1730 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

Anonymous, "To Mr. Thomson on his Tragedy of Sophonisba" Eccho, or Edinburgh Weekly Journal (15 April 1730) 247.



Forgive the Muse, who with unpractis'd String,
And fond Ambition seeks thy Praise to sing;
Pleas'd who beholds thy tow'ring Genius rise,
And sees thy Merit shine in Southern Skies.

When Nature first inspir'd thy early Strain,
To paint the Beauties of the flow'ry Plain,
Th' inchanting Page I read with fond Delight,
And every lively Landskip charm'd my Sight;
Now rais'd by thee, while I again explore,
New Patriots rising on a barbarous Shore,
A beauteous Breast that glows with Love of Fame,
A Female Cato, with a softer Name;
My ravish'd Heart exults in being free,
And burns with Love of sacred Liberty!

Let Rome that Blessing arrogate no more,
The Goddess reigns upon a distant Shore;
And there in all her native Charms confest,
She fires immortal Sophonisba's Breast;
Great Carthage rises from her sacred Tomb,
By thee restor'd, she leaves Oblivion's Tomb,
And emulates again her haughty Rival Rome.

So when great Raphael rose, immortal Man!
With rural Scenes his Pencil first began,
Employ'd all-bounteous Nature's Laws to trace,
And copy still her ever-beauteous Face;
Here paint the Precipice and falling Flood,
There strike the op'ning Vale, and distant Wood;
Till rising in his Skill by just Degrees,
He form'd th' Idea of th' Historic Piece,
Where some great Hero boldly was design'd,
And all th' exalted Passions of the Mind;
Oft Art with Nature, such the generous Strife,
That all the speaking Canvas glow'd with Life:
So just the Draught, we melt at every Touch!
And even forget the Hand that charms so much;
Till by Reflection taught, we feel our Joys,
Still from one great Original arise,
Who follows Nature, moves without Design,
Who follows her like you, like you must shine.