POEMS ON POETRY:
AN ACCOUNT OF THE GREATEST ENGLISH POETS Poetry/Poem by Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
LONG had our dull forefathers slept supine,
Nor felt the raptures of the tuneful Nine;
Till Chaucer first, the merry bard, arose,
And many a story told in rhyme and prose.
But age has rusted what the poet writ,
Worn out his language, and obscur’d his wit;
In vain he jests in his unpolish’d strain,
And tries to make his readers laugh, in vain.
Old Spenser next, warm’d with poetic rage,
In ancient tales amus’d a barb’rous age;
An age that yet uncultivate and rude,
Where’er the poet’s fancy led, pursu’d
Through pathless fields, and unfrequented floods,
To dens of dragons and enchanted woods.
But now the mystic tale, that pleas’d of yore,
Can charm an understanding age no more;
The long-spun allegories fulsome grow.
While the dull moral lies too plain below.
We view well-pleas’d at distance all the sights
Of arms and palfreys, battles, fields, and fights,
And damsels in distress, and courteous knights;
But when we look too near, the shades decay,
And all the pleasing landscape fades away.
Great Cowley then (a mighty genius) wrote,
O’er-run with wit, and lavish of his thought:
His turns too closely on the reader press;
He more had pleas’d us, had he pleas’d us less,
One glitt’ring thought no sooner strikes our eyes
With silent wonder, but new wonders rise;
As in the milky-way a shining white
O’er-flows the heavn’s with one continu’d light,
That not a single star can show his rays,
Whilst jointly all promote the common blaze.
Pardon, great poet, that I dare to name
Th’ unnumber’d beauties of thy verse with blame;
Thy fault is only wit in its excess,
But wit like thine in any shape will please.
What muse but thine can equal hints inspire,
And fit the deep-mouth’d Pindar to thy lyre;
Pindar, whom others, in a labour’d strain
And forc’d expression, imitate in vain?
Well-pleas’d in thee he soars with new delight,
And plays in more unbounded verse, and takes a nobler flight.
TO MR. DRYDEN Poetry/Poem by Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
HOW long, great Poet, shall thy sacred lays
Provoke our wonder, and transcend our praise?
Can eneither injuries of time, or age,
Damp thy poetic heat, and quench thy rage?
No so thy Ovid in his exile wrote,
Grief chill’d his breast,and check’d his rising thought:
Pensive and sad, his drooping Muse betrays
The Roman genius in its last decays.
Prevailing warmth has still thy mind possest,
And second youth is kindled in thy breast;
Thou mak’st the beauties of the Romans known,
And England boasts of riches not her own;
Thy lines have heighten’d Virgil’s majesty,
And Horace wonders at himself in thee.
Thou teachest Persius to inform our isle
In smoother numbers, and a clearer style;
And Juvenal, instructed in thy page,
Edges his satire, and improves his rage,
Thy copy casts a fairer light on all,
And still out-shines, the bright original.
Now Ovid boasts th’ advanage of thy song,
And tells his story in the British tongue;
Thy charming verse, and fair translations, show
How thy own laurel first began to grow:
How wild Lycaon, chang’d by angry gods,
And frighted at himself, ran howling through the woods.
O may’st thou still the noble talk prolong,
Nor age, nor sickness, interrupt thy song:
Then may we wondering read, how human limbs
Have water’d kingdoms, and dissolv’d in streams;
Of those rich fruits that on the fertile mold
Turn’d yellow by degrees, and ripen’d into gold:
How some in feathers, or a ragged hide,
Have liv’d a second life, and different natures try’d.
Then will thy Ovid, thus transform’d, reveal
A nobler change than he himself can tell.
TO A LADY WHO SPOKE SLIGHTINGLY OF POETS Poetry/Poem by Washington Allston (1779-1843)
OH, censure not the Poet’s art,
Nor think it chills the feeling heart
To love the gentle Muses.
Can that which in a stone or flower,
As if by transmigrating power,
His gen’rous soul infuses;
Can that for social joys impair
The heart that like the lib’ral air
All Nature’s self embraces;
That in the cold Norwegian main,
Or mid the tropic hurricane
Her varied beauty traces;
That in her meanest work can find
A fitness and a grace combin’d
In blest harmonious union,
That even with the cricket holds,
As if by sympathy of souls,
Can that with sordid selfishness
His wide-expanded heart impress,
Whose consciousness is loving;
Who, giving life to all he spies,
His joyous being multiplies,
In youthfulness improving?
Oh, Lady, then, fair queen of Earth,
Thou loveliest of mortal birth,
Spurn not thy truest lover;
Nor censure him whose keener sense
Can feel thy magic influence
Where nought the world discover;
Whose eye on that bewitching face
Can every source unnumber’d trace
Of germinating blisses;
See Sylphids o’er thy forehead weave
The lily-fibred film, and leave
It fix’d with honied kisses;
While some within thy liquid eyes,
Like minnows of a thousand dies
Through lucid waters glancing,
In busy motion to and fro,
The gems of diamond-beetles sow,
Their lustre thus enhancing;
Here some, their little vases fill’d
With blushes for thy cheek distill’d
From roses newly blowing,
Each tiny thirsting pore supply;
And some in quick succession by
The down of peaches strewing;
There others who from hanging bell
Of cowslip caught the dew that fell
While yet the day was breaking,
And o’er thy pouting lips diffuse
The tincture–still its glowing hues
Of purple morn partaking:
Here some, that in the petals prest
Of humid honeysuckles, rest
From nightly fog defended,
Flutter their fragrant wings between,
Like humming-birds that scarce are seen,
They seem with air so blended!
While some, in equal clusters knit.
On either side in circles flit,
Like bees in April swarming,
Their tiny weight each other lend,
And force the yielding cheek to bend,
Thy laughing dimples forming.
Nor, Lady, think the Poet’s eye
Can only outward charms espy,
Thy form alone adoring–
Ah, Lady, no: though fair they be.
Yet he a fairer sight may see,
Thy lovely soul exploring:
And while from part to part it flies
The gentle Spirit he descries,
Through every line pursuing;
And feels upon his nature shower
That pure, that humanizing power,
Which raises by subduing.
POE’S COTTAGE AT FORDHAM Poetry/Poem by John Henry Boner (1845-1903)
HERE lived the soul enchanted
By melody of song;
Here dwelt the spirit haunted
By a demoniac throng;
Here sang the lips elated;
Here grief and death were sated;
Here loved and here unmated
Was he, so frail, so strong.
Here wintry winds and cheerless
The dying firelight blew,
While he whose song was peerless
Dreamed the drear midnight through,
And from dull embers chilling
Crept shadows darkly filling
The silent place, and thrilling
His fancy as they grew.
Here with brows bared to heaven,
In starry night he stood,
With the lost star of seven
Feeling sad brotherhood.
Here in the sobbing showers
Of dark autumnal hours
He heard suspected powers
Shriek through the stormy wood.
From visions of Apollo
And of Astarte’s bliss,
He gazed into the hollow
And hopeless vale of Dis,
And though earth were surrounded
By heaven, it still was mounded
With graves. His soul had sounded
The dolorous abyss.
Poor, mad, but not defiant,
He touched at heaven and hell.
Fate found a rare soul pliant
And wrung her changes well.
Alternately his lyre,
Stranded with strings of fire,
Led earth’s most happy choir,
Or flashed with Israfel.
No singer of old story
Luting accustomed lays,
No harper for new glory,
No mendicant for praise,
He struck high chords and splendid,
Wherein were finely blended
Tones that unfinished ended
With his unfinished days.
Here through this lonely portal,
Made sacred by his name,
The mortal went and came.
And fate that then denied him,
And envy that decried him,
And malice that belied him,
Here cenotaphed his fame.
A FIT OF RHYME AGAINST RHYME Poetry/Poem by Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
RHYME, the rack of finest wits,
That expresseth but with fits
Spoiling senses of their treasure,
Cozening judgment with a measure,
But false weight;
Wresting words from their true calling,
Propping verse, for fear of falling
To the ground;
Jointing syllabes, drowning letters,
Fast’ning vowels, as with fetters
They were bound!
Soon as lazy thou wert known,
All good poetry hence was flown,
And are banished.
For a thousand years together,
All Parnassus’ green did wither,
And wit vanished.
Pegasus did fly away;
At the wells no Muse did stay,
So to see the fountain dry,
And Apollo’s music die,
All light failed.
Starveling rhymes did fill the stage;
Not a poet in an age,
Not a work deserving bays,
Nor a line deserving praise,
Greek was free from rhyme’s infection,
Happy Greek, by this protection,
Was not spoiled.
Whilst the Latin, queen of tongues,
Is not yet free from rhyme’s wrongs,
But rests foiled.
Scarce the hill again doth flourish,
Scarce the world a wit doth nourish,
Phoebus to his crown again,
And the Muses to their brain,
Vulgar languages, that want
Words and sweetness, and be scant
Of true measure,
Tyrant rhyme hath so abusèd,
That they long since have refusèd
He that first invented thee,
May his joints tormented be,
Still may syllabes jar with time,
Still may reason war with rhyme,
May his sense, when it would meet
The cold tumour in his feet,
And his title be long fool,
That in rearing such a school
Was the founder.
CHAUCER Poetry/Poem by Benjamin Brawley (1882-1939)
GONE are the sensuous stars, and manifold,
Clear sunbeams burst upon the front of night;
Ten thousand swords of azure and of gold
Give darkness to the dark and welcome light;
Across the night of ages strike the gleams,
And leading on the gilded host appears
An old man writing in a book of dreams,
And telling tales of lovers for the years;
Still Troilus hears a voice that whispers, Stay;
In Nature’s garden what a mad rout sings!
Let’s hear these motley pilgrims wile away
The tedious hours with stories of old things;
Or might some shining eagle claim
These lowly numbers for the House of Fame!
POEMS ON POETRY: