The Pleasures of Imagination: Book The Fourth

by Mark Akenside

Mark Akenside

One effort more, one cheerful sally more,
Our destin'd course will finish. and in peace
Then, for an offering sacred to the powers
Who lent us gracious guidance, we will then
Inscribe a monument of deathless praise,
O my adventurous song. With steady speed
Long hast thou, on an untried voyage bound,
Sail'd between earth and heaven: hast now survey'd,
Stretch'd out beneath thee, all the mazy tracts
Of passion and opinion; like a waste
Of sands and flowery lawns and tangling woods,
Where mortals roam bewilder'd: and hast now
Exulting soar'd among the worlds above,
Or hover'd near the eternal gates of heaven,
If haply the discourses of the Gods,
A curious, but an unpresuming guest,
Thou might'st partake, and carry back some strain
Of divine wisdom, lawful to repeat,
And apt to be conceiv'd of man below.
A different task remains; the secret paths
Of early genius to explore: to trace
Those haunts where Fancy her predestin'd sons,
Like to the Demigods of old, doth nurse
Remote from eyes profane. Ye happy souls
Who now her tender discipline obey,
Where dwell ye? What wild river's brink at eve
Imprint your steps? What solemn groves at noon
Use ye to visit, often breaking forth
In rapture 'mid your dilatory walk,
Or musing, as in slumber, on the green?
-Would i again were with you!-O ye dales
Of Tyne, and ye most ancient woodlands; where
Oft as the giant flood obliquely strides,
And his banks open, and his lawns extend,
Stops short the pleased traveller to view
Presiding o'er the scene some rustic tower
Founded by Norman or by Saxon hands:
O ye Northumbrian shades, which overlook
The rocky pavement and the mossy falls
Of solitary Wensbeck's limpid stream;
How gladly i recall your well-known seats
Belov'd of old, and that delightful time
When all alone, for many a summer's day,
I wander'd through your calm recesses, led
In silence by some powerful hand unseen.
Nor will i e'er forget you. nor shall e'er
The graver tasks of manhood, or the advice
Of vulgar wisdom, move me to disclaim
Those studies which possess'd me in the dawn
Of life, and fix'd the color of my mind
For every future year: whence even now
From sleep i rescue the clear hours of morn,
And, while the world around lies overwhelm'd
In idle darkness, am alive to thoughts
Of honourable fame, of truth divine
Or moral, and of minds to virtue won
By the sweet magic of harmonious verse;
The themes which now expect us. For thus far
On general habits, and on arts which grow
Spontaneous in the minds of all mankind,
Hath dwelt our argument; and how self-taught,
Though seldom conscious of their own imploy,
In nature's or in fortune's changeful scene
Men learn to judge of beauty, and acquire
Those forms set up, as idols in the soul
For love and zealous praise. Yet indistinct,
In vulgar bosoms, and unnotic'd lie
These pleasing stores, unless the casual force
Of things external prompt the heedless mind
To recognize her wealth. But some there are
Conscious of nature, and the rule which man
O'er nature holds: some who, within themselves
Retiring from the trivial scenes of chance
And momentary passion, can at will
Call up these fair exemplars of the mind;
Review their features; scan the secret laws
Which bind them to each other: and display
By forms, or sounds, or colours, to the sense
Of all the world their latent charms display:
Even as in nature's frame (if such a word,
If such a word, so bold, may from the lips
Of man proceed) as in this outward frame
Of things, the great artificer pourtrays
His own immense idea. Various names
These among mortals bear, as various signs
They use, and by peculiar organs speak
To human sense. These are who by the flight
Of air through tubes with moving stops distinct,
Or by extended chords in measure taught
To vibrate, can assemble powerful sounds
Expressing every temper of the mind
From every cause, and charming all the soul
With passion void of care. Others mean time
The rugged mass of metal, wood, or stone
Patiently taming; or with easier hand
Describing lines, and with more ample scope
Uniting colors; can to general sight
Produce those permanent and perfect forms,
Those characters of heroes and of gods,
Which from the crude materials of the world
Their own high minds created. But the chief
Are poets; eloquent men, who dwell on earth
To clothe whate'er the soul admires or loves
With language and with numbers. Hence to these
A field is open'd wide as nature's sphere;
Nay, wider: various as the sudden acts
Of human wit, and vast as the demands
Of human will. The bard nor length, nor depth,
Nor place, nor form controuls. To eyes, to ears,
To every organ of the copious mind,
He offereth all its treasures. Him the hours,
The seasons him obey: and changeful Time
Sees him at will keep measure with his flight,
At will outstrip it. To enhance his toil,
He summoneth from the uttermost extent
Of things which God hath taught him, every form
Auxiliar, every power; and all beside
Excludes imperious. His prevailing hand
Gives, to corporeal essence, life and sense
And every stately function of the soul.
The soul itself to him obsequious lies,
Like matter's passive heap; and as he wills,
To reason and affection he assigns
Their just alliances, their just degrees:
Whence his peculiar honors; whence the race
Of men who people his delightful world,
Men genuine and according to themselves,
Transcend as far the uncertain sons of earth,
As earth itself to his delightful world
The palm of spotless beauty doth resign.

Last updated January 14, 2019