POEMS BY MARK AKENSIDE:
THE COMPLAINT Poem By Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
Tempt me no more, insidious Love:
Thy soothing sway
Long did my youthful bosom prove:
At length thy treason is discern’d,
At length some dear-bought caution earn’d:
Away! nor hope my riper age to move.
I know, I see
Her merit. Needs it now be shown,
Alas! to me?
How often, to myself unknown,
The graceful, gentle, virtuous maid
Have I admired! How often said–
What joy to call a heart like hers one’s own!
But, flattering god,
O squanderer of content and ease
In thy abode
Will care’s rude lesson learn to please?
O say, deceiver, hast thou won
Proud Fortune to attend thy throne,
Or placed thy friends above her stern decrees?
FOR A COLUMN AT RUNNYMEDE Poem By Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
THOU, who the verdant plain dost traverse here
While Thames among his willows from thy view
Retires; O stranger, stay thee, and the scene
Around contemplate well. This is the place
Where England’s ancient barons, clad in arms
And stern with conquest, from their tyrant king
(Then rendered tame) did challenge and secure
The charter of thy freedom. Pass not on
Till thou hast blest their memory, and paid
Those thanks which God appointed the reward
Of public virtue. And if chance thy home
Salute thee with a father’s honour’d name,
Go, call thy sons: instruct them what a debt
They owe their ancestors; and make them swear
To pay it, by transmitting down entire
Those sacred rights to which themselves were born.
TO THE MUSE Poem By Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
Queen of my songs, harmonious maid,
Ah! why hast thou withdrawn thy aid?
Ah! why forsaken thus my breast
With inauspicious damps oppress’d?
Where is the dread prophetic heat
With which my bosom wont to beat?
Where all the bright mysterious dreams
Of haunted groves and tuneful streams,
That woo’d my genius to divinest themes?
Say, goddess, can the festal board,
Or young Olympia’s form adored;
Say, can the pomp of promised fame
Relume thy faint, thy dying flame?
Or have melodious airs the power
To give one free, poetic hour?
Or, from amid the Elysian train,
The soul of Milton shall I gain,
To win thee back with some celestial strain?
O powerful strain! O sacred soul!
His numbers every sense control:
And now again my bosom burns;
The Muse, the Muse herself returns.
Such on the banks of Tyne, confess’d,
I hail’d the fair immortal guest,
When first she seal’d me for her own,
Made all her blissful treasures known,
And bade me swear to follow Her alone.
TO THE EVENING STAR Poem By Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
To-night retired, the queen of heaven
With young Endymion stays:
And now to Hesper it is given
A while to rule the vacant sky,
Till she shall to her lamp supply
A stream of brighter rays.
O Hesper, while the starry throng
With awe thy path surrounds,
Oh, listen to my suppliant song,
If haply now the vocal sphere
Can suffer thy delighted ear
To stoop to mortal sounds.
So may the bridegroom’s genial strain
Thee still invoke to shine:
So may the bride’s unmarried train
To Hymen chant their flattering vow,
Still that his lucky torch may glow
With lustre pure as thine.
Far other vows must I prefer
To thy indulgent power.
Alas, but now I paid my tear
On fair Olympia’s virgin tomb:
And lo, from thence, in quest I roam
Of Philomela’s bower.
Propitious send thy golden ray,
Thou purest light above:
Let no false flame seduce to stray
Where gulf or steep lie hid for harm:
But lead where music’s healing charm
May soothe afflicted love.
To them, by many a grateful song
In happier seasons vow’d,
These lawns, Olympia’s haunt, belong:
Oft by yon silver stream we walk’d,
Or fix’d, while Philomela talk’d,
Beneath yon copses stood.
Nor seldom, where the beechen boughs
That roofless tower invade,
We came while her enchanting Muse
The radiant moon above us held:
Till by a clamorous owl compell’d
She fled the solemn shade.
But hark; I hear her liquid tone.
Now, Hesper, guide my feet
Down the red marl with moss o’ergrown,
Through yon wild thicket next the plain,
Whose hawthorns choke the winding lane,
Which leads to her retreat.
See the green space; on either hand
Enlarged it spreads around:
See, in the midst she takes her stand,
Where one old oak his awful shade
Extends o’er half the level mead
Enclosed in woods profound.
Hark, through many a melting note
She now prolongs her lays:
How sweetly down the void they float!
The breeze their magic path attends,
The stars shine out, the forest bends,
The wakeful heifers gaze.
Whoe’er thou art whom chance may bring
To this sequester’d spot,
If then the plaintive Syren sing,
Oh! softly tread beneath her bower,
And think of heaven’s disposing power,
Of man’s uncertain lot.
Oh! think, o’er all this mortal stage,
What mournful scenes arise:
What ruin waits on kingly rage,
How often virtue dwells with woe,
How many griefs from knowledge flow,
How swiftly pleasure flies.
O sacred bird, let me at eve,
Thus wandering all alone,
Thy tender counsel oft receive,
Bear witness to thy pensive airs,
And pity Nature’s common cares,
Till I forget my own.
ON THE WINTER SOLSTICE Poem By Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
The radiant ruler of the year
At length his wintry goal attains;
Soon to reverse the long career,
And northward bend his steady reins.
Now, piercing half Potosi’s height,
Prone rush the fiery floods of light
Ripening the mountain’s silver stores:
While, in some cavern’s horrid shade,
The panting Indian hides his head,
And oft the approach of eve implores.
But lo, on this deserted coast,
How pale the sun! how thick the air!
Mustering his storms, a sordid host,
Lo, Winter desolates the year.
The fields resign their latest bloom;
No more the breezes waft perfume,
No more the streams in music roll:
But snows fall dark, or rains resound;
And, while great Nature mourns around,
Her griefs infect the human soul.
Hence the loud city’s busy throngs
Urge the warm bowl and splendid fire:
Harmonious dances, festive songs,
Against the spiteful heaven conspire.
Meantime, perhaps, with tender fears
Some village dame the curfew hears,
While round the hearth her children play:
At morn their father went abroad;
The moon is sunk, and deep the road;
She sighs, and vonders at his stay.
But thou, my lyre, awake, arise,
And hail the sun’s returning force:
Even now he climbs the northern skies,
And health and hope attend his course.
Then louder howl the aerial waste,
Be earth with keener cold embraced,
Yet gentle hours advance their wing;
And Fancy, mocking Winter’s might,
With flowers and dews and streaming light
Already decks the new-born Spring.
O fountain of the golden day,
Could mortal vows promote thy speed,
How soon before thy vernal ray
Should each unkindly damp recede!
How soon each hovering tempest fly,
Whose stores for mischief arm the sky,
Prompt on our heads to burst amain,
To rend the forest from the steep,
Or, thundering o’er the Baltic deep,
To whelm the merchant’s hopes of gain!
But let not man’s unequal views
Presume o’er Nature and her laws:
‘Tis his with grateful joy to use
The indulgence of the Sovereign Cause;
Secure that health and beauty springs
Through this majestic frame of things,
Beyond what he can reach to know;
And that Heaven’s all-subduing will,
With good, the progeny of ill,
Attempereth every state below.
How pleasing wears the wintry night,
Spent with the old illustrious dead!
While, by the taper’s trembling light,
I seem those awful scenes to tread
Where chiefs or legislators lie,
Whose triumphs move before my eye,
In arms and antique pomp array’d;
While now I taste the Ionian song,
Now bend to Plato’s godlike tongue
Resounding through the olive shade.
But should some cheerful, equal friend
Bid leave the studious page a while.
Let mirth on wisdom then attend,
And social ease on learned toil.
Then while, at love’s uncareful shrine,
Each dictates to the god of wine
Her name whom all his hopes obey,
What flattering dreams each bosom warm,
While absence, heightening every charm,
Invokes the slow-returning May!
May, thou delight of heaven and earth,
When will thy genial star arise?
The auspicious morn, which gives thee birth,
Shall bring Eudora to my eyes.
Within her sylvan haunt, behold,
As in the happy garden old,
She moves like that primeval fair:
Thither, ye silver-sounding lyres,
Ye tender smiles, ye chaste desires,
Fond hope and mutual faith, repair.
And if believing love can read
His better omens in her eye,
Then shall my fears, O charming maid,
And every pain of absence die:
Then shall my jocund harp, attuned
To thy true ear, with sweeter sound
Pursue the free Horatian song:
Old Tyne shall listen to my tale,
And Echo, down the bordering vale,
The liquid melody prolong.
ON THE USE OF POETRY Poem By Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
Not for themselves did human kind
Contrive the parts by heaven assign’d
On life’s wide scene to play:
Not Scipio’s force nor Caesar’s skill
Can conquer Glory’s arduous hill,
If Fortune close the way.
Yet still the self-depending soul,
Though last and least in Fortune’s roll,
His proper sphere commands;
And knows what Nature’s seal bestow’d,
And sees, before the throne of God,
The rank in which he stands.
Who train’d by laws the future age,
Who rescued nations from the rage
Of partial, factious power,
My heart with distant homage views;
Content, if thou, celestial Muse,
Didst rule my natal hour.
Not far beneath the hero’s feet,
Nor from the legislator’s seat
Stands far remote the bard.
Though not with public terrors crown’d.
Yet wider shall his rule be found,
More lasting his award.
Lycurgus fashion’d Sparta’s fame,
And Pompey to the Roman name
Gave universal sway:
Where are they?—Homer’s reverend page
Holds empire to the thirtieth age,
And tongues and climes obey.
And thus when William’s acts divine
No longer shall from Bourbon’s line
Draw one vindictive vow;
When Sydney shall with Cato rest,
And Russel move the patriot’s breast
No more than Brutus now;
Yet then shall Shakspeare’s powerful art
O’er every passion, every heart,
Confirm his awful throne:
Tyrants shall bow before his laws;
And Freedom’s, Glory’s, Virtue’s cause,
Their dread assertor own.
ON LOVE, TO A FRIEND Poem By Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
No, foolish youth—to virtuous fame
If now thy early hopes be vow’d,
If true ambition’s nobler flame
Command thy footsteps from the crowd,
Lean not to Love’s enchanting snare;
His songs, his words, his looks beware,
Nor join his votaries, the young and fair.
By thought, by dangers, and by toils,
The wreath of just renown is worn;
Nor will ambition’s awful spoils
The flowery pomp of ease adorn;
But Love unbends the force of thought;
By Love unmanly fears are taught;
And Love’s reward with gaudy sloth is bought.
Yet thou hast read in tuneful lays,
And heard from many a zealous breast,
The pleasing tale of beauty’s praise
In wisdom’s lofty language dress’d;
Of beauty powerful to impart
Each finer sense, each comelier art,
And soothe and polish man’s ungentle heart.
If then, from Love’s deceit secure,
Thus far alone thy wishes tend,
Go; see the white-wing’d evening hour
On Delia’s vernal walk descend:
Go, while the golden light serene,
The grove, the lawn, the soften’d scene
Becomes the presence of the rural queen.
Attend, while that harmonious tongue
Each bosom, each desire commands:
Apollo’s lute by Hermes strung,
And touch’d by chaste Minerva’s hands,
Attend. I feel a force divine,
O Delia, win my thoughts to thine;
That half the colour of thy life is mine.
Yet conscious of the dangerous charm,
Soon would I turn my steps away;
Nor oft provoke the lovely harm,
Nor lull my reason’s watchful sway.
But thou, my friend—I hear thy sighs:
Alas, I read thy downcast eyes;
And thy tongue falters, and thy colour flies.
So soon again to meet the fair?
So pensive all this absent hour?—
O yet, unlucky youth, beware,
While yet to think is in thy power.
In vain with friendship’s flattering name
Thy passion veils its inward shame;
Friendship, the treacherous fuel of thy flame!
Once, I remember, new to Love,
And dreading his tyrannic chain,
I sought a gentle maid to prove
What peaceful joys in friendship reign:
Whence we forsooth might safely stand,
And pitying view the love-sick band,
And mock the wingèd boy’s malicious hand.
Thus frequent pass’d the cloudless day,
To smiles and sweet discourse resign’d;
While I exulted to survey
One generous woman’s real mind:
Till friendship soon my languid breast
Each night with unknown cares possess’d,
Dash’d my coy slumbers, or my dreams distress’d.
Fool that I was—And now, even now
While thus I preach the Stoic strain,
Unless I shun Olympia’s view,
An hour unsays it all again.
O friend!—when Love directs her eyes
To pierce where every passion lies,
Where is the firm, the cautious, or the wise?
POEMS BY MARK AKENSIDE: