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to our softest affections; others again brighten the character of that state, and allure virtuous souls to pursue the divine advantage of it, the mutual assistance in the way to salvation, Are not the cxxviith and cxxviïith Psalms indited on this very subject? Shall it be lawful for the press and the pulpit to treat of it with a becoming solemnity in prose, and must the mention of the same thing in poesy be pronounced for ever unlawful? Is it utterly unworthy of a serious character to write on this argument, because it has been unhappily pollu by some scurrilous pens? Why may I not be permitted to obviate a common and a growing mischief, while a thousand vile poems of the amorous kin 1 swarm abroad, and give a vicious taint to the vnwary reader? I would tell the world that I have endeavoured to recover this argument out of the hands of impure writers, and to make it appear that virtue and love are not such strangers as they are represented. The blissful intimacy of souls in that state will afford sufficient furniture for the gravest entertainment in verse; so that it need not be everlastingly dressed up in ridicule, nor assumed only to furnish out the lewd sonnets of the times. May some happier genius promote the same service that I proposed, and by superior sense, and sweeter sound, render what I have written contemptible and useless !
The imitations of that noblest Latin poet of modern ages, Casimire Sarbiewski, of Poland, would need no excuse, did they but arise to the beauty of the original. I have often taken the freedom to add ten or twenty lines, or to leave out as many, that I might suit my song more to my own design, or because I saw it impossible to present the force, the fineness, and the fire of his expression in our language. There are a few copies wherein I have borrowed some hints from the same author, without the mention of his name in the title. Methinks I can allow so superior a genius now and then to be lavish his imagina. tion, and to indulge some excursions beyond the limits of sedate judgment : the riches and glory of his verse make atonement in abundance. I wish some English pen would import more of his treasures, and bless our nation.
The inscriptions to particular friends are warranted and defended by the practice of almost all the Lyric writers. They frequently convey the rigid rules of morality to the mind in the softer method of applause. Sustained by their example, a man will not easily be overwhelmed by the heaviest censures of the unthinking and unknowing; especially when there is a shadow of this practice in the divine Psalmist, while he inscribes to Asaph or Jeduthun his songs, that were made for the harp, or (which is all one) his Lyric odes, though they are addressed to God himself.
In the poems of heroic measure, I have attempted in rhyme the same variety of cadence, comma and period, which blank verse glories in as its peculiar elegance and ornament. It degrades the excellency of the best versification when the lines run on by couplets, twenty together, just in the same pace, and with the same pauses. It spoils the noblest pleasure of the sound: the reader is tired with the tedious uniformity, or charmed to sleep with the unmanly softness of the numbers, and the perpetual chime of even cadences.
In the essays without rhyme, I have not set up Milton for a perfect pattern; though he shall be for ever honoured as our deliverer from the bondage. His works contain admirable and unequalled instances of bright and beautiful diction, as well as majesty and sereneness of thought. There are several episodes in his longer works, that stand in supreme dignity without a rival; yet all that vast reverence, with which I read bis Paradise Lost, cannot persuade me to be charmed with every page of it. The length of his periods, and sometimes of his parentheses, runs me out of breath: some of his numbers seem too harsh and uneasy. I could never believe, that roughness and obscurity added any thing to the true grandeur of a poem; nor will I ever affect archaisms, exoticisms, and a quaint uncouthness of speech, in order to become perfectly Miltonian. It is my opinion, that blank verse may be written with all due elevation of thought in a modern style, without borrowing any thing from Chaucer's Tales, or running back so far as the days of Colin the Shepherd, and the reign of the Fairy Queen. The oddness of an antique sound gives but a false pleasure to the ear, and abuses the true relish, even when it works delight. There were some such judges of poesy among the old Romans; and Martial ingeniously laughs at one of thein, that was pleased even to astonishment with obsolete words and figures;
Attonitusque legis terrai frugiferai. So the ill-drawn postures and distortions of shape that we meet with in Chinese pictures charm a sickly fancy by their very awkwardness; so a distempered appetite will chew coals and sand, and pronounce it gustful.
In the Pindarics, I have generally conformed my lines to the shorter size of the ancients, and avoided to imitate the excessive lengths to which soine modern writers have stretched their sentences, and espe
cially the concluding verse. In these the ear is the truest judge; nor was it made to be enslaved to any precise model of elder or later times.
After all, I must petition my reader to lay aside the sour and sullen air of criticism, and to assume the friend. Let him choose such copies to read at particular hours, when the temper of his mind is suited to the song. Let him come with a desire to be entertained and pleased, rather than to seek his own disgust and aversion; which will not be hard to find. I am not so vain as to think there are no faults, nor so blind as to espy none : though I hope the multitude of alterations in this second edition are not without amendment. There is so large a difference between this and the former, in the change of titles, lines, and whole poems, as well as in the various transpositions, that it would be useless and endless, and all confusion, for any reader to compare them throughout. The additions also make up half the book, and some of these have need of as many alterations as the former. Many a line needs the file to polish the roughness of it, and many a thought wants richer language to adorn and make it shine. Wide defects and equal superfluities may be found, especially in the larger pieces; but I have at present neither inclination nor leisure to correct, and I hope I never shall. It is one of the biggest satisfactions I take in giving this volume to the world, that I expect to be for ever free from the temptation of making or mending poems again 6. So that my friends may be perfectly secure against this impression's growing waste upon their hands, and useless, as the former has done. Let minds that are better furnished for such performances pursue these studies, if they are convinced that poesy can be made serviceable to religion and virtue. As for myself, I almost blush to think that I have read so little, and written so much. The following years of my life shall be more entirely devoted to the immediate and direct labours of my station, excepting those hours that may be employed in finishing my imitation of the Psalms of David, in Christian language, which I have now promised the world 7.
I cannot court the world to purchase this book for their pleasure or entertainment, by telling them that any one copy entirely pleases me. The best of them sinks below the idea which I form of a divine or moral ode. He that deals in the mysteries of Heaven, or of the Muses, should be a genius of no vulgar mould: and as the name Vates belongs to both; so the furniture of both is comprised in that line of Horace,
cui mens divinior, atque os Magna sonaturum.
But what Juvenal spake in his age, abides true in ours: A complete poet or a prophet is such a one,
Qualem nequeo monstrare, et sentio tantùm.
Perhaps neither of these characters in perfection shall ever be seen on earth, till the seventh angel has sounded his awful trumpet; till the victory be complete over the beast and his image, when the natives of Heaven shall join in concert with prophets and saints, and sing to their golden harps“ salvation, honour, and glory to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever.”
May 14, 1709,
6 Naturam expellas furcâ licet, usque recurrét. Hor. Will this short note of Horace excuse a man who has resisted nature many years, but has been sometimes overcome? 1736. Edition the 7th.
7 In the year 1719 these were finished and printed.
WORSHIPING WITH FEAR. WHO dares attempt th' eternal Name
With notes of mortal sound? Dangers and glories guard the theme,
And spread despair around.
And Heaven attends his sinile;
But love adorns it still.
Trembling beneath thy feet,
To reach thy lofty seat.
And in thy presence stand ?
But shjeld us with thy hand.
What various glory shines !
Upon our fainting minds.
If thou unveil thy grace; And humble awe runs through the skies,
When wrath arrays thy face. When mercy joins with majesty
To spread their beams abroad,
Are shadows of a God.
In a too feeble strain,
To reach thy thoughts, in vain.
ASKING LEAVE TO SING. Yet, mighty God, indulge my tongue,
Nor let thy thunders roar,
To worlds of glory soar.
The Muse folds-up her wings;
Attempts almighty things.
Bids a new Eden grow,
And spreads a Heaven below.
Fill'd with thy dreadful breath ;'
To give the nations death.
And feels the rapture strong,
Aims at a sweeter song.
DIVINE JUDGMENTS. Nor from the dust my sorrows spring, Nor drop my comforts from the lower skies:
Let all the baneful planets shed
Their mingled curses on my head, How vain their curses, if th' Eternal King Look through the clouds and bless me with his eyes!
Creatures with all their boasted sway
EARTH AND HEAVEN.
Hast thou not seen, impatient boy!
Hast thou not read the solemn truth,
That gray experience writes for giddy youth
On every mortal joy? Old Boreas with his freezing powers
Pleasure must be dash'd with pain: Turns the earth iron, and makes the ocean glass,
And yet, with heedless haste, Arrests the dancing rivulets as they pass,
The thirsty boy repeats the taste, And chains them moveless to their shores;
Nor hearkens to despair, but tries the bowl again The grazing ox lows to the gelid skics,
The rills of pleasure never run sincere, Walks o'er the marble meads with withering eyes,
(Earth has no unpolluted spring) Walks o'er the solid lakes, snuffs up the wind, and dies.
From the curs'd soil some dangerous taint they bear;
So roses grow on thorns, and honey wears a sting. Fly to the polar world, my song, And mourn the pilgrims there (a wretched throng !)
In vain we seek a Heaven below the sky; Seiz'd and bound in rigid chains,
The world has false, but flattering, charms: A truop of statues on the Russiap plains,
Its distant joys show big in our esteem, And life stands frozen in the purple veins.
But lessen still as they draw near the eye; Atheist, forbear; no more blaspheme:
In our embrace the visions die, God has a thousand terrours in his name,
And when we grasp the airy forms A thousand armies at command,
We lose the pleasing dream. Waiting the signal of his hand,
Earth, with her scenes of gay delight,
With glaring colours, and false light;
But bring the nauseous daubing nigh,
Coarse and confus'd the hideous figures lie,
Dissolve the pleasure, and offend the eye.
Look up, my soul, pant tow'rd th' eternal hills;
Those Heavens are fairer than they seem; Grow pale; and, quivering at his dreadful cold,
There pleasures all sincere glide on in crystal rills, Give their own blasphemies the lie.
There not a dreg of guilt defiles, The mischiefs that infest the earth,
Nor grief disturbs the stream. When the hot dog-star fires the realms on high, That Canaan knows no noxious thing, Drought and disease, and cruel dearth,
No cursed soil, no tainted spring, Are but the flashes of a wrathful eye
Nor roses grow on thorns, nor honey wears a sting
And pant for vital breath;
No: 'tis in vain to seek for bliss;
For bliss can ne'er be found
Till we arrive where Jesus is,
And tread on heavenly ground.
There's nothing round these painted skies,
Nothing, my soul, that's worth thy joys,
Or lovely as thy God.
'Tis Heaven on Earth to taste his love, While you dispense your mortal harins,
To feel his quickening grace; 'Tis the Creator's voice that sounds your loud alarms, And all the Heaven I hope above When guilt with louder cries provokes a God to arms.
Is but to see his face, O for a message from above
Why move my years in slow delay? To bear my spirits up!
O God of ages! why? Some pledge of my Creator's love
Let the spheres cleare, and mark my way
To the superior sky.
That bind me to my clay ;
What are my eyes, but aids to see GOD'S DOMINION AND DECREES. The glories of the Deity
Inscrib'd with beams of light Keep silence, all created things,
On flowers and stars ? Lord, I behold And wait your Maker's nod:
The shining azure, green and gold; [sight. The Muse stands trembling while she sings
But when I try to read thy name, a dimness veils my The honours of her God.
Mine ears are rais'd when Virgil sings Life, Death, and Hell, and worlds unknown
Sicilian swains, or Trojan kings, Hang on his firm decree:
And drink the music in : He sits on no precarious throne,
Why should the trumpet's brazen voice, Nor borrows leave to be.
Or oaten reed, awake my joys,
(begin? TH' Almighty voice bid ancient Night
And yet my heart so stupid lie when sacred hymns Her endless realms resign,
Change me, O God! my flesh shall be And lo, ten thousand globes of light
An instrument of song to thee, In fields of azure shine.
And thou the notes inspire: Now Wisdom with superior sway
My tongue shall keep the heavenly chime, Guides the vast moving frame,
My cheerful pulse shall beat the time, While all the ranks of being pay
And sweet variety of sound shall in thy praise conspire. Deep reverence to his name.
The dearest nerve about my heart, He spake; the Sun obedient stood,
Should it refuse to bear a part And held the falling day:
With my melodious breath, Old Jordan backward drives his flood,
I'd tear away the vital chord, And disappoints the sea.
A bloody victim to my Lord,
And live without that impious string, or show my zeal Lord of the armies of the sky,
He marshals all the stars;
THE CREATOR AND CREATURES.
God is a name my soul adores, With ev'ry angel's form and size
Th’ Almighty Three, th' Eternal One; Drawn by th' eternal pen.
Nature and Grace, with all their puwers, His providence unfolds the book,
Confess the Infinite Unknown. And makes his counsels shine:
From thy Great Self thy being springs; Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Thou art thine own original, Fulfils some deep design.
Made up of uncreated things,
And Self-sufficience bears them all.
Thy voice produc'd the seas and spheres,
Bid the waves roar, and planets shine; And treads the monarch down.
But nothing like thy Self appears,
Through all these spacious works of thine.
Still restless Nature dies and grows;
From change to change the creatures run:
Thy being no succession knows,
And all thy vast designs are one :
A glance of thine runs through the globes,
Rules the bright worlds, and moves their frame;
Broad sheets of light compose thy robes ;
Thy guards are form'd of living flame.
Thrones and dominions round thee fall,
And worship in submissive forms;
How shall affrighted mortals dare
To sing thy glory or thy grace,
Beneath thy feet we lie so far,
And see but shadows of thy face?
Who can behold the blazing light?
Who can approach consuming flame ? With zeal and passion for thy name ; [praise. None but thy wisdom knows thy might; Iwould not speak, but for my God, nor move, but to his None but thy word can speak thy name.