Beauty. Part I. Poem by Henry James Pye

Beauty. Part I.

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The various powers by Nature's hand combin'd
To fill with harmony the raptur'd mind;
Whose forms, as diff'rent lustre they impart,
Or strike the senses, or exalt the heart,
My daring Muse unfolds;—resolv'd to trace
The glorious theme thro' ev'ry path of space;
Till borne aloft on Truth's triumphant wings
Boldly she rise, and soaring as she sings,
By Fancy urg'd, she shape her vent'rous flight
To those blest regions of supreme delight,
Where Beauty pours her noblest, brightest ray,
Amidst the mansions of eternal day.

Daughters of Albion; ye whose eyes dispense
The mildest beams of virgin innocence,
Whose charms by all the Graces are design'd,
Each the fair emblem of a fairer mind,
To you I dedicate this votive lay:—
With kind applause the pleasing labour pay:
Crown with your myrtle wreaths my artless lyre,
Nor scorn the numbers which yourselves inspire:
So shall my Muse the Poet's bay disclaim,
And prize your smiles, beyond the breath of Fame.

Come, sacred Nature! Nymph divinely bright!
Unfold thy prospects to my eager sight,
O'er flow'ry lawns, with thee, O, let me rove,
And tread the devious lab'rinth of the grove.
Come in the garb of simple grandeur dress'd,
And by thy precepts form my docile breast;
Clear ev'ry mist, and give my eyes to see,
That Beauty only is deriv'd from thee.
Teach me that ev'ry art in ev'ry age
Is but a transcript from thy perfect page,
Where imitation ever charms us most,
And the best model, is the noblest boast.
When the discerning sons of Greece and Rome
Bent the proud arch, and swell'd the stately dome,
E'er gothic structures idly pleas'd the heart,
With all the nice perplexities of art,
The glorious architects rever'd thy name,
And following Nature, found the road to fame.
While Gallic artists proud to shine alone
Amidst a new creation of their own,
Boast too refin'd a taste to suffer thee
To guide a riv'let, or to rear a tree;
But art, expence, and labour have combin'd,
To draw th' attention of the trifling mind,
That senseless crowds may view with ideot stare,
The watry column, and the spruce parterre.
Yet tho' Le Notre bade on ev'ry side
The dazzling garden spread its flow'ry pride,
While the unvaried lawn, and vista'd shade,
In lines, and squares were regularly laid;
Tho' proud Versailles, thro' marble fountains, play
Her tortur'd waters to the face of day,
Such scenes, which only charm us by surprize,
O! may I never view, but to despise:
My wand'ring footsteps rather deign to lead
Thro' the dark forest, or th' enamel'd mead;
Where winding streams divide the verdant vale,
And artless music floats in ev'ry gale.

Ye Nymphs of Pindus! who have still possess'd
From earliest infancy my raptur'd breast,
And thou, celestial Fancy, matchless maid!
Descend propitious to your vot'ry's aid,
Bear me to happier regions far away,
From whence Hyperion darts his ev'ning ray,
Where Beauty's native form was ne'er defac'd
By servile ignorance, and barb'rous taste,
But thro' luxuriant fields, and fragrant groves,
In innocence the peaceful savage roves:
Where lofty mountains lift their piny heads,
Where its green lap the vast savannah spreads,
Or where the congregated waters sweep
With foaming lapse, down Niagara's steep,
Can all the pride of tasteless artists vie
With objects vast as these!—in Reason's eye?
Where Beauty dwells amidst the spacious plains,
Dress'd in her richest pomp, for Nature reigns.

But say, to scenes of humbler grace unknown,
Dwells Beauty with magnificence alone?
And from Britannia's pleasing prospects hurl'd,
Deigns she alone to bless the western world?
Not so,—her lovely form is here display'd
In ev'ry leaf that forms the summer shade,
And ev'ry blooming flower, that paints the vernal glade.

Who stretch'd upon the green hill's breezy brow
Can see the various landscape spread below,
The village spire—the wreathing smoke ascend,
The forest wave, the thymy downs extend,
The shining river roll its silver stream
Thro' woods, impervious to the solar beam,
Or 'midst the meads in smooth mæanders glide,
While bending oziers stoop to kiss the tide,
Till in th' horizon faintly ting'd with blue,
The distant mountains close the pleasing view,
And not in ev'ry tint of Nature's hand,
See Beauty's form, and own her mild command?

When from the East the glorious orb of day
Pours on the burnish'd cliff a golden ray,
While pearly dew-drops, sprinkled by the morn,
Shine in the turf, or glitter on the thorn;
When splendid in meridian light array'd,
His piercing beams the woodland gloom pervade,
When wrap'd in misty ev'ning's silent reign,
Th' encreasing darkness steals across the plain,
Or when in virgin state, the Delian Queen
Drives her bright chariot thro' the blue serene,
While scatter'd round in fair confusion lie
The inferior glories of the vaulted sky:
When gently o'er the flower-empurpled vale,
The vernal zephyrs breathe a genial gale,
When as fierce summers sultry rays descend,
With blushing fruit the loaded branches bend,
When autumn crowns the hills with waving corn,
And pours profusion from his twisted horn,
While deep'ning shade on shade, the woods are seen
From the full crimson, to the faded green:
Or when the trees their leafy honours yield,
And chearless russet clads the dreary field;
When the cascade by wintry fetters tied,
Must cease to murmur, and the stream to glide;
While blows the storm, or falls the delug'd rain,
Or fleecy snows o'erspread the whiten'd plain,
And Nature, tho' her meanest garb she wears,
Majestic ev'n in misery appears.
In ev'ry season, ev'ry hour, I trace
Imperial Beauty! thy transcendent grace;
Behold each scene thy lovely form display,
And wond'ring, own thy universal sway.

Blest is the youth! on whose high-favour'd head
The sacred Nine their happy influence shed;
Inspir'd by them, his raptur'd eyes explore
The choicest objects of thy charming store.
For him their strains the sylvan warblers breathe,
For him fair Maia twines her flow'ry wreath,
Fragrant for him the morning breezes blow,
The poplar trembles, and the fountains flow,
Each charm of Nature strongly strikes his breast,
And Beauty shines supreme, by young ey'd Fancy dress'd.

Sharon 31 March 2018


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