The Progress of Sculpture

Miss Appleton


Behold her next, Ionia’s guest and pride;
The hieroglyphic mantle thrown aside — 
 She blooms a maid in half-veil’d charms
 With bending neck of snow;
 And twines the graces in her polish’d arms
As undulating lines of beauty round her flow.
 Young laughing loves beside her plead
 And sport, or yield the soft caress;
 Heroes look on, and smile and bleed,
 And for her in war’s phalanx press.
 The venerable priest and sage
 To her submit their fame and page.
Source of all beauty! registered in stone
Sculpture and Greece were one, when Greece unrivall’d shone
With Greece she prostrate fell, when kindred arts had flown.

But savage Conquest, with his iron hand,
Enchained, above her, captive, to his land!
 Vain was her grief, and vain she pin’d,
 She grac’d Italia’s shore;
 With rude-formed sister arts combin’d,
And doom’d to realize fond hopes no more.
 But, though a slave she peerless stood
 With dignity confessed;
 Perfection blazed thro’ sorrow’s mood
And stamped each varying attitude as best.
 Tasks enjoin’d, and works begun,
 Beguil’d the weary, hopeless way;
 Disciples view’d the treasure won.
And track’d the source, where beauties rise and play
Long dwelt fair Sculpture in a hostile clime
Sprang youthful bonds and pass’d her season’s prime
When Grace, for Roman majesty, she chang’d with Time.

See now the splendid, touching change,
For Earth and Heav’n are open’d to her range!
 The Saviour rules a Western world,
 And doctrines mildly flow;
 Fanatics from their thrones are hurl’d,
And heathen Pythias stagger at the blow,
 Then Sculpture hail’d the ray divine
 And caught the martyr’s last-drawn breath;
 Carv’d heav’nly records round his shrine
 And marr’d the spoils of vanquish’d death!
Severer cares then speak the awful time;
While marble proselytes spread truths sublime,
Join Love with Goodness; and inspire disgust and crime.

Fervour stands near Excess. Excess engenders ill;
Religions madness, is but madness still.
This Sculpture found. When centuries had passed
She saw th’ enthusiast’s doom, her own at last.
No middle tenure bound her Christian way,
For Bigotry assumed despotic sway,
Had quench’d her sacred honours in the tomb,
And left her, overwhelmed, in Gothic gloom.
She slept with Science, Beauty, Art, and Taste;
While weeds of Ign’rance chok’d the world’s dull waste.

At length, another morning glimmered in its dawn
Arts broke the trance; a second time was born.
Lifted their dizzy heads again,
And shook the dusky shroud;
And sickly, as the moonbeams wane
Gleamed, like the Sun beneath a dropping cloud.
Rome, Gaul, and Britain, each by turns,
Salute the wond’ring, waking Fair;
And new-rais’d Emulation burns,
The zeal inspires, it loves to share.
But Britain’s Bards rehearse the song
In strains wild, tender, bold, and strong:
“Hither Sculpture! hither stray,
Fame shall light thy happy way;
Resign thy cares, dispel thy shame,
Resume thy hopes and brilliant name;
Phidias liv’d, and Phidias died,
Praxiteles, his loss supplied;
Another fostering hand is near
Quite Southern climes and join us here.”

Thus Britain sang, and Music swell’d the strain
Fair Sculpture heard; with all her graceful train
On Flaxman fondly smil’d; and blooms, herself again!

To the distinguished Artist who has designed and executed with unrivalled force and beauty [???] of Achilles” this very small tribute of admiration and respect is offered by his obliged Servt.