Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ENVY; A FRAGMENT, by JANE BOWDLER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ENVY; A FRAGMENT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ye pleasing dreams of heavenly poesy
Last Line: But transient still and vain are envy's wretched joys.
Subject(s): Envy; False Accusations; Human Behavior; Conduct Of Life; Human Nature


YE pleasing dreams of heavenly Poesy,
Which oft have sooth'd my throbbing heart to rest,
And in soft strains of sweetest minstrelsy
Have lull'd the tumults of this anxious breast,
Or charm'd my soul with pleasures unpossess'd:
How sweet with you to wander all the day
In airy scenes, by Fancy's pencil dress'd,
To trace the windings of her devious way,
To feel her magic force, and own her boundless sway.


See at her call the awful forms arise
Of ancient heroes, moulder'd in the tomb;
Again Vice trembles through her deep disguise,
And Virtue triumphs in a dungeon's gloom,
Or smiles undaunted at a tyrant's doom.
Again she waves on high her magic wand——
The faded glories rise of Greece and Rome,
The heavenly Muses lead a tuneful band,
And Freedom's fearless sons unnumber'd hosts withstand.


And now to softer scenes my steps she leads,
The sweet retreats of Innocence and Love,
Where freshest flow'rets deck th' enamell'd meads,
And Nature's music warbles through the grove;
'Mongst rocks and caverns now she loves to rove,
And mark the torrents tumbling from on high,
And now she soars on daring wings, above
The vast expanse of yon ethereal sky,
Or darts through distant time and long futurity.


And oft, when weary nature sinks oppress'd
Beneath the load of sickness and of pain,
When sweetest music cannot lull to rest,
And present pleasure spreads her charms in vain,
Bright Fancy comes, and bursts the mental chain,
And bears the soul on airy wings away;
Well pleas'd it wanders o'er her golden reign,
Enjoys the transports of some distant day,
And Pain's suspended force a moment owns her sway.


Ev'n in the loneliest wild, the deepest shade,
Remote from ev'ry pleasing, social scene,
New wonders rise, by Fancy's pow'r display'd:
She paints each heavenly grace with gentle mein,
Celestial Truth, and Innocence serene,
And Hope, exulting still in future joy,
Though dangers threat and tempests intervene;
And Patience, ever calm, though cares annoy,
And sweet Benevolence, whose pleasures ne'er can cloy.


In dangers firm, in triumphs ever mild,
The awful form of Fortitude appears;
Pure Joy, of heavenly Piety the child,
Serenely smiles, unmov'd by grief or fears;
Soft Mercy dries affliction's bitter tears,
Still blest in ev'ry blessing she bestows;
While Friendship's gentle voice each sorrow cheers:
Sweet are her joys, and pleasing ev'n her woes,
When warm'd by Virtue's fire the sacred ardour glows.


Thus Fancy's pow'r in solitude can charm,
Can rouse each latent virtue in the heart,
Preserve the heavenly spark for ever warm,
And guiltless pleasures ev'ry hour impart.
Yet oh! beware—lest Vice with fatal art
Should taint the gift for Virtue's aid design'd;
Lest Fancy's sting should point affliction's dart,
Or empty shadows check th' aspiring mind,
By vain delights subdu'd, or vainer fears confin'd.


For oft when Virtue prompts the gen'rous deed,
And points the way to gain the glorious prize,
Imagin'd ills her upward flight impede,
And all around fantastic terrors rise:
Ev'n Vice itself can Fancy's pow'r disguise
With borrow'd charms, enchanting to betray:
Oh! then let Reason watch with cautious eyes,
Secure its active force in Virtue's way,
Then slack the rein at will, and free let Fancy stray.


Thus musing late at evening's silent hour,
My wand'ring footsteps sought the lonely shade;
And gently led by Fancy's magic pow'r,
Methought at once, to distant realms convey'd,
New scenes appear'd, by mortal ne'er survey'd;
Such as were fabled erst in fairy land,
Where elfin Knights their prowess oft displayed,
And mighty Love inspir'd the warlike band
To seek adventures hard at Beauty's high command.


Full many a path there was on ev'ry side,
These waste and wild, and those beset with flow'rs;
Where many a pilgrim wander'd far and wide,
Some bent to seek gay Pleasure's rosy bow'rs,
And some to gain Ambition's lofty tow'rs:
While others view their labours with disdain,
And prize alone the gifts which Fortune show'rs;
With careless steps some wander o'er the plain,
And some with ardour strive bright Virtue's hill to gain.


But many foes in ev'ry path were seen.
Who strove by ev'ry art to stop the way:
Here Indolence appear'd with vacant mein,
And painted forms of terror and dismay;
And there the Passions rose in dread array,
And fill'd with clouds and darkness all the air;
While empty fears and hopes alike betray,
And Pride, with Folly join'd, destructive pair!
Drew many from each path, then left them to despair.


Yet still distinguish'd o'er the hostile band,
By all detested, and to all a foe,
Pale ENVY rose: while, trembling in her hand,
Her poison'd shaft still aim'd some deadly blow,
Her eyes still wander'd in pursuit of woe:
For her, in vain rises the cheerful morn,
In vain the flow'rs with freshest lustre glow,
Vain all the charms which Nature's face adorn:
They cannot cheer a heart with ceaseless anguish torn.


Beside the way that leads to Virtue's shrine,
This wicked hag her fav'rite dwelling chose,
Around her walls did baneful nightshade twine,
And twisted thorns did all her hut compose;
And still from morning's dawn to ev'ning's close,
Some horrid purpose would her thoughts employ;
For never could her heart enjoy repose,
Nor e'er her restless spirit taste of joy,
Save when her cruel arts could other's peace destroy.


The sprightly voice of guiltless Pleasure's train,
The pleasing smile which Peace and Virtue wear,
Whose gentle force might charm the sense of pain,
Suspend distress, and smooth the brow of care,
Still with new pangs her cruel heart would tear:
But when she heard Affliction's bitter cries,
Or view'd the horrid form of dark Despair,
A transient gladness lighten'd in her eyes—
But transient still and vain are ENVY's wretched joys.

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