The Quest of the Muse

Mr Elliott

By her forsaken Admirer
Fragment of Canto 128

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“Where shall I next my lonely wanderings guide?
Muse, dost thou sail on Niger’s mystic tide,
And shall we hail thy bark on Congo’s coast,
Or mourn thee in Wangara’s marshes lost?
Guidest thou in yon lone isle Napoleon’s pen
To write his story — greatest, least, of Men!
Or in remoter Tonga dost thou frame
Tales of a kindred Chief, tho’ less in pow’r and fame?
Say, dost thou brood o’er Chimborazo’s steep,
Or lend thy fires to thaw the Arctic Deep?
To thaw the Arctic deep! poetic thought!
Have I at length thy inspiration caught?
And shall my soul once more to extacy be wrought?”
Thus mused th’enraptured Youth, then took his way
To where the ready ships at anchor lay.
Right glad was he Augusta’s walls to quit,
Where, seeking for his Muse, he’d almost his wit,
There had he rambled after many a Muse,
(A name all worship and the most abuse)
Once bowed he to a gauze-deck’d flow’r-crown’d fay
Who stole with matchless grace his heart away;
Taught him from night to morn to thread the Dance
And shine the first in Quadrilles from France,
Yet she, when all her highest spells were sped,
Could but the heels inform, and not the head.
Next to a Syren sweet he gave his soul,
And strove to write ’neath Music’s soft control
Yet all in vain his every sense was thrilled,
In vain his ear with modulations filled;
Too much she gave to dull mechanic art,
Too much she softened and unnerved the heart.
’Mid modern Bards he sought his Muse in vain,
With them far different pow’rs inspired the strain:
Ambition — Avarice — tempted these to write;
Those rhymed from vanity — and those from spite.
He since his sentient pow’rs began to wake
Had loved the Goddess for her own dear sake — 
Blest in each passion’d throb the heart that moves,
Thrice blest to warble to the winds their loves.
  And much he joyed when now the merry gales
Swelled out the Arctic Expedition’s sails.

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[Hiatus in M.S. — not to be supplied till the Author has learned how much of the voyage and its adventures will be sung in better verse than his by the ingenious and venerable Mistress E.A.P., and what materials for his historical illustrations may be afforded by the S. to the A — y in his next Arctic Article. The description is now resumed at a period when the ship had long beaten about in the great Polar Basin beyond the ice.]

Thus held they on their dread-environed way
Till well-nigh spent the one long polar day;
And vainly sighed e’en for an iceberg’s coast,
In that drear sea so long had they been lost.
No compass there could guide their way aright,
Dense fogs had almost turned their day to night,
And pow’rless now their desperate course they wound
About the approaching pole in dizzy round.
See to their doubling speed — dread cause of fear!
Hark to the roar that swells upon their ear!
All to the ship in speechless terror clung
As that wild deafening roar their requiem sung,
A dire abyss now yawns where surge on surge
Down the steep gulf the whirling vessel urge;
To stupor stunn’d by this so strange a fate,
Voiceless they sink beneath the whelming whirlpool’s weight.

How fares our Poet in this awful hour?
From death preserved by some superior pow’r,
Yet ‘twas not his to trace the wondrous road,
Through wild Marino’s bounds, Albruno’s dark abode,
And Pyro’s shining court, which strangely past,
From old Vesuvius’ mouth he’s safely cast.
Long-exiled consciousness regained her home
Beneath the laurel shade that waves o’er Virgil’s tomb,
And stood confest, as in a favorite shrine,
Before his opening eyes the Muse divine
Turned every sense to ear, while from her tongue
In silver tones these gentle accents rung.

“Loved Son! thy painful perilous search is past,
Thy once propitious Muse behold at last!
I saved thee in the Polar Vortex — threw
A safeguard round thee while the water flew
Far in earth’s labyrinth, where her might stores
Of unborn earths lie in metallic ores,
And rose combustion’s elemental war
Which three thee forth at length to upper air.
Then let these cares attest my constant love,
For thou ungrateful, disobedient, prove — 
Pour not thy invocations on my ear,
Leave me to watch with undivided care
O’er one in whom my tuneful soul delights,
Who ought to charm the world by every line she writes.
 Cease then from me inspiring aid to claim,
 To Ellen leave the path of tuneful fame,
 And the admiring world shall ring with Ellen’s Name.”

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