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Politely told him all were brutes and fools,
But the gay coxcombs of her happier schools ;
That all perfection in her language lay,
And the best author was her own Rabelais.
Hence, by some strange malignity of fate,
We take our fashions from the land we hate :
Still slaves to her, howe'er her taste inclines,
We wear her ribands, and we drink her wines ;
Eat as she eats, no matter which or what,
A roasted lobster, or a roasted cat;
And fill our houses with a hungry train
Of more than half the scoundrels of the Seine.
Time was, a wealthy Englishman would join
A rich plum pudding to a fat sirloin ;
Or bake a pasty, whose enormous wall
Took up almost the area of his hall :
But now, as art improves and life refines,
The demon Taste attends him when he dines;
Serves on his board an elegant regale,
Where three stew'd mushrooms flank a larded
quail ; Where infant turkeys, half a month resign'd To the soft breathings of a southern wind, And smother'd in a rich ragout of snails, Outstink a lenten supper at Versailles. Is there a saint that would not laugh to see The good man piddling with his fricassee; Forced by the luxury of taste to drain A flask of poison, which he calls champagne ! While he, poor idiot! though he dare not speak, Pines all the while for porter and ox-cheek.
Sure 'tis enough to starve for pomp and show, To drink, and curse the clarets of Bordeaux :
Yet such our humour, such our skill to hit
Excess of folly through excess of wit,
We plant the garden, and we build the seat,
Just as absurdly as we drink and eat;
For is there aught that Nature's hand has sown
To bloom and ripen in her hottest zone?
Is there a shrub which, ere its verdures blow,
Asks all the suns that beam upon the Po?
Is there a floweret whose vermilion hue
Can only catch its beauty in Peru?
Is there a portal, colonnade, or dome,
The pride of Naples, or the boast of Rome?
We raise it here, in storms of wind and hail,
On the bleak bosom of a sunless vale;
Careless alike of climate, soil, and place,
The cast of Nature, and the smiles of Grace.
Hence all our stucco'd walls, Mosaic floors,
Palladian windows, and Venetian doors;
Our Gothic fronts, whose Attic wings unfold
Fluted pilasters tipp'd with leaves of gold;
Our massy ceilings, graced with gay festoons,
The weeping marbles of our damp saloons,
Lawns fringed with citrons, amaranthine bowers,
Expiring myrtles, and unopening flowers.
Hence the good Scotsman bids the’ anana blow
In rocks of crystal, or in alps of snow;
On Orcus' steep extends his wide arcade,
And kills his scanty sunshine in a shade.
One might expect a sanctity of style August and manly in a holy pile, And think an architect extremely odd To build a playhouse for the church of God; Yet half our churches, such the mode that reigns, Are Roman theatres or Grecian fanes;
Where broad arch'd windows to the eye convey
The keen diffusion of too strong a day;
Where, in the luxury of wanton pride,
Corinthian columns languish side by side,
Closed by an altar exquisitely fine,
Loose and lascivious as a Cyprian shrine.
Of late,'tis true, quite sick of Rome and Greece,
We fetch our models from the wise Chinese;
European artists are too cool and chaste,
Your Mandarin only is the man of taste;
Whose bolder genius, fondly wild to see
His grove a forest, and his pond a sea,
Breaks out and, whimsically great, designs
Without the shackles or of rules or lines.
Form’d on his plans, our farms and seats begin
To match the boasted villas of Pekin.
On every hill a s ire-crown'd temple swells,
Hung round with serpents, and a fringe of bells:
Junks and baloons along our waters sail.
With each a gilded cock-boat at his tail;
Our choice exotics to the breeze exhale
Within the enclosure of a zigzag rail ;
In Tartar huts our cows and horses lie,
Our hogs are fatted in an Indian sty;
On every shelf a Joss divinely stares,
Nymphs laid on chintzes sprawl upon our chairs;
While o'er our cabinets Confucius nods,
Midst porcelain elephants and China gods.
Peace to all such, but you whose chaster fires True greatness kindles, and true sense inspires, Or ere you lay a stone, or plant a shade, Bend the proud arch, or roll the broad cascade, Ere all your wealth in mean profusion waste, Examine Nature with the eye of Taste ;
Mark where she spreads the lawn or pours the rill,
Falls in the vale, or breaks upon the hill;
Plan as she plans, and where her genius calls,
There sink your grottos, and there raise your walls.
Without this taste, beneath whose magic wand
Truth and correctness guide the artist's hand,
Woods, lakes, and palaces are idle things,
The shame of nations, and the blush of kings.
Expense and Vanbrugh, vanity and show,
May build a Blenheim, but not make a Stowe.
But what is Taste, you ask, this heaven-born fire
We all pretend to, and we all admire?
Is it a casual grace? or lucky hit ?
Or the cool effort of reflecting wit?
Has it no law but mere misguided will ?
No just criterion fix'd to good and ill ?
It has -True Taste, when delicately fine,
Is the pure sunshine of a soul divine,
The full perfection of each mental power-
'Tis sense, 'tis Nature, and 'tis something more.
Twin-born with Genius of one common bed,
One parent bore them, and one master bred.
It gives the lyre with happier sounds to flow,
With purer blushes bids fair Beauty glow;
From Raphael's pencil calls a nobler line,
And warms, Coreggio! every touch of thine,
Aad yet, though sprung from one paternal
flame, Genius and Taste are different as their name: Genius, all sunbeam, where he throws a smile, Impregnates Nature faster than the Nile; Wild and impetuous, high as heaven aspires, All science animates, all virtue fires ;
Creates ideal worlds, and there convenes
Aerial forms and visionary scenes.
But Taste corrects, by one etherial touch,
What seems too little and what seems too much!
Marks the fine point where each consenting part
Slides into beauty with the ease of art;
This bids to rise, and that with grace to fall,
And bounds, unites, refines, and heightens all.
SOME antiquaries, grave and loyal,
Incorporate by charter royal,
Last winter, on a Thursday night, were
Met in full senate at the Mitre.
The president, like Mr. Mayor,
Majestic took the elbow chair,
And gravely sat in due decorum,
With a fine gilded mace before him.
Upon the table were display'd
A British knife without a blade,
A comb of Anglo Saxon steel,
A patent with king Alfred's seal,
Two rusted mutilated prongs,
Supposed to be Saint Dunstan's tongs,
With which he, as the story goes,
Once took the devil by the nose.
Awhile they talk'd of ancient modes,
Of manuscripts and Gothic codes,