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THE ENTHUSIAST, OR, THE LOVER OF NATURE, by             Poem Explanation     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Ye green-robed dryads, oft at dusky eve
Last Line: Grace the soft warbles of her honied voice.
Subject(s): Nature; Simplicity

Ye green-robed Dryads, oft at dusky eve
By wondering shepherds seen, to forests brown,
To unfrequented meads, and pathless wilds,
Lead me from gardens decked with art's vain pomps.
Can gilt alcoves, can marble-mimic gods,
Parterres embroidered, obelisks, and urns
Of high relief; can the long, spreading lake,
Or vista lessening to the sight; can Stowe
With all her Attic fanes, such raptures raise,
As the thrush-haunted copse, where lightly leaps
The fearful fawn the rustling leaves along,
And the brisk squirrel sports from bough to bough,
While from an hollow oak the busy bees
Hum drowsy lullabies? The bards of old,
Fair Nature's friends, sought such retreats, to charm
Sweet Echo with their songs; oft too they met,
In summer evenings, near sequestered bowers,
Or Mountain-Nymph, or Muse, and eager learned
The moral strains she taught to mend mankind.
As to a secret grot Egeria stole
With patriot Numa, and in silent night
Whispered him sacred laws, he listening sat
Rapt with her virtuous voice; old Tiber leaned
Attentive on his urn, and hushed his waves.
Rich in her weeping country's spoils, Versailles
May boast a thousand fountains, that can cast
The tortured waters to the distant heavens;
Yet let me choose some pine-topped precipice
Abrupt and shaggy, whence a foamy stream,
Like Anio, tumbling roars; or some bleak heath,
Where straggling stand the mournful juniper,
Or yew-tree scathed; while in clear prospect round,
From the grove's bosom spires emerge, and smoke
In bluish wreaths ascends, ripe harvests wave,
Herds low, and straw-roofed cots appear, and streams
Beneath the sunbeams twinkle. The shrill lark,
That wakes the woodman to his early task,
Or love-sick Philomel, whose luscious lays
Soothe lone night-wanderers, the moaning dove
Pitied by listening milkmaid, far excel
The deep-mouthed viol, the soul-lulling lute,
And battle-breathing trumpet. Artful sounds!
That please not like the choristers of air,
When first they hail th'approach of laughing May.

Can Kent design like Nature? Mark where Thames
Plenty and pleasure pours thro' Lincoln's meads;
Can the great artist, tho' with taste supreme
Endu'd, one beauty to this Eden add?
Tho' he, by rules unfetter'd, boldly scorns
Formality and method, round and square
Disdaining, plans irregularly great.
Creative Titian, can thy vivid strokes,
Or thine, O graceful Raphael, dare to vie
With the rich tints that paint the breathing mead?
The thousand-colour'd tulip, violet's bell
Snow-clad and meek, the vermeil-tinctur'd rose,
And golden crocus? -- Yet with these the maid,
Phillis or Phoebe, at a feast or wake,
Her jetty locks enamels; fairer she,
In innocence and homespun vestments dress'd,
That if coerulean saphires at her ears
Shone pendent, or a precious diamond-cross
Heav'd gently on her panting bosom white.
Yon shepherd idly stretch'd on the rude rock,
Listening to dashing waves, and sea-mews clang
High-hovering o'er his head, who views beneath
The dolphin dancing o'er the level brine,
Feels more true bliss that the proud admiral,
Amid his vessels bright with burnish'd gold
And silken streamers, tho' his lordly nod
Ten thousand war-worn mariners revere.
And great AEneas gaz'd with more delight
On the rough mountain shagg'd with horrid shades
(Where cloud-compelling Jove, as fancy dream'd,
Descending, shook his direful AEgis black)
Than if he enter'd the high Capitol
On golden columns rear'd, a conquer'd world
Exhausted, to enrich its stately head.
More pleas'd he slept in poor Evander's cott
On shaggy skins, lull'd by sweet nightingales,
Than if a Nero, in an age refin'd,
Beneath a gorgeous canopy had plac'd
His royal guest, and bade his minstrels sound
Soft slumb'rous Lydian airs, to soothe his rest.
Happy the first of men, ere yet confin'd
To smoaky cities; who in sheltering groves,
Warm caves, and deep-sun vallies liv'd and lov'd,
By cares unwounded; what the sun and showers,
And genial earth untillag'd, could produce,
They gather'd grateful, or the acorn brown,
Or blushing berry; by the liquid lapse
Of murm'ring waters call'd to slake their thirst,
Or with fair nymphs their sun-brown limbs to bathe;
With nymphs who fondly clasp'd their fav'rite youths,
Unaw'd by shame, beneath the beechen shade,
Nor wiles, nor artificial coyness knew.
Then doors and walls were not; the melting maid
Nor frown of parents fear'd, nor husband's threats;
Nor had curs'd gold their tender hearts allur'd:
Then beauty was not venal. Injur'd love,
O! whither, God of raptures, art thou fled?
While Avarice waves his golden wand around,
Abhorr'd magician, and his costly cup
Prepares with baneful drugs, t' enchant the souls
Of each low-thoughted fair to wed for gain.
In earth's first infancy (as sung the bard
Who strongly painted what he boldly thought),
Tho' the fierce north oft smote with iron whip
Their shiv'ring limbs, tho' oft the bristly boar
Or hungry lion 'woke them with their howls,
And scar'd them from their moss-grown caves, to rove
Houseless and cold in dark tempestuous nights;
Yet were not myriads in embattl'd fields
Swept off at once, nor had the raging seas
O'erwhelmed the found'ring bark and shrieking crew;
In vain the glassy ocean smil'd to tempt
The jolly sailor, unsuspecting harm,
For commerce ne'er had spread her swelling sails,
Nor had the wond'ring Nereids ever heard
The dashing oar: then famine, want, and pine,
Sunk to the grave their fainting limbs; but us,
Diseaseful dainties, riot, and excess,
And feverish luxury destroys. In brakes,
Or marshes wild unknowingly they crop'd
Herbs of malignant juice; to realms remote
While we for powerful poisons madly roam,
From every noxious herb collecting death.
What tho' unknown to those primeval sires
The well-arch'd dome, peopled with breathing forms
By fair Italia's skillful hand, unknown
The shapely column, and the crumbling busts
Of awful ancestors in long descent?
Yet why should man, mistaken, deem it nobler
To dwell in palaces, and high roof'd halls,
Than in God's forests, architect supreme!
Say, is the Persian carpet, than the field's
Or meadow's mantle gay, more richly wov'n;
Or softer to the votaries of ease
Than bladed grass, perfum'd with dew-drop'd flow'rs?
O taste corrupt! that luxury and pomp
In specious names of polish'd manners veil'd,
Should proudly banish Nature's simple charms!
All-beauteous Nature! by thy boundless charms
Oppress'd, O where shall I begin thy praise,
Where turn th' ecstatick eye, how ease my breast
That pants with wild astonishment and love!
Dark forests, and the opening lawn, refresh'd
With ever-gushing brooks, hill, meadow, dale,
The balmy bean-field, the gay-clover'd close,
So sweetly interchang'd, the lowing ox,
The playful lamb, the distant water-fall
Now faintly heard, now swelling with the breeze,
The sound of pastoral reed from hazel-bower,
The choral birds, the neighing steed, that snuffs
His dappled mate, stung with intense desire,
The ripen'd orchard when the ruddy orbs
Betwixt the green leaves blush, the azure skies,
The cheerful sun that thro' earth's vitals pours
Delight and health and heat; all, all conspire
To raise, to soothe, to harmonize the mind,
To lift on wings of praise, to the great sire
Of being and beauty, at whose nod
Creation started from the gloomy vault
Of dreary Chaos, while the grisly king
Murmur'd to feel his boisterous power confin'd.
What are the lays of artful Addison,
Coldly correct, to Shakespeare's warblings wild?
Whom on the winding Avon's willow'd banks
Fair fancy found, and bore the smiling babe
To a close cavern: (still the shepherds shew
The sacred place, whence with religious awe
They hear, returning from the field at eve,
Strange whisp'rings of sweet musick thro' the air)
Here, as with honey gather'd from the rock,
She fed the little prattler, and with songs
Oft sooth'd his wondering ears, with deep delight
On her soft lap he sat, and caught the sounds.
Oft near some crouded city would I walk,
Listening the far-off noises, rattling cars,
Loud shouts of joy, sad shrieks of sorrow, knells
Full slowly tolling, instruments of trade,
Striking mine ears with one deep-swelling hum.
Or wand'ring near the sea, attend the sounds
Of hollow winds, and ever-beating waves.
Ev'n when wild tempests swallow up the plains,
And Boreas' blasts, big hail, and rains combine
To shake the groves and mountains, would I sit,
Pensively musing on th' outrageous crimes
That wake heav'n's vengeance: at such solemn hours,
Daemons and goblins thro' the dark air shriek,
While Hecat, with her black-brow'd sisters nine,
Rides o'er the earth, and scatters woes and death.
Then too, they say, in drear AEgyptian wilds
The lion and the tiger prowl for prey
With roarings aloud! the list'ning traveller
Starts fear-struck, while the hollow-echoing vaults
Of pyramids encrease the deathful sounds.
But let me never fail in cloudless nights,
When silent Cynthia in her silver car
Thro' the blue concave slides, when shine the hills,
Twinkle the streams, and woods look tip'd with gold,
To seek some level mead, and there invoke
Old Midnight's sister Contemplation sage
(Queen of the rugged brow, and stern-fix'd eye)
To lift my soul above this little earth,
This folly-fetter'd world: to purge my ears,
That I may hear the rolling planets' song,
And tuneful turning spheres: if this be barr'd,
The little Fayes that dance in neighbouring dales,
Sipping the night-dew, while they laugh and love,
Shall charm me with aerial notes. -- As thus
I wander musing, lo, what awful forms
Yonder appear! sharp-ey'd Philosophy
Clad in dun robes, an eagle on his wrist,
First meets my eye; next, virgin Solitude
Serene, who blushes at each gazer's sight;
Then Wisdom's hoary head, with crutch in hand,
Trembling, and bent with age; last, Virtue's self,
Smiling, in white array'd, who with her leads
Sweet Innocence, that prattles by her side,
A naked boy! -- Harass'd with fear, I stop,
I gaze, when Virtue thus -- "Whoe'er thou art,
Mortal, by whom I deign to be beheld
In these my midnight-walks; depart, and say
That henceforth I and my immortal train
Forsake Britannia's isle; who fondly stoops
To Vice, her favourite paramour." -- She spoke,
And as she turn'd, her round and rosy neck,
Her flowing train, and long ambrosial hair,
Breathing rich odours, I enamour'd view.
O who will bear me then to western climes
(Since Virtue leaves our wretched land), to fields
Yet unpolluted with Iberian swords:
To isles of innocence, from mortal view
Deeply retir'd, beneath a plantane's shade,
Where Happiness and Quiet sit enthron'd,
With simple Indian swains, that I may hunt
The boar and tiger thro' Savannah's wild,
Thro' fragrant desarts and thro' citron-groves.
There, fed on dates and herbs, would I despise
The far-fetch'd cates of Luxury, and hoards
Of narrow-hearted Avarice; nor heed
The distant din of the tumultuous world.
So when rude whirlwinds rouze the roaring main,
Beneath fair Thetis sits, in coral caves,
Serenely gay, nor sinking sailors' cries
Disturb her sportive nymphs, who round her form
The light fantastick dance, or for her hair
Weave rosy crowns, or with according lutes
Grace the soft warbles of her honied voice.

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