Sunday, May 2, 2010

An Address To The Muses

By Joanna Baillie

Ye tuneful Sifters of the lyre,
Who dreams and fantasies inspire;
Who over poesy preside,
And on a lofty hill abide
Above the ken of mortal fight,
Fain would I sing of you, could I address ye right.

Thus known, your pow'r of old was sung,
And temples with your praises rung;
And when the song of battle rose,
Or kindling wine, or lovers' woes,
The poet's spirit inly burn'd,
And still to you his upcast eyes were turn'd.

The youth all wrapp'd in vision bright,
Beheld your robes of flowing white:
And knew your forms benignly grand,
An awful, but a lovely band;
And felt your inspiration strong,
And warmly pour'd his rapid lay along.

The aged bard all heav'n-ward glow'd,
And hail'd you daughters of a god:
Tho' to his dimmer eyes were seen
Nor graceful form, nor heav'nly mien,
Full well he felt that ye were near,
And heard you in the blast that shook his hoary hair.

Ye lighten'd up the valley's bloom,
And deeper spread the forest's gloom;
The lofty hill sublimer flood,
And grander rose the mighty flood;
For then Religion lent her aid,
And o'er the mind of man your sacred empire spread.

Tho' rolling ages now are past,
And altars low, and temples wade;
Tho' rites and oracles are o'er,
And gods and heros rule no more;
Your fading honours still remain,
And still your vot'ries call, a long and motley train.

They seek you not on hill and plain,
Nor court you in the sacred sane;
Nor meet you in the mid-day dream,
Upon the bank of hallowed stream;
Yet still for inspiration sue,
And still each lifts his fervent prayer to you.

He knows ye not in woodland gloom,
But wooes ye in the shelfed room;
And seeks you in the dusty nook,
And meets you in the letter'd book;
Full well he knows you by your names,
And still with poets faith your presence claims.

The youthful poet, pen in hand,
All by the side of blotted stand,
In rev'rie deep, which none may break,
Sits rubbing of his beardless cheek;
And well his inspiration knows,
E'en by the dewy drops that trickle o'er his nose.

The tuneful sage of riper fame,
Perceives you not in heated frame;
But at conclusion of his verse,
Which still his mutt'ring lips rehearse,
Oft' waves his hand in grateful pride,
And owns the heav'nly pow'r that did his fancy guide.

O lovely sisters! is it true,
That they are all inspir'd by you?
And while they write, with magic charm'd,
And high enthusiasm warm'd,
We may not question heav'nly lays,
For well I wot, they give you all the praise.

O lovely sisters! well it shews
How wide and far your bounty flows:
Then why from me withhold your beams?
Unvisited of heav'nly dreams,
Whene'er I aim at heights sublime,
Still downward am I call'd to seek some stubborn rhyme.

No hasty lightning breaks the gloom,
Nor flashing thoughts unsought for come,
Nor fancies wake in time of need;
I labour much with little speed;
And when my studied task is done,
Too well, alas! I mark it for my own.

Yet should you never smile on me,
And rugged still my verses be;
Unpleasing to the tuneful train,
Who only prize a slowing strain;
And still the learned scorn my lays,
I'll lift my heart to you, and sing your praise.

Your varied ministry to trace,
Your honour'd names, and godlike race;
And lofty bow'rs where fountains flow,
They'll better sing who better know;
I praise ye not with Grecian lyre,
Nor will I hail ye daughters of a heathen fire.

Ye are the spirits who preside
In earth, and air, and ocean wide;
In hissing flood, and crackling fire;
In horror dread, and tumult dire;
In stilly calm, and stormy wind,
And rule the answ'ring changes in the human mind.

High on the tempest-beaten hill,
Your misty shapes ye shift at will;
The wild fantastic clouds ye form;
Your voice is in the midnight storm;
Whilst in the dark and lonely hour,
Oft' starts the boldest heart, and owns your secret pow'r.

From you, when growling storms are past,
And light'ning ceases on the wade,
And when the scene of blood is o'er,
And groans of death are heard no more,
Still holds the mind each parted form,
Like after echoing of the o'erpassed storm.

When closing glooms o'erspread the day,
And what we love has pass'd away,
Ye kindly bid each pleasing scene
Within the bosom still remain,
Like moons who doth their watches run
With the reflected brightness of the parted sun.

The shining day, and nightly shade,
The cheerful plain and gloomy glade,
The homeward flocks, and shepherds play,
The busy hamlet's closing day,
Full many a breast with pleasures swell,
Who ne'er shall have the gift of words to tell,

Oft' when the moon looks from on high,
And black around the shadows lie;
And bright the sparkling waters gleam,
And rushes rustle by the stream,
Shrill sounds, and fairy forms are known
By simple 'nighted swains, who wander late alone.

Ye kindle up the inward glow,
Ye strengthen ev'ry outward show;
Ye overleap the strongest bar,
And join what Nature sunders far:
And visit oft' in fancies wild,
The bread of learned sage, and simple child.

From him who wears a monarch's crown,
To the unletter'd artless clown,
All in some strange and lonely hour
Have felt, unsought, your secret pow'r,
And lov'd your roving fancies well,
You add but to the bard the art to tell.

Ye mighty spirits of the song,
To whom the poets' pray'rs belong,
My lowly bosom to inspire,
And kindle with your sacred fire,
Your wild obscuring heights to brave,
Is boon, alas! too great for me to crave.

But O, such sense of matter bring!
As they who feel and never sing
Wear on their hearts, it will avail
With simple words to tell my tale;
And still contented will I be,
Tho' greater inspirations never fall to me.

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