1799 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

William Roscoe, "Verses to Henry Fuseli, Esq. R.A. on his Series of Pictures from the Poetical Works of Milton" The Morning Chronicle (20 June 1799).



Spirit of Him who wing'd his daring flight
Tow'rds the pure confines of primaeval light,
Say, whilst this nether World thy power's confin'd,
Weak Child of Dust, frail Offspring of Mankind,
Thy destin'd barrier this terrestrial mound,
Th' incumbent vault of Heav'n thine upward bound,
Thy means the common energies of Man,
Thy life a Shadow and thy years a Span,
How couldst thou, struggling with opposing Fate,
Burst thro' the limits of this mortal state?
Thence, soaring high, pursue with steadfast Fate,
The op'ning wonders of th' empyreal blaze,
Where countless Seraphs pour in burning zone
Concentric Glories round th' eternal Throne?
Or hear, and hearing live, the dread alarms
Of Heav'nly War, and Cherubim in arms?
See in th' abyss the proud Apostate hurl'd,
And rising into light, the infant World?
Fav'rite of Heav'n, 'twas thine on Mortal eyes
To pour these Visions, rich with Rainbow dies;
Peopling the void of space with Forms unseen—
Rising from BEING to what MIGHT HAVE BEEN!

Nor he not breathes a portion of thy fire,
Who "bids the Pencil answer to the Lyre,"
Marks the bright Phantoms at their proudest height,
And with determin'd hand arrests their flight;
Bids SHADOWY Forms SUBSTANTIAL shape assume,
For toils like these whate'er the meed divine,
That glorious meed, my FUSELI, is thine,
Who first to Truths embodied fulness wrought—
The glowing outline of the Poet's thought!

Artist sublime, whose Pencil knows to trace
The early wonders of thy kindred race,
Not thine to teach th' historian's scanty page,
High deeds of cultur'd Greece or conqu'ring Rome;
Of Hope, Aversion, Pity, Rage, or Love:—
Beyond whate'er the Drama's pow'rs can tell,
Alike by clime and ages unconfin'd,
Thou strik'st the chords that vibrate on mankind;
Op'st the dread scenes that Heav'n suspensive ey'd,
Recal'st the joys of Eden's happier prime
Whilst Life was yet unconscious of a crime,
Whilst VIRTUE'S self could PASSION'S glow approve—
'Till, dread reverse, on Man's devoted race
Th' insidious Serpent work'd the dire disgrace!
Then first o'er vanquish'd Man began their reign,
The Fiends of Woe — the Family of Pain!—
Disease the poison'd cup of anguish fills,
And opes the Lazar-house of human ills;
See FRENZY rushes from his burning bed;
See pining ATROPHY declines his head;
See mute DESPAIR that broods o'er Woes unknown,
And MELANCHOLY gaze herself to stone!
Then, pouring forth from Hell's deserted bound,
REVENGE, and FRAUD, and MURDER stalk around;
And MERCY sleeps while JUSTICE rears the rod!
Yet, whilst the bursting deluge from the Earth
Sweeps the rebellious brood of giant birth,
One proud survivor rolls his vengeful eyes—
And with last look the living GOD defies!

But now the Waves again their station keep,
And Vengeance slumbers on th' expansive Deep;
Again, rejoicing, o'er the firm-fix'd Land
The favour'd Patriarch leads his Household band,
With sacred incense bids his Altars blaze,
And pours to GOD the living Song of praise.

Excursive thus the daring Artist soars
Where'er th' immortal Bard his flight explores,
Undazzled shares with him Heav'n's brightest glow,
Or penetrates the boundless depths below,
Or on the sloping Sun-beam joys to ride,
Or falls amidst the uncreated void;
Imbibes a portion of his sacred flame,
Reflects his Genius, and partakes his Fame!