1770 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

A Lady, "On Mr. Beattie's Essay on Truth" Scots Magazine 32 (August 1770) 442.



From Error's maze to guard unthinking youth,
And gently lead them to the pale of Truth;
Or with her light those hapless souls pervade,
Who stray bewilder'd through the gloomy shade
Of Sophistry, — A wilderness how dread!
Where weeds obscene a baleful vapour shed;
Such chilling dews as numb each noble part;
The deadly night-shades of the human heart!
To snatch, if not too late, from this sad path,
Ere every virtue sink o'erwhelm'd in death;
And from th' abyss of intellectual night,
Transport the soul to joys of heaven-born light;
Where liberty, and truth, and love divine,
And science, in eternal radiance shine,
And Sympathy, whose sweet creative fire
True taste and genius only can inspire:
Such is our author's aim. — Meanwhile his foes
Arise in arms all furious to oppose.
Blind Prejudice, in mischief ever keen;
And Envy, squinting with infernal mien;
And, deck'd in French embroidery, letter'd Pride,
The puppy Fashion fawning at his side;
And sciolists, and fops, a numerous band,
Appear prepar'd his progress to withstand.
But undismay'd Truth's champion moves along,
And views with eye of scorn the gathering throng.
Truth points his darts, and Virtue forms his shield,
Their royal banner waves upon the field:
The known insignia quick conviction spread,
And the pale sceptic hides his guilty head.

Hail to the bard, whose heav'n-inspir'd lays
Can touch the feeling soul a thousand ways!
How had my raptur'd heart their power confess'd!
How has thy song the throb of care repress'd!
On thy angelic Muse's wings up-born,
I lose the world, its smiles, its frowns, and scorn.

Hail to the man! whose independent soul
Disdains to crouch to Fashion's base controul:
Who holds the pleasures of a virtuous heart
More dear than all that riches can impart;
And of pure truth would barter not one grain,
For all that captivates the great and vain.

But hail, thrice hail, thou friend of human kind,
Who clear'st from sceptic mist th' exulting mind.
Though Genius and the Muses all unite
To deck thee with a pure unborrow'd light;
Not less this work shall eternize thy name,
But rank thee with the favourite sons of fame.
R. I.
Edinburgh, Aug 1, 1770.