it less wholesome beverage to the worn 420
And thirsty traveller, than the standing pool
With muddy weeds o'ergrown? Yon ragged vine
Whose lean and sullen clusters mourn the rage
Of Eurus, will the wine-press or the bowl
Report of her, as of the swelling grape
Which glitters through the tendrils, like a gem
When first it meets the sun. Or what are all
The various charms to life and sense adjoin'd?
Are they not pledges of a state entire,
Where native order reigns, with every part 430
In health, and every function well perform'd?

Thus, then, at first was Beauty sent from Heaven,
The lovely ministress of Truth and Good
In this dark world: for Truth and Good are one;
And Beauty dwells in them, and they in her,
With like participation. Wherefore then,
O sons of earth, would ye dissolve the tie?
Oh! wherefore with a rash and greedy aim
Seek ye to rove through every flattering scene
Which Beauty seems to deck, nor once inquire 440
Where is the suffrage 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 yet let hope,
That kindliest inmate of the youthful breast,
Be hence appall'd, be turn'd to coward sloth
Sitting in silence, with dejected eyes
Incurious and with folded hands; far less 450
Let scorn of wild fantastic folly's dreams,
Or hatred of the bigot's savage pride
Persuade you e'er that Beauty, or the love
Which waits on Beauty, may not brook to hear
The sacred lore of undeceitful Good
And Truth eternal. From the vulgar crowd
Though Superstition, tyranness abhorr'd,
The reverence due to this majestic pair
With threats and execration still demands;
Though the tame wretch, who asks of her the way 460
To their celestial dwelling, she constrains
To quench or set at nought the lamp of God
Within his frame; through many a cheerless wild
Though forth she leads him credulous and dark
And awed with dubious notion; though at length
Haply she plunge him into cloister'd cells
And mansions unrelenting as the grave,
But void of quiet, there to watch the hours
Of midnight; there, amid the screaming owl's
Dire song, with spectres or with guilty shades 470
To talk of pangs and everlasting woe;
Yet be not ye dismay'd. A gentler star
Presides o'er your adventure. From the bower
Where Wisdom sat with her Athenian sons,
Could but my happy hand entwine a wreath
Of Plato's olive with the Mantuan bay,
Then (for what need of cruel fear to you,
To you whom godlike love can well command?),
Then should my powerful voice at once dispel
Those monkish horrors; should in words divine 480
Relate how favour'd minds like you inspired,
And taught their inspiration to conduct
By ruling Heaven's decree, through various walks
And prospects various, but delightful all,
Move onward; while now myrtle groves appear,
Now arms and radiant trophies, now the rods
Of empire with the curule throne, or now
The domes of contemplation and the Muse.

Led by that hope sublime, whose cloudless eye
Through the fair toils and ornaments of earth 490
Discerns the nobler life reserved for heaven,
Favour'd alike they worship round the shrine
Where Truth conspicuous with her sister-twins,
The undivided partners of her sway,
With Good and Beauty reigns. Oh! let not us
By Pleasure's lying blandishments detain'd,
Or crouching to the frowns of bigot rage,
Oh! let not us one moment pause to join
That chosen band. And if the gracious Power,
Who first awaken'd my untutor'd song, 500
Will to my invocation grant 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 free Virtue's steps, and to her side
Summon that strong divinity of soul
Which conquers Chance and Fate: or on the height, 510
The goal assign'd her, haply to proclaim
Her triumph; on her brow to place the crown
Of uncorrupted praise; through future worlds
To follow her interminated way,
And bless Heaven's image in the heart of man.

Such is the worth of Beauty; such her power,
So blameless, so revered. It now remains,
In just gradation through the various ranks
Of being, to contemplate how her gifts
Rise in due measure, watchful to attend 520
The steps of rising Nature. Last and least,
In colours mingling with a random blaze,
Doth Beauty dwell. Then higher in the forms
Of simplest, easiest measure; in the bounds
Of circle, cube, or sphere. The third ascent
To symmetry adds colour: thus the pearl
Shines in the concave of its purple bed,
And painted shells along some winding shore
Catch with indented folds the glancing sun.
Next, as we rise, appear the blooming tribes 530
Which clothe the fragrant earth; which draw from her
Their own nutrition; which are born and die,
Yet, in their seed, immortal; such the flowers
With which young Maia pays the village maids
That hail her natal morn; and such the groves
Which blithe Pomona rears on Vaga's bank,
To feed the bowl of Ariconian swains
Who quaff beneath her branches. Nobler still
Is Beauty's name where, to the full consent
Of members and of features, to the pride 540
Of colour, and the vital change of growth,
Life's holy flame with piercing sense is given,
While active motion speaks the temper'd soul:
So moves the bird of Juno: so the steed
With rival swiftness beats the dusty plain,
And faithful dogs with eager airs of joy
Salute their fellows. What sublimer pomp
Adorns the seat where Virtue dwells on earth,
And Truth's eternal day-light shines around,
What palm belongs to man's imperial front, 550
And woman powerful with becoming smiles,
Chief of terrestrial natures, need we now
Strive to inculcate? Thus hath Beauty there
Her most conspicuous praise to matter lent,
Where most conspicuous through that shadowy veil
Breaks forth the bright expression of a mind,
By steps directing our enraptured search
To Him, the first of minds; the chief; the sole;
From whom, through this wide, complicated world,
Did all her various lineaments begin; 560
To whom alone, consenting and entire,
At once their mutual influence all display.
He, God most high (bear witness, Earth and Heaven),
The living fountains in himself contains
Of beauteous and sublime; with him enthroned
Ere days or years trod their ethereal way,
In his supreme intelligence enthroned,
The queen of love holds her unclouded state,
Urania. Thee, O Father! this extent
Of matter; thee the sluggish earth and tract 570
Of seas, the heavens and heavenly splendours feel
Pervading, quickening, moving. From the depth
Of thy great essence, forth didst thou conduct
Eternal Form: and there, where Chaos reign'd,
Gav'st her dominion to erect her seat,
And sanctify the mansion. All her works
Well pleased thou didst behold: the gloomy fires
Of storm or earthquake, and the purest light
Of summer; soft Campania's new-born rose,
And the slow weed which pines on Russian hills 580
Comely alike to thy full vision stand:
To thy surrounding vision, which unites
All essences and powers of the great world
In one sole order, fair alike they stand,
As features well consenting, and alike
Required by Nature ere she could attain
Her just resemblance to the perfect shape
Of universal Beauty, which with thee
Dwelt from the first. Thou also, ancient Mind,
Whom love and free beneficence await 590
In all thy doings; to inferior minds,
Thy offspring, and to man, thy youngest son,
Refusing no convenient gift nor good;
Their eyes didst open, in this earth, yon heaven,
Those starry worlds, the countenance divine
Of Beauty to behold. But not to them
Didst thou her awful magnitude reveal
Such as before thine own unbounded sight
She stands (for never shall created soul
Conceive that object), nor, to all their kinds, 600
The same in shape or features didst thou frame
Her image. Measuring well their different spheres
Of sense and action, thy paternal hand
Hath for each race prepared a different test
Of Beauty, own'd and reverenced as their guide
Most apt, most faithful. Thence inform'd, they scan
The objects that surround them; and select,
Since the great whole disclaims their scanty view,
Each for himself selects peculiar parts
Of Nature; what the standard fix'd by Heaven 610
Within his breast approves, acquiring thus
A partial Beauty, which becomes his lot;
A Beauty which his eye may comprehend,
His hand may copy, leaving, O Supreme,
O thou whom none hath utter'd, leaving all
To thee that infinite, consummate form,
Which the great powers, the gods around thy throne
And nearest to thy counsels, know with thee
For ever to have been; but who she is,
Or what her likeness, know not. Man surveys 620
A narrower scene, where, by the mix'd effect
Of things corporeal on his passive mind,
He judgeth what is fair. Corporeal things
The mind of man impel with various powers,
And various features to his eye disclose.
The powers which move his sense with instant joy,
The features which attract his heart to love,
He marks, combines, reposits. Other powers
And features of the self-same thing (unless
The beauteous form, the creature of his mind, 630
Request their close alliance) he o'erlooks
Forgotten; or with self-beguiling zeal,
Whene'er his passions mingle in the work,
Half alters, half disowns. The tribes of men
Thus from their different functions and the shapes
Familiar to their eye, with art obtain,
Unconscious of their purpose, yet with art
Obtain the Beauty fitting man to love;
Whose proud desires from Nature's homely toil
Oft turn away, fastidious, asking still 640
His mind's high aid, to purify the form
From matter's gross communion; to secure
For ever, from the meddling hand of Change
Or rude Decay, her features; and to add
Whatever ornaments may suit her mien,
Where'er he finds them scatter'd through the paths
Of Nature or of Fortune. Then he seats
The accomplish'd image deep within his breast,
Reviews it, and accounts it good and fair.

Thus the one Beauty of the world entire, 650
The universal Venus, far beyond
The keenest effort of created eyes,
And their most wide horizon, dwells enthroned
In ancient silence. At her footstool stands
An altar burning with eternal fire
Unsullied, unconsumed. Here every hour,
Here every moment, in their turns arrive
Her offspring; an innumerable band
Of sisters, comely all! but differing far
In age, in stature, and expressive mien, 660
More than bright Helen from her new-born babe.
To this maternal shrine in turns they come,
Each with her sacred lamp; that from the source
Of living flame, which here immortal flows,
Their portions of its lustre they may draw
For days, or months, or years; for ages, some;
As their great parent's discipline requires.
Then to their several mansions they depart,
In stars, in planets, through the unknown shores
Of yon ethereal ocean. Who can tell, 670
Even on the surface of this rolling earth,
How many make abode? The fields, the groves,
The winding rivers and the azure main,
Are render'd solemn by their frequent feet,
Their rites sublime. There each her destined home
Informs with that pure radiance from the skies
Brought down, and shines throughout her little sphere,
Exulting. Straight, as travellers by night
Turn toward a distant flame, so some fit eye,
Among the various tenants of the scene, 680
Discerns the heaven-born phantom seated there,
And owns her charms. Hence the wide universe,
Through all the seasons of revolving worlds,
Bears witness with its people, gods and men,
To Beauty's blissful power, and with the voice
Of grateful admiration still resounds:
That voice, to which is Beauty's frame divine
As is the cunning of the master's hand
To the sweet accent of the well-tuned lyre.

Genius of ancient Greece, whose faithful steps 690
Have led us to these awful solitudes
Of Nature and of Science; nurse revered
Of generous counsels and heroic deeds;
Oh! let some portion of thy matchless praise
Dwell in my breast, and teach me to adorn
This unattempted theme. Nor be my thoughts
Presumptuous counted, if, amid the calm
Which Hesper sheds along the vernal heaven,
If I, from vulgar Superstition's walk,
Impatient steal, and from the unseemly rites 700
Of splendid Adulation, to attend
With hymns thy presence in the sylvan shade,
By their malignant footsteps unprofaned.
Come, O renownèd power; thy glowing mien
Such, and so elevated all thy form,
As when the great barbaric lord, again
And yet again diminish'd, hid his face
Among the herd of satraps and of kings;
And, at the lightning of thy lifted spear,
Crouch'd like a slave. Bring all thy martial spoils, 710
Thy palms, thy laurels, thy triumphal songs,
Thy smiling band of Arts, thy godlike sires
Of civil wisdom, thy unconquer'd youth,
After some glorious day rejoicing round
Their new-erected trophy. Guide my feet
Through fair Lycéum's walk, the olive shades
Of Academus, and the sacred vale
Haunted by steps divine, where once, beneath
That ever living platane's ample boughs,
Ilissus, by Socratic sounds detain'd, 720
On his neglected urn attentive lay;
While Boreas, lingering on the neighbouring steep
With beauteous Orithyía, his love tale
In silent awe suspended. There let me
With blameless hand, from thy unenvious fields,
Transplant some living blossoms, to adorn
My native clime; while, far beyond the meed
Of Fancy's toil aspiring, I unlock
The springs of ancient wisdom; while I add
(What cannot be disjoin'd from Beauty's praise) 730
Thy name and native dress, thy works beloved
And honour'd; while to my compatriot youth
I point the great example of thy sons,
And tune to Attic themes the British lyre.

[Footnote 2: Truth is here taken, not in a logical, but in a mixed
and popular sense, or for what has been called the truth of things;
denoting as well their natural and regular condition, as a proper
estimate or judgment concerning them.]

[Footnote 3: 'Dyson:' see _Life_.]

BOOK II. 1765.


Introduction to this more difficult part of the subject. Of Truth
and its three classes, matter of fact, experimental or scientifical
truth (contra-distinguished from opinion), and universal truth;
which last is either metaphysical or geometrical, either purely
intellectual or perfectly abstracted. On the power of discerning
truth depends that of acting with the view of an end; a circumstance
essential to virtue. Of Virtue, considered in the divine mind as a
perpetual and universal beneficence. Of human virtue, considered as
a system of particular sentiments and actions, suitable to the
design of Providence and the condition of man; to whom it
constitutes the chief good and the first beauty. Of Vice, and its
origin. Of Ridicule: its general nature and final cause. Of the
Passions; particularly of those which relate to evil natural or moral,
and which are generally accounted painful, though not always
unattended with pleasure.

Thus far of Beauty and the pleasing forms
Which man's untutor'd fancy, from the scenes
Imperfect of this ever changing world,
Creates; and views, enarnour'd. Now my song
Severer themes demand: mysterious Truth;
And Virtue, sovereign good: the spells, the trains,
The progeny of Error; the dread sway
Of Passion; and whatever hidden stores
From her own lofty deeds and from herself
The mind acquires. Severer argument: 10
Not less attractive; nor deserving less
A constant ear. For what are all the forms
Educed by fancy from corporeal things,
Greatness, or pomp, or symmetry of parts?
Not tending to the heart, soon feeble grows,
As the blunt arrow 'gainst the knotty trunk,
Their impulse on the sense: while the pall'd eye
Expects in vain its tribute; asks in vain,
Where are the ornaments it once admired?
Not so the moral species, nor the powers 20
Of Passion and of Thought. The ambitious mind
With objects boundless as her own desires
Can there converse: by these unfading forms
Touch'd and awaken'd still, with eager act
She bends each nerve, and meditates well pleased
Her gifts, her godlike fortune. Such the scenes
Now opening round us. May the destined verse
Maintain its equal tenor, though in tracts
Obscure and arduous! May the source of light,
All-present, all-sufficient, guide our steps 30
Through every maze! and whom, in childish years,
From the loud throng, the beaten paths of wealth
And power, thou didst apart send forth to speak
In tuneful words concerning highest things,
Him still do thou, O Father, at those hours
Of pensive freedom, when the human soul
Shuts out the rumour of the world, him still
Touch thou with secret lessons; call thou back
Each erring thought; and let the yielding strains
From his full bosom, like a welcome rill 40
Spontaneous from its healthy fountain, flow!

But from what name, what favourable sign,
What heavenly auspice, rather shall I date
My perilous excursion, than from Truth,
That nearest inmate of the human soul;
Estranged from whom, the countenance divine
Of man, disfigured and dishonour'd, sinks
Among inferior things? For to the brutes
Perception and the transient boons of sense
Hath Fate imparted; but to man alone 50
Of sublunary beings was it given.
Each fleeting impulse on the sensual powers
At leisure to review; with equal eye
To scan the passion of the stricken nerve,
Or the vague object striking; to conduct
From sense, the portal turbulent and loud,
Into the mind's wide palace one by one
The frequent, pressing, fluctuating forms,
And question and compare them. Thus he learns
Their birth and fortunes; how allied they haunt 60
The avenues of sense; what laws direct
Their union; and what various discords rise,
Or fixed, or casual; which when his clear thought
Retains and when his faithful words express,
That living image of the external scene,
As in a polish'd mirror held to view,
Is Truth; where'er it varies from the shape
And hue of its exemplar, in that part
Dim Error lurks. Moreover, from without
When oft the same society of forms 70
In the same order have approach'd his mind,
He deigns no more their steps with curious heed
To trace; no more their features or their garb
He now examines; but of them and their
Condition, as with some diviner's tongue,
Affirms what Heaven in every distant place,
Through every future season, will decree.
This too is Truth; where'er his prudent lips
Wait till experience diligent and slow
Has authorised their sentence, this is Truth; 80
A second, higher kind: the parent this
Of Science; or the lofty power herself,
Science herself, on whom the wants and cares
Of social life depend; the substitute
Of God's own wisdom in this toilsome world;
The providence of man. Yet oft in vain,
To earn her aid, with fix'd and anxious eye
He looks on Nature's and on Fortune's course:
Too much in vain. His duller visual ray
The stillness and the persevering acts 90
Of Nature oft elude; and Fortune oft
With step fantastic from her wonted walk
Turns into mazes dim; his sight is foil'd;
And the crude sentence of his faltering tongue
Is but opinion's verdict, half believed,
And prone to change. Here thou, who feel'st thine ear
Congenial to my lyre's profounder tone,
Pause, and be watchful. Hitherto the stores,
Which feed thy mind and exercise her powers,
Partake the relish of their native soil, 100
Their parent earth. But know, a nobler dower
Her Sire at birth decreed her; purer gifts
From his own treasure; forms which never deign'd
In eyes or ears to dwell, within the sense
Of earthly organs; but sublime were placed
In his essential reason, leading there
That vast ideal host which all his works
Through endless ages never will reveal.
Thus then endow'd, the feeble creature man,
The slave of hunger and the prey of death, 110
Even now, even here, in earth's dim prison bound,
The language of intelligence divine
Attains; repeating oft concerning one
And many, past and present, parts and whole,
Those sovereign dictates which in furthest heaven,
Where no orb rolls, Eternity's fix'd ear
Hears from coeval Truth, when Chance nor Change,
Nature's loud progeny, nor Nature's self
Dares intermeddle or approach her throne.
Ere long, o'er this corporeal world he learns 120
To extend her sway; while calling from the deep,
From earth and air, their multitudes untold
Of figures and of motions round his walk,
For each wide family some single birth
He sets in view, the impartial type of all
Its brethren; suffering it to claim, beyond
Their common heritage, no private gift,
No proper fortune. Then whate'er his eye
In this discerns, his bold unerring tongue
Pronounceth of the kindred, without bound, 130
Without condition. Such the rise of forms
Sequester'd far from sense and every spot
Peculiar in the realms of space or time;
Such is the throne which man for Truth amid
The paths of mutability hath built
Secure, unshaken, still; and whence he views,
In matter's mouldering structures, the pure forms
Of triangle or circle, cube or cone,
Impassive all; whose attributes nor force
Nor fate can alter. There he first conceives 140
True being, and an intellectual world
The same this hour and ever. Thence he deems
Of his own lot; above the painted shapes
That fleeting move o'er this terrestrial scene
Looks up; beyond the adamantine gates
Of death expatiates; as his birthright claims
Inheritance in all the works of God;
Prepares for endless time his plan of life,
And counts the universe itself his home.

Whence also but from Truth, the light of minds, 150
Is human fortune gladden'd with the rays
Of Virtue? with the moral colours thrown
On every walk of this our social scene,
Adorning for the eye of gods and men
The passions, actions, habitudes of life,
And rendering earth like heaven, a sacred place
Where Love and Praise may take delight to dwell?
Let none with heedless tongue from Truth disjoin
The reign of Virtue. Ere the dayspring flow'd,
Like sisters link'd in Concord's golden chain, 160
They stood before the great Eternal Mind,
Their common parent, and by him were both
Sent forth among his creatures, hand in hand,
Inseparably join'd; nor e'er did Truth
Find an apt ear to listen to her lore,
Which knew not Virtue's voice; nor, save where Truth's
Majestic words are heard and understood,
Doth Virtue deign to inhabit. Go, inquire
Of Nature; not among Tartarian rocks,
Whither the hungry vulture with its prey 170
Returns; not where the lion's sullen roar
At noon resounds along the lonely banks
Of ancient Tigris; but her gentler scenes,
The dovecote and the shepherd's fold at morn,
Consult; or by the meadow's fragrant hedge,
In spring-time when the woodlands first are green,
Attend the linnet singing to his mate
Couch'd o'er their tender young. To this fond care
Thou dost not Virtue's honourable name
Attribute; wherefore, save that not one gleam 180
Of Truth did e'er discover to themselves
Their little hearts, or teach them, by the effects
Of that parental love, the love itself
To judge, and measure its officious deeds?
But man, whose eyelids Truth has fill'd with day,
Discerns how skilfully to bounteous ends
His wise affections move; with free accord
Adopts their guidance; yields himself secure
To Nature's prudent impulse; and converts
Instinct to duty and to sacred law. 190
Hence Right and Fit on earth; while thus to man
The Almighty Legislator hath explain'd
The springs of action fix'd within his breast;
Hath given him power to slacken or restrain
Their effort; and hath shewn him how they join
Their partial movements with the master-wheel
Of the great world, and serve that sacred end
Which he, the unerring reason, keeps in view.

For (if a mortal tongue may speak of him
And his dread ways) even as his boundless eye, 200
Connecting every form and every change,
Beholds the perfect Beauty; so his will,
Through every hour producing good to all
The family of creatures, is itself
The perfect Virtue. Let the grateful swain
Remember this, as oft with joy and praise
He looks upon the falling dews which clothe
His lawns with verdure, and the tender seed
Nourish within his furrows; when between
Dead seas and burning skies, where long unmoved 210
The bark had languish'd, now a rustling gale
Lifts o'er the fickle waves her dancing prow,
Let the glad pilot, bursting out in thanks,
Remember this; lest blind o'erweening pride
Pollute their offerings; lest their selfish heart
Say to the heavenly ruler, 'At our call
Relents thy power; by us thy arm is moved.'
Fools! who of God as of each other deem;
Who his invariable acts deduce
From sudden counsels transient as their own; 220
Nor further of his bounty, than the event
Which haply meets their loud and eager prayer,
Acknowledge; nor, beyond the drop minute
Which haply they have tasted, heed the source
That flows for all; the fountain of his love
Which, from the summit where he sits enthroned,
Pours health and joy, unfailing streams, throughout
The spacious region flourishing in view,
The goodly work of his eternal day,
His own fair universe; on which alone 230
His counsels fix, and whence alone his will
Assumes her strong direction. Such is now
His sovereign purpose; such it was before
All multitude of years. For his right arm
Was never idle; his bestowing love
Knew no beginning; was not as a change
Of mood that woke at last and started up
After a deep and solitary sloth
Of boundless ages. No; he now is good,
He ever was. The feet of hoary Time 240
Through their eternal course have travell'd o'er
No speechless, lifeless desert; but through scenes
Cheerful with bounty still; among a pomp
Of worlds, for gladness round the Maker's throne
Loud-shouting, or, in many dialects
Of hope and filial trust, imploring thence
The fortunes of their people: where so fix'd
Were all the dates of being, so disposed
To every living soul of every kind
The field of motion and the hour of rest, 250
That each the general happiness might serve;
And, by the discipline of laws divine
Convinced of folly or chastised from guilt,
Each might at length be happy. What remains
Shall be like what is past; but fairer still,
And still increasing in the godlike gifts
Of Life and Truth. The same paternal hand,
From the mute shell-fish gasping on the shore,
To men, to angels, to celestial minds,
Will ever lead the generations on 260
Through higher scenes of being; while, supplied
From day to day by his enlivening breath,
Inferior orders in succession rise
To fill the void below. As flame ascends,
As vapours to the earth in showers return,
As the poised ocean towards the attracting moon
Swells, and the ever-listening planets, charm'd
By the sun's call, their onward pace incline,
So all things which have life aspire to God,
Exhaustless fount of intellectual day! 270
Centre of souls! Nor doth the mastering voice
Of Nature cease within to prompt aright
Their steps; nor is the care of Heaven withheld
From sending to the toil external aid;
That in their stations all may persevere
To climb the ascent of being, and approach
For ever nearer to the life divine.

But this eternal fabric was not raised
For man's inspection. Though to some be given
To catch a transient visionary glimpse 280
Of that majestic scene which boundless power
Prepares for perfect goodness, yet in vain
Would human life her faculties expand
To embosom such an object. Nor could e'er
Virtue or praise have touch'd the hearts of men,
Had not the Sovereign Guide, through every stage
Of this their various journey, pointed out
New hopes, new toils, which, to their humble sphere
Of sight and strength, might such importance hold
As doth the wide creation to his own. 290
Hence all the little charities of life,
With all their duties; hence that favourite palm
Of human will, when duty is sufficed,
And still the liberal soul in ampler deeds
Would manifest herself; that sacred sign
Of her revered affinity to Him
Whose bounties are his own; to whom none said,
'Create the wisest, fullest, fairest world,
And make its offspring happy;' who, intent
Some likeness of Himself among his works 300
To view, hath pour'd into the human breast
A ray of knowledge and of love, which guides
Earth's feeble race to act their Maker's part,
Self-judging, self-obliged; while, from before
That godlike function, the gigantic power
Necessity, though wont to curb the force
Of Chaos and the savage elements,
Retires abash'd, as from a scene too high
For her brute tyranny, and with her bears
Her scornèd followers, Terror, and base Awe 310
Who blinds herself, and that ill-suited pair,
Obedience link'd with Hatred. Then the soul
Arises in her strength; and, looking round
Her busy sphere, whatever work she views,
Whatever counsel bearing any trace
Of her Creator's likeness, whether apt
To aid her fellows or preserve herself
In her superior functions unimpair'd,
Thither she turns exulting: that she claims
As her peculiar good: on that, through all 320
The fickle seasons of the day, she looks
With reverence still: to that, as to a fence
Against affliction and the darts of pain,
Her drooping hopes repair--and, once opposed
To that, all other pleasure, other wealth,
Vile, as the dross upon the molten gold,
Appears, and loathsome as the briny sea
To him who languishes with thirst, and sighs
For some known fountain pure. For what can strive
With Virtue? Which of Nature's regions vast 330
Can in so many forms produce to sight
Such powerful Beauty? Beauty, which the eye
Of Hatred cannot look upon secure:
Which Envy's self contemplates, and is turn'd
Ere long to tenderness, to infant smiles,
Or tears of humblest love. Is aught so fair
In all the dewy landscapes of the Spring,
The Summer's noontide groves, the purple eve
At harvest-home, or in the frosty moon
Glittering on some smooth sea; is aught so fair 340
As virtuous friendship? as the honour'd roof
Whither, from highest heaven, immortal Love
His torch ethereal and his golden bow
Propitious brings, and there a temple holds
To whose unspotted service gladly vow'd
The social band of parent, brother, child,
With smiles and sweet discourse and gentle deeds
Adore his power? What gift of richest clime
E'er drew such eager eyes, or prompted such
Deep wishes, as the zeal that snatcheth back 350
From Slander's poisonous tooth a foe's renown;
Or crosseth Danger in his lion walk,
A rival's life to rescue? as the young
Athenian warrior sitting down in bonds,
That his great father's body might not want
A peaceful, humble tomb? the Roman wife
Teaching her lord how harmless was the wound
Of death, how impotent the tyrant's rage,
Who nothing more could threaten to afflict
Their faithful love? Or is there in the abyss, 360
Is there, among the adamantine spheres
Wheeling unshaken through the boundless void,
Aught that with half such majesty can fill
The human bosom, as when Brutus rose
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 the crimson sword
Of justice in his rapt astonish'd eye, 370
And bade the father of his country hail,
For lo, the tyrant prostrate on the dust,
And Rome again is free? Thus, through the paths
Of human life, in various pomp array'd
Walks the wise daughter of the judge of heaven,
Fair Virtue; from her father's throne supreme
Sent down to utter laws, such as on earth
Most apt he knew, most powerful to promote
The weal of all his works, the gracious end
Of his dread empire. And, though haply man's 380
Obscurer sight, so far beyond himself
And the brief labours of his little home,
Extends not; yet, by the bright presence won
Of this divine instructress, to her sway
Pleased he assents, nor heeds the distant goal.
To which her voice conducts him. Thus hath God,
Still looking toward his own high purpose, fix'd
The virtues of his creatures; thus he rules
The parent's fondness and the patriot's zeal;
Thus the warm sense of honour and of shame; 390
The vows of gratitude, the faith of love;
And all the comely intercourse of praise,
The joy of human life, the earthly heaven!

How far unlike them must the lot of guilt
Be found! Or what terrestrial woe can match
The self-convicted bosom, which hath wrought
The bane of others, or enslaved itself
With shackles vile? Not poison, nor sharp fire,
Nor the worst pangs that ever monkish hate
Suggested, or despotic rage imposed, 400
Were at that season an unwish'd exchange,
When the soul loathes herself; when, flying thence
To crowds, on every brow she sees portray'd
Pell demons, Hate or Scorn, which drive her back
To solitude, her judge's voice divine
To hear in secret, haply sounding through
The troubled dreams of midnight, and still, still
Demanding for his violated laws
Fit recompense, or charging her own tongue
To speak the award of justice on herself. 410
For well she knows what faithful hints within
Were whisper'd, to beware the lying forms
Which turn'd her footsteps from the safer way,
What cautions to suspect their painted dress,
And look with steady eyelid on their smiles,
Their frowns, their tears. In vain; the dazzling hues
Of Fancy, and Opinion's eager voice,
Too much prevail'd. For mortals tread the path
In which Opinion says they follow good
Or fly from evil; and Opinion gives 420
Report of good or evil, as the scene
Was drawn by Fancy, pleasing or deform'd;
Thus her report can never there be true
Where Fancy cheats the intellectual eye
With glaring colours and distorted lines.
Is there a man to whom the name of death
Brings terror's ghastly pageants conjured up
Before him, death-bed groans, and dismal vows,
And the frail soul plunged headlong from the brink
Of life and daylight down the gloomy air, 430
An unknown depth, to gulfs of torturing fire
Unvisited by mercy? Then what hand
Can snatch this dreamer from the fatal toils
Which Fancy and Opinion thus conspire
To twine around his heart? Or who shall hush
Their clamour, when they tell him that to die,
To risk those horrors, is a direr curse
Than basest life can bring? Though Love with prayers
Most tender, with affliction's sacred tears,
Beseech his aid; though Gratitude and Faith 440
Condemn each step which loiters; yet let none
Make answer for him that if any frown
Of Danger thwart his path, he will not stay
Content, and be a wretch to be secure.
Here Vice begins then: at the gate of life,
Ere the young multitude to diverse roads
Part, like fond pilgrims on a journey unknown,
Sits Fancy, deep enchantress; and to each
With kind maternal looks presents her bowl,
A potent beverage. Heedless they comply, 450
Till the whole soul from that mysterious draught
Is tinged, and every transient thought imbibes
Of gladness or disgust, desire or fear,
One homebred colour, which not all the lights
Of Science e'er shall change; not all the storms
Of adverse Fortune wash away, nor yet
The robe of purest Virtue quite conceal.
Thence on they pass, where, meeting frequent shapes
Of good and evil, cunning phantoms apt
To fire or freeze the breast, with them they join 460
In dangerous parley; listening oft, and oft
Gazing with reckless passion, while its garb
The spectre heightens, and its pompous tale
Repeats, with some new circumstance to suit
That early tincture of the hearer's soul.
And should the guardian, Reason, but for one
Short moment yield to this illusive scene
His ear and eye, the intoxicating charm
Involves him, till no longer he discerns,
Or only guides to err. Then revel forth 470
A furious band that spurn him from the throne,
And all is uproar. Hence Ambition climbs
With sliding feet and hands impure, to grasp
Those solemn toys which glitter in his view
On Fortune's rugged steep; hence pale Revenge
Unsheaths her murderous dagger; Rapine hence
And envious Lust, by venal fraud upborne,
Surmount the reverend barrier of the laws
Which kept them from their prey; hence all the crimes
That e'er defiled the earth, and all the plagues 480
That follow them for vengeance, in the guise
Of Honour, Safety, Pleasure, Ease, or Pomp,
Stole first into the fond believing mind.

Yet not by Fancy's witchcraft on the brain
Are always the tumultuous passions driven
To guilty deeds, nor Reason bound in chains
That Vice alone may lord it. Oft, adorn'd
With motley pageants, Folly mounts his throne,
And plays her idiot antics, like a queen.
A thousand garbs she wears: a thousand ways 490
She whirls her giddy empire. Lo, thus far
With bold adventure to the Mantuan lyre
I sing for contemplation link'd with love,
A pensive theme. Now haply should my song
Unbend that serious countenance, and learn
Thalia's tripping gait, her shrill-toned voice,
Her wiles familiar: whether scorn she darts
In wanton ambush from her lip or eye,
Or whether, with a sad disguise of care
O'ermantling her gay brow, she acts in sport 500
The deeds of Folly, and from all sides round
Calls forth impetuous Laughter's gay rebuke;
Her province. But through every comic scene
To lead my Muse with her light pencil arm'd;
Through every swift occasion which the hand
Of Laughter points at, when the mirthful sting
Distends her labouring sides and chokes her tongue,
Were endless as to sound each grating note
With which the rooks, and chattering daws, and grave
Unwieldy inmates of the village pond, 510
The changing seasons of the sky proclaim;
Sun, cloud, or shower. Suffice it to have said,
Where'er the power of Ridicule displays
Her quaint-eyed visage, some incongruous form,
Some stubborn dissonance of things combined,
Strikes on her quick perception: whether Pomp,
Or Praise, or Beauty be dragg'd in and shewn
Where sordid fashions, where ignoble deeds,
Where foul Deformity is wont to dwell;
Or whether these with shrewd and wayward spite 520
Invade resplendent Pomp's imperious mien,
The charms of Beauty, or the boast of Praise.
Ask we for what fair end the Almighty Sire
In mortal bosoms stirs this gay contempt,
These grateful pangs 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
Wild Folly's aims? For, though the sober light
Of Truth slow dawning on the watchful mind 530
At length unfolds, through many a subtle tie,
How these uncouth disorders end at last
In public evil; yet benignant Heaven,
Conscious how dim the dawn of Truth appears
To thousands, conscious what a scanty pause
From labour and from care the wider lot
Of humble life affords for studious thought
To scan the maze of Nature, therefore stamp'd
These glaring scenes with characters of scorn,
As broad, as obvious to the passing clown 540
As to the letter'd sage's curious eye.
But other evils o'er the steps of man
Through all his walks impend; against whose might
The slender darts of Laughter nought avail:
A trivial warfare. Some, like cruel guards,
On Nature's ever-moving throne attend;
With mischief arm'd for him whoe'er shall thwart
The path of her inexorable wheels,
While she pursues the work that must be done
Through ocean, earth, and air. Hence, frequent forms 550
Of woe; the merchant, with his wealthy bark,
Buried by dashing waves; the traveller,
Pierced by the pointed lightning in his haste;
And the poor husbandman, with folded arms,
Surveying his lost labours, and a heap
Of blasted chaff the product of the field
Whence he expected bread. But worse than these,
I deem far worse, that other race of ills
Which human kind rear up among themselves;
That horrid offspring which misgovern'd Will 560
Bears to fantastic Error; vices, crimes,
Furies that curse the earth, and make the blows,
The heaviest blows, of Nature's innocent hand
Seem sport: which are indeed but as the care
Of a wise parent, who solicits good
To all her house, though haply at the price
Of tears and froward wailing and reproach
From some unthinking child, whom not the less
Its mother destines to be happy still.

These sources then of pain, this double lot 570
Of evil in the inheritance of man,
Required for his protection no slight force,
No careless watch; and therefore was his breast
Fenced round with passions quick to be alarm'd,
Or stubborn to oppose; with Fear, more swift
Than beacons catching flame from hill to hill,
Where armies land: with Anger, uncontroll'd
As the young lion bounding on his prey;
With Sorrow, that locks up the struggling heart;
And Shame, that overcasts the drooping eye 580
As with a cloud of lightning. These the part
Perform of eager monitors, and goad
The soul more sharply than with points of steel,
Her enemies to shun or to resist.
And as those passions, that converse with good,
Are good themselves; as Hope and Love and Joy,
Among the fairest and the sweetest boons
Of life, we rightly count: so these, which guard
Against invading evil, still excite
Some pain, some tumult; these, within the mind 590
Too oft admitted or too long retain'd,
Shock their frail seat, and by their uncurb'd rage
To savages more fell than Libya breeds
Transform themselves, till human thought becomes
A gloomy ruin, haunt of shapes unbless'd,
Of self-tormenting fiends; Horror, Despair,
Hatred, and wicked Envy: foes to all
The works of Nature and the gifts of Heaven.

But when through blameless paths to righteous ends
Those keener passions urge the awaken'd soul, 600
I would not, as ungracious violence,
Their sway describe, nor from their free career
The fellowship of Pleasure quite exclude.
For what can render, to the self-approved,
Their temper void of comfort, though in pain?
Who knows not with what majesty divine
The forms of Truth and Justice to the mind
Appear, ennobling oft the sharpest woe
With triumph and rejoicing? Who, that bears
A human bosom, hath not often felt 610
How dear are all those ties which bind our race
In gentleness together, and how sweet
Their force, let Fortune's wayward hand the while
Be kind or cruel? 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, silent and unseen,
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 620
Those sacred hours when, stealing from the noise
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 savage winds have hurl'd upon the coast
Some helpless bark; while holy Pity melts
The general eye, or Terror's icy hand
Smites their distorted limbs and horrent hair; 630
While every mother closer to her breast
Catcheth her child, and, pointing where the waves
Foam through the shatter'd vessel, shrieks aloud
As one poor wretch, who 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 pleasing influence here by Nature given
To mutual terror and compassion's tears?
No tender charm mysterious, which attracts 640
O'er all that edge of pain the social powers
To this their proper action and their end?
Ask thy own heart; when at the midnight hour,
Slow through that pensive gloom thy pausing eye,
Led by the glimmering taper, moves around
The reverend volumes of the dead, the songs
Of Grecian bards, and records writ by fame
For Grecian heroes, where the sovereign Power
Of heaven and earth surveys the immortal page,
Even as a father meditating all 650
The praises of his son, and bids the rest
Of mankind there the fairest model learn
Of their own nature, and the noblest deeds
Which yet the world hath seen. If then thy soul
Join in the lot of those diviner men;
Say, when the prospect darkens on thy view;
When, sunk by many a wound, heroic states
Mourn in the dust and tremble at the frown
Of hard Ambition; when the generous band
Of youths who fought for freedom and their sires 660
Lie side by side in death; when brutal Force
Usurps the throne of Justice, turns the pomp
Of guardian power, the majesty of rule,
The sword, the laurel, and the purple robe,
To poor dishonest pageants, to adorn
A robber's walk, and glitter in the eyes
Of such as bow the knee; when beauteous works,
Rewards of virtue, sculptured forms which deck'd
With more than human grace the warrior's arch,
Or patriot's tomb, now victims to appease 670
Tyrannic envy, strew the common path
With awful ruins; when the Muse's haunt,
The marble porch where Wisdom wont to talk
With Socrates or Tully, hears no more
Save the hoarse jargon of contentious monks,
Or female Superstition's midnight prayer;
When ruthless Havoc from the hand of Time
Tears the destroying scythe, with surer stroke
To mow the monuments of Glory down;
Till Desolation o'er the grass-grown street 680
Expands her raven wings, and, from the gate
Where senates once the weal of nations plann'd,
Hisseth the gliding snake through hoary weeds
That clasp the mouldering column: thus when all
The widely-mournful scene is fix'd within
Thy throbbing 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 brow,
Or dash Octavius from the trophied car; 690
Say, doth 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
Of silent flatterers bending to his nod;
And o'er them, like a giant, casts his eye,
And says within himself, 'I am a King,
And wherefore should the clamorous voice of woe
Intrude upon mine ear?' The dregs corrupt
Of barbarous ages, that Circaean draught 700
Of servitude and folly, have not yet,
Bless'd be the Eternal Ruler of the world!
Yet have not so dishonour'd, so deform'd
The native judgment of the human soul,
Nor so effaced the image of her Sire.

BOOK III. 1770.

What tongue then may explain the various fate
Which reigns o'er earth? or who to mortal eyes
Illustrate this perplexing labyrinth
Of joy and woe, through which the feet of man
Are doom'd to wander? That Eternal Mind
From passions, wants, and envy far estranged,
Who built the spacious universe, and deck'd
Each part so richly with whate'er pertains
To life, to health, to pleasure, why bade he
The viper Evil, creeping in, pollute 10
The goodly scene, and with insidious rage,
While the poor inmate looks around and smiles
Dart her fell sting with poison to his soul?
Hard is the question, and from ancient days
Hath still oppress'd with care the sage's thought;
Hath drawn forth accents from the poet's lyre
Too sad, too deeply plaintive; nor did e'er
Those chiefs of human kind, from whom the light
Of heavenly truth first gleam'd on barbarous lands,
Forget this dreadful secret when they told 20
What wondrous things had to their favour'd eyes
And ears on cloudy mountain been reveal'd,
Or in deep cave by nymph or power divine,
Portentous oft, and wild. Yet one I know.
Could I the speech of lawgivers assume,
One old and splendid tale I would record,
With which the Muse of Solon in sweet strains
Adorn'd this theme profound, and render'd all
Its darkness, all its terrors, bright as noon,
Or gentle as the golden star of eve. 30
Who knows not Solon,--last, and wisest far,
Of those whom Greece, triumphant in the height
Of glory, styled her fathers,--him whose voice
Through Athens hush'd the storm of civil wrath;
Taught envious Want and cruel Wealth to join
In friendship; and, with sweet compulsion, tamed
Minerva's eager people to his laws,
Which their own goddess in his breast inspired?

'Twas now the time when his heroic task
Seem'd but perform'd in vain; when, soothed by years 40
Of flattering service, the fond multitude
Hung with their sudden counsels on the breath
Of great Pisistratus, that chief renown'd,
Whom Hermes and the Idalian queen had train'd,
Even from his birth, to every powerful art
Of pleasing and persuading; from whose lips
Flow'd eloquence which, like the vows of love,
Could steal away suspicion from the hearts
Of all who listen'd. Thus from day to day
He won the general suffrage, and beheld 50
Each rival overshadow'd and depress'd
Beneath his ampler state; yet oft complain'd,
As one less kindly treated, who had hoped
To merit favour, but submits perforce
To find another's services preferr'd,
Nor yet relaxeth aught of faith or zeal.
Then tales were scatter'd of his envious foes,
Of snares that watch'd his fame, of daggers aim'd
Against his life. At last, with trembling limbs,
His hair diffused and wild, his garments loose, 60
And stain'd with blood from self-inflicted wounds,
He burst into the public place, as there,
There only, were his refuge; and declared
In broken words, with sighs of deep regret,
The mortal danger he had scarce repell'd.
Fired with his tragic tale, the indignant crowd,
To guard his steps, forthwith a menial band,
Array'd beneath his eye for deeds of war,
Decree. Oh! still too liberal of their trust,
And oft betray'd by over-grateful love, 70
The generous people! Now behold him fenced
By mercenary weapons, like a king,
Forth issuing from the city-gate at eve
To seek his rural mansion, and with pomp
Crowding the public road. The swain stops short,
And sighs; the officious townsmen stand at gaze,
And shrinking give the sullen pageant room.
Yet not the less obsequious was his brow;
Nor less profuse of courteous words his tongue,
Of gracious gifts his hand; the while by stealth, 80
Like a small torrent fed with evening showers,
His train increased; till, at that fatal time
Just as the public eye, with doubt and shame
Startled, began to question what it saw,
Swift as the sound of earthquakes rush'd a voice
Through Athens, that Pisistratus had fill'd
The rocky citadel with hostile arms,
Had barr'd the steep ascent, and sate within
Amid his hirelings, meditating death
To all whose stubborn necks his yoke refused. 90
Where then was Solon? After ten long years
Of absence, full of haste from foreign shores,
The sage, the lawgiver had now arrived:
Arrived, alas! to see that Athens, that
Fair temple raised by him and sacred call'd
To Liberty and Concord, now profaned
By savage hate, or sunk into a den
Of slaves who crouch beneath the master's scourge,
And deprecate his wrath, and court his chains.
Yet did not the wise patriot's grief impede 100
His virtuous will, nor was his heart inclined
One moment with such woman-like distress
To view the transient storms of civil war,
As thence to yield his country and her hopes
To all-devouring bondage. His bright helm,
Even while the traitor's impious act is told,
He buckles on his hoary head; he girds
With mail his stooping breast; the shield, the spear
He snatcheth; and with swift indignant strides
The assembled people seeks; proclaims aloud 110
It was no time for counsel; in their spears
Lay all their prudence now; the tyrant yet
Was not so firmly seated on his throne,
But that one shock of their united force
Would dash him from the summit of his pride,
Headlong and grovelling in the dust. 'What else
Can reassert the lost Athenian name,
So cheaply to the laughter of the world
Betray'd; by guile beneath an infant's faith
So mock'd and scorn'd? Away, then: Freedom now 120
And Safety dwell not but with Fame in arms;
Myself will shew you where their mansion lies,
And through the walks of Danger or of Death
Conduct you to them.'--While he spake, through all
Their crowded ranks his quick sagacious eye
He darted; where no cheerful voice was heard
Of social daring; no stretch'd arm was seen
Hastening their common task: but pale mistrust
Wrinkled each brow; they shook their head, and down
Their slack hands hung; cold sighs and whisper'd doubts 130
From breath to breath stole round. The sage meantime
Look'd speechless on, while his big bosom heaved,
Struggling with shame and sorrow, till at last
A tear broke forth; and, 'O immortal shades,
O Theseus,' he exclaim'd, 'O Codrus, where,
Where are ye now behold for what ye toil'd
Through life! behold for whom ye chose to die!'
No more he added; but with lonely steps
Weary and slow, his silver beard depress'd,
And his stern eyes bent heedless on the ground, 140
Back to his silent dwelling he repair'd.
There o'er the gate, his armour, as a man
Whom from the service of the war his chief
Dismisseth after no inglorious toil,
He fix'd in general view. One wishful look
He sent, unconscious, toward the public place
At parting; then beneath his quiet roof
Without a word, without a sigh, retired.
Scarce had the morrow's sun his golden rays
From sweet Hymettus darted o'er the fanes 150
Of Cecrops to the Salaminian shores,
When, lo, on Solon's threshold met the feet
Of four Athenians, by the same sad care
Conducted all, than whom the state beheld
None nobler. First came Megacles, the son
Of great Alcmaeon, whom the Lydian king,
The mild, unhappy Croesus, in his days
Of glory had with costly gifts adorn'd,
Fair vessels, splendid garments, tinctured webs
And heaps of treasured gold, beyond the lot 160
Of many sovereigns; thus requiting well
That hospitable favour which erewhile
Alcmaeon to his messengers had shown,
Whom he, with offerings worthy of the god,
Sent from his throne in Sardis, to revere
Apollo's Delphic shrine. With Megacles
Approach'd his son, whom Agarista bore,
The virtuous child of Clistheues, whose hand
Of Grecian sceptres the most ancient far
In Sicyon sway'd: but greater fame he drew 170
From arms controll'd by justice, from the love
Of the wise Muses, and the unenvied wreath
Which glad Olympia gave. For thither once
His warlike steeds the hero led, and there
Contended through the tumult of the course
With skilful wheels. Then victor at the goal,
Amid the applauses of assembled Greece,
High on his car he stood and waved his arm.
Silence ensued: when straight the herald's voice
Was heard, inviting every Grecian youth, 180
Whom Clisthenes content might call his son,
To visit, ere twice thirty days were pass'd,
The towers of Sicyon. There the chief decreed,
Within the circuit of the following year,
To join at Hymen's altar, hand in hand
With his fair daughter, him among the guests
Whom worthiest he should deem. Forthwith from all
The bounds of Greece the ambitious wooers came:
From rich Hesperia; from the Illyrian shore,
Where Epidamnus over Adria's surge 190
Looks on the setting sun; from those brave tribes
Chaonian or Molossian, whom the race
Of great Achilles governs, glorying still
In Troy o'erthrown; from rough Aetolia, nurse
Of men who first among the Greeks threw off
The yoke of kings, to commerce and to arms
Devoted; from Thessalia's fertile meads,
Where flows Penéus near the lofty walls
Of Cranon old; from strong Eretria, queen
Of all Euboean cities, who, sublime 200
On the steep margin of Euripus, views
Across the tide the Marathonian plain,
Not yet the haunt of glory. Athens too,
Minerva's care, among her graceful sons
Found equal lovers for the princely maid:
Nor was proud Argos wanting; nor the domes
Of sacred Elis; nor the Arcadian groves
That overshade Alpheus, echoing oft
Some shepherd's song. But through the illustrious band
Was none who might with Megacles compare 210
In all the honours of unblemish'd youth.
His was the beauteous bride; and now their son,
Young Clisthenes, betimes, at Solon's gate
Stood anxious; leaning forward on the arm
Of his great sire, with earnest eyes that ask'd
When the slow hinge would turn, with restless feet,
And cheeks now pale, now glowing; for his heart
Throbb'd full of bursting passions, anger, grief
With scorn imbitter'd, by the generous boy
Scarce understood, but which, like noble seeds, 220
Are destined for his country and himself
In riper years to bring forth fruits divine
Of liberty and glory. Next appear'd
Two brave companions, whom one mother bore
To different lords; but whom the better ties
Of firm esteem and friendship render'd more
Than brothers: first Miltiades, who drew
From godlike Æacus his ancient line;
That Æacus whose unimpeach'd renown
For sanctity and justice won the lyre 230
Of elder bards to celebrate him throned
In Hades o'er the dead, where his decrees
The guilty soul within the burning gates
Of Tartarus compel, or send the good
To inhabit with eternal health and peace
The valleys of Elysium. From a stem
So sacred, ne'er could worthier scion spring
Than this Miltiades; whose aid ere long
The chiefs of Thrace, already on their ways,
Sent by the inspired foreknowing maid who sits 240
Upon the Delphic tripod, shall implore
To wield their sceptre, and the rural wealth
Of fruitful Chersonesus to protect
With arms and laws. But, nothing careful now
Save for his injured country, here he stands
In deep solicitude with Cimon join'd:
Unconscious both what widely different lots
Await them, taught by nature as they are
To know one common good, one common ill.
For Cimon, not his valour, not his birth 250
Derived from Codrus, not a thousand gifts
Dealt round him with a wise, benignant hand;
No, not the Olympic olive, by himself
From his own brow transferr'd to soothe the mind
Of this Pisistratus, can long preserve
From the fell envy of the tyrant's sons,
And their assassin dagger. But if death
Obscure upon his gentle steps attend,
Yet fate an ample recompense prepares
In his victorious son, that other great 260
Miltiades, who o'er the very throne
Of Glory shall with Time's assiduous hand
In adamantine characters engrave
The name of Athens; and, by Freedom arm'd
'Gainst the gigantic pride of Asia's king,
Shall all the achievements of the heroes old
Surmount, of Hercules, of all who sail'd
From Thessaly with Jason, all who fought
For empire or for fame at Thebes or Troy.

Such were the patriots who within the porch 270
Of Solon had assembled. But the gate
Now opens, and across the ample floor
Straight they proceed into an open space
Bright with the beams of morn: a verdant spot,
Where stands a rural altar, piled with sods
Cut from the grassy turf and girt with wreaths,
Of branching palm. Here Solon's self they found
Clad in a robe of purple pure, and deck'd
With leaves of olive on his reverend brow.
He bow'd before the altar, and o'er cakes 280
Of barley from two earthen vessels pour'd
Of honey and of milk a plenteous stream;
Calling meantime the Muses to accept
His simple offering, by no victim tinged
With blood, nor sullied by destroying fire,
But such as for himself Apollo claims
In his own Delos, where his favourite haunt
Is thence the Altar of the Pious named.

Unseen the guests drew near, and silent view'd
That worship; till the hero-priest his eye 290
Turn'd toward a seat on which prepared there lay
A branch of laurel. Then his friends confess'd
Before him stood. Backward his step he drew,
As loath that care or tumult should approach
Those early rites divine; but soon their looks,
So anxious, and their hands, held forth with such
Desponding gesture, bring him on perforce
To speak to their affliction. 'Are ye come,'
He cried, 'to mourn with me this common shame?
Or ask ye some new effort which may break 300
Our fetters? Know then, of the public cause
Not for yon traitor's cunning or his might
Do I despair; nor could I wish from Jove
Aught dearer, than at this late hour of life,
As once by laws, so now by strenuous arms,
From impious violation to assert
The rights our fathers left us. But, alas!
What arms? or who shall wield them? Ye beheld
The Athenian people. Many bitter days
Must pass, and many wounds from cruel pride 310
Be felt, ere yet their partial hearts find room
For just resentment, or their hands indure
To smite this tyrant brood, so near to all
Their hopes, so oft admired, so long beloved.
That time will come, however. Be it yours
To watch its fair approach, and urge it on
With honest prudence; me it ill beseems
Again to supplicate the unwilling crowd
To rescue from a vile deceiver's hold
That envied power, which once with eager zeal 320
They offer'd to myself; nor can I plunge
In counsels deep and various, nor prepare
For distant wars, thus faltering as I tread
On life's last verge, ere long to join the shades
Of Minos and Lycurgus. But behold
What care employs me now. My vows I pay
To the sweet Muses, teachers of my youth
And solace of my age. If right I deem
Of the still voice that whispers at my heart,
The immortal sisters have not quite withdrawn 330
Their old harmonious influence. Let your tongues
With sacred silence favour what I speak,
And haply shall my faithful lips be taught
To unfold celestial counsels, which may arm,
As with impenetrable steel your breasts,
For the long strife before you, and repel
The darts of adverse fate.'--He said, and snatch'd
The laurel bough, and sate in silence down,
Fix'd, wrapp'd in solemn musing, full before
The sun, who now from all his radiant orb 340
Drove the gray clouds, and pour'd his genial light
Upon the breast of Solon. Solon raised
Aloft the leafy rod, and thus began:--

'Ye beauteous offspring of Olympian Jove
And Memory divine, Pierian maids,
Hear me, propitious. In the morn of life,
When hope shone bright and all the prospect smiled,
To your sequester'd mansion oft my steps
Were turn'd, O Muses, and within your gate
My offerings paid. Ye taught me then with strains 350
Of flowing harmony to soften war's
Dire voice, or in fair colours, that might charm
The public eye, to clothe the form austere
Of civil counsel. Now my feeble age,
Neglected, and supplanted of the hope
On which it lean'd, yet sinks not, but to you,
To your mild wisdom flies, refuge beloved
Of solitude and silence. Ye can teach
The visions of my bed whate'er the gods
In the rude ages of the world inspired, 360
Or the first heroes acted; ye can make
The morning light more gladsome to my sense
Than ever it appear'd to active youth
Pursuing careless pleasure; ye can give
To this long leisure, these unheeded hours,
A labour as sublime, as when the sons
Of Athens throng'd and speechless round me stood,
To hear pronounced for all their future deeds
The bounds of right and wrong. Celestial powers!
I feel that ye are near me: and behold, 370
To meet your energy divine, I bring
A high and sacred theme; not less than those
Which to the eternal custody of Fame
Your lips intrusted, when of old ye deign'd
With Orpheus or with Homer to frequent
The groves of Hæmus or the Chian shore.

'Ye know, harmonious maids, (for what of all
My various life was e'er from you estranged?)
Oft hath my solitary song to you
Reveal'd that duteous pride which turn'd my steps 380
To willing exile; earnest to withdraw
From envy and the disappointed thirst
Of lucre, lest the bold familiar strife,
Which in the eye of Athens they upheld
Against her legislator, should impair
With trivial doubt the reverence of his laws.
To Egypt therefore through the Ægean isles
My course I steer'd, and by the banks of Nile
Dwelt in Canopus. Thence the hallow'd domes
Of Sals, and the rites to Isis paid, 390
I sought, and in her temple's silent courts,
Through many changing moons, attentive heard
The venerable Sonchis, while his tongue
At morn or midnight the deep story told
Of her who represents whate'er has been,
Or is, or shall be; whose mysterious veil
No mortal hand hath ever yet removed.
By him exhorted, southward to the walls
Of On I pass'd, the city of the sun,
The ever-youthful god. Twas there, amid 400
His priests and sages, who the livelong night
Watch the dread movements of the starry sphere,
Or who in wondrous fables half disclose
The secrets of the elements, 'twas there
That great Paenophis taught my raptured ears
The fame of old Atlantis, of her chiefs,
And her pure laws, the first which earth obey'd.
Deep in my bosom sunk the noble tale;
And often, while I listen'd, did my mind
Foretell with what delight her own free lyre 410
Should sometime for an Attic audience raise
Anew that lofty scene, and from their tombs
Call forth those ancient demigods, to speak
Of Justice and the hidden Providence
That walks among mankind. But yet meantime
The mystic pomp of Ammon's gloomy sons
Became less pleasing. With contempt I gazed
On that tame garb and those unvarying paths,
To which the double yoke of king and priest
Had cramp'd the sullen race. At last, with hymns 420
Invoking our own Pallas and the gods
Of cheerful Greece, a glad farewell I gave
To Egypt, and before the southern wind
Spread my full sails. What climes I then survey'd,
What fortunes I encounter'd in the realm
Of Croesus or upon the Cyprian shore,
The Muse, who prompts my bosom, doth not now
Consent that I reveal. But when at length
Ten times the sun returning from the south
Had strow'd with flowers the verdant earth, and fill'd 430
The groves with music, pleased I then beheld
The term of those long errors drawing nigh.
Nor yet, I said, will I sit down within
The walls of Athens, till my feet have trod
The Cretan soil, have pierced those reverend haunts
Whence Law and Civil Concord issued forth
As from their ancient home, and still to Greece
Their wisest, loftiest discipline proclaim.
Straight where Amnisus, mart of wealthy ships,
Appears beneath famed Cnossus and her towers, 440
Like the fair handmaid of a stately queen,
I check'd my prow, and thence with eager steps
The city of Minos enter'd. O ye gods,
Who taught the leaders of the simpler time
By written words to curb the untoward will
Of mortals, how within that generous isle
Have ye the triumphs of your power display'd
Munificent! Those splendid merchants, lords
Of traffic and the sea, with what delight
I saw them, at their public meal, like sons 450
Of the same household, join the plainer sort
Whose wealth was only freedom! whence to these
Vile envy, and to those fantastic pride,
Alike was strange; but noble concord still
Cherish'd the strength untamed, the rustic faith,
Of their first fathers. Then the growing race,
How pleasing to behold them in their schools,
Their sports, their labours, ever placed within,
O shade of Minos! thy controlling eye.
Here was a docile band in tuneful tones 460
Thy laws pronouncing, or with lofty hymns
Praising the bounteous gods, or, to preserve
Their country's heroes from oblivious night,
Resounding what the Muse inspired of old;
There, on the verge of manhood, others met,
In heavy armour through the heats of noon
To march, the rugged mountain's height to climb
With measured swiftness, from the hard-bent bow
To send resistless arrows to their mark,
Or for the fame of prowess to contend, 470
Now wrestling, now with fists and staves opposed,
Now with the biting falchion, and the fence
Of brazen shields; while still the warbling flute
Presided o'er the combat, breathing strains
Grave, solemn, soft; and changing headlong spite
To thoughtful resolution cool and clear.
Such I beheld those islanders renown'd,
So tutor'd from their birth to meet in war
Each bold invader, and in peace to guard
That living flame of reverence for their laws, 480
Which nor the storms of fortune, nor the flood
Of foreign wealth diffused o'er all the land,
Could quench or slacken. First of human names
In every Cretan's heart was Minos still;
And holiest far, of what the sun surveys
Through his whole course, were those primeval seats
Which with religious footsteps he had taught
Their sires to approach; the wild Dictaean cave
Where Jove was born: the ever verdant meads
Of Ida, and the spacious grotto, where 490
His active youth he pass'd, and where his throne
Yet stands mysterious; whither Minos came
Each ninth returning year, the king of gods
And mortals there in secret to consult
On justice, and the tables of his law
To inscribe anew. Oft also with like zeal
Great Rhea's mansion from the Cnossian gates
Men visit; nor less oft the antique fane
Built on that sacred spot, along the banks
Of shady Theron, where benignant Jove 500
And his majestic consort join'd their hands
And spoke their nuptial vows. Alas, 'twas there
That the dire fame of Athens sunk in bonds
I first received; what time an annual feast
Had summon'd all the genial country round,
By sacrifice and pomp to bring to mind
That first great spousal; while the enamour'd youths
And virgins, with the priest before the shrine,
Observe the same pure ritual, and invoke
The same glad omens. There, among the crowd 510
Of strangers from those naval cities drawn
Which deck, like gems, the island's northern shore,
A merchant of Ægina I descried,
My ancient host; but, forward as I sprung
To meet him, he, with dark dejected brow,
Stopp'd half averse; and, "O Athenian guest,"
He said, "art thou in Crete, these joyful rites
Partaking? Know thy laws are blotted out:
Thy country kneels before a tyrant's throne."
He added names of men, with hostile deeds 520
Disastrous; which obscure and indistinct
I heard: for, while he spake, my heart grew cold
And my eyes dim; the altars and their train
No more were present to me; how I fared,
Or whither turn'd, I know not; nor recall
Aught of those moments, other than the sense
Of one who struggles in oppressive sleep,
And, from the toils of some distressful dream
To break away, with palpitating heart,
Weak limbs, and temples bathed in death-like dew, 530


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