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But com'st a decent maid,
In Attic robe arrayed,
O chaste, unboastful nymph, to thee I call!
By all the honeyed store
On Hybla's thymy shore,
By all her blooms and mingled murmurs dear;
By her whose lovelorn woe,
In ev'ning musings slow,
Soothed sweetly sad Electra's poet's ear;
By old Cephisus deep,
Who spread his wavy sweep,
In warbled wand'rings round thy green retreat;
On whose enamelled side
When holy Freedom died,
No equal haunt allured thy future feet;
O sister meek of Truth,
To my admiring youth
Thy sober aid and native charms infuse!
The flow'rs that sweetest breathe,
Though Beauty culled the wreath,
Still ask thy hand to range their ordered hues.
While Rome could none esteem
But virtue's patriot theme,
You loved her hills, and led her laureate band;
But staid to sing alone
To one distinguished throne,
And turned thy face and fled her altered land.
No more, in hall or bow'r,
The passions own thy pow'r;
Love, only love, her forceless numbers mean:
For thou hast left her shrine;
Nor olive more, nor vine,
Shall gain thy feet to bless the servile scene.
Though taste, though genius bless
To some divine excess,
Faints the cold work till thou inspire the whole :
What each, what all supply,
May court, may charm our eye;
Thou, only thou, canst raise the meeting soul!
Of these let others ask,
To aid some mighty task;
I only seek to find thy temp'rate vale,
Where oft my reed might sound
To maids and shepherds round,
And all thy sons, O Nature, learn my tale.
ODE ON THE POETICAL CHARACTER
As once-if not with light regard
I read aright that gifted bard
(Him whose school above the rest
His loveliest Elfin Queen has blest)—
One, only one, unrivalled fair
Might hope the magic girdle wear,
At solemn tourney hung on high,
The wish of each love-darting eye;
Lo! to each other nymph in turn applied,
As if, in air unseen, some hov'ring hand,
Some chaste and angel friend to virgin fame,
With whispered spell had burst the starting band,
It left unblest her loathed, dishonoured side;
Happier, hopeless fair, if never
Her baffled hand, with vain endeavour,
Had touched that fatal zone to her denied!
Young Fancy thus, to me divinest name,
To whom, prepared and bathed in heav'n,
The cest of amplest pow'r is giv'n,
To few the godlike gift assigns
To gird their blest, prophetic loins,
And gaze her visions wild, and feel unmixed her flame!
The band, as fairy legends say,
Was wove on that creating day
When He Who called with thought to birth
Yon tented sky, this laughing earth,
And drest with springs and forests tall,
And poured the main engirting all,
Long by the loved enthusiast wooed,
Himself in some diviner mood,
Retiring, sate with her alone,
And placed her on his sapphire throne,
The whiles, the vaulted shrine around,
Seraphic wires were heard to sound,
Now sublimest triumph swelling,
Now on love and mercy dwelling;
And she, from out the veiling cloud,
Breathed her magic notes aloud,
And thou, thou rich-haired Youth of Morn,
And all thy subject life, was born!
The dang'rous passions kept aloof,
Far from the sainted growing woof:
But near it sate ecstatic Wonder,
List'ning the deep applauding thunder;
And Truth, in sunny vest arrayed,
By whose the tarsel's eyes were made;
All the shad'wy tribes of mind,
In braided dance, their murmurs joined,
And all the bright uncounted pow'rs
Who feed on heav'n's ambrosial flow'rs.
Where is the bard whose soul can now
Its high presuming hopes avow?
Where he who thinks, with rapture blind,
This hallowed work for him designed?
High on some cliff, to heav'n up-piled,
Of rude access, of prospect wild,
Where, tangled round the jealous steep,
Strange shades o'erbrow the valleys deep,
And holy genii guard the rock,
Its glooms embrown, its springs unlock,
While on its rich ambitious head
An Eden, like his own, lies spread,
I view that oak, the fancied glades among,
By which as Milton lay, his ev'ning ear,
From many a cloud that dropped ethereal dew,
Nigh sphered in heav'n, its native strains could hear, On which that ancient trump he reached was hung: Thither oft, his glory greeting,
From Waller's myrtle shades retreating,
With many a vow from Hope's aspiring tongue,
My trembling feet his guiding steps pursue;
In vain-such bliss to one alone
Of all the sons of soul was known,
And Heav'n and Fancy, kindred pow'rs,
Have now o'erturned th' inspiring bow'rs,
Or curtained close such scene from ev'ry future view.
WRITTEN IN THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR 1746
How sleep the brave who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.
By fairy hands their knell is wrung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there!
ODE TO EVENING
If aught of oaten stop or pastoral song
May hope, chaste Eve, to soothe thy modest ear,
Like thy own solemn springs,
Thy springs and dying gales,
O nymph reserved, while now the bright-haired sun
Sits in yon western tent, whose cloudy skirts,
With brede ethereal wove,
O'erhang his wavy bed:
Now air is hushed, save where the weak-eyed bat,
With short, shrill shriek, flits by on leathern wing;
Or where the beetle winds
His small but sullen horn,
As oft he rises 'midst the twilight path,
Against the pilgrim borne in heedless hum:
Now teach me, maid composed,
To breathe some softened strain,
Whose numbers, stealing through thy dark'ning vale,
May not unseemly with its stillness suit,
As, musing slow, I hail
Thy genial loved return!
For when thy folding-star, arising, shows
His paly circlet, at his warning lamp
The fragrant Hours, and elves
Who slept in flow'rs the day,
The pensive Pleasures sweet,
Prepare thy shadowy car.
Then lead, calm vot'ress, where some sheety lake
Cheers the lone heath, or some time-hallowed pile
Or upland fallows grey
Reflect its last cool gleam.
But when chill blust'ring winds or driving rain
Forbid my willing feet, be mine the hut
That from the mountain's side
Views wilds, and swelling floods,
And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires,
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all
Thy dewy fingers draw
The gradual dusky veil.
And many a nymph who wreathes her brows with sedge 25 And sheds the fresh'ning dew, and, lovelier still,