Ode Xi: On Love, To A Friend - Poem by Mark Akenside
No, foolish youth—To virtuous fame
If now thy early hopes be vow'd,
If true ambition's nobler flame
Command thy footsteps from the croud,
Lean not to love's inchanting snare;
His songs, his words, his looks beware,
Nor join his votaries, the young and fair.
By thought, by dangers, and by toils,
The wreath of just renown is worn;
Nor will ambition's awful spoils
The flowery pomp of ease adorn:
But love unbends the force of thought;
By love unmanly fears are taught;
And love's reward with gaudy sloth is bought.
Yet thou hast read in tuneful lays,
And heard from many a zealous breast,
The pleasing tale of beauty's praise
In wisdom's lofty language dress'd;
Of beauty powerful to impart
Each finer sense, each comelier art,
And sooth and polish man's ungentle heart.
If then, from love's deceit secure,
Thus far alone thy wishes tend,
Go; see the white-wing'd evening hour
On Delia's vernal walk descend:
Go, while the golden light serene,
The grove, the lawn, the soften'd scene
Becomes the presence of the rural queen.
Attend, while that harmonious tongue
Each bosom, each desire commands:
Apollo's lute by Hermes strung
And touch'd by chaste Minerva's hands,
Attend. I feel a force divine,
O Delia, win my thoughts to thine;
That half the color of thy life is mine.
Yet conscious of the dangerous charm,
Soon would i turn my steps away;
Nor oft provoke the lovely harm,
Nor lull my reason's watchful sway.
But thou, my friend—i hear thy sighs:
Alass, i read thy downcast eyes;
And thy tongue falters; and thy color flies.
So soon again to meet the fair?
So pensive all this absent hour?
—O yet, unlucky youth, beware,
While yet to think is in thy power.
In vain with friendship's flattering name
Thy passion veils its inward shame;
Friendship, the treacherous fuel of thy flame!
Once, I remember, new to love,
And dreading his tyrannic chain,
I sought a gentle maid to prove
What peaceful joys in friendship reign:
Whence we forsooth might safely stand,
And pitying view the lovesick band,
And mock the winged boy's malicious hand.
Thus frequent pass'd the cloudless day,
To smiles and sweet discourse resign'd;
While i exulted to survey
One generous woman's real mind:
Till friendship soon my languid breast
Each night with unknown cares possess'd,
Dash'd my coy slumbers, or my dreams distress'd.
Fool that i was—And now, even now
While thus i preach the Stoic strain,
Unless i shun Olympia's view,
An hour unsays it all again.
O friend!—when love directs her eyes
To pierce where every passion lies,
Where is the firm, the cautious, or the wise?
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