The Quest of the Muse No. 1

Miss Porden

My bill is paid — and now I’d fain
Mount my fleet steed, and off again
But with the Muse he too is gone
Tho’ she’d a filly of her own.
Oh monstrous! the conceited fair,
Vows that she now will drive a pair!
And the next Melo Dram that’s plann’d
I dread to see her four in hand.

Oh! my lost steed, though were a creature
Unmatch’d in motion, strength and feature
The fairest that in years of yore
Thy Mother Fancy ever bore — 
Oh never tired, with easy motion
He flew alike o’er earth and ocean
Would skip along the rockiest coast — 
O’er Afric’s sands or Zembla’s frost.
Where peaks ascend and tempests rule
When surer than the dumbest mule
And tho’ he ever loved to eat
Ne’er cast me yet a doit for meat

His food was smiles and kindly looks
The murmur of the running brooks
Soft music’s sound and smell of books
No Peri ever lived more spare
Than this fleet “courser of the air”
And when I’d bid him go to rest
His stable was some eagle’s nest
Above this grossed world of ours
In his bright mother’s air-built towers.

Oh! what a change! I well may rail
Thus wedge within a Dover mail
Mid lap dogs, lobsters, bonnets, laces
Onions and garlic — sad my case is
With would-be gentry, would-be graces
Rattling away o’er mud and stones
In instant dread of broken bones
Yet as along we gaily dance
How different is this swift advance
From Tortoise Diligence of France.

Well I’m in London once again
To make another quest in vain,
Perchance amid the Elgin Marbles
Their praise my truant Damsel warbles.
Or weeps o’er broken legs and arms
O’er fragments of unrivall’d charms
And wishes she could breath a strain
Might give each perfect form a gain
What tho’ in France they bid defiance
Here she may form a league with science
Admire the Emerald’s green or gaze
Upon the Diamond’s lucid blaze.
Or wonder at the unrivall’d stores
Of metals in their richest ores
Not Fancy brighter hues has won
From the rich rainbows of the sun — 
Nor beam the gems with lovelier light
Tho’ here those genuine gems invite.
Oh! I could gaze and age — to view
Each curious form, each brilliant hue
Mark Nature’s frolics when she forms,
Her crystal walls round flies and worms
Rain drops impound — like pigs in trouble
And tipsy crystals that see double

Upstairs mid bronzes — medals, vases
Below, with mummies in their cases
Or Alligators, who have got
With man a century’s wear — dry rot.

I seek my muse, and sooth to tell,
Find many a muse I fancy well;
Many that seem in marble warm,
Many beneath a poet’s arm,
And many smiling as I pop
Where books weigh’d down the groaning shop.
For heavy books in days of old
Were evils — now they’re traps for gold
And judges well know how to state
Their solid matter by their weight.

Yes, in each shop, in every street
I muses by the hundred meet
But, woe the day! they’re not my own
Tho’ while I speak like her they’re flown

I’m near methinks, I’ll stop to view
The mighty bridge of Waterloo — 
Oh Seine — thou muddy gutter, hide
The pygmy things that span thy tide
Boast them no more — together thrown
They match no this vast mass of stone.

Enraptured on the arch I stood
And gazed upon the living flood
That foamed around a thousand oars
And murmured on its busy shores.

But lo! I’m lifted from the ground
I hang above the gulf profound
I’m borne, as in some dream of flight
Up to a building glittering white
Or where the partial blackness thrown
Gives depth and grandeur to the stone
I soar above a spacious square
It is the Louvre I declare!
No hush — thy recreant to thy land
The Louvre is not half so grand
Now thro’ an open sash I press
(The window’s dirty, I confess)
But oh within, are figures fraught
With life — can marble thus be wrought?
Pygmalion come — thy secret give — 
Alas! I only think they live
See Hebe, with a mortal face
But sprightly, fraught with youthful grace
And there’s a muse — but ah I see
No English Muse — no muse for me
However light, however fair
An English heart wants something there
And turns as to its home — to trace
Yon mother with her infant race
With that best book to mortals given
Training their dutious minds for heaven.

Those sisters in youth’s halcyon hours
Cropped like their own pale drooping flowers
So soft, so tranquil seems their sleep
Affection long mught watch and weep
To see those cherish’d eyes awake
But ’tis a trance they cannot break.

Satan avaunt! I’d rather be
Yon vulture’s prey, than look at thee
His noble air, his lightening eyes
Bespeak the avenger of the skies
How deep his beak, his claws, would strike thee
Thou’rt low indeed if this be like thee

Whoe’er thou art — presiding power
Who spurs’t me onward at this hour — 
Have mercy, both by land and sea
Think of my toils — an dset me free
See on the dirty stairs I drop,
Another flight; ah! let me stop — 
Hurra! Hurra! I’ve reached the top

How large the room, how bright the glare
Portraits, originals — how fair — 
But hush! I cannot now explore
Or India’s hills, or Afric’s shore
I care not for Queen Catherine’s tears
Nor Carthiginian shame and fears
Here are a thousand things to claim
The eye of taste, the voice of fame
But I am hurried down again
Amid a gay and thoughtless train
Oh! wondrous — See from mighty Rome
Her proudest works of sculpture come
Or rather like some image clear
Show their pure forms reflected here

Behold that lovely virgin band
That touch their harps with skilful hand
Of graceful form, of stature tall
I seem to know and love them all
While from each sacred harp is thrown
A lofty and a varied tone
Yet each how well, how dearly known!
Yes notes like these so soft so clear
My Muse oft sung in Fancy’s ear
Oft when my heart was sad and low
Sent grace and softness to my woe
Taught sense and lofty strain — and wit
With keen yet harmless darts to hit.
My Muse is here — I clearly see
Yet which of these fair maid is she?
No matter — for I love, respect
Them all and could not one reject
Since all by turns have lent me aid
I bow to each celestial maid
Well pleased to find my journey done
And hail Nine friends instead of one.

Ye Attic Nymphs your polish’d sandals brace
Braid your bright hair, and gird you for the race
Once more distinguish’d by celestial aid
Again I challenge every tuneful maid
When next our guardian’s careful hand unlocks
The sacred depths of yon mysterious box
Then be our strife — then let each lyre resound
While tapers gleam and perfumes breathe around
Then with your rival equal honours share
Or doubly win the laurels that ye wear.