Retirement is a blank-verse rhapsody consisting almost entirely of the soliloquy of the retired hermit Eugenio. The form of the utterance and many of the sentiments suggest the influence of Shaftesbury's Characteristics. The inflated Miltonic manner is indebted to the earlier blank-verse rhapsodies of Thomson, Mallet, and Shenstone. While the sentiments throughout are overwrought and the expressions tumid, one is still a little surprised at the end of the long rant to see Eugenio revealed as a moral hypocrite ("Such is the heart of inconsistent man" p. 28). Perhaps the conclusion underscores the poet's distaste for retirement: William Bagshaw Stevens, an Oxford-educated schoolmaster living in unhappy obscurity, died at the age of 44.
The second half of the rhapsody opens with a catalogue of poets consigned to poverty and neglect by dullness (Spenser, Milton, Otway, Collins, and Chatterton). The Spenser passage gives an unusually detailed account of an eighteenth-century reader's response to the Faerie Queene: "Rapt by his powerful strain, the elated soul | Spurns the dull features of existent time, | And its dark grain of manners: charm'd in thought | To meet his fairy imagery of song, | She in the fable of heroic days | Longs to have mix'd her flame" p. 18. The lines on Chatterton are, if not the first, among the earliest of the long series deploring his treatment by Horace Walpole.
Gentleman's Magazine: "The first, which is much the longest and the best, is the soliloquy of an old Penseroso, 'smarting with the wrongs, | And sated with the vanities of life, | And now retiring from the haunts of men'; and exhibits many picturesque scenes, with evident marks of genius. Pride, vanity, ambition, &c. are strongly characterised, and their fatal effects illustrated. Among the unhappy votaries of verse are introduced, as beacons, in lines not unworthy of themselves [Spenser, Milton, Collins, and Chatterton]. Eugenio then rises from private sorrow to the civil commotions in the reign of Charles I. the melancholy death of Queen Elizabeth, as described by Hume, &c, but at last, a wealthy ship which he owned (long deemed lost) 'anchored on the shore,' he 'sings an eternal requiem to his solitary joys,' and ere night impatiently seeks the town, like the usurer in Horace, who, charmed with a country life, Beatus ille, &c. called in his money on the Calends" 52 (May 1782) 236.
Edmund Cartwright: "The principal poem in this little collection is Retirement, in which is introduced, under the character of a misanthropical moralist, an old man who has been ruined by the venality and deceitfulness of friends. After exhausting the usual topics of declamation that are furnished by the vices of the world, he resolves to devote his future life to retirement and virtue. In the midst of his resolutions, a ship, of which he proves to be the owner, and which was supposed to have been lost, arrives with a very valuable cargo. The repossession of which overturns all his visionary schemes of reformation, and he once more mixes with the world, which, in the hour of spleen and disappointment, he had determined to forsake, 'Plung'd in the waves of vanity and care.' In this, as in the generality of Mr. Stevens's performances, there is more of labour than genius; and more good sense than poetical enthusiasm" Monthly Review 69 (August 1783) 166-67.
Anna Seward to Thomas Park: "About his 25th year he published a fine poem, in blank verse, entitled Retirement. It was a poetic morning of bright promise; but the pitchy cloud of the reviewers' perceptions darkened its pure and crystal rays — nor could the mob of readers perceive its lustre through that dense medium of unjust censure. Consequently, being a maiden work, it had no sale, and the high minded reserve of the author was irreparably disgusted. He published no more; and now, alas, the golden fountain of his genius is for ever dried up, ere half the age of man was attained. Such are the mischiefs of incompetent and self-elected censorship" 12 June 1800; in Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 5:286-87.
Samuel Egerton Brydges: "Retirement is a long poem, containing many vigorous passages, which no ordinary man could have written. But there appears to me some inherent defect in it, which I confess myself unable to analyse. It sounds upon the ear, but from some cause or other, not clear to me, it fails to make its way to the heart. This, perhaps is partly owing to the apparent labour with which it is written" Censura Literaria 5 (1807) 391.
"Weave o'er my brow, ye shades, your amplest gloom;
Deepen your murmurs at my feet, ye waves,
Precipitately plung'd; ye snow-crown'd hills
On whose high front the unstooping moon may rest
Her wearied car; and ye that wildly spread,
Vallies, your verdant bosom to the sun,
Rich with his genial ray, my druid step,
If due invok'd, receive; if now a strain
Loose from the check of art may hope to charm
Your mute attention, wave ye awful shades."
Such were the strains that from the pensive breast
Of old EUGENIO, smarting with the wrongs,
And sated with the vanities of life,
And now retreating from the haunts of men,
Not without rapture tho' unbidden flow'd.
Awhile he paus'd — and o'er the sylvan tracts
Of lonely Nature cast a long survey,
Silent, yet pleas'd: upon his tranquil soul,
As on a mirror, the expansive scene,
Rich in variety and greatly fair,
New images imprest: their native charm
Work'd on each sense, till his admiring thought
Burst from its silence. Muse, record his thoughts!
And, if that grace be not denied thy claim,
In just simplicity's proportion'd phrase,
Not rude, not tasteless, not to passion weak,
Such as may win the approaches of the heart
Beyond the strutting pomp of giant words.
"For you, ye blue-ey'd Genii of the woods,
(Thus he renewed the ardor of his strain)
That wake the unfolding Spring, that bless from cold
The infant plants, and train the leafy scene
To full maturity of verdant life!
Naids, for you, and all in shells that haunt
The evening stream, to your romantic shrines
I now should bend, your votary; but the dream
Of classic days, and ye are of their train,
Are fled — then with me better may I bring,
Nor fabulous be they deem'd, nor obsolete,
Fit deities to guard my sylvan reign
And glad these solitudes. What atheist heart
Shall scorn Integrity that knows no ill;
Courage that fears none; or the Briton power
Of Independence? She was wont to bless
Our fathers' footsteps: our effeminate age,
Effeminate and selfish, has exiled
Her liberal spirit from the palace roof.
To search for Freedom in these forest shades.
These are my household Gods. Within their fane
Peace shall be priestless; in their leafy dells
Silence may sleep; along their secret paths
With calm security RETIREMENT rove,
Veiling her step. Me too, ye holy choir,
Admit me to your train! The turbid walks
Of man, in meditative mood, I leave;
Leave, yet resign not or to drear despair,
Or dumb oblivion, the sweet social love,
That linking thought to thought, and heart to heart,
In golden concord, gleams from soul to soul,
And sheds divinity on human breasts."
Again he paus'd — for stealing o'er his soul,
The sad remembrance of his former days
Hung, mist-like, on his thought. One natural tear
He dropt, due tribute to the friends he lov'd,
The loves he lost, the venal friends that fled
His plaintive hours, when smit with penury—
But indignation on his cheek permits
No second tear: collected, he resumes
The rigid tone of VIRTUE'S stoic lay.
"O ye loose Bacchants! ye whose low delights
Disgrace your day; that share with wine and lust
The night; or, sunk in sloth, the social hours
Consume; ye, whose mir'd appetites obstruct
The light of reason, oh, approach not here!
Here Riot raves not — the lewd warbling lute
Stirs not the tingling blood — the sensual thought
Withers — the Passions wild and ill-inflam'd
Faint in the shades of solitude, and gasp
For the lost nourishment of absent vice.
"O ye, that softly thro' the mazy dance
Of fashion float, in silken luxury fair,
That sip, in vanity, the virgin bloom
Of beauty, tasteless to the enervate sense!
And ye, whose venal toil, from day to day,
Plods its unceasing round, who steal from night
The sleepless hour, Love's due, to gaze on gold,
Recede! nor the sweet breath of solitude
Taint with disgust and fear, that freshly blows
To the pure sense. The self-supported breast
Defying penury, and with Virtue's pride
Glancing contempt on wealth-puff'd insolence,
Or fairer yet, beyond an earthly ken
That daring looks, — Religion-lifted thought!
Suit these the relish of degenerate souls?
"Thou in majestic glory crown'd by Heaven,
Imperial Nature! at thy woodland shrine
My votive verse receive; before thy throne,
In sweet vicissitude of service, stand
The New, the Beauteous, the Sublime: — fair forms
Shap'd to the Poet's eye! thy vernal path
Thro' groves and gardens, or in wilder scenes,
Wilder, yet such as rural Pleasure loves,
Tenderly fair, May, blushing Grace! Adorns:
She, gay attendant on thy roseate reign,
Breathes her ambrosial spirit in thy gales,
Greens ev'ry hill, relumes the languid sun,
And guides his doubtful luster to disclose
Thy woodbine foliage, peeping into bloom,
Fair bower of beauty! kind retreat of love!
Lead on, bright nymph — enchanted in thy realms,
On the green summit of some mountain site,
High o'er the extremest verge, with lifted hands
And rapture-straining eye, in speechless joy,
Wild in sublimest grandeur, Wonder stands.
Playful beneath, o'er ev'ry May-blown flower
Varying the scented hue, from shade to shade
Chasing the sunny gleam, in tremulous dews
With diamond luster kindling purer grace,
Delighted Fancy roves, in fond pursuit
Of airy pastime; now, with bolder aim
Mingling the seasons, chills the Summer noon
With rush of sudden storm; now checks at will
The dark career of Winter, and o'erspreads
His sullen front with her all-cheering brow;
Then, as its shadowy splendor melt in air,
Catches its falling colours, and entwines
The bright illusive dyes, braiding for Hope
(Such the reward of ev'ry earthly aim)
A fairy wreath to crown his pilgrimage.
"Not all the scanty portions of delight
That Heav'n allots to man, with outstretch'd arm
AMBITION grasps; nor he who, falsely nam'd
Voluptuous, rifles ev'ry sickly charm
That Vice obtrudes upon his cheated sense;
She, as their moment of possession meets
His rising rapture, with insidious hand
Shifts their gay robes, and lo, his shudd'ring breast
Starts from the loath'd embraces of Disgust,
Or foul Remorse! Sincerity of bliss
God meant not for the turbulent and vain.
"Deem ye the modest heart in shades retir'd,
Loose from the low contagion of the world,
Must pine in thought, or wearily benumb'd,
Count the dull hours, till flippant Folly comes,
Intrusive visitant! from whose mien, uncheck'd
By sense, by Humour's festive hand unpush'd,
Leaps the loud laugh! an independent joy,
That leans not on the languid form of things,
By art's deceptive pencil colour'd gay,
Blesses the ingenuous mind; a virtuous joy,
That, while it charms, corrupts not. Such the sense
Harmonious of consenting truths; fair ease;
Fair exercise of mind; domestic peace;
Disdain of slavery; Reason's temperate rule;
Contempt of folly; conscious worth; and Faith
That dares with eagle eye the thrones of Heaven.
"Who on his soul that feels this angel train
Of bliss descend, tho' rudely from his thatch
Cold ice-drops hang, would spurn from silent life
Her fair-ey'd joys! or, with the fretful spleen,
Groan at the oppression of a tranquil day?
"Who by fear'd habit to each kinder sense
Not grossly dull, nor hopeless to obtain,
Who for his soul but meditates to woo,
Tho' in some distant hour that never comes,
These heavenly ministers of human joy?
"Him that neglectful of their love, in thought
Untasted yet, his idle fancy bathes
In masques, and pageant pomps, and reveling courts,
Or, with lewd Comus dancing, thirsts to drink
Circaean pleasures, from the charmed cup,
Him, hapless youth! — ah, save him e'er he fall!
Error shall lead or Guilt usurping rule.
"Save him! ere dissipating rage exhaust,
Or from his bloom the rust of lucre eat
The core of joy; ere, pale in palsied age,
Wealthy too late, not wise, from virtuous bliss
Too long estrang'd, without an offering laid
On the fair altars of domestic peace,
To Vanity's delusive shrine he bow.
"The voice of Wealth shall never woo unheard
Her selfish aid: with quick regard she comes,
Gloats on the sculptur'd roof, the gorgeous plate
Dazzling the eye; and rich illumin'd strokes
Of TITIAN'S breathing art; in gay alcove
Proudly reclines, and kindles at the smile
Of marble Loves and leaden painted Gods.
To those (while obelisks and streaming vanes
Emulous of fame, aspiring from the shades
Slop'd to admit his view, the Traveller's haste
With envious wonder check) she, proud in thought,
Kind in pretext, to Flattery's echoing eye
With curious finger points, lest unobserv'd,
Uprais'd, a ray of grandeur fall in vain.
Lo, all her aid and boast — tho' trimly wreathed
By polish'd art, tho' gemm'd, supplies the crutch
Youth's steely nerves to age? or can the shroud,
Fring'd with a golden hem, pride mixed with woe,
And foppery with corruption, charm the dead?
"Pensively fair, within her hazle shades,
At noon, when all the liberal airs of Heaven,
Fresh'ning the valley's violet sweetness, fall
In faint subjection to the eager heat,
RETIRMENT musing sits: Pleas'd by her side,
Smoothing her bosom softness, Peace extends
A breathless calm of soul; the distant din
Of tumult scares not her divine repose;
Anger is silent; from the hallow'd scene
Envy, the bosom hell, to selfish breasts,
Hissing, retreats; Fear to the ambush flies
Of secret guilt; and sad unsated Care
Feeds on the vitals of mean drudging Vice.
Mute is the hour — the inward light of thought,
By passion'd blasts unruffled, clearly hangs
Its life-discerning lamp; the mental world
Unfolding gleams; the imagery of soul
A genuine shape and due complexion wears
Chastened beneath its beam; hence sacred Truth
And Virtue hence their deathless orbs illume.
Let Avarice, mounted on his yellow heaps,
Fretting his anxious eye with sleepless dread
Of fraud or theft, her dark enjoyments claim
Unenvied and unpitied; let Conceit,
In proudest folly, at her mimic glass,
Elaborately sleek her scented locks,
And deeply studious of attractive airs,
Creating charms and curtseying at the view,
Worship her shadow; and let loose-rob'd Lust,
Sighing or smiling, as it seems her best,
In all o'erstepping Nature and the grace
Of modest Love, with lure of artful looks
Urge her dishonest aims, and to her breast
Constrain tir'd Pleasure panting; shall thy soul,
O meditate a moment, shall thy soul,
Breathing immortal hopes and wrought in Heaven,
Her sacred ardor check, in sensual mire
Wallowing with shame? the God within thy mind
Shrinks in the dregs of earth, and dead to Fame.
"Envy not thou in honourable shades
Bosom'd, and virtuous peace, the laurel leaf
That veils the sternness of the warrior's brow,
While o'er the desolation of mankind
Nature and Pity mourn. Thou hast thy aims,
Of grandeur, thou thy glory; thou canst boast,
While Nature and applauding Virtue smile,
Conquest o'er life: the appetites enchained
Bow to thy will; and not a struggling wish
O'erleaps the limits of thy modest leave;
Here is thy pride, thy bliss; the ills of fate
Soften'd recede; the spirit of thy mind,
Genius of noblest thoughts, elate and fair,
In virtuous freedom breathes; the equal love
Of Heaven she claims; and conscious of her right
Bends not to man her sphere-aspiring worth.
Just to thyself, at the commanding voice
Of lacker'd Wealth, degrade not thou thy soul
Awfully shivering! nor in supple haste
Trip at the beck of Pride, to catch the smile
That low'ringly descends! To others just,
Thou never, the fair fence of order torn,
With rudest obloquy and cynic pride
Bark, envious, at the footsteps of the great."
Here, while his bosom panted with disdain
Of the base arts that sadden life with woe,
And the dark services that worthless men
Administer to wealth, again he paus'd,
And for a third time check'd his glowing strain;
Not long he check'd — Not yet the roseate morn
Resign'd its dewy luster to the noon,
While his free footsteps rang'd along the glades,
Or climb'd each airy peak of steep access.
Warm with the love of nature and of truth,
Again he sung: the tenor of his lay,
Still in a plaintive, yet indignant air,
Rebuk'd the vices, mourn'd the woes of Life:
To vales and rocks his solitary song
He pour'd, nor human audience wish'd nor fear'd;
While thus, in prelude soft, and milder tone,
He hail'd the sylvan Goddess of his choice.
"Awake, ye western airs, with rosy breath
Favoring the youthful year, awake! invite
(Pleas'd with the kindly task) her devious step!
Ye airs of Heaven, awake! and on her bloom
Of soul your life-inspiring spirit shed!
Broke by your whispers her ambrosial rest,
She quits her mossy couch; to woo the smile
Of Nature, bright'ning ev'ry rural charm,
Retirement comes: still at the lov'd return
Of eve and morn, day's orient path and fall
Bright-purpled, the divine recluse shall come.
Wreath'd from the mountain's side, in billowy way,
Ye mists recede! nor to the forest skirts
Darkly adhere! or linger o'er the edge
Of reedy stream! smit with their vernal charms,
Thro' their wild sweetness, her enchanted step
Retirement leads; and winding thro' the maze
Of sun, and shade, of wood and hilly heights,
With unremitted love, in mind pursues
The silent track of nature-breathing thought.
"Mean while the beauteous-handed Spring unfolds
The azure grace of Heaven; and earth beneath,
Loosening her veins to joy, looks up and smiles.
Retirement in her walk, enraptur'd, marks
The bounty-blessing scene. The tender bloom,
Wak'd from its annual death, salutes her eye,
Waving in triumph to the passing air
Its thousand colours; even the lowly herb
Wreaths its impatient head, of richer life
Ambitious, proudly struggling from the earth.
The air breathes music; and the chearful voice
Of melody, untutor'd, unconfin'd,
From field to fountain wings its warb'ling course,
The solace of the groves: the wond'ring herds
Pause from their food, and frisk in wanton joy.
Thus while all nature kindles into soul,
Impelling vigour thro' the enliven'd veins
Of herb or beast, the animating force
Thrills to the heart of man: spontaneous bliss,
Borne on the tide of spirits, gushes forth
'Gainst every sense wild-dashing; eye and ear
Quicken anew with rapture; joy and hope,
Beam'd or re-echo'd from each vernal scene,
And gratitude and love inspire the heart.
"In every gale, with genial pleasure rich,
Poetic Virtue breathes, and, free of power,
Noble in object, from the well-ton'd soul
With generous impulse strikes the harmonious thought.
"Yet ere thy hand, with daring spirit warm,
Awake the wires of Fancy, ere she draw
Her roseate veil and smile thee to her love,
Mark, where, with scowling aspect, Dullness stands:
Wearily slow his words — drowsy their tone—
Muttering with solemn air and sapient pride
Proverbial documents and grandam lore,
He shakes the affected pity of his brow,
In meanest triumph, o'er the withering fate
Of Genius, and the proud neglect of worth.
"Lo, he who died of hunger and of thirst—
He, who on Mulla's banks, in fairy pomp,
Marshall'd his splendid chivalry, and deck'd
With virtue-breathing shews ELIZA'S court.
The trump re-echoes; and the redcross Knight
Issues in ardor forth; adventurous deeds
Urging thro' danger to the steeps of fame;
The lady of his love, herself the meed
Of his high triumph, animates his heart.
Scar'd at his sun-bright shield and haughty lance
Pointed with death, the chariot's winged speed
Falters — unshelter'd from his fury, falls
The faithless Soldan; the dark wizard shrieks;
The ghostly chambers, the wild shadowy hosts,
And magic murmurs melt in angry air.
Rapt by his powerful strain, the elated soul
Spurns the dull features of existent time,
And its dark grain of manners: charm'd in thought
To meet his fairy imagery of song,
She in the fable of heroic days
Longs to have mix'd her flame. Sublime or sweet,
The trumpet thunders, or the plaintive lute
Its tenderest accent breathes; in plain or court,
(While the bard died of hunger and of thirst,)
Wood nymphs and regal dames ador'd his songs.
"See 'fall'n on evils days and evil tongues,
Rolling in vain his perish'd orbs of sight,
In Freedom's aid o'erply'd,' the bard of Heaven
Best favour'd! — such the crown of human worth!
"O ye white bosoms, true to Nature, turn,
Like the bright flower before the orb of day,
To every movement of the Poet's mind!
Blest be the graceful weakness that descends
In silent tears, that heaves your pitying hearts,
When wrung with deep and delicate distress
Monimia mourns; or she who kneels in vain
For the lost blessing of a father's love,
For the dear forfeit of a husband's life,
Poor hapless Belvidera!
Still as your souls in rapt attention hush'd,
Sigh o'er their fate, let Indignation point,
Virgins and Youths! and all whose bosoms bleed
At storied grief and fabulous despair!
Where the Creator of those passion'd scenes
Naked, unsheltered, hunger-smit and poor,
Poor to the last extremity of woe,
Sadly beseeches, ere he sinks in death,
The scantiest boon that ever Genius ask'd,
That e'er the meanest nature can implore,
One morsel from your board — it comes too late—
And the Muse hymns her OTWAY'S soul to Heaven.
"But who is he whom later garlands grace?
Lo, his worn youth beneath the chilly grasp
Of penury faints; and in her mournful shroud
Dark'ning all joy, all promises of good,
All health, all hope, sad Melancholy saps
In drear decay the fabric of his mind:
See shuddering Pity o'er his fallen soul
Wrings her pale hands! Regardless of the guide
That lifts his step, regardless of the friend
That mourns, nor sadly conscious of himself,
Silent yet wild, his languid spirit lies:
The light of thought has wandered from his eye,
It glares — but sees not. Yet this breathing corse,
This youthful driveller, Nature's ghastliest form,
(Oh, who would love the lyre?) in all the courts
Of Fancy, where abstracted Beauty play'd
With wildest elegance, his ardent shell
Enamour'd struck, and charm'd her various soul.
"See, later yet, and yet in drearier state,
Where dawning Genius struggling into day
Sinks in a dark eclipse; no friendly heart
With love auspicious, and no angel-hand
With prosperous spell his labouring sun relieve,
And chace the gather'd clouds that drop with blood.
"Such were the lights of soul that in the Heaven
Of Fancy blaz'd: the energic breath of thought,
Fanning their transports, vivify'd their sphere
With mental beauty; and their sacred songs
Shall stream in luster o'er each falling age,
When fainter records die: mean while the mind,
Mourning their fate, not emulous of their worth,
To other annals turns: the historic page,
Breathing with life, before her eye unfolds
The varying garb of Manners, and reveals
The soul of Nature. Shapes of ancient Time,
Glitter before her view: with Virtue, Faith,
With Freedom, Fame descends. The alter'd scene
Discolours now — now darkens: Fraud to Faith
Is link'd; to Freedom, Death: the tribes of art,
And the wild passions, from the intent of God
Corrupted by the vicious skill of man,
Hark or impetuous, madden o'er the maze
Of Life: from these the unambitious mind
Escap'd, securely frames in humbler vales
Her nest, and makes Content her Fame. Less pleas'd,
Less ardent her uncheated eye pursues
The vast emprize of Valour, when the Pomp
Of Heroism, in imperial folly, stalks
Proud with a golden pall; even then recur
To Pity's tender thought, the wounds of Love,
The devastation, and the bloody track
The ambitious sword has wrought. The widow's tear,
The cradled wretch that reckless of the cause
Wails to his mother's weeping, the poor Sire
Spoil'd of his aged boast, ah, Sire no more!
With her o'erwhelm the long applauding shout
And rattling wheel of Triumph. Still the Mind,
In weak excursion, o'er the troubled scene
Fearfully hovers; but with cow'ring wing,
Hopeful of rest, when on some brittle joy
Well pleas'd she stoops, beneath her step it breaks.
"See in the treacherous bowl the bliss of love
And light of life descend: the friendly breast
Falls by the hand it sav'd: for patriot worth
The tyrant grinds his ax: religious zeal
Waves forth the torch of hell, and Horror flames
Woe and amazement o'er the souls of men.
"From private sorrow rising, Pain and Death
Expand their powers; a nation gleams in war;
The tumult thickens; the unfeeling sword
Grides thro' the kindred breast. See Rout and Shame
Speed o'er the corse-throng'd way! See gory shapes
And armed Terrors rush! in mockery see
O'er regal Sorrow sit in stern array
The Traitorous Judgment! in the eye of Heaven,
O'er his meek brow dishonourable Death
Unwinds his sable flag: O sad display
Of Virtue garb'd in Misery's bloodiest veil!
"Shew me the turret on which Pride may place
Her grateful ambition? where the bliss
That mocks not the embracing hope? the Life,
That fluttering thro' the busy-dreaming world
Wings to the house of rest that dreadless course
Which silent worth would wish? A Nation's love
By patriot deeds and death defying fame
Let Valour win; let rival Beauty vaunt
O'er the defeated glories of that cheek
Beneath the living luster of whose beams
Her envy paled; then gaily let them come,
Pride in their eye and pleasure at their heart,
And mark where GLORIANA lies — Behold!
On the cold pavement for the jewell'd throne,
Sad choice! of human vanity and grief
Most feelingly expressive, low she lies.
"Mark, as the soothing friend, or to her ear
In wily humour creeping, the base speech
Of adulation breathes 'Dread Sovereign Queen,
Imperial Mistress, Arbitress of Earth!'
Mark if the Goddess at the alluring sound
Unveil her sorrowing eye; Mark if the pride
Of Empire, glistning with on her crown, adorn
Her brows with horror; if a nation's prayer
Gladden her heart; stern at her bosom hang,
Bathed in her blood, and twisted with the strings
Of life, the inexorable fiends of woe.
On the cold pavement still she lies; Dismay,
Jealous Remorse, and Pain, and secret Guilt,
Wearying her blasted moments, till her age,
Pity her aged grief! ebbing, dissolves
In all the sobbing impotence of tears,
Quiv'ring with speechless agony that mocks
Relief and Hope, invoking Death in vain.
"Well may the hind, in penury grown old,
Thro' whose sole casement the dim light of morn
A scanty ray intrudes, his shatter'd nerves
Rousing to toil, with pitying visage ask,
Was this a Queen? could this weak withering wretch,
This fool of angry Nature, gird her brow
With glory? and a female soul exalt,
At which the knee of kingdoms sued to bend?
"Such is the fate of Man — the boast of Heaven
And wonder of the Gods — from scene to scene
Teazing his anxious thought in idle chace
Of Folly's painted shadows. Love a while
Toys with his burning Youth; then Wealth, then Fame,
A sickly lustre shedding o'er his age,
Becken his eager step: behind, unseen,
Sabling the splendid tints of Fancy, comes
Disgust: Disgust or Disappointment crowns
With numb'd satiety, or anguish'd ache,
In every scene the chace — the dupe of Hope,
The slave of Sorrow — scourg'd by angry Fate
In sever'd agitation to the Grave.
"Now while in threat'ning horror onward move,
Dark'ning the vale of life, — ah nearer now!
The blood-stain'd clouds — Thundering in wrath, while now
Deepens the storm, from Folly's baby crown
Beating the gilt, and to the heart of Vice,
(Tho' clos'd his eyes in superstitious gloom)
Flashing dismay, the Moral Thought may walk
Calm and secure amidst the war of woes;
From ill educing good, while life unveils
Her splendid miseries. Let the fraudful brow
Of Care, the lying smile of Love, and all
The ghastly images of Guilt, impress
This one great lesson on thy heedful soul,
(Parent of noblest deed, of power to quench
The fears, and pains, and all the death of Life)
Humbly to hope, from Virtue's crowning hand,
Bliss in a future age, a fairer world,
Meanwhile to mark the living mind with worth,
The sweet security of lowly life,
To love, and silent Grandeur of Content."
Here from the murmurs of his solemn strain
EUGENIO ceas'd — and sighing — and in his mind
Silent revolv'd the numerous ills of fate—
Not yet the Noon had with its radiant beam
Emblaz'd the deep, when bounding o'er the wave
Full in his sight, for on a cliff he sat
That fronted the broad main, a gallant ship
Clos'd its wide wings, and anchor'd on the shore.
Who shall describe his transport? May he trust
His flatter'd sight? He may. The wealthy freight,
The gallant crew, long deem'd in ocean sunk,
Present their treasures at their owner's feet;
That owner is EUGENIO. Now his heart
(Such is the heart of inconsistent man)
Flush'd with the glare of his returning wealth,
Already to his solitary joys
Sings an eternal requiem. Now, farewell
Thou russet vest, and thou contracted cot,
Within whose sordid cincture and dull bourne
Misanthropy retiring, may obscure
Her canker'd hatred; or some Hermit veil
His holy apathy and deaden'd soul.
Farewel for ever to the torpid reign
Of Silence; her best joys and fairest scenes
The soul exhausting soon, to social bliss
Returns with unextinguishable love.
Not yet the Night had with her ebon shade
Curtain'd the earth, when his impatient step
Sought the gay Town; and his ambitious heart,
With all the eagerness of untried Youth,
And careless of lost loves and venal friends,
Yet once more with the gay and busy world
Plung'd in the waves of Passion and of Care.