On the Study of Ancient Architecture, Sculpture & Painting

Communicated by Mr Flaxman

Though oft in Britain’s isle the breaking bust
To fame consign the patriot hero’s dust,
And conquerors wakéd to mimic life again,
In imag’d triumph thunder o’er the main;
Though speaks each mould, by Flaxman’s genius wrought,
The strong-mark’d energies of labouring thought,
And grace obeys fair dancers soft control,
Though many a varied lineament of soul;
Yet oh! unlike each nobler Grecian form,
With strength majestic, or with beauty warm,
Where all her mingling charms expression pour’d,
Admir’d by valour, or by love ador’d.

Lo where retiring Venus meets the eye,
And beauty vies with bashful modesty!
There mortal charms in loveliest union shine,
And all the Goddess crowns the bright design!
Thou too, half hid beneath thy dripping veil
Of many a moisten’d tress Urania hail!
To thee that dubious mien the sculptor gave,
Fearing the shore, though drinking from the wave.
Or see where graceful bending o’er his bow,
The quiver’d God’s exulting features glow,
As trusting to his arm’s unerring might,
His look pursues the distant arrow’s flight.
But shut, oh! shut the eye, where mid yon fold
Of crested snakes Laocoon writhes enroll’d,
And drinks with tortur’d ear his children’s cries,
Embittering death’s convulsive agonies!

Rise, slumbering Genius, and with throbbing heart
Adore these trophies of unrival’d art,
Till each fine grace, that gifted masters knew,
In fairy vision floating o’er the view,
Perfection crown once more the living stone,
And Britain claim a Phidias of her own!

Not such the hopes that bless th’ enthusiast’s dream,
As sad it wanders o’er each faded gleam,
That dimly shews to painting’s Muse was given
The sevenfold radiance of refulgent heaven,
When genius stole the colours of the sun,
And pour’d them o’er the wreath of valour won.

Then turn the eye, where spinning time’s control,
Art stamps in stone the triumphs of the soul.
With trembling awe survey each hallow’d fane,
Ennobling Greece mid desolation’s reign,
Each pillar’d portico and swelling dome,
Proud o’er the prostrate majesty of Rome!
While o’er the scene each mouldering temple throws
Sacred to genius, undisturb’d repose.
 Through twilight’s doubtful gloom his eye shall trace
 The column’s height, enwreath’d with clustering grace,
 The light-arch’d roof, the portal stretching wide,
 Triumphant monuments in armed pride.
Till bold conceptions bursting on his heart,
His skill shall grasp the inmost soul of art,
And Fame’s green isle her cloud-capt towers display,
Where grace & grandeur rule with equal sway.