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That hour elapsed, th' incurable revolt
Is punished, and down comes the thunder-bolt.
If mercy then put by the threatening blow,
Must she perform the same kind office now ?
May she! and, if offended heaven be still
Accessible, and prayer prevail, she will.
'Tis not however insolence and noise,
The tempest of tumultuary joys,
Nor is it yet despondence and dismay
Will win ber visits or engage her stay;
Prayer only, and the penitential tear,
Can call her smiling down, and fix her here.
But when a country (one that I could name)
In prostitution sinks the sense of shame;
When infamous venality, grown bold,
Writes on his bosom, to be let or sold ;
When perjury, that heaven-defying vice,
Sells oaths by tale, and at the lowest price,
Stamps God's own name upon a lie just made,
To turn a penny in the way of trade;
When avarice starves (and never hides his face)
Two or three millions of the human race,
And not a tongue inquires, how, where, or when,
Though conscience will have twinges now and then ;
When profanation of the sacred cause
In all its parts, times, ministry, and laws,
Bespeaks a land, once christian, fallen, and lost
In all, that wars against that title most,
What follows next, let cities of great name,
And regions long since desolate proclaim.
Nineveh, Babylon, and ancient Rome,
Speak to the present times, and times to come;
They cry aloud in every careless ear,
Stop, while you may; suspend your mad career;
O learn from our example and our fate,
Learn wisdom and repentance ere too late.
Not only vice disposes and prepares
The mind, that slumbers sweetly in her snares,
To stoop to tyranny's usurped command,
And bend lier polished neck beneath his hand
(A dire effect, by one of nature's laws
Unchangeably connected with its cause) ;
But Providence himself will intervene To throw his dark displeasure o'er the scene. All are his instruments; each form of war, What burns at home, or threatens from afar, Nature in arms, her elements at strife, The storms, that overset the joys of life, Are but his rods to scourge a guilty land, And waste it at the bidding of his hand. He gives the word, and mutiny soon roars In all her gates, and shakes her distant shores; The standards of all nations are unfurled ; She has one foe, and that one foe the world. And, if he doom that people with a frown, And mark them with a seal of wrath pressed down, Obduracy takes place; callous and tough, The reprobated race grows judgment-proof : Earth shakes beneath them, and heaven roars above; But nothing scares them from the course they love : To the lascivious pipe and wanton song, That charm down fear, they frolic it along, With mad rapidity and unconcern, Down to the gulf, from which is no returü. They trust in navies, and their navies fail--God's curse can cast away ten thousand sail! They trust in armies, and their courage dies ; In wisdom, wealth, in fortune, and in lies ; But all they trust in withers, as it must, When he commands, in whom they place no trust. Vengeance at last pours down upon their coast, A long despised, but now victorious, host; Tyranny sends the chain, that must abridge The noble sweep of all their privilege ; Gives liberty the last, the mortal shock: Slips the slave's collar on, and snaps the lock.
A. Such lofty strains embellish what you teach, Mean you to prophecy, or but to preach?
B. I know the mind, that feels indeed the fire
The muse imparts, and can command the lyre,
Acts with a force, and kindles with a zeal,
Whatever the theme, that others never feel;
If human woes her soft attention claim,
A tender sympathy pervades the frame,
She pours a sensibility divine
Along the nerve of every feeling line.
But if a deed not tamely to be borne
Fire indignation and a sense of scorn,
The strings are swept with such a power, so loud,
The storm of music shakes th' astonished crowd.
So, when remote futurity is brought
Before the keen inquiry of her thought,
A terrible sagacity informs
The poet's heart; he looks to distant storms;
He hears the thunder ere the tempest lowers;
And armed with strength surpassing human powers,
Seizes events as yet unknown to man,
And darts his soul into the dawning plan.
Hence, in a Roman mouth, the graceful name
Of prophet and of poet was the same;
Hence British poets too the priesthood shared,
And every hallowed druid was a bard.
But no prophetic fires to me belong ;
I play with syllables, and sport in song.
A. At Westminster, where little poets strive
To set a distich upon six and five,
Where discipline helps opening buds of sense,
And makes his pupils proud with silver pence,
I was a poet too : but modern taste
Is so refined, and delicate, and chaste,
That verse, whatever fire the fancy warms,
Without a creamy smoothness has no charms.
Thus, all success depending on an ear,
And thinking I might purchase it too dear,
If sentiment were sacrificed to sound,
And truth cut short to make a period round,
I judged a man of sense could scarce do worse,
Than caper in the morris-dance of verse.
B. Thus reputation is a spur to wit,
And some wits flag through fear of losing it.
Give me the line, that ploughs its stately course
Like a proud swan conquering the stream by force ;
That, like some cottage beauty, strikes the heart,
Quite unindebted to the tricks of art.
When labour and when dulness, club in hand,
Like the two figures at St. Dunstan's stand,
Beating alternately, in measured time,
The clock-work tintinabulum of rhime,
Exact and regular the sounds will be ;
But such mere quarter-strokes are not for me.
From him who rears a poem lank and long,
To him who strains his all into a song ;
Perhaps some bonny Caledonian air,
All birks and braes though he was never there;
Or, having whelped a prologue with great pains,
Feels himself spent, and fumbles for his brains;
A prologue interdashed with many a stroke---
An art contrived to advertise a joke,
So that the jest is clearly to be seen,
Not in the words---but in the gap between :
Manner is all in all, whate'er is writ,
The substitute for genius, sense and wit.
To dally much with subjects mean and low Proves that the mind is weak, or makes it so. Neglected talents rust into decay, And every effort ends in push-pin play. The man, that means success, should soar above A soldier's feather, or a lady's glove; Else, summoning the muse to such a theme, The fruit of all her labour is whipt-cream. As if an eagle flew aloft, and then--Stooped from its highest pitch to pounce a wren, As if the poet, purposing to wed, Should carve himself a wife in gingerbread.
Ages elapsed ere Homer's lamp appeared, And ages ere the Mantuan swan was heard : To carry nature lengths unknown before, To give a Milton birth, asked ages more. Thus genius rose and set, at ordered times, And shot a day-spring into distant climes, Ennobling every region that he chose; He sunk in Greece, in Italy he rose; And, tedious years of Gothic darkness passed, Emerged all splendour in our isle at last. Thus lovely halcyons dive into the main, Then show far off their shining plumes again.
A. Is genius only found in epic lays ? Prove this, and forfeit all pretence to praise.
Make their heroic powers your own at once,
Or candidly confess yourself a dunce.
B. These were the chief : each interval of night
Was graced with many an undulating light.
In less illustrious bards his beauty shone
A meteor, or a star; in these, the sun.
The nightingale may claim the topmost bough,
While the poor grasshopper must chirp below :
Like him unnoticed, I, and such as I,
Spread little wings, and rather skip than fly:
Perched on the meagre produce of the land,
An ell or two of prospect we command;
But never peep beyond the thorny bound,
Or oaken fence that hems the paddock round.
In Eden, ere yet innocence of heart
Had faded, poetry was not an art;
Language, above all teaching, or if taught
Only by gratitude and glowing thought,
Elegant as simplicity, and warm
As ectasy, unmanacled by form,
Not prompted as in our degenerate days,
By low ambition and the thirst of praise,
Was natural as is the flowing stream,
And yet magnificent---A God the theme !
That theme on earth exhausted, though above
'Tis found as everlasting as his love,
Man lavished all his thoughts on human things---
The feats of heroes, and the wrath of kings :
But still, while virtue kindled his delight,
The song was moral, and so far was right.
'Twas thus till luxury seduced the mind
To joys less innocent, as less refin'd;
Then genius danced a bacchanal; he crowned
The brimming goblet, seized the thyrus, bound
His brows with ivy, rushed into the field
Of wild imagination, and there reeled,
The victim of bis own lascivious fires,
And dizzy with delight, profaned the sacred wires.
Anacreon, Horace, played in Greece and Rome
This bedlam part; and others nearer home.
When Cromwell fought for power, and while he reigned
The proud protector of the power he gained,