Melody I. The Education of the Muse.


John Pinkerton

An allgorical narrative, in which the new-born Muse is taken on a didactic tour, wafted by Fancy to the Isle of Pleasure and the Cave of Melancholy. John Pinkerton distantly imitates Spenser's Garden of Adonis and Bower of Bliss, and Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, though the hostile reviewer in the European Magazine is probably correct in detecting the influence of James Beattie as well.

European Magazine: "Here harmony hails the birth of the muse, who, in the old hackneyed strain, is sent to range about the mountains, woods, and streams, to gather flowers; and now, it seems, was the golden age.... But what is this tuneful vision which stems the azure tide? Common sense would think it was the muse a-swimming. But this cannot be our poet's meaning, for it has a helm with a pilot to guide it; which pilot, we are told, is its parent. Therefore the tuneful vision must be a boat, which is launched the Lord knows when, where, or how. The last line on harmony's 'smooth chimes,' happens unluckily to be one of the harshest, and most grating, in the English language. The island of Pleasure, so luxuriously described by the Portuguese poet Camoens, and afterwards copied by Tasso and Spenser, is now most woefully contrasted. The Muse, and her parent-pilot Fancy, proceed on their voyage.... The Muse, who is now a Goddess, must study the polite arts, the science of woe, sympathy and sentiment.... And now the pilgrims, viz the Muse and Fancy (Lord help us, till now, we always thought pilgrims walked on foot) arrive at the Cave of Melancholy.... And this reverend Sage 'yclept' Wisdom, talked much about science and truth, and the other common place topics of school-boys when they prate about poetry. And what a wretched parody, what a ghastly skeleton of the plan of Beattie's Minstrel, this education of the Muse exhibits, every reader of taste must perceive" 2 (July 1782) 47.

The anonymously-published volume is replete with lyrics developing out of the mid-century manner, though with the singularity characteristic of John Pinkerton — he employs the Spenserian alexandrine while studiously avoiding the stanza patterns common in mid-century odes. His experiments with lyric forms and aesthetic doctrines may be compared to those of two other Scottish contemporaries, John Ogilvie and William Cameron. Pinkerton's manner and mannerisms anticipate the Della Cruscan mode that in a few years the European Magazine would be extolling.

Universal Magazine: "On his first visit to the metropolis, he had published a small volume of Juvenile Poetry, written too much after the manner of the Spenserian and Italian school of allegory and extreme refinement. These poems display a remarkable instance of a vitiated taste. They possess the very worst, the most flagrant errors and incongruities of the Spenserian and Italian manner, without one particle of fancy, or one ray of genuine poetry. Extravagant, irregular, absurd, and incoherent, the serious reader is sometimes tempted to ask himself whether they are intended as a burlesque upon the quaintness of Spenser, and the wire-drawn imagery of the Italians.... It is probable that Mr. Pinkerton soon perceived he was not calculated to become a successful votary of the Muses; for he courted them early, and soon abandoned the hopeless pursuit" "Sketch of John Pinkerton" NS 2 (November 1804) 396.

European Magazine: "The poetical passion was first excited in the mind of young Pinkerton, by reading Beattie's Minstrel, with which he was much delighted. Shakspeare and Milton did for him what the classes had not done at school; they elicited and infused sentiments and ideas congenial to those that glowed in their pages, and, exciting the flame of genius, animated him to attempt a poetical composition" "Memoir of John Pinkerton" 51 (June 1807) 412.

"Thy infant form, thou rosy fay,
May Beauty with each brighter charm array,
Thy mind each Virtue tend:
O fair! O holy! Lo my heavenly place
I leave thy blessed birth to grace,
These airs of joy to lend."
So Harmony attuned her lyre
What day the lovely Muse was born;
So Harmony attuned her lyre,
So hailed the long expected morn.

The rose that to the summer ray
But half her blushing beauties dares display,
So sweetly never smiled;
The jocund Spring, when from her fragrant bed
She comes the genial Hours to lead,
As Fancy's sacred child;
When now the happy hand of Time
Gave every rising grace to view;
The port of majesty sublime,
Of love the eye, the crimson hue.

The mountain's front to tread,
With solitary step to dally
Thro' each wild and haunted valley,
Thro' each grove of sable shade,
Were her delights. There by some stream
She gathered flowers of every beam
The flowing honours of her head to crown;
Or, on a velvet bank at ease reclined,
She caught the notes that by the vernal wind,
Were from the wood in floating measures blown.

Taught by the warbling race of air,
Her voice she tuned in sweetest descant clear,
And new born ditties tried:
With these she blessed the swains her early care;
And Echo soon each willing fair,
And scornful maid replied;
All fears that chill, and hopes that fire
The bosom of the faithful youth;
The stolen treasures of desire,
The ardent vow of endless truth.

O happy age! when known no toil
Save to obtain some haughty damsel's smile;
And feed the fleecy flock.
The fruits a feast of sprightly relish gave,
With beverage from the orient wave
And honey from the rock.
O happy age! when shapes of light,
Now shewn but to the mental eye,
To dwell with man their radiant flight
Would hasten from the friendly sky.

The mind untaught in vain,
Her powers tho' blooming vigor nourish,
Hopes in perfect pride to flourish:
Culture must her might maintain.
Soft and more soft ye breezes blow,
More soft ye billows rise, for, lo!
The tuneful Vision stems the azure tide:
To Pleasure's Isle her destined course she bends,
Her parent Fancy at the helm attends,
And Harmony's smooth chimes each wild wind chide.

Now in her golden cradle lies
The infant Morn amid the varied dyes
Of every dewy flower;
The lowly violet, the sovereign rose
Around their mingled tints disclose,
Their mingled fragrance pour;
With purple lustre glows the deep
Resplendent to the orient ray:
The comely band their progress keep
Exulting thro' the watry way.

The Gales their gentle aid applied,
Along the tide the painted galley hied,
That spred a shining plain:
And soon, emergent from the western skies,
They saw the verdant groves arise
That crowned the gay domain.
A cloud of breathing incense sweet
To slumber soothed the ambient main:
The merry mariners to meet
Shone on the strand a wanton train.

To Pleasure's dome they came.
With gold emblazoned and vermilion
Beamed abroad the bright pavilion
To the sun's meridian flame.
There on a couch with fragrance spread
The Queen and young Desire were laid,
Desire her mate and chosen solace dear:
The Smiles and decent Graces stood around
The sovereign pair with perfect beauty crowned,
With every gift of Love and laughing Chear.

But chief the heavenly Fair excelled;
The Muse with wondering gaze her state beheld
And thoughts of fond delight;
Her blooming shape revealed in loose attire,
Her azure eyes of amorous fire,
Her locks of golden light.
The Empress with a winning smile
To greet the welcome guests arose:
"Be yours whate'er my hallowed isle
To Art or lavish Nature owes."

Tho' he of Thebes informed thy frame
Small praise, O lyre, his richest skill could claim
To paint that fairy scene:
Where native May eternal empire held
O'er hill and shade and florid field
And balmy sky serene;
Where, rising slow with rapturous swell,
Aerial strains were heard to stray;
Like notes that from a master shell
In distant echoes spread away.

Here long the enamoured maid,
All lost in dreams of dear delusion,
Thro' the beauteous profusion
Led by bright eyed Rapture played.
Exploring now the lawn's amel,
Now happy groves of odorous smell,
Now gardens trim with blooming fruits o'ergrown,
And tuneful streams that living crystal flowed,
And sunny hills with purple vines that glowed,
Elysian bowers, and cells grotesque and lone.

Nor barren of meet progeny:
For Youth there dwelt, and fair Felicity,
And Health that sprightly maid;
For Feast rejoiced amid the vines to rove,
And Ease approved the still alcove,
And Love the secret shade;
O vanity of earthly joy!
How early lost that better soil!
When Justice sought her former sky
The deeps involved the magic isle!

And now the charms of fair design
And elegance the Goddess can combine
With sweet simplicity:
Her strains declared the cultivated mind,
Awake to every bliss refined,
Of grace and harmony.
Yet wanted to complete her skill
Like science of the realm of woe:
The sadder sympathy to feel,
The sager sentiment to know.

Ye blest abodes adieu!
For now again the liquid azure
With hold prow the pilgrims measure
Seats of other clime to view.
Bright be thy course thou star of eve,
With purest splendor gild the wave,
That trembles yet with gleams of fading day;
Till slowly peering from her eastern bed,
The perfect moon exalt her blessed head,
And crown the level deep with silver ray.

From mirth to sadness brief the road,
And easy. Ere the blush of morning glowed
They met the gloomy ground.
Deep silence lulled each visionary vale,
Save where the warbling nightingale
Her hidden recess found.
Even from the solar blaze the land
Was dim with night of boundless woods,
That sleeped along the lonely strand
And murmured o'er the sable floods.

Obscure amid a winding glade,
Where darkest pines their chilling horrors spred,
Arose a rocky cave;
There Melancholy's modest form was seen,
The pensive eye disclosed the Queen,
And sad demeanour grave.
With her was Wisdom reverend sage;
His awful front, his snowy hair,
Expressed him of the train of Age,
And versant in the storms of Care.

Of science much and truth
He spoke, the flowery paths of error
That to snares of toil and terror
Lead the hapless soul they sooth:
And oft their solemn talk between,
A tale of tears would intervene.—
Oh heavenly Virgin what delights were thine!
Now potent to controul the wondering heart
By every sympathy of magic Art,
By Nature's force, and Reason's light divine.

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