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different systems of criticism, and from the divisions of party
that which pursues poetical fame is the wildest.
Poetry makes a principal amusement among unpolished nations ; but in a country verging to the extremes of refinement, painting and music come in for a share. As these offer the feeble mind a less laborious entertainment, they at first rival poetry, and at length supplant her; they engross all that favor once shown to her, and though but younger sisters, seize upon the elder's birthright.
Yet, however this art may be neglected by the powerful, it is still in greater danger from the mistaken efforts of the learned to improve it. What criticisms have we not heard of late in favor of blank verse and Pindaric odes, choruses, anapests and iambics, alliterative care and happy negligence ! Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it; and as he is generally much in the wrong, so he has always much to say ; for error is ever talkative.
But there is an enemy to this art still more dangerous, I mean party. Party entirely distorts the judgment, and destroys the taste. When the mind is once infected with this disease, it can only find pleasure in what contributes to increase the distemper. Like the tiger, that seldom desists from pursuing man after having once preyed upon human flesh, the reader, who has once gratified his appetite with calumny, makes ever after the most agreeable feast upon murdered reputation. Such readers generally admire some halfwitted thing, who wants to be thought a bold man, having lost the character of a wise one. Him they dignify with the name of poet: his tawdry lampoons are called satires; his turbulence is said to be force, and his frenzy fire.
What reception a poem may find, which has neither abuse,
party, nor blank verse to support it, I cannot tell, nor am I solicitous to know. My aims are right. Without espousing the cause of any party, I have attempted to moderate the rage of all. I have endeavored to shew that there may be equal happiness in states that are differently governed from our own; that every state has a particular principle of happiness, and that this principle in each may be carried to a mischievous excess. There are few can judge better than yourself how far these positions are illustrated in this poem. I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate brother,
REMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Sheld, or wandering Po,
Or onward, where the rude Carinthian boor
Against the houseless stranger shuts the door;
Or where Campania's plain forsaken lies,
A weary waste expanding to the skies :
Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart untravell’d fondly turns to thee;
Still to my brother turns, with ceaseless pain,
And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
And round his dwelling guardian saints attend !
Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their evening fire!
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And every stranger finds a ready chair !
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale ;
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good!
But me, not destined such delights to share,
My prime of life in wandering spent, and care;
Impelld, with steps unceasing, to pursue
Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view,
That like the circle bounding earth and skies,
Allures from far, yet, as I follow, flies:
My fortune leads to traverse realms alone,
And find no spot of all the world my own.
E'en now, where Alpine solitudes ascend,
I sit me down a pensive hour to spend;
And, placed on high above the storm's career,
Look downward where a hundred realms appear :
Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide,
The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride.
When thus Creation's charms around combine,
Amidst the store should thankless pride repine ?
Say, should the philosophic mind disdain
That good which makes each humbler bosom vain ?
Let school-taught pride dissemble all it can,
These little things are great to little man;
And wiser he, whose sympathetic mind
Exults in all the good of all mankind.
Ye glittering towns, with wealth and splendor crown'd;
Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion round;
Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale ;
Ye bending swains, that dress the flowery vale;
For me your tributary stores combine,
Creation's heir, the world -- the world is mine !
As some lone miser, visiting his store, Bends at his treasure, counts, recounts it o'er, Hoarıls after hoards his rising raptures fill,
Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still.
Thus to my breast alternate passions rise,
Pleased with each good that Heaven to man supplies ;
Yet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall,
To see the sum of human bliss so small :
And oft I wish, amidst the scene to find
Some spot to real happiness consign'd,
Where my worn soul, each wandering hope at rest,
May gather bliss to see my fellows blest.
But where to find that happiest spot below
Who can direct, when all pretend to know?
The shuddering tenant of the frigid zone
Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own;
Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,
And his long nights of revelry and ease :
The naked negro, panting at the Line,
Boasts of his golden sands and palmy wine,
Basks in the glare, or stems the tepid wave,
And thanks his gods for all the good they gave.
Such is the patriot's boast where'er we roam,
His first, best country, ever is at home.
And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare,
And estimate the blessings which they share,
Though patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find
An equal portion dealt to all mankind;
As different good, by art or nature given,
To different nations makes their blessings even.
Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
Still grants her bliss at labor's earnest call
1; With food as well the peasant is supplied On Idra's cliffs as Arno's shelvy side ;