1775
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Beauties of Nature compared with those of Art.

Poetical Amusements at a Villa near Bath. [Lady Anne Miller, ed.]

Anonymous


An unsigned allegorical ode in imitation of Milton's L'Allegro contributed to the vase at Batheaston. The poems submitted to the little society were composed to fit an assigned set of rhymes (bouts rimees) or, as here, an assigned topic. This poem unequivocally defends the claims of Nature against those of Art: "Or teach me, Nymph, with thee to rove | Through vale, or lawn, or shady grove; | And, as o'er NATURE'S works we run, | Teach me delusive ART to shun; | Teach me how She, divinely bright, | Shines with a fix'd and steady light, | Whilst Art, attempting Nature's ways, | Reflects a faint, unsettled blaze" p. 120.

Preface: "The Editor does not apprehend private confidence wounded in the present publication, as the greater part of these poems were acknowledged by their Authors in numerous assemblies, and with their approbation copied and dispersed through every quarter of England. Many of the best of them have suffered considerably by a neglect or faulty transcription. Such have been restored from their originals; — and not a few have made their appearance to which carelessness had denied that share of correction which their authors were so capable of giving them. Those it has been our endeavour to suppress" pp. iv-v.



No more of trivial ART,
By Fashion nourish'd, and from Folly born!
Your feeble aid I scorn:
What can your pow'r to scenes like this impart?
Dwell in mechanic's brain;
And ladies fond, with gaudy shapes possess,
As thick and numberless
As the gay crowds which people this fair scene.

But come, sweet Nymph, from yonder shade,
In all thy native charms array'd.
(Not such as vainly strive to grace
The borrow'd shape, or wrinkled face,
Of that proud Maid, whom courts might prize,
The Cynosure of neigh'bring eyes;)
But, 'midst these lawns and vallies train'd,
Artless, free, and unconstrain'd.
Though not in gorgeous splendor drest,
With blazing gems, or painted vest,
Or costly buskins wrought in gold,
Thy robes with ermine rich enroll'd:
A stole across thy shoulders bound,
Lightly trailing on the ground;
With thy auburn tresses flowing
To the gale, (which gently blowing,
Seems with eager joy to sip
Hyblaean honey from thy lip,)
In greater splendor art thou seen
Than the great enthroned Queen.
Let us (shunning mortal sight)
Together climb the mountain's height;
And, seated on the topmost row,
Mark the various scenes below:
Or teach me, Nymph, with thee to rove
Through vale, or lawn, or shady grove;
And, as o'er NATURE'S works we run,
Teach me delusive ART to shun;
Teach me how She, divinely bright,
Shines with a fix'd and steady light,
Whilst Art, attempting Nature's ways,
Reflects a faint, unsettled blaze.—
Sweet warbler of the neighb'ring grove,
Whose wild notes soothe the pangs of love,
Who breathing forth thy nightly tale,
Canst oft enchant the pleasing gale;
Which quickly catching sounds so clear,
Wafts the soft notes to Damon's ear;
Whilst he, perhaps, in some alcove,
Tunes his rustic pipe to love,
Which strives, in vain, with thine t' agree,
To sympathize, sweet Bird, with thee.
Let Damon's pipe a-while be mute,
The mellow warbling of the lute,
Yea, all the sounds which Art can give,
While thy sweet notes, alone, shall live.
And every Nymph, with transport, tell,
Of sweetly-pleasing Philomel,
Till morn, in golden beauty drest,
Shall rise resplendent from the East,
And with his light the shepherd swain
Resume his daily task again.
Where now has ART conceal'd her head?
To courts, perchance, in pomp and pride,
While pageantry attends her side,
With tinsel'd forms of mimic state,
And round the couch in order wait.
Thou ne'er shalt rule in this gay scene,—
'Tis NATURE'S work, and She is Queen;
Who scorns the mix her pow'r, divine,
With such rude workmanship as thine,
Can NATURE then such transport give?
No more with ART mean I to live.

[pp. 118-22]