Pleasures of Imagination, The - Book 3

BOOK III

Such are the various aspects of the mind —
Some heavenly genius, whose unclouded thoughts
Attain that secret harmony which blends
Th' aetherial spirit with its mold of clay;
O! teach me to reveal the grateful charm
That searchless nature o'er the sense of man
Diffuses, to behold, in lifeless things,
The inexpressive semblance of himself,
Of thought and passion. Mark the sable woods
That shade sublime yon mountain's nodding brow;
With what religious awe the solemn scene
Commands your steps! as if the reverend form
Of Minos or of Numa should forsake
Th' Elysian seats, and down th' imbowering glade
Move to your pausing eye! Behold th' expanse
Of yon gay landscape, where the silver clouds
Flit o'er the heav'ns before the sprightly breeze:
Now their gray cincture skirts the doubtful sun;
Now streams of splendor, thro' th' opening veil
Effulgent, sweep from off the gilded lawn
Th' aerial shadows; on the curling brook,
And on the shady margin's quivering leaves
With quickest lustre glancing; While you view
The prospect, say, within your cheerful breast
Plays not the lively sense of winning mirth
With clouds and sun-shine chequer'd, while the round
Of social converse, to th' inspiring tongue
Of some gay nymph amid her subject-train,
Moves all obsequious? Whence is this effect,
This kindred power of such discordant things?
Or flows their semblance from that mystic tone
To which the new-born mind's harmonious powers
At first were strung? Or rather from the links
Which artful custom twines around her frame?
*

By these mysterious ties, the busy power
Of memory her ideal train preserves
Intire; 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 sculptur'd gold
More faithful keeps the graver's lively trace,
Than he whose birth the sister-pow'rs of art
Propitious view'd, and from his genial star
Shed influence to the seeds of fancy kind;
Than his attemper'd bosom must preserve
The seal of nature. There alone unchang'd,
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
Endow'd with all that nature can bestow,
The child of fancy oft in silence bends
O'er these mixt 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 powers
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 wisard's call,
Flit swift before him. From the womb of earth,
From ocean's bed they come: th' eternal heavens
Disclose their splendors, 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 extentuates by turns;
Opposes, ranges in fantastic bands,
And infinitely varies. Hither now,
Now thither fluctuates his inconstant aim,
With endless choice perplex'd. At length his plan
Begins to open. Lucid order dawns;
And as from chaos old the jarring seeds
Of nature at the voice divine repair'd
Each to its place, till rosy earth unveil'd
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, imbodied thus,
And permanent, becomes to eyes or ears
An object ascertain'd: while thus inform'd,
The various organs of his mimic skill,
The consonance of sounds, the featured rock,
The shadowy picture and impassion'd verse,
Beyond their proper powers 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 them wav'ring hangs: applauding love
Doubts where to choose; and mortal man aspires
To tempt creative praise.

By what fine ties hath God connected things
When present in the mind, which in themselves
Have no connexion? Sure the rising sun,
O'er the caerulean convex of the sea,
With equal brightness and with equal warmth
Might rowl his fiery orb; nor yet the soul
Thus feel her frame expanded, and her pow'rs
Exulting in the splendor she beholds;
Like a young conqueror moving thro' the pomp
Of some triumphal day. When join'd at eve,
Soft-murm'ring streams and gales of gentlest breath
Melodious Philomela's wakeful strain
Attemper, could not man's discerning ear
Thro' all its tones the sympathy pursue;
Nor yet this breath divine of nameless joy
Steal thro' his veins and fan th' awakened heart,
Mild as the breeze, yet rapt'rous as the song?

Oh! blest of heav'n, whom not the languid songs
Of luxury, the siren! not the bribes
Of sordid wealth, nor all the gaudy spoils
Of pageant honour can seduce to leave
Those ever-blooming sweets, which from the store
Of nature fair imagination culls
To charm the inlivened soul! What tho' not all
Of mortal offspring can attain the heights
Of envied life; though only few possess
Patrician treasures or imperial state;
Yet nature's care, to all her children just,
With richer treasures and an ampler state,
Endows at large whatever happy man
Will deign to use them. His the city's pomp,
The rural honours his. Whate'er adorns
The princely dome, the column and the arch,
The breathing marbles and the sculptur'd gold,
Beyond the proud possessor's narrow claim,
His tuneful breast enjoys. For him, the spring
Distills her dews, and from the silken gem
Its lucid leaves unfolds: for him, the hand
Of autumn tinges every fertile branch
With blooming gold and blushes like the morn.
Each passing hour sheds tribute from her wings;
And still new beauties meet his lonely walk,
And loves unfelt attract him. Not a breeze
Flies o'er the meadow, not a cloud imbibes
The setting sun's effulgence, not a strain
From all the tenants of the warbling shade
Ascends, but whence his bosom can partake
Fresh pleasure, unreprov'd. Nor thence partakes
Fresh pleasure only: for th' attentive mind,
By this harmonious action on her pow'rs
Becomes herself harmonious: wont so oft
In outward things to meditate the charm
Of sacred order, soon she seeks at home
To find a kindred order, to exert
Within herself this elegance of love,
This fair-inspir'd delight: her temper'd pow'rs
Refine at length, and every passion wears
A chaster, milder, more attractive mien.
But if to ampler prospects, if to gaze
On nature's form, where, negligent of all
These lesser graces, she assumes the port
Of that eternal majesty that weigh'd
The world's foundations, if to these the mind
Exalt her daring eye, then mightier far
Will be the change, and nobler. Would the forms
Of servile custom cramp her gen'rous powers?
Would sordid policies, the barb'rous growth
Of ignorance and rapine, bow her down
To tame pursuits, to indolence and fear?
Lo! she appeals to nature, to the winds
And rowling waves, the sun's unwearied course,
The elements and seasons: all declare
For what th' eternal maker has ordain'd
The powers of man: we feel within ourselves
His energy divine: he tells the heart
He meant, he made us to behold and love
What he beholds and loves, the general orb
Of life and being; to be great like him,
Beneficent and active. Thus the men
Whom nature's works can charm, with God himself
Hold converse; grow familiar, day by day,
With his conceptions, act upon his plan;
And form to his, the relish of their souls.
Rate this poem: 

Reviews

No reviews yet.