Henry James Pye
Beauty. Part III.
Ye pleasing visions, and fantastic dreams,
Of hallow'd mountains, of poetic streams,
And shades for ever sacred to the song
Of Græcian Phœbus, and the Thespian throng,
O! melt into the winds, nor longer spread
Your sweet delusions round my raptur'd head:
But thou, celestial Truth, my prayer attend,
And be my Muse, my Guardian, and my Friend:
While I from Fancy's fairy realms depart,
To search the nobler regions of the heart,
Deign, heavenly Guide, my numbers to inspire,
And wake to bolder strains the breathing lyre.
The flow'ry landscape, and the blooming fair,
Bright as they are, no more demand my care,
Direct my eyes from Nature's pleasing roll,
To read the moral Beauty of the soul,
To trace her form by matter unconfin'd,
Thro' each divine perfection of the mind,
And there behold her sovereign hand dispense,
The powers of bliss to each attending sense.
Say, if we roam where all the Graces lead,
Thro' the cool thicket, or th' enamel'd mead?
Tho' Nature in her vernal pride appear,
Or laughing Summer deck the purple year,
What scenes of pleasure can the bosom share
Deform'd by passion, or disturb'd by care?
Or what delightful hopes does love impart,
When jaundic'd jealousy infects the heart?
'Tis in the mind that Beauty stands confess'd,
In all the noblest pride of glory dress'd,
Where virtue's rules the conscious bosom arm,
There to our eyes she spreads her brightest charm:
There all her rays, with force collected, shine,
Proclaim her worth, and speak her race divine.
Ye sages, who creation's depth explore,
And hang incessant o'er the pleasing lore,
Who view the earth, in stated periods, run
Her course mysterious round the central sun,
Who view five diff'rent orbs direct their flight
Round the same chearing fount of heat and light;
Who rushing forward, urg'd by force divine,
See distant suns on distant systems shine,
Till all the wisdom reas'ning man can boast,
Amidst the boundless fields of space is lost.
Vast as it is! does this stupendous whole
With half that wonder strike th' astonish'd soul?
With half that veneration fill the mind?
As those brave chiefs, the patrons of mankind,
Who mov'd by pity for the public weal,
Despis'd the tyrant's axe, the bigot's wheel,
Repell'd the cruel force of factious hate,
Or bravely fell, to save a sinking state?
Ye warrior kings! Ambition's fav'rite train,
Who hunt false glory thro' th' embattled plain;
Tho' varnish'd speciously your martial rage
Beams forth too brightly from th' historian's page,
Tho' lays divine record each impious name,
And worlds misjudging, call th' oppression, fame;
The honest man, from power at distance plac'd,
By freedom guarded, and by virtue grac'd,
More true rewards from reason's hand shall find,
Than ye, the storms and earthquakes of mankind.
Tho' half the globe, by error drawn aside,
Scorn modest merit, while they kneel to pride;
Fair reason dares assert the fair pretence
To endless fame, of peaceful innocence,
Will snatch the wreath from proud ambition's sword,
And honor Shenstone more than Prussia's Lord.
So when some torrent, swell'd by hasty rains,
Rolls from the hills, and hides the neighb'ring plains,
The meads around one liquid mirror lie,
A glorious object to the stranger's eye,
But worthier praises to the stream belong,
Which winds its waves the humbler vales among,
Improves the fields that grace its sedgy sides,
And pours fair plenty where its current glides.
O! would the royal race but learn to know
From what blest source their future praise must flow,
Enroll'd with Titus in the lists of fame
Succeeding times should sanctify each name:
The smiles of freedom o'er a realm to spread,
To bid fair science lift her lovely head,
To strike dread terror thro' the guilty breast,
To raise the humble, and relieve th' oppress'd,
With lenient hand to stop the heart-felt sigh,
And wipe the tear from pale affliction's eye,
These! these are charms! to which compar'd the globe,
The crown, the scepter, and the purple robe,
The arm'd array, the courtier's idle state,
And all the low ambition of the great,
Meet with our childhood's toys an equal lot,
A moment's transport, and the next forgot.
Virtue alone, on active wings, shall rise
From earth's mean pomp, and seek her native skies:
She of superior lustre nobly proud,
Contemns the suffrage of the fickle croud,
Mocks envy's darts, and scandal's pois'nous breath,
Great, tho' defam'd, and conqu'ror, ev'n in death.
For freedom arm'd, on Chalgrave's fatal plain,
Lo! glorious Hampden number'd with the slain:
O! while with mournful sighs you view his tomb,
Own him more blest in that untimely doom,
Than impious Cromwell; tho' his stronger fate
Grac'd him with all the gorgeous pomp of state,
Who, base deserter of his country's cause,
Despis'd her senates, and revers'd her laws;
Chang'd regal power for arbitrary sway,
Fought to enslave, protected to betray,
And clos'd the horrid scene of social strife
With the sad off'ring of his sov'reign's life.
Thrice happy train! whom freedom leads afar,
To hurl on foreign foes the bolts of war:
Rancour to you shall ne'er impute the guilt
Of royal blood, in civil discord spilt,
But the victorious band shall justly claim
The wreath of glory, and immortal fame;
While on the youthful warrior's fatal bier
His sorrowing country pours the pensive tear:
Secure those chiefs of honor's lasting meed,
Who fight like Granby, or like Wolfe who bleed.
Are there so mean, who boast of worth that springs
From venal statesmen, and deluded kings?
Who without blushing own, their hands have sold
Their fame, their truth, their liberty for gold?
Who break each tye of public, private life,
For sounding titles, or a portion'd wife,
Proud on their breasts a glitt'ring mark to bear,
Which honor hates, and virtue scorns to wear:
Tho' the misdeeming vulgar's dazzled sight
Awhile may bless these meteors spurious light,
Short is their joy!—let fortune hide her head,
Such pride is tarnish'd, and such glory fled:
While that unfading worth, which builds alone
On Virtue's solid base, a lasting throne,
And, by no random censures kept in awe,
Is clear'd by Conscience, and by Virtue's law;
On fortune's smiles can look with coolness down,
Can bear, without a pang, her keenest frown:
The threats of want, of death, unmov'd can hear,
And fearing God, disclaim all other fear,
Shine forth alike, oppress'd, or grac'd by power,
In courts, in camps, in exile, or the tower.
Thus far, O Beauty! has my daring tongue,
In humble lays, thy various merits sung:
Still as the theme, impetuous I pursue,
The fleeting goal flies farther from my view;
Ev'n in the breast by virtue's dictates arm'd,
Thy light is sickly, and thy shape deform'd;
The stormy passions all their rage employ
To cloud that lustre which they can't destroy.
Then Wisdom, come! unfold thy mystic page,
Rich with the spoils of ev'ry clime, and age,
Thy aweful volume let my eyes explore,
Till vanquish'd Nature yield up all her store.
And thou, Morality, whose sacred art
By virtuous precepts forms the human heart,
Teach me whate'er experience yet has found,
In all its curious search, and ample round;
And shew my wav'ring mind a certain course
To trace bright Beauty to her perfect source.
In vain you try to solve the thorny maze,
And guide my feet thro' error's devious ways,
Lost and bewilder'd midst her paths I rove,
Uncertain how to turn, or where to move.
But from the regions of celestial day,
Behold! a form etherial wings her way!
Meek-eye'd Religion, hail!—for well I know
Thy mild demeanor, and thy placid brow.
'Tis thine alone the wand'ring thought to bring
To fair perfection's bright, unsully'd spring:
'Tis thine, with firm, tho' modest look, to gaze
Upon th' empyreal heav'n, and sapphire blaze.
But hold, my Muse! nor rashly thus aspire,
With verse so mean, to join th' angelic choir,
Who glorify in ceaseless strains above,
The First Great Cause of harmony and love:
The awful praises of whose hallow'd Name
No heart can image, and no tongue proclaim,
Enough for thee his glorious works to trace
In earth, and skies, and man's imperial race;
To view in ev'ry clime, and ev'ry hour,
Th' omnipotent, and omnipresent Power,
To see all Nature's charms derive their force
From this eternal, universal Source,
And in mysterious silence wrap'd, to own
That Beauty's perfect grace is found in Him alone.
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- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost