The Pleasures of Imagination (Akenside, 1744)/Book 2

ARGUMENT of the SECOND BOOK.

 

THE separation of the works of imagination from philosophy, the cause of their abuse among the moderns; to verse 41. Prospect of their re-union under the influence of publick liberty; to v. 61. Enumeration of accidental Pleasures, which increase the effect of objects delightful to the imagination. The pleasures of Sense; v. 73. Particular circumstances of the mind; v. 84. Discovery of truth; v. 97. Perception of contrivance and design; v. 121. Emotion of the passions; v. 136. All the natural passions partake of a pleasing sensation, with the final cause of this constitution illustrated by an allegorical vision, and exemplified in sorrow, pity, terror and indignation; from v. 155 to the end.

The Pleasures of Imagination - Akenside (1744) divider 3.jpg

THE

PLEASURES

OF

IMAGINATION.

Book the Second.

WHen shall the laurel and the vocal string
Resume their honours? When shall we behold
The tuneful tongue, the Promothéan hand
Aspire to ancient praise Alas! how faint,
How slow the dawn of beauty and of truth5
Breaks the reluctant shades of Gothic night
Which yet involve the nations! Long they groan'd
Beneath the furies of rapacious force;
Oft as the gloomy north, with iron-swarms
Tempestuous pouring from her frozen caves,10
Blasted th' Italian shore, and swept the works
Of liberty and wisdom down the gulph
Of all-devouring night. As long immur'd

In noontide darkness by th' glimm'ring lamp,
Each muse and each fair science pin'd away15
The sordid hours: while foul, barbarian hands
Their mysteries profan'd, unstrung the lyre,
And chain'd the soaring pinion down to earth.
At last the Muses rose,[1] and spurn'd their bonds,
And wildly warbling scatter'd, as they flew,20
Their blooming wreaths from fair Valclusa's[2] bow'rs
To Arno's[3] myrtle border and the shore

Of soft Parthenope.[4] But still the rage
Of dire ambition[5] and gigantic pow'r,
From public aims and from the busy walk25
Of civil commerce, drove the bolder train
Of penetrating science to the cells,
Where studious ease consumes the silent hour
In shadowy searches and unfruitful care.
Thus from their guardians torn,[6] the tender arts30
Of mimic fancy and harmonious joy,

To priestly domination and the lust
Of lawless courts, their amiable toil
For three inglorious ages have resign'd,
In vain reluctant: and Torquato's tongue35
Was tun'd for slavish pæans at the throne
Of tinsel pomp; and Raphael's magic hand
Effus'd its fair creation to inchant
The fond adoring herd in Latian fanes
To blind belief; while on their prostrate necks40
The sable tyrant plants his heel secure.
But now behold! the radiant æra dawns,
When freedom's ample fabric, fix'd at length
For endless years on Albion's happy shore
In full proportion, once more shall extend45
To all the kindred pow'rs of social bliss
A common mansion, a parental roof.
There shall the Virtues, there shall Wisdom's train,
Their long-lost friends rejoining, as of old,

Imbrace the smiling family of arts,50
The Muses and the Graces. Then no more
Shall vice, distracting their delicious gifts
To aims abhorr'd, with high distaste and scorn
Turn from their charms the philosophic eye,
The patriot-bosom: then no more the paths55
Of public care or intellectual toil,
Alone by footsteps haughty and severe
In gloomy state be trod: th' harmonious Muse
And her persuasive sisters then shall plant
Their sheltering laurels o'er the bleak ascent,60
And scatter flow'rs along the rugged way.
Arm'd with the lyre, already have we dar'd
To pierce divine philosophy's retreats,
And teach the Muse her lore; already strove
Their long-divided honours to unite,65
While temp'ring this deep argument we sang
Of truth and beauty. Now the same fair task
Impends; now urging our ambitious toil,
We hasten to recount the various springs
Of adventitious pleasure, which adjoin70
Their grateful influence to the prime effect
Of objects grand or beauteous, and inlarge
The complicated joy. The sweets of sense,
Do they not oft with kind accession flow,
To raise harmonious fancy's native charm?75
So while we taste the fragrance of the rose,
Glows not her blush the fairer? While we view

Amid the noontide walk a limpid rill
Gush thro' the trickling herbage, to the thirst
Of summer yielding the delicious draught80
Of cool refreshment; o'er the mossy brink
Shines not the surface clearer, and the waves
With sweeter music murmur as they flow?

Nor this alone; the various lot of life
Oft from external circumstance assumes85
A moment's disposition to rejoice
In those delights which at a different hour
Would pass unheeded. Fair the face of spring,
When rural songs and odours wake the morn,
To every eye; but how much more to his,90
Round whom the bed of sickness long diffus'd
Its melancholy gloom! how doubly fair,
When first with fresh-born vigour he inhales
The balmy breeze, and feels the blessed sun
Warm at his bosom, from the springs of life95
Chasing oppressive damps and languid pain!

Or shall I mention, where cœlestial truth
Her awful light discloses, to effulge
A more majestic pomp on beauty's frame?
For man loves knowledge, and the beams of truth100
More welcome touch his understanding's eye,
Than all the blandishments of sound, his ear,
Than all of taste his tongue. Nor ever yet

The melting rainbow's vernal-tinctur'd hues
To me have shone so pleasing, as when first105
The hand of science pointed out the path
In which the sun-beams gleaming from the west
Fall on the wat'ry cloud, whose darksome veil
Involves the orient; and that trickling show'r
Piercing thro' every crystalline convex110
Of clust'ring dew-drops to their flight oppos'd,
Recoil at length where concave all behind
Th' internal surface of each glassy orb
Repels their forward passage into air;
That thence direct they seek the radiant goal115
From which their course began; and as they strike
In diff'rent lines the gazer's obvious eye,
Assume a diff'rent lustre, thro' the brede
Of colours changing from the splendid rose
To the pale violet's dejected hue.120

Or shall we touch that kind access of joy,
That springs to each fair object, while we trace,
Thro' all its fabric, wisdom's artful aim
Disposing every part, and gaining still
By means proportion'd her benignant end?125
Speak, ye, the pure delight, whose favour'd steps
The lamp of science thro' the jealous maze
Of nature guides, when haply you reveal
Her secret honours: whether in the sky,
The beauteous laws of light, the central pow'rs130

That wheel the pensile planets round the year;
Whether in wonders of the rowling deep,
Or smiling fruits of pleasure-pregnant earth,
Or fine-adjusted springs of life and sense,
You scan the counsels of their author's hand.135

What, when to raise the meditated scene,
The flame of passion, thro' the struggling soul
Deep-kindled, shows across that sudden blaze
The object of its rapture, vast of size,
With fiercer colours and a night of shade?140
What? like a storm from their capacious bed
The sounding seas o'erwhelming, when the might
Of these eruptions, working from the depth
Of man's strong apprehension, shakes his frame
Even to the base; from every naked sense145
Of pain or pleasure dissipating all
Opinion's feeble cov'rings, and the veil
Spun from the cobweb-fashion of the times
To hide the feeling heart? Then nature speaks
Her genuine language, and the words of men,150
Big with the very motion of their souls,
Declare with what accumulated force,
Th' impetuous nerve of passion urges on
The native weight and energy of things.

Yet more; her honours where nor beauty claims,155
Nor shews of good the thirsty sense allure,

From passion's pow'r alone[7] our nature holds
Essential pleasure. Passion's fierce illapse
Rouzes the mind's whole fabric; with supplies
Of daily impulse keeps th' elastic pow'rs160
Intensely poiz'd, and polishes anew
By that collision all the fine machine:
Else rust would rise, and foulness, by degrees
Incumbring, choak at last what heav'n design'd
For ceaseless motion and a round of toil.165
—But say, does every passion men endure
Thus minister delight? That name indeed
Becomes the rosy breath of love; becomes
The radiant smiles of joy, th' applauding hand
Of admiration: but the bitter show'r170

That sorrow sheds upon a brother's grave,
But the dumb palsy of nocturnal fear,
Or those consuming fires that gnaw the heart
Of panting indignation, find we there
To move delight?—Then listen, while my tongue175
Th' unalter'd will of heav'n with faithful awe
Reveals; what old Harmodius wont to teach
My early age; Harmodius, who had weigh'd
Within his learn'd mind whate'er the schools
Of wisdom, or thy lonely-whisp'ring voice,180
O faithful nature! dictated of the laws
Which govern and support this mighty frame
Of universal being. Oft the hours
From morn to eve have stole unmark'd away,
While mute attention hung upon his lips,185
As thus the sage his awful tale began.

"Twas in the windings of an ancient wood,
When spotless youth with solitude resigns
To sweet philosophy the studious day,
What time pale autumn shades the silent eve190
Musing I rov'd. Of good and evil much,
And much of mortal man my thought revolv'd;
When starting full on fancy's gushing eye,
The mournful image of Parthenia's fate,
That hour, O long belov'd and long deplor'd!195
When blooming youth, nor gentlest wisdom's arts,
Nor Hymen's honours gather'd for thy brow,

Nor all thy lover's, all thy father's tears
Avail'd to snatch thee from the cruel grave;
Thy agonizing looks, thy last farewel200
Struck to the inmost feeling of my soul
As with the hand of death. At once the shade
More horrid nodded o'er me, and the winds
With hoarser murm'ring shook the branches. Dark
As midnight storms, the scene of human things,205
Appear'd before me; desarts, burning sands
Where the parch'd adder dies; the frozen south,
And desolation blasting all the west
With rapine and with murder: tyrant-pow'r
Here sits inthron'd in blood; the baleful charms 210
Of superstition there infect the skies,
And turn the sun to horror. Gracious heav'n!
What is the life of man? Or cannot these,
Not these portents thy awful will suffice?
That propagated thus beyond their scope, 215
They rise to act their cruelties anew
In my afflicted bosom, thus decreed
The universal sensitive of pain,
The wretched heir of evils not its own!

Thus I, impatient; when at once effus'd,220
A flashing torrent of cœlestial day
Burst thro' the shadowy void. With slow descent
A purple cloud came floating thro' the sky,
And pois'd at length within the circling trees,

Hung obvious to my view: till opening wide225
Its lucid orb, a more than human form
Emerging lean'd majestic o'er my head,
And instant thunder shook the conscious grove.
Then melted into air the liquid cloud,
And all the shining vision stood reveal'd.230
A wreath of palm his ample forehead bound,
And o'er his shoulder, mantling to his knee,
Flow'd the transparent robe, around his waist
Collected with a radiant zone of gold
Æthereal: there in mystic signs ingrav'd,235
I read his office high and sacred name,
Genius of human kind. Appall'd I gaz'd
The godlike presence; for athwart his brow
Displeasure, temper'd with a mild concern,
Look'd down reluctant on me, and his words240
Like distant thunders broke the murm'ring air.

Vain are thy thoughts, O child of mortal birth,
And impotent thy tongue. Is thy short span
Capacious of this universal frame?
Thy wisdom all sufficient? Thou, alas!245
Dost thou aspire to judge between the Lord
Of nature and his works? to lift thy voice
Against the sov'reign order he decreed
All good and lovely? to blaspheme the bands
Of tenderness innate and social love,250
Holiest of things! by which the general orb

Of being, as with adamantine links,
Was drawn to perfect union and sustain'd
From everlasting? Hast thou felt the pangs
Of soft'ning sorrow, of indignant zeal255
So grievous to the soul, as thence to wish
The ties of nature broken from thy frame;
That so thy selfish, unrelenting heart
May cease to mourn its lot, no longer then
The wretched heir of evils not its own:260
O fair benevolence of gen'rous minds!
O man by nature form'd for all mankind!

He spoke; abash'd and silent I remain'd,
As conscious of my lips' offence, and aw'd
Before his presence, tho' my secret soul265
Disdain'd the imputation. On the ground
I fix'd my eyes; till from his airy couch
He stoop'd sublime, and touching with his hand
My dazzled forehead, Raise thy sight, he cry'd,
And let thy sense convince thy erring tongue.270

I look'd, and lo! the former scene was chang'd;
For verdant alleys and surrounding trees,
A solitary prospect, wide and wild,
Rush'd on my senses. 'Twas a horrid pile
Of hills with many a shaggy forest mix'd,275
With many a sable cliff and glitt'ring stream.
Aloft recumbent o'er the hanging ridge,

The brown woods wav'd, while ever trickling springs
Wash'd from the naked roots of oak and pine,
The crumbling soil; and still at every fall280
Down the steep windings of the channel'd rock,
Remurm'ring rush'd the congregated floods
With hoarser inundation; till at last
They reach'd a grassy plain, which from the skirts
Of that high desart spread her verdant lap,285
And drank the gushing moisture, where confin'd
In one smooth current, o'er the lilied vale
Clearer than glass it flow'd. Autumnal spoils
Luxuriant spreading to the rays of morn,
Blush'd o'er the cliffs, whose half-incircling mound290
As in a sylvan theatre inclos'd
That flow'ry level. On the river's brink
I spy'd a fair pavilion, which diffus'd
Its floating umbrage 'mid the silver shade
Of osiers. Now the western sun reveal'd295
Between two parting cliffs his golden orb,
And pour'd across the shadow of the hills,
On rocks and floods, a yellow stream of light
That chear'd the solemn scene. My list'ning pow'rs
Were aw'd, and every thought in silence hung,300
And wond'ring expectation. Then the voice
Of that cœlestial pow'r, the mystic show
Declaring, thus my deep attention call'd.

Inhabitant of earth,[8] to whom is giv'n
The gracious ways of providence to learn,305
Receive my sayings with a stedfast ear———
Know then, the sov'reign spirit of the world,
Tho' self-collected from eternal time,
Within his own deep essence he beheld
The circling bounds of happiness unite;310

Yet by immense benignity inclin'd
To spread around him that primaeval joy
Which fill'd himself, he rais'd his plastic arm,
And sounded thro' the hollow depth of space
The strong, creative mandate. Strait arose315
These heav'nly orbs, the glad abodes of life
Effusive kindled by his breath divine
Thro' endless forms of being. Each inhal'd

From him its portion of the vital flame,
In measure such, that from the wide complex 320
Of coexistent orders, one might rise,
One order,[9] all-involving and intire.
He too beholding in the sacred light
Of his essential reason, all the shapes
Of swift contingence, all successive ties325
Of action propagated thro' the sum
Of possible existence, he at once,
Down the long series of eventful time,
So fix'd the dates of being, so dispos'd,
To every living soul of every kind, 330
The field of motion and the hour of rest,
That all conspir'd to his supreme design,
To universal good; with full accord,
Answ'ring the mighty model he had chose,
The best and fairest of unnumber'd worlds[10] 335

That lay from everlasting in the store
Of his divine conceptions. Nor content,
By one exertion of creating pow'r,
His goodness to reveal; thro' every age,
Thro' every moment up the tract of time,340
His parent-hand with ever-new increase
Of happiness and virtue has adorn'd
The vast harmonious frame: his parent-hand,
From the mute shell-fish gasping on the shore,
To men, to angels, to cœlestial minds,345
For ever leads the generations on
To higher scenes of being; while supply'd
From day to day by his inlivening breath,
Inferior orders in succession rise
To fill the void below. As flame ascends,[11]350
As bodies to their proper center move,
As the poiz'd ocean to th' attracting moon
Obedient swells, and every headlong stream
Devolves its winding waters to the main;
So all things which have life aspire to God,355
The sun of being, boundless, unimpair'd,

Center of souls! Nor does the faithful voice
Of nature cease to prompt their eager steps
Aright; nor is the care of heav'n withheld
From granting to the task proportion'd aid;360
That in their stations all may persevere
To climb th' ascent of being, and approach
For ever nearer to the life divine.

That rocky pile thou see'st, that verdant lawn
Fresh-water'd from the mountains. Let the scene 365
Paint in thy fancy the primæval seat
Of man, and where the will supreme ordain'd
His mansion, that pavilion fair-diffus'd
Along the shady brink, in this recess
To wear th' appointed season of his youth; 370
Till riper hours should open to his toil
The high communion of superior minds,
Of consecrated heroes and of gods.
Nor did the fire omnipotent forget
His tender bloom to cherish; nor withheld 375
Cœlestial footsteps from his green abode.
Oft from the radiant honours of his throne,
He sent whom most he lov'd, the sov'reign fair,
The effluence of his glory, whom he plac'd
Before his eyes for ever to behold;380
The goddess from whose inspiration flows
The toil of patriots, the delight of friends;
Without whose work divine, in heav'n or earth,

Nought lovely, nought propitious comes to pass,
Nor hope, nor praise, nor honour. Her the sire 385
Gave it in charge to rear the blooming mind,
The folded pow'rs to open, to direct
The growth luxuriant of his young desires,
And from the laws of this majestic world
To teach him what was good. As thus the nymph 390
Her daily care attended, by her side
With constant steps her gay companion stay'd,
The fair Euphrosyné, the gentle queen
Of smiles, and graceful gladness, and delights
That chear alike the hearts of mortal men395
And pow'rs immortal. See the shining pair!
Behold, where from his dwelling now disclos'd,
They quit their youthful charge and seek the skies.

I look'd, and on the flow'ry turf there stood,
Between two radiant forms, a smiling youth400
Whose tender cheeks display'd the vernal flow'r
Of beauty; sweetest innocence illum'd
His bashful eyes, and on his polish'd brow
Sate young simplicity. With fond regard
He view'd th'associates, as their steps they mov'd 405
The younger chief his ardent eyes detain'd,
With mild regret invoking her return.
Bright as the star of evening she appear'd
Amid the dusky scene. Eternal youth
O'er all her form its glowing honours breath'd;410

And smiles eternal, from her candid eyes,
Flow'd like the dewy lustre of the morn
Effusive trembling on the placid waves.
The spring of heav'n had shed its blushing spoils
To bind her sable tresses: full diffus'd 415
Her yellow mantle floated in the breeze;
And in her hand she wav'd a living branch
Rich with immortal fruits, of pow'r to calm
The wrathful heart, and from the bright'ning eyes
To chase the cloud of sadness. More sublime 420
The heav'nly partner mov'd. The Prime of age
Compos'd her steps. The presence of a god,
High on the circle of her brow inthron'd,
From each majestic motion darted awe,
Devoted awe! till, cherish'd by her looks 425
Benevolent and meek, confiding love
To filial rapture soften'd all the soul.
Free in her graceful hand she poiz'd the sword
Of chaste dominion. An heroic crown
Display'd the old simplicity of pomp, 430
Around her honour'd head. A matron's robe,
White as the sunshine streams thro vernal clouds,
Her stately form invested. Hand in hand
Th' immortal pair forsook th' enamell'd green,
Ascending slowly. Rays of limpid light 435
Gleam'd round their path; cœlestial rounds were heard,
And thro' the fragrant air ætherial dews

Distill'd around them; till at once the clouds
Disparting wide in midway sky, withdrew
Their airy veil, and left a bright expanse440
Of empyréan flame, where spent and drown'd
Afflicted vision plung'd in vain to scan
What object it involv'd. My feeble eyes
Indur'd not. Bending down to earth I stood,
With dumb attention. Soon a female voice,445
As watry murmurs sweet, or warbling shades,
With sacred invocation thus began.

Father of gods and mortals! whose right arm
With reins eternal guides the moving heav'ns,
Bend thy propitious ear. Behold well-pleas'd 450
I seek to finish thy divine decree.
With frequent steps I visit yonder seat
Of man, thy offspring; from the tender seeds
Of justice and of wisdom, to evolve
The latent honours of his generous frame;455
Till thy conducting hand shall raise his lot
From earth's dim scene to these ætherial walks,
The temple of thy glory. But not me,
Not my directing voice he oft requires,
Or hears delighted: this inchanting maid,460
Th' associate thou hast giv'n me, her alone
He loves, O father! absent, her he craves;
And but for her glad presence ever join'd,
Rejoices not in mine: that all my hopes

This thy benignant purpose to fulfil,465
I deem uncertain; and my daily cares
Unfruitful all and vain, unless by thee
Still farther aided in the work divine.

She ceas'd; a voice more awful thus reply'd.
O thou! in whom for ever I delight,470
Fairer than all th' inhabitants of heaven,
Best image of thy author! far from thee
Be disappointment, or distaste, or blame;
Who soon or late shalt every work fulfil,
And no resistance find. If man refuse475
To hearken to thy dictates; or allur'd
By meaner joys, to any other pow'r
Transfer the honours due to thee alone;
That joy which he pursues he ne'er shall taste,
That pow'r in whom delighteth ne'er behold. 480
Go then once more, and happy be thy toil;
Go then but let not this thy smiling friend
Partake thy footsteps. In her stead, behold!
With thee the son of Nemesis I send;
The fiend abhorr'd! whose vengeance takes account485
Of sacred order's violated laws.
See where he calls thee, burning to be gone,
Fierce to exhaust the tempest of his wrath
On yon devoted head. But thou, my child,
Controul his cruel frenzy, and protect490

Thy tender charge. That when despair shall grasp
His agonizing bosom, he may learn,
Then he may learn to love the gracious hand
Alone sufficient in that hour of ill,
To save his feeble spirit; then confess495
Thy genuine honours, O excelling fair!
When all the plagues that wait the deadly will
Of this avenging daemon, all the storms
Of night infernal, serve but to display
The energy of thy superior charms500
With mildest aw triumphant o'er his rage,
And shining clearer in the horrid gloom.

Here ceas'd that awful voice, and soon I felt
The cloudy curtain of refreshing eve
Was clos'd once more, from that immortal fire 505
Shelt'ring my eye-lids. Looking up, I view'd
A vast gigantic spectre striding on
Thro' murm'ring thunders and a waste of clouds,
With dreadful action. Black as night his brow
Relentless frowns involv'd. His savage limbs510
With sharp impatience violent he writh'd,
A s thro' convulsive anguish; and his hand
Arm'd with a scorpion-lash, full oft he rais'd
In madness to his bosom; while his eyes
Rain'd bitter tears, and bellowing loud he shook 515
The void with horror. Silent by his side
The virgin came. No discomposure stirr'd

Her features. From the glooms which hung around,
No stain of darkness mingled with the beam
Of her divine effulgence. Now they stoop520
Upon the river-bank; and now to hail
His wonted guests, with eager steps advanc'd
The unsuspecting inmate of the shade.

As when a famish'd wolf, that all night long
Had rang'd the Alpine snows, by chance at morn 525
Sees from a cliff incumbent o'er the smoke
Of some lone village, a neglected kid
That strays along the wild for herb or spring;
Down from the winding ridge he sweeps amain,
And thinks he tears him: so with tenfold rage,530
The monster sprung remorseless on his prey.
Amaz'd the stripling stood; with panting breast
Feebly he pour'd the lamentable wail
Of helpless consternation, struck at once,
And rooted to the ground. The queen beheld535
His terror, and with looks of tend'rest care
Advanc'd to save him. Soon the tyrant felt
Her awful pow'r. His keen, tempestuous arm
Hung nerveless, nor descended where his rage
Had aim'd the deadly blow: then dumb retir'd 540
With sullen rancour. Lo! the sov'reign maid
Folds with a mother's arms the fainting boy,
Till life rekindles in his rosy cheek;
Then grasps his hand, and chears him with her tongue.

O wake thee, rouze thy spirit! shall the spite545
Of yon tormentor thus appall thy heart,
While I, thy friend and guardian, am at hand
To rescue and to heal? O let thy soul
Remember, what the will of heav'n ordains
Is ever good for all; and if for all,550
Then good for thee. Nor only by the warmth
And soothing sunshine of delightful things,
Do minds grow up and flourish. Oft misled
By that bland light, the young unpractis'd views
Of reason wander thro' a fatal road,555
Far from their native aim: as if to ly
Inglorious in the fragrant shade, and wait
The soft access of ever-circling joys,
Were all the end of being. Ask thy self,
This pleasing error did it never lull560
Thy wishes? Has thy constant heart refus'd
The silken fetters of delicious ease?
Or when divine Euphrosyné appear'd
Within this dwelling, did not thy desires
Hang far below the measure of thy fate,565
Which I reveal'd before thee? and thy eyes,
Impatient of my counsels, turn away
To drink the soft effusion of her smiles?
Know then, for this the everlasting sire
Deprives thee of her presence, and instead,570
O wise and still benevolent! ordains

This horrid visage hither to pursue
My steps; that so thy nature may discern
Its real good, and what alone can save
Thy feeble spirit in this hour of ill575
From folly and despair. O yet belov'd!
Let not this headlong terror quite o'erwhelm
Thy scatter'd pow'rs; nor fatal deem the rage
Of this tormentor, nor his proud assault,
While I am here to vindicate thy toil,580
Above the generous question of thy arm,
Brave by thy fears, and in thy weakness strong,
This hour he triumphs; but confront his might,
And dare him to the combat, then with ease
Disarm'd and quell'd, his fierceness he resigns585
To bondage and to scorn: while thus inur'd
By watchful danger, by unceasing toil,
Th' immortal mind, superior to his fate,
Amid the outrage of external things,
Firm as the solid base of this great world,590
Rests on his own foundations. Blow, ye winds!
Ye waves! ye thunders! rowl your tempest on;
Shake, ye old pillars of the marble sky!
Till all its orbs and all its worlds of fire
Be loosen'd from their seats; yet still serene,595
The unconquer'd mind looks down upon the wreck,
And ever stronger as the storms advance,
Firm thro' the closing ruin holds his way,
Where nature calls him to the destin'd goal.

So spake the goddess; while thro' all her frame600
Cœlestial raptures flow'd, in every word,
In ev'ry motion kindling warmth divine
To seize who listen'd. Vehement and swift
As light'ning fires the aromatic shade
In Æthiopian fields, the stripling felt605
Her inspiration catch his fervid soul,
And starting from his languor thus exclaim'd.

Then let the trial come! and witness thou,
If terror be upon me; if I shrink
To meet the storm, or faulter in my strength610
When hardest it besets me. Do not think
That I am fearful and infirm of soul,
As late thy eyes beheld: for thou hast chang'd
My nature; thy commanding voice has wak'd
My languid pow'rs to bear me boldly on,615
Where'er the will divine my path ordains
Thro' toil or peril: only do not thou
Forsake me; O be thou for ever near,
That I may listen to thy sacred voice,
And guide by thy decrees my constant feet.620
But say, for ever are my eyes bereft?
Say, shall the fair Euphrosyné not once
Appear again to charm me? Thou, in heaven!
O thou eternal arbiter of things!
Be thy great bidding done: for who am I625

To question thy appointment? Let the frowns
Of this avenger every morn o'ercast
The chearful dawn, and every evening damp
With double night my dwelling; I will learn
To hail them both, and unrepining bear630
His hateful presence: but permit my tongue
One glad request, and if my deeds may find
Thy awful eye propitious, O restore
The rosy-featur'd maid; again to chear
This lonely seat, and bless me with her smiles.635
He spoke; when instant, thro' the sable glooms
With which that furious presence had involv'd
The ambient air, a flood of radiance came
Swift as the lightening flash; the melting clouds
Flew diverse, and amid the blew serene640
Euphrosyné appear'd. With sprightly step
The nymph alighted on th' irriguous lawn,
And to her wond'ring audience thus begun.

Lo! I am here to answer to your vows,
And be the meeting fortunate! I come645
With joyful tidings; we shall part no more—
Hark! how the gentle Echo from her cell
Talks thro' the cliffs, and murm'ring o'er the stream
Repeats the accent; we shall part no more.
O my delightful friends! well-pleas'd on high650
The father has beheld you, while the might
Of that stern foe with bitter trial prov'd

Your equal doings: then for ever spake
The high decree; that thou, cœlestial maid!
Howe'er that grisly phantom on thy steps655
May sometimes dare intrude, yet never more
Shalt thou descending to th' abode of man,
Alone indure the rancour of his arm,
Or leave thy lov'd Euphrosyné behind.
She ended; and the whole romantic scene660
Immediate vanish'd: rocks, and woods, and rills,
The mantling tent, and each mysterious form
Flew like the pictures of a morning dream,
When sun-shine fills the bed. A while I stood
Perplex'd and giddy; till the radiant pow'r665
Who bade the visionary landscape rise,
As up to him I turn'd, with gentlest looks
Preventing my enquiry, thus began.

There let thy soul acknowledge its complaint
How blind, how impious! There behold the ways670
Of heaven's eternal destiny to man,
For ever just, benevolent and wise:
That Virtue's awful steps, howe'er pursu'd
By vexing fortune and intrusive Pain,
Should never be divided from her chast,675
Her fair attendant, Pleasure. Need I urge
Thy tardy thought thro' all the various round
Of this existence, that thy soft'ning soul
At length may learn what energy the hand

Of virtue mingles in the bitter tide680
Of passion swelling with distress and pain,
To mitigate the sharp with gracious drops
Of cordial pleasure? Ask the faithful youth,
Why the cold urn of her whom long he lov'd
So often fills his arms; so often draws685
His lonely footsteps at the silent hour,
To pay the mournful tribute of his tears?
O! he will tell thee, that the wealth of worlds
Should ne'er seduce his bosom to forego
That sacred hour, when stealing from the noise690
Of care and envy, sweet remembrance sooths
With virtue's kindest looks his aking breast,
And turns his tears to rapture.—Ask the crowd
Which flies impatient from the village-walk
To climb the neighb'ring cliffs, when far below695
The cruel winds have hurl'd upon the coast
Some helpless bark; while sacred pity melts
The general eye, or terror's icy hand
Smites their distorted limbs and horrent hair;
While every mother closer to her breast700
Catches her child, and pointing where the waves
Foam thro' the shatter'd vessel, shrieks aloud
As one poor wretch that spreads his piteous arms
For succour, swallow'd by the roaring surge,
As now another, dash'd against the rock,705
Drops lifeless down: O deemest thou indeed
No kind indearment here by nature giv'n

To mutual terror and compassion's tears?
No sweetly-melting softness which attracts,
O'er all that edge of pain, the social pow'rs710
To this their proper action and their end?
—Ask thy own heart. When at the midnight hour,
Slow thro' that studious gloom, thy pausing eye
Led by the glimm'ring taper moves around
The sacred volumes of the dead; the songs715
Of Græcian bards, and records wrote by fame
For Græcian heroes, where the present pow'r
Of heav'n and earth surveys th' immortal page,
Ev'n as a father blessing, while he reads
The praises of his son. If then thy soul,720
Spurning the yoke of these inglorious days,
Mix in their deeds and kindle with their flame;
Say, when the prospect blackens on thy view,
When rooted from the base, heroic states
Mourn in the dust and tremble at the frown725
Of curst ambition; when the pious band[12]
Of youths who fought for freedom and their sires,
Lie side by side in gore; when ruffian-pride
Usurps the throne of justice, turns the pomp
Of public pow'r, the majesty of rule,730
The sword, the laurel, and the purple robe,

To slavish, empty pageants, to adorn
A tyrant's walk, and glitter in the eyes
Of such as bow the knee; when honour'd urns
Of patriots and of chiefs, the awful bust735
And storied arch, to glut the coward-rage
Of regal envy, strew the public way
With hallow'd ruins; when the muse's haunt,
The marble porch where wisdom wont to talk
With Socrates or Tully, hears no more,470
Save the hoarse jargon of contentious monks,
Or female superstition's midnight pray'r;
When ruthless rapine from the hand of time
Tears the destroying scythe, with surer blow
To sweep the works of glory from their base;745
Till desolation o'er the grass-grown street
Expands his raven-wings, and up the wall,
Where senates once the price of monarch's doom'd,
Hisses the gliding snake thro' hoary weeds
That clasp the mould'ring column; thus defac'd,750
Thus widely mournful when the prospect thrills
Thy beating bosom, when the patriot's tear
Starts from thine eye, and thy extended arm
In fancy hurls the thunderbolt of Jove
To fire the impious wreath on Philip's[13] brow,755
Or dash Octavius from the trophied car;
Say, does thy secret soul repine to taste

The big distress? or would'st thou then exchange
Those heart-ennobling sorrows for the lot
Of him who sits amid the gaudy herd760
Of mute barbarians bending to his nod,
And bears aloft his gold-invested front,
And says within himself, "I am a king,
And wherefore should the clam'rous voice of woe
Intrude upon mine ear?–The baleful dreggs765
Of these late ages, this inglorious draught
Of servitude and folly, have not yet,
Blest be th' eternal ruler of the world!
Defil'd to such a depth of sordid shame
The native honours of the human soul,770
Nor so effac'd the image of its sire.

 

End of the SECOND BOOK

 
The Pleasures of Imagination - Akenside (1744) endpiece 2.jpg
 

  1. At last the Muses rose, &c.] About the age of Hugh Capet, the founder of the third race of French kings, the poets of Provence were in high reputation; a sort of stroling bards or rhapsodists, who went about the courts of princes and noblemen, entertaining them at festivals with music and poetry. They attempted both the epic ode and satire, and abounded in a wild and fantastic vein of fable, partly allegorical, and partly founded on traditionary legends of the Saracen wars. These were the Rudiments of the Italian poetry. But their taste and Composition must have been extremely barbarous, as we may judge by those who followed the turn of their fable in much politer times; such as Boiardo, Bernardo Tasso, Ariosto, &c.
  2. Valclusa.] The famous retreat of Franceso Petrarcha, the father of Italian poetry, and his mistress Laura, a lady of Avignon.
  3. Arno.] The river which runs by Florence, the birth place of Dante and Boccacio.
  4. Parthenope.] Or Naples, the birth-place of Sannazaro. The great Torquato Tasso was born at Sorrento in the kingdom of Naples
  5. ————————the rage
    of dire ambition
    , &c.] This relates to the cruel wars among the republics of Italy, and the abominable politics of its little princes, about the fifteenth century. These at last, in conjunction with the papal power, intirely extinguished the spirit of liberty in that country, and established that abuse of the fine arts which has since been propagated over all Europe.
  6. Thus from their guardians torn, the tender arts, &c.] Nor were they only losers by the separation. For philosophy itself, to use the words of a noble philosopher, being thus sever'd from the sprightly arts and sciences, must consequently grow dronish, insipid, pedantic, useless, and directly opposite to the real knowledge and practice of the world. Insomuch, that a gentleman, says another excellent Writer, cannot easily bring himself to like so austere and ungainly a form: so greatly is it changed from what was once the delight of the finest gentlemen of antiquity, and their recreation after the hurry of public affairs! From this condition it cannot be recovered but by uniting it once more with the works of imagination; and we have had the pleasure of observing a very great progress made towards their union in England within these few years. It is hardly possible to conceive them at a greater distance from each other than at the revolution, when Locke stood at the head of one party, and Dryden of the other. But the general spirit of liberty, which has ever since been growing, naturally invited our men of wit and genius to improve that influence which the arts of persuasion give them with the people, by applying them to subjects of importance to society. Thus poetry and eloquence became considerable; and philosophy is now of course obliged to borrow of their imbellishments, in order even to gain audience with the public.
  7. From passion's pow'r alone, &c.] This very mysterious kind of pleasure which is often found in the exercise of passions generally counted painful, has been taken notice of by several authors. Lucretius resolves it into self-love,
    Suave mari magno, &c., lib. II. i.
    As if a man was never pleas'd in being mov'd at the distress of a tragedy, without a cool Reflection that tho' these fictitious personages were so unhappy, yet he himself was perfectly at ease and in safety. The ingenious and candid author of the reflexions critique sur la poesie & sur la peinture, accounts for it by the general delight which the mind takes in its own activity, and the abhorrence it feels of an indolent and unattentive state: And this, joined with the moral applause of its own temper, which attends these emotions when natural and just, is certainly the true foundation of the pleasure, which as it is the origin and basis of tragedy and epic, deserved a very particular consideration in this poem.
  8. Inhabitant of earth, &c.] The account of the œconomy of providence here, introduced, as the most proper to calm and satisfy the mind, when under the compunction of private evils, seems to have come originally from the Pythagorean' school: but of all the ancient philosophers, Plato has most largely insisted upon it, has established it with all the strength of his capacious understanding, and ennobled it with all the magnificence of his divine imagination. He has one passage so full and clear on the head, that I am persuaded the reader will be pleased to see it here, tho' somewhat long. Addressing himself to such as are not satisfied concerning divine providence, The being who presides over the whole, says he, has dispos'd and complicated all things for the happiness and virtue of the whole, every part of which, according to the extent of its influence, does and suffers what is fit and proper. One of these parts is yours, O unhappy man! which tho' in itself most inconsiderable and minute, yet being connected with the universe, ever seeks to co-operate with that supreme order. You in the mean time are ignorant of the very end for which all particular natures are brought into existence, that the all-comprehending nature of the whole may be perfect and happy; existing, as it does, not for your sake, but the cause and reason of your existence, which, as in the symmetry of every artificial work, must of necessity concur with the general design of the artist, and be subservient to the whole of which it is a part. Your complaint therefore is ignorant and groundless; since according to the various energy of creation, and the common laws of nature, there is a constant provision of that which is best at the same time for you and for the whole.——For the governing intelligence clearly beholding all the actions of animated and self-moving creatures, and that mixture of good and evil which diversifies them, considered first of all by what disposition of things, and what situation of each individual in the general system, vice might be depressed and subdued, and virtue made secure of victory and happiness with the greatest facility and in the highest degree possible. In this manner he order'd thro' the entire circle of being, the internal constitution of every mind, where should be its station in the universal fabric, and thro' what variety of circumstances it should proceed in the whole tenor of its existence. He goes on in his sublime manner to assert a future state of retribution, as well for those who, by the exercise of good dispositions being harmonized and assimilated to the divine virtue, are consequently removed to a place of unblemish'd sanctity and happiness; as of those who by the most flagitious arts have arisen from contemptible beginnings to the greatest affluence and power, and whom therefore you look upon as unanswerable instances of negligence in the Gods, because you are ignorant of the purposes to which they are subservient, and in what manner they contribute to that supreme intention of good to the whole.Plato de Leg. x. 16.
    This theory has been deliver'd of late, especially abroad, in a manner which subverts the freedom of human actions; whereas Plato appears very careful to preserve it, and has been in that respect imitated by the best of his followers.
  9. ——————————one might rise,
    One order, &c.] See the meditations of Antoninus, and the characteristics, passim.
  10. The best and fairest, &c.] This opinion is so old, that Timæus Locrus calls the supreme being, δαιμ ργος πδ βελτινος, the artificer of that which is best; and represents him as resolving in the beginning to produce the most excellent work, and as copying the world most exactly from his own intelligible and essential idea; so that it yet remains, as it was at first, perfect in beauty, and, will never stand in need of any correction or improvement. There is no room for a caution here, to understand these expressions, not of any particular circumstances of human life separately consider'd, but of the sum or universal system of life and being. See also the vision at the end of the Theodicée of Leibnitz.
  11. As flame ascends, &c.] This opinion, tho' not held by Plato or any of the ancients, is yet a very natural consequence of his principles. But the disquisition is too complex and extensive to be enter'd upon here.
  12. ————when the pious band, &c.] The reader will here naturally recollect the fate of the sacred battalion of Thebes, which at the battle of Chæronea was utterly destroy'd, every man being found lying dead by his friend.
  13. Philip.] The Macedonian.