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Be circumspect; oft with insidious ken
So pass my days. But when nocturnal shades
Finds no relief, nor heavy eyes repose:
Thus do I live, from pleasure quite debarr’d,
JOSEPH ADDISON. 1672–1719.
A LETTER FROM ITALY.
"Salve magna parens frugum Saturnia tellus,
Virg., Georg., ii.
For wheresoe'er I turn my ravish'd eyes,
How am I pleased to search the hills and woods
Fired with a thousand raptures, I survey Eridanus through flowery meadows stray, The king of floods! that, rolling o'er the plains, The towering Alps of half their moisture drains, And proudly swoln with a whole winter's snows, Distributes wealth and plenty where he flows.
Sometimes, misguided by the tuneful throng, I look for streams immortalized in song, That lost in silence and oblivion lie (Dumb are their fountains and their channels dry), Yet run for ever by the Muse's skill, And in the smooth description murmur still.
Sometimes to gentle Tiber I retire, And the famed river's empty shores admire, That, destitute of strength, derives its course From thrifty urns and an unfruitful source; Yet sung so often in poetic lays, With scorn the Danube and the Nile surveys; So high the deathless Muse exalts her theme ! Such was the Boyne, a poor inglorious stream, That in Hibernian vales obscurely stray'd, And, unobserved in wild meanders play'd; Till by your lines and Nassau's sword renown'd, Its rising billows through the world resound, Where'er the hero's godlike acts can pierce, Or where the fame of an immortal verse.
Oh, could the Muse my ravish'd breast inspire With warmth like yours, and raise an equal fire, Unnumber'd beauties in my verse should shine, And Virgil's Italy should yield to mine!
See how the golden groves around me smile, That shun the coast of Britain's stormy isle ; Or, when transplanted and preserved with care, Curse the cold clime, and starve in northern air. Here kindly warmth their mountain juice ferments To nobler tastes and more exalted scents : E’en the rough rocks with tender myrtle bloom, And trodden weeds send out a rich perfume. Bear me, some god, to Baia's gentle seats, Or cover me in Umbria's green retreats, Where western gales eternally reside, And all the seasons lavish all their pride : Blossoms, and fruits, and flowers together rise, And the whole year in gay confusion lies.
Immortal glories in my mind revive, And in my soul a thousand passions strive, When Rome's exalted beauties I descry Magnificent in piles of ruin lie. An amphitheatre's amazing height Here fills my eye with terror and delight, That on its public shows unpeopled Rome, And held, uncrowded, nations in its womb; Here pillars rough with sculpture pierce the skies, And here proud triumphal arches rise, Where the old Romans deathless acts display'd, Their base, degenerate progeny upbraid: Whole rivers here forsake the fields below, And, wondering at their height, through airy chan
nels flow. Still to new scenes my wandering Muse retires, And the dumb show of breathing rocks admires : Where the smooth chisel all its force has shown, And soften'd into flesh the rugged stone. In solemn silence, a majestic band, Heroes, and gods, and Roman consuls stand. Stern tyrants, whom their cruelties renown, And emperors in Parian marble frown: While the bright dames, to whom they humbly sued, Still show the charms that their proud hearts subdued.
Fain would I Raphael's godlike art rehearse, And show th' immortal labours in my verse, Where, from the mingled strength of shade and light, A new creation rises to my sight, Such heavenly figures from his pencil flow, So warm with life his blended colours glow. From theme to theme, with secret pleasure toss'd, Amid the soft variety I'm lost : Here pleasing airs my ravish'd soul confound With circling notes and labyrinths of sound; Here domes and temples rise in distant views, And open palaces invite my Muse.
How has kind Heaven adorn'd the happy land, And scatter'd blessings with a wasteful hand!