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PLEASURES OF IMAGINATION.
Ασεβεσμέν έσιν άνθρωπε τας παρά σε θεα χάρθας ασιμάζειν. .
Epict. apud Arrian. II. 13.
Published in the Year 1744.
Argument. The subject proposed. Difficulty of treating it
poetically. The ideas of the Divine mind, the origin of every quality pleasing to the imagination. The natural variety of constitution in the minds of men ; with its final cause. The idea of a fine imagination, and the state of the mind in the enjoyment of those pleasures which it affords. All the primary pleasures of the imagination result from the perception of greatness, or wonderfulness, or beauty in objects. The pleasure from greatness, with its final cause. Pleasure from novelty or wonderfulness, with its final cause.
Pleasure from beauty, with its final cause.
The connection of beauty with truth and good, applied to the conduct of life. Invitation to the study of moral philosophy. The different degrees of beauty in different species of objects : colour ; shape ; natural concretes ; vegetables ; animals; the mind. The sublime, the fair, the wonderful of the mind. · The connection of the imagination and the moral faculty. Conclusion.
With what attractive charms this goodly frame
Of Nature touches the consenting hearts
Of mortal men; and what the pleasing stores
Which beauteous imitation thence derives
To deck the poet's, or the painter's toil ;
My verse unfolds. Attend, ye gentle powers
Of musical delight ! and while I sing
Your gifts, your honours, dance around my strain.
Thou, smiling queen of every tuneful breast,
Indulgent Fancy! from the fruitful banks
Of Avon, whence thy rosy fingers cull
Fresh flowers and dews to sprinkle on the turf
Where Shakspeare lies, be present: and with thee
Let Fiction come, upon her vagrant wings
Wafting ten thousand colours through the air,
Which, by the glances of her magic eye, [forms,
She blends and shifts at will, through countless
Her wild creation. Goddess of the lyre,
Which rules the accents of the moving sphere,
Wilt thou, eternal Harmony! descend
And join this festive train ? for with thee comes
The guide, the guardian of their lovely sports,
Majestic Truth ; and where Truth deigns to come,
Her sister Liberty will not be far.
Be present all ye genii, who conduct
The wandering footsteps of the youthful bard,
New to your springs and shades : who touch his ear
With finer sounds : who heighten to his eye
The bloom of Nature, and before him turn
The gayest, happiest attitude of things.
Oft have the laws of each poetic strain The critic-verse employ’d; yet still unsung Lay this prime subject, though importing most A poet's name : for fruitless is the attempt, By dull obedience and by creeping toil Obscure to conquer the severe ascent Of high Parnassus. Nature's kindling breath Must fire the chosen genius; Nature's hand Must string his nerves, and imp his eagle-wings Impatient of the painful steep, to soar High as the summit; there to breathe at large Ethereal air ; with bards and sages old, Immortal sons of praise. These flattering scenes, To this neglected labour court my song ; Yet not unconscious what a doubtful task To paint the finest features of the mind, And to most subtle and mysterious things Give colour, strength, and motion. But the love Of Nature and the Muses bids explore, Through secret paths erewhile untrod by man, 'The fair poetic region, to detect Untasted springs, to drink inspiring draughts, And shade my temples with unfading flowers Cull'd from the laureate vale's profound recess, Where never poet gain’d a wreath before. (scends
From Heaven strains begin ; from Heaven deThe flame of genius to the human breast, And love and beauty, and poetic joy And inspiration. Ere the radiant Sun Sprang from the east, or 'mid the vault of night The Moon suspended her serener lamp ; Ere mountains, woods, or streams, adorn'd the globe,
Or Wisdom taught the sons of men her lore;
Then liv’d th' almighty One : then, deep retir'd
In his unfathom’d essence, view'd the forms,
The forms eternal of created things ;
The radiant Sun, the Moon's nocturnal lamp,
The mountains, woods and streams, the rolling globe,
And Wisdom's mien celestial. From the first
Of days, on them his love divine he fix'd,
His admiration : till in time complete,
What lie admir'd and lov’d, his vital smile
Unfolded into being. Hence the breath
Of life informing each organic frame,
Hence the green earth, and wild resounding waves;
Hence light and shade alternate ; warmth and cold;
And clear autumnal skies and vernal showers,
And all the fair variety of things.
But not alike to every mortal eye
Is this great scene unveil'd. For since the claims
Of social life, to different labours urge
The active powers of man! with wise intent
The hand of Nature on peculiar minds
Imprints a different bias, and to each
Decrees its province in the common toil.
To some she taught the fabric of the sphere,
The changeful Moon, the circuit of the stars,
The golden zones of Heaven; to some she gave
To weigh the moment of eternal things,
Of time, and space, and Fate's unbroken chain,
And will's quick impulse : others by the hand
She led o'er vales and mountains, to explore
What healing virtue swells the tender vein
Of herbs and flowers; or what the beams of morn
Draw forth, distilling from the clefted rind
In balmy tears. But some, to higher hopes
Were destin'd; some within a finer mould
She wrought, and temper'd with a purer flame.
To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds
The world's harmonious volume, there to read
The transcript of himself. On every part
They trace the bright impressions of his hand :
In earth or air, the meadow's purple stores,
The Moon's mild radiance, or the virgin's form
Blooming with rosy smiles, they see pourtray'd
That uncreated beauty, which delights
The mind supreme. They also feel her charms,
Enamour'd; they partake the eternal joy.
For as old Memmon's image, long renown'd
By fabling Nilus, to the quivering touch
Of Titan's ray, with each repulsive string
Consenting, sounded through the warbling air
Unbidden strains ; even so did Nature's hand
To certain species of external things,
Attune the finer organs of the mind :
So the glad impulse of congenial powers,
Or of sweet sounds, or fair proportion'd form,
The grace of motion, or the bloom of light,
Thrills through Imagination's tender frame,
From nerve to nerve : all naked and alive
They catch the spreading rays; till now the soul
At length discloses every tuneful spring,
To that harmonious movement from without
Responsive. Then the inexpressive strain
Diffuses its enchantment: Fancy dreams
Of sacred fountains and Elysian groves,