« AnkstesnisTęsti »
FROM AN ODE ON THE POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS OF THE
HIGHLANDS; CONSIDERED AS THE SUBJECT OF POETRY.
ADDRESSED TO MR. JOHN HOME.
THESE, too, thou 'lt sing! for well thy magic muse
Can to the topmost heaven of grandeur soar;
Or stoop to wail the swain that is no more!
Ah, homely swains! your homeward steps ne'er lose;
Let not dank Will* mislead you to the heath;
Dancing in murky night, o'er fen and lake,
He glows to draw you downward to your death,
In his bewitch'd, low, marshy, willow brake!
What though far off, from some dark dell espied
His glimmering mazes cheer the excursive sight,
Yet turn, ye wanderers, turn your steps aside,
Nor trust the guidance of that faithless light:
For watchful, lurking. mid th' unrustling reed,
At those murk hours the wily monster lies,
And listens oft to hear the passing steed,
And frequent round him rolls his sullen eyes, If chance his savage wrath may some weak wretch surprise.
Ah, luckless swain, o'er all unbless'd, indeed!
Whom late bewilder'd in the dank, dark, fen,
Far from his flocks, and smoking hamlet, then!
To that sad spot where hums the sedgy weed:
On him, enrag'd, the fiend, in angry mood,
Shall never look with Pity's kind concern,
But instant, furious, raise the whelming flood
O'er its drown'd banks, forbidding all return!
Or if he meditate his wish'd escape,
To some dim hill, that seems uprising near,
To his faint eye, the grim and grisly shape,
In all its terrors clad, shall wild appear.
Meantime the watery surge shall round him rise,
Pour'd sudden forth from every swelling source!
What now remains but tears and hopeless sighs?
His fear-shook limbs have lost their youthful force,
And down the waves he floats, a pale and breathless corse!
For him in vain his anxious wife shall wait,
Or wander forth to meet him on his way!
For him in vain at to-fall of the day,
His babes shall linger at th' unclosing gate!
Ah, ne'er shall he return! alone, if night
* A fiery meteor, called by various names, such as Will with the Wisp, Jack with the Lantern, &c. It hovers in the air over marshy and fenny places.
Her travell'd limbs in broken slumbers steep!
With drooping willows dress'd, his mournful sprite
Shall visit sad, perchance, her silent sleep:
Then he, perhaps, with moist and watery hand
Shall fondly seem to press her shuddering cheek,
And with his blue swoln face before her stand,
And shivering cold these piteous accents speak:
"Pursue, dear wife, thy daily toils pursue,
At dawn or dusk, industrious as before;
Nor e'er of me one helpless thought renew,
While I lie weltering on the osier'd shore,
Drown'd by the Kelpie's* wrath, nor e'er shall aid thee more!'
Unbounded is thy range; with varied skill
Thy muse may, like those feathery tribes which spring
From their rude rocks, extend her skirting wing
Round the moist marge of each cold Hebrid isle,
To that hoar pilet which still its ruins shows;
n whose small vaults a pigmy-folk is found,
Whose bones the delver with his spade upthrows,
And culls them, wondering, from the hallow'd ground!
Or thither, where beneath the showery west,
The mighty kings of three fair realms are laid;
Once foes, perhaps, together now they rest,
No slaves revere them, and no wars invade :
Yet frequent now, at midnight solemn hour,
The rifted mounds their yawning cells unfold,
And forth the monarchs stalk with sovereign power,
In pageant robes, and wreath'd with sheeny gold,
And on their twilight tombs aërial council hold.
But, oh! o'er all, forget not Kilda's race,
On whose bleak rocks, which brave the wasting tides,
Fair Nature's daughter, Virtue, yet abides.
Go! just, as they, their blameless manners trace!
Then to my ear transmit some gentle song,
Of those whose lives are yet sincere and plain,
Their bounded walks the rugged cliffs along,
And all their prospect but the wintry main.
With sparing temperance, at the needful time,
They drain the scented spring: or, hunger-press'd,
Along th' Atlantic rock, undreading climb,
And of its eggs despoil the solan's nest.||
One of the Hebrides is called the Isle of Pigmies; it is reported, that several miniature bones of the human species have been dug up in the ruins of a chapel there.
Icolmkill, one of the Hebrides, where near sixty of the ancient Scottish, Irish, and Norwegian kings are interred.
Thus, blest in primal innocence they live, Suffic'd and happy with that frugal fare
Which tasteful toil and hourly danger give: Hard is their shallow soil, and bleak and bare;
Nor ever vernal bee was heard to murmur there!
Nor need'st thou blush that such false themes engage
Thy gentle mind, of fairer stores possess'd;
For not alone they touch the village breast,
But fill'd, in elder time, the historic page.
There, Shakspeare's self, with every garland crown'd, Flew to those fairy climes his fancy sheen,
In musing hour, his wayward sisters found,
And with their terrors dress'd the magic scene.
From them he sung, when mid his bold design,
Before the Scot, afflicted, and aghast!
The shadowy kings of Banq.o's fated line
Through the dark cave in gleamy pageant pass'd.
Proceed! nor quit the tales which, simply told,
Could once so well my answering bosom pierce;
Proceed, in forceful sounds, and colour bold,
The native legends of thy land rehearse;
To such adapt thy lyre, and suit thy powerful verse.
In scenes like these, which, daring to depart
From sober truth, are still to nature true,
And call forth fresh delight to fancy's view,
Th' heroic muse employ'd her Tasso's heart!
How have I trembled, when, a tTancred's stroke,
Its gushing blood the gaping cypress pour'd!
When each live plant with mortal accents spoke,
And the wild blast upheav'd the vanish'd sword?
How have I sat, when pip'd the pensive wind,
To hear his harp by British Fairfax strung!
Prevailing poet! whose undoubting mind
Believ'd the magic wonders which he sung;
Hence, at each sound, imagination glows!
Hence, at each picture, vivid life starts here!
Hence his warm lay with softest sweetness flows!
Melting it flows, pure, murmuring, strong, and clear,
And fills th' impassion'd heart, and wins the harmonious ear!
AKENSIDE was educated at the University of Edinburgh with the view of becoming a dissenting minister, but after
wards exchanged the study of theology for that of medicine. At the age of twenty-three he published the Pleasures of the Imagination, which conferred upon him at once a high reputation as a poet. In 1748 he established himself at London as a physician, and was assisted during the early and difficult part of his career with unexampled generosity by his friend Mr. Dyson, with an allowance of three hundred pounds a year. His reputation and practice continued to increase till his death, which took place in the 49th year of his age.
Akenside's poem is apparently the production of a mind well stored with philosophy and imagery collected from books, but possessing little acuteness, pathos, or originality of thought, and not accustomed to the observation of nature. Hence it is artificial and declamatory in its character. It has very little depth or tenderness of feeling, and its poetry rarely takes hold on the heart.
Both the thoughts and style are stately and imposing, but the former are too apt to degenerate into bombast, and the latter becomes superfluous in its pomp of expression.
His versification is regular and harmonious, his morality dignified, though rather cold, and his descriptions of the operations of genius, and of the intellectual abstract qualities, are beautiful.
"The sweetness which we miss in Akenside is that which should arise from the direct representations of life and its warm realities and affections. We seem to pass in his poem through a gallery of pictured abstractions rather than of pictured things. He reminds us of odours which we enjoy artificially extracted from the flower, instead of inhaling them from its natural blossom.
"In treating of novelty he is rather more descriptive; we have the youth breaking from domestic endearments in quest of knowledge, the sage over his midnight lamp, the virgin at her romance, and the village matron relating her stories of witchcraft. Short and compressed as these sketches are, they are still beautiful glimpses of reality, and it is expressly from observing the relief which they afford to his didactic and declamatory passages, that we are led to wish that he had appealed more frequently to examples from nature."
THE ATTRACTIONS OF NOVELTY.
CALL now to mind what high capacious powers
Lie folded up in man; how far beyond
The praise of mortals, may th' eternal growth
Of nature to perfection half divine,
Expand the blooming soul? What pity then
Should sloth's unkindly fogs depress to earth
Her tender blossom, choke the streams of life,
And blast her spring! Far otherwise design'd
Almighty wisdom: Nature's happy cares
Th' obedient heart far otherwise incline.
Witness the sprightly joy when aught unknown
Strikes the quick sense, and wakes each active power
To brisker measures: witness the neglect
Of all familiar prospects though beheld
With transport once; the fond attentive gaze
Of young astonishment; the sober zeal
Of age, commenting on prodigious things.
For such the bounteous providence of Heaven,
In every breast implanting this desire
Of objects new and strange, to urge us on
With unremitted labour to pursue
Those sacred stores that wait the ripening soul,
In truth's exhaustless bosom. What need words
To paint its power? For this the daring youth
Breaks from his weeping mother's anxious arms,
In foreign climes to rove: the pensive sage,
Heedless of sleep, or midnight's harmful damp,
Hangs o'er the sickly taper: and untir'd
The virgin follows, with enchanted step,
The mazes of some wild and wondrous tale,
From morn till eve; unmindful of her form,
Unmindful of the happy dress that stole
The wishes of the youth, when every maid
With envy pin'd. Hence finally, by night,
The village matron round the blazing hearth
Suspends the infant audience with her tales,
Breathing astonishment! of witching rhymes,
And evil spirits; of the death-bed call
Of him who robb'd the widow, and devour'd
The orphan's portion; of unquiet souls
Risen from the grave to ease the heavy guilt
Of deeds in life conceal'd: of shapes that walk
At dead of night, and clank their chains, and wave
The torch of hell around the murderer's bed.
At every solemn pause the crowd recoil,
Gazing each other speechless, and congeal'd
With shivering sighs: till eager for th' event,
Around the beldame all erect they hang;
Each trembling heart with grateful terrors quell'd.
PLEASURES OF A CULTIVATED IMAGINATION.
OH! blest of Heave'n, whom not the languid songs Of luxury, the siren! not the bribes
Of sordid wealth, nor all the gaudy spoils