Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PICTURESQUE; A FRAGMENT, by JOHN AIKIN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

PICTURESQUE; A FRAGMENT, by                    
First Line: New follies spring; and now we must be taught
Last Line: Suffice to charm, and all it sees is good.
Subject(s): Art & Artists; Paintings & Painters; Vision

NEW follies spring; and now we must be taught
To judge of prospects by an artist's rules,
And Picturesque's the word. Whatever scene,
Gay, rich, sublime, stupendous, wide or wild,
Disdains the bounds of canvas, nor supplies
Foreground and background, keeping, lights and shades
To aid the pencil's power, contracts the brow
And curls the nose of Taste's great arbiter,
Too learned far to feel a vulgar joy.
'That station shows too much—the boundless length
Of dazzling distance mars the near effect.
Yon village spire, embosomed in the trees,
Takes from the scene its savage character,
And makes it smack of man; and those sleek kine
And well-fed steeds might grace a country fair,
But tame their outlines, and a heavy mass
Of glaring light gleams from their polished sides.
How stiff that conic hill! Those chalky cliffs
Rush forward on the sight and harshly break
All harmony of keeping! 'tis as bad
As country parson's white-beplastered front!'
Such the grave doctrines of the modern sage,
The Prospect-Critic, when, with half-shut eye
And hand-formed tube, he squints at Nature's works
And takes them piece by piece; with six-inch square
Metes out the vast horizon; culls, rejects,
Lights up, obscures and blots the blessed sun.
And is it thus the handmaid Art presumes
To rule her mistress? thus would she confine
The Maker's hand to suit the copyist's skill?
In Nature all is fair—or, if ungraced
With flowing form and harmony of hues,
Yet by the force of some associate charm,
Some touch sublime or contrast's magic power,
It awes, expands, delights or melts the soul.
I love to see the lonely mountain start
Bold from the plain, whose huge though shapeless bulk
Shrinks Egypt's pyramids to pigmy toys;
I love the piny forest, many a mile
Blackening th' horizon, though a dreary moor
Fill up the space between; I joy to stand
On the bare ridge's utmost verge, air-propped,
And with an eagle's ken the vale below,
With all its fields, groves, farms and winding rills,
At once drink in; still more my transport swells,
If sudden on my easy-turning eye
Bursts the wide ocean, though the dazzling blaze
Of noontide sun reflected from his waves
Confound all space in undistinguished light.
Celestial glory, hail! my ravished soul
Imbibes the bright effulgence, feels bow weak
Art's feeble hand to imitate thy fires
And clothe her colours in thy radiant vest.
But O, that once my longing eyes might view
The sky-topped Alps their spiry pinnacles
Build in mid-air; or Norway's ragged cliffs
With fir befringed!—what though their forms grotesque,
With lines abrupt and perpendicular, pain
Those tender optics that demand repose
On beauty's waving line; yet rather far
I'd fill my fancy from those mighty stores
Of vast ideas, graving on my brain
The forms gigantic of those sons of earth,
Than own whatever Claude and Poussin drew.
Meanwhile my eye not undelighted roams
O'er flower-embroidered meads, whose level length
The lessening alders, dimly-gliding sails,
And sprinkled groups of cattle, faintly mark.
For all that painting gives I would not change
The heart-expanding view, when Autumn's hand
Wide o'er the champaign pours a billowy sea
Of yellow corn, o'erspreading hill and dale,
While, from its isles of verdure scattered round,
Emerging hamlets lapped in plenty smile.
Nor does my sight disdain the rural box
Of ruddy brick or plaster, neat and snug,
With palisades before and walls behind,
And sheer-trimmed hedges for the garden's bound.
The lines, indeed, are stiff, and glaring tints
Refuse to blend, and not a tattered roof
Or mouldering stone affords one single touch
Of picturesque; but happy man dwells here,
With peace and competence and sweet repose,
And bliss domestic; these the mental eye
Suffice to charm, and all it sees is good.

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