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Where erst, when winter's stormy reign began,
A purple fountain changed Adonis ran,
Her annual tears desponding Venus shed,
And the wave redden'd, as the hunter bled.
F. Cease, cease to dream. The golden age is o'er,
And mortals know those happy times no more,
When Pan with Phoebus piped upon the plains,
Whenkings were shepherds, and when gods were swains.
Plain common sense, thank Heaven, has banish'd long
The age of fable, and the reign of song.
No cities now dispute the sacred earth,
Which haply gave some favour'd poet
Affairs of empire no Augustus quits
To judge with critics, or unbend with wits :
The world's great master might sweet verse admire,
Might love the Muse, and listen to the lyre ;
Might seek the festive board, where Horace sung,
And learn what accents fell from Maro's tongue.
Our Sovereign Lord, avenging Europe's wrongs,
Turns not his thoughts from politics to songs.
Alas, poor bards! fled are those golden days,
When monarchs' ears were tickled by your praise.
Be wise, my friend, -the useless lyre resign,
Forget Parnassus, and forsake the Nine.
Your Persius too, austere, though beardless sage,
Will ne'er be borne in this enlighten'd age.
His moral rules, his stiff ungracious air,
Will fright the young, and never please the fair.
No tender tale of grief, or love, he tells,
Reports no scandal, even of Roman belles;
But ever grave, decisive, and severe,
Scorns Folly's smile, nor asks for Pity's tear.
P. Unused to courts, nor sprung from flattery's womb,
The Muse beloved by Liberty and Rome,
Satire, stern maid, no adulation knows,
No weak respect for empty grandeur shows;
But bold as free, brands purple Vice with shame,
And blots from honour's page the harlot's name;
At Folly scoffs, in robes of ermine dress’d,
And galls proud Arrogance by Power caress'd.
Not such her lays, when on her native plains
rude carols to Etrurian swains.
No art, no grace, no polish, then she knew,
But coarsely colour'd, and with harshness drew.
Then Momus ever in her train advanced,
And Mirth and Revelry before her danced;
Triumphant Bacchus bore aloft the vine,
And old Silenus sung the joys of wine.
At length with skill great Ennius struck the lyre,
Lucilius glow'd with all the Muse's fire;
Politer Horace blended strength with art,
And ere he chid, was master of the heart;
Ardent, impressive, eloquent, sublime,
Th’Aquinian brook'd no compromise with crime:
Nor with less lustre that stern satirist shone,
Whose moral thunders roll'd around the throne,
Whose vengeful bolts at Rome's oppressor hurld,
Alarm'd the tyrant, and amazed his world.
Late as I slumber'd in yon woodbine bower,
And Fancy ruled the visionary hour;
Methought, conducted by an unknown hand,
I roam's delighted o'er Liguria's land;
Beheld its forests spread before my eyes,
Its fanes, its palaces, its temples rise :
When lo, the sun-burnt Genius of the soil,
Ruddy his cheek, his arm inured to toil,
Before me walk'd, and to a gloomy shade,
O’ergrown with herbage wild, my steps convey'd;
Clear'd the rude path, and with his beechen spear
Show'd where a laurel, half conceal'd, grew near.
“ Behold that tree,” he cried, “ neglected pine, “ Hang its green bays, its drooping head decline; “ The Muses bade it for their Persius bloom, “ O'ershade his ashes, and adorn his tomb. “ Rapt Meditation oft by moonlight eve, “ To wander here, a world unloved would leave, “ Self-communing: here patient Grief would fly, « And lift to heaven the tear-unsullied eye: “ Here stern Philosophy would muse alone, 6 And Wisdom call'd this peaceful grove her own: “ Religion too would quit celestial bowers, “ In this fair spot to gather earthly flowers. “ But envious thorns, that none its worth might see,
Sprang from the ground to hide this beauteous tree; “ Haste then, O stranger, to this place draw nigh, “ To kill the brambles, lest the laurel die.” Straight, as he spake, methought an axe I seized, (For Fancy smiled, and with the work was pleased.) Already the rude wilderness was clear'd, And the green laurel full in view appear'd; When his dark wings retiring Morpheus spread, And the loved vision with my slumbers Aed. Oft since that hour I've linger'd o'er thy page, O youth lamented, at too green an age !
And if the Muse, propitious, hear my strains,
Assist the labour, or reward the pains,
That laurel, Persius, which once bloom'd for thee,
Again shall flourish, and revive for me.