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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 unnoticed, I, and such as I,
Spread little wings, and rather skip than fly;
Perched 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 paddock róund.
In Eden, ere 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 ecstacy, unmanacled by form, Not prompted, as in our degenerate 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 lavished 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 luxúry seduced the mind,
To joys less innocent, as less refined;
Then genius danced a bacchanal; he crowned
The brimming goblet, seized the thyrsus, bound
His brows with ivy, rushed into the field
Of wild imagination, and there reeled,
The victim of his own lascivious fires,
And dizzy with delight, profaned the sacred
Anacreon, Horace played in Greece and Rome
This bedlam part, and others nearer home.
When Cromwell fought for power, and while he
reigned The proud protector of the power he gained, 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
Judged every effort of the muse a crime;
Verse, in the finest mould of fancy, cast,
Was lumber in an age so void of taste:
But, when the second Charles assumed the sway,
And arts revived beneath a softer day,
Then, like a bow long forced into a curve,
The mind, released from too constrained a nerve,
Flew to its first position with a spring,
That made the vaulted roofs of pleasure ring.
His court, the dissolute and hateful school
Of wantonness, where vice was taught by rule,
Swarmed with a scribbling herd, as deep inlaid
With brutal lust as ever Circe made.
From these a long succession, in the rage
Of rank obscenity, debauched their age;
Nor ceased, till, ever anxious to redress
The abuses of her sacred charge, the press,
The muse instructed a well-nurtured train
Of abler votaries to cleanse the stain,
And claim the palm for purity of song,
That lewdness had usurped and worn so long.
Then decent pleasantry and sterling sense,
That neither gave nor would endure offence,
Whipped out of sight, with satire just and keen,
The puppy pack that had defiled the scene.
In front of these came Addison. In him
Humour in holiday and sightly trim,
Sublimity and attic taste, combined,
To polish, furnish, and delight the mind.
Then Pope, as harmony itself exact,
In verse well disciplined, complete, compact,
Gave virtue and morality a grace,
That, quite eclipsing pleasure's painted face,
Levied a tax of wonder and applause,
Even on the fools that trampled on their laws.
But he (bis musical finesse was such,
So nice his ear, so delicate his touch)
Made poetry a mere mechanic art;
And every warbler has his tune by heart.
Nature imparting her satiric gift,
Her serious mirth to Arbuthnot and Swift,
With droll sobriety they raised a smile
At folly's cost, themselves unmoved 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, !
Perhaps some courser who disdains the road,
Snuffs up the wind, and flings himself abroad.
Contemporaries all surpassed, see one; Short his career, indeed, but ably run; Churchill; himself unconscious of his powers, In penury consumed his idle hours; And, like a scattered seed at random sown, Was left to spring by vigour of his own. Lifted at length, by dignity of thought And dint of genius, to an affluent lot, He laid his head in luxury's soft lap, And took, too often, there his easy nap. If brighter beams than all he threw not forth, 'Twas negligence in him, not want of worth.