1745 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Sneyd Davies, "Rhapsody, to Milton" in Collection of Original Poems and Translations. By John Whaley (1745) 182-86.



Soul of the Muses! Thou Supreme of Verse!
Unskill'd and Novice in the sacred Art,
May I unblam'd approach thee? may I crave
Thy Blessing, Sire harmonious! amply pleas'd
Should'st thou vouchsafe to own me for thy Son;
Thy Son, tho' dwindled from the mighty Size
And Stature; much more from the Parent's Mind.
Content and blest enough, if but some Line,
If but some distant Feature, half express'd,
Tell whence I spring. — This Privilege deny'd,
Grant me at least thy Converse now and oft
To ruminate thy Beauties infinite,
To trace thy Heav'nly Notions, to enquire
When from above they came, and how convey'd:
If darted on thee by the Sun's bright Ray,
Meridian Fire! or rather by the Muse
Nocturnal wafted to thy favour'd Ear,
How else, explain, cou'd human Mind exile
Grasp universal Nature, Treasure huge!
Or even say, where could'st thou Language find
Able to bear the Burden of thy Thought?
Such Thought, such Language, that all other Verse
Seems trifling (not excepting Greece and Rome)
So lofty and so sweet, beyond compare,
Is thine: whether thy sounding Pinion match
The Clang of Eagle's Flight: Or thy pois'd Plume,
Dove-like, cut silently th' unconscious Sky,
Calm as the Summer's Breath, softer than Down.
Witness the Scene of Eden, Bow'r of Love,
Of Innocence, of Happiness; o'erlaid
With Fancy's finest Texture; strew'd with Flow'rs
Of Amaranth; her Rivers Nectar; Winds,
To which Arabia's spicy Gales are poor.
Witness a bolder Page, where coping Gods
In Battle rend the fairest Hills, and shake
Heav'n's Basis: lively flash the painted Fires,
And the imagin'd Thunder rolls methinks
More terribly, than tearing the vext Air
When troubled Nature speaks. — But why select
A Charm from thousand? and what need of Praise?
Who fondly seeks to praise thee, does thee wrong,
Impairs thee, greatest in thyself. Thy Hell,
Copied by other Hand whate'er, will lose
It's Terrors; and thy Paradise it's Sweets,
Soil'd by rude Touch. — Enough then to admire,
Silent admire; and be content to feel:
Or, if we follow thy bright Track, advance
With Reverence, and shew that not Desire
To Rival, but Resemble, is our Aim:
Resemble thee, tho' in inferior Strain.

For O! great Pattern to succeeding Times!
Dost thou not smile indignant, to behold
The tinkling modern, fetter'd, yet well pleas'd,
Dance to the tiresome Musick of his Chains;
While all Parnassus rings the silly Chime:
And Pegasus, that once with spurning Heel
Kick'd the dull Ground, Ridiculous and tTme
Can amble with a Monk upon his Back?—
Could Milton think, when his high Standard rear'd
Th' Emblazonry of Freedom, none shou'd throng
To gaze, and kiss the Manumizing Staff?
Dastards in Choice! what, Legislator, then
Avail thy Charter, thy Example bright?
As when some Hero, to redeem a state
Long harrow'd by Oppression, lifts his Arm,
To crush th' imperious Yoke: the many scar'd
Stand tremblingly aloof, and love the Mace
That bruises 'em: Or, if the Chief return,
From the red Hall with Liberty proclaim'd,
Know not to prize, or keep, the mighty Gem;
The Romans on a Time, a Madman kill'd,
Rather than not be lorded, chose a Fool,
When Claudius in a lurking Hole was found
By Band Praetorian. Abject thus our Age,
And Slaves, because their Fathers were, to Rhime.—

Is it then Custom, (Superstition's Plea),
Ears poorly tickled with returning Sounds,
Why Jingling Charms? Is it to speed our Course!
A peal of Bells were right, if we were Mules:
The Courser asks no Spur. — Ah me! I fear,
And see, and feel the Reason; Faulters why
The Muse this Moment, wearied, flags, and pants
Despairing? Such a Distance has thou got
From thy first start, and left Pursuit behind:
On the Top Brow of Fame, in laurel'd Chair
Seated, and thence look down on Mortal Toil,
That climbing emulous would pace in vain
Thy Footsteps, trackless thro' Excess of Light.