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When forced the fair nymph to forego,
What anguish I felt at my heart!
Yet I thought—but it might not be so
"Twas with pain that she saw me depart.
She gazed, as I slowly withdrew,
My path I could hardly discern;
So sweetly she bade me adieu,
I thought that she bade me return.
The pilgrim that journeys all day
To visit some far distant shrine,
If he bear but a relique away
Is happy, nor heard to repine.
Thus widely removed from the fair
Where my vows, my devotion, I owe,
Soft Hope is the relique I bear
And my solace wherever I go.
[MARK AKENSIDE was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1721, the son of a butcher; permanently lamed in boyhood by a cleaver. He studied at Edinburgh University, then for an M.D. at Leyden; settled at Northampton, then at London, and became a highly fashionable physician and much-reputed literary critic. A didactic poem, "The Pleasures of the Imagination," is his only work of magnitude; but his best is the "Epistle to Curio," the only one which came from his heart. Curio was a young Roman noble who espoused the cause of the republic and then sold himself to Cæsar for money to pay his debts; the name here means William Pulteney, Walpole's rival.]
THRICE has the spring beheld thy faded fame,
And the fourth winter rises on thy shame,
Since I, exulting, grasped the votive shell,
In sounds of triumph all thy praise to tell;
Blest could my skill through ages make thee shine,
And proud to mix my memory with thine.
But now the cause that waked my song before,
With praise, with triumph, crowns the toil no more.
If to the glorious man whose faithful cares,
Nor quelled by malice, nor relaxed by years,
Had awed Ambition's wild audacious hate,
And dragged at length Corruption to her fate;
If every tongue its large applauses owed,
And well-earned laurels every Muse bestowed;
If public Justice urged the high reward,
And Freedom smiled on the devoted bard;
Say then, to him whose levity or lust
Laid all a people's generous hopes in dust;
Who taught Ambition firmer heights of power,
And saved Corruption at her hopeless hour;
Does not each tongue its execrations owe?
Shall not each Muse a wreath of shame bestow?
And public Justice sanctify the award?
And Freedom's hand protect the impartial bard?
Yet long reluctant I forebore thy name,
Long watched thy virtue like a dying flame,
Hung o'er each glimmering spark with anxious eyes,
And wished and hoped the light again would rise.
But since thy guilt still more entire appears,
Since no art hides, no supposition clears;
Since vengeful Slander now too sinks her blast,
And the first rage of Party hate is past;
Calm as the judge of truth, at length I come
To weigh thy merits, and pronounce thy doom:
So may my trust from all reproach be free;
And Earth and Time confirm the fair decree.
There are who say they viewed without amaze
The sad reverse of all thy former praise:
That, through the pageants of a patriot's name,
They pierced the foulness of thy secret aim;
Or deemed thy arm exalted but to throw
The public thunder on a private foe.
But I, whose soul consented to thy cause,
Who felt thy genius stamp its own applause,
Who saw the spirits of each glorious age
Move in thy bosom, and direct thy rage;
I scorned the ungenerous gloss of slavish minds,
The owl-eyed race, whom Virtue's luster blinds.
Spite of the learned in the ways of vice,
And all who prove that "each man has his price,"
I still believed thy end was just and free;
And yet, even yet believe it—spite of thee.
Even though thy mouth impure has dared disclaim,
Urged by the wretched impotence of shame,
Whatever filial cares thy zeal had paid
To laws infirm, and liberty decayed;
Has begged Ambition to forgive the show;
Has told Corruption thou wert ne'er her foe;
Has boasted in thy country's awful ear,
Her gross delusion when she held thee dear;
How tame she followed thy tempestuous call,
And heard thy pompous tales, and trusted all.
Rise from your sad abodes, ye curst of old
For laws subverted, and for cities sold!
Paint all the noblest trophies of your guilt,
The oaths you perjured, and the blood you spilt;
Yet must you one untempted vileness own,
One dreadful palm reserved for him alone;
With studied arts his country's praise to spurn,
To beg the infamy he did not earn,
To challenge hate when honor was his due,
And plead his crimes where all his virtue knew.
Do robes of state the guarded heart inclose
From each fair feeling human nature knows?
Can pompous titles stun the enchanted ear
To all that reason, all that sense would hear?
Else couldst thou e'er desert thy sacred post,
In such unthankful baseness to be lost?
Else couldst thou wed the emptiness of vice,
And yield thy glories at an idiot's price?
When they who, loud for liberty and laws,
In doubtful times had fought their country's cause,
When now of conquest and dominion sure,
They sought alone to hold their fruits secure ;
When taught by these, Oppression hid the face,
To leave Corruption stronger in her place,
By silent spells to work the public fate,
And taint the vitals of the passive state,
Till healing Wisdom should avail no more,
And Freedom loathe to tread the poisoned shore;
Then, like some guardian god that flies to save
The weary pilgrim from an instant grave,
Whom, sleeping and secure, the guileful snake
Steals near and nearer thro' the peaceful brake;
Then Curio rose to ward the public woe,
To wake the heedless, and incite the slow,
Against Corruption Liberty to arm,
And quell the enchantress by a mightier charm.
Swift o'er the land the fair contagion flew,
And with thy country's hopes thy honors grew.
Thee, patriot, the patrician roof confessed;
Thy powerful voice the rescued merchant blessed;
Of thee with awe the rural hearth resounds;
The bowl to thee the grateful sailor crowns;
Touched in the sighing shade with manlier fires,
To trace thy steps the love-sick youth aspires;
The learn'd recluse, who oft amazed had read
Of Grecian heroes, Roman patriots dead,
With new amazement hears a living name
Pretend to share in such forgotten fame;
And he who, scorning courts and courtly ways,
Left the tame track of these dejected days,
The life of nobler ages to renew
In virtues sacred from a monarch's view,
Roused by thy labors from the blest retreat,
Where social ease and public passions meet,
Again ascending treads the civil scene,
To act and be a man, as thou hadst been.
Thus by degrees thy cause superior grew,
And the great end appeared at last in view:
We heard the people in thy hopes rejoice,
We saw the senate bending to thy voice;
The friends of freedom hailed the approaching reign
Of laws for which our fathers bled in vain;
While venal Faction, struck with new dismay,
Shrunk at their frown, and self-abandoned lay.
Waked in the shock, the public Genius rose,
Abashed and keener from his long repose;
Sublime in ancient pride, he raised the spear
Which slaves and tyrants long were wont to fear.
The city felt his call; from man to man,
From street to street, the glorious horror ran;
Each crowded haunt was stirred beneath his power,
And, murmuring, challenged the decided hour.
Lo! the deciding hour at last appears;
The hour of every freeman's hopes and fears!
Thou, Genius! guardian of the Roman name,
O ever prompt tyrannic rage to tame,
Instruct the mighty moments as they roll,
And guide each movement steady to the goal!
Ye spirits by whose providential art
Succeeding motives turn the changeful heart,
Keep, keep the best in view to Curio's mind,
And watch his fancy, and his passions bind!
Ye shades immortal, who, by Freedom led,
Or in the field or on the scaffold bled,
Bend from your radiant seats a joyful eye,
And view the crown of all your labors nigh.
See Freedom mounting her eternal throne,
The sword submitted, and the laws her own;
See public power chastised beneath her stands,
With eyes intent, and uncorrupted hands;
See private life by wisest arts reclaimed;
See ardent youth to noblest manners framed;
See us acquire whate'er was sought by you,
If Curio, only Curio, will be true.
'Twas then-O shame! O trust how ill repaid. O Latium, oft by faithless sons betrayed!'Twas then -What frenzy on thy reason stole ? What spells unsinewed thy determined soul?
Is this the man in Freedom's cause approved?
The man so great, so honored, so beloved?
This patient slave by tinsel chains allured?
This wretched suitor for a boon abjured?
This Curio, hated and despised by all,
Who fell himself, to work his country's fall?
O lost, alike to action and repose,
Unknown, unpitied in the worst of woes;
With all that conscious, undissembled pride,
Sold to the insults of a foe defied;
With all that habit of familiar fame,
Doomed to exhaust the dregs of life in shame;
The sole sad refuge of thy baffled art
To act a statesman's dull, exploded part,
Renounce the praise no longer in thy power,
Display thy virtue, though without a dower,
Contemn the giddy crowd, the vulgar wind,
And shut thy eyes that others may be blind! . . .
But come, unhappy man! thy fates impend;
Come, quit thy friends, if yet thou hast a friend;
Turn from the poor rewards of guilt like thine,
Renounce thy titles, and thy robes resign;
For see the hand of Destiny displayed
To shut thee from the joys thou hast betrayed!
See the dire fane of Infamy arise,
Dark as the grave, and spacious as the skies;
Where, from the first of time, thy kindred train,
The chiefs and princes of the unjust remain.
Eternal barriers guard the pathless road
To warn the wanderer of the curst abode;
But prone as whirlwinds scour the passive sky,
The heights surmounted, down the steep they fly;
There, black with frowns, relentless Time awaits,
And goads their footsteps to the guilty gates;