The Voyage of the Muses

Miss Porden

From Helicon, ye sacred Nine descend
And to my call an ear propitious lend
Though with weak hand, I trembling touch the lyre
Though small my portion of poetic fire
Let me not ask your heavenly aid in vain
To fire my soul, and animate my strain
Yourselves I sing, when from Parnassus height
To the bright sun you steered your arduous flight
From him who rules our system, to request
His partial favour for your Attic Chest
Then let my song confess your fire divine
To meet my subject, animate my line
When Jove no longer ruled this nether world
And from their throne th’ Olympian gods were hurled
To planets turned they graced the vault of heaven
Still to revolve in measured circles given
While in each orb a guardian power presides,
And through the blue expanse its motion guides
But all the fay who rules the sun, obey
Myriads of sprites confess his sovereign sway
Some rule the varying seasons of the year
Some bid the day and some the night appear
Some mark the paths in which the comets roll
Some guide the slow rotation of the pole
One o’er the force of gravity presides
And rules the varying motions of the tides
Acts on the planets with attractive force
And regulates their oscillating course
One bids the meteors own his sovereign sway
And electricity his laws obey
The elements are to four sprites consigned
To thousand more are various tasks assigned
Of all the heathen gods, the tuneful Nine
Alone retain their ancient rank divine
Still o’er the walks of poetry command
And bid the flowers of literature expand
From other regions chased by war’s alarms
Where peace and freedom still display their charms
In Britain’s isle — they fixed their happy reign
And loved and honoured, fire each poet’s strain
With tuneful art they raise each song sublime
Fixed to withstand the envious tooth of time
On all around their valued favours shed
And crown with laurel each poetic head,
But most their tuneful influence shines confest
In all the votaries of the Attic Chest
Whene’er they wish, the favouring Nine descend
Whene’er they call, their call the Nymphs attend
Bid Genius, Learning, mould the rising line
“And all the Graces crown the bright design”
While rosy Summer makes our Isle his seat
In Groves the Nine elude his scorching heat
On Pastoral themes their heavenly Lyres employ
While natives Echoes to their strains reply
When winter comes they quit the rural plain
In London reassance their Ancient reign
And in the Attic Chest their dwelling make
Refreshed by sleep the Guardian Genii wake
While all the votaries of the sacred Chest
Shake off the shackles of inglorious rest
Prompt at their call the Nine their gifts dispense
On all around, the readings recommence
Meanwhile, the fair Pierides afraid
Lest Time should undermine the work they’d made
Swift to the Fay presiding in the sun
Thro’ the blue Ether their bright course begun
Him to propitiate, from him request
Unfading honours for their Attic Chest
That ever fresh by his binignant doom
Th’ immortal laurels of its fame might bloom
So where in Pisces now the sun appeared
Their flights the Nymphs thro’ the bright Zodiac steer’d
The Earth in Virgo quickly left behind
And to Libra thence their course inclined
The fair Urania leads the virgin band
Her golden Lyre resplendent in her hand
Which, when she strikes th’ enraptured poet hears
Or seems to hear the Music of the Spheres
Her robe was blue, and thickly spangled o’er
Like Stars the rich refulgent crown she wore
To her Calliope the next succeeds
With air majestical the Nymph proceeds
Her gold embroidered robe loose flowed behind
In graceful folds or wantoned in the wind
Twined in her golden Coronet was seen
The Bay, the Laurel with its glossy green
With Laurel eke her sacred Lyre was bound
Which when she struck would heavenly tones respond
But seldom has she given a mortal’s ear
The fulness of its magic sound to hear
The Bard who sung Laertes son renowned
And Troy’s proud walls now level with the ground
First heard the strain his emulative song
Poured like a torrent, bold energic, strong
The Mantuan next, whose ears attentive caught
The flowing richness of its softer note
The Briton last whose highly gifted mind
Their separate beauties in himself combined
Who seized his Lyre, with sacred ardour fired
And e’en to sing of heavenly themes aspired
But few besides have heard that heavenly sound
Or but a moment its blest influence found
Though the fair nymph with its harmonious note
Will sometimes bless the modern ear of Scott
With brisker step the next Erato came
And with Calliope’s her garb the same
With Myrtle mixed the bay composed her crown
Her radiant Lyre was wreathed with Bay alone
And to its varying note alike belong
The Ode sublime, or softer pastoral song,
Sometimes the sound would reach the vault of heaven
Sometimes to fill the Stygian wilds was given
Next came Melpomene the Tragic Maid,
In Cypress crown, and sable vest, arrayed;
Stately in grief, the Nymph incessant mourned,
Her Ebon Lyre a plaintive sound returned.
Buskined her feet, her zone, a dagger wore,
Her hand a masque of Tragic features bore.
Thalia next was gaily smiling seen
Her sister, but unlike in form and mien:
Wit shone resplendent in her laughing eye
With blameless Mirth, Keen Jest, and Humour sly.
Still as she went she changed her varying vest,
And in the Sock, her graceful feet were drest.
In Sprightly strains her Lyre’s gay notes would flow
Nor e’er its strings returned a sound of woe.
Her masque was gay with mingled grins and smiles
With gibing Satire and successful wiles.
Next Clio came, she, who in every age,
Guides the composer of the Historic page,
In simple garb of spotless white arrayed
With laurel crowned was seen th’ immortal maid,
In her fair hand her pen and scroll appear,
Her Lyre gave tones, harmonious, simple, clear.
Next Polyhymnia, who with pleasing art
Could tame the fierce and melt th’ obdurate heart,
Could bid the tears of genuine pity flow,
To ease the widow, or the Orphan’s woe,
Or cause the generous breast to boil with ire
O’er the cold body of the slaughtered sire
Inflame the mind with love of War’s alarms,
Or bend the stubborn heart to pleasure’s charms.
Fraught with such power, the high bequest of heaven
To her the Lyre, by Vulcan framed was given;
With plants of various kinds her Shell was bound,
With Cypress, Parsley, Oak, her head was crowned.
Last in the train those two fair Nymphs appear,
Who make the sympathy of sound their care;
Terpsichore her Lyre, Euterpe bore
Her flute, of Bay, were formed the crowns they wore.
Thus in fair order the immortal Nine
Through the bright belt described a radiant line
As when some meteor in the kindling air
Shews his bright face and shakes his burning hair
Fools portending bloody wars and woe,
And plagues and tempests to the Earth below
Thus with such Light the lovely Muses shone,
In their swift course through the celestial zone.
While on its light the wise admiring gaze
Lost in conjecture whence the wanderer strays
If from the Moon it draws its radiant birth
Or vapours rising from the heated Earth
Which mingled in the higher realms of air
Its solid mass ignited now appear.