The Pleasures of Imagination: Book The First (A Poem)

Mark Akenside

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With what inchantment nature's goodly scene
Attracts the sense of mortals; how the mind
For its own eye doth objects nobler still
Prepare; how men by various lessons learn
To judge of beauty's praise; what raptures fill
The breast with fancy's native arts indow'd
And what true culture guides it to renown;
My verse unfolds. Ye gods, or godlike powers,
Ye guardians of the sacred task, attend
Propitious. Hand in hand around your bard
Move in majestic measures, leading on
His doubtful step through many a solemn path
Conscious of secrets which to human sight
Ye only can reveal. Be great in him:
And let your favor make him wise to speak
Of all your wonderous empire; with a voice
So temper'd to his theme, that those, who hear,
May yield perpetual homage to yourselves.
Thou chief, o daughter of eternal Love,
Whate'er thy name; or Muse, or Grace, ador'd
By Grecian prophets; to the sons of heaven
Known, while with deep amazement thou dost there
The perfect counsels read, the ideas old,
Of thine omniscient father; known on earth
By the still horror and the blissful tear
With which thou seizest on the soul of man;
Thou chief, Poetic Spirit, from the banks
Of Avon, whence thy holy fingers cull
Fresh flowers and dews to sprinkle on the turf
Where Shakespear lies, be present, and with thee
Let Fiction come; on her aërial wings
Wafting ten thousand colors; which in sport,
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 controul 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,
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, to the lay refuse
Thy wonted partial audience. What, though first
In years unseason'd, haply ere the sports
Of childhood yet were o'er, the adventurous lay
With many splendid prospects, many charms,
Allur'd 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,
The busy paths, my unaccustom'd feet
Preserving: nor to truth's recess divine,
Through this wide argument's unbeaten space,
Witholding surer guidance; while by turns
We trac'd 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
Inclin'd her scepter, favoring. Now the fates
Have other tasks impos'd. to thee, my friend,
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
Impart, and grant (what she and she alone
Can grant to mortals) that my hand those wreaths
Of fame and honest favor, 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 belov'd; once more the verse
Long destin'd, always obvious to thine ear,
Attend, indulgent. so in latest years,
When time thy head with honors shall have cloth'd
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-pleas'd
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,
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
Of earth, of heaven, of nature. From the first,
On that full scene his love divine he fix'd,
His admiration. till, in time compleat,
What he admir'd and lov'd 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.

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
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 destin'd: 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,
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,
Inamor'd: they partake the eternal joy.

For as old Memnon's image long renown'd
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 inliven'd sense; till soon the soul
Feels the deep concord and assents through all
Her functions. Then the charm by fate prepar'd
Diffuseth its inchantment. 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,
Persuaded yield: and love and joy alone
Are waking: love and joy, such as await
An angel's meditation. O! attend,
Whoe'er thou art whom these delights can touch;
Whom nature's aspect, nature's simple garb
Can thus command; o! 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,
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,
More lovely than when Lucifer displays
His glittering forehead through the gates of morn,
To lead the train of Phœbus and the spring.

Say, why was man so eminently rais'd
Amid the vast creation; why impower'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
In contest with his equals, who shall best
The task atchieve, the course of noble toils,
By wisdom and by mercy preordain'd?
Might send him forth the sovran good to learn;
To chace 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 strait on with constant heart and eye
Still fix'd upon his everlasting palm,
The approving smile of heaven? Else wherefore burns
In mortal bosoms this unquenched 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:
Her temper, still demanding to be free;
Spurning the rude controul of willful might;
Proud of her dangers brav'd, her griefs indur'd
Her strength severely prov'd? To these high aims,
Which reason and affection prompt in man,
Not adverse nor unapt hath nature fram'd
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,
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,
Destin'd 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
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
Abide, she then explores, whence purer light
For countless ages travels through the abyss
Nor hath in sight of mortals yet arriv'd.
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 gulph
Where God alone hath being. There her hopes
Rest at the fated goal. For, from the birth
Of human kind, the sovran maker said
That not in humble, nor in brief delight,
Not in the fleeting echos 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 inlarge her aim,
Till every bound at length should disappear,
And infinite perfection fill the scene.

But lo, where beauty, dress'd in gentler pomp,
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
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 favorable 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,
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
In purple lights, till every hilloc 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
Imbrace the vale of Tempe; from each side
Ascending steep to heaven, a rocky mound
Cover'd with ivy and the laurel boughs
That crown'd young Phœbus for the Python slain.
Fair Tempe! on whose primrose banks the morn
Awoke most fragrant, and the noon repos'd
In pomp of lights and shadows most sublime:
Whose lawns, whose glades, ere human footsteps yet
Had trac'd 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 arbor branching o'er the flood,
And leaning round hung on the instructive lips
Of hoary Pan, or o'er some open dale
Danc'd 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 lov'd retreat,
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 wished 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
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 honors, 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 explor'd,
At length her favorite mansion and her throne
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 inchantment 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 inspir'd;
But soon the smile which dawns upon thy lip
Shall tell it, and the tenderer bloom o'er all
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 of such a theme:
While all whose souls have ever felt the force
Of those inchanting passions, to my lyre
Should throng attentive, and receive once more
Their influence, unobscur'd 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 allur'd
By various beauty; if the pleasing toil
Can yield a moment's respite, hither turn
Your favorable 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,
Pleas'd with your generous ardor in the chace,
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 lye,
To hide the shame of discord and disease,
And win each fond admirer into snares,
Foil'd, baffled? No. with better providence
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
Cloth'd 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
And thirsty traveler, 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 intire,
Where native order reigns, with every part
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?
O! wherefore with a rash and greedy aim
Seek ye to rove through every flattering scene
Which beauty seems to deck, nor once inquire
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
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 croud
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
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 aw'd with dubious notion; though at length
Haply she plunge him into cloister'd cells
And mansions unrelenting as the grave,
Of midnight; there, amid the screaming owl's
Dire song, with spectres or with guilty shades
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 sate with her Athenian sons,
Could but my happy hand intwine 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 dispell
Those monkish horrors; should in words divine
Relate how favor'd minds like you inspir'd,
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
Discerns the nobler life reserv'd for heaven,
Favor'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. O! let not us
By pleasure's lying blandishments detain'd,
Or crouching to the frowns of bigot rage,
O! let not us one moment pause to join
That chosen band. And if the gracious power,
Who first awaken'd my untutor'd song,
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,
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 rever'd. It now remains,
In just gradation through the various ranks
Of being, to contemplate how her gifts
Rise in due measure, watchful to attend
The steps of rising nature. Last and least,
In colors 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 color: 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
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
Of color, 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,
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 inraptur'd search.
To him, the first of minds; the chief; the sole;
From whom, through this wide, complicated world,
Did all her various lineaments begin;
To whom alone, consenting and intire,
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 inthron'd
Ere days or years trod their ethereal way,
In his supreme intelligence inthron'd,
The queen of love holds her unclouded state,
Urania. Thee, o father, this extent
Of matter; thee the sluggish earth and tract
Of seas, the heavens and heavenly splendors feel
Pervading, quickening, moving. From the depth
Of thy great essence, forth did'st 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-pleas'd thou did'st 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,
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
Requir'd 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
In all thy doings; to inferior minds,
Thy offspring, and to man, thy youngest son,
Refusing no convenient gift nor good;
Their eyes did'st 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,
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 prepar'd a different test
Of beauty, own'd and reverenc'd 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
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
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 impell 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,
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
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 intire,
The universal Venus, far beyond
The keenest effort of created eyes,
And their most wide horizon, dwells inthron'd
In ancient silence. At her footstool stands
An altar burning with eternal fire
Unsullied, unconsum'd. 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,
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,
Even on the surface of this rowling 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 destin'd home
Informs with that pure radiance from the skies
Brought down, and shines throughout her little sphere,
Exulting. Strait, as travellers by night
Turn toward a distant flame, so some sit eye,
Among the various tenants of the scene,
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-tun'd lyre.

Genius of ancient Greece, whose faithful steps
Have led us to these awful solitudes
Of nature and of science; nurse rever'd
Of generous counsels and heroic deeds;
O! 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
Of splendid adulation, to attend
With hymns thy presence in the sylvan shade,
By their malignant footsteps unprofan'd.
Come, o renowned 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,
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,
On his neglected urn attentive lay;
While Boreas, lingering on the neighboring 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 antient wisdom: while i add
(What cannot be disjoin'd from beauty's praise)
Thy name and native dress, thy works belov'd
And honor'd: while to my compatriot youth
I point the great example of thy sons,
And tune to Attic themes the British lyre.

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