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Whilst his loved nymph in thanks bestows
Her flow'ry chaplets on thy boughs.
Shall I then only silent be,
And no return be made by me?
No! let this wish upon thee wait,
And still to flourish be thy fate;
To future ages mayst thou stand
Untouched by the rash workman's hand,
Till that large stock of sap is spent
Which gives thy summer's ornament;
Till the fierce winds, that vainly strive
To shock thy greatness whilst alive,
Shall on thy lifeless hour attend,
Prevent the axe, and grace thy end,
Their scattered strength together call
And to the clouds proclaim thy fall;
Who then their ev'ning dews may spare,
When thou no longer art their care,
But shalt, like ancient heroes, burn,
And some bright hearth be made thy urn.
TO THE NIGHTINGALE
Exert thy voice, sweet harbinger of Spring!
This moment is thy time to sing,
This moment I attend to praise,
And set my numbers to thy lays.
Free as thine shall be my song;
As thy music, short or long.
Poets wild as thee were born,
Pleasing best when unconfined,
When to please is least designed,
Soothing but their cares to rest:
Cares do still their thoughts molest,
And still th' unhappy poet's breast,
Like thine, when best he sings, is placed against a thorn.
She begins, let all be still!
Muse, thy promise now fulfil!
Sweet, oh sweet! still sweeter yet!
Can thy words such accents fit?
ANNE, COUNTESS OF WINCHILSEA
Canst thou syllables refine,
Melt a sense that shall retain
Still some spirit of the brain,
Till with sounds like these it join?
'T will not be! then change thy note;
Let division shake thy throat:
Hark! division now she tries,
Yet as far the Muse outflies.
Cease then, prithee, cease thy tune!
Trifler, wilt thou sing till June?
Till thy business all lies waste,
And the time of building's past?
Thus we poets that have speech
Unlike what thy forests teach,
If a fluent vein be shown
That's transcendent to our own,
Criticise, reform, or preach,
Or censure what we cannot reach.
A NOCTURNAL REVERIE
In such a night, when ev'ry louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined,
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings,
Or from some tree, famed for the owl's delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wand'rer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly vail the heav'ns' mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbind and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet chequers still with red the dusky brakes;
When scattered glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Show trivial beauties watch their hour to shine,
Whilst Salisb'ry stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms and perfect virtue bright;
When odours which declined repelling day
Through temp'rate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose;
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale;
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th' adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn up forage in his teeth we hear;
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine re-chew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village-walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their short-lived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures whilst tyrant-man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturb whilst it reveals,
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something too high for syllables to speak,
Till the free soul, to a compos'dness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O'er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th' inferior world and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks and all's confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamours, are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE GREATEST ENGLISH POETS
Long had our dull forefathers slept supine,
Nor felt the raptures of the tuneful Nine;
Till Chaucer first, a merry bard, arose,
And many a story told in rhyme and prose.
But age has rusted what the poet writ,
Worn out his language, and obscured his wit;
In vain he jests in his unpolished strain,
And tries to make his readers laugh, in vain.
Old Spenser next, warmed with poetic rage,
In ancient tales amused a barb'rous age;
An age that, yet uncultivate and rude,
Where'er the poet's fancy led, pursued
Through pathless fields and unfrequented floods,
To dens of dragons and enchanted woods.
But now the mystic tale, that pleased of yore,
Can charm an understanding age no more;
The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
While the dull moral lies too plain below.
We view well-pleased at distance all the sights
Of arms and palfreys, battles, fields, and fights,
And damsels in distress, and courteous knights;
But when we look too near, the shades decay,
And all the pleasing landscape fades away.
Great Cowley then, mighty genius, wrote,
O'er-run with wit, and lavish of his thought:
His turns too closely on the reader press;
He more had pleased us, had he pleased us less.
But Milton next, with high and haughty stalks,
Unfettered in majestic numbers walks;
No vulgar hero can his Muse engage,
Nor earth's wide scene confine his hallowed rage.
See, see! he upward springs, and tow'ring high
Spurns the dull province of mortality;
Shakes heav'n's eternal throne with dire alarms,
And sets th' Almighty Thunderer in arms.
Whate'er his pen describes I more than see,
Whilst ev'ry verse, arrayed in majesty,
Bold and sublime, my whole attention draws,
And seems above the critic's nicer laws.
How are you struck with terror and delight
When angel with arch-angel copes in fight!
When great Messiah's outspread banner shines,
How does the chariot rattle in his lines!
What sounds of brazen wheels, what thunder, scare
And stun the reader with the din of war!
With fear my spirits and my blood retire,
To see the seraphs sunk in clouds of fire;
But when, with eager steps, from hence I rise,
And view the first gay scenes of Paradise,
What tongue, what words of rapture, can express
A vision so profuse of pleasantness?
But now, my Muse, a softer strain rehearse;
Turn ev'ry line with art, and smooth thy verse:
The courtly Waller next commands thy lays;
Muse, tune thy verse with art to Waller's praise.
While tender airs and lovely dames inspire
Soft, melting thoughts, and propagate desire,
So long shall Waller's strains our passion move,
And Sacharissa's beauties kindle love.
Behold in awful march and dread array
The long-extended squadrons shape their way!
Death, in approaching terrible, imparts
An anxious horrour to the bravest hearts;
Yet do their beating breasts demand the strife,
And thirst of glory quells the love of life.
No vulgar fears can British minds control:
Heat of revenge and noble pride of soul
O'erlook the foe, advantaged by his post,
Lessen his numbers, and contract his host;
Though fens and floods possessed the middle space,
That unprovoked they would have feared to pass,
Nor fens nor floods can stop Britannia's bands
When her proud foe ranged on their borders stands.
But, O my Muse, what numbers wilt thou find
To sing the furious troops in battle joined!
Methinks I hear the drum's tumultuous sound
The victor's shouts and dying groans confound,
The dreadful burst of cannon rend the skies,