Say Love, what master shows thy art,
That sweet improver of mankind,
Which warms with sentiment the heart,
With information hones the mind?
Whence does the soul, disdaining Earth,
To ether wing its ardent way?
Who gives the bold expression birth
That all its images convey?
’Tis not to Greece’s learned soil
The world this happy culture owes
Which not from Aristotle’s tail,
Nor yet from Plato’s fancy flows.
Apollo and the tuneful Nine,
Attempt the envied song in vain;
Their numbers are not so divine,
As is the lover’s tender strain!
Scholastic art, the Muses’ lyres,
In vain their privileges boast;
The love breathes a purer fire;
He sings the best who feels the most.
No pow’r alone, and none below,
But thou, O love! can thee express;
To thee, thy sentiments we owe,
To thee, we owe their glowing dress.
Thou can’st refine the simple breast,
And to a poet raise a swain,
His humble soul, by thee impress’d,
Assumes a warm exalted strain.
His manners take a nobler turn;
His inspiration we descry;
Upon his cheek we see it burn,
And speak, in lightning from his eye.
With such a new, ideal store
Thy dictates fill the rustic mind,
Such oratory shepherds pour,
They leave a Cicero far behind.
Nay, such nice heights thy pow’r can reach,
With thee, such varied rhetoric dwells;
That e’en the struggling, broken speech
The modelled period far excels.
Thy silence oft, in striking pause
The lovers great ideas paints;
Sublime conception is its cause;
The mind expands, but language faints.
Free, uncompress’d, the thought appears,
Which words would awkwardly control,
And nature hold our eyes, and ears;
We seem to hear, and see the soul.
The letter’d youth let Plato’s page,
With generous sentiment inspire;
I’m better taught than by a sage,
And catch a more etherial fire.
A nobler and a speedier aid,
Receive I from Eliza’s Eyes;
By them more happy I am made;
And as I’m happy, am I wise.
Let the mistaken world suppose
That nature in Old Homer reigns;
Or, still, more blindly think she flows
In Virgil’s cold, & labour’d strains.
I came my Love upon a tree;
Scholars consult its faithful rind;
Throw books away, for there you’ll see
A lovelier copy of the mind.