Imágenes de páginas

to our softest affections; others again brighten the character of that state, and allure virtuous souls to pursue the divine advantage of it, the mutual assistance in the way to salvation. Are not the cxxvith and exxviiith Psalms indited on this very subject? Shall it be lawful for the press and the pulpit to treat of it with a becoming solemnity in prose, and must the mention of the same thing in poesy be pronounced for ever unlawful? Is it utterly unworthy of a serious character to write on this argument, because it has been unhappily polluted by some scurrilous pens? Why may I not be permitted to obviate a common and a growing mischief, while a thousand vile poems of the amorous kind swarm abroad, and give a vicious taint to the unwary reader? I would tell the world that I have endeavoured to recover this argument out of the hands of impure writers, and to make it appear that virtue and love are not such strangers as they are represented. The blissful intimacy of souls in that state will afford sufficient furniture for the gravest entertainment in verse; so that it need not be everlastingly dressed up in ridicule, nor assumed only to furnish out the lewd sonnets of the times. May some happier genius promote the same service that I proposed, and by superior sense, and sweeter sound, render what I have written contemptible and useless! The imitations of that noblest Latin poet of modern ages, Casimire Sarbiewski, of Poland, would need no excuse, did they but arise to the beauty of the original. I have often taken the freedom to add ten or twenty lines, or to leave out as many, that I might suit my song more to my own design, or because I saw it impossible to present the force, the fineness, and the fire of his expression in our language. There are a few copies wherein I have borrowed some hints from the same author, without the mention of his name in the title. Methinks I can allow so superior a genius now and then to be lavish in his imagination, and to indulge some excursions beyond the limits of sedate judgment: the riches and glory of his verse make atonement in abundance. I wish some English pen would import more of his treasures, and bless our nation.

The inscriptions to particular friends are warranted and defended by the practice of almost all the Lyric writers. They frequently convey the rigid rules of morality to the mind in the softer method of applause. Sustained by their example, a man will not easily be overwhelmed by the heaviest censures of the unthinking and unknowing; especially when there is a shadow of this practice in the divine Psalmist, while he inscribes to Asaph or Jeduthun his songs, that were made for the harp, or (which is all one) his Lyric odes, though they are addressed to God himself.

In the poems of heroic measure, I have attempted in rhyme the same variety of cadence, comma and period, which blank verse glories in as its peculiar elegance and ornament. It degrades the excellency of the best versification when the lines run on by couplets, twenty together, just in the same pace, and with the same pauses. It spoils the noblest pleasure of the sound: the reader is tired with the tedious uniformity, or charmed to sleep with the unmanly softness of the numbers, and the perpetual chime of even cadences.

In the essays without rhyme, I have not set up Milton for a perfect pattern; though he shall be for ever honoured as our deliverer from the bondage. His works contain admirable and unequalled instances of bright and beautiful diction, as well as majesty and sereneness of thought. There are several episodes in his longer works, that stand in supreme dignity without a rival; yet all that vast reverence, with which I read his Paradise Lost, cannot persuade me to be charmed with every page of it. The length of his periods, and sometimes of his parentheses, runs me out of breath: some of his numbers seem too harsh and uneasy. I could never believe, that roughness and obscurity added any thing to the true grandeur of a poem ; nor will I ever affect archaisms, exoticisms, and a quaint uncouthness of speech, in order to become perfectly Miltonian. It is my opinion, that blank verse may be written with all due elevation of thought in a modern style, without borrowing any thing from Chaucer's Tales, or running back so far as the days of Colin the Shepherd, and the reign of the Fairy Queen. The oddness of an antique sound gives but a false pleasure to the ear, and abuses the true relish, even when it works delight. There were some such judges of poesy ainong the old Romans; and Martial ingeniously laughs at one of them, that was pleased even to astonishment with obsolete words and figures;

Attonitusque legis terrai frugiferai.

So the ill-drawn postures and distortions of shape that we meet with in Chinese pictures charm a sickly fancy by their very awkwardness; so a distempered appetite will chew coals and sand, and pronounce it gustful.

In the Pindarics, I have generally conformed my lines to the shorter size of the ancients, and avoided to imitate the excessive lengths to which some modern writers have stretched their sentences, and espe

[ocr errors]

cially the concluding verse. In these the ear is the truest judge; nor was it made to be enslaved to any precise model of elder or later times.

After all, I must petition my reader to lay aside the sour and sullen air of criticism, and to assume the friend. Let him choose such copies to read at particular hours, when the temper of his mind is suited to the song. Let him come with a desire to be entertained and pleased, rather than to seek his own disgust and aversion; which will not be hard to find. I am not so vain as to think there are no faults, nor so blind as to espy none: though I hope the multitude of alterations in this second edition are not without amendment. There is so large a difference between this and the former, in the change of titles, lines, and whole poems, as well as in the various transpositions, that it would be useless and endless, and all confusion, for any reader to compare them throughout. The additions also make up half the book, and some of these have need of as many alterations as the former. Many a line needs the file to polish the roughness of it, and many a thought wants richer language to adorn and make it shine. Wide defects and equal superfluities may be found, especially in the larger pieces; but I have at present neither inclination nor leisure to correct, and I hope I never shall. It is one of the biggest satisfactions I take in giving this volume to the world, that I expect to be for ever free from the temptation of making or mending poems again. So that my friends may be perfectly secure against this impression's growing waste upon their hands, and useless, as the former has done. Let minds that are better furnished for such performances pursue these studies, if they are convinced that poesy can be made serviceable to religion and virtue. As for myself, I almost blush to think that I have read so little, and written so much. The following years of my life shall be more entirely devoted to the immediate and direct labours of my station, excepting those hours that may be employed in finishing my imitation of the Psalms of David, in Christian language, which I have now promised the world 7.

I cannot court the world to purchase this book for their pleasure or entertainment, by telling them that any one copy entirely pleases me. The best of them sinks below the idea which I form of a divine or moral ode. He that deals in the mysteries of Heaven, or of the Muses, should be a genius of no vulgar mould: and as the name Vates belongs to both; so the furniture of both is comprised in that line of Horace,

cui mens divinior, atque os Magna sonaturum.

But what Juvenal spake in his age, abides true in ours: A complete poet or a prophet is such a one,

Qualem nequeo monstrare, et sentio tantùm.

Perhaps neither of these characters in perfection shall ever be seen on earth, till the seventh angel has sounded his awful trumpet; till the victory be complete over the beast and his image, when the natives of Heaven shall join in concert with prophets and saints, and sing to their golden harps "salvation, honour, and glory to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever."

May 14, 1709.

6 Naturam expellas furcâ licet, usque recurret.


Will this short note of Horace excuse a man who has resisted nature many years, but has been sometimes overcome? 1736. Edition the 7th.

In the year 1719 these were finished and printed.









WHO dares attempt th' eternal Name

With notes of mortal sound?
Dangers and glories guard the theme,
And spread despair around.
Destruction waits t' obey his frown,
And Heaven attends his smile;

A wreath of lightning arms his crown,
But love adorns it still.

Celestial King, our spirits lie
Trembling beneath thy feet,
And wish, and cast a longing eye,

To reach thy lofty seat.

When shall we see the Great Unknown,
And in thy presence stand?
Reveal the splendours of thy throne,
But shield us with thy hand.
In thee what endless wonders meet!
What various glory shines!
The crossing rays too fiercely beat
Upon our fainting minds.
Angels are lost in sweet surprise

If thou unveil thy grace;

And humble awe runs through the skies,
When wrath arrays thy face.

When mercy joins with majesty
To spread their beams abroad,
Not all their fairest minds on high
Are shadows of a God.

Thy works the strongest seraph sings
In a too feeble strain,

And labours hard on all his strings,
To reach thy thoughts, in vain,

Created powers, how weak they be !
How short our praises fall!

So much akin to nothing we,
And thou th' Eternal All.


YET, mighty God, indulge my tongue,
Nor let thy thunders roar,

While the young notes and venturous song
To worlds of glory soar.

If thou my daring flight forbid,

The Muse folds-up her wings;
Or at thy word her slender reed
Attempts almighty things.

Her slender reed, inspir'd by thee,
Bids a new Eden grow,
With blooming life on every tree,
And spreads a Heaven below.
She mocks the trumpet's loud alarms,
Fill'd with thy dreadful breath;
And calls the angelic hosts to arms,

To give the nations death.

But when she tastes her Saviour's love,
And feels the rapture strong,
Scarce the divinest harp above
Aims at a sweeter song.

DIVINE JUDGMENTS. Nor from the dust my sorrows spring, Nor drop my comforts from the lower skies: Let all the baneful planets shed

Their mingled curses on my head,

How vain their curses, if th' Eternal King

Look through the clouds and bless me with his eyes!

⚫ Creatures with all their boasted sway Are but his slaves, and must obey; They wait their orders from above,

And execute his word, the vengeance, or the love.
'Tis by a warrant from his hand

The gentler gales are bound to sleep:
The north wind blusters, and assumes command
Over the desert and the deep;

Old Boreas with his freezing powers
Turns the earth iron, and makes the ocean glass,
Arrests the dancing rivulets as they pass,

And chains them moveless to their shores; The grazing ox lows to the gelid skies, Walks o'er the marble meads with withering eyes, Walks o'er the solid lakes, snuffs up the wind, and dies.

Fly to the polar world, my song,

And mourn the pilgrims there (a wretched throng!)
Seiz'd and bound in rigid chains,

A troop of statues on the Russian plains,
And life stands frozen in the purple veins.
Atheist, forbear; no more blaspheme:
God has a thousand terrours in his name,
"A thousand armies at cominand,

Waiting the signal of his hand,

And magazines of frost, and magazines of flame.
Dress thee in steel to meet his wrath;

His sharp artillery from the North


Shall pierce thee to the soul, and shake thy mortal
Sublime on Winter's rugged wings

He rides in arms along the sky,
And scatters fate on swains and kings;

And flocks and herds and nations die:
While impious lips, profanely bold,
Grow pale; and, quivering at his dreadful cold,
Give their own blasphemies the lie.
The mischiefs that infest the earth,
When the hot dog-star fires the realms on high,
Drought and disease, and cruel dearth,

Are but the flashes of a wrathful eye
From the incens'd Divinity.

In vain our parching palates thirst,

For vital food in vain we cry,

And pant for vital breath;

The verdant fields are burnt to dust,
The Sun has drunk the channels dry,

And all the air is death.

Ye scourges of our Maker's rod,

'Tis at his dread command, at his imperial nod, You deal your various plagues abroad.

Hail, whirlwinds, hurricanes, and floods,

That all the leafy standards strip,
And bear down with a mighty sweep

The riches of the fields, and honours of the woods!
Storms, that ravage o'er the deep,

And bury millions in the waves;

Earthquakes, that in midnight sleep

Turn cities into heaps, and make our beds our graves! While you dispense your mortal harms,

'Tis the Creator's voice that sounds your loud alarms, When guilt with louder cries provokes a God to arms.

O for a message from above

To bear my spirits up!

Some pledge of my Creator's love

To calm my terrours and support my hope!
Let waves and thunders mix and roar,

Be thou my God, and the whole world is mine:
While thou art Sovereign, I'm secure;

I shall be rich till thou art poor; [Hell, are thine. For all I fear, and all I wish, Heaven, Earth and


HAST thou not seen, impatient boy!
Hast thou not read the solemn truth,
That gray experience writes for giddy youth
On every mortal joy?

Pleasure must be dash'd with pain:
And yet, with heedless haste,

The thirsty boy repeats the taste,

Nor hearkens to despair, but tries the bowl again.
The rills of pleasure never run sincere,

(Earth has no unpolluted spring)

From the curs'd soil some dangerous taint they bear;
So roses grow on thorns, and honey wears a sting.
In vain we seek a Heaven below the sky;

The world has false, but flattering, charms:
Its distant joys show big in our esteem,
But lessen still as they draw near the eye;
In our embrace the visions die,
And when we grasp the airy forms
We lose the pleasing dream.
Earth, with her scenes of gay delight,
Is but a landscape rudely drawn,
With glaring colours, and false light;
Distance commends it to the sight,

For fools to gaze upon;

But bring the nauseous daubing nigh,
Coarse and confus'd the hideous figures lie,
Dissolve the pleasure, and offend the eye.

Look up, my soul, pant tow'rd th' eternal hills;
Those Heavens are fairer than they seem;
There pleasures all sincere glide on in crystal rills,
There not a dreg of guilt defiles,

Nor grief disturbs the stream.

That Canaan knows no noxious thing,
No cursed soil, no tainted spring,

Nor roses grow on thorns, nor honey wears a sting.


No: 'tis in vain to seek for bliss;
For bliss can ne'er be found
Till we arrive where Jesus is,

And tread on heavenly ground.

There's nothing round these painted skies,
Or round this dusty clod;
Nothing, my soul, that's worth thy joys,
Or lovely as thy God.

'Tis Heaven on Earth to taste his love,
To feel his quickening grace;
And all the Heaven I hope above
Is but to see his face.

Why move my years in slow delay?
O God of ages! why?

Let the spheres cleave, and mark my way
To the superior sky.

Dear Sovereign, break these vital strings
That bind me to my clay;
Take me, Uriel, on thy wings,
And stretch and soar away.


KEEP silence, all created things,

And wait your Maker's nod:

The Muse stands trembling while she sings
The honours of her God.

Life, Death, and Hell, and worlds unknown
Hang on his firm decree:
He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be.

Th' Almighty voice bid ancient Night
Her endless realms resign,
And lo, ten thousand globes of light
In fields of azure shine.

Now Wisdom with superior sway

Guides the vast moving frame, While all the ranks of being pay

Deep reverence to his name.

He spake; the Sun obedient stood,
And held the falling day:

Old Jordan backward drives his flood,
And disappoints the sea.

Lord of the armies of the sky,

He marshals all the stars;
Red comets lift their banners high,
And wide proclaim his wars.

Chain'd to his throne a volume lies,
With all the fates of men,
With ev'ry angel's form and size
Drawn by th' eternal pen.
His providence unfolds the book,

And makes his counsels shine:
Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Fulfils some deep design.
Here he exalts neglected worms
To sceptres and a crown;
Anon the following page he turns,
And treads the monarch down.

Not Gabriel asks the reason why,
Nor God the reason gives;
Nor dares the favourite-angel pry
Between the folded leaves.
My God, I never long'd to see
My fate with curious eyes,
What gloomy lines are writ for me,
Or what bright scenes shall rise.
In thy fair book of Life and Grace
May I but find my name
Recorded in some humble place,
Beneath my Lord the Lamb!

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

From thy Great Self thy being springs;
Thou art thine own original,
of uncreated things,

And Self-sufficience bears them all.

Thy voice produc'd the seas and spheres,
Bid the waves roar, and planets shine;
But nothing like thy Self appears,
Through all these spacious works of thine.

Still restless Nature dies and grows;

From change to change the creatures run:
Thy being no succession knows,
And all thy vast designs are one:

A glance of thine runs through the globes,
Rules the bright worlds, and moves their frame;
Broad sheets of light compose thy robes;
Thy guards are form'd of living flame.

Thrones and dominions round thee fall,
And worship in submissive forms;
Thy presence shakes this lower ball,
This little dwelling-place of worms.

How shall affrighted mortals dare
To sing thy glory or thy grace,
Beneath thy feet we lie so far,
And see but shadows of thy face?

Who can behold the blazing light?
Who can approach consuming flame?
None but thy wisdom knows thy might;
None but thy word can speak thy name.

« AnteriorContinuar »