Love and Wisdom: A Vision.

Poems by Robert Alves, A.M.

Robert Alves

A long (768-line) allegory in octosyllabic couplets based on Prodicus's Choice of Hercules ("Two female forms before me stood") though Spenser's Bower of Bliss and Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso figure in the structure of the allegory. Robert Alves had been a pupil of James Beattie, and like Beattie's Judgment of Paris (1765), Love and Wisdom gives an aesthetic turn to the older form of moral allegory, even speaking at one point of the "moral sense." The octosyllabic form is an apt choice for an allegorical poem plainly intended to be more sensual than sententious.

The dreamer is confronted by Love and Wisdom, who conduct him to a beautiful country, in which appear two temples. The fairer figure leads him to a grove, in which she suddenly appears to him as a radiant goddess. The conductress encourages the Dreamer to awake to scenes of unbounded liberty, love, and pleasure, and offers Fancy as his guide. Fancy leads him to the Temple of Pleasure, where he encounters a crowd of figures begging a boon from the Queen of Love who reappears throned in state. The Dreamer views a sequence of erotic tapestries displaying scenes from classical poetry, and then in the dressing rooms observes the cosmetic armory of beauty. Emerging from the temple, he encounters a bevy of lascivious bathers adapted from those in Spenser's Bower of Bliss: "They warm the more, the more they move, | Too well they tempted me to love" p. 212. The ladies make a long, Comus-like speech inviting the Dreamer to partake of their pleasures. At this point intervenes "an ancient sage, of reverend look" who introduces himself as Reason, sent from the Temple of Wisdom. The sage makes a long speech in in answer to that of the bathers, and persuades the Dreamer to abandon the domains of Pleasure, for the Vale of Repentence, which proves a difficult passage even with the assistance of Reason. The uphill path to the Palace of Wisdom is thronged with miserable lovers. The Dreamer wakes with the morning.

There may be an autobiographical dimension to the poem, since Alves is known to have been crossed in love. Conceivably the reverend sage who speaks of the "moral sense" is intended for a character of James Beattie — "Love and Wisdom" might be regarded as an answering poem to Beattie's Judgment of Paris, buttressing the moral arguments that fail in the earlier poem.

Critical Review: "These Poems consist of odes and elegies, the former gay and serious, the latter moral and descriptive. If we except an elegy on Time, they are not objects of praise; being generally debased with barbarisms, obscurity, and inharmonious versification" 61 (January 1786) 72.

John Gillies: "These Poems consist of Odes, gay and serious; and of Elegies, moral and descriptive. In the Preface we are informed, that they are 'the transcript of the Author's heart in different periods of his life, and were written from that impulse which he found it difficult to resist, when he felt himself roused by what was great and excellent in other writers, warmed by interesting views of Nature, or touched by any particular passion or incident in his own life" ... To this account we have only to add, the expression of our regret, that with such good intentions, the Author's views of Nature are commonly to obvious to affect, and his imitations of great poets often too servile to please. It is difficult to find a few verses together which are not degraded by some colloquial barbarism, clouded by obscurity, or deformed by harsh meter. — From this criticism, however, we would except the elegy on Time, the greatest part of which may be read with pleasure — and profit" Monthly Review 73 (December 1785) 467.

Town and Country Magazine: "Here we meet with Odes and Elegies — as usual; the former gay and descriptive, the latter serious and moral. This poet's Elegy on the Times will rescue his abilities from oblivion" 18 (May 1786) 268.

Earl R. Wasserman: Robert Alves "derives from Spenser only sensuous accounts of the House of Pleasure and the Amorous Grove, based upon the House of Pride and the Bower of Bliss" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 118.

'Twas in the morn of youthful days,
When Love a thousand various ways
Assaults the heart, in shape of air,
Or graceful ringlets of the Fair;
Or else in wit's enchanting wiles,
More sure th' unwary heart beguiles:
When Pallas stronger arms supplies,
As deems the suffrage of the wise,
Than all the lightening of the eyes:
Brings fair Discretion, ever-young,
Equips with Eloquence the tongue,
And from behind her shield of length,
Shoots darts of more redoubted strength,
Than ever pierc'd a heart below
From Angry Cupid's fatal bow.

But Wisdom's Queen, tho' sometimes found
Strolling on Love's enchanted ground,
Holds separate court, as sages tell,
And loves in distant clime to dwell.

My heart, tho' oft a captive made
To Beauty's charms, was half-afraid
To tempt too near the dangerous flame,
And oft I eye'd the graver dame,
Pallas, the power of Wisdom known,
The praise of Learning all her own.

At such at time, in such a mood,
Two female forms before me stood
One early morn, ere sleep had fled,
Or dreams had left the vacant head;
And dreams, they say, best credit gain
When vapours cause to crowd the brain,
The grosser phantoms of the night
Dispersing with the beams of light;
While trim ideas, neat and clean,
Furnish the visionary scene,
That Fancy brings before our eye,
Like colours of an evening sky.

My busy thoughts were turn'd to know,
What strangers these, of different show,
That thus to me their looks addrest,
But not their inward soul exprest;
When forthwith to a neighbouring shade,
The fairest form my footsteps led.
The other, modest, trode behind,
Whose robe hung careless in the wind,
But whose majestic stately air,
Compos'd a presence more severe,
And spoke a more majestic mind.

This scene was form'd by Nature's hand,
Who waving here her magic wand,
More wonders brought to charm the sight,
Than poet's wizard, Fancy hight,
E'er flung o'er some enchanted wild,
Whose ragged rocks with verdure smil'd.

Here many a silver fountain flows,
With golden fruits the champaign glows,
And many a herbag'd hill arose.
And here was heard a concert sweet,
Of flocks, and herds, and water-falls;
And birds, in amorous madrigals,
Their mingling melodies repeat.

At distance, on a mountain seen,
With many a lesser hill between,
A solemn edifice display'd
Its awful height, and round survey'd
Far as the open sight can spy,
Of sea, or earth, or azure sky;
While nearer, in the vale below,
Where easy path-ways seem'd to go,
Another stately fabric stood,
Half-seen, half-cover'd by the wood,
Where crowding numbers press'd along,
With sprightly tabour, dance, and song,
In many-colour'd robes bedight,
Which took my heart with strange delight.

But soon my eyes were turn'd from these
To my fair Guides, whom now to please,
In this sequester'd scene of joy,
Did all my anxious cares employ.
Each bowery shade, each mossy grot,
Figur'd to me the happy spot,
Where lovers met in days of yore,
And, after dalliance in the bower,
Trode soft the silence of the grove,
Sighing their souls in tales of love;
Or taught on flutes their plaints to flow,
Till Echo started from her cell,
And all adown the rocky dell
Pour'd the wild strains of dolorous woe.
—And now I turn'd t' address the Fair,
Not dreaming they were heavenly Pair,
Or other nymphs, or damsels bright,
Than oft in public feast our sight,
At park, assembly, ball, or play,
Whom men may speak to their own way;
Or those who oft, at early dawn,
Trip lightly o'er the dewy lawn,
From hamlet, cot, or village fair,
To scent the breath of morning-air;
Have lip as soft, or breath as sweet,
As who at costly banquet meet,
Sit late, or loll in bed till noon,
But never seen the rising sun.

But, oh! what fears my heart confound,
In wonder all my senses bound?
When now before my dazzled sight,
My Guides appear in robes of light;
At every step their state assume,
With more majestic beauty bloom;
And shape their limbs, and point their eyes,
With all the glories of the skies.

The first that struck my wondering view
Was the fair dame of rosy hue,
That, smiling, led me to the grove,
And seem'd the peerless Queen of love.
Her easy gait, that turn'd to show
The thousand charms that round her glow,
Reveal'd such limbs, and shape, and air,
As far surpass'd the passing fair
Of Chloe's charms, tho' long to tell,
Or those in Flavia's form that dwell.
The thin-spread veil around her thrown,
Made but her beauties more be known;
Which, while the wind its folds upturns,
At every glance wild fancy burns,
And while it spies her arms, her breast,
Or, half-disclos'd, the swelling chest,
With easy labour paints the rest.

The shining curls, that serv'd to deck
The beauties of her ivory neck,
Seem'd like the tendrils of the vine,
That round the Parian marble twine.
Her eyes, that shone like lunar beams,
Quick-glancing on the quivering streams,
On all their wily arts employ,
Now looking mirth and smiles of joy,
Or now, in amorous languor roll,
And melt to tenderness the soul.

These charms the mystic zone enhanc'd,
That from her rosy bosom glanc'd,
And hid within a world of charms,
Soft sighs, kind wishes, wild alarms,
Doubts that perplex, and dark surmises;
Hopes that exalt, and kind surprises;
The touch that warms, the tears that move,
And smiles, the daily food of love;
The guileless blush, devoid of art,
And showing most the lover's heart.
Th' enchanting voice, where sweetness dwells,
That music's heavenly power excels;
The lip, than Hybla-stores more sweet,
A moistening red, for kisses meet,
Breathing delight, and melting down,
In flames of love, a heart of stone.
Here too the frown; the look severe;
The grave sweet look of melting air;
Repulses dear, the more inflame,
And all those charms without a name,
With which the Queen of gentle smiles
The lover's easy faith beguiles.

Scarce from its trance my soul awoke,
When thus th' enchanting goddess spoke:
"Awake to scenes of liberty,
To bliss enlarg'd, design'd for thee:
Awake, the joys of heaven to prove,
The vast unbounded joys of love!
And much behoves thy bliss to prize,
Since life is short, and pleasure flies.
Let Fancy guide thee on the way,
And all our flowery scenes display.
I leave thee to thy heavenly guide,
See rosy Fancy at thy side."

With that the goddess left my view,
And to her sacred fane withdrew,
Where fuming altars round her rise,
And clouds of fragrance fill the skies.

The wanton sprite now led me on
To Pleasure's seat, and Beauty's throne.
Of alabaster stood the walls,
Of gold the roof and capitals;
While on the front engrav'd was seen,
"Here, mortals, worship Beauty's Queen."
The doors, that shone of massy gold,
Were wide and spacious; and with-hold
Entrance to none that come that way,
But open stand both night and day.
The dome, that tower'd to heaven high,
Diffus'd its light as from a sky;
And wide illum'd the temple bright,
That rose full-blazing to the sight.
Within the porch fair handmaids stand,
And lead along each airy band,
That press in crowds, and still come on,
Like atoms sporting in the sun.
Not stars that fill an evening-sky,
Not birds that from the tempest fly,
Not sands upon the barren shore,
Or autumn's leaves, could number more.

Here knights, and gentle ladies fair,
And amorous swains, preferr'd their prayer.
And many a son of Mars was seen,
With war-worn look, and boastful mien;
And fops, the flutterers of a day,
With tinsel'd plume, and mealy wing;
And prudes and dames in grave array,
And gay coquets, their offering bring.
All ask for Love's or Beauty's boons,
To them above or wealth or crowns.
All ask alike, but share not all;
Love's gifts, like Fortune's, mix'dly fall,
And drop by chance, (since both are blind),
With equal dole to all mankind.

And now within, above, below,
Soft heavenly music 'gan to flow;
The air was balm, and balm the gales,
As from Arabia's spicy vales.

I careless enter'd with the crowd,
(My active Guide before me trode),
And now advanc'd to Pleasure's shrine,
Where thousand nymphs in concert join,
And range their ranks, and dance around
To sprightly music's silver sound.

Before the vestibule was plac'd
Temptation in a gaudy vest;
While wild Desire, with eyes on flame,
Welcom'd each stranger as he came.
For me, no votary's vow I made,
No forward eager zeal display'd;
Who only view'd with curious eye
The fane's recess, and wish'd to fly,
Soon as its objects pass'd in sight,
Like airy phantoms of the night.

The Queen herself, in robes of gold,
(Which, while her waist they close enfold,
Their purple borders waving, flow'd
In loose luxuriance as she trode),
Advanc'd, the choral band to lead,
And high o'ertopt them by the head;
And look'd and mov'd a goddess bright,
In all the majesty of light.
Her graceful motions swam along,
Slow-pacing to the dance and song,
Which now in stately measures flow,
With many a pausing step and slow;
Till brisker notes began to glow,
And strait the nimble airy band,
Trip it lightly hand in hand;
And dance and sing, and dance amain,
And sing and dance it round again.

The Queen partakes the silent joy,
While louder notes her praise employ;
And censers send a sweet perfume,
And her own myrtles fairer bloom.

Anon for banquet they prepare,
Where costly viands, dainties rare,
Crown the full board; and Bacchus shines,
With nectar from the richest vines.
They eat, they drink, they talk by turns;
Around the social transport burns;
For love in sweetest feast delights,
And sweetest feast to love invites.

And now we travers'd wide the dome,
Thro' chamber fair and hall we roam,
O'er all detain'd in wild amaze,
And fix'd in wonder still to gaze.
A thousand boards for banquet spread,
And by each board a golden bed:
And golden lustres hung on high,
And walls o'erhung with tapestry;—
All these allur'd young Fancy's eye;
And many a pictur'd scene of joy:
Heroes in Venus' wars enroll'd,
And heroines brave, in days of old,
Who, stout in fight, resign'd their charms,
Dissolving in a lover's arms.
All who were wont in love to sigh,
And died for love, or caus'd to die,
Find here their immortality;
And liv'd again, and breath'd delight,
In brass or canvas to the sight.

Leander here still stems the wave,
Tho' midnight glooms, and tempests rave;
Love by his constant polar star,
Love's taper glimmering from afar.

Here Sappho weeps, Anacreon smiles,
Alcides quits the warrior's toils
For Lydia's Queen, and wields, by turns,
The club or distaff, as he burns.

Fair Ariadne still deplores
Her Theseus gone from Naxos' shores;
While Bacchus, jolly god of vines,
Prefers his courtship, as she pines.

Here Dido rears the funeral pile,
And decks it with the Trojan's spoil;
Then seeks her death, and goes a ghost,
For love's disdain, to Stygian coast.

See Jove forsake his throne above,
And range the earth for mortal love;
For Io's, Leda's, Danae's arms,
Resign the thunder's dread alarms.

Here Mars, the god of battle, frowns;
Yet quells his heart, and Beauty owns;
Grows to her breast, and twines around,
In Love's eternal fetters bound.

Above the rest Adonis glows,
To Venus, source of endless woes!
Since the dire tusk of angry boar
Tore the dear youth in manhood's flower.
For him his purple River weeps,
And Love his tears in anguish steeps:
So choice a youth, so fair a mien,
Had ne'er enamour'd Beauty's Queen.

These triumphs of Love's boundless power
We mark'd, and thousand triumphs more;
But other prospects still remain,
The various outworks of his reign;
Love's sweet Elysium, flowery scenes,
Fresh-blooming groves, eternal greens,
Where streams of amber ever flow,
And gales of fragrance ever blow!
Dim grottos and umbrageous bowers,
Which magic Fancy oft explores,
And loves with fays of yore to dwell,
'Midst amaranth and asphodel.

But ere the dome we quit entire,
Where thousand lofty halls aspire,
The various dressing-rooms we spy'd,
Wardrobes and toilets side by side,
And all that Armory of Pride,
Beauty employs for lover's bane,
When forth she goes new spoils to gain.
Here stand her odours, oils that shine,
Ambrosial essences divine,
Whose blest sweet gales could life create,
Or call a soul from Pluto's gate.
Here hoods and kerchiefs; rings withall,
To deck fair fingers, long and small:
Pendants and bracelets in great store,
And speckled combs from India's shore;
And pins of gold, that, as they twirl,
Leave the wild-flowing locks to curl;
And well-made vests, whose charm detains
The lover's heart in stronger chains,
And, flowing with each amorous limb,
Gives all its wanton airs to swim:
The simple gown; the robe for show;
The rich brocade; the furbelow;
The head-dress, mounted by the scale;
The cap, the bonnet, and the veil;
And all those modes which Beauty wears,
To mix her sway mid human cares,
And spread her reign, without controul,
Far as from Indus to the pole.

But here, as chief, the Mirror stands,
Reflects all views, all eyes commands;
But most the Fair's, who here review
Old charms in store, and practice new:
Rebuild the curls, the eyes relume,
New-gild the cheek with fairer bloom;
Adjust the dress, whose easy folds,
Raptur'd, the eye of Taste beholds;
Practise the trip, or stately tread,
The curtsy low, or nod of head;
The leer, the wink, or tempting smile,
And arm the lips with sweeter guile.

These charms to practise, all the Fair,
At morning, noon, and night repair:
Oft as they cease to dance or sing,
Or strike the sweetly-thrilling string
Of lute or harp, whose heavenly chime
Suspends the downy flight of Time;
Or when of love they have full store
With gentle knight in amorous bower:
For love and dance, and feast and show,
Is all they wish, and all they know;
And fitting 'tis such joys should reign,
Where Love presides in Beauty's fane;
Plans all his conquests, wields his arms,
To fill the world with wild alarms;
And hence on earth when forth he sped,
So wide his sovereignty he spread;
Since full prepar'd he came to kill,
And thus he reigns and conquers still.

And now the golden gates we past,
And now to open field we haste;
Mark'd all the wonders of the scene,
The lucid streams, the meadows green;
The bowers of bliss, the fair alcoves,
The coverts of a thousand loves,
Where thousand flowers their odours fling;
And thousand Cupids on the wing
Sport with the bows, and all around
Discharge their bolts with whizzing sound;
And oft in jest they cast a dart,
That finds its way to lover's heart;
For all that die of amorous pain
Are not by levell'd arrows slain;
Oft chance-like strokes are deadliest found,
That mean but seldom aim the wound;
As lightening kills us by surprise,
Or random glance from Clara's eyes.

Some Cupids round their anvils throng
To shape new arrows, sharp and long;
While others point old shafts anew,
To wound more keen, and shoot more true.
Around the roaring forge they stand,
A bold, malignant, plotting band;
And as their bolts they forge in haste,
Full many a spiteful leer they cast,
To think what thousand victims slain
Shall bless their fatal hands again.
One trough of melted gold appears,
T' other of gall, and lover's tears;
In both they dip the pointed dart,
Destin'd to wound the human heart;
And hence, where-e'er their weapons fall,
The lover's gold is mix'd with gall.

And now we reach'd the Amorous Grove,
So christen'd in this land of love,
Where thousand Beauties round us gaze,
And spread their snares a thousand ways;
Hold amorous soft discourse at will,
And sing and dance with wanton skill;
With many a leer, and many a glance
Of love's intent, from eyes askance.

At first, half-smiling, half-afraid,
With trembling shrieks they sought the shade;
But soon return'd to court our sight,
Panting with love and dear delight;
And now with bolder airs came on,
And now their naked charms are shown.—
Aside their fluttering garments fly—
The slender foot first draws the eye,
The tapering leg, the bosom fair,
The wild luxurious heavings there;—
While some devolve a length of hair,
Whose golden tresses, as they flow,
But half conceal those hills of snow.

Some, bathing, seek the cooling stream,
Whose crystal mirror's silvery gleam
Reflects a floating pomp of silvery charms,
That all my fortitude disarms:
Vainly the clinging waves would hide
Their wanton motions as they glide:
Their plump round limbs more bright appear,
Like pictur'd Loves that sport in air;
They warm the more, the more they move,
Too well they tempted me to love.

At last, with head above the wave,
Their secret charms to view they gave;
And all impatient for the joy,
"Come bathe with us in bliss, they cry:
'Tis Nature calls to bliss around:
See all obey the melting sound;
And beasts and birds, both wild and tame,
Dissolving, rush into the flame.

"Shall man alone forbear to prove
The all-subduing force of love;
Forbear, with thankless heart, to know,
The sweetest source of joy below,
Whose every cordial drop outshines
The richest treasure of the mines?

"Not gems, nor robes of Tyrian dye,
Match the amorous transport high:
Nor viands sweet, nor nectar's bliss,
Match the glowing balmy kiss;
Or glance of eye, whose wild wild roll
Whirls to heaven the madding soul;
Or rosy limbs, the smoothness such,
Soft as down to amorous touch;
Or ardent lovers, rapture-blest,
In Love's elysium close-embrac'd,
Whose souls lie drown'd in seas of sweets,
When the tide of transport meets.

"Court the joys that never tire;
Love, a kind-reviving fire,
Ne'er aspires to hardy toils,
Seeks no warrior's deadly spoils;
Easy, pleasing, careless joy,
Neither hard to win, nor coy.

"Hate the bliss that costs thee pain,
Precarious bliss, uncertain gain,
Virtue that calls to labours hard,
Never yields the bright reward;
Never can the groans repay
Of many a doughty well-fought day.

"Seek the combats of the shade,
Softer wars, the lover's trade;
Wars in grove, or flowery plain,
Scenes of many a sweet campaign,
Where nymphs throw darts from amorous eye,
And wounded lovers pant and die;
Yet from their wounds feel short annoy,
Since but to wish is to enjoy.

"Vain is wealth! And vain is fame!
Envy blasts the scholar's name.
Life is short as tale that's told,
Mad the wight that toils for gold.
O'er the earth, and o'er the main,
Still they wake to groan in pain,
Still pursue those shadows light,
That seem to fly before their sight,
Or reach'd, can ne'er the pains atone,
When all the soul of life is gone.

"Hither then in time repair,
To drown in bliss thy carking care;
Here Leisure on a couch reposes,
Pleasure riots crown'd with roses;
Laughter joins with Revelry,
Wanton Mirth, and Jollity.
Here the cup, and sparkling bowl,
Soothe the sadness of the soul:
Here is love, and lover's joy—
Haste, the amorous hour employ.
And much we long thy thirst to slake
With beverage of yon crystal lake,
Bosom'd deep in circling shade,
Shade the happy lovers made;
Lake that flows from Pleasure's stream,
Causing sweet oblivious dream
Of human cares; and ne'er again,
Who tastes of it, shall taste of pain."

While some in raptures dance along,
And woo me with their syren-song,
And some to deep recesses fly,
Casting behind a leering eye;
I turn'd; and saw my rosy guide
Was vanish'd quite; but soon espy'd
An ancient sage, of reverend look,
Who thus my heedless heart bespoke:
"Haste from these dangerous scenes afar;
And fly, my child, th' unequal war!
Lo! every strain the syren pours
Hides a serpent under flowers,
Veiling Virtue from thine eye,
Glozing Vice with artful dye,
Sure the youthful heart to catch,
When Truth remits her wonted watch.
Reason I, thy friend, am come,
From Wisdom's fair and stately Dome,
Full of saws, experience-taught,
Rigid corrector of each fault,
With eyes before, and eyes behind,
Argus-ey'd, the false to find.

"What then is Love? — a specious name,
To cover guilt, remorse, and shame!
And what its bliss? a dying fire!
Joys that in a flash expire!
Wasting strength, and beauty's bloom,
Ripening for an early tomb.
See how the pale eyes wildly roll,
Even in that ecstasy of soul!
The wan cheek fades! love looks like death,
And the soft senses cease to breathe!
—Meanwhile the soul, her balance lost,
And all her powers in tumult tost,
Tempestuous storms; even Heaven's defy'd,
The moral sense thrown quite aside;
While Wisdom's calm and serious lore
Is laugh'd to scorn, and heard no more.

"Then farewell peace! And farewell fame!
Farewell the pure etherial flame,
That warms and stimulates the soul
Thro' manly toils to Virtue's goal;
Honour'd with Heaven's approving love,
And flights of angels from above;
Honour'd of Conscience, awful guest,
Heaven's viceroy in the human breast;
If once thou burn in lawless fire,
Or yield a slave to wild Desire.

"And see Repentance' Vales below,
What sighs! What groans! What rage of woe!
Fancy, that late thy footsteps led,
Had soon thy easy soul betray'd
To woes unpitied, unredrest,
Fierce bitter pains, and sad unrest;
But I, e'er watchful of my ward,
And most, when most it needs a guard,
Warn'd hence the bold adventurous sprite,
And snatch'd him lingering from thy sight.
And now I guide thee to the gate,
Where Wisdom dwells in awful state,
With meek-ey'd Peace, her mild compeer,
Soother sweet of human care:
Religion dress'd in modest guise,
With saintly look, and upcast eyes;
Truth, with Science ever-new,
And smiling Health, of rosy hue;
Calm Fortitude, that spurns the ground,
And Musing, wrapt in thought profound:
All these, and thousand thousand more,
Her fane frequent, and shrine adore:
All these impatient wait for thee,
From meaner cares to set thee free,
To gird thee with heroic might,
Above controul of guilt or pain,
And all that drags to earth again;
While Virtue waits thy joys to crown,
And Glory marks thee for her own;
Till from a mortal grown divine,
Thou equall'st gods, and heaven is thine."

I strait obey'd the high behest,
(New vigour kindling in my breast),
And pass'd with speed the guilty shades,
Deep bowers of bliss, and glimmering glades,
Where every thicket breath'd annoy,
Inspiring love and amorous joy.
Thro' many a winding path I rove,
The tangling mazy paths of love;
And long and oft I miss my way,
While other thorny paths betray.
Like birds intrapp'd in fowler's snare,
Full easy 'twas to fix me here;
But thence to 'scape was labour hard,
And much requir'd a soul prepar'd;
Yet after many a bold essay,
While Reason led, I forc'd my way.

At last Repentance' Vales appear'd,
And sighs and doleful groans were heard
Of lovers wan, o'erwatch'd with care,
Wild-wailing to the desart air;
Whose loves for ever fled from sight,
And left them in a piteous plight!
And now o'er forests huge they roam,
Distracted scour the midnight-gloom;
'Plaining to each hill and dale,
Like the love-lorn nightingale:
Now backward on their steps they go,
Pouring their souls in hopeless woe:
For not on heaths, or forests drear,
Can they descry their lovely dear;
Ah woes me! for ever gone!
Sad source of unavailing moan!

Thus oft at eve a wandering Fire
Misleads the swain thro' bog and mire,
Withdraws at once its dazzling light,
And leaves him to the howling night.

Some bosoms even to madness swell,
While jealousy, the lover's hell,
And pride, and dark revenge create
A thousand fiends to gall their fate.
And now they stamp, and rave, and swear,
And now are sunk in deep despair;
Till dire resolves possess their soul,
Of halter, sword, or poison'd bowl;
Or frantic seek the rocky steep,
The sullen river, black and deep;
Their love and life at once to lose,
Dire fatal end of all their woes!

Others, more mild, the fate deplore
That led them to this fatal shore,
To waste their time, their bloom, and health,
The pride of youth, and pride of wealth,
Their peace, their reason, — and for what?
A kiss, an embrace, and all that;
A ruby lip, a sparkling eye,
And charms that in a moment fly:
For these, bedeck'd in trim array,
To sigh their best of life away;
Powder'd, perfum'd, obey the nod,
That calls them to the bright abode,
Where their fair goddess sits ador'd,
And silence waits upon her word;
Or when she smiles, or lifts her eyes,
At every glance a lover dies;
Or when she bids to lead the dance,
A troop of vassal'd slaves advance;
And happy he, above the band,
First favour'd with the Fair one's hand.

Was man for this superior made,
With reasoning talents ill-obey'd?
For knowledge form'd, or bold emprize,
To compass earth, or walk the skies;
A soul above or fear or pain,
Worthy Creation's Lord to reign;
And still o'er all such lord confest,
O'er all but in the female breast,
A slave shall such a wight bow down
To woman's will, and wave his own!
And Wisdom, Virtue, Knowledge fair,
Despise at once, as 'neath his care:
The checks of Conscience dare defy,
And sweet Religion's holy tie;
And all the social virtues dear,
And Pity's soft and tender tear,
Whose transport far the worth outvies
Of all that shines in Pleasure's eyes.
Good deeds are cordials laid in store
Against distress in future hour,
But most at death, when sensual joy
Is found a vain, an useless toy;
When those alone can comfort yield,
And Virtue only keeps the field.

Such was the balm that access found
To heal the anguish'd lover's wound;
And such the strains, tho' mix'd with gall,
That sung his Virtue's hapless fall.

Tho' Vicious Love, thus wretched shown,
Abandon'd, desolate, alone,
Torn with remorse, despoil'd of fame,
Can hardly our compassion claim;
Yet Virtuous Love, like purest gold,
Unmix'd with dross of baser mold;
Or diamonds flaming in the mine,
That 'midst surrounding darkness shine,
Or flower in shelter'd spot that blows,
The lilly fair, or virgin-rose;
Shall pure and manly still aspire,
And Love ennoble Virtue's fire:
For what are all those charms combin'd,
That in the person beam so fair,
But thousand thousand beauties rare,
Reflected from the beaming mind.

I therefore not am bold to blame
A virtuous, pure, and manly flame,
To Reason's rules subservient still,
When Passion waits on Virtue's will.
The noblest bliss of bliss below,
Th' exclusive love of faithful two;
While, fears and jealousies apart,
Honour only rules the heart.
They, like the first primaeval pair,
Joys of sense and reason share;
Happiest interchange of soul,
Doubly to them their pleasures roll;
While their doubled strength they close
To stem the tide of human woes;
Sweet the tears, and ere they fall,
Thoughts of mutual love recall;
Sweet the smiles, that as they shine,
Happy lover, thou mak'st thine,
Whose rougher powers refine apace,
Polish'd by each softer grace,
Round the tender Fair that smile,
Like virtues in their native soil.

—And oft when Pleasure trill'd her lay,
Hath Love decoy'd our steps away,
Tho' wheedled by the syren-strain,
And led us back to peace again.

And now the upward path I trode,
That leads to Wisdom's high abode,
Whose towering height I mark'd before,
When Pleasure show'd her roseate bower,
And led my wavering heart astray,
For the short moment of a day:
Yet soon my wonted road I gain,
By Reason led to Wisdom's fane;
Where long of yore my vows I paid,
Long-lingering in sequester'd shade,
Where Youth with Learning pass'd the day,
And stole the white-wing'd Hours away;
For Learning oft is Virtue's friend,
And bless'd the man who both has gain'd.

And now Aurora 'gan to peep,
And broke my dreams, and banish'd sleep;
And Phoebus, rising rosy-red,
Sprung to his toils from Thetis' bed,
Scattering a thousand darts of light,
To break the sullen shades of Night,
Till over all the bright-hair'd Day
Gradual diffus'd the golden ray;
And hill and plain, and wood and stream,
Welcome the warm-enlivening beam;
And music warbles from the brake,
And all the sons of Care awake.
I rose to share the general toil,
And hail'd the vision with a smile,
Deeming the dream no dream in vain,
And much I wish'd such dreams again.

[pp. 189-229]