THE MINSTREL; OR,THE PROGRESS OF GENIUS (1771)
JAMES BEATTIE 17351803)
Lo! where the stripling, wrapt in wonder, roves
Beneath the precipice o’erhung with pine;
And sees, on high, amidst th’ encircling groves,
From cliff to cliff the foaming torrents shine:
While waters, woods, and winds, in concert join,
And Echo swells the chorus to the skies.
Would Edwin this majestic scene resign
For aught the huntsman’s puny craft supplies?
Ah! no: he better knows great Nature’s charms to prize.
And oft he traced the uplands, to survey,
When o’er the sky advanced the kindling dawn,
The crimson cloud, blue main, and mountain grey,
And lake, dim-gleaming on the smoky lawn;
Far to the west the long long vale withdrawn,
Where twilight loves to linger for a while;
And now he faintly kens the bounding fawn,
And villager abroad at early toil.
But, lo! the sun appears! and heaven, earth, ocean, smile.
And oft the craggy cliff he loved to climb,
When all in mist the world below was lost.
What dreadful pleasure! there to stand sublime,
Like shipwreck’d mariner on desert coast,
And view th’ enormous waste of vapour, tost
In billows, lengthening to th’ horizon round,
Now scoop’d in gulfs, with mountains now emboss’d!
And hear the voice of mirth and song rebound,
Flocks, herds, and waterfalls, along the hoar profound!
In truth he was a strange and wayward wight,
Fond of each gentle, and each dreadful scene.
In darkness, and in storm, he found delight:
Nor less, than when on ocean-wave serene
The southern sun diffused his dazzling shene.
E’en sad vicissitude amused his soul:
And if a sigh would sometimes intervene,
And down his cheek a tear of pity roll,
A sign, a tear, so sweet, he wish’d not to control.
. . .
See, in the rear of the warm sunny shower,
The visionary boy from shelter fly!
For now the storm of summer-rain is o’er,
And cool, and fresh, and fragrant, is the sky.
And, lo! in the dark east, expanded high,
The rainbow brightens to the setting sun!
Fond fool, that deem’st the streaming glory nigh,
How vain the chace thine ardour has begun!
’Tis fled afar, ere half thy purposed race be run.
Yet couldst thou learn, that thus it fares with age,
When pleasure, wealth, or power, the bosom warm,
This baffled hope might tame thy manhood’s rage,
And Disappointment of her sting disarm.
But why should foresight thy fond heart alarm?
Perish the lore that deadens young desire!
Pursue, poor imp, th’ imaginary charm,
Indulge gay Hope, and Fancy’s pleasing fire:
Fancy and Hope too soon shall of themselves expire.
When the long-sounding curfew from afar
Loaded with loud lament the lonely gale,
Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star,
Lingering and listening, wander’d down the vale.
There would he dream of graves, and corses pale;
And ghosts, that to the charnel-dungeon throng,
And drag a length of clanking chain, and wail,
Till silenced by the owl’s terrific song,
Or blast that shrieks by fits the shuddering isles along.
Or, when the setting moon, in crimson dyed,
Hung o’er the dark and melancholy deep,
To haunted stream, remote from man, he hied,
Where Fays of yore their revels wont to keep;
And there let Fancy roam at large, till sleep
A vision brought to his intranced sight.
And first, a wildly-murmuring wind ‘gan creep
Shrill to his ringing ear; then tapers bright,
With instantaneous gleam, illumed the vault of Night.
[SOURCE: James Beattie, The Minstrel; or, The Progress of Genius, 5th edn (London: Edward and Charles Dilly; Edinburgh: William Creech, 1775), pp. 1012, 1617]
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