The Progress of Sculpture

Miss Appleton

The god-like act to pound the marble form,
And wrest life’s semblance from Time’s cank’ring worm
T’embody Fancy; stamp on Vision, Fame;
Be this the theme, for Heav’n first taught the same.

“Image of Us, we make!” th’ Almighty said —
He spoke, and man lay sculptur’d in his bed —
Stiff, clay-bound, mute; inanimate and cold,
The fine-wrought statue pass’d its heav’nly mould.
The work was good. The Word, and God proceed;
Life stirs in breath; and the lock’d limb is freed —
That which was cold is warm — the image springs,
Moves, looks, and smiles unutterable things —
A smooth, strong current plays through every vein,
And what was torpid throbs to joy or pain.

Thus Man remain’d — His model pass’d away;
But sacred legends told the work and day,
In after-age, to rouse the panting mind,
To tempt rude essays and leave words behind;
So grew the work, and strengthened to an act,
Sculpture was born, and learned of Taste her part,
Laugh’d on the breast of Fame, and flung at Time a dart.

Thus sprang the Maid, when wild and young
She dwelt with Judah’s lofty pride;
But impious thoughts misrul’d her tongue
And Idols her sweet from belied:

Sore was the threat, and sore the deed,
  And thousands in her errors bleed:
But mild Repentance check’d the dreadful storm,
And Moses screen’d her in the brazen emblem’s form.

Celestial Piety now kiss’d the wayward child,
Sway’d her rude course — by her sweet voice beguil’d
  To grave reserves her doctrine will’d
  She wrought the docile mind;
  Her ear with truths sublime she fill’d,
And with the mark of God her forehead signed.
  Round the Temple’s ark they stray,
  On the Mercy-seat recline;
  Spread the Cherub’s wing for play,
  Or bear the imag’d cup for wine.
Lo sweet Religion train’d the lovely maid,
Till youth bloom’d strong, and care withdrew its aid,
And Sculpture bounded free — no more by guardians sway’d.

Now vagrant hopes usurp the Maiden’s theme,
Illume her waking soul, and flutter in each dream —
  At length she held the impulse meet,
  While thought to Action grew;
  She brac’d her rosy sandal’d feet,
As round her form the graceful robe she drew —
  The veil conceal’d the ringlet’s wave,
  And screen’d the flash of her bright eye;
  Hid the arch lip carnation gave,
  And dimples too which nestled nigh —

Throughout the Nile-fed land was homage paid the Fair;
As Isis here — when veil’d, as Nature, there.
Some kiss’d the Lotus-crown she wore,
Some couch’d beneath her throne;
Or thousand imag’d tributes bore,
Of ductile gold, or adamantine stone —
  On all she gazed with placid mien,
  And told the chisel’s vent’rous way;
  Or bade the mallet boldly lean,
  To each she lent some haughty grace,
Turn’d the gigantic arm, or shaped the Sphynx-like face,
Stamped on each native work the air of Egypt-race.

(To be continued)