An Essay on Epic Poetry
Now, graver Britain, amiably severe, To thee, with native zeal, to thee I steer; My vent’rous bark, its foreign circuit o’er, Exulting springs to thy parental shore. Thou gorgeous Queen, who on thy silvery coast, Sittest encircled by a filial host, And seest thy sons, the jewels of thy crown, Blaze with each varying ray of rich renown; If with just love I hold their Genius dear, Lament their hardships, and their fame revere, O bid thy Epic Muse, with honor due, Range her departed Champions in my view! See, on a party-colour’d steed of fire,
With Humour at his side, his trusty Squire, Gay CHAUCER leads — in form a Knight of old, And his strong armour is of steel and gold; But o’er it age a cruel rust has spread, And made the brilliant metals dark as lead. Now gentle SPENSER, Fancy’s fav’rite Bard, Awakes my wonder and my fond regard; Encircling Fairies bear, in sportive dance, His adamantine shield and magic lance; While Allegory, drest with mystic art, Appears his Guide; but promising to dart A lambent glory round her list’ning Son, She hides him in the web herself has spun.
An Essay on Epic Poetry Essay Example
Ingenuous COWLEY, the fond dupe of Wit, Seems like a vapour o’er the field to flit; In David’s praise he strikes some Epic notes, But soon down Lethe’s stream their dying murmur floats. While COWLEY vanish’d in an amorous riddle, Up rose the frolic Bard of Bear and Fiddle: His smile exhilarates the sullen earth, Adorning Satire in the mask of Mirth: Taught by his Song, Fanatics cease their jars, And wise Astrologers renounce the Stars. Unrivall’d BUTLER! blest with happy skill To heal by comic verse each serious ill, By Wit’s strong flashes Reason’s light dispense,
And laugh a frantic nation into sense! Apart, and on a sacred hill retir’d, Beyond all mortal inspiration fir’d, The mighty MILTON sits — an host around Of list’ning Angels guard the holy ground; Amaz’d they see a human form aspire To grasp with daring hand a Seraph’s lyre, Inly irradiate with celestial beams, Attempt those high, those soul-subduing themes, (Which humbler Denizens of Heaven decline) And celebrate, with sanctity divine, The starry field from warring Angels won, And GOD triumphant in his Victor Son. Nor less the wonder, and the sweet delight,
His milder scenes and softer notes excite, When at his bidding Eden’s blooming grove Breathes the rich sweets of Innocence and Love. With such pure joy as our Forefather knew When Raphael, heavenly guest, first met his view, And our glad Sire, within his blissful blower, Drank the pure converse of th’ aetherial Power, Round the blest Bard his raptur’d audience throng, And feel their souls imparadis’d in song. Of humbler mien, but not of mortal race, Ill-fated DRYDEN, with Imperial grace, Gives to th’ obedient lyre his rapid laws; Tones yet unheard, with touch divine, he draws,
The melting fall, the rising swell sublime, And all the magic of melodious rhyme. See with proud joy Imagination spread A wreath of honor round his aged head! But two base Spectres, tho’ of different hue, The Bard unhappy in his march pursue; Two vile disgraceful Fiends, of race accurst, Conceiv’d by Spleen, by meagre Famine nurst, Malignant Satire, mercenary Praise, Shed their dark spots on his immortal bays. Poor DAVENANT march’d before, with nobler aim, His keen eye fixt upon the palm of Fame, But cruel Fortune doom’d him to rehearse A Theme ill-chosen, in ill-chosen Verse.
Next came Sir RICHARD, but in woeful plight, DRYDEN’S Led-horse first threw the luckless Knight. He rose advent’rous still — O who may count How oft he tried a different Steed to mount! Each angry steed his awkward rider flung; Undaunted still he fell, and falling sung. But Aesculapius, who, with grief distrest, Beheld his offspring made a public jest, Soon bade a livelier Son with mirth efface The shame he suffer’d from Sir RICHARD’S case. Swift at the word his sprightly GARTH began To make an helmet of a Close-stool Pan; An Urinal he for his trumpet takes,
And at each blast he blows see Laughter shakes. Yet peace — new music floats on Aether’s wings; Say, it is Harmony herself who sings? No! while enraptur’d Sylphs the Song inspire, ‘Tis POPE who sweetly wakes the silver lyre To melting notes, more musically clear Than Ariel whisper’d in Belinda’s ear. Too soon he quits them for a sharper tone; See him, tho’ form’d to fill the Epic throne, Decline the sceptre of that wide domain, To bear a Lictor’s rod in Satire’s train; And, shrouded in a mist of moral spleen, Behold him close the visionary scene!