Address To The Muses Poem by Joanna Baillie

Address To The Muses



YE tuneful sisters of the lyre,
Who dreams and fantasies inspire,
Who over poesy preside,
And on a lofty hill abide
Above the ken of mortal sight,
Fain would I sing of you, could I address ye right.
Thus known, your power of old was sung,
And temples with your praises rung;
And when the song of battle rose,
Or kindling wine, or lovers' woes,
The Poet's spirit inly burned,
And still to you his upcast eyes were turned.
The youth, all wrapped in vision bright,
Beheld your robes of flowing white;
And knew your forms benignly grand,--
An awful but a lovely band;
And felt your inspiration strong
And warmly poured his rapid lay along.
The aged bard all heavenward glowed,
And hailed you daughters of a God.
Though to his dimmer eyes were seen
Nor graceful form nor heavenly mien,
Full well he felt that ye were near,
And heard you in the breeze that raised his hoary hair.
Ye lightened up the valley's bloom,
And gave the forest deeper gloom;
The mountain peak sublimer stood,
And grander rose the mighty flood;
For then religion lent her aid,
And o'er the mind of man your sacred empire spread.
Though rolling ages now are past,
And altars low and temples waste;
Though rites and oracles are o'er,
And Gods and heroes rule no more,
Your fading honours still remain,
And still your votaries call, a long and motley train.
They seek you not on hill or plain,
Nor court you in the sacred fane;
Nor meet you in the mid-day dream,
Upon the bank of hallowed stream;
Yet still for inspiration sue,
And still each lifts his fervent prayer to you.
He woos ye not in woodland gloom,
But in the close and shelfed room,
And seeks ye in the dusty nook,
And meets ye in the lettered book:
Full well he knows ye by your names,
And still with poet's faith your presence claims.
Now youthful Poet, pen in hand,
All by the side of blotted stand,
In reverie deep which none may break,
Sits rubbing of his beardless cheek,
And well his inspiration knows,
E'en by the dewy drops that trickle o'er his nose.
The tuneful sage, of riper fame,
Perceives you not in heated frame;
But at conclusion of his verse,
Which still his muttering lips rehearse,
Oft waves his hand in grateful pride,
And owns the heavenly power that did his fancy guide.
O lovely Sisters! is it true
That they are all inspired by you,
And write by inward magic charmed,
And high enthusiasm warmed?
We dare not question heavenly lays,
And well, I wot, they give you all the praise.
O lovely Sisters! well it shews
How wide and far your bounty flows.
Then why from me withhold your beams?
Unvisited of visioned dreams,
Whene'er I aim at heights sublime,
Still downward am I called to seek some stubborn rhyme.
No hasty lightning breaks my gloom,
Nor flashing thoughts unsought for come,
Nor fancies wake in time of need:
I labour much with little speed,
And, when my studied task is done,
Too well alas! I mark it for my own.
Yet, should you never smile on me,
And rugged still my verses be,
Unpleasing to the tuneful train,
Who only prize a flowing strain,
And still the learned scorn my lays,
I'll lift my heart to you and sing your praise.
Your varied ministry of grace,
Your honoured names and godlike race,
Your sacred caves where fountains flow
They will rehearse, who better know;
I praise ye not with Grecian lyre,
Nor hail ye daughters of a heathen sire.
Ye are the spirits who preside
In earth and air and ocean wide;
In rushing flood and crackling fire,
In horror dread and tumult dire;
In stilly calm and stormy wind,
And rule the answering changes in the human mind.
High on the tempest-beaten hill,
Your misty shapes ye shift at will;
The wild fantastic clouds ye form;
Your voice is in the midnight storm,
While in the dark and lonely hour
Oft starts the boldest heart, and owns your secret power.
When lightning ceases on the waste,
And when the battle's broil is past,
When scenes of strife and blood are o'er,
And groans of death are heard no more,
Ye then renew each sound and form,
Like after echoing of the overpassed storm.
The shining day and nightly shade,
The cheerful plain and sunny glade;
The homeward kine, the children's play,
The busy hamlet's closing day,
Give pleasure to the peasant's heart,
Who lacks the gift his feelings to impart.
Oft when the moon looks from on high,
And black around the shadows lie,
And bright the sparkling waters gleam,
And rushes rustle by the stream,
Voices and fairy forms are known
By simple folk who wander late alone.
Ye kindle up the inward glow,
Ye strengthen every outward show;
Ye overleap the strongest bar,
And join what nature sunders far,
And visit oft in fancies wild,
The breast of learned sage and simple child.
From him who wears a monarch's crown
To the unlettered simple clown,
All in some fitful, lonely hour
Have felt, unsought, your secret power,
And loved your inward visions well;
You add but to the bard the art to tell.
Ye mighty spirits of the song,
To whom the poet's prayers belong,
My lowly bosom to inspire
And kindle with your sacred fire,
Your wild and dizzy heights to brave,
Is boon alas! too great for me to crave.
But O, such sense of nature bring!
As they who feel and never sing
Wear on their hearts; it will avail
With simple words to tell my tale;
And still contented will I be,
Though greater inspiration never fall to me.

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