1793
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fancy.

City Gazette and Daily Advertiser (3 June 1793).

L'Inconnu


A Miltonic rhapsody to the powers of Fancy, signed "L'Inconnu" appearing in a Charleston, South Carolina newspaper. This descriptive ode unfolds as a series of tableaux illustrating the powers of fancy, among them a rustic American scene: "Near the humble log-built cot | The sons of labor bless their lot, | Nor heed the miser's golden hoard, | While freedom smiles upon their board; | Peace her olive sceptre sways, | Innocence desporting plays." The Superstition passage is notable for its stained-glass window: "Some saint's excrutiating woes | The many-colour'd window shows, | Thro' which the crescent, palely bright, | Sheds a painted, doubtful light." In the concluding resolve the poet asks Fancy for poetic vision and insight into the ways of providence.



Hark what music charms my ears,
Fancy to my sight appears,
Clad in robes of airy blue,
Wing'd with plumes of varied hue,
Seated on a cloud she flies,
Ting'd with all the rainbow's dies;
See, she waves her magic wand,
Nature owns her wide command:
Lo, she mounts the cloudy skies,
And on the tempest's pinions flies;
Around her roars a stormy blast,
Beneath her feet dark clouds are cast;
She bids the with'ring lightnings fly
Flashes of fire emblaze the sky,
Deep gloom succeeds — from pole to pole
Thunders redoubled mutt'ring roll.

Now she basks in Sol's bright ray,
Near her flocks of lambkins play;
In lofty ranks the verdant maize
Its silk-clad grain here half displays,
While silver-blossom'd buckwheat yields
A rich perfume to glad the fields;
From the neighb'ring wood-crown'd hill
Swift descends a pebbled rill,
And winds along the verdant mead,
Where lowing herds of oxen feed.
Near the humble log-built cot
The sons of labor bless their lot,
Nor heed the miser's golden hoard,
While freedom smiles upon their board;
Peace her olive sceptre sways,
Innocence desporting plays,
Dimpled mirth the morning hails,
And plenty breathes in balmy gales.

She shifts the scene, she beats alarms,
The drum in thunder calls to arms,
The cannon adds its fearful roar,
Grim horror marches on before;
Destruction mounts his rushing car,
And furious wields the sword of war.
With solemn step now see her tread
Where lofty Andes lifts his head.
O'er the rough rocks a torrent pours,
The dashing cat'ract hoarsely roars;
Then thro' the distant vale descends,
And in a gentle rivl'et ends.
Here Fancy sits, with upturn'd eye
Contemplating the starry sky,
While the full moon's rising beams
Play quiv'ring on the curling streams,
And from behind the mountain's brow
A long projected shadow throw.

With the sun's declining ray
She seeks the long untrodden way,
Where the abbey's mould'ring wall,
With moss o'ergrown, still threats to fall,
Thro' the long aile she seeks the cell
Where superstition loves to dwell.
She kneels at some dead marty'rs tomb,
Funeral lamps increase the gloom,
And o'er the wall the taper's rays
Effuse a sad sepulchral blaze.
Some saint's excrutiating woes
The many-colour'd window shows,
Thro' which the crescent, palely bright,
Sheds a painted, doubtful light.
Thro' the surrounding cypress grove
The chilling breezes howling move;
Hark on the ear of night a knell
Strikes solemn from the distant bell,
Thro' the long arch the tolls rebound,
While mournful echoes swell the sound;
Shrill shrieks the startled ear affright,
Aeriel forms appal the sight,
While fancy's self the scene forsakes,
In horror at the gloom she makes.

Now to Caucasian steeps she flies;
Air created forms arise,
Gigantic genii round her stand,
O'er subject earth she waves her wand;
All nature owns her changing force,
Even pinion'd time must stop his course;
To rocks each creature she transforms,
Or with new life the marble warms.
Each cloud, that shades the curtain'd sky,
With varied shapes thus mocks the eye,
Till melting in the blaze of day,
Its fleeting forms dissolve away.
Now thro' endless space she flies,
Where worlds on worlds successive rise,
Or rides upon the solar ray,
Thro' regions of eternal day.

Hither, fancy, hither haste,
Parent of genius and of taste,
Come, oh come, my mind inspire,
Fill me with poetic fire,
Or come and teach my soul to find
The chains the human will that bind;
To trace the stream of nature's laws
To their first source, th' Eternal Cause,
Lend, O lend thy cherub wing
To soar to him whom angels sing;
Let my wrapt soul forever gaze,
'Till lost in wonders, love and praise.

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