1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Castle of Indolence.

The Castle of Indolence: an Allegorical Poem. Written in imitation of Spenser. By James Thomson.

James Thomson


A narrative allegory, in 77 + 81 Spenserian stanzas, with a glossary. Industry triumphs over idleness in an innovative turn on the house poem genre. The Ovidian "House of Sleep" sequence of poems is one source for Thomson's Indolence. Like Gilbert West's On the Abuse of Travelling (1739), another burlesque imitation of the Faerie Queene, the Castle of Indolence is a political allegory, in which the Enchanter can be taken as Sir Robert Walpole disarming the opposition with his blandishments. The political occasion had passed long before the Castle of Indolence appeared; Thomson's allegory was probably no more instrumental in the poem's considerable popularity than was that of Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

James Thomson to William Paterson: "Now that I am prating of myself, know that, after fourteen or fifteen years, the Castle of Indolence comes abroad in a fortnight. It will certainly travel as far as Barbadoes. You have an apartment in it as a night pensioner; which you may remember I filled up for you during our delightful party at North End" 1748; Goodhugh, The English Gentleman's Library Manual (1827) 267.

Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton: "there is a Poem by Thompson, the Castle of Indolence, with some good stanzas in it" June 1748; Poems of Mr. Gray, ed. Mason (1775) 190.

Countess of Hertford to Lady Luxborough: "I conclude you will read Mr. Thomson's Castle of Indolence: it is after the manner of Spenser; but I think he does not always keep so close to his style as the author of the School-Mistress [Shenstone], whose name I never knew until you were so good as to inform me of it, — I believe the Castle of Indolence will afford you much entertainment; there are many pretty paintings in it; but I think the wizard song deserves a preference: 'He needs no muse who dictates from the heart'" 15 May 1748; in Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 3:263.

William Shenstone to Lady Luxborough: "I receiv'd yesterday the Castle of Indolence. I waited, I believe three Months, to buy it in a smaller Edition; and the same Moment that I receiv'd the large one, I saw the octavo Edition advertis'd in the Papers. It is I think a very pretty Poem, and also a good Imitation of Spenser; which latter Circumstance is the more remarkable, as Mr. Thomson's Diction was not reckon'd the most simple. I own I read it with partiality of the Author, as I have seen and lik'd the Man; as his Merit was but inequally recompenc'd; and as he is now dead. This last Article adds a Tenderness, tho' I must have read it with the Partiality of a Friend, had he been yet alive" 25 September 1748 in Letters, ed. Mallam (1939) 126.

Mark Akenside: "With Thomson's Castle of Indolence he [Akenside] was enraptured: among many stanzas, to which, in his own copy, he had put an emphatic mark of approbation, was that beginning, 'I care not fortune, what you me deny,' &c." Poetical Works of Akenside, ed. Dyce (1835; 1866) lxi.

Samuel Bowden to Mr. R—l: "I have lately read over Thomson's Castle of Indolence; and tho' there are a great many fine sentiments in it, I think he seems, sometimes, to have nodded in his own palace" 1749 ca.; Poems on Various Subjects (1754) 312.

Robert Shiels?: "I have heard the celebrated Mr. James Thomson, the author of the Seasons, and justly esteemed one of our best descriptive poets, say, that he formed himself upon Spenser: and how closely he perused the model, and how nobly he has imitated him, whoever reads his Castle of Indolence with taste will readily confess.... He is indeed the eldest born of Spenser, and he has often confessed that if he had any thing excellent in poetry, he owed it to the inspiration he first received from reading the Fairy Queen, in the very early part of his life" Lives of the Poets (1753) 1:99, 5:217.

Samuel Johnson: "The last piece that he lived to publish was The Castle of Indolence, which was many years under his hand, but was at last finished with great accuracy. The first canto opens a scene of lazy luxury, that fills the imagination" "Life of Thomson" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 3:293-94.

John Pinkerton: "The fact is, that the poem on which the future celebrity of Thomson will be founded is, by a strange fatality, almost totally neglected in this day. That is, his Castle of Indolence: a poem which has higher beauties than the Seasons, without any of the faults which disgrace that work; tho' the conclusion even of this is most absurd, and unhappy; and could never have occurred to a writer of taste except in a frightful dream" Letters of Literature (1785) 65.

A Caledonian: "It is never languid nor uninteresting, though of considerable length, and wrote in a stanza which is not always favourable to energy or animation. The plan is complete and methodical; the subject well supported, and highly interesting; the imagery striking and poetical; the versification as smooth and flowing as his master Spenser's, or any of his imitators. I think it has the advantage of the Minstrel of Beattie, by being of more general application and utility" The Port Folio 4 (15 September 1804) 289.

Percival Stockdale: "It is, indeed, a masterpiece of poetry; it contains an infinite variety of entertainment, and instruction. It is equally, and eminently distinguished, by generous, and noble sentiment: and by fertile, and inventive imagination. The thoughts are vigorous; the pictures glowing, and diversified; the language florid, and harmonious. He is equally happy in adopting his old, and great master, Spenser's versification; and his allegorical scenes, and characters. The appendages, and the doctrine of Indolence, are contrasted, with a most emphatical morality, and painting, to the companions, and animating strains, of the Knight of Arts, and industry" in Lectures on the truly eminent English Poets (1807) 2:127

Thomas Campbell: "a poem in which there appears an immaculate simplicity, which he had not attained in his Seasons. In the first part, at least, he has realized the idea of perfect poetry. Of the superior purity of Thomson's style, in this enchanting production, Mr. Stockdale seems not to be aware. The inequality of the second part of the Castle of Indolence is known and acknowledged; yet one cause of this is perhaps the finished perfection of the first. It was enough; it needed no second part. It resembles the well-known air of pastoral simplicity, to which all the skill of an inventive master, could not furnish a second. Yet in the second part, as we have it, what inimitable stanzas are found! The poetry of the Castle of Indolence can only be described in poetry" Review of Stockdale, Lectures on the truly eminent English Poets; Edinburgh Review 12 (April 1808) 81.

New Monthly Magazine: "The Castle of Indolence has never been so popular as his Seasons, doubtless because of its allegory; but, as a poetical composition, it is as much superior to the other poems of Thomson as the Schoolmistress of Shenstone is to the rest of his meagre and uninteresting performances" 11 (May 1819) 327.

James Montgomery: "The quaint yet sweet, the homely yet venerable style in which [the Faerie Queene] is composed has become well known; less, indeed, from the original than from the numerous imitations of it, especially Thomson's Castle of Indolence, a structure of genuine talent, certainly not piled when that 'bard, more fat than bard beseems,' was, where he delighted to he, on the spot itself, though so witchingly framed for voluptuous ease, that the reader is ready to lie down under its influence, — not, however, to sleep" Lectures on General Literature, Poetry, &c. (1833; 1836) 132.

Leigh Hunt, who imitates Thomson in his youthful "The Palace of Pleasure," is one of the few critics who has found something positive to say about the second canto: "We resent the termination of our pleasures, and look upon the reforming knight as a dull and meddling fellow. Why should he wake us from such a pleasant dream? On reflection, however, we see that the fault is not his, but our own; that we should wake up in a far worse manner, if Sir Industry did not rouse us. There is beautiful poetry in the second part, even exquisite 'indolent' bits, or places at least in which we might be indolent; in fine, we congratulate ourselves on our virtue, and begin, like the knight, to abuse the old rascally wizard who had pretended to make us his victims.... The Castle of Indolence has been thought his best poem, because the style was imitated from that of Spenser. It certainly contains as good poetry as any he wrote; and the tone of Spenser is charmingly imitated, with an arch but delighted reverence" Selections from English Authors, in Works (1854) 3:14, 15.

W. Davenport Adams: "The poet, it may be added, was probably indebted not only to Tasso, but to Alexander Barclay's Castle of Labour, and to a poem by [Joseph] Mitchell on Indolence" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 120.

Edmund Gosse: "In May 1748 was printed the most exquisite of Thomson's productions, the famous poem in Spenserian stanza entitled The Castle of Indolence. From a letter to Patterson it appears that this poem was begun as early as 1733, and if Thomson had died at that time his poetical works might be as rich although much less copious than they now are, for The Castle of Indolence is of a very different quality from the leaden Liberty and the stolid bombastic dramas. The opening stanzas are more like the work of Keats than any other verse which the eighteenth century has given us, and in their music there is less of the dull undertone of the conventional manner of the age than anywhere else, except in the finest lines of Gray and Collins. The poem is in two cantos — the first describing the embowered castle of the false enchanter, Indolence, and all the lotus-eating captives that it harboured; while the second recounts the conquest of this wicked one by a certain Knight of Arts and Industry. The poem is a curious mixture of romantic melancholy and slippered mirth, of descriptive passages which rise into a clear Aeolian melody, and portraits of real people sketched in the laughter of a gentle caricature. Over the whole lies a blue atmosphere of vagueness, an opium-cloud, a vapour of dreams from the land of echoes, and the total effect is one of elaborate unreality, as of a finely proportioned piece of architecture built in mirage" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 225-26.

William Lyon Phelps: "In 1748 appeared by far the best poem of the whole Spenserian school, The Castle of Indolence, by James Thomson. This poem is not simply an external imitation of Spenser, as in the stanza, the obsolete words, and the allegorical form of the story; much of it is genuine poetry, and has something of the Romantic feeling and atmosphere of Spenser, as well as touches of his melodious music" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 74.

William Bayne: "No work of poetry written between the time of Spenser and Thomson is so marked by this absolutely delicate idealising tendency; nothing like it appears again till the time of Keats. We do not hear much about the significance of Thomson's part in setting forth anew the 'sweet-slipping movement' and charm of the Spenserian manner as a model for the poets of the nineteenth century literary renaissance; but there can be no doubt about the validity of his right in this matter. In the romantic method, so excellently represented by Thomson, Keats may be taken as the most direct successor who understood the extraordinary richness of the note that was struck in The Castle of Indolence; for though there is its mystic glamour in the poetry of Coleridge, Keats, in his work, combines in a more general way, the main aims in the literary design of Thomson" James Thomson (1898) 131.

George Saintsbury: "His Spenserians, which, of all the numerous imitations of Spenser which amused their writers and annoyed Johnson at this time, are simply the only ones that come near the motion and the music of that Pactolus-Maeander, the Spenserian river of song. The fingering of the stanza, in the First Part of the Castle of Indolence especially, is nearly faultless: it is the inferiority of the lexicon that, whenever the subject admits of it, prevents Thomson from coming quite close to his master. Nay, there are a few passages where he is actually not far off" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 2:462-63.

Herbert E. Cory: "Thomson's Castle of Indolence is a typical Augustan 'Imitation' of Spenser with a romantic tinge. Its neoclassical side is too often forgotten. Its satire and its moral allegory is the very essence of Augustinism. And all this is good poetry. The second canto loses quality a little, not because it is Augustan, but because it drops one of the Augustan elements — the enlivening sly satire. It is only in an occasional stanza that Thomson's wonderful romanticism gives us the elusive light — the spirit of delighted doubt" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 89.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "The archaisms of The Castle of Indolence served as a model for Byron's Spenserian diction, since most of Byron's obsolete words are derived from Thomson rather than from Spenser" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 54.

Oliver Elton: "Some verses of the Castle of Indolence might go into the Faerie Queene, and would hardly be known for changelings. For nearly a hundred lines of the first canto the sleepy music is kept up without the dialect of the Georgian age intruding. The stanza is fully understood, and the charm remains, which never fails in the original, of the rhyme repeated at the fifth line, like the turning over of a wave.... With all its disparities, the Castle of Indolence remains not only the best imitation of Spenser, but the most original poem amongst all the imitations" English Poetry 1730-1780 (1928) 1:363, 364.



The Castle hight of Indolence,
And its false Luxury;
Where for a little Time, alas!
We liv'd right jollity.

O mortal Man, who livest here by Toil,
Do not complain of this thy hard Estate;
That like an Emmet thou must ever moil,
Is a sad Sentence of an ancient Date:
And, certes, there is for it Reason great;
For, though sometimes it makes thee weep and wail,
And curse thy Star, and early drudge and late,
Withouten That would come an heavier Bale,
Loose Life, unruly Passions, and Diseases pale.

In lowly Dale, fast by a River's Side,
With woody Hill o'er Hill encompass'd round,
A most enchanting Wizard did abide,
Than whom a Fiend more fell is no where found.
It was, I ween, a lovely Spot of Ground;
And there a Season atween June and May,
Half prankt with Spring, with Summer half imbrown'd,
A listless Climate made, where, Sooth to say,
No living Wight could work, ne cared even for Play.

Was Nought around but Images of Rest:
Sleep-soothing Groves, and quiet Lawns between;
And flowery Beds that slumbrous Influence kest,
From Poppies breath'd; and Beds of pleasant Green,
Where never yet was creeping Creature seen.
Mean time unnumber'd glittering Streamlets play'd,
And hurled every-where their Waters sheen;
That, as they bicker'd through the sunny Glade,
Though restless still themselves, a lulling Murmur made.

Join'd to the Prattle of the purling Rills,
Were heard the lowing Herds along the Vale,
And Flocks loud-bleating from the distant Hills,
And vacant Shepherds piping in the Dale;
And now and then sweet Philomel would wail,
Or Stock-Doves plain amid the Forest deep,
That drowsy rustled to the sighing Gale;
And still a Coil the Grashopper did keep:
Yet all these Sounds yblent inclined all to Sleep.

Full in the Passage of the Vale, above,
A sable, silent, solemn Forest stood;
Where nought but shadowy Forms were seen to move,
As Idless fancy'd in her dreaming Mood.
And up the Hills, on either Side, a Wood
Of blackening Pines, ay waving to and fro,
Sent forth a sleepy Horror through the Blood;
And where this Valley winded out, below,
The murmuring Main was heard, and scarcely heard, to flow.

A pleasing Land of Drowsy-hed it was:
Of Dreams that wave before the half-shut Eye;
And of gay Castles in the Clouds that pass,
For ever flushing round a Summer-Sky:
There eke the soft Delights, that witchingly
Instil a wanton Sweetness through the Breast,
And the calm Pleasures always hover'd nigh;
But whate'er smack'd of Noyance, or Unrest,
Was far far off expell'd from this delicious Nest.

The Landskip such, inspiring perfect Ease,
Where INDOLENCE (for so the Wizard hight)
Close-hid his Castle mid embowering Trees,
That half shut out the Beams of Phoebus bright,
And made a Kind of checker'd Day and Night.
Mean while, unceasing at the massy Gate,
Beneath a spacious Palm, the wicked Wight
Was plac'd; and to his Lute, of cruel Fate,
And Labour harsh, complain'd, lamenting Man's Estate.

Thither continual Pilgrims crouded still,
From all the Roads of Earth that pass there by:
For, as they chaunc'd to breathe on neighbouring Hill,
The Freshness of this Valley smote their Eye,
And drew them ever and anon more nigh,
Till clustering round th' Enchanter false they hung,
Ymolten with his Syren Melody;
While o'er th' enfeebling Lute his Hand he flung,
And to the trembling Chords these tempting Verses sung:

"Behold! ye Pilgrims of this Earth, behold!
See all but Man with unearn'd Pleasure gay.
See her bright Robes the Butterfly unfold,
Broke from her wintry Tomb in Prime of May.
What youthful Bride can equal her Array?
Who can with Her for easy Pleasure vie?
From Mead to Mead with gentle Wing to stray,
From Flower to Flower on balmy Gales to fly,
Is all she has to do beneath the radiant Sky.

"Behold the merry Minstrels of the Morn,
The swarming Songsters of the careless Grove,
Ten thousand Throats! that, from the flowering Thorn,
Hymn their good GOD, and carol sweet of Love,
Such grateful kindly Raptures them emove:
They neither plough, nor sow; ne, fit for Flail,
E'er to the Barn the nodding Sheaves they drove;
Yet theirs each Harvest dancing in the Gale,
Whatever crowns the Hill, or smiles along the Vale.

"Outcast of Nature, Man! the wretched Thrall
Of bitter-dropping Sweat, of sweltry Pain,
Of Cares that eat away thy Heart with Gall,
And of the Vices, an inhuman Train,
That all proceed from savage Thirst of Gain:
For when hard-hearted Interest first began
To poison Earth, Astraea left the Plain;
Guile, Violence, and Murder seiz'd on Man;
And, for soft milky Streams, with Blood and Rivers ran.

"Come, ye, who still the cumbrous Load of Life
Push hard up Hill; but as the farthest Steep
You trust to gain, and put an End to Strife,
Down thunders back the Stone with mighty Sweep,
And hurls your Labours to the Valley deep,
For-ever vain: come, and, withouten Fee,
I in Oblivion will your Sorrows steep,
Your Cares, your Toils, will steep you in a Sea
Of full Delight: O come, ye weary Wights, to me!

"With me, you need not rise at early Dawn,
To pass the joyless Day in various Stounds:
Or, louting low, on upstart Fortune fawn,
And sell fair Honour for some paltry Pounds;
Or through the City take your dirty Rounds,
To cheat, and dun, and lye, and Visit pay,
Now flattering base, now giving secret Wounds;
Or proul in Courts of Law for human Prey,
In venal Senate thieve, or rob on broad High-way.

"No Cocks, with me, to rustic Labour call,
From Village on to Village sounding clear;
To tardy Swain no shrill-voic'd Matrons squall;
No Dogs, no Babes, no Wives, to stun your Ear;
No Hammers thump; no horrid Blacksmith sear,
Ne noisy Tradesman your sweet Slumbers start,
With Sounds that are a Misery to hear:
But all is calm, as would delight the Heart
Of Sybarite of old, all Nature, and all Art.

"Here nought but Candour reigns, indulgent Ease,
Good-natur'd Lounging, Sauntering up and down:
They who are pleas'd themselves must always please;
On Others' Ways they never squint a Frown,
Nor heed what haps in Hamlet or in Town.
Thus, from the Source of tender Indolence,
With milky Blood the Heart is overflown,
Is sooth'd and sweeten'd by the social Sense;
For Interest, Envy, Pride, and Strife are banish'd hence.

"What, what, is Virtue, but Repose of Mind?
A pure ethereal Calm! that knows no Storm;
Above the Reach of wild Ambition's Wind,
Above those Passions that this World deform,
And torture Man, a proud malignant Worm!
But here, instead, soft Gales of Passion play,
And gently stir the Heart, thereby to form
A quicker Sense of joy; as Breezes stray
Across th' enliven'd Skies, and make them still more gay.

"The Best of Men have ever lov'd Repose:
They hate to mingle in the filthy Fray;
Where the Soul sowrs, and gradual Rancour grows,
Imbitter'd more from peevish Day to Day.
Even Those whom Fame has lent her fairest Ray,
The most renown'd of worthy Wights of Yore,
From a base World at last have stolen away:
So SCIPIO, to the soft Cumaean Shore
Retiring, tasted joy he never knew before.

"But if a little Exercise you chuse,
Some Zest for Ease, 'tis not forbidden here.
Amid the Groves you may indulge the Muse,
Or tend the Blooms, and deck the vernal Year;
Or softly stealing, with your watry Gear,
Along the Brooks, the crimson-spotted Fry
You may delude: The whilst, amus'd, you hear
Now the hoarse Stream, and now the Zephyr's Sigh,
Attuned to the Birds, and woodland Melody.

"O grievious Folly! to heap up Estate,
Losing the Days you see beneath the Sun;
When, sudden, comes blind unrelenting Fate,
And gives th' untasted Portion you have won,
With ruthless Toil, and many a Wretch undone,
To Those who mock you gone to Pluto's Reign,
There with sad Ghosts to pine, and Shadows dun:
But sure it is of Vanities most vain,
To toil for what you here untoiling may obtain."

He ceas'd. But still their trembling Ears retain'd
The deep Vibrations of his witching Song;
That, by a Kind of Magic Power, constrain'd
To enter in, pell-mell, the listening Throng.
Heaps pour'd on Heaps, and yet they slip'd along
In silent Ease: as when beneath the Beam
Of Summer-Moons, the distant Woods among,
Or by some Flood all silver'd with the Gleam,
The soft-embodied Fays through airy Portal stream.

By the smooth Demon so it order'd was,
And here his baneful Bounty first began:
Though some there were who would not further pass,
And his alluring Baits suspected han.
The Wise distrust the too fair-spoken Man.
Yet through the Gate they cast a wishful Eye:
Not to move on, perdie, is all they can;
For do their very Best they cannot fly,
But often each Way look, and often sorely sigh.

When this the watchful wicked Wizard saw,
With sudden Spring he leap'd upon them strait;
And soon as touch'd by his unhallow'd Paw,
They found themselves within the cursed Gate;
Full hard to be repass'd, like That of Fate.
Not stronger were of old the Giant-Crew,
Who sought to pull high Jove from regal State;
Though feeble Wretch he seem'd, of sallow Hue:
Certes, who bides his Grasp, will that Encounter rue.

For whomsoe'er the Villain takes in Hand,
Their Joints unknit, their Sinews melt apace;
As lithe they grow as any Willow-Wand,
And of their vanish'd force remains no Trace:
So when a Maiden fair, of modest Grace,
In all her buxom blooming May of Charms,
Is seized in some Losel's hot Embrace,
She waxeth very weakly as she warms,
Then sighing yields Her up to Love's delicious Harms.

Wak'd by the Croud, slow from his Bench arose
A comely full-spred Porter, swoln with Sleep:
His calm, broad, thoughtless Aspect breath'd Repose;
And in sweet Torpor he was plunged deep,
Ne could himself from ceaseless Yawning keep;
While o'er his Eyes the drowsy Liquor ran,
Through which his half-wak'd Soul would faintly peep.
Then taking his black Staff he call'd his Man,
And rous'd himself as much as rouse himself he can.

The Lad leap'd lightly at his Master's Call.
He was, to weet, a little roguish Page,
Save Sleep and Play who minded nought at all,
Like most the untaught Striplings of his Age.
This Boy he kept each Band to disengage,
Garters and Buckles, Task for him unfit,
But ill-becoming his grave Personage,
And which his portly Paunch would not permit.
So this same limber Page to All performed It.

Mean time the Master-Porter wide display'd
Great Store of Caps, of Slippers, and of Gowns;
Wherewith he Those who enter'd in, array'd;
Loose, as the Breeze that plays along the Downs,
And waves the Summer-Woods when Evening frowns.
O fair Undress, best Dress! it checks no Vein,
But every flowing Limb in Pleasure drowns,
And heightens Ease with Grace. This done, right fain,
Sir Porter sat him down, and turn'd to Sleep again.

Thus easy-rob'd, they to the Fountain sped,
That in the Middle of the Court up-threw
A Stream, high-spouting from its liquid Bed,
And falling back again in drizzly Dew:
There Each deep Draughts, as deep he thirsted, drew.
It was a Fountain of Nepenthe rare:
Whence, as Dan HOMER sings, huge Pleasaunce grew,
And sweet Oblivion of vile earthly Care;
Fair gladsome waking Thoughts, and joyous Dreams more fair.

This Rite perform'd, All inly pleas'd and still,
Withouten Tromp, was Proclamation made.
"Ye Sons Of INDOLENCE, do what you will;
And wander where you list, through Hall or Glade:
Be no Man's Pleasure for another's staid;
Let Each as likes him best his Hours employ,
And curs'd be he who minds his Neighbour's Trade!
Here dwells kind Ease and unreproving joy:
He little merits Bliss who Others can annoy."

Strait of these endless Numbers, swarming round,
As thick as idle Motes in sunny Ray,
Not one eftsoons in View was to be found,
But every Man stroll'd off his own glad Way.
Wide o'er this ample Court's blank Area,
With all the Lodges that thereto pertain'd,
No living Creature could be seen to stray;
While Solitude, and perfect Silence reign'd:
So that to think you dreamt you almost was constrain'd.

As when a Shepherd of the Hebrid-Isles,
Plac'd far amid the melancholy Main,
(Whether it be lone Fancy him beguiles;
Or that aerial Beings sometimes deign
To stand, embodied, to our Senses plain)
Sees on the naked Hill, or Valley low,
The whilst in Ocean Phoebus dips his Wain,
A vast Assembly moving to and fro:
Then all at once in Air dissolves the wondrous Show.

Ye Gods of Quiet, and of Sleep profound!
Whose soft Dominion o'er this Castle sways,
And all the widely-silent Places round,
Forgive me, if my trembling Pen displays
What never yet was sung in mortal Lays.
But how shall I attempt such arduous String?
I who have spent my Nights and nightly Days,
In this Soul-deadening Place, loose-loitering?
Ah! how shall I for This uprear my moulted Wing?

Come on, my Muse, nor stoop to low Despair,
Thou Imp of Jove, touch'd by celestial Fire!
Thou yet shalt sing of War, and Actions fair,
Which the bold Sons of BRITAIN will inspire;
Of antient Bards thou yet shalt sweep the Lyre;
Thou yet shalt tread in Tragic Pall the Stage,
Paint Love's enchanting Woes, the Heroe's Ire,
The Sage's Calm, the Patriot's noble Rage,
Dashing Corruption down through every worthless Age.

The Doors, that knew no shrill alarming Bell,
Ne cursed Knocker ply'd by Villain's Hand,
Self-open'd into Halls, where, who can tell
What Elegance and Grandeur wide expand
The Pride of Turkey and of Persia Land?
Soft Quilts on Quilts, on Carpets Carpets spread,
And Couches stretch around in seemly Band;
And endless Pillows rise to prop the Head;
So that each spacious Room was one full-swelling Bed.

And every where huge cover'd Tables stood,
With Wines high-flavour'd and rich Viands crown'd;
Whatever sprightly juice or tasteful Food
On the green Bosom of this Earth are found,
And all old Ocean genders in his Round:
Some Hand unseen These silently display'd,
Even undemanded, by a Sign or Sound;
You need but wish, and, instantly obey'd,
Fair-rang'd the Dishes rose, and thick the Glasses play'd.

Here Freedom reign'd, without the least Alloy;
Nor Gossip's Tale, nor ancient Maiden's Gall,
Nor saintly Spleen durst murmur at our joy,
And with envenom'd Tongue our Pleasures pall.
For why? There was but One great Rule for All;
To wit, That each should work his own Desire,
And eat, drink, study, sleep, as it may fall,
Or melt the Time in Love, or wake the Lyre,
And carol what, unbid, the Muses might inspire.

The Rooms with costly Tapestry were hung,
Where was inwoven many a gentle Tale;
Such as of old the Rural Poets sung,
Or of Arcadian or Sicilian Vale:
Reclining Lovers, in the lonely Dale,
Pour'd forth at large the sweetly-tortur'd Heart;
Or, looking tender Passion, swell'd the Gale,
And taught charm'd Echo to resound their Smart;
While Flocks, Woods, Streams, around, Repose and Peace impart.

Those pleas'd the most, where, by a cunning Hand,
Depeinted was the Patriarchal Age;
What Time Dan Abraham left the Chaldee Land,
And pastur'd on from verdant Stage to Stage,
Where Fields and Fountains fresh could best engage.
Toil was not then. Of nothing took they Heed,
But with wild Beasts the silvan War to wage,
And o'er vast Plains their Herds and Flocks to feed:
Blest Sons of Nature they! True Golden Age indeed!

Sometimes the Pencil, in cool airy Halls,
Bade the gay Bloom of Vernal Landskips rise,
Or Autumn's vary'd Shades imbrown the Walls:
Now the black Tempest strikes the astonish'd Eyes;
Now down the Steep the flashing Torrent flies;
The trembling Sun now plays o'er Ocean blue,
And now rude Mountains frown amid the Skies;
Whate'er Lorrain light-touch'd with softening Hue,
Or savage Rosa dash'd, or learned Poussin drew.

Each Sound too here to Languishment inclin'd,
Lull'd the weak Bosom, and induced Ease.
Aereal Music in the warbling Wind,
At Distance rising oft, by small Degrees,
Nearer and nearer came, till o'er the Trees
It hung, and breath'd such Soul-dissolving Airs,
As did, alas! with soft Perdition please:
Entangled deep in its enchanting Snares,
The listening Heart forgot all Duties and all Cares.

A certain Music, never known before,
Here lull'd the pensive melancholy Mind;
Full easily obtain'd. Behoves no more,
But sidelong, to the gently-waving Wind,
To lay the well-tun'd Instrument reclin'd;
From which, with airy flying Fingers light,
Beyond each mortal Touch the most refin'd,
The God of Winds drew Sounds of deep Delight:
Whence, with just Cause, The Harp of Aeolus it hight.

Ah me! what Hand can touch the Strings so fine?
Who up the lofty Diapasan roll
Such sweet, such sad, such solemn Airs divine,
Then let them down again into the Soul?
Now rising Love they fan'd; now pleasing Dole
They breath'd, in tender Musings, through the Heart;
And now a graver sacred Strain they stole,
As when Seraphic Hands an Hymn impart:
Wild warbling Nature all, above the Reach of Art!

Such the gay Splendor, the luxurious State,
Of Caliphs old, who on the Tygris' Shore,
In mighty Bagdat, populous and great,
Held their bright Court, where was of Ladies store;
And Verse, Love, Music still the Garland wore:
When Sleep was coy, the Bard, in Waiting there,
Chear'd the lone Midnight with the Muse's Lore;
Composing Music bade his Dreams be fair,
And Music lent new Gladness to the Morning Air.

Near the Pavilions where we slept, still ran
Soft-tinkling Streams, and dashing Waters fell,
And sobbing Breezes sigh'd, and oft began
(So work'd the Wizard) wintry Storms to swell,
As Heaven and Earth they would together mell:
At Doors and Windows, threatening, seem'd to call
The Demons of the Tempest, growling fell,
Yet the least Entrance found they none at all;
Whence sweeter grew our Sleep, secure in massy Hall.

And hither Morpheus sent his kindest Dreams,
Raising a World of gayer Tinct and Grace;
O'er which were shadowy cast Elysian Gleams,
That play'd, in waving Lights, from Place to Place,
And shed a roseate Smile on Nature's Face.
Not Titian's Pencil e'er could so array,
So fleece with Clouds the pure Etherial Space;
Ne could it e'er such melting Forms display,
As loose on flowery Beds all languishingly lay.

No, fair Illusions! artful Phantoms, no!
My Muse will not attempt your Fairy-Land:
She has no Colours that like you can glow;
To catch your vivid Scenes too gross her Hand.
But sure it is, was ne'er a subtler Band
Than these same guileful Angel-seeming Sprights,
Who thus in Dreams, voluptuous, soft, and bland,
Pour'd all th' Arabian Heaven upon our Nights,
And bless'd them oft besides with more refin'd Delights.

They were in Sooth a most enchanting Train,
Even feigning Virtue; skilful to unite
With Evil Good, and strew with Pleasure Pain.
But for those Fiends, whom Blood and Broils delight;
Who hurl the Wretch, as if to Hell outright,
Down down black Gulphs, where sullen Waters sleep,
Or hold him clambering all the fearful Night
On beetling Cliffs, or pent in Ruins deep:
They, till due Time should serve, were bid far hence to keep.

Ye Guardian Spirits, to whom Man is dear,
From these foul Demons shield the Midnight Gloom!
Angels of Fancy and of Love, be near,
And o'er the Blank of Sleep diffuse a Bloom!
Evoke the sacred Shades of Greece and Rome,
And let them Virtue with a Look impart!
But chief, a while o lend us from the Tomb
Those long-lost Friends for whom in Love we smart,
And fill with pious Awe and joy-mixt Woe the Heart.

Or are you sportive — Bid the Morn of Youth
Rise to new Light, and beam afresh the Days
Of Innocence, Simplicity, and Truth;
To Cares estrang'd, and Manhood's thorny Ways.
What Transport! To retrace our boyish Plays,
Our easy Bliss, when each Thing joy supply'd:
The Woods, the Mountains, and the warbling Maze
Of the wild Brooks — But, fondly wandering wide,
My Muse, resume the Task that yet doth thee abide.

One great Amusement of our Houshold was,
In a huge crystal magic Globe to spy,
Still as you turn'd it, all Things that do pass
Upon this Ant-Hill Earth; where constantly
Of Idly-busy Men the restless Fry
Run bustling to and fro with foolish Haste,
In search of Pleasures vain that from them fly,
Or which obtain'd the Caitiffs dare not taste:
When nothing is enjoy'd, can there be greater Waste?

Of Vanity the Mirror This was call'd.
Here you a Muckworm of the Town might see,
At his dull Desk, amid his Legers stall'd,
Eat up with carking Care and Penurie;
Most like to Carcase parch'd on Gallow-Tree.
A Penny saved is a Penny got:
Firm to this scoundrel Maxim keepeth he,
Ne of its Rigour will he bate a jot,
Till it has quench'd his Fire, and banished his Pot.

Strait from the Filth of his low Grub, behold!
Comes fluttering forth a gaudy spendthrift Heir,
All glossy gay, enamel'd all with Gold,
The silly Tenant of the Summer-Air.
In Folly lost, of Nothing takes he Care;
Pimps, Lawyers, Stewards, Harlots, Flatterers vile,
And thieving Tradesmen him among them share:
His Father's Ghost from Limbo-Lake, the while,
Sees This, which more Damnation does upon him pile.

This Globe pourtray'd the Race of learned Men,
Still at their Books, and turning o'er the Page,
Backwards and forwards: oft they snatch the Pen,
As if inspir'd, and in a Thespian Rage;
Then write, and blot, as would your Ruth engage.
Why, Authors, all this Scrawl and Scribbling sore?
To lose the present, gain the future Age,
Praised to be when you can hear no more,
And much enrich'd with Fame when useless worldly Store.

Then would a splendid City rise to View,
With Carts, and Cars, and Coaches roaring all:
Wide-pour'd abroad behold the prowling Crew;
See! how they dash along from Wall to Wall;
At every Door, hark! how they thundering call.
Good Lord! what can this giddy Rout excite?
Why? On each other with fell Tooth to fall;
A Neighbour's Fortune, Fame, or Peace, to blight,
And make new tiresome Parties for the coming Night.

The puzzling Sons of Party next appear'd,
In dark Cabals and nightly Juntos met;
And now they whisper'd close, now shrugging rear'd
Th' important Shoulder; then, as if to get
New Light, their twinkling Eyes were inward set.
No sooner Lucifer recalls Affairs,
Than forth they various rush in mighty Fret;
When, lo! push'd up to Power, and crown'd their Cares,
In comes another Set, and kicketh them down Stairs.

But what most shew'd the Vanity of Life,
Was to behold the Nations all on Fire,
In cruel Broils engag'd, and deadly Strife;
Most Christian Kings, inflam'd by black Desire,
With Honourable Ruffians in their Hire,
Cause War to rage, and Blood around to pour:
Of this sad Work when Each begins to tire,
They sit them down just where they were before,
Till for new Scenes of Woe Peace shall their Force restore.

To number up the Thousands dwelling here,
An useless were, and eke an endless Task:
From Kings, and Those who at the Helm appear,
To Gipsies brown in Summer-Glades who bask.
Yea many a Man perdie I could unmask,
Whose Desk and Table make a solemn Show,
With Tape-ty'd Trash, and Suits of Fools that ask
For Place or Pension, laid in decent Row;
But These I passen by, with nameless Numbers moe.

Of all the gentle Tenants of the Place,
There was a Man of special grave Remark:
A certain tender Gloom o'erspred his Face,
Pensive not sad, in Thought involv'd not dark,
As soot this Man could sing as Morning-Lark,
And teach the noblest Morals of the Heart:
But These his Talents were ybury'd stark;
Of the fine Stores he Nothing would impart,
Which or boon Nature gave, or Nature-painting Art.

To Noontide Shades incontinent he ran,
Where purls the Brook with Sleep-inviting Sound;
Or when Dan Sol to slope his Wheels began,
Amid the Broom he bask'd him on the Ground,
Where the wild Thyme and Camomil are found:
There would he linger, till the latest Ray
Of Light sat trembling on the Welkin's Bound:
Then homeward through the twilight Shadows stray,
Sauntring and slow. So had he passed many a Day.

Yet not in thoughtless Slumber were they past:
For oft the heavenly Fire, that lay conceal'd
Beneath the sleeping Embers, mounted fast,
And all its native Light anew reveal'd;
Oft as he travers'd the Cerulean Field,
And mark'd the Clouds that drove before the Wind,
Ten thousand glorious Systems would he build,
Ten thousand great Ideas fill'd his Mind;
But with the Clouds they fled, and left no Tract behind.

With him was sometimes join'd, in silent Walk,
(Profoundly silent, for they never spoke)
One shyer still, who quite detested Talk:
Oft, stung by Spleen, at once away he broke,
To Groves of Pine, and broad o'ershadowing Oak;
There, inly thrill'd, he wander'd all alone,
And on himself his pensive Fury wroke,
Ne ever utter'd Word, save when first shone
The glittering Star of Eve — "Thank Heaven! the Day is done."

Here lurk'd a Wretch, who had not crept abroad
For forty Years, ne Face of Mortal seen;
In Chamber brooding like a loathly Toad,
And sure his Linen was not very clean;
Through secret Loop-hole, that had practis'd been
Near to his Bed, his Dinner vile he took;
Unkempt, and rough, of squalid Face and Mien,
Our Castle's Shame! whence, from his filthy Nook,
We drove the Villain out for fitter Lair to look.

One Day there chaunc'd into these Halls to rove
A joyous Youth, who took you at first Sight;
Him the wild Wave of Pleasure hither drove,
Before the sprightly Tempest tossing light:
Certes, he was a most engaging Wight,
Of social Glee, and Wit humane though keen,
Turning the Night to Day and Day to Night;
For him the merry Bells had rung, I ween,
If in this Nook of Quiet Bells had ever been.

But not even Pleasure to Excess is good,
What most elates then sinks the Soul as low;
When Spring-Tide joy pours in with copious Flood,
The higher still th' exulting Billows flow,
The farther back again they flagging go,
And leave us groveling on the dreary Shore:
Taught by this Son of joy, we found it so;
Who, whilst he staid, kept in a gay Uproar
Our madden'd Castle all, th' Abode of Sleep no more.

As when in Prime of June a burnish'd Fly,
Sprung from the Meads, o'er which he sweeps along,
Chear'd by the breathing Bloom and vital Sky,
Tunes up amid these airy Halls his Song,
Soothing at first the gay reposing Throng:
And oft he sips their Bowl; or nearly drown'd,
He, thence recovering, drives their Beds among,
And scares their tender Sleep, with Trump profound;
Then out again he flies, to wing his mazy Round.

Another Guest there was, of Sense refin'd,
Who felt each Worth, for every Worth he had;
Serene yet warm, humane yet firm his Mind,
As little touch'd as any Man's with Bad:
Him through their inmost Walks the Muses lad,
To him the sacred Love of Nature lent,
And sometimes would he make our Valley glad;
Whenas we found he would not here be pent,
To him the better Sort this friendly Message sent.

"Come, dwell with us! true Son of Virtue, come!
But if, alas! we cannot Three persuade,
To lie content beneath our peaceful Dome,
Ne ever more to quit our quiet Glade;
Yet when at last thy Toils, but ill apaid,
Shall dead thy Fire, and damp its Heavenly Spark,
Thou wilt be glad to seek the Rural Shade,
There to indulge the Muse, and Nature mark:
We then a Lodge for Thee will rear in HAGLEY-PARK."

Here whilom ligg'd th' ESOPUS of the Age;
But call'd by Fame, in Soul ypricked deep,
A noble Pride restor'd him to the Stage,
And rous'd him like a Gyant from his Sleep.
Even from his Slumbers we Advantage reap:
With double Force th' enliven'd Scene he wakes,
Yet quits not Nature's Bounds. He knows to keep
Each due Decorum: Now the Heart he shakes,
And now with well-urg'd Sense th' enlighten'd judgment takes.

A Bard here dwelt, more fat than Bard beseems;
Who void of Envy, Guile, and Lust of Gain,
On Virtue still, and Nature's pleasing Themes,
Pour'd forth his unpremeditated Strain,
The World forsaking with a calm Disdain:
Here laugh'd he careless in his easy Seat,
Here quaff'd encircled with the joyous Train;
Oft moralizing sage; his Ditty sweet
He loathed much to write, ne cared to repeat.

Full oft by Holy Feet our Ground was trod,
Of Clerks good Plenty here you mote espy.
A little, round, fat, oily Man of God,
Was one I chiefly mark'd among the Fry:
He had a roguish Twinkle in his Eye,
And shone all glittering with ungodly Dew,
If a tight Damsel chaunc'd to trippen by;
Which when observ'd, he shrunk into his Mew,
And strait would recollect his Piety anew.

Nor be forgot a Tribe, who minded Nought
(Old Inmates of the Place) but State-Affairs:
They look'd, perdie, as if they deeply thought;
And on their Brow sat every Nation's Cares.
The World by them is parcel'd out in Shares,
When in the Hall of Smoak they Congress hold,
And the sage Berry sun-burnt Mocha bears
Has clear'd their inward Eye: then, smoak-enroll'd,
Their Oracles break forth mysterious as of old.

Here languid Beauty kept her pale-fac'd Court:
Bevies of dainty Dames, of high Degree,
From every Quarter hither made Resort;
Where, from gross mortal Care and Business free,
They lay, pour'd out in Ease and Luxury.
Or should they a vain Shew of Work assume,
Alas! and well-a-day! what can it be?
To knot, to twist, to range the vernal Bloom;
But far is cast the Distaff, Spinning-Wheel, and Loom.

Their only Labour was to kill the Time;
And Labour dire it is, and weary Woe.
They sit, they loll, turn o'er some idle Rhyme;
Then, rising sudden, to the Glass they go,
Or saunter forth, with tottering Step and slow:
This soon too rude an Exercise they find;
Strait on the Couch their Limbs again they throw,
Where Hours on Hours they sighing lie reclin'd,
And court the vapoury God soft-breathing in the Wind.

Now must I mark the Villainy we found,
But ah! too late, as shall eftsoons be shewn.
A Place here was, deep, dreary, under Ground;
Where still our Inmates, when unpleasing grown,
Diseas'd, and loathsome, privily were thrown.
Far from the Light of Heaven, they languish'd there,
Unpity'd uttering many a bitter Groan;
For of these Wretches taken was no Care:
Fierce Fiends, and Hags of Hell, their only Nurses were.

Alas! the Change! from Scenes of joy and Rest,
To this dark Den, where Sickness toss'd alway.
Here Lethargy, with deadly Sleep opprest,
Stretch'd on his Back a mighty Lubbard lay,
Heaving his Sides, and snored Night and Day;
To stir him from his Traunce it was not eath,
And his half-open'd Eyne he shut strait way:
He led, I wot, the softest Way to Death,
And taught withouten Pain and Strife to yield the Breath.

Of Limbs enormous, but withal unsound,
Soft-swoln and pale. here lay the Hydropsy:
Unwieldly Man! with Belly monstrous round,
For ever fed with watery Supply;
For still he drank, and yet he still was dry.
And moping here did Hypochondria sit,
Mother of Spleen, in Robes of various Dye,
Who vexed was full oft with ugly Fit;
And some Her frantic deem'd, and some Her deem'd a Wit.

A Lady proud she was, of ancient Blood,
Yet oft her Fear her Pride made crouchen low:
She felt, or fancy'd in her fluttering Mood,
All the Diseases which the Spittles know,
And sought all Physic which the Shops bestow.
And still new Leaches and new Drugs would try,
Her Humour ever wavering to and fro;
For sometimes she would laugh, and sometimes cry,
Then sudden waxed wroth, and all she knew not why.

Fast by her Side a listless Maiden pin'd,
With aching Head, and squeamish Heart-Burnings;
Pale, bloated, cold, she seem'd to hate Mankind,
Yet lov'd in Secret all forbidden Things.
And here the Tertian shakes his chilling Wings;
The sleepless Gout here counts the crowing Cocks,
A Wolf now gnaws him, now a Serpent stings;
Whilst Apoplexy cramm'd Intemperance knocks
Down to the Ground at once, as Butcher felleth Ox.

[pp. 1-39]

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