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Gives liberty the last, the mortal shock;
Slips the slave's collar on, and snaps the lock.
A. Such lofty strains embellish what you teach.
Mean you to prophesy, or but to ...}}
B. I know the mind, that feels indeed the fire
The muse imparts, and can command the lyre,
Acts with a force, and kindles with a zeal,
Whate'er the theme, that others never feel.
If human woes her soft attention claim,
A tender sympathy pervades the frame;
She pours a sensibility divine
Along the nerve of ev'ry feeling line.
But if a deed, not tamely to be borne,
Fire indignation and a sense of scorm,
The strings are swept with such a pow'r, so loud,
The storm of music shakes th’ astonished crowd.
So, when remote futurity is brought
Before the keen inquiry of her thought,
A terrible sagacity informs -
The poet's heart; he looks to distant storms;
He hears the thunder ere the tempest low’rs;
And, arm'd with strength surpassing human pow'rs;
Seizes events as yet unknown to man,
And darts his soul into the dawning plan.
Hence, in a Roman mouth, the graceful name
Of prophet and of poet was the same;
Hence British poets too the priesthood shared,
And every hallow'd druid was a bard.
But no prophetic fires to me belong;
I play with syllables, and sport in song.
A. At Westminster, where little poets strive
To set a distich upon six and five,
Where Discipline helps' th' op'ning buds of sense,
And makes his pupils proud with silver pence,
I was a poet too; but modern taste
Is so refin'd, and delicate, and chaste,
That verse, whatever fire the fancy warms,
Without a creamy smoothness has no charms.
Thus, all success depending on an ear,
And thinking I might purchase it too dear,
If sentiment were sacrific’d to sound,
And truth cut short to make a period round,
I judg’d a man of sense could scarce do worse,
Then caper in the morris-dance of verse.
B. Thus reputation is a spur to wit,
And some wits flag through fear of losing it.
Give me the line, that ploughs its stately course
Like a proud swan, conqu'ring the stream by force;
That, like some cottage beauty, strikes the heart,
Quite unindebted to the tricks of art.
When Labour and when Dulness, club in hand,
Like the two figures at St. Dunstan's, stand,
Beating alternately, in measur'd time,
The clock-work tintinnabulum of rhyme,
Exact and regular the sounds will be ;
But such mere quarter-strokes are not for me.
From him who rears a poem lank and long,
To him who strains his o into a song;
Perhaps some bonny Caledonian air, -
All birks and braes, though he was never there;
Or, having whelped a prologue with great pains,
Feels himself spent, and fumbles for his brains;
A prologue interdash'd with many a stroke—
An art contrived to advertise a joke,
So that the jest is clearly to be seen,
Not in the words--but in the gap between:
Manner is all in all, whate'er is writ,
The substitute for genius, sense, and wit.
To dally much with subjects mean and low,
Proves that the mind is weak, or makes it so.
Neglected talents rust into decay,
And ev'ry effort ends in push-pin play.
The man that means success, should soar above
A soldier's feather, or a lady’s glove;
, summoning the muse to such a theme,
The fruit of all her labour is whipp'd cream.
As if an eagle flew aloft, and then
Stoop'd from its highest pitch to pounce a wren.
As if the poet, purposing to wed,
Should carve himself a wife in gingerbread.
Ages elaps'd ere Homer's lamp appear'd,
And ages ere the Mantuan swain was heard:
To carry nature lengths unknown before,
To give a Milton birth, ask ages more.
Thus Genius rose and set at order'd times,
And shot a day-spring into distant climes,
Ennobling ey'ry region that he chose;
He sunk in Greece, in Italy he rose;
And, tedious years of Gothic darkness pass'd,
Emerg'd, all splendour, in our isle at last.
Thus lovely halcyons dive into the main,
Then show far off their shining plumes again.
Is genius only found in epic lays?
Prove this, and forfeit all pretence to praise.
Make their heroic pow'rs your own at once,
Or candidly confess yourself a dunce.
B. These were the chief: each interval of night
Was grac'd with many an undulating light.
In less illustrious bards his beauty shone
A meteor, or a star; in these, the sun.
The nightingale may claim the topmost bough,
While the poor grasshopper must chirp below.
Like him unnotic'd, I, and such as I,
Spread little wings, and rather skip than fly;
erch’d on the meagre produce of the land,
An ell or two of prospect we command;
But never peep beyond the thorny bound,
Or oaken fence, that hems the paddock round.
In Eden, ere yet innocence of heart
Had faded, poetry was not an art:
Language, above all teaching, or, if taught,
Only by gratitude and glowing thought;
Elegant as simplicity, and warm .
As ecstacy, unmanacl’d by form;
Not prompted, as in our degen'rate days, By low ambition and the thirst of praise: W. natural as is the flowing stream, And yet magnificent—A God the theme! That theme on earth exhausted, though above 'Tis found as everlasting as his love, Man lavish'd all his thoughts on human things— The feats of heroes, and the wrath of kings; But still, while Virtue kindled his delight, The song was moral, and so far was right. v- 'Twas thus, till Luxury seduc’d the mind To joys less innocent, as less refin'd; Then Genius danc'd a baccharial; he crown'd The brimming goblet, seiz'd the thyrsus, bound His brows with ivy, rush'd into the field Of wild imagination, and there reel'd, The victim of his own lascivious fires, And, dizzy with delight, profan'd the sacred wires. acreon, Horace, play’d in Greece and Rome This bedlam part; and others nearer home. WhenCromwell foughtforpow'r, and while hereign'd The proud protector of the pow'r he gained, Religion harsh, intolerant, austere, Parent of manners like himself severe, Drew a rough copy of the Christian face, Without the smile, the sweetness, or the grace; The dark and suién humour of the time Judg’d ev’ry effort of the muse a crime; Verse. in #. finest mould of fancy cast, was lumber in an age ovoid of taste ; But when the §. Charles assum'd the sway, And arts reviv'd beneath a softer day, Then, like a bow long forc'd into a curve, The mind, releas'd from too constrain’d a nerve, Flew to its first position with a spring, That made the vaulted roofs of *...re ring. His court, the dissolute and hateful school Of Wantonness, where vice was taught by rule,
Swarm'd with a scribbling herd, as deep inlaid
With brutal lust as ever É. made.
From these a long succession, in the rage
Of rank obscenity, debauch'd their age;
Nor ceas'd, till, ever anxious to redress
The abuses of her sacred charge, the press,
The Muse instructed a well-nurtur’d train
Of abler votaries to cleanse the stain,
And claim the palm for purity of song,
That Lewdness had usurp’d and worn so long.
Then decent Pleasantry and sterling Sense,
That neither gave nor would endure offence,
Whipp'd out of sight, with Satire just and keen,
The puppy pack that had defil’d the scene.
In front of these came Addison. In him to
Humour in holiday and sightly trim,
Sublimity and Attic taste, combin’d,
To polish, furnish, and delight the mind.
Then Pope, as harmony itself exact,
In verse well disciplin'd, complete, compact,
Gave virtue and morality a grace,
That, quite eclipsing Pleasure's painted face,
Levied a tax of wonder and applause,
E’en on the fools that trampled on their laws.
But he (his musical finesse was such,
So nice his ear, so delicate his touch)
Made poetry a mere mechanic art;
And ev'ry warbler has his tune by heart.
Nature imparting her satiric gift,
Her serious mirth, to Arbuthnot and Swift,
With droll sobriety they rais'd a smile
At Folly's cost, themselves unmov’d the while.
That constellation set, the world in vain
Must hope to look upon their like again. “
4. Are we, then, left?—B. Not wholly in the dark;
Wit now and then, struck smartly, shows a spark,
Sufficient to redeem the modern race
From total night and absolute disgrace.