1796 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Erasmus Darwin

Dewhurst Bilsborrow, "To Erasmus Darwin, on his Work entitled Zoonomia" 1796 ca.; Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry for 1805 (1807) 500.



Hail to the Bard, who sung from chaos hurl'd
How suns and planets form'd the whirling world:
How sphere on sphere earth's hidden strata bend,
And caves of rock her central fires defend:
Where gems new-born their twinkling eyes unfold,
And young ores shoot in arborescent gold.
How the fair flow'r, by zephyr woo'd, unfurls
Its panting leaves, and waves its azure curls;
Or spreads in gay undress its lucid form
To meet the sun, and shuts it to the storm;
While in green veins impassioned eddies move,
And beauty kindles into life and love.
How the first embryo-fibre, sphere, or cube,
Lives in new forms, — a line, — a ring, — a tube;
Clos'd in the womb, with limbs unfinish'd laves,
Sips with rude mouth the salutary waves;
Seeks round its cell the sanguine streams that pass,
And drinks with crimson gills the vital gas;
Weaves with soft threads the blue meand'ring vein,
The heart's red concave, and the silver brain;
Leads the long nerve, expands th' impatient sense,
And clothes in silken skin the nascent ens.

Erewhile, emerging from its liquid bed,
It lifts in gelid air its nodding head;
The light's first dawn with trembling eye-lid hails,
With lungs untaught arrests the balmy gales;
Tries its new tongue in tones unknown, and hears
The strange vibrations with unpractic'd ears,
Seeks with spread hands the bosom's velvet orbs,
With closing lip the milky fount absorbs;
And, as compress'd the dulcet streams distill,
Drinks warmth and fragrance from the living rill;
Eyes with mute rapture ev'ry waving line,
Prints with adoring kiss the Paphian shrine,
And learns, ere long, the perfect form confest,
Ideal beauty from its mother's breast.

Now in strong lines with bolder tints design'd,
You sketch ideas, and pourtray the mind,
Teach how fine atoms of impinging light
To ceaseless change the visual sense invite;
While the bright lens collects the rays that swerve,
And bends their focus on the moving nerve.
How thoughts to thoughts are link'd with viewless chains,
Tribes leading tribes, and trains pursuing trains;
With shadowy trident how volition guides,
Surge after surge, his intellectual tides;
Or, queen of sleep, imagination roves,
With frantic sorrows, or delirious loves,

Go on, O friend, explore with eagle eye,
Where wrapt in night retiring causes lie,
Trace their slight bands, their secret haunts betray,
And give new wonders to the beam of day,
'Till link by link with step aspiring trod,
You climb from nature to the throne of God.

So saw the patriarch, with admiring eyes,
From earth to heav'n a golden ladder rise:
Involv'd in clouds, the mystic scale ascends,
And brutes and angels, crowd the distant ends.