Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

From the black trumpet's rusty concave broke Sulphureous flames, and clouds of rolling smoke: The pois’nous vapour blots the purple skies, 340 And withers all before it as it flies.

A troop came next, who crowns and armour wore, And proud defiance in their looks they bore : For thee (they cried) amidst alarms and strife, We sail'd in tempests down the stream of life; 345 For thee whole nations fill'd with flames and blood, And swam to empire through the purple flood. Those ills we dar'd, 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; 351 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.

355 Then came the smallest tribe I yet had seen; Plain was their dress, and modest was their mien.

IMITATIONS.
Ver. 356. Then came the smallest, &c.]

I saw anone the fifth route,
That to this lady gan loute,
And down on knees anone to fall,
And to her they besougthen all,
To hiden their good works eke.
And said, that yeve not a leke
For no fame ne such renowne;'
For they for contemplacyoune,
And Goddes love had it wrought,
Ne of fame would they ought.
What, quoth she, and be ye wood ?
And ween ye for to do good,

Great idol of mankind ! we neither claim
The praise of merit, nor aspire to fame !
But safe in deserts from th' applause of men, 360
Would die unheard of, as we liv'd unseen,
'Tis all we beg thee, to conceal from sight
Those acts of goodness, which themselves requite.
O let us still the secret joy partake,
To follow virtue ev’n for virtue's sake.

365
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. 371
She said : in air the trembling music floats,
And on the winds triumphant swell the notes :
So soft, tho' high, so loud, and yet so clear,
Ev’n list’ning Angels lean’d from heav'n to hear :
To farthest shores th’ Ambrosial spirit flies, 376
Sweet to the world, and grateful to the skies.

IMITATIONS.

And for to have it of no fame?
Have ye despite to have my name
Nay ye shall lien everichone:
Blowe thy trump, and that anone
(Quoth she) thou Eolus, I hote,
And ring these folks works by rote.
That all the world may of it heare;
And he gan blow their loos so cleare,
In his golden clarioune,
Through the World went the soune,
All so kindly, and eke so soft,
That their fame was blown aloft."

P.

Next these a youthful train their vows express’d, With feathers crown'd, with gay embroid’ry dress'd;

NOTES.

Ver. 378. Next these a youthful train] Strokes of pleasantry and humour, and satirical reflections on the foibles of common life, are surely too familiar, and unsuited to so grave and majestic a poem as this hitherto has appeared to be. Such incongruities offend propriety; though I know ingenious persons have endeavoured to excuse them, by saying that they add a variety of imagery to the piece. This practice is even defended by a passage in Horace:

“ Et sermone opus est modo tristi, sæpe jocoso,
Defendente vicem modo rhetoris atque poetæ,
Interdum urbani, parcentis viribus, atque

Extenuantis eas consulto." But this judicious remark is, I apprehend, confined to ethic and preceptive kinds of writing, which stand in need of being enlivened with lighter images and sportive thoughts, and where strictures on common life may more gracefully be inserted. But, in the higher kinds of poesy, they appear as unnatural and out of place, as one of the burlesque scenes of Heemskirk would do in a solemn landscape of Poussin. When I see such a line as,

“ And at each blast a Lady's honour dies,”in the Temple of Fame, I lament as much to find it placed there, as to see shops, and sheds, and cottages, erected among the ruins of Dioclesian's baths.

On the revival of literature, the first writers seemed not to have observed any selection in their thoughts and images. Dante, Petrarch, Boccace, Ariosto, make very sudden transitions from

IMITATIONS. Ver. 378. Next these a youthful train, &c.] The reader might compare these twenty-eight lines following, which contain the same matter, with eighty-four of Chaucer, beginning thus :

66 Tho came the sixth companye, And

gan faste to Fame cry,” etc. being too prolix to be here inserted. P.

Hither, they cried, direct your eyes, and see 380
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 : 385
In fact, 'tis true, no nymph we could persuade,
But still in fancy vanquish'd ev'ry maid ;
Of unknown Dutchesses lewd tales we tell,
Yet, would the world believe us, all were well.
The joy let others have, and we the name, 390
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.

Pleas'd with the strange success, vast numbers prest Around the shrine, and made the same request: 395 What you (she cried), unlearn’d in arts to please, Slaves to yourselves, and ev’n fatigu'd 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, 400 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. 405

NOTES.

the sublime to the ridiculous. Chaucer, in his Temple of Mars, amongst many pathetic pictures, has brought in a strange line:

“ The coke is scalded for all his long ladell.”—Ver. 417. No writer has more religiously observed the decorum here recommended than Virgil.

Last, those who boast of mighty mischiefs done, Enslave their country, or usurp a throne; Or who their glory's dire foundation laid On Sov'reigns ruin'd, or on friends betray'd ; Calm, thinking villains, whom no faith could fix, Of crooked counsels and dark politics; 411 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 pow'r unknown Straight chang’d the scene, and snatch'd me from the

throne.

IMITATIONS.

Ver. 406. Last, those who boast of mighty, &c.]

66 Tho came another companye
That had y done the treachery," etc.

P. Ver. 418. This having heard and seen, &c.] The scene here changes from the Temple of Fame to that of Rumour, which is almost entirely Chaucer's. The particulars follow :

“ Tho saw I stonde in a valey,
Under the castle fast by
A house, that Domus Dedali
That Labyrinthus cleped is,
Nas made so wonderly, I wis,
Ne half so queintly y.wrought;
And evermo as swift as thought,
This queint house about went,
That never more it still stent-
And eke this house hath of entrees
As

many as leaves are on trees In summer, when they ben grene; And in the roof yet men may sene

« PoprzedniaDalej »