1758
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Pleasures of the Mind.

Gentleman's Magazine 28 (June 1758) 281.

Anonymous


This unsigned ode, written in the measure of Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, is an early contribution to the "Pleasures of" sequence begun by Mark Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination (1744). While shorter and less ambitious, the Pleasures of the Mind is not without its aspirations: "Now heav'n-caught fury fires the soul, | And spurning oft earth's dull controul, | Vent'rous she wings her full-plum'd flight, | Detects new regions of delight." The ode is organized topically, moving from descriptions of nature and the seasons, to the creative faculty, to the pleasures imparted by art, to the social passions, and concluding with a theme later developed by Thomas Campbell, the pleasures of hope. Thomas Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy (1747), though in blank verse, had similarly used Milton's companion poems as a ground.



Kind Nature with a mother's joys
Her every art to charm employs,
For man the golden king of day
Pours light, health, beauty, in his ray.
The morn in silver tresses bright,
With milder charms salutes his sight,
And night, her shadowy curtain draws,
Indulging sleeps refreshing pause:
For man the purply finger'd hours,
Dress beauteous spring in new blown flow'rs,
Teach her to breathe a rich perfume,
And smile with eye-enchanting bloom.
Then ripe in beauty's glowing pride,
Blithe summer, Sol's refulgent bride,
Bids plenty revel o'er the plains,
And carol heart-enlivening strains.
Next autumn calls the sylvan pow'rs,
To lay him soft in shady bow'rs,
Where grape and nectarine, plumb and peach,
May tempting hang within his reach.
Last, winter comes to rule the year,
In sweet vicissitude severe.
See him on Zembla's mountains stand,
He stretches out his palsied hand,
And all his magazines unfold
Their copious hoards of ice and cold:
The hail, in vollies rattles round,
The snow descending, shrouds the ground:
Deep bellowing bursts of thunders roll,
And pleasing horror swells the soul.
With still improv'd delight, the mind
Beholds her powers unconfin'd,
She roves with nature, and explains
What virtues live in secret veins
Of herbs; bids Flora's children rise
In naked beauty to her eyes,
To the soft serenade of gales
Thro' oceans liquid realms she sails,
Thro' pearly worlds, thro' coral groves,
Where every scaly wonder roves:
With Phoebus, in his chariot driv'n,
She journey's thro' the expanse of heav'n:
Now rolling round on Saturn's ring,
Now roving on the comet's wing,
And urging still her airy flight,
She gains those smiling realms of light,
Where sons of bliss, immortals dwell,
In golden groves of Asphodel.
Now conscious of celestial skill,
Her forming pow'r she tries at will,
Her pencil weds assenting dies,
And see a new born world arise.
Here charms the eye the blossom'd grove,
Where, looking bliss, young lovers rove;
There serpentine the river glides,
And nibbling flocks adorn its sides.
Soft'ning to flesh the marble lives,
And takes each attitude she gives:
Here nerv'd to strength the hero stands,
There orators extend their hands,
The patriot here, by Freedom's side,
Smiling pours out the vital tide;
Here beauty charms the gazing eye,
The loves and graces waiting by:
Is it the breeze that wakes the spring,
Or say, does Philomela sing,
And bid the list'ning ear rejoice?
'Tis music tunes her heav'nly voice,
Her voice of sweetest skill to raise
The drooping heart ten thousand ways.
Now heav'n-caught fury fires the soul,
And spurning oft earth's dull controul,
Vent'rous she wings her full-plum'd flight,
Detects new regions of delight:
Led by enchantress fancy roves,
The muses gay ideal groves,
Where countless beings strike her eye,
Confus'd in glitt'ring novelty:
But what the varied years delight,
Or what the mental ken so bright,
Or what the kind inspiring muses,
To bliss that genuine love transfuses!
The parent fond impassion'd flew,
The filial duteous grateful glow,
Congenial friendship, heav'nly true,
And pity pressing balmy dew
The feast of converse, that dispenses
Rapture to fill up all the senses,
Where reason, mirth, good-humour sit,
And beauty sparkles into wit.
Here too, as in the natural scene,
Triumphs the mind, creative queen,
Here fancy, with illusion kind,
Indulges ev'ry longing mind,
Brings to the lover, in despair
His mutually impassion'd fair,
Adorns the frightful female face
With beauties cull'd from ev'ry grace;
Instructs ambition's slave to nod,
Applauds the bards prosaic songs,
Gives eloquence to stamm'ring tongues,
Lets oceans sons their haven gain,
Unbinds the captive's galling chain;
To poverty each joy bestows,
From rich humanity that flows,
Gives her at once herself to bless,
And charm the virtues in distress,
Yet still reserves the sapient mind,
Her darling free born joy behind,
When with fond eyes she loves to trace
The beauties of her mortal race,
And with blithe confidence can say
She liv'd with virtue ev'ry day,
That still she urg'd life's great design,
To fit herself for bliss divine;
Then conscience lends the plausive note
Thro' ev'ry sense of joy to float,
Strikes music from each vital string,
That envies not when angels sing
Dissolv'd in ecstacy she lies,
And sweetly pre-enjoys the skies.

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