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OU have, learned reader, the second volume of Musae Anglicanae: but this is a genuine one, printed by the permission of its authors. We concede this praise to that London editor: that he may turn a shilling at the expense of authors’ reputations, scarce envying these men who commit works so disfigured and purloined that their very parents would not recognize their deformed children, or, if they did, would blush. We trust that these works, thoroughly polished and perfected, are not displeasing to you, as you have received inchoate and unrefined stuff so charitably.
It is nevertheless to be admitted that this work is less than perfect, inasmuch as it is unadorned by any Cambridge verse. This misfortune is the more to be attributed to their excessive modesty than to my wishes, for more than once I have awaited their most outstanding poems, in vain. For I have read no little of their work with the greatest of pleasure, and by printing these (had it pleased their authors), not without honor would the Sheldonian press have performed its offices. But I have refused to publish any man’s writings unbeknownst to him, lest I appear to be conferring reputation on the unwilling, and by my own example show approval to that which I have found wanting in Wellington’s Examen Poeticum.
In the interim may the University of Oxford forgive me, if I have rejected some men’s verses, so there might be some felicities remaining for a third volume.
I deem it superfluous to say much about my authors by way of preface. The reputations of those now deceased is above the reach of envy, a repute which even the most exacting readers cannot erase from the verses of those still living. Just reflect to yourself, how Whitfield’s poems, corrected, would have appeared had they been published in his lifetime, which so excelled, albeit they were issued posthumously, and were the work of a young man.
And, finally, I have not made my selection as the sectary of any clique, being swayed by a poem’s elegance more than by its subject. Rather, you will readily perceive that he most stimulates poets’ talents who provides them with the most matter. Nor, I trust, will it be unwelcome to our William to have had so many men crying his praise - unless perchance you are vexed not to find a bard equal to the task of celebrating such great virtue.
Click here to see the discussion of this letter in the Introduction
TO THAT HONORABLE MAN
CHARLES MONTAGU, GENTLEMAN,
CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, TREASURER, MEMBER OF THE ROYAL PRIVY COUNCIL, &c.
Since so great a throng of bungling bards makes a din in your ears, you have no grounds for complaint that something untoward has befallen you, when you have noted this excellent subject to have been violated by my verses too. The glory of recent history goes to show how much the British excel in martial virtue; but the trifling verses I have newly published serve as proof that we are not eminent in the liberal arts of peacetime. For if that Congreve of yours, seized by divine frenzy as he is wont to be, had not served as an ornament to the matter, the Peace herself would not be worth so much that we would take pleasure in hearing her hymned by so many depraved poetasters. But, as I inveigh against others, I seem to have forgotten myself, who perhaps will purvey you no less tedium in Latin than that which they have provided in their vernacular songs - unless amidst those agonies variety of torture should serve as some manner of palliative. Nor should I ever be induced to place poetry written in our native tongue before the eyes of you, who do not deter all the rest from such undertakings any the less than you shall have stimulated them by your favor.
The most devoted admirer of your kindness,
PEACE RETURNED TO EUROPE BY WILLIAM’S AUSPICES, 1697
Click here to see the discussion of this poem in the Introduction
After the great shouting of men, and the blare of bugles, and all war’s hubbub have ceased see, Caesar, what gifts the industrious poets, that importunate crew, have fetched for you! Let the noble flames, the dire image of arms, the sad specters of war flee from your heart. O at length break off, gorged with triumphs, wholly banish Mars from your mind.
No more are the plains thrown into confusion before our eyes by throngs of soldiery, fields are not ablaze with their accustomed tumult. Deep tranquility is at hand on every side. Leaning into his curved plough, the husbandman overturns the abandoned trenchworks and camps that had menaced camps, surveying with mute fear the horror of the place, the slaughter-polluted fields. Now the longed-for crop grows green above the rampart and the extended fortifications, now the palisades laugh in the new springtime. He who dwells there is amazed by strange stalks, the soil’s fertility, and the harvest fattened on blood.
Lo how the traveler, drawn from all over the world, comes and inspects the site of battles, towns turned into rubble, and walls overthrown by storms of fire; how he consults the fearful histories of events and the sad list of hardships, so that with astonished eyes he may inspect half-standing towers, rivers still sullied with gore, and the fields made notorious by Ormonde’s wound.
Here, where lie rocks smeared with dashed-out brains and gaps yawn in shattered walls, that intrepid man planted his banner, whose temples have lately been shaded by the victory-palms of Buda and a foreign laurel. Rushing into the midst of the fray, where raged round him a hail of hurled iron and a most dense rain of lead, he entered into a sulfurous night and pitch-black clouds, and into smoke ruddy with abundant flashes. How the walls in their various turnings are rent asunder, their stones cast down everywhere, and monstrously they threaten from above with their horrible cliffs, and hang fearfully!
Here one could discern the hidden plague, and the huge structure crammed with powder, which roiled with great tumult amidst the pitched battle, when the burst gates thundered horribly with a sudden crash; hideous death snatched half-burned members, smoking limbs, and mangled corpses, and a black blast sent them a-whirling in the air.
Thus, after the father of the gods had cast down Enceladus’ brothers with his thunderbolt, and had forbidden them to scorn the gods, mortals were awe-stricken by the face of the earth, rent asunder, and the monstrous ruins. They were amazed that lofty Pelion was gone from thence and Ossa uprooted and overturned; that here a river was gliding amidst its huge mass and tumbled rocks, learning to flow between new banks. Doubtfully they stand, and seek for familiar mountains and shadows, baffled by their uncertain wandering and the novelty of the scenery.
For here the battalions were lately gathered, following the flag of the Prince of Orange, here were the Britons of warlike heart, the fierce German and, a league having been struck, the Belgian and he who, condemned to an unfavorable clime and a harsh Boreas, lives his life in the darkness, and he who, tanned, his face newly scorched, shows signs of the sun that had been applied to him. They came together from all quarters, battalions conscripted from throughout the world, which, in their swarms, protected Nassau’s flanks with their allied arms, mixing their uproars and murmurs, disjunct in such varied homelands, dissonant in so many tongues.
But remove yourself from amidst the squadrons, bravest leader. If my songs have any power, you will gain life and the enduring praises of our future people; trained in all manner of arts and distinguished for Minerva’s arts, you who Rhedycina unwillingly entrusted to raging Mars, and in whom she takes pride as so great a son. Not the Arctic glow, or the poverty of our sky, but a more torrid zone, where the sun sheds his rays more intensely, India, wholly exposed to Phoebus, gave you birth, and from your tender years baked into you uncommon virtue, and the fires of a noble mind.
Now too he who unhappily surveys the north star and everlasting winter, and moves about, chill, shaggy in bear-hides, tells his friends the great deeds of William, eagerly enumerating the battles that have been fought in their order, caring naught for winter or chill. Lo, he who subjects the end of the world to his rule abandons his vast tracts of snow and his pallid realm, his native storms, and with silent eyes scans the British hero. Now the scattered walls of Namur defer, now defers the Boyne, which has mostly flowed with sluggish gore, now defers the undistinguished palm of doubtful Seneffe. What a figure of a man, and how great! With what a head he towers to the air! With what a stride he plants his steps, admirable for his unschooled majesty and his fierce countenance!
Thus once Alcides, covered with the Lion’s monstrous limbs by way of his spoils, bore himself with vast bulk when, embracing Evander, he sought to clasp his hand and entered his palace as a great guest. When he hears of your battles and bloody fields, William, the lively blood boils in his veins, his heart throbs, and an envious ardor assaults his mind. Not now will the enemy despoil the northern fields unpunished nor will Poland drive off spoils unavenged.
But what is this distant uproar? What murmurs of the populace are repeating “Nassau”? Round about, I see her concave shores a-boil with oars, growing white with suddenly-appearing sails. Fear not, England, and dismiss your empty complains; secure in your Nassau, cease peering at the heaving floods, anxious in your mind; cease reproaching the harsh northerlies and seeking the tardy ship. Your longed-for Caesar is at hand, nor will you see him troubled, as before, by war’s concerns, pondering in his heart plans deadly to the French, and secret plans for battles. Welcome quiet and tranquil peace have composed his fearsome face, and have wafted him happy honors. Many a soldier crowds around him in a dense throng! How exultantly he regards his nation and his ancient homestead! He takes pleasure in displaying the new scars on his face, unhealed wounds, extraordinary marks of sword-thrusts, and powder-scorched limbs. His dear wife is amazed, uncertainly scrutinizing the visage of her returned husband. His offspring, shaking with fear, stand apart, and in their ignorance shudder at their father’s wounds. He recounts heavy calamities and the perils of the hard war, and renews battles in his pride-inflated words. Thus after the Argo, pregnant with heroes, had returned Phryxus’ fleece to his homeland, the sailor showed the Greeks the bristling wool of the fleece’s twisted gold, he described infamous shores with their terrible monsters, a serpent breathing fire mixed with smoke, watchful beasts, bulls groaning at a strange plough, and fire-snorting bullocks.
Yet we receive you back, o William, rescued from how many perils: for you the goddess Britannia pours forth Commons and Peerage. Wherever you progress through the midst of our cities, thronged processions surge together from every side, there is rejoicing and applause. As you go by, the crowd surrounds you in disorder, with loud cheering. For you Jupiter delays the year’s turning; winter, marveling at the serene days, smiles, and the sky remains clear for your festive triumph.
And now your little nephew is at hand with the happy stride of youth, giving testimony to his joy with sweet laughter. How his inherited vigor and the grace of his high countenance breathes forth a Caesar and infuses the boy with awful majesty! How his fair mother smoothes his august brow, and tempers his sublime visage! I perceive his double face, his intermingled parentage. Now, William, he imitates battalions, sad wars, and your battles under the harmless guise of play. Now, like to you when your blood is up, he presses the fleeing backs of a diminutive squadron, filling it with fictive fears, and lays low the tiny make-believe Frenchmen. Now he invents battlements, and designates small ramparts with varied names. And with sudden turmoil he busily tears down feeble fortresses and a miniature Namur. In the meantime, by degrees noble flames arise in his youthful breast; fire and a lovable thrill marks his honorable cheeks with a ruddy glow.
Yet who will furnish great displays for the Augusta in his songs, where everywhere spilt wines run red in our muddy gutters and their purple lends variety to the dyed filth? Who will tell of the falling of stars, the earthenware heaven, where the reeking streets display shredded paper, bits of sulfur, and little tubes smeared with pitch?
Lo, in the distance I see the astonished night lighten with an unwonted glare! Bright fire falls on every side, and flaming storms. Everywhere crackling stars are a-glow, incendiaries rain throughout the sky. No less does Vulcan assume a thousand forms on earth: fire-belching beasts and flashing monsters, shapes terrible to behold! Here he imitates the Lion’s shaggy limbs, shaking a neck maned with twisted flames, his glowing mane. Here the slithering Snake plays, rising up and hissing with much fire.
Secure at last, the citizen celebrates his immense joy and his effusive happiness. With fear abandoned he follows the winds, safely bringing his fleet past the world’s ultimate parts, and wandering over the sea in freedom, whether he looks on icebound fields or those bristling in Cancer’s midmost months, or whether he prefers to spread his billowing sails to the fragrant north wind, where Aeolus mixes perfumed gusts and fills the breezes with peaceful odors.
You illustrious souls of heroes, and new-made shades, whose mangled, still-dripping bodies lie with fresh wounds, thanks to whom this hoped-for peace is obtained for the world, do not yet remove this loyal comradeship from your Nassau, but attend your commander in your wonted battalions, surround him with your ghostly squadrons. And you, Mary, never unmindful of your Britons, o divine lady, o patiently await your great consort, envy not this world its master, though it detains him longer and enjoys a protracted peace under its champion.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE BAROMETER
Click here to see the discussion of this poem in the Introduction
Where the miner penetrates the earth’s dark caverns, fruitful with formless ore, gleaming with unworked veins, while he marvels at hidden treasures and future coins, he excavates liquid silver, and a shining fluid, which, poured forth, leaves no trace of its path, and in its rolling marks the earth with no sign of dampness, but rather, broken asunder into globules, preserves its round shape and, flowing, gathers itself into soft spheres.
Uncertain of its nature, whether it refuses to be worked further, he prematurely scorns its useless glitter. Or perhaps the sun’s imperfect force leaves this silver incompletely ripened, its riches fluid. Whatever it will be, it boasts itself noble for a great purpose. Nor once did Jove shine more visibly when, being costly, he enfolded Danae in his expensive embrace and, his lust urging upon him this welcome form, he rained his liquefied godhead in a shower of gold.
But come, take a brittle tube, from which denser air has been expunged. A pool of quicksilver settles at the bottom of the glass, so that when rain impends the mobile metal lowers, or again, when the heat demands, the fluid reveals itself and, that it may once more occupy the vacuum by its rising, rushes farther into all the tube.
Now this conscious fluid advises one of the sky’s aspect and future temperatures, telling of frost and chill. For as often as the liquid rises, and in the glass the previous sides of its channel cannot restrain its ascent, then one may hope for glad some days, the fields acknowledge the heat and smile at the widely-shed sunlight. But it the silvery fluid rises immoderately and, when it is excessively pushed, the plants now grow parched, now the flame cooks off their fertile juices, and the meadows languish, their greenness consumed.
But when the earth’s vents pour forth thin mists, and damp fumes flow over the seas, fodder for impending rains, then its fluid weight seeks lower levels: no more surely does the heron indicate damp skies when, traversing the aether’s middle tracts, she takes advantage of the thicker air and scatters the dewy clouds with her dripping wings. Now drops collect, cold compacts the scattered particles, the rarefied liquid is compacted into clouds. The meadows grow green, the aether irrigates the crops with fructifying rains, supplying food for the thirsty root. And when the metal’s fluid descends more than is just, hugging the bottom, impatient of rain and fearing a storm, let farmers beware. The husbandman does not look on this with safety. Soon the air, pregnant with vapors, will display its gathered storms and thundering tempest. But even if the silvery mass, lessened by the oppressing weight, subsides and hides itself deep in its chamber, all else swells. Rivers gone astray overrun their toppled banks, the flood is a-boil with foamy waves, the lawlessness of the rapid sea is poured forth.
This marvelous glass conceals none of heaven’s secrets, but rather reveals the sky’s varying aspects and weathers, telling you beforehand when you may safely go abroad lightly clad, and when, chilled, you will look forward to your fire.
Relying on the augury, albeit the black sky’s clouds are a-bursting, darkly threatening a stormy day and rain, if this device denies it and promises fair weather, let the confident traveler take the road though clouds loom. And, fearing not a downpour, let the reaper lay low the crops when they require it. Now a harmless winter cold descends upon the earth, chills fall that are scarcely destined to work harm, and will strike at men who are ready.
THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE PYGMIES AND THE CRANES
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I tell of winged battalions and the lamentable war of the Pygmies. You, Muse, align the tiny cohorts, the death-dealing beaks, celebrating the offended Cranes, indignant at this diminutive campaign, the tumult of birds and men.
The Muses’ effort has exhausted the great souls of heroes and their dire wars, in sonorous verse has bidden them arise in the immortal procession of their meters. Who knows not Greece’s chosen youths, dark-glaring Theseus, fleet-footed Achilles. Who is ignorant of Aeneas’ struggles, and the achievements of William? Who has not worn himself out reading of the Theban brothers, and Pompey’s sad fate? I shall be the first to represent in song an untouched battle-line, and the feeble sounds of bugles, following a novel camp. I shall sing of miniature combatants, of heroes ill-disposed towards Cranes, and a foeman surging forth from darkling clouds.
Where the sun waxes warm at its rising, and India glows glad some at the day’s dawning, the kingdom of the Pygmies once stood amidst inhospitable crags (extending through a peaceful dale and greenswards accessible to few). Here, plying various arts, they busily tended their livelihood, and their fields were a-boil with this industrious people. Now if some traveler makes his way through those harsh rocks and abandoned homesteads, he sees fields white with tiny bones, and marvels at their minute traces. With impunity, the victorious realm of the birds holds these desolate reaches, and the rude Crane issues his creaking call from a secure nest. It was not thus while the miniature race remained unconquered for many a year: then, if some bird dared come to grips and entrust himself to joined battle, a fierce soldier was at hand, and the savage little fellow would take up arms and lay low the death-bound bird, and on his shoulders would bear off his huge prize and feast on his slaughtered foe. Often he would slay them unawares, often he would delight in tearing down a nest, or revenge himself on a parent by killing its offspring. For as often as a bird had constructed a home with great art, or had deposited its womb’s weight, a future bird, immediately the soldier, looking fierce with his menacing glance, would lay waste to everything, killing the innocent chicks and cutting short their unfinished lives, when his enemy had not yet ripened in its warm egg.
Hence the grounds for wrath, hence wars, fatal wars, and battle-lines bent on death, the conjoined massacre of birds and men, the chaotic image of death. Never did the bard of Maeonia sing of such movements, nor of such a memorable war, in his sublime song, when it threw the whole marsh into confusion with din and fighting. Here - piteous sight! - the bodies of mice lie strewn about, transfixed with reeds, and here a raucous-throated frog feels agony, and, with a knee sliced off, creeps on the ground, not transporting itself with its usual hops.
And now the day was at hand for the Pygmy, at which time he repented the slaughtered chicks and preferred that the eggs had remained untouched. For on their account the indignant Crane is outraged and blazes forth in heavy wrath. All those who occupy Strymon’s waters, or the Mareotic marsh, or Cayster’s bottom-waters, are at hand together; birds land, roused from their Scythian marsh and the Danube, leagued by an oath. While yet absent, a bird broods on huge massacres and woundings, whetting his talons while meditating his future strike, and preparing his sharp beak, and adapting his wings for flight. So great is their love of war, and aroused zeal for vengeance. So, having obtained the suitable springtime, the legion hovering in the high air makes a din with its clapping wings, and looks down on the immense tracts of the earth and the far-off waters, countless birds traverse the north and its cloudy spaces: the great aether flows about them with its strong current, and an endless commotion throws all heaven into confusion. There is no less movement on earth, as the industrious dwarf prepares for wars, forms his army, strengthens its fighting-lines, and spiritedly rages, with weapons snatched up, until his cavalry squadron is ranged on his two flanks, crowded in its ranks, and drawn up with martial skill.
And now the ardent commander of the Pygmies comes between the two lines of battle, who, awesome in his majesty and grave in his stride, towers above the rest in his gigantic mass, rising as high as half a cubit. Fierce of aspect (for an enemy had carved scars into his face), he displays the honorable marks of beaks on his countenance, and unhealed bites on his breast. He has harassed the winged tribe with undying hatred and everlasting wrath. No bird, relying on beak or hooked feet, could attack him with impunity. How often he has drawn his lethal sword and sliced off wings, denying escape to his swift foe! What slaughter he has worked! How much death, alas, has he visited on defenseless chicks, and how often has he filled the Strymon with weeping!
And now a sound is heard from afar, and they see a pitch-black cloud come a-flying and enemies bearing war. At length it spreads out and a great army of birds, constructed of many varied ranks, offers itself to their eyes, fanning the air with flapping wings. The throng fills the skies, the monstrous apparition overshadows the Pygmy forces, hanging thick amidst the clouds, now dense, but soon to be returned less populous to its ancestral climes. The Pygmies are afire with battle-lust, regarding their enemy with a savage eye. No great time passes, and with a horrific swoop the huge flock of Cranes falls heavily on their ranks, bringing war on those who are hoping for it. An uproar commences. Wrenched off, feathers float about in the air. But soon an exhausted bird removes itself upon light wings and, its strength renewed, seeks the earth again with a rush. The fortune of arms hangs in the balance. Here a bird, pierced with a spear, furiously turns with a bloody twist and helplessly aims its beak at this foe, and in death retracts his curved talons. There Pygmy blood drips sluggish from a wound, he takes great gasps and drums the ground with his tiny feet and, dying, curses the sharp claw. All the earth boils with the racket, grows red with warm blood, is strewn with swords, strewn with wings, talons and fingers, beaks mingled with forearms.
The Pygmy captain rages, ablaze amidst thousands, he whom the dying bodies of Cranes surround on all sides. He ranges in the midst of death, yet falls not by blow of wing or strike of beak. He is the terror of the Cranes, about him battle is joined most thickly, and the whole war is waged in this one man. Then (thus the gods willed it), summoned by the sudden commotion, a great formidable bird unexpectedly seizes him with its feet as he is fighting and (sad to relate) bears him up to heaven. The warrior hangs from its claws, dangling, and from all sides a swarm of birds gathers with screeching. With sad eyes the Pygmies helplessly mourn their king up in the clouds, looking at the hero, smaller than usual, while the Cranes applaud their feast.
And now the battle resumes, from above a Crane harries a Pygmy with his beak, and on high attacks his enemy with his biting. Then he makes his escape, flying aloft. He in turn brandishes his arm, heedless of his wound, and rages at the empty air. Such was the appearance of the war, when mighty Briareus heaved Pelion into the sky, and would have cast the Thunderer down to earth. Lightning-bolts and crags were scattered throughout the air. Flying missiles were hurled downwards, driven by Jove’s hand, while the Giants’ great bodies lay outstretched, and, half-burnt, reeked of sulphur.
Their strength consumed, at last the Pygmy bands grow weary. So part turn tail, stricken with panic, and part lifts up their tiny voices. the two-foot race widely scatters. The birds press their backs, rending them and pulling at them mercilessly, determined to kill off this wicked race.
Thus the Pygmy dynasty, having been dominant for many a year, having waged so many wars, happy for so many triumphs over the Cranes, perished utterly. For an assured end awaits all realms, there are fixed limits which it is unlawful to pass. thus once the empire of Assyria collapsed, thus that of great Persia was cast off its foundations, and Rome, greater than them both. Now in its insubstantial multitude it surveys the vales of Elysium, and this small folk is intermingled with the great shades of the ancient heroes. Or, if the old wive’s tale deserves any credence, in the dark of night shepherds often see the tiny shades of disembodies Pygmies, as, safe from the Cranes and forgetful of its sufferings, this race is wholly free for gladness and indulges in dancing; treading the narrow pathways and greeny rings, this lightsome crew gambols, and rejoices in the name of fairies.
AS DEPICTED NEAR THE ALTAR OF MAGDALENE COLLEGE, OXFORD
Click here to see the discussion of this poem in the Introduction
In novel song, Muse, describe the brilliant expanses of paint, and the pencil’s exertions, the rising forms of men, the blazing face of the Judge, and the images displaying fear in wondrous ways, a terrifying pageant, and kindle a bard’s holy frenzies.
Once whitewash covered with rude and simple adornment the surface now occupied by this picture with its riot of colors. But, lest any crack betray its original surface, the artist quickly laid a foundation for his future painting, and applied a penetrating fluid over the walls; the walls were roughened by this thick coating, and daubed with its blank tints.
As, when the sky was not yet filled with glittering stars, lest its great mass gape open with empty void throughout heaven’s vault and broad curved expanses, the interspersing aether flowed in; and soon the Titan was scorching a new-made world with his radiant light, and pale Cynthia more gently flashed her borrowed fires; and now the sky was a-glitter, sown with many stars, now the Milky Way flowed throughout the heaven, and shone white in its long expanse; thus after the painter has played his prelude, while the wall is still mean and proclaims no Apelles, he very carefully plies his pencils, and adroitly disturbs the sticky lime, launches his attack on its juices, and at length introduces all his outlines. Everywhere there appears a silent assembly, an empty throng of cartoons.
The wall’s extreme border is reserved for winged messengers, and scattered throughout the picture a celestial band blows upon hoarse trumpets, puffing out their cheeks, and fill an astonished world with their clangor. The sound is heard by the dead, and the ground painted at the picture’s bottom swells, out from the open earth its children come forth, and many a specter arises.
Thus, when Cadmus gave seeds to the fertile furrows, the pregnant earth grew swollen, the life-filled clod labored, the field was rife with a breathing crop, all the soil grew warm, and there arose a bumper harvest of men.
Now their dust, strewn throughout the world’s sundry climes (whether it has gradually stiffened, compacted within veins of soft ore, or has intermingled itself with plants) is released. The dispersed corpse grows into a single mass once more, their erstwhile articulation rejoins sundered joints, uniting limbs are fit together again. Here a specter rises up anew, its appearance not yet perfected: mangled of visage, by an unseemly wounding deprived of a nose, and with much as yet missing from its deformed body. There, with a feeble motion, life, gradually insinuated into a stiff corpse, barely moves with revived limbs. Horror fills their faces, and in the whole representation fear, fully pervading the astonished figures, shows pale.
Yet tear away your eyes, viewer, and, if they can withstand the glaring daylight, inspect the middle of the wall, where sits God’s risen Son, God Himself, bathed with a tranquil light, showered with dazzling rays. Peaceful flames are shed about His brow, greatly His majesty shines in its full godhead. How changed, oh how changed from Him Who, crucified, atoned for sins not His own, Who dragged out His struggling life as death delayed. But it was in vain that Golgotha craved to bury His dead divinity, as, the rule of the Fates overcome, He sought His native heaven and, borne above the aether, looked down on a tiny moon and a smaller sun.
Now He displays His pierced side and both His hands, the wound in the foot, the marks of the nails, and the traces of a spear once run through Him. Here hasten the blessed shades, a plentiful crew seeks the heavens and reaches for His everlasting gifts. Mothers, the bodies of babes now given over to a long life, young men, boys, unwedded girls stand round and fix their avid eyes on His godhead, drinking in His undying light. The aether resounds with praises, and the whole heaven laughs with gladsome triumph. Impatient love and the joys they have conceived wholly grips their minds, and they are a-boil deep within their breasts. Not equally did the Sibyl exult in her flaming heart when it swelled with the guest pent within and she felt her wits moved by the god’s prickings, warmed by a great infusion of Phoebus.
But what new glare dazzles the eyes? The portrait which the painter has distinguished by a miter, rising from his honorable tomb, supported by a winged servant. I recognize his face, a second Waynflete resides in that countenance, thus he displayed his eyes, his expression: when, alas, will an image equal to his mind be found? When will virtue possess another of his like? In security, he regards the innocent wrath of an angry God, and fixes fearless eyes on his Judge.
But come, now you must look upon a horrible scene of fire mixed with darkness: daubed with abundant paint the walls represent a river afire with molten sulphur, and feigned fire is set alight with so great skill that you would fear for the entire painting, lest the livid fire creep through the whole work and the consumed picture be reduced to fine ash, doomed to perish by its own embers. Here an unhappy throng is brought, and, base to see, gnashes its teeth and grimaces. Implacably, the avenger rages at their backs, and wielding his lightning sword, again expels these sinners from the precincts of Paradise, in a blazing procession. Alas! What is this sad man to do? Where can he betake himself from the celestial wrath? O how much he would now prefer to cultivate virtue in the high aether! But at length he sighs in vain, too late he was dissolved in tears. The irrevocable Fates and an inexorable godhead stand in his way.
How many delights the painting reveals! How many marks of the skillful pencil we scan! What grace of colors offers itself! Many-hued Iris does not display their like, when the flowery rain shines with light in all its moisture, and gleams in every drop.
O splendor of paint, o fair colors, endure! Nor, painting, may your beauty’s glory fade, until you witness the Last Day you yourself depict.
THE BOWLING GREEN
Click here to see the discussion of this poem in the Introduction
Here, where the grassy lawn spreads in its flat plane, and the great area lies as an empty field, when the misty meadows have not yet acknowledged the risen sun, and fat droplets hang on the grass, the relentless sickle crops last night’s growth, shaving a slight harvest from the turf. Then with its industrious motion the revolving stone rolls down the protruding earth and crushes the rising blades. A wooden set glides over this verdant playground, anointed and glistening with oil, to whom the craftsman imparted a round shape, making them easily moved. Yet, lest the incautious knock the wrong one in error by confusing the balls, each sphere stands graven with its own markings. But one fellow wants this kind of ball, which, made unbalanced by an infusion of much metal, rolls in a curve, running an uneven path, whereas another man is pleased by a different kind, which is more sparingly affected by the influence of lead, and this allows it to proceed in a straight line.
So after either judgment or lot has divided the set into equal parts, each man girds his loins. A little ball flies out, a target which designates the future course. He who opens the contest, following the track of this thrown ball, casts the first bowl, but it, feebly sent forth, traces a path tending towards a slight curve, until, its original force gradually expended, it comes to rest. Suddenly one ball after another darts forth.
Soon, when a thick cluster of balls lies strewn in a small circle, crowding around the target and forbidding an easy approach, now a rolling wood makes its appearance more cannily, and gently insinuates itself. But if perchance he who bowled the ball sees it creep along lifelessly, and suddenly lose the motion imparted to it, he urges the sphere’s track and follows it anxiously, cursing its delays and hovering above his running ball. And in order to save the honor of his slack hand, he lays blame on the rough earth and a clod sticking up into the air.
Nor have they restrained their laughter, when a ball is sent rolling by a disgraceful pitch, or the lead affects its track overmuch, and its innate force pulls the globe from a straight path. Then the man who bowled it emits useless noises and, his body bent into a variety of contortions, he rails at its errant wanderings, and curses the wood. But the sphere, scorning the mockery of his wrath, continues on the route it has begun, and, deaf, is unmoved by any complaints.
That ball, however, earns the highest praise and honor which does not break its course or cease its movement until, having slid in amongst the thick crowd, it runs its race to the end and comes to rest leaning against the goal. But a rival strives to shove away the ball clinging to the little spheroid, and with eyes marking the way he strains all his forces and stoutly shoves his missile: scarce idle, the ball goes flying, as he shoves forward his arm.
Not so swiftly is the charioteer borne out of the starting-gate at Elis when, carried on swift wheels, he sees homes go running by, and retreating buildings.
Yet if, impeded by many of its mates, it crashes into these solid companions and throws the balls into confusion, then his bile boils over and he damns his rotten luck, calling gods and stars cruel.
But if it finds an easy entrance and an open lane, his competitor will be robbed of the honor he has gained. The disorderly group applauds, his companions shout “huzzah”in loud tones, all the green rings with noise.
In the meantime Sirius, with his hostile stair, seizes on the exhausted bowlers, and their bodies shed salt droplets. Now breezes, wafting gentle coolness, and shade are sought out, and the flowing moisture is wiped from their brows.
DOMINUS DR. HANNES
A MOST DISTINGUISHED PHYSICIAN AND POET
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O you who sings a song more sweetly than tuneful Orpheus, and who often, with happier result, recalls a soul from the sorrowful shades,
Now, whether you are forcing unbound feet into numbers, or protecting a body ill and scarce clinging to life, or are scrutinizing a cadaver with your keen eyes,
Abandoning your work, snatch yourself for a space of respite, smooth your careworn brow, and happily call for a cup laden with purple Bacchus.
Now request bumpers, mindful of great William; now let that mighty minister, no frail bulwark, excite your thirst, Montagu.
At length leave off your sad work and heavy cares, alas too dutiful! Nor, careful to heal others, diminish your own health.
In vain you press with your thumb the surging blood, its pulsations fast-driven, and attentively examine a fever-swollen vein.
In vain the potions produced by the chemist’s furnace, and the circulation of the blood, and the innate power of herbs fatigue you.
Soon or late, we are all owed to the grave; life, banished by diseases, will desert the inhospitable body, and offspring will mourn or lingering corpse, the offscourings of the soul.
You too will see the phantom shades, which your art shall have rendered fewer; but conquering Libitina will subdue her conqueror in turn.
Life runs along happier for the man who does not make his day troublesome by over-anxiety, or encourages cares that quite sufficiently oppress of their own accord,
And who delights in the passage of smooth-running days, and in a happy life with mutual friendships, well tempered with harmless pleasures.
(ENGLISHED, A PUPPET-SHOW)
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I sing the admirable sights of insubstantial beings, a miniature race, and the hollow, brainless puppet, whom some Prometheus, not employing fire stolen from heaven’s furnace, had created by a more harmless art.
At street-corners where men are a-boil with laughter, and where the performer draws a crowd, delighting the gaping throng with his clowning, as often as they are gripped by eagerness for fun or novelty, they flock together from every side and fill the benches provided them. Nor is the precedence random: seats go for various prices, and different chairs are let for differing sums. At length, when the curtain is raised, their eyes scan the narrow aperture, where a number of strings bisect their vision lest, if the opening be presented with an unoccupied facade, the deception be apparent, unobstructed. Soon the creaking band enter their gaudy home, its walls rough with paint. Here, amidst the humble scenery and narrow confines, the little cast mimes whatever men do (encounters, battles, and triumphs) in its tiny theater.
But in addition to the rest enters a mannikin, shouting in his hoarse voice. A larger pin fastens his costume, and his rolling eyes ape live ones. His paunch swells immoderately. A huge hump protrudes behind from his back. Being larger, he terrifies the Pygmy band, and that crew marvels at the huge giant. Relying on his great size, trusting in his larger arms, he hurls insults at the tiny cast, and, a witty soul, opens his mouth in frequent laughter. Although the serious matter is being enacted with solemn pomp, he incorrigibly scorns the busy commotion and is rudely at hand with his sneering, throwing everything into turmoil. Not infrequently he attacks the gentle ladies, seeking a painted girl with his boorish mouth, planting a kiss on unwilling wood.
But his cast of companions tire out their limbs with manifold pranks, and full of motion, sports with varied leaping.
And often this wooden race makes its appearance glittering with gems and handsome in gold, and takes pride in its bright purple. For, as often as it celebrates some make-believe holiday, an honorable bevy of girls enters in orderly procession, and wee Peers, and little Commoners. You would think the Pygmies to be grown gentle, their wars abandoned, and now, scorning battles against Cranes, to be indulging in play in security, free for gentle dances.
Tiny faeries of this kind dance about when the sun has set from mid-heaven, and that wee people proceed in festive circles, following about on their own footsteps, stamping out a narrow circle with their frequent progress. Their tracks are visible in the morning, the growing grass rises in great abundance, and the circle flourishes with its tender plants.
But these tranquil days do not lack their clouds; wars, awful wars, often arise with great hurly-burly. The quarrelsome cast produces weaponry, tiffs disrupt the peaceful quiet to such point that everyone’s pleasure is spoiled, and intermingled cares put a restraint on their joys. Now swords, powder-packed muskets, leveled spears, gleaming weaponry, and great threats of missiles come to the fore. Doors slam loudly, exploding firecrackers rattle and intermingle their whistling. The ground is all littered with those on the point of death; on all sides slaughtered bands can be seen, the crimes of civil war.
But after battle’s mad passion has burned itself out, and they have given vent to their quarrelsome spirits, with Mars now banished, they seek their various arts anew, their previous concerns. Not infrequently heroes of old, whom the sacred page supplies, and whom a happier age once produced, return here in miniature guise. In their hoary procession you can see the ancient Fathers appear, a venerable troop. Their faces are graven with wrinkles, the profuse grayness of their beards dangles off their chins. Thus sluggish old age shrank Tithonus when he assumed a cicada’s form entire, by degrees assuming this meager guise.
But now I shall explain whence the puppet takes his birth, he whom the crowd demands to move, and what hand supplies his hidden strength. An artisan forges sticks and useless wood into human shapes, forming this wood-born offspring with his tool, and strong lacing binds its legs to its feet, fits arms to its shoulders, and fixes limb to limb, sews joint to joint. Then he adds swift-running pulleys by which he might adroitly manipulate his small burden, and, manipulating this inert mass with his hand, supply hidden motions, and provide its voice. Constructed with these devices, the entire contraption displays skillful signs of carving, and traces of the hard steel. Hence it capers and bounds, incited by agile movement, and emits tiny sounds, and words not its own.
TO THAT VERY DISTINGUISHED MAN,
DOMINUS THOMAS BURNET,
AUTHOR OF A SACRED THEORY OF THE EARTH
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You require no ordinary pinions of song, Burnet, no lowly measures. You scorn the common quill, the service of a weakly Muse.
You are aware of the commingled seeds of things, and you perceive the estranged mass, both the solid earth and the ocean sheltered within her capacious bosom,
As, persevering in the search for truth, you reveal unknown things, scarce concerned how stands popular opinion and common error.
A great crashing is suddenly heard, the earth reels and deserts her tottering foundations, and, her binding loosened, falls on the waters outspread below.
Stricken, the lawlessness of its waters released, in turn the middle sea encloses the lands, and in these waters the remains of the previous world go a-floating.
Now, its prison unbarred, the whale glimpses the sun’s bright image, and wonders at the swimming stars, and the reflections of the shimmering moon.
What a display of words, not to be imitated! What a spirit of genius glows warm! How you quell the Flood’s roaring frenzy!
Who is so steely in his stout heart that he does not walk in trembling with a timid foot, when you disclose the frail calamities of this treacherous world?
Indeed, restoring Nature, soon destined to resume her prior form, requires the fragments of collapsing mountains to assume a simple aspect.
You can see Jove aglow with clouds of sulphur: how a fierce storm rages with its liquid fires, planning a common pyre for the world and its peoples!
Barren, Athos mourns its melted snows and soon, itself molten, pours forth its peak, as its rocks, dissolved, flow through the lowest valleys.
Now heaven’s high walls collapse, and at length (for shame!) your pages add to the conflagration, Burnet, destined, alas, to perish along with their companion world.
Quickly the earth is level, quickly sudden-appearing verdure is everywhere smiling. Behold the globe made smooth! Behold the happy gusts of springtime southerlies, its enduring flowers!
O mighty heart! O great mind, able to embrace the world! If I prophecize aright, our warmth, will receive you as her citizen, in the place where she will flourish renewed.
TITYRUS Since we are met here amidst the dense hazels, their shady crowns, to sing together, let us pronounce the praises of heroes, Mopsus, as is our wont. Thus the hours will pass pleasantly for us as we sing; now come, say whom you will take up to be celebrated in our song.
MOPSUS Tityrus, now let pious gifts of praise be repaid to those who shall have given us leisure and tranquil peace. That is, let the greenwoods resound with lauds of the ones who shall have deigned to rebuild the realm’s ruins.
T. Such great things ill suit our humble, thin reed. But since they say that in great things it is enough to have had the will, I shall sing your praises, William, and those of Mary. For nobody should separate those whom love has joined.
M. So be favorable to me as I sing, Phoebus and you Muses, lest their honors be diminished by the fault of my talent.
T. But I care not of Phoebus or Phoebus’ sisters, for now the theme suits me as I sing my song
M. Though they be ennobled by high pedigree, they are yet more ennobled by their own virtues.
T. If he who governs the heart’s great fervors is a king, then how many realms William holds! How many does Mary!
M. He is famed Mars, she is a second wise Pallas; he wounds with his arms, she by her beauty.
T. When they essayed the sea’s highways, the proud ocean raised itself up to the clouds, swelling with pride.
M. When they attained the land, all we citizens of Arcady offered up a tender young lamb to Pan, the Arcadian god.
T. Then once more the whole field resounded with music, once more shepherds and nymphs joined in chorus.
M. Then the happy lamb sported in the grassy fields, the butting kidlings went a-leaping amidst new flowers.
T. What a victor was William, when he conquered his people’s hearts, conquered the foe, conquered himself!
M. Mary shared her bridegroom’s virtue and kingdom, worthy of three realms, and worthy of so great a husband.
T. He is first in government, second to none in virtue; thus the sun shines with a greater light than the stars.
M. But, as the moon gleams amidst the lesser stars, such Mary seems when surrounded by her company.
T. But now, Tityrus, what things should we pray for, worthy of them, who have granted the flock and the masters of the flock the freedom to play?
M. Let them find the enduring peace they have bestowed!
T. And let either star be late in adorning the firmament!
When Ireland, impatient of her master, cast off her bonds, wholly rushing headlong into war and civil strife, whatever upright men looked on her grave disturbances - such, alas, was virtue’s price - were cast into chains, and dragged out hateful lives with groaning and imprisonment. Far and wide the fields grew shaggy with tares, the rough countryside flourished with a crop of thorns, no autumn came to Ireland, the reaper was lacking for the croplands that sought him. Everywhere a foreign throng strove with self-serving wiles, wanton power oppressed the native populace. The entire nation dissolved in tears, general grievings were manifest in all parts, and she showed her distress with a single face.
Then Ireland grew headlong towards penalties late in the paying, and thus she ripened to her impending downfall; by no means would she have been made deserving of such an avenger, had she earlier had experience of William’s terrible wrath.
England, long dissolved in base repose, cast off her sloth when roused by your commands, Nassau, and stoked her long-dormant fires. What slaughter she worked with you her captain! What campaigns she waged! While murder was a-boil and blood drenched the fields, the busy Sisters toiled at plying their work, and Charon’s crowded skiff groaned under its weight. Hounding their backs, avenging Caesar snatched at the fleeing foeman, and its own ruination brought down each part: a storm of lead overwhelmed this one, that one fell from bar shot from afar, another vainly sought to evade the flying iron as in flight it delayed pursuing retribution and, doomed to death, entrusted itself to a treacherous marsh. By these steps Ireland freed herself from her protracted sorrow; at length waxing indignant at the banished tyrant, she sought nobler bonds, put on hoped-for chains, and, adorned by William’s yoke, grew proud.
Nation so dear to God! Such happy Britons, if no grief had checked the floodtide of joy, and a Duke’s death, scarce ignoble, had not chastised the great passions of rejoicing! He, so often triumphing over the enemy in security, loyal to his exiled gods and his ancestral altars, ah, finally succumbed, distinguished for piety and military feats. Woe for you, how you lie, a corpse of venerable bulk! What honor of face, and happy old age on your brow! Alas for your piety! Alas for your ancient faith! And your martial virtue - when will it find its equal?
But, my untimely Muse, mute your sorrows; be mute, Melpomene, I think this did not occur without divine will. This old man’s fate enhanced your fame, victorious William, nor does any rival virtue share divided honors.
Go, our glory, let savage France acknowledge your conquering hand, and let her, who first witnessed you bearing arms, experience the full powers of your mature frame. But beware, while ardent impulse carries you to war; o beware, lest, driven with excessive martial spirit, you fall upon the enemy and three realms produce a widespread collapse.
At length, James, abandon your insane effort, abandon further reliance on Louis’ arms. Now you vainly lament the honors torn from your brow, your sighs come too late, too late you are now questing, although, if your mind had not been foolish, and if you had not trusted in your consort’s treacherous art, now, happy, you could have been administering laws to peaceful Britons, and been governing your ancestral flock with a better destiny. But now the Fates forbid, and their irrevocable decree.
VERSES MADE ON THE EXPEDITION AT VIGO BY MR. ADDISON, THEN AT VIENNA
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When conquering Spain swelled up with excessive pride, she one succumbed to your arms, Elisa. Because of that, her immoderate ambition and her desire to gain the world have learned to abandon their monstrous greed. You, vain France with your burned ships, have also learned what a woman's hand can do. Do you not see how the fleet is still smoking on the Spanish shore, and how all the Indies are sailing to the British. Go how, scorn a woman's government with that Salic Law of yours, having felt the thunderbolt of an English goddess.
You are conquered, my French sir, yet you never admit you have been beaten, you sing of false trophies amidst a genuine defeat. Mars favors Eugene, but you, Vendôme, celebrate a triumph, the Teuton routs the Celt, but the routed Celt is crowing. The Basque hides his wounds and stretches forth his empty hands, praising the gods as just though they have harmed him. As often as a sorrowful camp bewails its beaten ranks, the court deceives its people with a happy funeral-pyre. Nust now their fleet, a terror to the world, is wrecked, and their Indian treasure is a-flying away as ashes. Vainglorious France, you who turn losses into sources of joy, you may add these these torches to your happy bonfires.
The sun is the king's device, and Phaethon wishes to rival the sun
When Neptune saw the defeat on the Spanish Main, he said, “Jupiter is wielding these weapons agains tthe French. For that fleet which has already burned so many harmless fortresses is perishing by an avenging fire. Phaethon, when he would have destroyed the world, imagining himself to be the sun's equal, likewise burned amidst the waves.”
It was fire that gave everlasting life to the Phoenix. Anne, this ash gives you eternal glory.
Then Anna built a pyre for her dying sister Elissa, and now a new one is being readied by Anne. Lest the doomed poer of kings go without a funeral, Anne has placed funeral torches beneath their fleet.