Anne Kingsmill Finch
A Description Of One Of The Pieces Of Tapistry At Long-Leat
THUS Tapistry of old, the Walls adorn'd,
Ere noblest Dames the artful Shuttle scorn'd:
Arachne, then, with Pallas did contest,
And scarce th' Immortal Work was judg'd the Best.
Nor valorous Actions, then, in Books were fought;
But all the Fame, that from the Field was brought,
Employ'd the Loom, where the kind Consort wrought:
Whilst sharing in the Toil, she shar'd the Fame,
And with the Heroes mixt her interwoven Name.
No longer, Females to such Praise aspire,
And seldom now We rightly do admire.
So much, All Arts are by the Men engross'd,
And Our few Talents unimprov'd or cross'd;
Even I, who on this Subject wou'd compose,
Which the fam'd Urbin for his Pencil chose,
(And here, in tinctur'd Wool we now behold
Correctly follow'd in each Shade, and Fold)
Shou'd prudently from the Attempt withdraw,
But Inclination proves the stronger Law:
And tho' the Censures of the World pursue
These hardy Flights, whilst his Designs I view;
My burden'd Thoughts, which labour for a Vent,
Urge me t'explain in Verse, what by each Face is meant.
Of SERGIUS first, upon his lofty Seat,
With due Regard our Observations treat;
Who, whilst he thence on ELYMAS looks down,
Contracts his pensive Brow into a Frown,
With Looks inquistive he seeks the Cause
Why Nature acts not still by Natures Laws.
'Twas but a Moment, since the Sorcerer's Sight
Receiv'd the Day, and blaz'd infernal Light:
Untouch'd, the Optiques in a Moment fail'd,
Their fierce Illumination quench'd, or veil'd;
Throughout th' Extention of his ample Sway,
No Fact, like this, the Roman cou'd survey,
Who, with spread Hands, invites Mankind to gaze,
And sympathize in the profound Amaze.
To share his Wonder every one combines,
By diff'rent Aspects shewn, and diff'rent Signs.
A comely Figure, near the Consul plac'd,
With serious Mildness and Instruction grac'd,
To Others seems imparting what he saw,
And shews the Wretch with reverential Awe:
Whilst a more eager Person next we find,
Viewing the Wizard with a Skeptic's Mind;
Who his fixt Eyes so near him do's apply,
We think, enliv'ning Beams might from them fly,
To re-inkindle, by so just an Aim,
The radial Sparks, but lately check'd and tame,
As Tapers new put-out will catch approaching Flame.
But dire Surprize th' Enquiry do's succeed,
Whilst full Conviction in his Face we read,
And He, who question'd, now deplores the Deed.
To sacred PAUL a younger Figure guides,
With seeming Warmth, which still in Youth presides;
And pointing forward, Elder Men directs,
In Him, to note the Cause of these Effects;
Upon whose Brow do's evidently shine
Deputed Pow'r, t' inflict the Wrath Divine;
Whilst sad and solemn, suited to their Years,
Each venerable Countenance appears,
Where, yet we see Astonishment reveal'd,
Tho' by the Aged often 'tis conceal'd;
Who the Emotions of their Souls disguize,
Lest by admiring they shou'd seem less Wise.
But to thy Portrait, ELYMAS, we come
Whose Blindness almost strikes the Poet dumb;
And whilst She vainly to Describe thee seeks,
The Pen but traces, where the Pencil speaks.
Of Darkness to be felt, our Scriptures write,
Thou Darken'd seem'st, as thou would'st feel the Light;
And with projected Limbs, betray'st a Dread,
Of unseen Mischiefs, levell'd at thy Head.
Thro' all thy Frame such Stupefaction reigns,
As Night it self were sunk into thy Veins:
Nor by the Eyes alone thy Loss we find,
Each Lineament helps to proclaim thee Blind.
An artful Dimness far diffus'd we grant,
And failing seem all Parts through One important Want.
Oh! Mighty RAPHAEL, justly sure renown'd!
Since in thy Works such Excellence is found;
No Wonder, if with Nature Thou'rt at strife,
Who thus can paint the Negatives of Life;
And Deprivation more expressive make,
Than the most perfect Draughts, which Others take.
Whilst to this Chiefest Figure of the Piece,
All that surround it, Heightnings do encrease:
In some, Amazement by Extreams is shewn,
Who viewing his clos'd Lids, extend their Own.
Nor can, by that, enough their Thoughts express,
Which op'ning Months seem ready to confess.
Thus stand the LICTORS gazing on a Deed,
Which do's all humane Chastisements exceed;
Enfeebl'd seem their Instruments of smart,
When keener Words can swifter Ills impart.
Thou, BARNABAS, though Last, not least our Care,
Seem'st equally employ'd in Praise, and Prayer,
Acknowledging th' Omnipotent Decree,
Yet soft Compassion in thy Face we see;
Whilst lifted Hands implore a kind Relief,
Tho' no Impatience animates thy Grief;
But mild Suspence and Charity benign,
Do all th' excesses of thy Looks confine.
Thus far, our slow Imagination goes:
Wou'd the more skill'd THEANOR his disclose;
Expand the Scene, and open to our Sight
What to his nicer Judgement gives Delight;
Whose soaring Mind do's to Perfections climb,
Nor owns a Relish, but for Things sublime:
Then, wou'd the Piece fresh Beauties still present,
Nor Length of Time wou'd leave the Eye content:
As moments, Hours; as Hours the Days wou'd seem,
Observing here, taught to observe by HIM.
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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William Butler Yeats
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