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Descending, sumless orders and degrees;
Th' unsounded depth, which mortals dare not try,
Of God's perfections; how these heavens first sprung
From unprolific night; how mov'd and rul'd
In number, weight, and measure; what hid laws,
Inexplicable, guide the moral world.
Active as flame, with prompt obedience all The will Heaven fulfil v some his fierce wrath Bear through the nations, pestilence and war: His copious goodness some, life, light, and bliss, To thousands. Some the fate of empires rule, Commission'd, sheltering with their guardian wings The pious monarch, and the legal throne.
Nor is the sovereign, nor th' illustrious great, Alone their care. To every lessening rank Of worth propitious, these blest minds embrace With universal love the just and good, Wherever found j unpriz'd, perhaps unknown, Deprest by fortune, and with hate pursued, Or insult from the proud oppressor's brow. Yet dear to Heaven, and meriting the watch Of angels o'er his unambitious walk, At morn or eve, when Nature's fairest face, Calmly magnificent, inspires the soul With virtuous raptures, prompting to forsake The sin-born vanities, and low pursuits, That busy human kind; to view their ways With pity; to repay, for numerous wrongs, Meekness and charity. Or, rais'd aloft, Fir'd with ethereal ardour, to survey The circuit of creation, all these suns [height, With all their worlds: and still from height to By things created rising, last ascend To that First Cause, who made, who governs all, Fountain of being, self-existent power, All-wise, all-good, who from eternal age Endures, and fills th' immensity of space; That infinite diffusion, where the mind Conceives no limits; undtstinguish'd void, Invariable, where no land-marks are, No paths to guide Imagination's flight.
The following poem was originally intended for the stage, and planned out, several years ago, into a regular tragedy. But the author found it necessary to change his first design, and to give his work the form it now appears in; for reasons with which it might be impertinent to trouble the public: though, to a man who thinks and feels in a certain manner, those reasons were invincibly strong.
As the scene of the piece is laid in the most remote and unfrequented of all the Hebrides, or western isles that surround one part of Great Britain; it may not be improper to inform the reader, that he will find a particular account of it, in a little treatise published near half a century
ago, under the title of a Voyage to St. Kilda. The author, who had himself been upon the spot, describes at length the situation, extent, and produce of that solitary island; sketches out the natural history of the birds of season thattransmigrate thither annually, and relates the singular customs that still prevailed among the inhabitants i a race of people then the most uncorrupted in their manners, and therefore the least unhappy in their lives, of any, perhaps, on the face of the whole Earth. To whom might have been applied what an ancient historian says of certain barbarous nations, when he compares them with their more civilized neighbours: plus valuit apud hos ignorantia vitiorum, quain apud Graces omnia philosophorum pra»cepta.
They live together, as in the greatest simplic;ty of heart, so in the most inviolable harmony and union of sentiments. They have neither silver nor gold; but barter among themselves for the few necessaries they may reciprocally want. To strangers they are extremely hospitable, and no less charitable to their own poor; for whose relief each family in the island contributes its share monthly, and at every festival sends them besides a portion of mutton or beef. Both sexes have a genius to poetry; and compose not only songs, but pieces of a more elevated turn, in their own language, which is veryemphatical. One of those islanders, having been prevailed with to visit the greatest trading town in North Britain, was infinitely astonished at the length of the voyage, and at the mighty kingdoms, for such he reckoned the larger isles, by which they sailed. He would not venture himself into the streets of that city without being led by the hand. At sight of the great church, he owned that it was indeed a lofty rock; but insisted that, in his native country of St. Kilda, there were others still higher. However the caverns formed in it, so he named the pillars and arches on which it is raised, were hollowed, he said, more commodiously than any he had ever seen there. At the shake occasioned in the steeple, and the horrible din that sounded in his ears upon tolling out the great bells, he appeared under the utmost consternation, believing the frame of nature was falling to pieces about him. He thought the persons who wore masks, not distinguishing whether they were men or women, had been guilty of some ill thing, for which they did not dare to show their faces. The beauty and stateliness of the trees which he saw then for the first time, as in his own island there grows not a shrub, equally surprised and delighted him: but he observed, with a kind of terrour, that as he passed among their branches, they pulled him back again. He had been persuaded to drink a pretty large dose of strong waters; and upon finding himself drowsy after it, and ready to fall into a slumber, which he fancied was to be his last, he expressed to his companions the great satisfaction he felt in so easy a passage out of this world: for, said he, it is attended with no kind of pain.
Among such sort of men it was that Anrelius sought refuge from the violence and cruelty of his enemies.
The time appears to have been towards the latter part of the reign of king Charles the Second: when those who governed Scotland under him, with no less cruelty than impolicy, made the people of that country desperate; and then plundered,
AMYNTOR AND THEODORA.
imprisoned, or butchered them, for the natural MferU of such despair. The best and worthiest men were oft the ohjects of their most unrelenting forv. Under the title of fanaties, or seditious, they affected to herd, and of course persecuted, •honer wished well to his country, or ventured to stand up in defence of the laws and a legal government. I have now in my hands the copy of a warrant, signed by king Charles himself, for military execution upon them without process or conviction: and I know that the original is still kept in the secretary's office for that part of the united kingdom. Thus much I thought it necessary to that the reader may not be misled to look upon the relation given hy Aurelins in the second canto, as drawn from the wantonness of imagination, when it hardly arises to strict historical truth. What reception this poem may meet with, the author cannot foresee; and, in his humhle, hut happy retirement, he needs not be over anxious to know. He has endeavoured to make it one regular and consistent whole; to be true to nature in his thoughts, and to the genius of the language in his manner of expressing them. If he has succeeded in these points, hut ahove all in effectually touching the passions, which, as it is the genuine province, so is it the great triumph, of poetry; the candour of his more discerning readers will readily overlook mistakes or failures in things of less importance.
TO MRS. MALLET.
Tsoo faithful partner of a heart thy own,
AMYNTOR AND THEODORA:
OR, THE HERMIT. CANTO L
Faa in the watery waste, where his broad wave From world to world the vast Atlantic rolls, Or from the piny shores of Labrador To frozen Thule east, her airy height Aloft to Heaven remotest Kilda lifts;
last of the sea-girt Hebrides, that guard, In filial train, Britannia's parent-coast
Thnce happy land! though freezing on the verge Of arctic skies; yet, blameless still of arts That polish to deprave, each softer clime, With simple Nature, simple Virtue hlest!
"rood Amhition's walk: where never War
Pprear'd his sanguine standard; nor unsheath'd
Pw wealth or power, the desolating sword.
rVhart Luxury, soft syren, who around
To thousand nations deals her nectar'd cup Of pleasing bane, that soothes at once and kills, Is yet a name unknown. But calm Content
That lives to reason; ancient Faith that hinds
The plain community of guileless hearts In love and union; Innocence of ill Their guardian genius: these, the powers that rule This little world, to all its sons secure Man's happiest life; the soul serene and sound From passion's rage, the hody from disease. Red on each cheek hehold the rose of health;Firm in each sinew vigour's pliant spring;By temperance hrac'd to peril and to pain, Amid the floods they stem, or on the steep Of upright rocks their straining steps surmount,
For food or pastime. These light up their morn,
And close their eve in slumbers sweetly deep, Beneath the north, within the circling swell Of Ocean's raging sound. But last and best, What Avarice, what Amhition shall not know, True Liherty is theirs, the heaven-sent guest, Who in the cave, or on th' uneultur'd wild.
With Independence dwells; and Peace of mind, In youth, in age, their sun that never sets.
Daughter of Heaven and Nature, deign thy aid, Spontaneous Muse! O, whether from the depth Of evening forest, brown with broadest shade; Or from the hrow suhlime of vernal alp As morning dawns; or from the vale at noon, By some soft stream that slides with liquid foot Through howery groves, where Inspiration sits And listens to thy lore, auspicious come! O'er these wild waves, o'er this unharhour'd shore, Thy wing high-hovering spread; and to the gale, The horeal spirit hreathing liheral round From echoing hill to hill, the lyre attune With answering cadence free, as hest heseems The tragic theme my plaintive verse unfolds.
Here, good Aurelius—and a scene more wild The world around, or deeper solitude, Affliction could not find—Aurelius here, By fate unequal and the crime of war Fovpell'd his native home, the sacred vale That saw him blest, now wretched and unknown, Wore out the slow remains of setting life In hitterness of thought: and with the surge, And with the sounding storm, his murmur'd moan Would often mix—oft as remembrance sad Th' unhappy past recall'd; a faithful wife, Whom Ixive first chose, whom Reason long endear'd. His soul's companion, and his softer friend; With one fair daughter, in her rosy prime, Her dawn of opening charms, defenceless left Within a tyrant's grasp! his foe profess'd, By civil madness, by intemperate zeal For differing rites, emhitter'd into hate, And cruelty remorseless !—Thus he liv'd: If this was life, to load the blast with sighs; Hung o'er its edge, to swell the flood with tears, At midnight hour: for midnight frequent heard The lonely mourner, desolate of heart, Pour all the hushand, all the father forth In unavailing anguish; stretch'd along The naked beach; or shivering on the clift, Smote with the wintry pole in hitter storm, Hail, snow, and shower, dark-drifting round his head.
Such were his hours; till Time, the wretch's friend, Life's great physician, skill'd alone to close, Where sorrow long has wak'd, the weeping eye, And from the brain, with baleful vapours hlack.
Each sullen spectre chase, his balm at length,
The Sun, now stat'ion'd with the lucid Twins,
* The root of this plant, otherwise named argatilis sylvaticus. is aromatic; and by the natives reckoned cordial to the stomach. See Martin's Western Isles of Scotland, p. 180.
And ruminating sweet and bitter thought, Aurelius, from the western bay, his eye Now rais'd to this amusive scene in air, With wonder mark'd; now cast with level ray Wide o'er the moving wilderness of waves, From pole to pole through boundless space diffus'd,
Magnificently dreadful! where, at large, Leviathan, with each inferior name
Of sea-bom kinds, ten thousand thousand tribes.
Finds endless range for pasture and fur s[x>rt,
Amaz'd he gazes, and adoring owns The hand Almighty, who its channeled bed
Immeasurable sunk, and pour'd abroad, Fenc'd with eternal mounds, the fluid sphere;With every wind to waft large commerce on, Join pole to pole, consociate severM worlds,
And link in bonds of intercourse and love Earth's universal family. Now rose Sweet evening's solemn hour. The Sun, declin'd.
Hung golden o'er this'nether firmament;Whose broad cerulean mirror, calmly bright, Gave back his beamy visage to the sky With splendour undiminished; and each cloud, White, azure, purple, glowing round his throne In fair aerial landscape. Here, alone On Earth's remotest verge, Aurelius breath'd The healthful gale, and felt the smiling scene With awe-mix'd pleasure, musing as he hung
In silence o'er the billows bush'd beneath.
When lo! a sound, amid the wave-worn rocks, Deaf-murmuring rose, and plaintive roll tl along
From cliff to cavern: as the breath of winds, At twilight hour, remote and hollow heard Through wintry pines, high-waving o'er the steep Of sky-crown'd Appenine. The seapye ceas'd At once to warble. Screaming, from his nest The fulmar soar'd, and shot a westward flight From shore to sea. On came, before her hour, Invading Night, and hung the troubled sky With fearful blackness round '. Sad Ocean's face A curling undulation shivery swept From wave to wave: and now impetuous rose, Thick cloud and storm and ruin on his wing, .
The raging South, and headlong o'er the deep Fell horrible, with broad-descending blast.
Aloft, and safe beneath a sheltering cliff, Whose moss-grown summit on the distant flood Projected frowns, Aurelius stood appall'd:His stunn'd ear smote with all the thundering main!
His eye with mountains surging to the stars!Commotion infinite. Where yon last wave Blends with the sky its foam, a ship in view Shoots sudden forth, steep-falling from the clouds:Yet distant seen and dim, till, onward borne Before the blast, each growing sail expands, Each mast aspires, and all th' advancing frame Bounds on his eye distinct. With sharpen'd ken Its course he watches, and in awful thought That Power invokes, whose voice the wild winds hear, Whose nod the surge reveres, to look from Heaven, And save, who else must perish, wretched men, In this dark hour, amid the dread abyss, With fears amaz'd, by horrours compass'd round. But O, ill-omen'd, death-devoted heads!For Death ''estrides the billow, nor your own, Nor others' offer'd vows can stay the flight Of instant fate. And, lo! his secret seat,
Where never sun-beam glimmer'd, deep amidst
3 See Martin's voyage to St. Kilda, p. 58.
AMYNTOR AND THEODORA.
A cavern's jaws voraglnous and vast, The stormy genius of the deep forsakes:And o'er the waves, that roar beneath his frown,
Ascending baleful, bids the tempest spread,
Turbid aud terrible with hail and rain,
Its blackest pinion, pour its loudening blasts In whirlwind forth, and from their lowest depth
Uptoro the world of waters. Round and round
The tortur'd ship, at his imperious call,
Is vheeTd in dizzy whirl: her guiding helm Breaks short; her masts in crashing ruin fall;And each rent sail flies loose in distant air. Now, fearful moment ! o'er the foundering hull, Half ocean heav'd, in one broad billowy curve,
Keep from the clouds with horrid shade impends— Ah! save them Heaven! it burs s in deluge down With boundless undulation. Shore and sky
Eebellow to the roar. At once engulPd,
Vessel and crew beneath its torrent sweep,
Are sank, to rise no more. Aurelius wept:The tear unbidden dew'd his hoary cheek. He turn'd his step; he fled the fatal scene, And brooding, in sad silence, o'er the sight To him alone disclos'd, his wounded heart
Pour'd oat to Heaven in sighs: "Thy will be done, Not mine, supreme Disposer of events!
Bat death demands a tear, and man must feel For human woes: the rest submission checks."
Not distant far, where this receding bay 3 Looks northward on the pole, a rocky arch Expands its self-pois'd concave; as the gate, Ample, and broad, and pillar'd massy-proof, Of some unfolding temple. On its height Is heard the tread of daily-climbing flocks, That, o'er the green roof spread, their fragrant food Intended crop. As through this cavern'd path, Involv'd in pensive thought Aurelius post, Str,.k with sad echoes from the sounding vault Kemurmar'd shrill, he stopt, he rais'd his head; And saw th' assembled natives in a' ring, With wonder and with pity bending o'er A shipwreck'd man. All-motionless on earth He lay. The living lustre from his eye, The vermil hue extinguish'd from his cheek: And in their place, on each chill feature spread, The shadowy cloud and ghastliness of Death With pale suffusion sat. So looks the Moon, So faintly wan, through hovering mists at eve, Grey Autumn's train. Fast from his hairs distill'd The briny wave: and close within his grasp Was clench'd a broken oar, as one who long Had stem'd the flood with agonizing breast, And strangled strong for life. Of youthful prime He seem'd, and built by Nature's noblest hand; Where bold proportion, and where softening grace, Mix'd in each limb, and harmoniz'd his frame.
Aurelius, from the breathless clay, his eye To Heaven imploring rais'd: then, for he knew That Life, within her central cell retir'd, May lurk unseen, dimtnish'd, but not quench'd, He bid transport it speedy through the vale, To bit poor cell that lonely stood and low, Safe from the north beneath a sloping hill: Ai antique frame, orbicular, and rais'd On columns rude; its roof with reverend moss I-«ht-*haded o'er; its front in ivy hid, That mantling crept aloft. With pious hand They turn'd, they chafd his frozen limbs, and fum'd
■ See Martin's voyage to St Kilda, p. 20.
The vapoury air with aromatic smells;
"Yet, speak thy soul, afflicted as thou art!
The hermit thus: and, after some sad pause Of musing wonder, thus the man unknown.
"What have I heard ?—On this untravell'd shore, Nature's last limit, hemm'd with oceans round Howling and harbourless, beyond all faith A comforter to find! whose language wears The garb of civil life; a friend, whose breast
The gracious meltings of sweet pity move! Amazement all! my grief to silence oharm'd 'Is lost in wonder—but, thou good unknown, If woes, for ever wedded to despair, That wish no cure, are thine, behold in me A meet companion; one whom Earth and Heaven Combine to curse; whom never future morn Shall light to joy, nor evening with repose Descending shade—O, son of this wild world! From social converse though for ever barr'd, Though chill'd with endless winter from the pole, Yet warm'd by goodness, form'd to tender sense Of human woes, beyond what milder climes, By fairer suns attemper'd, courtly boast; O say, did e'er thy breast, in youthful life, Touch'd by a beam from Beauty all-divine, Did e'er thy bosom her sweet influence own, In pleasing tumult pour'd through every vein, And panting at the heart, when first our eye Receives impression! Then, as passion grew, Did Heaven, consenting to thy wish, indulge That bliss no wealth can bribe, no power bestow, That bliss of angels, love by love repaid? Heart streaming full to heart in mutual flow Of faith and friendship, tenderness and truth— If these thy fate distinguish'd, thou wilt then, My joys conceiving, image my despair, How total! how extreme! For this, all this, Late my fair fortune, wreck'd on yonder flood, Lies lost and bury'd there—O, awful Heaven I Who to the wind and to the whelming wave Her blameless head devoted, thou alone Can'st tell what I have lost—O, ill-starr'd maid! O, most undone Amyntor!"—Sighs and tears, And heart-heav'd groans, at this, his voice suppress'd, The rest was agony and dumb despair.
Now o'er their heads damp Night her stormy gloom Spread, ere the glimmering twilight was expir'd, With huge and heavy horrour closing round In doubling clouds on clouds. The mournful scene, The moving tale, Aurelius deeply felt: And thus reply'd, as one in Nature skill'd, With soft assenting sorrow in his look, And words to soothe, not combat hopeless love.
"Amyntor, by that Heaven who sees thy tears! By faith and friendship's sympathy divine! Could I the sorrows heal I more than share, This bosom, trust me, should from thine transfer Its sharpest grief. Such grief, alas! how just? How long in silent anguish to descend, When reason and when fondness o'er the tomb Are fellow-mourners? He, who can resign, Has never lov'd: and wert thou to the sense, The sacred feeling of a loss like thine, Cold and insensible, thy breast were then No mansion for humanity, or thought Of noble aim. Their dwelling is with love, And tender pity; whose kind tear adoms The clouded cheek, and sanctifies the soul They soften, not subdue. We both will mix, For her thy virtue lov'd, thy truth laments, Our social sighs: and still, as morn unveils The brightening hill, or evening's misty shade Its brow obscures, her gracefulness of form, Her mind all-lovely, each ennobling each, Shall be our frequent theme. Then shaft thou hear From me, in sad return, a tale of woes, So terrible—Amyntor, thy pain'd heart Amid its own, will shudder at the ills That mine has bled with—But behold; the dark 1
And drowsy hour steals fast upon our talk.
Now Midnight rose, and o'er the general scene.
Air, ocean, earth, drew broad her blackest veil, Vapour and cloud. Around th' unsleeping isle Yet howl'd the whirlwind, yet the billow groan'd;
And, in mix'd horrour, to Amyntor's ear [pall'd.
Borne through the gloom, his shrieking sense ap- Shook by each blast, and swept by every wave, Again pale memory labours in the storm:Again from her he's torn, whom more than life His fondness lov'd. And now, another shower Of sorrow, o'er the dear unhappy maid, Effusive stream'd; till late, through every power The soul subdued sunk sad to slow repose:And all her darkening scenes, by dim degrees, Were quench'd in total night. A pause from pain Not long to last: for Fancy, oft awake While Reason sleeps, from her illusive cell
CalPd up wild shapes of visionary fear, Of visionary bliss, the hour of rest To mock with mimic shows. And lo! the deeps In airy tumult swell. Beneath a hill Amyntor heaves of overwhelming seas;Or rides, with dizzy dread, from cloud to cloud, The billow's back. Anon, the shadowy world Shifts to some boundless continent unknown, Where solitary, o'er the starless void, [length,
Dumb Silence broods. Through heaths of dreary Slow on he drags his staggering step infirm With breathless toil; hears torrent floods afar Roar through the wild; and, plung'd in central caves, Falls headlong many a fathom into night. Yet there, at once, in all her living charms, And brightening with their glow the brown abyss, Rose Theodora. Smiling, in her eye Sat, without cloud, the soft-consenting soul, That, guilt unknowing, had no wish to hide. A spring of sudden myrtles flowering round Their walk embower'd; while nightingales beneath Sung spousals, as along th' enamell'd turf
They seem'd to fly, and interchang'd their souls, Melting in mutual softness. Thrice his arms The fair encircled: thrice she fled his grasp, And fading into darkness mix'd with air—
"O turn! O stay thy flight!"—so loud he cry'd, Sleep and its train of humid vapours fled.
He groan'il, he gaz'd around: his inward sense Yet glowing with the vision's vivid beam, Still, on his eye, the hovering shadow blaz'd;
Her voice still murmur'd in his tinkling ear; Grateful deception! till returning thought Left broad awake, amid th' incumbent lour Of mute and mournful night, again he felt His grief inflam'd throb fresh in every vein. To frenzy stung, upstarting from his couch, The vale, the shore, with darkling step he roam'd.