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by Thomas Warton |

Verses on Sir Joshua Reynolds Painted Window at New College Oxford

 Ah, stay thy treacherous hand, forbear to trace
Those faultless forms of elegance and grace!
Ah, cease to spread the bright transparent mass,
With Titian's pencil, o'er the speaking glass!
Nor steal, by strokes of art with truth combin'd,
The fond illusions of my wayward mind!
For long, enamour'd of a barbarous age,
A faithless truant to the classic page;
Long have I lov'd to catch the simple chime
Of minstrel-harps, and spell the fabling rime;
To view the festive rites, the knightly play,
That deck'd heroic Albion's elder day;
To mark the mouldering halls of barons bold,
And the rough castle, cast in giant mould;
With Gothic manners Gothic arts explore,
And muse on the magnificence of yore.
But chief, enraptur'd have I lov'd to roam, A lingering votary, the vaulted dome, Where the tall shafts, that mount in massy pride, Their mingling branches shoot from side to side; Where elfin sculptors, with fantastic clew, O'er the long roof their wild embroidery drew; Where Superstition with capricious hand In many a maze the wreathed window plann'd, With hues romantic ting'd the gorgeous pane, To fill with holy light the wondrous fane; To aid the builder's model, richly rude, By no Vitruvian symmetry subdu'd; To suit the genius of the mystic pile: Whilst as around the far-retiring aisle, And fretted shrines, with hoary trophies hung, Her dark illumination wide she flung, With new solemnity, the nooks profound, The caves of death, and the dim arches frown'd.
From bliss long felt unwillingly we part: Ah, spare the weakness of a lover's heart! Chase not the phantoms of my fairy dream, Phantoms that shrink at Reason's painful gleam! That softer touch, insidious artist, stay, Nor to new joys my struggling breast betray! Such was a pensive bard's mistaken strain.
-- But, oh, of ravish'd pleasures why complain? No more the matchless skill I call unkind, That strives to disenchant my cheated mind.
For when again I view thy chaste design, The just proportion, and the genuine line; Those native portraitures of Attic art, That from the lucid surface seem to start; Those tints, that steal no glories from the day, Nor ask the sun to lend his streaming ray: The doubtful radiance of contending dyes, That faintly mingle, yet distinctly rise; 'Twixt light and shade the transitory strife; The feature blooming with immortal life: The stole in casual foldings taught to flow, Not with ambitious ornaments to glow; The tread majestic, and the beaming eye, That lifted speaks its commerce with the sky; Heaven's golden emanation, gleaming mild O'er the mean cradle of the Virgin's child: Sudden, the sombrous imagery is fled, Which late my visionary rapture fed: Thy powerful hand has broke the Gothic chain, And brought my bosom back to truth again; To truth, by no peculiar taste confin'd, Whose universal pattern strikes mankind; To truth, whose bold and unresisted aim Checks frail caprice, and fashion's fickle claim; To truth, whose charms deception's magic quell, And bind coy Fancy in a stronger spell.
Ye brawny Prophets, that in robes so rich, At distance due, possess the crisped niche; Ye rows of Patriarchs, that sublimely rear'd Diffuse a proud primeval length of beard: Ye Saints, who clad in crimson's bright array, More pride than humble poverty display: Ye Virgins meek, that wear the palmy crown Of patient faith, and yet so fiercely frown: Ye Angels, that from clouds of gold recline, But boast no semblance to a race divine: Ye tragic tales of legendary lore, That draw devotion's ready tear no more; Ye martyrdoms of unenlighten'd days, Ye miracles, that now no wonder raise: Shapes, that with one broad glare the gazer strike, Kings, bishops, nuns, apostles, all alike! Ye colours, that th' unwary sight amaze, And only dazzle in the noontide blaze! No more the sacred window's round disgrace, But yield to Grecian groups the shining space.
Lo, from the canvas Beauty shifts her throne, Lo, Picture's powers a new formation own! Behold, she prints upon the crystal plain, With her own energy, th' expressive stain! The mighty master spreads his mimic toil More wide, nor only blends the breathing oil; But calls the lineaments of life complete From genial alchymy's creative heat; Obedient forms to the bright fusion gives, While in the warm enamel Nature lives.
Reynolds, 'tis thine, from the broad window's height, To add new lustre to religious light: Not of its pomp to strip this ancient shrine, But bid that pomp with purer radiance shine: With arts unknown before, to reconcile The willing Graces to the Gothic pile.


by Thomas Warton |

The Pleasures of Melancholy

 Mother of musings, Contemplation sage,
Whose grotto stands upon the topmost rock
Of Teneriffe; 'mid the tempestuous night,
On which, in calmest meditation held,
Thou hear'st with howling winds the beating rain
And drifting hail descend; or if the skies
Unclouded shine, and through the blue serene
Pale Cynthia rolls her silver-axled car,
Whence gazing steadfast on the spangled vault
Raptured thou sitt'st, while murmurs indistinct
Of distant billows soothe thy pensive ear
With hoarse and hollow sounds; secure, self-blest,
There oft thou listen´st to the wild uproar
Of fleets encount´ring, that in whispers low
Ascends the rocky summit, where thou dwell´st
Remote from man, conversing with the spheres!
O, lead me, queen sublime, to solemn glooms
Congenial with my soul; to cheerless shades,
To ruin´d seats, to twilight cells and bowers,
Where thoughtful Melancholy loves to muse
Her favorite midnight haunts.
The laughing scenes Of purple Spring, where all the wanton train Of Smiles and Graces seem to lead the dance In sportive round, while from their hands they shower Ambrosial blooms and flowers, no longer charm; Tempe, no more I court thy balmy breeze, Adieu green vales! Ye broider´d meads, adieu! Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown piles Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve, Where through some western window the pale moon Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light; While sullen sacred silence reigns around, Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bower Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp, Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green Invests some wasted tower.
Or let me tread Its neighb'ring walk of pines, where mus'd of old The cloister'd brothers : thro' the gloomy void That far extends beneath their ample arch As on I pace, religious horror wraps My soul in dread repose.
But when the world Is clad in Midnight's raven-colour'd robe, 'Mid hollow charnel let me watch the flame Of taper dim, shedding a livid glare O'er the wan heaps; while airy voices talk Along the glimm'ring walls; or ghostly shape At distance seen, invites with beck'ning hand My lonesome steps, thro' the far-winding vaults.
Nor undelightful is the solemn noon Of night, when haply wakeful from my couch I start: lo, all is motionless around! Roars not the rushing wind; the sons of men And every beast in mute oblivion lie; All nature's hush'd in silence and in sleep.
O then how fearful is it to reflect, That thro' the still globe's awful solitude, No being wakes but me! till stealing sleep My drooping temples bathes in opiate dews.
Nor then let dreams, of wanton folly born My senses lead thro' flow'ry paths of joy; But let the sacred Genius of the night Such mystic visions send, as Spenser saw, When thro' bewild'ring Fancy's magic maze, To the fell house of Busyrane, he led Th' unshaken Britomart; or Milton knew, When in abstracted thought he first conceiv'd All heav'n in tumult, and the Seraphim Come tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold.
Let others love soft Summer's evening smiles, As listening to the distant waterfall, They mark the blushes of the streaky west'; I choose the pale December's foggy glooms.
Then, when the sullen shades of evening close, Where through the room a blindly- glimmering gleam They dying embers scatter, far remote From Mirth's mad shouts, that through th' illumined roof Resound with festive echo, let me sit, Blest with the lowly cricket's drowsy dirge.
Then let my thought contemplative explore This fleeting state of things, the vain delights, The fruitless toils, that still our search elude, As through the wilderness of life we rove.
This sober hour of silence will unmask False Folly's smile , that like the dazzling spells Of wily Comus cheat th' unweeting eye With blear illusion, and persuade to drink That charmed cup, which Reason's mintage fair Unmoulds, and stamps the monster on the man.
Eager we taste, but in the luscious draught Forget the poisonous dregs that lurk beneath.
Few know that elegance of soul refin'd, Whose soft sensation feels a quicker joy From Melancholy's scenes, than the dull pride Of tasteless splendour and magnificence Can e'er afford.
Thus Eloise, whose mind Had languish'd to the pangs of melting love, More genuine transport found, as on some tomb Reclin'd, she watch'd the tapers of the dead; Or thro' the pillar'd aisles, amid pale shrines Of imag'd saints, and intermingled graves, Mus'd a veil'd votaress; than Flavia feels, As thro' the mazes of the festive ball, Proud of her conquering charms, and beauty's blaze, She floats amid the silken sons of dress, And shines the fairest of th' assembled fair.
When azure noontide cheers the daedal globe, And the blest regent of the golden day Rejoices in his bright meridian tower, How oft my wishes ask the night's return, That best befriends the melancholy mind! Hail, sacred Night! thou too shalt share my song! Sister of ebon-scepter´d Hecate, hail! Whether in congregated clouds thou wrapp'st Thy viewless chariot, or with silver crown Thy beaming head encirclest, ever hail! What though beneath thy gloom the sorceress train, Far in obscured haunt of Lapland moors, With rhymes uncouth the bloody caldron bless; Though Murder wan beneath thy shrouding shade Summons her slow-eyed votaries to devise Of secret slaughter, while by one blue lamp In hideous conference sits the listening band, And start at each low wind, or wakeful sound; What though thy stay the pilgrim curseth oft, As all-benighted in Arabian wastes He hears the wilderness around him howl With roaming monsters, while on his hoar head The black-descending tempest ceaseless beats; Yet more delightful to my pensive mind Is thy return, than blooming morn's approach, E'en then, in youthful pride of opening May, When from the portals of the saffron east She sheds fresh roses, and ambrosial dews.
Yet not ungrateful is the morn's approach, When dropping wet she comes, and clad in clouds, While through the damp air scowls the lowering south, Blackening the landscape's face, that grove and hill In formless vapours undistinguish'd swim: Th' afflicted of the sadden'd groves Hail not the sullen gloom; the waving elms That, hoar through time, and ranged in thick array, Enclose with stately row some rural hall, Are mute, nor echo with the clamours hoarse Of rooks rejoicing on their airy; boughs While to the shed the dripping poultry crowd, A mournful train: secure the village hind Hangs o'er the crackling blaze, nor tempts the storm; Fix'd in unfinish'd furrow furrow rests the plough: Rings not the high wood with enliven'd shouts Of early hunter: all is silence drear; And deeptest saness wraps the face of things.
Thro' Pope's soft song tho' all the Graces breathe, And happiest art adorn his Attic page; Yet does my mind with sweeter transport glow, As at the root of mossy trunk reclin'd, In magic Spenser's wildly-warbled song I see deserted Una wander wide Thro' wasteful solitudes, and lurid heaths, Weary, forlorn; than when the fated fair Upon the bosom bright of silver Thames Launches in all the lustre of brocade, Amid the splendours of the laughing Sun.
The gay description palls upon the sense, And coldly strikes the mind with feeble bliss.
Ye youths of Albion's beauty-blooming isle, Whose brows have worn the wreath of luckless love, Is there a pleasure like the pensive mood, Whose magic wont to soothe your soften'd souls? O tell how rapturous the joy, to melt To Melody's assuasive voice; to bend Th' uncertain step along the midnight mead, And pour your sorrows to the pitying moon, By many a slow trill from the bird of woe Oft interrupted; in embowering woods By darksome brook to muse, and there forget The solemn dulness of the tedious world, While Fancy grasps the visionary fair: And now no more th' abstracted ear attends The water's murmuring lapse, th' entranced eye Pierces no longer through th' extended rows Of thick-ranged trees; till haply from the depth The woodman's stroke, or distant tinkling team Or heifers rustling through the brake, alarms Th' illuded sense, and mars the golden dream.
These are delights that absence drear has made Familiar to my soul, e'er since the form Of young Sapphira, beauteous as the Spring, When from her violet-woven couch awaked By frolic Zephyr's hand, her tender cheek Graceful she lifts, and blushing from her bower Issues to clothe in gladsome-glistering green The genial globe, first met my dazzled sight: These are delights unknown to minds profane, And which alone the pensive soul can taste.
The taper'd choir, at the late hour of prayer, Oft let me tread, while to th' according voice The many-sounding organ peals on high The clear slow-dittied chant, or varied hymn, Till all my soul is bathed in ecstasies, And lapp'd in Paradise.
Or let me sit Far in sequester'd aisles of the deep dome, There lonesome listen to the sacred sounds, Which, as they lengthen through the Gothic vaults, In hollow murmurs reach my ravish'd ear.
Nor when the lamps expiring yield to night, And solitude returns, would I forsake The solemn mansion, but attentive mark The due clock swinging slow with sweepy sway, Measuring Time's flight with momentary sound.
Nor let me fail to cultivate my mind With the soft thrillings of the tragic Muse, Divine Melpomene, sweet Pity's nurse, Queen of the stately step, and flowing pall.
Now let Monimia mourn streaming eyes Her joys incestuous, and polluted love: Now let soft Juliet in the gaping tomb Print the last kiss on her true Romeo's lips, His lips yet reeking from the deadly draught: Or Jaffier kneel for one forgiving look.
Nor seldom let the Moor on Desdemone Pour the misguided threats of jealous rage.
By soft degrees the manly torrent steals From my swollen eyes; and at a brother's woe My big heart melts in sympathizing tears.
What are the splendours of the gaudy court, Its tinsel trappings, and its pageant pomps? To me far happier seems the banish'd lord, Amid Siberia's unrejoicing wilds Who pines all lonesome, in the chambers hoar Of some high castle shut, whose windows dim In distant ken discover trackless plains, Where Winter ever whirls his icy car; While still repeated objects of his view, The gloomy battlements, and ivied spires, That crown the solitary dome, arise; While from the topmost turret the slow clock, Far heard along th' inhospitable wastes, With sad-returning chime awakes new grief; Ev'n he far happier seems than is the proud, The potent Satrap, whom he left behind `Mid Moscow's golden palaces, to drown In ease and luxury the laughing hours.
Illustrious objects strike the gazer's mind With feeble bliss, and but allure the sight, Nor rose with impulse quick th' unfeeling heart.
Thus seen by shepard from Hymettus' brow, What daedal landscapes smile! here palmy groves, Resounding once with Plato's voice, arise, Amid whose umbrage green her silver head Th' unfading olive lifts; here vine-clad hills Lay forth their purple store, and sunny vales In prospect vast their level laps expand, Amid whose beauties glistering Athens towers.
Though through the blissful scenes Ilissus roll His sage-inspiring flood, whose winding marge The thick-wove laurel shades; though roseate Morn Pour all her splendors on th' empurpled scene; Yet fells the hoary hermit truer joys, As from the cliff that o'er his cavern hangs He views the piles of fallen Persepolis In deep arrangement hide the darksome plain.
Unbounded waste! the mouldering obelisk Here, like a blasted oak, ascends the clouds; Here Parian domes their vaulted halls disclose Horrid with thorn, where lurks th' unpitying thief, Whence flits the twilight-loving bat at eve, And the deaf adder wreaths her spotted train, The dwellings once of elegance and art.
Here temples rise, amid whose hallow'd bounds Spires the black pine, while through the naked street , Once haunt of tradeful merchants, springs the grass: Here columns heap'd on prostrate columns, torn From their firm base, increase the mouldering mass.
Far as the sight can pierce, appear the spoils Of sunk magnificence! A blended scene Of moles, fanes, arches, domes, and palaces, Where, with his brother Horror, Ruin sits.
O come then, Melancholy, queen of thought! O come with saintly look, and steadfast step, From forth thy cave embower'd with mournful yew, Where ever to the curfew's solemn sound Listening thou sitt'st, and with thy cypress bind Thy votary's hair, and seal him for thy son.
But never let Euphrosyne beguile With toys of wanton mirth my fixed mind, Nor in my path her primrose-garland cast.
Though 'mid her train the dimpled Hebe bare Her rosy bosom to th' enamour'd view; Though Venus, mother of the Smiles and Loves, And Bacchus, ivy-crown'd, in citron bower With her on nectar-streaming fruitage feast: What though 'tis hers to calm the lowering skies, And at her presence mild th' embattled clouds Disperse in air, and o'er the face of heaven New day diffusive gleam at her approach; Yet are these joys that Melancholy gives, Than all her witless revels happier far; These deep-felt joys, by Contemplation taught.
Then ever, beautious Contemplation, hail! From thee began, auspicious maid, my song, With thee shall end; for thou art fairer far Than are the nymph of Cirrha´s mossy grot; To loftier rapture thou canst wake the thought, Than all the fabling Poets´; boasted powers.
Hail, queen divine! whom, as tradition tells, Once in his evening walk a druid found, Far in a hollow glade of Mona´s woods; And piteous bore with hospitable hand To the close shelter of his oaken bower.
There soon the sage admiring mark´d the dawn Of solemn musing in your pensive thought; For when a smiling babe, you loved to lie Oft deeply listening to the rapid roar Of wood-hung Menai, stream of druids old.


by Thomas Warton |

Written at Stonehenge

 Thou noblest monument of Albion's isle!
Whether by Merlin's aid, from Scythia's shore,
To Amber's fatal plain Pendragon bore,
Huge frame of giant-hands, the mighty pile
T' entomb his Britons slain by Hengist's guile:
Or Druid priests, sprinkled with human gore,
Taught 'mid thy massy maze their mystic lore:
Or Danish chiefs, enrich'd with savage spoil,
To Victory's idol vast, an unhewn shrine,
Rear'd the rude heap: or, in thy hallow'd round,
Repose the kings of Brutus' genuine line;
Or here those kings in solemn state were crown'd:
Studious to trace thy wondrous origine,
We muse on many an ancient tale renown'd.


by Thomas Warton |

Solitude at an Inn

 Oft upon the twilight plain,
Circled with thy shadowy train,
While the dove at distance coo'd,
Have I met thee, Solitude!
Then was loneliness to me
Best and true society,
But ah! how alter'd is thy mien
In this sad deserted scene!
Here all thy classic pleasures cease,
Musing mild, and thoughtful peace;
Here thou com'st in sullen mood,
Not with thy fantastic brood
Of magic shapes and visions airy
Beckon'd from the land of Fairy:
'Mid the melancholy void
Not a pensive charm enjoy'd!
No poetic being here
Strikes with airy sounds mine ear;
No converse here to fancy cold
With many a fleeting form I hold,
Here all inelegant and rude
Thy presence is, sweet Solitude.


by Thomas Warton |

On King Arthurs Round Table at Winchester

 Where Venta's Norman castle still uprears
Its rafter'd hall, that o'er the grassy foss,
And scatter'd flinty fragments clad in moss,
On yonder steep in naked state appears;
High hung remains, the pride of war-like years,
Old Arthur's board: on the capacious round
Some British pen has sketch'd the names renown'd,
In marks obscure, of his immortal peers.
Though join'd by magic skill, with many a rhyme, The Druid frame, unhonour'd, falls a prey To the slow vengeance of the wizard Time, And fade the British characters away; Yet Spenser's page, that chants in verse sublime Those chiefs, shall live, unconscious of decay.


by Thomas Warton |

Ode To Sleep

 On this my pensive pillow, gentle Sleep!
Descend, in all thy downy plumage drest:
Wipe with thy wing these eyes that wake to weep,
And place thy crown of poppies on my breast.
O steep my senses in oblivion's balm, And sooth my throbbing pulse with lenient hand; This tempest of my boiling blood becalm! Despair grows mild at thy supreme command.
Yet ah! in vain, familiar with the gloom, And sadly toiling through the tedious night, I seek sweet slumber, while that virgin bloom, For ever hovering, haunts my wretched sight.
Nor would the dawning day my sorrows charm: Black midnight and the blaze of noon alike To me appear, while with uplifted arm Death stands prepar'd, but still delays, to strike.


by Thomas Warton |

While Summer Suns Oer the Gay Prospect Playd

 While summer suns o'er the gay prospect play'd,
Through Surrey's verdant scenes, where Epsom spread
'Mid intermingling elms her flowery meads,
And Hascombe's hill, in towering groves array'd,
Rear'd its romantic steep, with mind serene,
I journey'd blithe.
Full pensive I return'd; For now my breast with hopeless passion burn'd, Wet with hoar mists appear'd the gaudy scene, Which late in careless indolence I pass'd; And Autumn all around those hues had cast Where past delight my recent grief might trace.
Sad change, that Nature a congenial gloom Should wear, when most, my cheerless mood to chase, I wish'd her green attire, and wonted bloom!