The Wanderer: A Vision: Canto I
Fain would my verse, Tyrconnel, boast thy name,
Brownlow, at once my subject and my fame!
Oh! could that spirit, which thy bosom warms,
Whose strength surprises, and whose goodness charms!
That various worth! could that inspire my lays,
Envy should smile, and censure learn to praise:
Yet, tho' unequal to a soul like thine,
A generous soul, approaching to divine,
When bless'd beneath such patronage I write,
Great my attempt, tho' hazardous my flight.
O'er ample Nature I extend my views;
Nature to rural scenes invites the muse:
She flies all public care, all venal strife,
To try the still, compar'd with active life;
To prove, by these, the sons of men may owe
The fruits of bliss to bursting clouds of woe;
That e'en calamity, by thought refin'd,
Inspirits and adorns the thinking mind.
Come, Contemplation, whose unbounded gaze,
Swift in a glance, the course of things surveys;
Who in thyself the various view canst find
Of sea, land, air, and heav'n, and human kind;
What tides of passion in the bosom roll;
What thoughts debase, and what exalt the soul,
Whose pencil paints, obsequious to thy will,
All thou survey'st with a creative skill!
Oh, leave awhile thy lov'd, sequester'd shade!
Awhile in wint'ry wilds vouchsafe thy aid!
Then waft me to some olive, bow'ry green,
Where, cloath'd in white, thou shew'st a mind serene;
Where kind content from noise and courts retires,
And smiling sits, while muses tune their lyres:
Where zephyrs gently breathe, while sleep profound
To their soft fanning nods, with poppies crown'd;
Sleep, on a treasure of bright dreams reclines,
By thee bestow'd, whence Fancy colour'd shines,
And flutters round his brow a hov'ring flight,
Varying her plumes in visionary light.
The solar fires now faint and wat'ry burn,
Just where with ice Aquarius frets his urn!
If thaw'd, forth issue, from its mouth severe,
Raw clouds, that sadden all th' inverted year.
When frost and fire with martial pow'rs engag'd,
Frost, northward, fled the war, unequal wag'd!
Beneath the Pole his legions urg'd their flight,
And gain'd a cave profound and wide as night.
O'er cheerless scenes by Desolation own'd,
High on an Alp of ice he sits enthron'd!
One clay-cold hand, his crystal beard sustains,
And scepter'd one, o'er wind and tempest reigns;
O'er stony magazines of hail, that storm
The blossom'd fruit, and flow'ry Spring deform.
His languid eyes, like frozen lakes appear,
Dim-gleaming all the light that wanders here.
His robe snow-wrought, and hoar'd with age; his breath
A nitrous damp, that strikes petrific death.
Far hence lies, ever freez'd, the northern main,
That checks, and renders navigation vain;
That, shut against the sun's dissolving ray,
Scatters the trembling tides of vanquish'd day,
And stretching eastward half the world secures,
Defies discov'ry, and like time endures!
Now frost sent boreal blasts to scourge the air,
To bind the streams, and leave the landscape bear;
Yet when, far west, his violence declines,
Tho' here the brook, or lake, his pow'r confines;
To rocky pools, to cat'racts are unknown
His chains!-to rivers, rapid like the Rhone!
The falling moon cast, cold, a quiv'ring light,
Just silver'd o'er the snow, and sunk!-pale night
Retir'd. The dawn in light-grey mists arose!
Shrill chants the cock! the hungry heifer lows!
Slow blush yon breaking clouds;-the sun's uproll'd!
Th' expansive grey turns azure, chas'd with gold;
White-glitt'ring ice, chang'd like the topaz, gleams,
Reflecting saffron lustre from his beams.
O Contemplation, teach me to explore,
From Britain far remote, some distant shore!
From Sleep a dream distinct and lively claim;
Clear let the vision strike the moral's aim!
It comes! I feel it o'er my soul serene!
Still morn begins, and frost retains the scene!
Hark!-the loud horn's enlivening note's begun!
From rock to vale sweet-wand'ring echoes run!
Still floats the sound shrill-winding from afar!
Wild beasts astonish'd dread the sylvan war!
Spears to the sun in files embattled play,
March on, charge briskly, and enjoy the fray!
Swans, ducks, and geese, and the wing'd winter-brood,
Chatter discordant on yon echoing flood!
At Babel thus, when heav'n the tongue confounds,
Sudden a thousand different jargon-sounds,
Like jangling bells, harsh mingling, grate the ear!
All stare! all talk! all mean; but none cohere!
Mark! wiley fowlers meditate their doom,
And smoaky Fate speeds thund'ring thro' the gloom!
Stop'd short, they cease in airy rings to fly,
Whirl o'er and o'er, and, flutt'ring, fall and die.
Still Fancy wafts me on! deceiv'd I stand,
Estrang'd, advent'rous on a foreign land!
Wide and more wide extends the scene unknown
Where shall I turn, a Wand'rer, and alone?
From hilly winds, and depths where snows remain,
My winding steps up a steep mountain strain!
Emers'd a-top, I mark, the hills subside,
And tow'rs aspire, but with inferior pride!
On this bleak height tall firs, with ice-work crown'd,
Bend, while their flaky winter shades the ground!
Hoarse, and direct, a blust'ring north-wind blows!
On boughs, thick-rustling, crack the crispid snows!
Tangles of frost half fright the wilder'd eye,
By heat oft blacken'd like a low'ring sky!
Hence down the side two turbid riv'lets pour,
And devious two, in one huge cat'ract roar!
While pleas'd the wat'ry progress I pursue,
Yon rocks in rough assemblage rush in view!
In form an amphitheatre they rise;
And a dark gulf in their broad centre lies.
There the dim'd sight with dizzy weakness fails,
And horror o'er the firmest brain prevails!
Thither these mountain-streams their passage take,
Headlong foam down, and form a dreadful lake!
The lake, high-swelling, so redundant grows,
From the heap'd store deriv'd a river flows;
Which, deep'ning, travels through a distant wood,
And thence emerging meets a sister-flood;
Mingled they flash on a wide-op'ning plain,
And pass yon city to the far-seen main.
So blend two souls by heav'n for union made,
And strength'ning forward, lend a mutual aid,
And prove in ev'ry transient turn their aim,
Thro' finite life to infinite the same.
Nor ends the landscape-Ocean, to my sight,
Points a blue arm, where sailing ships delight,
In prospect lessen'd!-Now new rocks rear'd high,
Stretch a cross-ridge, and bar the curious eye;
There lies obscur'd the ripening diamond's ray,
And thence red-branching coral's rent away.
In conic form there gelid crystal grows;
Thro' such the palace-lamp, gay lustre throws!
Lustre, which, thro' dim night, as various plays
As play from yonder snows the changeful rays!
For nobler use the crystal's worth may rise,
If tubes perspective hem the spotless prize;
Thro' these the beams of the far-lengthen'd eye
Measure known stars, and new remoter spy.
Hence Commerce many a shorten'd voyage steers,
Shorten'd to months, the hazard once of years;
Hence Halley's soul etherial flight essays:
Instructive there from orb to orb she strays;
Sees, round new countless suns, new systems roll!
Sees God in all! and magnifies the whole!
Yon rocky side enrich'd the summer scene,
And peasant's search for herbs of healthful green;
Now naked, pale, and comfortless it lies,
Like youth extended cold in death's disguise.
There, while without the sounding tempest swells,
Incav'd secure th' exulting eagle dwells;
And there, when Nature owns prolific spring,
Spreads o'er her young a fondling mother's wing.
Swains on the coast the far-fam'd fish descry,
That gives the fleecy robe the Tyrian dye;
While shells, a scatter'd ornament bestow,
The tinctur'd rivals of the show'ry bow.
Yon limeless sands, loose-driving with the wind,
In future cauldrons useful textures find,
Till, on the furnace thrown, the glowing mass
Brightens, and bright'ning hardens into glass.
When winter halcyons, flick'ring on the wave,
Tune their complaints, yon sea forgets to rave;
Tho' lash'd by storms, with naval pride o'erturn,
The foaming deep in sparkles seems to burn,
Loud winds turn zephyrs to enlarge their notes,
And each safe nest on a calm surface floats.
Now veers the wind full east; and keen, and sore,
Its cutting influence aches in ev'ry pore!
How weak thy fabric, man!-A puff, thus blown,
Staggers thy strength, and echoes to thy groan.
A tooth's minutest nerve, let anguish seize,
Swift kindred fibres catch! (so frail our ease!)
Pinch'd, pierc'd, and torn, enflam'd, and unassuag'd,
They smart, and swell, and throb, and shoot enrag'd!
From nerve to nerve fierce flies th' exulting pain!
-And are we of this mighty fabric vain?
Now my blood chills! scarce thro' my veins it glides!
Sure on each blast a shiv'ring ague rides!
Warn'd, let me this bleak eminence forsake,
And to the vale a diff'rent winding take!
Half I descend: my spirits fast decay;
A terrace now relieves my weary way.
Close with this stage a precipice combines;
Whence still the spacious country far declines!
The herds seem insects in the distant glades,
And men diminish'd, as, at noon, their shades!
Thick on this top o'ergrown for walks are seen
Grey, leafless wood, and winter-greens between!
The red'ning berry, deep-ting'd holly shows,
And matted misletoe, the white, bestows!
Tho' lost the banquet of autumnal fruits,
Tho' on broad oaks no vernal umbrage shoots;
These boughs the silenc'd, shiv'ring songsters seek!
These foodful berries fill the hungry beak.
Beneath appears a place, all outward, bare,
Inward the dreary mansion of despair!
The water of the mountain-road, half-stray'd,
Breaks o'er it wild, and forms a brown cascade.
Has Nature this rough, naked piece design'd,
To hold inhabitants of mortal kind!
She has. Approach'd, appears a deep descent,
Which opens in a rock a large extent!
And hark!-its hollow entrance reach'd, I hear
A trampling sound of footsteps hast'ning near!
A death-like chillness thwarts my panting breast,
Soft! the wish'd object stands at length confest!
Of youth his form!-But why with anguish bent?
Why pin'd with sallow marks of discontent?
Yet Patience, lab'ring to beguile his care,
Seems to raise hope, and smiles away despair.
Compassion, in his eye, surveys my grief,
And in his voice, invites me to relief.
Preventive of thy call, behold my haste,
(He says), nor let warm thanks thy spirits waste!
All fear forget-Each portal I possess,
Duty wide-opens to receive distress.
Oblig'd, I follow, by his guidance led;
The vaulted roof re-echoing to our tread!
And now, in squar'd divisions, I survey
Chambers sequester'd from the glare of day;
Yet needful lights are taught to intervene,
Thro' rifts: each forming a perspective scene.
In front a parlour meets my ent'ring view;
Oppos'd, a room to sweet refection due.
Here my chill'd veins are warm'd by chippy fires,
Thro' the bor'd rock above, the smoke expires;
Neat, o'er a homely board, a napkin's spread,
Crown'd with a heapy canister of bread.
A maple cup is next dispatch'd, to bring
The comfort of the salutary spring:
Nor mourn we absent blessings of the vine,
Here laughs a frugal bowl of rosy wine;
And sav'ry cates, upon clean embers cast,
Lie hissing, till snatch'd off; a rich repast!
Soon leap my spirits with enliven'd pow'r,
And in gay converse glides the feastful hour.
The Hermit, thus: Thou wonder'st at thy fare:
On me, yon city, kind, bestows her care:
Meat for keen famine, and the gen'rous juice,
That warms chill life, her charities produce:
Accept without reward; unask'd 'twas mine;
Here what thy health requires, as free be thine.
Hence learn that God, (who in the time of need,
In frozen desarts can the raven feed)
Well-sought, will delegate some pitying breast,
His second means, to succour man distrest.
He paus'd. Deep thought upon his aspect gloom'd;
Then he, with smile humane, his voice resum'd.
I'm just inform'd, (and laugh me not to scorn)
By one unseen by thee, thou'rt English-born,
Of England I-To me the British state
Rises, in dear memorial, ever great!
Here stand we conscious:-Diffidence suspend!
Free flow our words!-Did ne'er thy muse extend
To grots, where contemplation smiles serene,
Where angels visit, and where joys convene?
To groves, where more than mortal voices rise?
Catch the rapt soul, and waft it to the skies?
This cave!-Yon walks!-But, ere I more unfold,
What artful scenes thy eyes shall here behold,
Think subjects of my toil: nor wond'ring gaze!
What cannot industry completely raise?
Be the whole earth in one great landscape found,
By Industry is all with beauty crown'd!
He, he alone, explores the mine for gain,
Hews the hard rock, or harrows up the plain;
He forms the sword to smite, he sheaths the steel,
Draws health from herbs, and shews the balm to heal;
Or with loom'd wool the native robe supplies;
Or bids young plants in future forests rise;
Or fells the monarch oak, which, borne away,
Shall, with new grace, the distant ocean sway;
Hence golden Commerce views her wealth encrease,
The blissful child of Liberty and Peace.
He scoops the stubborn Alps, and, still employ'd,
Fills, with soft fertile mould, the steril void;
Slop'd up white rocks, small, yellow harvests grow,
And, green on terrac'd stages, vineyards blow!
By him fall mountains to a level space,
An isthmus sinks, and sunder'd seas embrace!
He founds a city on the naked shore,
And desolation starves the tract no more.
From the wild waves he won the Belgic land;
Where wide they foam'd her towns and traffics stand;
He clear'd, manur'd, enlarg'd the furtive ground,
And firms the conquest with his fenceful mound,
Ev'n mid the wat'ry world his Venice rose,
Each fabric there, as Pleasure's seat he shows!
Their marts, sports, councils, are for action sought,
Landscapes for health, and solitude for thought.
What wonder then, I, by his potent aid,
A mansion in a barren mountain made?
Part thou hast view'd!-If further we explore,
Let Industry deserve applause the more.
No frowning care yon blest apartment sees,
There sleep retires, and finds a couch of ease.
Kind dreams, that fly remorse, and pamper'd wealth,
There shed the smiles of innocence and health.
Mark!-Here descends a grot, delightful seat!
Which warms e'en winter, tempers summer heat!
See!-Gurgling from a top, a spring distils!
In mournful measures wind the dripping rills;
Soft coos of distant doves, receiv'd around,
In soothing mixture, swell the wat'ry sound;
And hence the streamlets seek the terrace' shade,
Within, without, alike to all convey'd.
Pass on-New scenes, by my creative pow'r,
Invite Reflection's sweet and solemn hour.
We enter'd, where, in well-rang'd order, stood
Th' instructive volumes of the wise and good.
These friends (said he) tho' I desert mankind,
Good angels never would permit behind.
Each genius, youth conceals, or time displays,
I know; each work some seraph here conveys,
Retirement thus presents my searchful thought,
What heav'n inspir'd, and what the muse has taught;
What Young, satiric, and sublime has writ,
Whose life is virtue, and whose muse is wit.
Rapt I foresee thy Mallet's early aim
Shine in full worth, and shoot at length to fame.
Sweet fancy's bloom in Fenton's lay appears,
And the ripe judgment of instructive years.
In Hill is all that gen'rous souls revere,
To virtue and the muse for ever dear:
And Thomson, in this praise, thy merit see,
The tongue that praises merit, praises thee.
These scorn (said I) the verse-wright of their age,
Vain of a labour'd, languid, useless page;
To whose dim faculty the meaning song
Is glaring, or obscure, when clear, and strong;
Who, in cant phrases, gives a work disgrace;
His wit, and oddness of his tone and face;
Let the weak malice, nurs'd to an essay,
In some low libel a mean heart display;
Those, who once prais'd, now undeceiv'd, despise,
It lives contemn'd a day, then harmless dies.
Or should some nobler bard, their worth, unpraise,
Deserting morals, that adorn his lays,
Alas! too oft each science shews the same,
The great grow jealous of a greater name:
Ye bards, the frailty mourn, yet brave the shock;
Has not a Stillingfleet oppos'd a Locke?
Oh, still proceed, with sacred rapture fir'd!
Unenvy'd had he liv'd, if unadmir'd.
Let Envy, he replied, all ireful rise,
Envy pursues alone the brave and wise;
Maro and Socrates inspire her pain,
And Pope, the monarch of the tuneful train!
To whom be Nature's, and Britannia's praise!
All their bright honours rush into his lays!
And all that glorious warmth his lays reveal,
Which only poets, kings, and patriots feel!
Though gay as mirth, as curious thought sedate,
As elegance polite, as pow'r elate;
Profound as reason, and as justice clear;
Soft as compassion, yet as truth severe;
As bounty copious, as persuasion sweet,
Like nature various, and like art complete;
So fine her morals, so sublime her views,
His life is almost equall'd by his muse.
O Pope! since Envy is decreed by fate,
Since she pursues alone the wise and great;
In one small, emblematic landscape see,
How vast a distance 'twixt thy foe and thee!
Truth from an eminence surveys our scene,
(A hill, where all is clear, and all serene.)
Rude earth-bred storms o'er meaner valleys blow,
And wand'ring mists roll, black'ning, far below;
Dark, and debas'd, like them, is Envy's aim,
And clear, and eminent, like Truth, thy fame.
Thus I. From what dire cause can envy spring?
Or why embosom we a viper's sting?
'Tis Envy stings our darling passion, pride.
Alas! (the man of mighty soul replied)
Why chuse we mis'ries? Most derive their birth
From one bad source-we dread superior worth;
Prefer'd, it seems a satire on our own;
Then heedless to excel we meanly moan:
Then we abstract our views, and Envy show,
Whence springs the mis'ry pride is doom'd to know.
Thus folly pain creates: By wisdom's pow'r,
We shun the weight of many a restless hour-
Lo! I meet wrong; perhaps the wrong I feel
Tends, by the scheme of things, to public weal.
I, of the whole am part-the joy men see,
Must circulate, and so revolve to me.
Why should I then of private loss complain?
Of loss, that proves, perchance, a brother's gain?
The wind, that binds one bark within the bay,
May waft a richer freight its wish'd-for way.
If rains redundant flood the abject ground,
Mountains are but supply'd, when vales are drown'd;
If, with soft moisture swell'd, the vale looks gay,
The verdure of the mountain fades away.
Shall clouds, but at my welfare's call descend?
Shall gravity for me her laws suspend?
For me shall suns their noon-tide course forbear?
Or motion not subsist to influence air?
Let the means vary, be they frost, or flame,
Thy end, O Nature! still remains the same!
Be this the motive of a wise man's care,-
To shun deserving ills, and learn to bear.
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