by Mark Akenside
The wise and great of every clime,
Through all the spacious walks of Time,
Where'er the Muse her power display'd,
With joy have listen'd and obey'd.
For taught of heaven, the sacred Nine
Persuasive numbers, forms divine,
To mortal sense impart:
They best the soul with glory fire;
They noblest counsels, boldest deeds inspire;
And high o'er Fortune's rage inthrone the fixed heart.
Nor less prevailing is their charm
The vengeful bosom to disarm;
To melt the proud with human woe,
And prompt unwilling tears to flow.
Can wealth a power like this afford?
Can Cromwell's arts, or Marlborough's sword,
An equal empire claim?
No, Hastings. Thou my words wilt own:
Thy breast the gifts of every Muse hath known;
Nor shall the giver's love disgrace thy noble name.
The Muse's awful art,
And the blest function of the poet's tongue,
Ne'er shalt thou blush to honour; to assert
From all that scorned vice or slavish fear hath sung.
Nor shall the blandishment of Tuscan strings
Warbling at will in pleasure's myrtle bower;
Nor shall the servile notes to Celtic kings
By flattering minstrels paid in evil hour,
Move thee to spurn the heavenly Muse's reign.
A different strain,
And other themes
From her prophetic shades and hallow'd streams
(Thou well can'st witness) meet the purged ear:
Such, as when Greece to her immortal shell
Rejoicing listen'd, godlike sounds to hear;
To hear the sweet instructress tell
(While men and heroes throng'd around)
How life its noblest use may find,
How well for freedom be resign'd;
And how, by glory, virtue shall be crown'd.
Such was the Chian father's strain
To many a kind domestic train,
Whose pious hearth and genial bowl
Had chear'd the reverend pilgrim's soul:
When, every hospitable rite
With equal bounty to requite,
He struck his magic strings;
And pour'd spontaneous numbers forth,
And seiz'd their ears with tales of ancient worth,
And fill'd their musing hearts with vast heroic things.
Now oft, where happy spirits dwell,
Where yet he tunes his charming shell,
Oft near him, with applauding hands,
The genius of his country stands.
To listening gods he makes him known,
That man divine, by whom were sown
The seeds of Grecian fame:
Who first the race with freedom fir'd;
From whom Lycurgus Sparta's sons inspir'd;
From whom Platæan palms and Cyprian trophies came.
O noblest, happiest age!
When Aristides rul'd, and Cimon fought;
When all the generous fruits of Homer's page
Exulting Pindar saw to full perfection bought.
O Pindar, oft shalt thou be hail'd of me:
Not that Apollo fed thee from his shrine;
Not that thy lips drank sweetness from the bee;
Nor yet that, studious of thy notes divine,
Pan danc'd their measure with the sylvan throng:
But that thy song
Was proud to unfold
What thy base rulers trembled to behold;
Amid corrupted Thebes was proud to tell
The deeds of Athens and the Persian shame:
Hence on thy head their impious vengeance fell.
But thou, o faithful to thy fame,
The Muse's law did'st rightly know;
That who would animate his lays,
And other minds to virtue raise,
Must feel his own with all her spirit glow.
Are there, approv'd of later times,
Whose verse adorn'd a tyrant's crimes?
Who saw majestic Rome betray'd,
And lent the imperial ruffian aid?
Alas! not one polluted bard,
No, not the strains that Mincius heard,
Or Tibur's hills reply'd,
Dare to the Muse's ear aspire;
Save that, instructed by the Grecian lyre,
With freedom's ancient notes their shameful task they hide.
Mark, how the dread Pantheon stands,
Amid the domes of modern hands:
Amid the toys of idle state,
How simply, how severely great!
Then turn, and, while each western clime
Presents her tuneful sons to Time,
So mark thou Milton's name;
And add, "Thus differs from the throng
"The spirit which inform'd thy awful song,
Which bade thy potent voice protect thy country's fame."
Yet hence barbaric zeal
His memory with unholy rage pursues;
While from these arduous cares of public weal
She bids each bard begone, and rest him with his Muse.
O fool! to think the man, whose ample mind
Must grasp at all that yonder stars survey;
Must join the noblest forms of every kind,
The world's most perfect image to display,
Can e'er his country's majesty behold,
Unmov'd or cold!
O fool! to deem
That he, whose thought must visit every theme,
Whose heart must every strong emotion know
Inspir'd by nature, or by fortune taught;
That he, if haply some presumptuous foe,
With false ignoble science fraught,
Shall spurn at freedom's faithful band;
That he their dear defence will shun,
Or hide their glories from the sun,
Or deal their vengeance with a woman's hand!
I care not that in Arno's plain,
Or on the sportive banks of Seine,
From public themes the Muse's quire
Content with polish'd ease retire.
Where priests the studious head command,
Where tyrants bow the warlike hand
To vile ambition's aim,
Say, what can public themes afford,
Save venal honors to an hateful lord,
Reserv'd for angry heaven and scorn'd of honest fame?
But here, where freedom's equal throne
To all her valiant sons is known;
Where all are conscious of her cares,
And each the power, that rules him, shares;
Here let the bard, whose dastard tongue
Leaves public arguments unsung,
Bid public praise farewell:
Let him to fitter climes remove,
Far from the hero's and the patriot's love,
And lull mysterious monks to slumber in their cell.
O Hastings, not to all
Can ruling heaven the same endowments lend:
Yet still doth nature to her offspring call,
That to one general weal their different powers they bend,
Unenvious. Thus alone, though strains divine
Inform the bosom of the Muse's son;
Though with new honors the patrician's line
Advance from age to age; yet thus alone
They win the suffrage of impartial fame.
The poet's name
He best shall prove,
Whose lays the soul with noblest passions move.
But thee, o progeny of heroes old,
Thee to severer toils thy fate requires:
The fate which form'd thee in a chosen mould,
The grateful country of thy sires,
Thee to sublimer paths demand;
Sublimer than thy sires could trace,
Or thy own Edward teach his race,
Though Gaul's proud genius sank beneath his hand.
From rich domains and subject farms,
They led the rustic youth to arms;
And kings their stern atchievements fear'd;
While private strife their banners rear'd.
But loftier scenes to thee are shown,
Where empire's wide-establish'd throne
No private master fills:
Where, long foretold, the People reigns:
Where each a vassal's humble heart disdains;
And judgeth what he sees; and, as he judgeth, wills.
Here be it thine to calm and guide
The swelling democratic tide;
To watch the state's uncertain frame,
And baffle faction's partial aim:
But chiefly, with determin'd zeal,
To quell that servile band, who kneel
To freedom's banish'd foes;
That monster, which is daily found
Expert and bold thy country's peace to wound;
Yet dreads to handle arms, nor manly counsel knows.
'Tis highest heaven's command,
That guilty aims should sordid paths pursue;
That what ensnares the heart should maim the hand,
And virtue's worthless foes be false to glory too.
But look on freedom. see, through every age,
What labours, perils, griefs, hath she disdain'd!
What arms, what regal pride, what priestly rage,
Have her dread offspring conquer'd or sustain'd!
For Albion well have conquer'd. Let the strains
Of happy swains,
Which now resound
Where Scarsdale's cliffs the swelling pastures bound,
Bear witness. there, oft let the farmer hail
The sacred orchard which imbowers his gate,
And shew to strangers passing down the vale,
Where Candish, Booth, and Osborne sate;
When bursting from their country's chain,
Even in the midst of deadly harms,
Of papal snares and lawless arms,
They plann'd for freedom this her noblest reign.
This reign, these laws, this public care,
Which Nassau gave us all to share,
Had ne'er adorn'd the English name,
Could fear have silenc'd freedom's claim.
But fear in vain attempts to bind
Those lofty efforts of the mind
Which social good inspires;
Where men, for this, assault a throne,
Each adds the common welfare to his own;
And each unconquer'd heart the strength of all acquires.
Say, was it thus, when late we view'd
Our fields in civil blood imbru'd?
When fortune crown'd the barbarous host,
And half the astonish'd isle was lost?
Did one of all that vaunting train,
Who dare affront a peaceful reign,
Durst one in arms appear?
Durst one in counsels pledge his life?
Stake his luxurious fortunes in the strife?
Or lend his boasted name his vagrant friends to chear?
Yet, Hastings, these are they
Who challenge to themselves thy country's love;
The true; the constant: who alone can weigh,
What glory should demand, or liberty approve!
But let their works declare them. Thy free powers,
The generous powers of thy prevailing mind,
Not for the tasks of their confederate hours,
Lewd brawls and lurking slander, were design'd.
Be thou thy own approver. Honest praise
Oft nobly sways
But, sought from cowards and the lying mouth,
Praise is reproach. Eternal God alone
For mortals fixeth that sublime award.
He, from the faithful records of his throne,
Bids the historian and the bard
Dispose of honor and of scorn;
Discern the patriot from the slave;
And write the good, the wise, the brave,
For lessons to the multitude unborn.
Last updated January 14, 2019