The Creative Process

Such is the secret union, when we feel
A song, a flow'r, a name at once restore
Those long-connected scenes where first they moved
Th' attention; backward through her mazy walks
Guiding the wanton fancy to her scope,
To temples, courts or fields; with all the band
Of painted forms, of passions and designs
Attendant: whence, if pleasing in itself,
The prospect from that sweet accession gains
Redoubled influence o'er the list'ning mind.
By these mysterious ties the busy pow'r
Of Mem'ry her ideal train preserves
Entire; or when they would elude her watch,
Reclaims their fleeting footsteps from the waste
Of dark oblivion; thus collecting all
The various forms of being to present,
Before the curious aim of mimic art,
Their largest choice: like spring's unfolded blooms
Exhaling sweetness, that the skilful bee
May taste at will, from their selected spoils
To work her dulcet food. For not th' expanse
Of living lakes, in summer's noontide calm,
Reflects the bord'ring shade and sun-bright heav'ns
With fairer semblance; not the sculptured gold
More faithful keeps the graver's lively trace,
Than he whose birth the sister-pow'rs of art
Propitious viewed, and from his genial star
Shed influence to the seeds of fancy kind;
Than his attempered bosom must preserve
The seal of nature. There alone unchanged,
Her form remains. The balmy walks of May
There breathe perennial sweets: the trembling chord
Resounds for ever in th' abstracted ear,
Melodious; and the virgin's radiant eye,
Superior to disease, to grief, and time,
Shines with unbating lustre. Thus at length
Endowed with all that nature can bestow,
The child of fancy oft in silence bends
O'er these mixed treasures of his pregnant breast,
With conscious pride. From them he oft resolves
To frame he knows not what excelling things;
And win he knows not what sublime reward
Of praise and wonder. By degrees the mind
Feels her young nerves dilate: the plastic pow'rs
Labour for action: blind emotions heave
His bosom; and with loveliest frenzy caught,
From earth to heav'n he rolls his daring eye,
From heav'n to earth. Anon ten thousand shapes,
Like spectres trooping to the wizard's call,
Fleet swift before him. From the womb of earth,
From ocean's bed they come: th' eternal heav'ns
Disclose their splendours, and the dark abyss
Pours out her births unknown. With fixed gaze
He marks the rising phantoms. Now compares
Their diff'rent forms; now blends them, now divides;
Enlarges and extenuates by turns;
Opposes, ranges in fantastic bands,
And infinitely varies. Hither now,
Now thither fluctuates his inconstant aim,
With endless choice perplexed. At length his plan
Begins to open. Lucid order dawns;
And as from Chaos old the jarring seeds
Of nature at the voice divine repaired
Each to its place, till rosy earth unveiled
Her fragrant bosom, and the joyful sun
Sprung up the blue serene; by swift degrees
Thus disentangled, his entire design
Emerges. Colours mingle, features join,
And lines converge: the fainter parts retire;
The fairer eminent in light advance;
And every image on its neighbour smiles.
Awhile he stands, and with a father's joy
Contemplates. Then with Promethean art,
Into its proper vehicle he breathes
The fair conception; which embodied thus,
And permanent, becomes to eyes or ears
An object ascertained: while thus informed,
The various organs of his mimic skill,
The consonance of sounds, the featured rock,
The shadowy picture and impassioned verse,
Beyond their proper pow'rs attract the soul
By that expressive semblance, while in sight
Of nature's great original we scan
The lively child of art; while line by line,
And feature after feature we refer
To that sublime exemplar whence it stole
Those animating charms. Thus beauty's palm
Betwixt 'em wav'ring hangs: applauding love
Doubts where to choose; and mortal man aspires
To tempt creative praise.
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