28 Prior stanzas, the first of three Seatonian prizes won by James Scott. The poem is a variant on the Choice of Hercules theme set in a Bower of Bliss that imitates the famous musical stanza in the Faerie Queene: "There blooming groves, gay smiling with delight, | From her fair womb spontaneous Nature brings; | Where percht on every bough, all richly dight | With painted plumes, some harmless Siren sings: | Pleas'd with the wild notes Zephyr flits unseen" p. 8. Fancy depicts classical, Moslem, and Christian versions of Heaven. James Scott, a very colorful character, was a popular preacher at Cambridge and later a mighty critic of Lord Bute.
Public Register: "the subject of that for the last year was HEAVEN; and the prize was assigned to Mr. Scott of Trinity-college; who, it must be confessed, has handled his subject in a very pleasing and masterly manner. This gentleman, with great judgment, has represented to us in Vision, the paradise of the western world, the Elysium of the heathens; the paradise of the East, Mahomet's sensual heaven; and the heaven of the Christians. Though we cannot approve the old stanza, and the absurdity of imitating the uncouth style of our ancient poets, yet if ever it is pardonable, it is in Vision; and Mr. Scott hath managed it so well, that we are apt to drop our dislike of the mode of his versification" 2 (17 January 1761) 57.
Monthly Review: "Mr. Seaton's reward, for the year 1760, was assigned to the Ingenious author of this piece; which we think equal to the best of Mr. Smart's, or any of the poems which have appeared, on the same foundation, since that gentleman ceased to be a candidate for this annual prize. There is great imagination, and poetical expression, in Mr. Scott's performance" 24 (May 1761) 355-56.
Critical Review: "Though unequal, it is embellished with lines worthy the descriptive Mason, or the sweetly plaintive Gray.... the author is possessed of a fine imagination. In a vision he is wafted to a distant clime, whence he beheld this world, 'like the faint glimmering of a distant star'.... Upon the whole — although gleams of poetical genius frequently flash upon the imagination, the piece is destitute of that enthusiasm, and picturesque wildness, which ought peculiarly to distinguish a vision" 12 (September 1761) 234-35.
Samuel Austin Allibone: "James Scott, D.D., 1733-1814, a native of Leeds; Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; Lecturer of St. John's, Leeds; Curate of Edmonton, 1760; returned to Leeds in 1768; became rector of Simonbourn, Northumberland, 1771, and subsequently removed to London. He published a number of poems, hymns, and sermons, Lon., 1761-95, (see Watt's Bibl. Brit.), and after his death appeared twenty of his Sermons on Interesting Subjects (with a Sketch of his Life by Rev. S. Clapham,) 1816, 8vo. Clapham warmly commends these sermons; and Scott certainly had a high reputation as a preacher" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 2:1958.
Herbert E. Cory: "Prior's variation of the Spenserian stanza was popular even into the Nineteenth Century. It was employed by poets as far apart in time and talents as Chatterton and Felicia Hemans. Typical Augustan Occasional Verses and didactic poems ran neatly into this mould. Yet the writers often knew their Spenser as well as their Prior. James Scott's Heaven, a Vision (1760), for instance, contains an acknowledged imitation of Spenser's Bower of Bliss. As for the statement that these are thin imitations of Spenser and prove no real admiration, I retort, at the risk of tedious iteration; that for the most part the neoclassicists imitated Spenser as they imitated Homer, Virgil, the Odes of Horace, seriously but superficially. Let any man compare the Elegies of Hammond, then universally praised for their burning passion, with the work of their professed inspirer, Tibullus. If he can find any more real Tibullus in these echoes than he can find real Faerie Queene in almost any of the 'Imitations' of Spenser, his vision is far keener than mine" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 58-59.
Hoxie Neale Fairchild: "For a Seatonian poem, Heaven is unusually colorful and passionate" Religious Trends in English Poetry (1942) 2:224.
Full many a tedious hour, with care opprest,
Stretcht on my weary bed, I wakeful lay,
Sad troublous thoughts, like hornets, stung my breast,
And brusht the dews of balmy sleep away.
Ah! what avails, I cry'd, with painful toil,
By Virtue's stedfast star the bark to guide,
Far from ACRASIA'S wily-wand'ring Isle,
Where Ease and Pleasure the frail heart divide,
If life's short voyage undistinguish'd tends
To darkness, and the land where all forgotten ends?
Shall worth lie hid in sorrow's baleful shade?
And no reward shall suff'ring Goodness find,
While VICE triumphant lifts her pamper'd head,
Nor hears the steps of Vengeance close behind?
Then take me, Pow'r of Beauty, to thy arms,
And lull, ah lull to peace my troubled soul!
Disclose, O God of Wine, thy purple charms,
I'll drown reflection in the mantling bowl!
'Gainst wind, and tide, let Stoic dullness sail,
Be mine the calmest sea, and pleasure's briskest gale.
Pensive I mus'd, 'till rose the blushing morn,
And spread her saffron mantle o'er the skies;
When pitying MORPHEUS shook his opiate horn,
And slumbrous humours drown'd my weary'd eyes;
Yet FANCY still awake, to sooth my pain,
Sweet scenes of joy in liveliest hue pourtray'd;
She call'd forth all her bright ideal train,
And pleasing truths in mystic dreams convey'd:
Oh fail me not, thou fair enchanting pow'r,
At Sorrow's grim approach, and Care's distressful hour!
Borne thro' the yielding air, methought I flew
To some more blissful clime, sequester'd far
From this frail world, that just appear'd to view,
Like the faint glimm'ring of a distant star.
Deep in the sea's encircling wave 'twas plac'd,
As gems in silver; hoary Ocean smil'd
Chear'd with the pleasing sight; and from his breast
Sent his sweet children, breezes fresh and mild:
No clouds, nor darkness, veil'd the chearful scene,
Nor wintry blasts deform'd the ground's eternal green.
Lo to the West a large and spacious plain,
Where meet in concert, wood, and hill, and dale;
Brighter than all that muse-led Poets feign
Of IDA'S grove, and TEMPE'S hallow'd vale:
Tho' PENEUS there revolves his amber stream,
And suppliant DAPHNE spreads her branching arms;
Still trembling lest the Sun's prolific beam,
Too fiercely wanton, blast her virgin charms:
Would'st thou escape? Go, coy relentless maid,
Go chuse some worse retreat, some less luxurious shade!
There blooming groves, gay smiling with delight,
From her fair womb spontaneous Nature brings;
Where percht on every bough, all richly dight
With painted plumes, some harmless Siren sings:
Pleas'd with the wild notes Zephyr flits unseen,
And on his musky wings the sound conveys;
While trickling soft, each vary'd pause between,
The murm'ring riv'lets roll their silver base;
Winds, waters, birds in seemly sort agree,
And am'rous ECHO blends the liquid melody.
Nor there alone was charm'd one scanty sense:
The loaded trees ambrosial fruitage bear;
The weeping shrubs their spicy gums dispense,
Whose fragrance fresh-imbalms the buxom air;
Thousands of flow'rs their silken webs unfold,
Amarants, immortal amarants arise,
These beaming bright with vegetable gold,
And these with azure, these with Tyrian dyes;
There laughing sweetly red the roses glow,
While from their breathing souls celestial odours flow.
But hark, a voice soft-warbling strikes my ear!—
"Behold, O man, fair VIRTUE's ample meed;
Behold these radiant plains, this star-girt sphere,
By righteous JOVE her portion are decreed!
Mould not, ah mould not then in idle cell,
But strive these rapt'rous Mansions to attain;
Here all the wise, the brave, the virtuous dwell,
Eternal ages free from care and pain:
Here in ELYSIAN seats, their calm abodes,
Live in communion blest, with heroes, and with gods!"
Eastward to this methought a diff'rent scene,
Of equal beauty, charm'd my raptur'd sight:
Wide spacious lawns with swelling hills between,
And groves of bliss, and gardens of delight.
There lotes, and palms their copious branches twine,
And over-arching form delicious bow'rs;
There gush nectareous rills of dulcet wine,
And honey'd streams revolve their milky stores;
Fresh-bleeding myrrh, and cassia shed perfume,
Ananas swell with sweets, and wild pomegranates bloom.
Fast by a fount, whose spicy waters glide
In am'rous mazes, on the velvet ground
With blushing flow'rs all goodly beautify'd,
A smiling troop of Virgins dance around;
Fairer than DELIA's silver-buskin'd train,
When erst, LADONA, by thy lilied banks,
Or cool EUROTA'S laurel-fringed plain,
To breathing lutes they tript in seemly ranks;
And fairer, CYPIUS, than thy wanton quire,
That melt the soul to love, and kindle fierce desire.
Their eyes, like pearls within the shells conceal'd,
Beauteous and black; their lips with rubies vye;
On their fair cheeks, with white and red anneal'd,
What thousand dimpling smiles in ambush lie!
See, see they point to yon embow'ring shade,
Where cool gales fan their odorif'rous wings,
And FLORA'S freshest, softest couch is spread;
The whiles some one this lovely ditty sings!
Thro' all my veins what thrilling transport flew
To hear the nectar'd words, dropping like honey'd dew!
"Haste, gentle youth, for lo, the way is plain!
Haste, gentle youth, and hear the PROPHET'S call!
These are the joys that true Believers gain,
Immortal joys, that never know to pall.
Come then, ah come, thy weary limbs recline
On silken beds of roses sweetly strow'd,
Where to thy touch compliant bows the vine,
All faint and lab'ring with the luscious load;
Where Nymphs of Paradise their charms reveal,
And with their am'rous spoils thy greedy eyes regale!"
She ceas'd — And molten with excess of joy,
Voluptuous Hope was busy in my breast:
When lo, swift-darting from th' extremest sky,
With seraph-plumes, an Angel stood confest!
A pure immortal Crown adorn'd her head,
Of gold inwove with jewels; in her hand
The Book of Life, and Mercy was display'd,
With ruddy drops of dying Martyrs stain'd;
Her eagle-eyes were quick, and passing bright,
Yet beam'd serene, and mild, with Heav'n's celestial light.
"And O fond foolish man," she cried, "forbear
Idly to glote on forms so light, and vain!
What are these jocund scenes, but empty air,
The fleeting coinage of a phrenzy'd brain?—
Yet ev'n in These, as darkly thro' a glass,
Some faint, some glimm'ring view the eye may gain
Of those unmingled joys, that far surpass
Whate'er of bliss the wit of man can feign;
Those pure Delights, that flow in streams divine,
Where thy imperial Tow'rs, O heav'nly SALEM, shine!
"For know, my Son, that they whose worth is try'd,
As gold by fire, by great and virtuous deeds,
Soon as the carnal fetters are unty'd,
That chain the soul, and stript these mortal weeds;
Haply shall soar, in Robes of Glory clad,
To heav'nly Mansions, bright Abodes, prepar'd
'Ere the foundations of the deep were laid,
Or the firm pillars of the earth were rear'd;
'Ere GOD his golden compasses employ'd,
And markt this beauteous World on Chaos dark, and void.
"There shall they live, O happy, happy spirits!
There shall they live remov'd from all the cares
And thousand ills that feeble flesh inherits:
No greedy Want, nor wayward Lust, that tears
With vip'rous rage the breast from whence it sprung,
Their deep-embosom'd peace shall e'er torment;
But hymning sweet, the Angel Troops among
Their undisturbed lays of pure content,
The smiling hours immortal shall employ,
In trance of holy ease, or extacy of joy,
"Then shall their eyes, from cloudy films secure,
With lightning-glance unmeasur'd space behold;
And all the thousand stars, that pave the floor
Of Heav'n, with orient pearl, or living gold;
Then floating thro' the boundless Deep of air,
An azure sea, like gems of richest hue,
Myriads of Worlds thick-scatter'd shall appear,
With all their bright Inhabitants to view;
Their active minds shall traverse, quick as thought,
Creation's ample fields, the range 'twixt GOD and nought.
"And oh what streams of music sweet, and clear
Shall drown in deep delight their raptur'd souls!—
Ay me, in vain to Man's unpurged ear
Their heav'nly Notes each tuneful planet rolls!
Ay me, in vain with softly-thrilling voice,
Thro' ev'ry land they hymn their Maker's praise,
While Choirs of young-ey'd Cherubims rejoice,
And to their golden Harps mellifluous Lays
Attuning, Holy, holy, holy, sing,
Lord, Almighty God, the Saints' eternal King!
"But not in vain the tuneful planets raise
To pure etherial souls their voice divine;
Nor yet in vain their great Creator's praise
Do gladsome choirs of young-ey'd Cherubs join:
No blessed Sp'rit but hears the sacred song,
And wakes his lyre melodious part to bear
In the sweet symphony; while all the throng
Of angels, and arch-angels, nay, the ear
Of God delighted listens to the strains.—
In Heav'n, and heav'n-born minds, such rapt'rous concord reigns!
"But where, ah where can glowing tints be found
To paint the charms of SION'S sacred place,
Where CHRIST the Lamb in radiance sits enthron'd,
The lively Image of his Father's Grace?
O Flow'r of love! O glorious Morning star!
O Sun of Righteousness, whose healing wings
Brought life, and peace, and mercy from afar!
From Thee the light, thou beaming Fountain, springs,
That guides poor mortals in their weary way,
Thro' black Affliction's night, to Pleasure's endless day!
"JESUS! — and didst thou leave thy Bow'rs of joy?
And didst thou leave thy Father's dear embrace,
Content with agonizing pangs to die
For man's forlorn, rebellious, sinful race?
What bliss to hear the high mysterious story,
By all the Prophets, all th' Apostles sung,
And noble army' of Martyrs, crown'd with glory;
Where blest, the six-wing'd Seraphins among,
They drink immortal, from thy rapt'rous sight,
Conceiveless draughts of Love's ineffable delight!
"Hail, saints of light! who once the patient train
Of silent Sorrow, thro' the thorny road
Of mis'ry toil'd, and unappall'd by pain
With Pilgrim-feet the long, long journey trod!
O taught by them, thou man of earth, sustain
With firm unweary'd arm the dang'rous fight!
The Prize of thy High-calling dare to gain,
Victorious Palms, and robes of spotless white;
So in the Book of Life thy name shall shine,
And Heav'n's eternal joys, and transports all be thine."
Scarce had she spoke, when that Cherubic car
Instinct with soul, and those self-moving wheels,
That whirl'd the holy Sage, from CHEBAR far,
Appear'd: — my breast the rushing impulse feels!
I see, I see thy glitt'ring turrets rise,
Celestial SALEM, all of lucid gold,
Inlaid with gems of thousand, thousand dyes!
And lo, the everlasting gates unfold
Their doors of pearl, and o'er my aching sight
Full tides of glory flow, and streams of living light!
Of Light surpassing far thy glimm'ring ray,
(More bright, more clear, more glorious, more divine)
Tho' drest by thee, O golden Eye of Day,
In gaudy robes the sparkling diamonds shine;
Tho' yon fair Moon to thee her lustre owes,
Gilding with borrow'd light the mountain's brow;
And IRIS steals from thee each tint, that glows
In the gay forehead of the show'ry Bow:
Faint is thy feeble blaze, O beauteous Sun!
Such peerless beams appear from Truth's eternal throne.
See thro' the streets, like liquid jasper clear,
The fount of life in mazy error flows!
Thro' the bright Crystal sands of gold appear,
And heaps of pearly grain; while blooming grows,
On either bank of dainty flow'rs profuse,
The Tree of Life superior o'er the rest,
Whose teeming branches nectar'd fruits produce:
Twelve various fruits of sweetly-vary'd taste
From ev'ry leaf salubrious dews exhale
And pure elixirs breathe in ev'ry balmy gale.
Lo there, diffus'd along the sacred brink,
Angelic choirs replete with love and joy,
Conceive their God, and from his presence drink
Beatitude past utt'rance! — There they lie
On flow'ring beds of balsam, cassia, nard,
And myrrh, a wilderness of rich perfumes;
Embalm'd they lie, like that Arabian bird,
'Midst od'rous shrubs, and incense-breathing gums,
Whose life springs recent from the sun-born fire,
While clouds of spicy smoke in bluish wreathe aspire.
But spare, O spare me, Heav'n! — my fainting soul
Sickens with bliss too great for mortal sense!
Come, o'er my limbs thy quick'ning waters roll,
Life-giving stream, and all thy balm dispense!
And thou, fair Tree, the source of all our woes,
(That bloom'd so fatal erst in EDEN'S glade,
Transplanted since to Heav'n) thy friendly boughs
Extend, and wrap me in thy brownest shade!
O veil me from the LAMB'S too glorious sight,
From Majesty's full blaze, insufferably bright!
Trembling I wak'd with sweet excess of joy,
And on the wings of Sleep, more swift than wind,
Away the fickle, fond delusions fly;
Yet leave their Fairy-steps the trace behind:
Hear then, ye sainted Myriads, from your spheres,
And gently beam your kindliest influence down;
Lift, lift my thoughts above life's groveling cares,
To Joys sublime, and Virtue's glorious Crown!
O guide my Virgin-Soul the high Abode
To reach, the HEAV'N OF HEAV'NS, where reigns th' eternal GOD!