James De La Cour's long didactic poem, modelled on Pope's Essay on Criticism, was written when the author was a student at Trinity College, Dublin. Edmund Spenser is mentioned in a section on allegorical poetry: "Romantic dreams! from Superstition sprung, | Which Ariosto taught, and Spenser sung" Select Collection of Poems (1780-82) 7:289. Not seen.
A Prospect of Poetry is remarkable for its vibrant imagery and verbal pyrotechnics; it was reprinted and read throughout the eighteenth century. The Irish nationalism is also notable, including a lament for Thomas Parnell and the suggestion that in the wake of Pope's Dunciad the Muses will migrate back to Hibernia.
Thomas Dermody: "The reverend JAMES DELACOUR was an inhabitant of Cork; and much caressed for his sprightly wit and moral conduct, beauties which are very rarely united. His first published poem was entitled the Prospect of Poetry, inscribed to Boyle earl of Orrery, and introduced by complimentary verses from several respectable writers of the day. Though rather too impetuous and fiery (a sad prediction of his future destiny), it contains some passages surprisingly beautiful and sublime; the measure is harmonious, the design uniform though not new, and altogether it is a performance of infinite merit. His description of the birth of Love is replete with tender and elegant conception. Mr. Bell, in his compilation of fugitive poetry, has very judiciously retained, indeed I may say revived, this piece" "Biographical Notice of Delacour" in Raymond, Life of Dermody (1806) 2:269-70.
Samuel Austin Allibone: "James De La Cour, or Delacour, an Irish poet, 1709-1781, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and subsequently took holy orders" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:491.
Julius Nicholas Hook incorrectly assigns some lines from this poem to Robert Lloyd, "Eighteenth-Century Imitations of Spenser" (1941) 205n.
What various styles to different strains belong,
What time to rise, and when to sink in song;
To thee, best judge of this refin'd delight,
O! born to genius, lo the Muses write;
'Tis yours, my lord, to bid each art excell,
And smile on merit which you grace so well;
To make mankind a nobler Broghill see,
And find their long-lost Halifax in thee:
Few now remain to say who sung before,
Parnell is dead and Addison no more!
The few remaining Time will sweep away,
And Pope and Swift must shortly follow Gay;
These only left of all the tuneful choir,
Garth, Steele, Rowe, Congreve, Wycherley, and Prior;
These only left, the world's great loss declare,
And serve to shew us what those wonders were.
On you, my Lord, the Muses turn their eyes;
On Orrery the letter'd world relies;
Their ancient honours let a Boyle restore,
And be whate'er was Orrery before:
O! chief in Courts to lay the Peer aside,
Weed Vice from dignity, from titles Pride,
Great without grandeur, generous without views,
For ever bounteous, and yet ne'er profuse;
No less by nature noble than by name,
The bloom of breeding, and the flower of fame:
Approv'd a patron at thy natal hour;
Think'st thou to 'scape the praises in their power?
Though from Britannia's strains, and Albion's shore,
You fly to deserts but to blaze the more;
They'll search you out, discover where you shine,
Proclaim your worth, and frustrate your design.
So in the bloom the diamond darts its light,
Though thick encircled with surrounding night;
The kindling darkness breaks before the ray,
And on the eye-ball burst the brilliant day.
Sage Temple writes, a spark of native fire,
Excels whatever learning can acquire;
In poetry this observation's true,
Without some genius fame will ne'er ensue:
Such for a while may climb against the hill,
But then, like Sisyphus, are falling still;
I own, by reading we may feed the flame,
But first must have that heat from whence it came;
Else, like dry pumps whose springs their moisture mourn,
We may pour in, but will have no return;
To such, indeed, those rules are ill applied,
For such were never on the Muses side.
Come then, my friends, who like with me to rove
The flowery mountain, and the laurel grove,
Where god Apollo guards the limpid fount,
And the glad Muses climb the vocal mount:
You whom the voice invites to taste their charms,
Whom verse transports, and tuneful fancy warms:
Before you press the Sirens to your heart,
Attend a while the precepts I impart.
First let your judgement for your fancy chuse
Of all the Nine the most unblemish'd Muse:
Soft yet sublime, in love yet strictly coy,
Prone to be grave, yet not averse to joy;
Where taste and candour, wit and manners meet,
Bold without bombast, daring but discreet;
Correct with spirit, musical with sense,
Not apt to give, nor slow to take offence;
First to commend when others thoughts are shown.
But always last delighted with her own.
When this is done, let Nature be your guide;
Rise in the spring, or in the river glide;
In every line consult her as you run,
And let her Naiads roll the river on:
Unless, to please our nice corrupted sense,
Art be call'd in, and join'd with vast expence;
Then rivers wander through the vale no more,
But boil in pipes, or spout through figur'd ore;
The neighbouring brooks their empty channel mourn,
That now enrich some artificial urn.
Thus ever suit your numbers to your theme,
And tune their cadence to the falling stream;
Or should the falling stream incline to love,
Let the words slide, and like its murmurs move:
Poor were the praise to paint a purling rill,
To make it music is the Muse's skill;
Without her voice the spring runs silent by,
Dumb are the waters, and the verses dry;
While chill'd with ice the cool waves creep along,
And all the fountain freezes in the song.
But if a storm must rattle through the strain,
Then let your lines grow black with gathering rain;
Through Jove's aerial hall loud thunders sound,
And the big bolt roars through the dark profound:
But should the welkin brighten to the view,
The sun breaks out, and gilds the style anew;
Colour your clouds with a vermilion dye,
And let warm blushes streak the western sky;
Till evening shuts in sober suited gray,
And draws her dappled curtains o'er the day.
Let Vesper then pursue the purple light,
And lead the twinkling glories of the night;
The moon must rise in silver o'er the shades,
Stream through your pen, and glance along the meads:
While Zephyr softly whispers in the lines,
And pearly dew in bright description shines;
The little warblers to the trees repair,
Sing in their sleep, and dream away their care;
While closing flowrets nod their painted heads,
And fold themselves to rest upon their rosy beds.
But if Aurora's fingers stain the lay,
Let fancy waken with the rising day;
Let Sol's fierce coursers whirl the fiery team,
And from their nostrils blow a flood of flame:
Be sultry noon in brighter yellow drest,
And bend a rainbow on her burning breast;
Let the rich dyes in changing colours flow,
And lose themselves in one poetic glow.
So the fair Indian crown its gloss assumes,
Dispos'd in tufts of party-colour'd plumes;
The transient tincture drinks the neighbouring hue,
As if from each th' alternate colours grew,
Where every beauty's by a former made,
And lends a lustre to the following shade.
Thus may a simile come in with grace,
And add new splendors to the showery piece;
Paint the proud arch so lively to the sight,
That every line reflects a watery light.
Hence to the garden should your fancy fly,
Let the tall tulip with your Iris vie;
With a mix'd glory crown its radiant head,
The brightest yellow ting'd with streams of red;
Next let the lily in your numbers blow,
And o'er its sweetness shake the downy snow,
In the white garb of virtue let it rise,
And wave in verse before the virgin's eyes;
On tuneful feet let languid ivy crawl,
And in poetic measure scale the wall,
While the sharp sheers return a clipping sound,
And the green leaves fall quivering to the ground.
Here in the bower of beauty newly shorn,
Let Fancy sit, and sing how Love was born;
Wrapt up in roses, Zephyr found the child,
In Flora's cheek when first the Goddess smil'd:
Nurs'd on the bosom of the beauteous spring,
O'er her white breast he spread his purple wing,
On kisses fed, and silver drops of dew,
The little wanton into Cupid grew;
Then arm'd his hand with glittering sparks of fire,
And tipt his shining arrows with desire:
Hence joy arose upon the wings of wind,
And hope presents the lover always kind;
Despair creates a river for our fears,
And tender pity softens into tears.
Observe, how Sappho paints the lover's pain,
What various passions animate her strain!
Her colour fades, she faints in tender lays,
Her pulse beats languid, and her sense decays;
Then in a rapid tide of passions soft,
Her weak tongue faulters, and her voice is lost;
Again her soul revives, her breath returns,
Again she shivers, and again she burns:
Each reader's bosom feels her various care,
Warm'd by her flame, or chill'd by her despair.
Tost, as the sea, by passion, let the soul
Like the brine sparkle, like the billows roll:
Then anger kindles in the warrior's eyes,
And earth usurps the thunder of the skies:
See how they mount upon the groaning car,
Shake the long lance, and overtake the war;
Aloft in air resounds the whirling thong,
The horses fly, the chariot smokes along;
The foaming coursers press upon their heels,
Back run the lines beneath the whirling wheels:
Fleeter than light they flash along the fields,
And suns by thousands blaze upon their shields:
The twisted serpents, round their helmets roll'd,
Must hiss in verse, and bite in burnish'd gold:
The wars break in — now millions are no more,
And a long groan pursues the gushing gore;
Spears, darts, and javelins, launch along the sky,
Plunge into blood, or into shivers fly:
Thus let your heroes rage, by Mars possest,
And feel an Iliad rising in your breast;
But soon cement those wounds, let discord cease,
And warring worlds unite in friendly peace.
Hence sounds in softer notes must learn to move,
And melting music rise the voice of love!
Let Tubal's lute in skilful hands appear,
And pour new numbers on the listening ear;
With the full organ let them sweetly swell,
With the loud trumpet languishingly shrill;
Or in soft concord let the concert suit,
The sprightly clarion with the Dorian flute:
Then wake to vocal airs the warbling wire,
Let the strings run beneath the poet's fire;
While sorrow sighs, ah! never let them cool,
But melt melodious on the soften'd soul:
So may the passions wait upon your hand,
Move as you move, and act as you command.
And here Arion's harp may swell the strain,
Or smooth your numbers as it smooth'd the main;
When wondering Sirens to its sounds advanc'd,
And bounding dolphins o'er the billows danc'd;
Admiring Tritons round the music play,
And angry seas in measure roll away:
A tide of rapture rose as he requir'd,
White work'd the waves, and foam'd as he inspir'd;
The billows beat upon the sounding string,
And through the hollow harp the waters ring.
As on a moon-light night, when Neptune calls
His finny coursers from their coral stalls,
From some white cliff, whose brow reflects the deep,
He leads them forth, and bids the billows sleep,
The waves obey; so still a silence reigns,
That not a wrinkle curls the watery plains;
Like floating mercury the waves appear,
And the sea whitens with a heaven so clear:
Before him Triton blows his twisted shell,
And distant sea-nymphs know the signal well;
In long procession the caerulean train
With joy confess the sovereign of the main:
Such were the raptures of the sea-green race,
When sweet Arion cross'd the watery space;
When first his fingers felt the music rise,
And mix'd in melody the seas and skies.
On land Amphion swells the magic song,
And round his fingers moving mountains throng;
At every stroke he sees fair Thebes aspire,
Walls rise on walls, and temples soaring higher:
At every stroke new wonders deck the strain,
The big creation of a poet's brain!
Hear how Timotheus wraps the soul in sounds,
And drops the notes like balm upon her wounds;
The moulded measures querulous decay,
Till a swift tremor sweeps the sounds away:
By sweet degrees again they gather near,
Recover fast, and thunder on the ear;
Down the broad brass his bold hands brush the tones,
The long string leaps, and vibrates into groans;
Let furious Saul be figur'd to thy mind,
So mad — as not to be by verse confin'd;
With music arm'd the sweet musician stands,
And o'er the golden cordage spreads his hands;
The monarch's looks are fix'd upon the strings,
And his eyes languish as young David sings;
His fury falls, as that begins to rise,
And all his soul seems starting from his eyes!
But chief the music of the spheres must please,
If sounds celestial warble in thy lays;
When the three Parcae, Fate's fair offspring born,
The world's great spindle as its axle turn;
Round which eight spheres in beauteous order run,
And as they turn revolving time is spun:
Whose motions all things upon earth ordain,
Whence revolutions date their fickle reign;
These, rob'd in white, at equal distance thron'd,
Sit o'er the spheres, and twirl the spindle round,
On each of which a Siren loudly sings,
As from the wheel the fatal thread she flings;
The Parcae answer in the choir agree,
And all those voices make one harmony.
To Titian turn, to Raphael praises give,
Hence picture rose, and shadows seem'd to live;
On Guido look, to Rubens rear thine eye,
Where each bold figure seems a stander-by:
Trophies and triumphs by Mantegna's hand
In martial order on the canvas stand;
With hints of glory fire the warlike soul,
And bid like motions in our bosoms roll:
Here Verrio's colours glow expos'd to sight,
And sky-dipp'd pencils stream with liquid light;
Thy art, O Kneller! asks a sister's praise,
So may thy paintings beautify my lays;
Whether young blushes ripen in thy lines,
Or verdant landskips wave in green designs,
Through which the sun, emerging from the main,
In floods of purple drowns the leafy scene,
A mimic visto stretches wide between,
Where gold appears diversified with green;
Shades rise on shades, on colours colours flow,
And transient shadows undulate below.
So when Aurora mounts the rosy East,
And Light's warm blushes redden o'er her breast
A thousand suns her orient rays unfold,
And every leaf is sprinkled o'er with gold:
The glittering spangles burn the woodland shade,
Tree, stream, and bush, in Nature's gold array'd:
The burnish'd rills in softer silver show,
And, dash'd with purple, glance their waves below;
Ten thousand shadows skim the colour'd stream,
And o'er the silver shoots the crimson gleam.
Next let Prometheus boast his godlike art,
And let a wonder from his fingers start;
An angel's form by every poet suing,
Love in her looks, and music in her tongue.
So when the sun with all-enlivening ray
On Memnon's lips first strikes the golden day;
The hard flint utters melancholy sounds,
And from the stone sweet harmony rebounds.
Before Lysippus' courser neighs the steed,
And fond Pygmalion clasps his ivory maid;
Where Niobe, in beauteous sorrow shown,
Melts into tears, and hardens into stone.
Beside his chissel let Mount Athos stand,
Heave into form, and groan beneath his hand,
While on one spacious palm he pours the sea,
And his broad fingers form an ample bay;
The other grasps a wide-extended town,
Whose regal walls unnumber'd turrets crown:
Thus was this son of earth suppos'd to rise,
O'er-look the globe, and climb into the skies,
To scare the Gods with his enormous height,
A second Titan soaring out of sight.
So near proud Rhodes, across the sounding main,
The world's just wonder brav'd the winds and rain,
While round his head the rattling tempests blow,
And watery mountains break in foam below;
On Neptune's back, the proud Colossus rides,
Deaf to the roarings of the winds and tides.
There Phidias bids the breathing statue move
In living sculpture not unworthy Jove;
From age to age Cleomenes shall charm,
And his carv'd Venus future warriors warm,
In fair proportion from beholders turn,
And o'er her cheeks the blushing marble burn.
See with Silenus youthful Bacchus vie,
And the flint sparking in his jovial eye;
Round his full temples grapes luxuriant spread,
Vine leaves, and clusters, dangle o'er his head:
Or, a tame tiger, taught his load to bear,
He rides in rock, and shakes his ivy spear.
There good Aurelius almost looks a groan!
And thunder-bolts descend in figur'd stone;
Great Alexander weeps his ensigns furl'd,
And bids his fire create another world.
Here let thy graver through rock-diamond run,
The heaven-hued sapphire sparkle in the sun;
The wounded ruby ope its bleeding vein,
And the red streams the virgin paper stain;
Here link your jewels in a blazing string,
Let the green emerald look like smiling spring,
The yellow topaz boast a golden hue,
And slippery agate shine in veins of blue;
Let these in crystal caskets charm the sight,
Terrestrial ears, and children of the light!
Like the rich bow athwart th' aethereal plain,
That burns in showers and fire imbibes from rain.
Now let your Muse to architecture change,
Plunge in the bath, or through the palace range,
Heave the huge mole, or bid the column rise,
Or point the obelisk to pierce the skies:
Palladio here must think in every line,
And deep Vitruvius scan the whole design;
The works of Solomon and him of Tyre
Direct the plan, and all your taste inspire:
In due proportion every pillar rear,
Nor let the orders be confounded there:
Where the Corinthian stands in fluted rows,
Let not the martial Doric interpose;
Nor, where the Tuscan lifts th' imperial urn,
Suffer the neat Ionic shaft to turn:
But chief that chaos call'd Composite shun,
Which begs from all, and yet belongs to none
So Babel's battlements began to rise,
Left earth below, and labour'd up the skies;
The mighty bulwark threaten'd Heaven's abode,
And bade the mounting world ascend to God:
And they had now been there — but Heaven look'd down,
Their skills confounded, and their tower o'erthrown;
Tongues, pillars, orders, to confusion turn,
And mankind disappointed seem'd to mourn.
Here Egypt's pyramids must heave sublime,
And blunt the teeth of all-decaying Time;
Beneath whose weight, the burthen'd earth must groan,
A ponderous pile in monumental stone:
Strong bars of adamant the marble lock,
And links of iron chain the solid rock;
Beneath whose summit towering eagles fly,
A pointed mountain ending in the sky.
Proud Babylon with brazen gates behold,
And broad Euphrates in her bosom roll'd;
Walls, which Semiramis with turrets crown'd,
And colour'd brick with black bitumen bound;
A second Eden here Nitocris trod,
In pensile gardens worthy of a God;
So grand the costly structure hung in air,
It seem'd not built but first created there:
Here trees and flowers in watery figures rise,
And fruitage ripen nearer to the skies;
Fair fountains fall in silver-steamimg floods,
And artificial rainbows paint the clouds;
With various-colour'd light the water burn'd,
Against the sun in artful arches turn'd;
Nor were the golden pipes by Sirius dried,
The river still the water-works supplied.
Here let the boaster fall from man to beast,
Eat grass with brutes, or on rude acorns feast,
Driven from his throne in dens to pass the day,
To herd with wolves, and howl the night away.
So wild Lycaon fled his own abode,
Chang'd by the vengeance of an angry God,
On shaggy feet ran howling through the plain,
And mingled nightly with the prowling train.
Here let the Muse a while delighted rest,
Pleas'd with the prospect opening in her breast;
The wide horizon and the world survey,
As through the walks her fancy loves to stray.
Invention! ah, how beautiful art thou!
I feel thy sudden inspiration now;
Thy whispers prompt me, and the pleasing strife
Of infant thought just struggling into life:
The new-born offspring longs to try its feet,
And run through verse with voluntary heat.
This was the Nymph that did wise Numa please,
And this the Genius of great Socrates.
Like some smooth mirror, see Euphrates glide
Through Duras' plains, and spread his bosom wide;
On whose broad surface watery landskips lie,
And bending willows shade the downward sky:
There floating forests mix'd with meadows move,
And the green glass reflects the flowers above;
Shepherds and sheep along the picture stray,
And with the water seem to slide away:
In the blue gleam, the park and walls appear,
And gilded barges, mix'd with glazing deer;
The huntsman sounds — the frighted shadow flies,
Thro' flocks, greens, shepherds, barges, hounds, and skies.
Thus in a room, where light can only pass
Through the small circle of a convex-glass;
O'er the stain'd sheet amusing shadows slide,
Clouds float in air, and ships along the tide:
In rural posture fields and oxen show,
Trees wave, streams run, and colour'd blossoms glow.
'Tis thus when Spring's soft vernal blooms appear,
And throw a glory round the youthful year;
Or Summer blazing o'er the heavenly blue,
When swarming insects dip their wings in dew:
In Autumn too, the same mild scene delights,
To view the water, and enjoy the nights;
Nor less loud Winter wilder bliss denies,
When Boreas bids the broad Euphrates rise:
Then peaceful images amuse no more,
But through the bridge the sounding surges roar,
Wide dashing foaming high, and tumbling to the shore,
The distant billow seems the heavens to lave,
And the horizon stoops to drink the wave.
So the loud Euxine, whose compulsive sway
Ne'er yet knew ebb or swift reflux of sea,
Rolls on eternal, and directly beats
Against black Bosphorus' tempestuous streights;
The Dardanells behold its louring front,
Gloom the Propontic, and the Hellespont.
Now swell your style, and let the flood conform,
To the rouz'd tempest, and the roaring storm;
In verse as rough let every torrent move,
Froth the vex'd waves, and curl their heads above,
Let the green tide turn white with abrupt shock,
And break the salt surge on the rugged rock:
Not so where mazy rills maeandering shine,
The running silver trickles through the line;
In smoother notes the whispering waters purl,
The brook falls tuneful, and the waves uncurl;
Hence images of different kinds abound,
In all the volubility of sound,
Applied to subjects, corresponding flow,
Some loudly rough, and others sweetly low.
Hence various styles appear in war, and peace,
And every style has its peculiar grace;
In epics here a hero strides away,
And there Amyntor tunes his oaten lay,
While o'er the lawn the lambkins frisk along,
And with their bleatings fill the rural song;
Or when still evening reddens o'er the sky,
It bids her blushes round the welkin fly;
In each soft cloud some colour is express'd,
Till with united glories burns the West:
Then swarm the flies, the tinsel'd people run,
To bid adieu to the departing sun:
With airy music sip the milky streams,
And gild their coasts in light's declining beams:
Add that at eve cool Zephyr wakes the breeze,
And sits in sighs upon the shivering trees;
Add that at eve Etesian breezes wake,
With coming gales the leaves are seen to shake,
Still trembling onward with th' approaching blast,
Till on the dimply pool it breathes at last,
Before the wind the water curls in rings,
And the fann'd ocean frowns beneath his wings:
Hence lyrics make the fields and swains rejoice,
Or elegy lifts up her mournful voice;
The buskin'd hero treads the crowded stage,
Or comic humour smiles along the page;
There Athens' friend Themistocles appears,
And Cato glorious in his country's tears;
Thy lips, Timoleon, feel thy brother's doom,
And Brutus bleeds in both his sons for Rome:
Varanes there admires the bloody sign,
Hung o'er the head of kneeling Constantine;
On Cannae's field see Paulus bath'd in gore,
And Caesar pass the Rubicon once more.
Thus he to whom the tuneful charms belong
Of sacred numbers, and harmonious song;
Whom Paean's art did at his birth inspire
With a sweet finger for the Muse's lyre;
To whom the gift of genius fate has given,
That golden blessing of indulgent heaven;
Must study music to improve his art,
And through the ear find entrance to the heart;
While art and nature equally unite,
Sound smooth the sense, and grace make wit polite.
His easy lines unlabour'd seem to flow,
Yet such that ease as pains alone bellow;
While the fond reader, charm'd with every strain,
Snatches a quill to imitate in vain.
Next it were fit that Picture claim'd his care,
A well-bred man should every science share;
From hence what beauties may not poets take?
Hence learn a verse to paint the rattling snake:
Through the gilt page he twills in colour'd lines,
And round the leaf in curling volumes twines;
The reader thinks he sees the serpent slide,
And almost feels him through his fingers glide.
Let Helen's beauty kindle sweet desire,
In Zeuxis' colours, and with Homer's fire;
Compare them both, and miss no single charm,
But let each blush in equal spirit warm:
The fine complexion let the Graces spread,
And Paestan roses paint her check with red,
While Venus bids her airs around her play,
And Phoebus fills her eyes with tender day.
But Thornhill's draughts shall future hints supply,
As long as Kensington with Greenwich vie;
Where round her roof a thousand colours glow,
And Britain's rivers round the cieling Bow.
Here bold Description with her pencil stands,
To roll the billows over shining sands;
Strong on the eye th' inverted figures fall,
And the rich cornice sets on fire the wall:
Tame on his anchor here supports his head,
And Humber heavy with his pigs of lead;
While Avon's waters into Severn roll,
And the Tine tumbles out her mines of coal;
There in green gold the Medway teems to burn,
And pour down fishes from her foaming urn;
While silver Isis joins her husband Tame,
And in each other lose their ancient name.
In sculpture too proportion learns to please,
When every beauty swells by nice degrees;
Where by the chissel's meant the poet's pen,
That files and polishes the works of men,
Softens the rugged surface of the song,
Yet turns the feature regular and strong;
Commands the limbs in attitudes to rise,
And live and walk before the reader's eyes.
Beneath her palm hence sun-burnt Egypt's seen,
The roughen'd fret-work suits the matron's mien:
In molten ore Minerva lends her aid,
And lifts to life: the rude unletter'd maid:
Rais'd by her hand Nile's daughter quits the ground,
Hardens her mummies, hears her sistrum sound,
Towers like her pyramids, sublimely bold,
And almost rises half her height in gold.
So the slack rope the dextrous dancer tries,
Poiz'd on a pole betwixt air, earth, and skies,
Walks o'er the waves of heads that roll below,
His limbs look supple, and his steps tread slow:
Beneath his foot the sturdy cable bends,
Mounts as he moves, and drops as he descends;
Back start the crowd: he, glorying in his strength,
Springs on his feet, and rises half his length.
By architecture last he lays the scheme,
And by some model bids his genius flame,
Works up the whole, and sees the building shine,
In all its parts, with conduct and design:
The poem rais'd upon so fine a plan,
The test, the wonder, and delight of man,
Will stand the shocks and injuries of time,
Built upon nature, and the true sublime.
Thus life-resembling Allegory lies
Behind a veil, remote from vulgar eyes:
Transparent veil! in hieroglyphicks wrought,
Which only covers, not obscures the thought;
Where silver urns express the figur'd flood,
And more is meant than first is understood;
Old Age and Time in hoary forms appear,
And proper emblems represent the year;
There oft blue Neptune for the sea is seen,
And rivers rising from their beds in green;
In golden lines th' autumnal season glows,
And winter through a blustering period blows:
Here brother twins unbar rude Fancy's gate,
Dress her wild dreams, and on the goddess wait,
Romantic dreams! from Superstition sprung,
Which Ariosto taught, and Spenser sung.
Then every grotto in its Genius spoke,
And Hamadryads from each hollow oak;
Even Echo learn'd to answer to her name,
And babbled louder than the babbling stream.
Now when some rival poem you peruse,
O let not Envy blind the partial Muse!
Where merit is, esteem it as your own,
And in its triumphs let your light be shown;
Let Albion ask from whence an author came,
And judge according to the writer's name;
French, English, Irish, be alike to you,
And gladly give an Infidel his due:
Scorn that mean artifice of unjust praise,
Her think to flatter, is to gain the bays;
These two extremes the worthy will despise,
Who hate with reason, and with reason prize.
And yet to malice sure I'm much oblig'd,
On every side by calumny besieg'd:
To critics much I owe, who make me mend;
And Envy I could almost call my friend;
These taught my youthful steps an early care,
To tread with caution, and proceed with fear:
Oft in my mind their black aspersions came,
And made me tremble at the love of fame;
Ev'n now I dread their jealousy and spite,
And faint in fancy every line I write.
How long before the Muses can succeed!
To please the world is now a task indeed!
All former methods vainly we pursue,
The world is old, and calls for something new:
Nothing will take with this judicious age,
But lines well-labour'd, and a studied page;
Where rich variety relieves the mind,
And beams of fancy strike the critic blind;
Exalted notions which great souls contain,
Thoughts big with life, and bursting from the brain;
Surprising novelties that never tire,
But lead the reader on from fire to fire.
Avoid the harshness of discordant chime,
Sense ill atones for violated rhyme;
R R's far untuneful o'er the quivering tongue,
And serpent S with hissings spoils the song:
When triplets like the furies join their bands,
Unlock their folds, and break their lawless bands;
Else Cerberus like the threefold monster stands.
'Tis true a triplet might succeed by chance,
And ev'n twelve feet judiciously advance;
But those experiments are fatal found,
And seldom us'd but when we call for sound:
All Alexandrines from the page expunge,
That o'er the paper take an unweildly lunge.
Compounded epithets had need be few,
But those familiar, and uncommon too;
Some oft like Janus wear a double face,
A mongrel-mixture, and a motley-race;
With those the mountains must be always bleak.
And no kind north wind stir the sleeping lake;
But ever-fanning breezes cool the morn,
And suns red-rising the grey dawn adorn.
Others to wild description turn their style,
Make storms blow gently, and black whirlwinds smile;
From each dark point the scattering clouds disperse,
And gleams of golden sun-shine gild the verse;
Without Apollo's necessary aid,
What is description? an eternal shade.
Weak eyes and judgements glaring objects strike;
Both are but dazzled and deceiv'd alike.
But above all avoid that Siren sea,
Where men of wit are often cast away;
A tempting vice long mention'd in the schools,
The pride of coxcombs, and the food of fools:
Here Vanity holds forth her flattering glass,
And Self-conceit adores her swelling face;
Where rival worth in vain pretends to vie,
And every virtue lessens in her eye:
With her own lightnings oft the fair she warms,
And melts the heart of beauty by its charms;
The dart, directed at the man of wit,
Flies wing'd with quills with which his genius writ;
The shaft that's pointed at the breast of beaus,
Is fledg'd with feathers or brocaded cloaths;
And statesmen (who like me are least afraid)
Are caught in nets which they themselves have laid.
To charge with generous thoughts the clearest head,
Consult the living, and read o'er the dead;
Where ancient Wisdom grows more wise with age,
And hoary seniors dignify the page;
Time's eldest-born! fires grey to us in fame!
The ancient's glory, but the modern's shame.
Supreme of those inspired Plato see,
A name rever'd by all antiquity:
Pride of his sect, and honour of his kind;
A worthy Heathen, with a Christian mind,
Whose style and manner moderns like so well,
That he alone could Shaftesbury excell.
In those fam'd days of literature and taste,
Liv'd Porphyry's tutor, and Zenobia's guest!
Aurelian's dread! endow'd with every art,
In which the two Minervas claim a part;
Whose character survives in the sublime,
As the best judge and critic of his time.
How courtier-like gay Horace ridicules,
While he refines on Aristotle's rules,
By Pindar taught to tune th' Ausonian lyre,
With Grecian elegance, and Roman fire:
In him Alcaeus thunders once again,
Temper'd by Sappho's more harmonious strain;
While in thick firs her softer lightnings play,
Flash through the lines, and doubly gild the day.
Read Cicero; consider Plutarch well,
What man he was let Chaeronea tell:
In Arne long this patriot pass'd his days,
Nor could Boeotian climes obscure his praise;
To him the noblest heroes lives were known,
Who studied others to improve his own.
The Mantuan swan on Mincio's margin sings,
Or o'er Cremona claps his mourning wings;
To Tyber's banks and solitudes retires,
And mid his poplars feels poetic fires:
Courts the cool osier's green refreshing bed,
Or through the willows shews his silver head;
Or fails with transport down the tuneful tide,
Sweet-warbling Vida swimming by his side:
At Naples too they tell those birds are seen,
To keep together on the haunted green;
Brundusium oft with sudden song surprise,
And warble as they journey through the skies,
To mild Parthenope's delightful shore,
And lands belov'd by Virgil long before.
See Heaven descend in Homer's aweful lines,
Where all the god and all the hero shines;
Behind Achilles lags devouring Death,
And the lines run the reader out of breath:
Thunders and lightnings blaze before his eyes,
Blue streams the sulphur from poetic skies!
Line after line the flood of light rolls on,
Foams to a fire, and brightens to a sun!
These are the oracles of Learning now,
Consult those books, and to those Sibyls bow;
These are the lights that call good actions forth,
Revive their value, and emblaze their worth;
By those great souls let Regulus be tried,
And the brave Decii who for freedom died!
And is there not with whom you may advise,
A friend to relish and to criticise?
One who has prov'd how hard it is to please,
Not first to blame, nor yet the last to praise;
With whose good sense an author might he free,
And whose good-nature ne'er was flattery:
When such the character, and such that shines,
The name of Lawson need not end those lines:
Such late was Parnell — oh! too slightly mourn'd,
With every Grace, with every Muse adorn'd!
By Swift belov'd, by Pope lamented most,
Lost to the world — no wit and friendship lost—
Yet shall he live, while Taste is kept alive,
And his lov'd Plato in his verse revive;
Yet shall he live, as long at Truth shall charm
In mystic Fable, or fair Virtue warm;
The first remember'd in our weak essays,
With honour mention'd, dignify'd with praise.
Nor let proud Albion thus her neighbours scorn,
As if her sons alone were poets born;
We too may boast ourselves the sons of fame,
Nor are we foreign to that sacred name:
Juverna's genius yet shall wear the bay,
And drink as deep of Helicon as they;
In spite of all our hopeful foes abroad,
Prevail at last, and soar into a God;
The Dunciad comes, sure omen of their fate,
And Ireland yet may be the Muses' seat.
O! could I live to see my country shine,
Our sable cliffs invite the tuneful Nine;
Those barren rocks with bays immortal smile,
And Pboebus bless his once-beloved isle.
With life itself I gladly then would part,
My country's glories throbbing at thy heart.
What's to be done in this august affair?
First let us banish all our foreign ware;
Our foolish fondness for Italian lays.
And look at home for bards and better days:
Roscommon, Parnell, both, alas, are lost!
And few indeed the present times can boast:
Yet let those few be valued as they shou'd,
Here shew your taste and judgement to be good:
Judgement! that touch stone that directs our thoughts,
That shows us all our beauties with our faults;
Sound judgement will direct us what to do,
And how to think of men and manners too;
Wit join'd with judgement gilds good sense with light,
As diamond solid, and as diamond bright!
Thus far a youthful Muse presum'd to sing,
To growing bards, upon a venturous wing;
In cloister'd shades and academic groves,
Whose peaceful glooms a musing fancy loves;
Where learned Usher bless'd the reverend pile,
And Alma's glories in her Berkeley smile;
Where sacred Brown indulg'd the thoughtful hours,
In sage recesses, and Athenian bowers:
Where Parnell wak'd the long-forgotten strain,
And old Ierne firings her harp again:
Here pleas'd to listen to the well-known sound,
And hail our mother rising from the ground;
Shake off the dust that soil'd the silent wire,
And tune once more her venerable lyre,
While green with ivy grow her aweful walls,
And from her face the Druid's mantle falls:
Along the park, beneath the quivering trees,
I walk retir'd, and court the cooling breeze,
Where the tall elms project the brownest shade,
There oft the Muses wander through the glade;
There oft I follow beauty with surprise,
And drink sweet numbers from inspiring eyes;
With eager steps I cross the verdant stage,
And soon transplant them to my borrow'd page;
Each maid I meet I set her graces down,
Hence critics say those thoughts are not my own,
Fine is the secret, delicate the part,
To praise with prudence, and address with art;
Encomium chiefly is that kind of wit,
Where compliments should indirectly hit;
From different subjects take their sudden rise,
And, least expected, cause the more surprise:
For none have been with admiration read,
But who, beside their learning, were well bred.
Such suit all tastes, on every tongue remain,
Forbid our blushes, and prevent our pain;
Such subjects best a Boyle might understand,
These call, my Lord, for an uncommon hand;
To turn the finer features of the soul,
To paint the passions sparkling as they roll;
The power of numbers, the superior art,
To wind the springs that move the beating heart;
With living words to fire the blood to rage,
Or pour quick fancy on the glowing page;
This be thy praise, nor thou this praise refuse,
From no unworthy, nor ungrateful Muse;
A Muse as yet unblemish'd, as unknown,
Who scorns all flattery, and who envies none
Of wrongs forgetful, negligent of fame,
Who found no patron, and who lost no name;
Indifferent what the world may think her due,
Whose friends are many, though her years are few.
[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 7:257-97]