Fragment for the Attic Chest
The Exordium of a Poem which
I designed to write, entitled
The Pleasures of Poesy
His beams the sun on earth and ocean sheds,
And living beauties o’er each object spreads;
Lights up each curling wave or swelling sail
Each hill’s lone tow’r, each steeple in the vale;
In varied masses shapes the deep’ning wood;
Scatters a sparkling radiance o’er the flood;
And, bright’ning ev’ry tint with mellow hue,
Gives contrast, shadow, distance, to the view.
So Poesy with blest etherial ray,
Kindles the world of mind to brighter day;
In beauty clothes each object, action, thought,
With grandeur, usefulness, or goodness fraught.
O Poesy! source of each finer joy,
And sweetest comforter when cares annoy,
Fill my rapt soul with all the pow’rs of song,
To paint the pleasures that to thee belong!
For never with this theme thy lyre has rung,
Tho’ thy lov’d sons in dulcet strains have sung
Imagination, Hope, and Memory.
And deck’d their joys in lasting wreaths from thee.
To me who, lowly tending at they shrine,
Boasts not a poet’s fame or pow’r divine,
Scarce it befits t’attempt this noble theme:
But ho’ may name and pow’rs I not esteem
Worth sweet Poesy to celebrate
To sing her pleasures and her joys relate;
Yet as no worthier votary assays
To wake for her a loftier strain of praise,
My humble lay must serve, my humble voice I raise.
On whom does joy its liveliest thrill bestow?
With sweetest balm who med’cines ev’ry woe!
On him whom, kindled by poetic fire,
Each scene of bliss with glowing verse inspires.
Him who a mournful tale can sweetly tell,
And soothe the sorrow he depicts so well.
Yes, warm’d by poesy’s soul-cheering beam,
The bard to rapture wakes each pleasing theme;
For nature opens in her magic light
Beauties invisible to vulgar sight.
Where’er he turns sublime his gifted eye,
Unnumbered beauties, new-born graces, rise:
Hence fill’d with imag’ry, his teeming soul
Compares, associates, and combines the whole;
Traces each hidden sympathy of thought
That can t’illustrate or adorn be brought;
And culls from learning’s stores or nature’s face
Each image rich in beauty or in grace.
Imagination then, with fervid glow,
Frames visionary scenes of bliss or woe
And playful Fancy weaves her tissue light
Of sounds melodious and allusions bright
While sober judgment holds in due control
Their airy flights, and regulates the whole.
Thus gather’d, thus matured, his copious stores
In a rich stream of verse the poet pours,
Which gives new loveliness to truth well-known,
And heightens virtue’s splendor by its own;
Wakes ev’ry passion with a kindred touch;
Or, where the suff’ring heart would feel too much
Sheds balmy influence in a soften’d strain,
And sweetly soothes away the mourner’s pain.
All hearts the pow’r of magic numbers own —
From the crown’d ruler on his gorgeous throne
Who cherishes the bard that sounds his praise,
Or swells his pompous feasts with pleasure’s lays,
Or wakes to glorious themes the martial lyre
And fills his heroes’ breasts with warlike fire;
To the poor tenant of the lowly cell
Who loves the simple strains that sweetly tell
Of rural sports or cares, or blushing maids
Courted by buxom youths in greenwood shades,
Of fairy wonders, or of scenes of woe
Which from his eyes unwonted tears bid flow.
All hearts confess the poet’s pow’r to move,
And all agree the tuneful bard to love.
If he, ambitious, seek the courts of kings,
Each noble ear, pleas’d, listens as he sings:
He finds a patron in each honor’d name
And princes join to raise his well-earned fame.
If he to crowded cities bend his way,
With praise and feasts the grateful train repay
The soothing verse which lulls their careful pain,
Or calls their thoughts from toil for sordid gain
To follow fancy’s flight o’er dale and hill,
And dream of woodland shades or sweetly swirling rill,
Or, if, from courts and clam’rous cities far,
He tune the past’ral reed or light guitar,
His melting lay each rural breast shall move
To thrill responsive to its notes of love:
Or while, enraptured with the beauteous scene
Of woods and rocks and lawns and streams between,
And looks thro’ nature to her great First Cause,
Each open’d eye shall see new beauties rise
In ev’ry scene beneath its native skies —
Each kindling heart shall feel th’ immortal strain
And own him best and wisest on the plain.