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A thousand piles the dusky horrors gild,
And shoot a shady lustre o'er the field.
Full fifty guards each flaming pile attend,
Whose umbered arms by fits thick flashes send;
Loud neigh the coursers o'er their heaps of corn,
And ardent warriors wait the rising morn.
While upon this subject, I cannot refrain from further quotations, and as Pope's descriptive powers have never yet received that attention which they deserve, I shall lay a few brief specimens before the reader.
See; from the brake the whirring pheasant springs,
And mounts exulting on triumphant wings;
Short is his joy; he feels the fiery wound,
Flutters in blood and panting beats the ground.
Ah! what avail his glossy varying dyes,
His purple crest and scarlet circled eyes,
The vivid green his shining plumes unfold,
His painted wings and breast that flames with gold* ?
With slaughtering gun th' unwearied fowler roves,
When frosts have whitened all the naked groves;
Where doves in flocks the leafless trees o'ershade,
And lonely woodcocks haunt the watery glade.
He lifts the tube, and levels with his eye :
Straight a short thunder breaks the frozen sky:
Oft as in airy rings they skim the heath
The clamorous lapwings feel the leaden death;
Oft as the mounting larks their notes prepare,
They fall, and leave their little lives in air!
Far as creation's ample range extends,
The scale of sensual mental power ascends :
Mark how it mounts to man's imperial race,
From the green myriads in the peopled grass;
*This description, however, reminds us a little too much of Thomas Paine's celebrated sarcasm-Mr. Burke pities the plumage, but neglects the dying bird. Pope rather injudiciously draws off our attention from the bird's sufferings to make us admire its feathers. The fourth line is perfect.
What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme,
The mole's dim curtain, and the lynx's beam;
Of smell, the headlong lioness between,
And hound sagacious on the tainted green;
Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood,
To that which warbles through the vernal wood!
The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.
These passages, (to which could be added many others of equal excellence from the same writer,) are highly picturesque, and ought to make the Lake poets treat the name of Pope with a little more respect. They as extravagantly depreciate his powers as Lord Byron overrated them. As I have quoted Wordsworth's allusion to the Nocturnal Reverie of the Countess of Winchelsea, and as that poem is not likely to be familiar to many of my readers, I will introduce a short extract from it.
"When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear :
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose :
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling hay-cocks thicken up the vale :
When the loosed horse, now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through the adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his tecth we hear: &c. &c."
Wordsworth in the following night-scene, taken from one of his sonnets, appears to have had the natural and striking images contained in the last four lines of the passage just extracted, very strongly in his mind.
"Calm is all nature as a resting wheel;
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass;
The horse alone, seen dimly as I pass,
Is cropping audibly his later meal.”
Hurdis, in his Favorite Village, has also a similar description :
His dewy supper from the savoury herbs
Wordsworth abounds in natural images of admirable truth and beauty, which linked as they usually are to lofty and philosophical thoughts, form some of the most delightful poetry in the language. Here is a companion picture to Pope's "lonely woodcocks." It is from one of Wordsworth's juvenile productions.
"Sweet are the sounds that mingle from afar,
Heard by calm lakes, as peeps the folding star,
Where the duck dabbles mid the rustling sedge,
And feeding pikes start from the water's edge,
Or the swan stirs the reeds, his neck and bill
Wetting, that drip upon the water still;
And heron, as resounds the trodden shore
Shoots upward, darting his long neck before.”
The duck dabbling in the above passage reminds me of a ludicrous but very descriptive line of Southey's in a Sonnet to a Goose:
"Or waddle wide, with flat and flabby feet,
Over some Cambrian mountain's plashy moor."
SCENE ON THE GANGES.
THE shades of evening veil the lofty spires
Of proud Benares' fanes! A thickening haze
Hangs o'er the stream. The weary boatmen raise
Along the dusky shore their crimson fires,
That tinge the circling groups. Now hope inspires
Yon Hindoo maid, whose heart true passion sways,
To launch on Gunga's flood the glimmering rays
Of Love's frail lamp,-but, lo! the light expires!
Alas! what sudden sorrow fills her breast!
No charm of life remains. Her tears deplore
An absent lover's doom, and never more
Shall hope's sweet vision yield her spirit rest!
The cold wave quenched the flame—an omen dread
The maiden dares not question ;—he is dead!
LADY! if from my young, but clouded brow,
The light of rapture fade so fitfully-
If the mild lustre of thy sweet blue eye
Awake no lasting joy,-Oh! do not Thou,
Like the gay throng, disdain the mourner's woe,
Or deem his bosom cold!-Should the deep sigh
Seem to the voice of bliss unmeet reply-
Oh! bear with one whose darkened path below
The Tempest-fiend hath crossed! The blast of doom
Scatters the ripening bud, the full-blown flower
Of Hope and Joy, nor leaves one living bloom,
Save Love's wild evergreen, that dares its power,
And clings to this lone heart, young Pleasure's tomb,
Like the fond ivy on the ruined tower!
BEHOLD glad Nature's triumph! Lo, the sun
Hath burst the pall of night, and o'er the earth
Reviving radiance scattered. Sleep hath done
Her death-resembling reign, and thoughts have birth
That thrill the grateful heart with holy mirth :
While fresh as flowers that deck the dewy ground
Gay Fancy's bright-hued images abound,
And mortals feel the glory and the worth
Of that dear boon-existence ;-all around
Unnumbered charms arise in every sight and sound!
The scene is steeped in beauty-and my soul,
No longer lingering in the gloom of care,
Doth greet Creation's smile. The gray clouds roll
E'en from the mountain peaks and melt in air!
The landscape looks an Eden! Who could wear
The frown of sorrow now? This glorious hour
Reveals the ruling God! The heavens are bare!
Each sunny stream, and blossom-mantled bower
Breathes of pervading love, and proves the Power
That spoke him into life, hath bless'd Man's earthly dower.