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A. Is genius only found in epic lays ?
Prove this, and forfeit all pretence to praise.
Make their heroic pow's your own at once,
Or candidly confess yourself a dunce.
B. These were the chief, each interval of night
Was grac'd with many an undulating light;
In less illustrious bards his beauty shone
A meteor or a star, in these, the sun.
The nightingale may claim the topmost bough,
While the poor grasshopper must chirp below.
Like him unnotic'd, I, and such as 1,
Spread little wings, and rather skip than ily,
Perch'd on the meagre produce of the land,
An ell or two of prospect we command,
But never peep beyond the thorny bound
Or oaken fence that hems the paddoc round.
In Eden e'er yet innocence of heart
Had faded, poetry was not an art;
Language above all teaching, or if taught,
Only by gratitude and glowing thought,
Elegant as simplicity, and warm
As extasy, unmanacld by form,
Not prompted as in our degen’rate days,
By low ambition and the thirst of praise,
Was natural as is the flowing stream,
And yet magnificent, a God the theme.
That theme on earth exhausted, though above
'Tis found as everlasting as his love,
Man lavish'd all his thoughts on human things,
The feats of heroes and the wrath of kings,
But still while virtue kindled his delight,
The song was moral, and so far was right,
'Twas thus till luxury seduc'd the mind,
Tojoys less innocent, as less refin'd,
Then genius danc'd a bacchanal, he crown'd
The brimming goblet, seiz'd the thyrsus, bound
His brows with ivy, rush'd into the field
Of wild imagination, and there reeld
The victim of his own lascivious fires,
And dizzy with delight, profan’d the sacred wires.
Anacreon, Horace, play'd in Greece and Rome This Bedlam part; and, others nearer hume, When Cromwell fought for pow's, and while he reign'd The proud protector of the pow'r he gain’d, Religion harsh, intolerant, austere, Parent of manners like herself severe, Drew a rough copy of the Christian face Without the smile, the sweetness, or the grace; The dark and sullen humour of the time Judg'd ev'ry effort of the muse a crime; Verse in the finest inould of fancy cast, Was lunber in an age so void of taste: But when the second Charles assum'd the sway, And arts reviv'd beneath a softer day, Then like a bow long forc'd into a curve, The mind releas'd from too' constrain'd a nerve, Flew to its first position with a spring That made the vaulted roofs of pleasure ring. His court, the diffolute and hateful school Of wantonness, where vice was taught by rule,
Swarm'd with a scribbling herd as deep inlaid
With brutal lust as ever Circe made.
From these a long fuccession, in the rage
Of rank obscenity debauch'd their age,
Nor ceas'd, 'till ever anxious to redress
Th’abuses of her sacred charge, the press,
The muse instructed a well nurtur'd train
Of abler votaries to cleanse the stain,
And claim the palm for purity of song,
That lewdness had ufurp'd and worn so long.
Then decent pleasantry and sterling sense
That neither gave nor would endure offence,
Whipp'd out of sight with fatyr just and keen,
The puppy pack that had defil'd the scene.
In front of these came Addison. In him
Humour in holiday and fightly trim,
Sublimity and attic taste combin’d,
To polish, furnish, and delight the mind:
Then Pope, as harmony itself exact,
In verse well disciplin’d, complete, compact,
Gave virtue and morality a grace
That quite eclipsing pleasure's painted face,
Levied a tax of wonder and applause,
Ev'n on the fools that trampld on their laws,
But he (his musical finesse was such,
So nice his ear, fo delicate his touch)
Made poetry a mere mechanic art,
And ev'ry warbler has his tune by heart.
Nature imparting her satyric gift,
Her serious mirth, to Arbuthnot and Swift,
With droil fobriety they rais'd a smile
At folly's cost, themselves unmov'd the while.
That constellation set, the world in vain
Must hope to look upon their like again,
A. Are we then left-B. Not wholly in the dark,
Wit now and then, struck smartly, shows a spark,
Sufficient to redeem the modern race
From total night and absolute disgrace.
While servile trick and imitative knack
Confine the million in the beaten track,