A descriptive fragment in 78 Spenserians: Richard Polwhele anticipates Lord Byron as defender of Greek freedom. Greecian Prospects contributes to the progress-of-genius series begun by Beattie's The Minstrel, though in this instance progress takes the form of regress: ""Lo, where o'ercanopied in Doric state, | Her Phidias' art the Athenian goddess crown'd, | And thro' revolving ages sternly great, | Thro' all her shadowy pomp of columns, frown'd; | 'Till cold neglect to briars that twin'd around | Each fretted base, resign'd her temple's fame." One might compare "The Spirit of Navigation and Discovery" (1801) by William Lisle Bowles, another Spenserian poem on Mediterranean themes that was left a fragment.
The author supplies a postscript: "It may be proper to inform the reader, that 'Grecian Prospects,' were originally entitled, 'Visions of the Grecian Isles,' consisting of three cantos; and that the second and third canto contained an heroic tale, which, illustrating the genius of the modern Greeks, might also have been considered in connexion with the political occurrences of the moment. The battle of the Nile was just past; and the Russian and the Turk had joined the English, in support of the common cause. It was then, that the author's fancy anticipating the discomfiture of Buonaparte, began to distribute amongst the belligerent powers, various countries, both in Europe and in Asia, with the view to a general pacification. Amidst this ideal distribution, were adjudged to England the continent and islands of Greece. That Turkey should concede to England her possessions in Greece, appeared sufficiently reasonable; indebted as she was to this country for the preservation of Egypt, and, perhaps, of the whole Ottoman Empire. Under this impression, the Tale of Araxes was written; where not only the Grecian Isles that were really in possession of France, but others supposed to have fallen into her hands, were represented as in a general ferment, from the insults and barbarities of their savage masters; where their courage rose superior to almost every obstacle; and the British Fleets were finally introduced to complete their triumph. The tale (here presented to the reader) was detached from the poem, from a suspicion of its being defective in the unities; though in a vision, or dream, a strict regard to the unities can hardly be judged essentially requisite" pp. 47-48.
John Whitaker to Richard Polwhele: "Your Grecian Prospects I read yesterday, and like them much. I have even reviewed them for the British Critic" 31 January 1800; Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 2:525.
John Whitaker: "A bard from Wales, very conversant with classic lore, is introduced in the isle of Lesbos as lamenting the ruins of art in Greece, the total degeneracy of its inhabitants, and even a partial degeneration of its soil; yet still traces the aspect of the ancient Greeks in the forms of the present, but is interrupted by an assassination immediately under his eye, and feels what he has just thought to be too true. Then the guardian angel of Greece arises, to solve this 'dignus vindice nodus;' corrects his notions concerning the degeneracy of the Greeks; and foretells their future eminence in arts and arms, under the protection of the British fleet from the Nile" British Critic 15 (March 1800) 260.
European Magazine: "The manners, customs, and polity of the Greeks are displayed in a pleasing manner, though some of his authorities in the notes (particularly Chas. Thompson's Travels, the production of a gazetteer, and no real traveller,) are liable to some objection. We hope Mr. Polwhele will finish this work according to his original plan" 37 (March 1800) 220.
Ollyett Woodhouse: "In the execution of this poem, the author displays much classical taste and knowledge; and he seems to possess a considerable store of information concerning the present state of Greece and the Grecian Isles, of which he has agreeably contrived to give a partial detail in the notes. The subject of the poem is of an interesting nature, well adapted to the enthusiasm of the Pindaric Muse; and the style, images, and sentiments, possess in general a corresponding elevation. It appears to us, however, that a too anxious desire of avoiding what is tame, prosaic, and mean, has rendered the author in many respects inflated and obscure, by a puzzling inversion of words. There is also a meretriciousness of splendor, arising from too profuse an introduction of gaudy epithets, and too liberal an accession of 'alliteration's artful aid'" Monthly Review NS 31 (August 1800) 433
Critical Review: "The analysis prefixed to the poem informs us, that one half of it comes from the mouth of a Welch bard, and the other half from the guardian angel of Greece — personages very fit to assume the spirit of prophecy which runs through the poem, though not so consistently fettered by the operose structure of a stanza, in whose nine lines but three terminating rhymes are admitted. Hence even the Hudibrastic allowance of 'one for sense and one for rhyme' is not always adhered to; and where this involution of structure has not produced a riddle, it has left pure unconnected nonsense, very much resembling the manufacture of the lower classes of school-boys from their well-thumbed Gradus ad Parnassum. The author also, like them, has hunted for variety of epithet, and has thus contrived to deviate sufficiently from common phraseology and common sense.... The stanza of Spenser is peculiarly unfit for Mr. Polwhele's poetry. His language is never perspicuous, and sentences in which the syntax is perpetually inverted must be difficult in proportion to their length. In common with some other writers, Mr. Polwhele seems to to believe that poetry should be as unlike prose as possible, and that it ought to astonish the ear by its strangeness of construction, as well as delight it be its harmony" NS 29 (August 1800) 448, 450-51.
Anti-Jacobin Review: "The classical taste, and poetical genius of Mr. Polwhele, are so well known, and so duly appreciated, that to say he has displayed them both to advantage in his Grecian Prospects, is to pass no ordinary commendation on the poem" 5 (April 1800) 428.
John Aikin?: "Mr. Polwhele's Grecian Prospects, is a poem which proves the author to possess a considerable portion of classical taste and knowledge, as well as information as to the present state of Greece and the Grecian isles. In endeavouring to avoid any poverty or tameness of expression, the poet, however, is occasionally bombastic and obscure. If at any future time Mr. P. will submit his Grecian Prospects to a careful and laborious revision, it will hold a respectable station amidst contemporary productions" "Retrospect of Domestic Poetry" Monthly Magazine 9 (Supplement, 1800) 638.
The first canto only was reprinted as "Views of Greece" in Polwhele's Poems (1806).
From Cambria's wizard hills a hallow'd bard
Travelling o'er Greece, had nurs'd the heroic muse;
Each classic isle survey'd with fond regard,
And caught, at every step, sublimer views:
'Twas now, in Sappho's vivid groves, the dews
Of eve, he welcom'd to his mantling breast;
Gaz'd the wide landscape, here, with breded hues,
There, in the dark attire of shadow drest,
And seem'd to taste the breeze that cherishes the blest.
High on a tower, that overtopp'd the trees,
His wild harp whispering a congenial sigh,
He ravish'd inspiration from the breeze,
As stretch'd afar, beneath a golden sky,
The varied mountains charm'd his wandering eye;
Blue-tinctur'd points, white rocks at random flung,
That sparkled thro' the pine-wood's duskier dye;
Chasms yet unsun'd, where founts descending rung;
Green slopes, with blossoms veil'd, with melting fruits o'erhung.
Thro' a bold opening of the mountains, gleam'd
The deepen'd azure of the Egean wave;
And, far off, where the western radiance stream'd,
The isles, as all in motion, to deceive
The eye, with every surge appear'd to heave
Their flushing cliffs, now faded from the sight;
When from the dream poetic fancy gave,
The bard awoke — a dream of short delight—
And view'd the illustrious scene fast sinking into night.
"So (cried the poet) so, imperial Greece!
Thy closing honors vanish'd into shade;
Tho' not, alas! so calm'd by halcyon peace,
With not a tint to soothe the soul, array'd!
No! as thy proud effulgence 'gan to fade,
The sick day struggled o'er a lengthening waste;
Thy marble fanes in one wide ruin laid;
Mingled with common earth each work, that grac'd
Or wisdom's solemn lore, or fine pictorial taste.
"Once, where the Pallas of high Athens view'd
Each massy tower, each decorated dome;
See the rent arch, the hoary cornice strew'd,
As sculpture moulders in Cimmerian gloom;
Tho', yet a moment, where thro' meadowy bloom
Ilyssus, murmuring, wash'd the bowers below,
The sage, in sighs, may paint his sweetest home,
Still o'er his path as planes their umbrage throw,
And streams, to fancy dear, in lingering lapses flow.
"Lo, where o'ercanopied in Doric state,
Her Phidias' art the Athenian goddess crown'd,
And thro' revolving ages sternly great,
Thro' all her shadowy pomp of columns, frown'd;
'Till cold neglect to briars that twin'd around
Each fretted base, resign'd her temple's fame;
'Till late, the blacken'd fragments smote the ground,
As jealous Adria, with ill-omen'd aim,
Whirl'd thro' the shivering walls, the fierce sulphureous flame.
"And lo! the dome that crumbles into dust,
Whose Parian whiteness lur'd the glowing skies;
Which breath'd from every animated bust
That dasht amid Corinthian foliage lies,
The hero-spirit of some great emprize!
And, featur'd with the traits of grandeur past,
While thro' its fractur'd roof rank weeds arise,
See to the Winds of heaven their temple cast;
Its monumental voice, re-echoing every blast.
"Majestic Athens! Who, thy ruins pil'd
In aweful heaps surveys, nor drops a tear?
Who dares approach, by fancy unbeguil'd,
That space, where genius wont its scene to rear,
And dart thro' horrent crowds the illusive fear,
As torches trembled, or as daggers bled,
And sounds not human met the shuddering ear?
Who, thro' the pictur'd porch, unheeding, tread,
Nor conjure up in sighs the philosophic dead?
"Fall'n city! hear'st thou, as of midnight hosts,
The voices of the dead in every gale?
Fall'n city! seest thou not the sullen ghosts
That o'er thy desart streets in silence sail?
Start not thy people from the warrior's mail,
The patriot's crown, the sage's sweeping train?
Dost thou not see thine Orator, yet pale
With indignation, launch the lightnings? Vain
Is that terrific arm that shakes all Greece again?
"But, not o'er Athens I lament alone—
I heard, where ran the rich Corinthian brass,
The desecrated altars deeply moan!
And, where no more shall long processions pass,
I ponder'd on the pillar's fluted mass,
And many a graceful frieze that mouldering lay:
And, as lorn turrets told where Sparta was,
I saw Eurotas urge its foaming way,
Flash o'er its spectre troops, and hail their red array.
"If, in these desolated isles, we rove,
We muse on tottering portals moss-o'ergrown;
Or meet, in glimmerings thro' the impervious grove,
Some grey arcade, unnotic'd and unknown,
Which hints, how once symmetric order shone
In structures, that appear'd to rest on air;
While o'er the finest limbs had sculpture thrown
The fluid folds no modern statues wear,
Or picture glow'd in forms, the heroic and the fair.
"Where Delos trembles on her desart wave,
Rose there a rock, but breath'd religion round?
Hath ancient Echo murmur'd from her cave,
Nor inspiration swell'd the sacred sound?
Witness her fanes, with holier shades embrown'd,
Her proud colossal gods; that, hovering near,
Persia's imperious angel with astound
Beheld, and as he dropp'd the uplifted spear,
His sails innumerous check'd, and paus'd in mid career!
"See, the sad types of festal pleasure flown,
Dim-flowering olives dew the Teian fane;
And canker'd vines, around each pillar'd stone
Aspiring, its Ionic base distain:
Yes! hoar Anacreon! where thy joyous train
Their ruby cups to thrilling music quaff'd,
Thy sacred plant obtrudes an idle chain,
To clasp, poor parasyte, the dripping shaft;
And green oblivion glooms, where Love and Bacchus laugh'd.
"While, ringing as it meets the blunted share,
Gleams of smooth jasper thro' the furrows rise,
Or the grav'd marble that, erect in air,
Drew to its ivy-leaf delighted eyes,
Crumbling, before the peasant-builder lies;
Lo, intertwisted trees and copses deep
Hide meads once open to salubrious skies,
And mountain-streams are mute, and grottoes weep,
Where howls the famish'd wolf, and shakes the shaggy steep.
"What tho' the extensive olive-grove still spread
Its verdure length'ning from the Athenian towers;
What tho' Hymettus still uprear his head,
Pouring wild fragrance from his purple bowers,
And, brisk, from all his aromatic flowers
The honey-bee still bear the precious spoil?
Alas! where lag the despot's lurid hours,
Lethargic plenty gleams a languid smile,
Shrinks from the widow'd moan and scoffs at human toil.
What tho' the lawns of rich Arcadia bloom,
And Maenalus diffuse luxuriant shades,
As if his Pan yet hail'd the favourite gloom;
Tho' soft Cyllene over-brow the glades
With arborous oaks, as if the choral maids
Met the wing'd god, of roseate Maia born?
Ah! sudden terror fancy's ear invades,
Where, for the shepherd's pipe that cheer'd the morn,
The plaints of anguish rise, the threats of scowling scorn.
"Tho' Andros still her inexhausted vales
Survey, by lavish vegetation crown'd;
Thro' orange-groves while flutter odorous gales,
From citron-bowers while bursting streams resound,
While rich pomegranates branching shade the ground,
And figs hang luscious in the solar flame;
Lo, the poor habitant looks coldly round,
And slights his long hereditary claim
To nature's liberal gifts, nor heeds his former fame.
"Tho' sunder'd caverns drink the lustrous light,
As Paros echoes to the mountain shock;
And the pure marble boast its sparkling white;
Who guides the chissel o'er the shapeless block?
Say, can the hand that hew'd it from it's rock,
Mould the rough mass, the obedient limb refine?
Thro' the dense gloom if ever genius broke,
Touch'd by the charm of beauty's waving line,
Say, can the soul opprest, still form the fair design?
"Tho' Cos may blacken, o'er the cliff sublime,
The glenwood wild, the cataract's stormy spray;
What magic can throw back the folds of time,
In thunders call Apelles into day,
And bid his rapid hand the bolt pourtray?
Again, Protogenes! shall rescued Rhodes
Bless the fair art that charm'd her foes away;
Tho' once, where picture trac'd the birth of gods,
Some wanderer, fancy-led, may sketch those lorn abodes?
Rich in the brilliance of the balmiest light
These scenes repose. I saw the myrtle glow,
The arbutus in bloom and fruitage bright,
The glittering bay, the mulberry's silky flow!
I felt but erst, delicious from below,
The sea-breeze, as it curl'd the crystal springs!
But shrubs may blush, and noontide zephyrs blow,
In vain voluptuous while no Sappho sings,
Nor, by the landscape mov'd, Alcaeus fires the strings.
"Midst the wide prospect, can the muse discern
One mental feature of the Grecian mould?
If Macedon still rage, in conflict stern,
She rages, in her robbers, uncontroul'd:
And free-born Athens, to the despot sold,
Grovels amidst the intriguing and the base:
And, in piratic plunder only bold,
The dark Morea boasts no Spartan trace;
And half the verd'rous isles embower the assassin race.
"Not but the semblance of the Grecian mien,
The Grecian face arrests the poet's eye,
Whilst o'er the busy strand, the silent green,
Apollo's form still glides, unconscious, by:
Not but a Homer's head we oft descry
In many an aged peasant, silver-grey:
Yet where, alas! that spirit mantling high,
That genius flashing an immortal ray,
That independent soul which spurns despotic sway?
"And, in secluded glades, in murmuring streets,
Full many a Venus vaunts the enchanting air,
Breathes, as she wins her way, ambrosial sweets,
And wantons, in luxurious beauty fair:
Yet what avail those eyes that lightnings bear,
The cheek, instinct with more than roseate red,
The full deep bosom, or the crisped hair,
What but, amid lascivious folly bred,
To bid the slaves of lust ascend a savage bed?
"Say, if some few, with that commanding form,
Blend the proud spirit of heroic days;
If some, whose fathers brav'd the hostile storm
That shook the Acropolis, still covet praise,
Still on the laurel'd warrior wildly gaze,
Still mark the poet's flight, the patriot's aim;
'Tis but to follow, like a meteor-blaze,
The phantom of a poor fugacious fame,
Then own a sickening pang, a keener sense of shame.
"If genius prize the fine proportion'd pile,
The vivid bust, to imitation prone;
Say, where the Pericles, whose fostering smile
Grac'd the rich dome, inspir'd the plastic stone?
If genius seek the cave obscure and lone,
Where Philip's foe with elocution glow'd;
Or from theatric ruins catch the moan
Of the cold gale, where tragic pathos flow'd;
Hath e'er the unfeeling wave, the winds one wreath bestow'd?
"If some, yet lingering, trace the silver tide,
Yet haunt the sacred grove where Plato stray'd;
Or nobly cherish that supernal pride
That, from the vulgar, shields Lyceum's shade;
Or rove, where once with Epicurus play'd
The blue-ey'd pleasures, and their melting queen:
Or bid the porch their aspirations aid;
How fleets the dream, when, sudden, intervene
Havoc and barbarous lust, and ignorance obscene.
"Alas! retiring to the humble roof,
If, there, the impassion'd poet court his muse;
Some despot's minion hovers, yet aloof,
Scattering in air the visionary views:
There, midst his lisping babes, the hero wooes
His country's genius, with an idle breath;
And o'er her trophies spreads deceitful hues;
While oft, too oft, for conquest's splendid wreath,
He meets the strangling cord, the livid drugs of death.
"E'en now where Phidias breath'd from every nich,
Where Myro sported in creations chaste;
In the soft folds of lucid drapery rich,
Where Polygnotus charm'd ingenuous taste,
And Zeno wisdom's sterner form embrac'd;
Light spirits their diurnal visions share:
Yet erst, as each the paths of glory trac'd,
I spied a son of treachery skulking there—
Amid the unweeting tribe, I mark'd his gloomed air."
Thus as he spoke, a scream of wild distress
Pierc'd his ear, shivering from the central wood;
And thro' the foliage some one seem'd to press,
And strait the murderous dagger plunge in blood!
To fancy, raising all her felon brood,
Low stealthy strides still near and nearer drew:
By terror chill'd, the fond enthusiast stood;
And, as its brightness from the portrait flew,
Survey'd in pale cold shade, his own ideal view.
CANTO THE SECOND.
In silence while across the shadowy deep
The moon a line of quivering silver flung;
The bard his heavy eyes in troubled sleep
Half-closing, o'er the wavy landscape hung;
When, Chios' rainbow-tinted hills among,
He saw, as from a hollow glen, emerge
A form more fair than poets feign in song,
Then stand, on tiptoe, on the cliff's dark verge,
And plume his burnisht wings, and skim the feathery surge.
The sky-rob'd spirit, as he nearer drew,
Soft on the Lesbian mists appear'd to light:
His hyacinthine locks dropp'd amber dew;
His polisht shoulders shed a brilliance, white
As Parian grots. Exulting in his might,
The genius seem'd to poise the empyreal lance
Of Jove, as with his wand he thrill'd the night:
Yet mild and friendly lustre, to entrance
The bard with some new bliss, he beam'd at every glance.
"Fear not (he cried): thro' all the lapse of time,
My arm protective have these islands own'd;
Whether, amidst Olympus' seats sublime,
Or on the snowy cloud of Athos, thron'd,
I bade the war-fiend, sullen as he moan'd
From isle to isle, suspend his wasteful sweep;
Or sooth'd, as Greece beneath oppression groan'd,
Her unextinguisht spirit, yet asleep,
To wake, some future age, and re-assert the deep.
"Tho' Greece deplore the long-resounding scourge,
Yet is her untam'd bosom still imbued
With genial virtues; and, as despots urge
The ruthless work, I mark her museful mood;
I see her, o'er barbaric insult brood,
And snatch from Salamis the inspiring ray;
Thus the chain'd eagle, tho' he seem subdued,
Yet, some propitious moment, breaks away,
Soars thro' the severing clouds, and drinks the golden day.
"While Pella, still, a race unbroken boasts,
In mental, as corporeal vigor strong,
That, rous'd by freedom's trump, in dreadful hosts,
Would shade their hills, and pour their vales along;
Behold, politer Athens claims a throng,
Tho' gentler, still impatient of the rein:
Nor Sparta, her remurmuring rocks among,
Hears the horse-hoofs, the din of arms in vain,
Snuffing fraternal blood, amidst the mangled slain.
"Yet, in these isles, I nurse the martial fires,
Fires, that ere-long shall far illumine Greece;
These lovely isles, where fancy still inspires
Songs of palestral palms or letter'd peace;
Or bids the wailings of the sufferer cease,
Painting pale Hector by the walls of Troy,
Or godlike Theseus, or the golden fleece,
While the light dance, the laugh without alloy,
The hospitable cheer, proclaim a cordial joy.
"But on that fairest of my subject isles,
There, on my Chios adamantine seat,
Where beauty riots in perennial smiles,
My sons, from gloom oblivious call the great,
And in the rustling dingle's dark retreat
Trace, with transmitted pride, their Homer born;
Still, to pure love, as free their bosoms beat,
My Hebes the purpureal spot adorn,
Bright with a glow that shames the vernal blush of morn.
"See," (said the spirit) from his circling wand
As issued wave on wave, the liquid light—
"See, of heroic fame the scene expand!"
When, e'en from Pylos to the Olympian height,
All Greece appear'd outstretcht before the sight,
And the blue sea, with clustering isles embost;
While, here, bold crags arose, and caverns white,
And spiry groves, and mountains hoar with frost;
There, gleam'd receding cliffs, in purpled azure lost.
Slow, from each island, with gigantic march
Pass'd the dun vapors: and the Elysian sky
Stream'd o'er the prospect from a wider arch,
Till, laughing, all the distant isles drew nigh;
When now, the bard beheld, with wondering eye,
The walls where Athos evening-shadows rest,
And e'en the Ionian billows sparkling high,
Where Ithaca projects its rocky crest,
Or pleasure melts in sighs, on Zante's luxurious breast.
"See," o'er the gladden'd isles" (the Spirit cried)
"His genuine beams approaching freedom pours!
See, redient in triumphal glory, ride
Yon lordly ships along the Ionian shores!
And hark, thro' Greece the British thunder roars!
From Cephalenia flies the robber-train;
And, as the soul of Grecian battle soars,
There, Corfu tramples on her tyrants slain,
Here shouting Chios hails the mistress of the main.
"Then ask not, why a solitary few
Amid sepulchral desarts as they rove,
The helmed shadows of their sires pursue;
Scatter'd and lorn, in each inglorious grove,
To warlike music in idea move,
And point, from Marathon, the ambitious aim—
Then ask not, as too vain, perchance, they prove!
The fleeting honors of a father's name,
Why, wing'd by trembling hope, they watch their country's fame.
"Behold, my British bard! the days advance,
Of Grecian prowess, lo, the auspicious days!
Again, for joy the blooming islands dance,
Nor idly pant for all their former praise,
If Albion's orb effuse its fostering rays,
And, o'er the expanding mind, (to vulgar eyes
Yet undiscover'd) pour the gradual blaze;
While springing from domestic harmonies,
Nor chill'd by tyrant frowns, the patriot virtues rise.
"Again, where love its balmiest lustre lends,
Heightening some gentle virgin's bridal bloom:
Again, where happy fathers, brothers, friends
Enjoy the sweet delights of genial home;
In concert shall each emulative dome
Bid the fine arts their mingled radiance pour;
While, vainly seeking in the wrecks of Rome,
Treasures once wafted from the Grecian shore,
In Albion shall they find the rich unvalued ore.
"And, haply, if her more endearing wreath
Calm peace hath braided round the spoils of war,
The reeking blade while ruffians yet unsheathe,
Shall Athens o'er dispeopled Gallia dare
Roll, with impetuous wrath, the kindling car,
And Scyros hurl the brand, as once she hurl'd;
Tho' maiden vests still hide the martial air;
And Tenedos announce her sails unfurl'd—
Their trust, yon guardian fleets, that awe yet bless the world!
CANTO THE SECOND.
"See," (cried the Spirit) from his circling wand,
As sacred light and fragrance fill'd the skies,
See Chios' cliffs approach: Behold the land
Of destin'd worthies in clear vision rise.
And lo! on yonder slope a village lies,
Where the hill-pines a sabler umbrage shed:
Cast, on that village, thine observant eyes:
There rests the bolt of heaven, foredoom'd to spread
Terror and glory round, and vindicate the dead.
"Of yon grey mansion, once Minerva's fane,
My lamps aerial lighten up the walls!
On its wide roof converse a kindred train,
Whom not a shade of dastard fear appals;
That often, as the cool night-curtain falls,
In talk their spirits worn by toil repair;
And with such tales as glad thy Cambrian halls,
The guardian of renown in fancy share,
And give the clarion's blast to scatter every care.
"Ee'n now I see them listening with delight
To yonder chief, who tells the deeds of old:
I hear him, his awakening tale recite:
'Tis young Araxes. His keen eyes behold,
His energetic air, his aspect bold;
While warlike genius points to trophies won,
To cars amid triumphal paeans roll'd:
His audience every gesture, every tone
Applaud, and fondly deem the fame of Greece their own.
"From every cordial feature beaming truth
On friends and stranger-guests that round recline,
Observe the grandsire of the generous youth;
His seat, the remnant of a broken shrine:
There, as their eyes with eager pleasure shine,
Two lovely boys, beside the sculptur'd base,
Grasp the stone-clusters of a mimic vine;
Or ape their brother's oratorial grace,
Or, with their playful hands, the old man's feet embrace.
"See, to the chief attacht, a Melian friend;
For whom ARAXES (self-condemn'd to earn
His bitter bread, where Melos' grottoes bend
In many a maze, and press his couch of fern)
Would oft the Gallic corsairs watch, and burn
With rage, to disappoint their midnight prow;
Thence unperceiv'd, tho' station'd to discern
Their inroads, from his ambush deal the blow,
And, for his ALCON'S sake, repel the insidious foe.
"There, too, from Naxos, note a stranger guest:
A heart of anguish his dim'd eyes betray:
He mourns a nymph, whose vows his soul possess'd,
Snatcht, sudden, from his clasping arms away,
And doom'd in sighs to waste her youthful day:
Yet, tho' the walls of lust the maid immure,
He deems her spotless as the blush of May;
And views, in virgin innocence secure,
His Arne brave the threat, and spurn the gaudy lure.
"And next observe that Cephalenian Greek
Who starts at every still emphatic pause,
Yet self-absorbt, scarce hears ARAXES speak:
Spoil'd by the wretches, who belye the cause
Of heaven-descended freedom, from the jaws
Of fate, the Cephalenian chieftain fled.
'Miscreants (he mutters) spare your vain applause,
Nor deck with cenotaphs the Grecian dead!—
Miscreants! who rob their sons by wolfish rapine led!'
"See the young orator now seize the lyre;
And, as he chaunts the song, from every string
Awake with volant hand the living fire
That thrills each bosom with a rapturous sting;
Now, ceasing, to his neighbour of the ring
Resign the mastery o'er extatic sound:
And lo! the moments fly on rapid wing,
While, as spontaneous numbers circle round,
Their hearts, or young or old, with emulation bound.
"Yet, as each differing passion sways the soul,
Its music swells, or melts upon the ear:
Indignant, as the strains of vengeance roll,
The Cephalenian chills the chiefs with fear—
Sullen and deep — They shudder, as they hear!
And hark! the Naxian, in a burst of sighs,
Steals o'er the strings his measures soft and clear;
Now bids the tone of quick resentment rise,
Now, languishing again, in love and pity dies!
"We shift the scene. Behold a radiance streams,
As the roof opens, o'er yon tap'stried room:
Lo a fair groupe conspicuous in the beams!
Their silver distaffs glitter thro' the dome.
Unveil'd the shadowy locks, the virgin bloom,
Uncheckt the pantings of the living snow,
They laugh, they languish o'er the fervid loom.
What tho' their moments in seclusion flow?
Pure from profaner eyes, the brightest florets blow.
"Yet see that form distinguisht from the rest—
Fair EUCHARIS, ARAXES' destin'd bride:
By images of some sweet union blest,
She lifts her fine blue eyes with conscious pride:
And, smiling on her maiden train beside,
A gold wrought robe, a broider'd veil displays;
And, from smooth tongues as soft applauses slide,
With livelier joy each finisht work surveys,
Tho' from another tongue she sighs for softer praise."
In a swift cloud enfolded (as he spoke)
The slope, the waving hillpines swam from sight;
When the same village thro' the darkness broke,
And, its long street from numerous torches bright,
A grand procession mark'd some nuptial rite;
And, as gay nymphs their amorous mazes wove,
The matrons view'd the bride with fond delight—
"Ripe for the blisses of the Paphian grove—
Full soon (they said and sigh'd) to pour her soul in love!"
'Twas EUCHARIS. Tho' fair her maidens shone,
And to soft measures mystic dances led,
Yet, kindling at each step, their beauties won
Vain incense. Eucharis around her shed
Peculiar glory. To the bridal bed
Mov'd her fine figure, scarce of mortal mould:
Shadowing the virgin's timid blushes, spread
The broider'd veil in many a rosy fold,
And a rich ceinture brac'd the robe in-wrought with gold.
And burn'd ARAXES with a bridegroom's haste
To loosen that rich ceinture? Sudden flash'd
High brandisht blades around her; and her waist
Gaunt ruffians grasp'd: Conflicting sabres clash'd;
And lo! in dust the feeble grandsire dasht,
And hurried by his hoary beard along:
In vain his teeth the indignant hero gnash'd:
The Gauls, alas! sworn foes to nuptial song,
Bore off the swooning bride, and all the choral throng.
CANTO THE THIRD.
"Then (heaving a deep sigh, the bard exclaim'd)
Then, what avails the high transmitted soul?
What, that along the track where glory flam'd
It bids its vengeance on barbarians roll,
Red as the thunder that o'erwhelms the pole?
Ah! what avails the ambition of the brave;
When, as insulting despots deal the dole
Of destiny, the hero sinks, a slave,
And, for a car, surveys no visionary grave?
"Ah! what avails it, that a lonely few
Scatter'd and lorn, in each inglorious grove,
The fleeting shadows of their sires pursue?
What, that amid sepulchral wastes they rove,
Couch the mock lance, and burn with patriot love,
Yet dare not cherish the domestic flame?
Ah! what avails it, when they sadly prove
How vain, amid their rifled homes, the name
Of husband, or of sire, to heed their country's fame!"
Scarce had he spoke, when whirl'd thro' billowy clouds,
He rose, nor ceas'd the involuntary flight,
Till from the topmost peak that Athos shrouds
Now in drear snows, now veils with amber-light,
He view'd all Greece outstretcht before his sight,
And the blue sea with clustering isles embost,
While, here, bold crags appear'd, and caverns white,
And spiry groves, and mountains hoar with frost,
There, gleam'd receding cliffs in purple azure lost.
Slow, from each island, with gigantic march,
Pass'd the dun vapors: and the elysian sky
Stream'd o'er the prospect from a wider arch,
Till, laughing all the distant isles drew nigh;
When, now, the bard beheld with wondering eye
Where Athos bids his evening-shadow rest;
And e'en the Ionian billows sparkling high
Where Ithaca projects its rocky crest,
Or airs ambrosial melt o'er Zante's luxurious breast.
Such was the scene. — when bending o'er the expanse
Of waves, the woods of Chios lash'd the tide;
As, from her eastern shore, the hosts of France
Wound in deep phalanx up a mountain side;
And with his little band by love allied
The summit of the rock ARAXES trod;
While, shrieking from amidst the foe, his bride
With pale uplifted eyes implor'd her god,
And the fell troop with lust and execration glow'd.
"There (as his helmet-plumes ARAXES shook)
There, from those isles (the hero seem'd to say)
Rais'd by my voice, as winter swells the brook,
There gathering armies bend their vengeful way."
Choakt in mid-utterance was the rude essay
To speak, as, glancing on his frantic fair,
In her sunk eyes he saw the faded ray,
Her torn veil fluttering-her dishevel'd hair,
And trembling hands that beat her bosom in despair.
Proud Melos triumph'd in the hostile clang,
Where ALCON had pour'd forth the impassion'd strain;
While to her haughty lords her hollows rang
Resounding with abortive echoes, vain
As when the sword of NICIAS smote the plain.
Lo, where her mastics bloom, her caverns steam,
The champion to his friend devotes the slain;
And, as strewn corses gorge the smoaking stream,
His buckler lightens round, to mock the noon-day beam.
Nor he, who sung sore-ravisht from his arms—
Who sung to pity's lute the Naxian maid,
Breath'd his fond passion o'er her pictur'd charms,
Or told his sorrows to the citron shade.
Already, had he summon'd to his aid
His comrade Greeks, and, fiercest of the van,
Plung'd in the crouching Gaul his angry blade,
And seiz'd the fortress where the fight began,
As crowds with headlong haste from off the ramparts ran.
Amid the havoc of infuriate lust
Where Cephalenia rued the Gallic horde;
Already to the vows of vengeance just,
Rag'd o'er the sea-beat rocks her Grecian lord:
Already, his wild arm with carnage gor'd,
Each mimic ensign by the roots had wrench'd:
Already, as he wav'd his savior-sword,
His squadrons had along the coast entrench'd,
And with the lives of Gauls the thirsting vallies drench'd.
And now, as wheels the falcon round its nest
The snake uncoil'd o'er crags ascending slow,
ARAXES, ranging still the mountain-crest,
Look'd down upon the volumes of the foe,
And caught the threatening summons from below
That bade him strait reclaim the rebel race,
Or shudder at a spectacle of woe,
His grandsire, brethren slain before his face—
His beauteous bride consign'd to many a rude embrace.
Lo, the steel dropping on his grandsire's head
The minute-drops of murder, midst a host
Whose rage is with the pangs of misery fed!
And on their bristling halberts well-nigh tost
His little trembling brethren! and the boast
Of Chios' vallies, like the lily crusht—
Condemn'd to mourn her virgin honors lost!
When the fierce Greeks, by all the furies flusht,
Down from the mountain-top, to meet a myriad, rush'd.
Dire was the fray; while throngs, to clasp the wave,
ARAXES hurried from the impending steep:
But what avail'd a daring few, to brave
Troops that o'erspread the rock, and fill'd the sweep
Of the wide valley, wedg'd in phalanx deep?
Still, the ranks opening where he ran, with fear
Shrunk back, and fell in many a mingled heap!
Yet hark! confusion in the Gallic rear—
Yet hark! the British trump assails each startled ear!
"See, (said the Genius) see, triumphant ride
Yon lordly ships along the Ionian shores—
See, the same pendants shade the Egean tide!
And o'er the gladden'd isles as freedom pours
Her sons, thro' Greece the British thunder roars!
From Cephalenia flies the robber-train:
And, as the soul of Grecian battle soars,
Lo! Naxos tramples on her despots slain,
And sun-clad Chios greets the mistress of the main.
"Yes! thro' a sanguine cloud where demons broke,
Bath'd in pure heaven the cross o'er Chios flows!
And yonder groupe, beside the reeking rock,
ARAXES' rescued family, repose
In tremulous hope. The Britons round them close,
And kindly listen to the fair-one's tale,
As o'er her form disorder'd beauty glows!
And hark, as aweful echoes rend the dale,
Prince of the Grecian isles, their shouts ARAXES hail!"