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Eccentricity - Poem by Washington Allston

Alas, my friend! what hope have I of fame,
Who am, as Nature made me, still the same?
And thou, poor suitor to a bankrupt muse,
How mad thy toil, how arrogant thy views!
What though endued with Genius' power to move
The magick chords of sympathy and love,
The painter's eye, the poet's fervid heart,
The tongue of eloquence, the vital art
Of bold Prometheus, kindling at command
With breathing life the labours of his hand;
Yet shall the World thy daring high pretence
With scorn deride, for thou-hast common sense.

But dost thou, reckless of stern honour's laws,
Intemperate hunger for the World's applause?
Bid Nature hence; her fresh embow'ring woods,
Her lawns and fields, and rocks, and rushing floods,
And limpid lakes, and health-exhaling soil,
Elastick gales, and all the glorious toil
Of Heaven's own hand, with courtly shame discard,
And Fame shall triumph in her city bard.
Then, pent secure in some commodious lane,
Where stagnant Darkness holds her morbid reign.
Perchance snug-roosted o'er some brazier's den,
Or stall of nymphs, by courtesy
Whose gentle trade to skin the living eel,
The while they curse it that it dares to feel[7];
Whilst ribbald jokes and repartees proclaim
Their happy triumph o'er the sense of shame:
Thy city Muse invoke, that imp of mind
By smoke engendered on an eastern wind;
Then, half-awake, thy patent-thinking pen
The paper give, and blot the souls of men.

The time has been when Nature's simple face
Perennial youth possessed and winning grace;
But who shall dare, in this refining age,
With Nature's praise to soil his snowy page?
What polish'd lover, unappall'd by sneers
Dare court a beldame of six thousand years,
When every clown with microscopick eyes
The gaping furrows on her forehead spies?-
'Good sir, your pardon: In her naked state,
Her wither'd form we cannot chuse but hate;
But fashion's art the waste of time repairs,
Each wrinkle fills, and dies her silver hairs;
Thus wrought anew, our gentle bosoms low;
We cannot chuse but love what's
comme il faut
Thy city Muse invoke, that imp of mind
By smoke engender'd on an eastern wind;
Then, half-awake, thy patent-thinking pen
The paper give, and blot the souls of men.

The time has been when Nature's simple face
Perennial youth possessed and winning grace;
But who shall dare, in this refining age,
With Nature's praise to soil his snowy page?
What polish'd lover, unappall'd by sneers,
Dare court a beldame of six thousand years,
When every clown with microscopick eyes
The gaping furrows on her forehead spies?-
'Good sir, your pardon: In her naked state,
Her withered form we cannot chuse but hate;
But fashion's art the waste of time repairs,
Each wrinkle fills, and dies her silver hairs;
Thus wrought anew, our gentle bosoms low;
We cannot chuse but love what's
comme il fauts

Alas, poor Cowper! could thy chasten'd eye,
(Awhile forgetful of thy joys on high)
Revisit earth, what indignation strange
Would sting thee to behold the courtly change!
Here 'velvet' lawns, there 'plushy' woods that lave
Their 'silken' tresses in the 'glassy' wave;
Here ''broider'd' meads, there flow'ry 'carpets' spread,
And 'downy' banks to 'pillow' Nature's head;
How wouldst thou start to find thy native soil.
Like birth-day belle, by gross mechanick toil
Trick'd out to charm with meretricious air,
As though all France and Manchester were there!
But this were luxury, were bliss refin'd,
To view the alter'd region of the mind;
Where whim and mystery, like wizards, rule,
And conjure wisdom from the seeming fool;
Where learned heads, like old cremonas, boast
Their merit soundest that are cracked the most;
While Genius' self, infected with the joke,
His person decks with Folly's motley cloak.

Behold, loud-rattling like a thousand drums,
Eccentrick Hal, the child of Nature, comes!
Of Nature once-but
he acts a part,
And Hal is now the full grown boy of art.
In youth's pure spring his high impetuous soul
Nor custom own'd nor fashion's vile control.
By Truth impelled where beck'ning Nature led,
Through life he mov'd with firm elastic tread;
But soon the world, with wonder-teeming eyes,
His manners mark, and goggle with surprise.
'He's wond'rous strange!' exclaims each gaping clod,
'A wond'rous genius, for he's wond'rous odd!'
Where'er he goes, there goes before his fame,
And courts and taverns echo round his name;
'Till, fairly knocked by admiration down,
The petted monster cracks his wond'rous crown.
No longer now to simple Nature true,
He studies only to be oddly new;
Whate'er he does, whatever he deigns to say,
Must all be said and done the oddest way;
Nay, e'en in dress eccentrick as in thought,
His wardrobe seems by Lapland witches wrought,
Himself by goblins in a whirlwind drest
With rags of clouds from Hecla's stormy crest.

'Has Truth no charms?' When first beheld, I grant,
But, wanting novelty, has every want:
For pleasure's thrill the sickly palate flies,
Save haply pungent with a rare surprise.
The humble toad that leaps her nightly round,
The harmless tenant of the garden ground,
Is loath'd, abhor'd, nay, all the reptile race
Together join'd were never half so base;
Yet snugly find her in some quarry pent,
Through ages doom'd to one tremendous lent,
Surviving still, as if 'in Nature's spite,'
Without or nourishment, or air, or light,
What raptures then th' astonish'd gazer seize!
What lovely creature like a toad can please!

Hence many an oaf, by Nature doom'd to shine
The unknown father of an unknown line,
If haply shipwreck'd on some desert shore
Of Folly's seas, by man untrod before,
Which, bleak and barren, to the starving mind
Yields nought but fog, or damp, unwholesome wind,
With loud applause the wond'ring world shall hail,
And Fame embalm him in the marv'lous tale.

With chest erect, and bright uplifted eye,
On tiptoe rais'd, like one prepared to fly.
Yon wight behold, whose sole aspiring hope
Eccentrick soars to catch the hangman's rope.
In order rang'd, with date of place and time,
Each owner's name, his parentage and crime,
High on his walls, inscribed to glorious shame,
Unnumber'd halters gibbet him to Fame.

Who next appears thus stalking by his side?
Why that is one who'd sooner die than-ride!
No inch of ground can maps unheard of show
Untrac'd by him, unknown to every toe:
As if intent this punning age to suit,
The globe's circumf'rence meas'ring by the foot.

Nor less renown'd whom stars invet'rate doom
To smiles eternal, or eternal gloom;
For what's a
save one confin'd
To some unchanging sameness of the mind;
To some strange, fix'd monotony of mien,
Or dress forever brown, forever green?

A sample comes. Observe his sombre face,
Twin-born with Death, without his brother's grace!
No joy in mirth his soul perverted knows,
Whose only joy to tell of others' woes.
A fractur'd limb, a conflagrating fire,
A name or fortune lost his tongue inspire:
From house to house where'er misfortunes press,
Like Fate, he roams, and revels in distress;
In every ear with dismal boding moans-
walking register of sighs and groans!

High tow'ring next, as he'd eclipse the moon,
With pride upblown, behold yon live balloon.
All trades above, all sciences and arts,
To fame he climbs through very scorn of parts;
With solemn emptiness distends his state,
And, great in nothing, soars above the great;
Nay stranger still, through apathy of blood,
By candour number'd with the chaste and good:
With wife, and child, domestic, stranger, friend,
Alike he lives, as though his being's end
Were o'er his house like formal guest to roam,
And walk abroad to leave himself at home.

But who is
, that sweet obliging youth?
He looks the picture of ingenuous truth.
Oh, that's his antipode, of courteous race,
The man of bows and ever-smiling face.
Why Nature made him, or for what design'd,
Never he knew, nor ever sought to find,
'Till cunning came, blest harbinger of ease!
And kindly whisper'd, 'thou wert born to please.'
Rous'd by the news, behold him now expand,
Like beaten gold, and glitter o'er the land.
Well stored with nods and sly approving winks,
Now first with this and now with that he thinks;
Howe'er opposing, still assents to each,
And claps a dovetail to each booby's speech.
At random thus for all, for none, he lives,
Profusely lavish though he nothing gives;
The world he roves as living but to show
A friendless man without a single foe;
From bad to good, to bad from good to run,
And find a character by seeking none.

Who covets fame should ne'er be over nice,
Some slight distortion pays the market price.
If haply lam'd by some propitious chance,
Instruct in attitude, or teach to dance;
Be still extravagant in deed, or word;
If new, enough, no matter how absurd.

Then what is Genius? Nay, if rightly us'd,
Some gift of Nature happily abus'd.
Nor wrongly deem by this eccentrick rule
That Nature favours whom she makes a fool;
Her scorn and favour we alike despise;
Not Nature's follies but our own we prize.

'Or what is wit?' a meteor bright and rare,
What comes and goes we know not whence, or where;
A brilliant nothing out of something wrought,
A mental vacuum by condensing thought.

Behold Tortoso. There's a man of wit;
To all things fitted, though for nothing fit;
Scourge of the world, yet crouching for a name,
And honour bartering for the breath of fame:
Born to command, and yet an arrant slave;
Through too much honesty a seeming knave;
At all things grasping, though on nothing bent,
And ease pursuing e'en with discontent;
Through Nature, Arts, and Sciences he flies,
And gathers truth to manufacture lies.

Nor only Wits, for tortur'd talents claim
Of sov'reign mobs the glorious meed of fame;
E'en Sages too, of grave and rev'rend air,
, must have their share;
Who deeper still in conjuration skill'd,

A mighty something out of nothing build.

'Then wherefore read? why cram the youthful head
With all the learned lumber of the dead;
Who seeking wisdom followed Nature's laws,
Nor dar'd effects admit without a cause?'
Why?-Ask the sophist of our modern school;
To foil the workman we must know the tool;
And, that possess'd, how swiftly is defac'd
The noblest, rarest monument of taste!
So neatly too, the mutilations stand
Like native errors of the artist's hand;
Nay, what is more, the very tool betray'd
To seem the product of the work it made.

'Oh, monstrous slander on the human race!'
Then read conviction in Ortuno's case.
By Nature fashion'd in her happiest mood,
With learning, fancy, keenest wit endued;
To what high purpose, what exalted end
These lofty gifts did great Ortuno bend?
With grateful triumph did Ortuno raise
The mighty trophies to their Author's praise;
With skill deducing from th' harmonious whole
Immortal proofs of One Creative soul?
Ah, no! infatuate with the dazzling light,
In them he saw their own creative might;
Nay, madly deem'd, if
their wond'rous
The phantom of a God 'twas theirs to

But granting that he
, he bids you show
By what you prove it, or by what you know.
Oh, reas'ning worm! who questions thus of Him
That lives in all, and moves in every limb,
Must with himself in very strangeness dwell,
Has never heard the voice of Conscience tell
Of right and wrong, and speak in louder tone
Than tropick thunder of that Holy One,
Whose pure, eternal, justice shall requite
The deed of wrong, and justify the right.

Can such blaspheme and breathe the vital air?
Let mad philosophy their names declare.
Yet some there are, less daring in their aim,
With humbler cunning butcher sense for fame;
Who doubting still, with many a fearful pause,
Th' existence grant of one almighty cause;
But halting there, in bolder tone deny
The life hereafter, when the man shall die,
Nor mark the monstrous folly of their gain-
That God all-wise should fashion
in vain.

'Twere labour lost in this material age,
When school boys trample on the Inspir'd Page,
When coblers prove by syllogistick pun
The soal they mend, and that of man are one;
'Twere waste of time to check the Muses' speed,
For all the
of their creed;
To show how prov'd the juices are the same
That feed the body, and the mental frame.

But who, half sceptic, half afraid of wrong,
Shall walk our streets, and mark the passing throng;
The brawny oaf in mould herculean cast,
The pigmy statesman trembling in his blast,
The cumb'rous citizen of portly paunch,
Unwont to soar beyond the smoaking haunch;
The meagre bard behind the moving tun,
His shadow seeming lengthen'd by the sun;
Who forms scarce visible shall thus descry,
Like flitting clouds athwart the mental sky;
From giant bodies then bare gleams of mind,
Like mountain watch-lights blinking to the wind;
Nor blush to find his unperverted eye
Flash on his heart, and give his tongue the lie.

'Tis passing strange! yet, born as if to show
Man to himself his most malignant foe,
There are (so desperate is the madness grown)
Who'd rather live a
than live unknown;
Whose very tongues, with force of holy writ,
Their doctrines damn with self-recoiling wit.

Behold yon dwarf, of visage pale and wan;
A sketch of life, a remnant of a man!
Whose livid lips, as now he moulds a grin,
Like charnel doors disclose the waste within;
Whose stiffen'd joints within their sockets grind,
Like gibbets creaking to the passing wind;
Whose shrivell'd skin with much adhesion clings
His bones around in hard compacted rings,
If veins there were, no blood beneath could force,
Unless by miracle, its trickling course;-
Yet even
within that sapless frame,
A mind sustained that climb'd the steeps of fame.
Such is the form by mystic Heaven design'd,
The earthly mansion of the rarest mind.
But, mark his gratitude. This soul sublime,
This soul lord paramount o'er space and time,
This soul of fire, with impious madness sought,
Itself to prove of mortal matter wrought;
Nay, bred, engendered, on the grub-worm plan,
From that vile clay which made his outward man,
That shadowy form which dark'ning into birth,
But seem'd a sign to mark a soul on earth.

But who shall cast an introverted eye
Upon himself, that will not there descry
A conscious life that shall, nor cannot die?
E'en at our birth, when first the infant mould
Gives it a mansion and an earthly hold,
Th' exulting Spirit feels the heavenly fire
That lights her tenement will ne'er expire;
And when, in after years, disease and age,
Our fellow-bodies sweeping from life's stage,
Obtrude the thought of death, e'en then we seem,
As in the revelation of a dream,
To hear a voice, more audible than speech,
Warn of a part which death can never reach.
Survey the tribes of savage men that roam
Like wand'ring herds, each wilderness their home;-
Nay, even there th' immortal spirit stands
Firm on the verge of death, and looks to brighter lands.

Shall human wisdom then, with beetle sight,
Because obstructed in its blund'ring flight,
Despise the deep conviction of our birth,
And limit life to this degraded earth?

Oh, far from me be that insatiate pride,
Which, turning on itself, drinks up the tide
Of natural light; 'till one eternal gloom,
Like walls of adamant enclose the tomb.
Tremendous thought! that this transcendant Power,
Fell'd with the body in one fatal hour,
With all its faculties, should pass like air
For ages without end as though it never were!

Say, whence, obedient, to their destin'd end
The various tribes of living nature tend?
Why beast, and bird, and all the countless race
Of earth and waters, each his proper place
Instinctive knows, and through the endless chain
Of being moves in one harmonious strain;
While man alone, with strange perversion, draws
Rebellious fame from Nature's broken laws?
Methinks I hear, in that still voice which stole
On Horeb's mount o'er rapt Elijah's soul,
With stern reproof indignant Heaven reply:
'Tis o'erweening Pride, that blinds the eye
Of reasoning man, and o'er his darkened life
Confusion spreads and misery and strife.

With wonder fill'd and self-reflecting praise,
The slave of pride his mighty powers surveys;
On Reason's sun (by bounteous Nature given,
To guide the soul upon her way to heaven)
Adoring gazes, 'till the dazzling light,
To darkness sears his rain presumptuous sight;
Then bold, though blind, through error's night he runs,
In fancy lighted by a thousand suns;
For bloody laurels now the warrior plays,
Now libels nature for the poet's bays;
Now darkness drinks from metaphysic springs,
Or follows fate on astrologick wings:
'Mid toils at length the world's loud wonder won,
With Persian piety, to Reason's sun
Profound he bows, and, idolist of fame,
Forgets the God who lighted first the flame.

All potent Reason! what thy wond'rous light?
A shooting star athwart a polar night;
A bubble's gleam amid the boundless main;
A sparkling sand on waste Arabia's plain:
E'en such, vain Power, thy limited control,
E'en such thou art, to mans mysterious soul!

Presumptuous man! would'st thou aspiring reach
True wisdom's height, let conscious weakness teach
Thy feeble soul her poor dependant state,
Nor madly war with Nature to be great.

Come then, Humility, thou surest guide!
On earth again with frenzied men reside;
Tear the dark film of vanity and lies,
And inward turn their renovated eyes;
In aspect true let each himself behold,
By self deform'd in pride's portentous mould.
And if thy voice, on Bethl'em's holy plain
Once heard, can reach their flinty hearts again,
Teach them, as fearful of a serpent's gaze,
Teach them to shun the gloating eye of praise;
That slightest swervings from their nature's plan
Make them a lie, and poison all the man,
'Till black corruption spread the soul throughout,
Whence thick and fierce, like fabled mandrakes, sprout
The seeds of rice with more than tropick force,
Exhausting in the growth their very vital source.

Nor wrongly deem the cynick muse aspires,
With monkish tears to quench our nobler fires.
Let honest pride our humble hearts inflame,
First to deserve, ere yet we look to, fame;
Not fame miscall'd, the mob's applauding stare;
This monsters have, proportion'd as they're rare;
But that sweet praise, the tribute of the good,
For wisdom gain'd, through love of truth pursued.
Coeval with our birth, this pure desire
Was given to lift our grov'ling natures higher,
Till that high praise, by genuine merit wrung
From men's slow justice, shall employ the tongue
Of yon Supernal Court, from whom may flow
Or bliss eternal or eternal wo.
And since in all this hope exalting lives,
Let virtuous toil improve what Nature gives:
Each in his sphere some glorious palm may gain,
For Heaven all-wise created nought in vain.

Oh, task sublime, to till the human soil
Where fruits immortal crown the lab'ror's toil!
Where deathless flowers, in everlasting bloom,
May gales from Heaven with odorous sweets perfume;
Whose fragrance still when man's last work is done,
And hoary Time his final course has run,
Thro' ages back, with fresh'ning power shall last,
Mark his long track, and linger where he past!

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Poems About Nature

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  7. 457. Nature , Denio F.S
  8. 458. Reflection , graham watmuff
  9. 459. Omnipresence , MOHAN THULASINGAM
  10. 460. Inlet , Aakash Sarkar
  11. 461. Can You Hear Me Now? , Alexander Keli Mutua
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  17. 467. In Passing , Hercolena Oliver
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