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For thee whole nations fill'd with flames and blood,
And swam to empire through the purple flood,
Those ills we dared, thy inspiration own;
What virtue seem'd, was done for thee alone.'
• Ambitious fools!' the queen replied, and frown'd,
• Be all your acts in dark oblivion drown'd;
There sleep forgot, with mighty tyrants gone,
Your statues moulder'd, and your names unknown!'
A sudden cloud straight snatch'd them from my sight,
And each majestic phantom sunk in night.
Then came the smallest tribe I yet had seen;
Plain was their dress, and modest was their mien.
* Great idol of mankind; we neither claim
The praise of merit, nor aspire to fame!
But, safe in deserts from the applause of men,
Would die unheard-of, as we lived unseen.
'Tis all we beg thee, to conceal from sight
Those acts of goodness which themselves requite.
O let us still the secret joys partake,
To follow virtue e'en for virtue's sake.'
And live there men, who slight immortal Fame?
Who then with incense shall adore our name?
But, mortals! know, 'tis still our greatest pride,
To blaze those virtues which the good would hide.
Rise! Muses, rise ! add all your tuneful breath;
These must not sleep in darkness and in death.
She said : in air the trembling music floats,
And on the winds triumphant swell the notes ;
So soft, though high, so loud, and yet so clear,
E'en listening angels lean from heaven to hear:
To farthest shores th' ambrosial spirit flies,
Sweet to the world, and grateful to the skies.
Next these a youthful train their vows express'd, With feathers crown'd, with gay embroidery dress'd : 'Hither,' they cried, direct your eyes, and see The men of pleasure, dress, and gallantry; Ours is the place at banquets, balls, and plays; Sprightly our nights, polite are all our days ; Courts we frequent, where 'tis our pleasing care To pay due visits, and address the fair : In fact, 'tis true, no nymph we could persuade, But still in fancy vanquish'd every maid ;
Of unknown duchesses lewd tales we tell,
Yet, would the world believe us, all were well.
The joy let others have, and we the name,
And what we want in pleasure, grant in fame.'
The queen assents, the trumpet rends the skies,
And at each blast a lady's honour dies.
Pleased with the same success, vast numbers press'd Around the shrine, and made the same request :
What you,' she cried, unlearn'd in arts to please, Slaves to yourselves, and e'en fatigued with ease, Who lose a length of undeserving days, Would you usurp the lover's dear-bought praise ? To just contempt, ye vain pretenders, fall, The people's fable, and the scorn of all.' Straight the black clarion sends a horrid sound, Loud laughs burst out, and bitter scoffs fly round, Whispers are heard, with taunts reviling loud, And scornful hisses run through all the crowd.
Last, those who boast of mighty mischiefs done, Enslave their country, or usurp a throne; Or who their glory's dire foundation laid On sovereigns ruin'd or on friends betray'd; Calm, thinking villains, whom no faith could fix, Of crooked counsels and dark politics; Of these a gloomy tribe surround the throne, And beg to make th' immortal treasons known, The trumpet roars, long flaky flames expire, With sparks that seem'd to set the world on fire. At the dread sound, pale mortals stood aghast, And startled nature trembled with the blast.
This having heard and seen, some power unknown Straight changed the scene, and snatch'd me from the Before my view appear'd a structure fair, (throne. Its site uncertain, if in earth or air; With rapid motion turn'd the mansion round; With ceaseless noise the ringing walls resound; Not less in number were the spacious doors, Than leaves on trees, or sands upon the shores; Which still unfolded stand, by night, by day, Pervious to winds, and open every way. As flames by nature to the skies ascend, As weighty bodies to the centre tend,
As to the sea returning rivers roll,
And the touch'd needle trembles to the pole ;
Hither, as to their proper place, arise
All various sounds from earth, and seas, and skies,
Or spoke aloud, or whisper'd in the ear;
Nor ever silence, rest, or peace, is here.
As on the smooth expanse of crystal lakes
The sinking stone at first a circle makes ;
The trembling surface, by the motion stirr'd,
Spreads in a second circle, then a third ;
Wide, and more wide, the floating rings advance,
Fill all the watery plain, and to the margin dance:
Thus every voice and sound, when first they break
On neighbouring air, a soft impression make;
Another ambient circle then they move;
That, in its turn, impels the next above;
Through undulating air the sounds are sent,
And spread o'er all the fluid element.
There various news I heard of love and strife, Of peace and war, health, sickness, death, and
Of loss and gain, of famine and of store,
Of storms at sea, and travels on the shore,
Of prodigies, and portents seen in air,
Of fires and plagues, and stars with blazing hair,
Of turns of fortune, changes in the state,
The falls of favourites, projects of the great,
Of old mismanagements, taxations new :
All neither wholly false, nor wholly true.
Above, below, without, within, around,
Confused, unnumber'd multitudes are found,
Who pass, repass, advance, and glide away:
Hosts raised by fear, and phantoms of a day:
Astrologers, that future fates foreshew,
Projectors, quacks, and lawyers not a few;
And priests, and party zealots, numerous bands,
With home-born lies, or tales from foreign
Each talk'd aloud, or in some secret place,
And wild impatience stared in every face.
The flying rumours gather'd as they rollid,
Scarce any tale was sooner heard than told;
And all who told it added something new,
And all who heard it made enlargements too,
In every ear it spread, on every tongue it grew.
Thus flying east and west, and north and south,
News travell'd with increase from mouth to mouth.
So from a spark, that kindled first by chance,
With gathering force the quickening flames advance;
Till to the clouds their curling heads aspire,
And towers and temples sink in floods of fire.
When thus ripe lies are to perfection sprung,
Full grown, and fit to grace a mortal tongue,
Through thousand vents, impatient, forth they flow,
And rush in millions on the world below,
Fame sits aloft, and points them out their course,
Their date determines, and prescribes their force:
Some to remain, and some to perish soon;
Or wane and wax alternate like the moon.
Around, a thousand winged wonders fly,
Borne by the trumpet's blast, and scatter'd through
There, at one passage, oft you might survey
A lie and truth contending for the way;
And long 'twas doubtful, though so closely pent,
Which first should issue through the narrow vent.
At last agreed, together out they fly,
Inseparable now the truth and lie;
The strict companions are for ever join'd,
And this or that unmix'd, no mortal e'er shall find.
While thus I stood, intent to see and hear,
One came, methought, and whisper'd in my ear:
• What could thus high thy rash ambition raise ?
Art thou, fond youth, a candidate for praise ?"
"Tis true,' said I,' not void of hopes I came,
For who so fond as youthful bards of Fame?
But few, alas! the casual blessing boast,
So hard to gain, so easy to be lost.
How vain that second life in others' breath,
Th'estate which wits inherit after death!
Ease, health, and life, for this they must resign,
(Unsure the tenure, but how vast the fine!)
The great man's curse, without the gains, endure,
Be envied, wretched, and be flatter'd, poor ;
All luckless wits their enemies professid,
And all successful, jealous friends at best.
Nor Fame I slight, nor for her favours call;
She comes unlook'd-for, if she comes at all.
But if the purchase costs so dear a price
As soothing folly, or exalting vice;
Oh! if the muse must flatter lawless sway,
And follow still where fortune leads the way;
Or if no basis bear my rising name,
But the fall’n ruins of another's fame;
Then, teach me, Heaven! to scorn the guilty bays,
Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise:
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown ;
Oh, grant an honest fame, or grant me none!'
THERE lived in Lombardy, as authors write,
In days of old, a wise and worthy knight;
Of gentle manners, as of generous race,
Bless'd with much sense, more riches, and some grace;
Yet led astray by Venus' soft delights,
He scarce could rule some idle appetites:
For long ago, let priests say what they could,
Weak sinful laymen were but flesh and blood.
But in due time, when sixty years were o’er,
He vow'd to lead this vicious life no more :
Whether pure holiness inspired his mind,
Or dotage tum'd his brain, is hard to find;
But his high courage prick'd him forth to wed,
And try the pleasures of a lawful bed.
This was his nightly dream, his daily care,
And to the heavenly powers his constant prayer-
Once ere he died, to taste the blissful life
Of a kind husband and a loving wife.
These thoughts he fortified with reasons still (For none want reasons to confirm their will).