Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, VISIONS IN VERSE: 2. PLEASURE, by NATHANIEL COTTON



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VISIONS IN VERSE: 2. PLEASURE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Hear, ye fair mothers of our isle!
Last Line: The moral merits your esteem.
Subject(s): Pleasure


HEAR, ye fair mothers of our isle!
Nor scorn your poet's homely style.
What though my thoughts be quaint or new,
I'll warrant that my doctrine's true:
Or if my sentiments be old,
Remember, truth is sterling gold.
You judge it of important weight,
To keep your rising offspring straight:
For this such anxious moments feel,
And ask the friendly aids of steel:
For this import the distant cane,
Or slay the monarch of the main.
And shall the soul be warp'd aside
By passion, prejudice, and pride?
Deformity of heart I call
The worst deformity of all.
Your cares to body are confin'd,
Few fear obliquity of mind.
Why not adorn the better part?
This is a nobler theme for art.
For what is form, or what is face,
But the soul's index, or its case?
Now take a simile at hand,
Compare the mental soil to land.
Shall fields be till'd with annual care,
And minds lie fallow every year?
O since the crop depends on you,
Give them the culture which is due:
Hoe every weed, and dress the soil,
So harvest shall repay your toil.
If human minds resemble trees,
(As every moralist agrees)
Prune all the stragglers of your vine,
Then shall the purple clusters shine.
The gard'ner knows, that fruitful life
Demands his salutary knife:
For every wild luxuriant shoot,
Or robs the bloom, or starves the fruit.
A satirist in Roman times,
When Rome, like Britain, groan'd with crimes,
Asserts it for a sacred truth,
That pleasures are the bane of youth:
That sorrows such pursuits attend,
Or such pursuits in sorrows end:
That all the wild adventurer gains
Are perils, penitence, and pains.
Approve, ye fair, the Roman page,
And bid your sons revere the sage;
In study spend their midnight oil,
And string their nerves by manly toil.
Thus shall they grow like Temple wise,
Thus future Lockes and Newtons rise;
Or hardy chiefs to wield the lance,
And save us from the chains of France.
Yes, bid your sons betimes forego
Those treacherous paths where Pleasures grow;
Where the young mind is Folly's slave,
Where every virtue finds a grave.
Let each bright character be nam'd,
For wisdom or for valour fam'd:
Are the dear youths to science prone?
Tell, how the' immortal Bacon shone!
Who, leaving meaner joys to kings,
Soar'd high on contemplation's wings;
Rang'd the fair fields of nature o'er,
Where never mortal trod before:
Bacon! whose vast capacious plan
Bespoke him angel, more than man!
Does love of martial fame inspire?
Cherish, ye fair, the generous fire;
Teach them to spurn inglorious rest,
And rouse the hero in their breast;
Paint Cressy's vanquish'd field anew,
Their souls shall kindle at the view;
Resolv'd to conquer or to fall,
When Liberty and Britain call.
Thus shall they rule the crimson plain,
Or hurl their thunders through the main;
Grain with their blood, nor grudge the cost,
What their degenerate sires have lost:
The laurel thus shall grace their brow,
As Churchill's once, or Warren's now.
One summer's evening as I stray'd
Along the silent moon-light glade,
With these reflections in my breast,
Beneath an oak I sunk to rest;
A gentle slumber intervenes,
And fancy dress'd instructive scenes.
Methought a spacious road I spied,
And stately trees adorn'd its side;
Frequented by a giddy crowd
Of thoughtless mortals, vain and loud;
Who tripp'd with jocund heel along,
And bade me join their smiling throng.
I strait obey'd—Persuasion hung
Like honey on the speaker's tongue.
A cloudless sun improv'd the day,
And pinks and roses strew'd our way.
Now as our journey we pursue,
A beauteous fabric rose to view,
A stately dome, and sweetly grac'd
With every ornament of taste.
This structure was a female's claim,
And Pleasure was the monarch's name.
The hall we enter'd uncontrol'd,
And saw the queen enthron'd on gold;
Arabian sweets perfum'd the ground,
And laughing Cupids flutter'd round;
A flowing vest adorn'd the fair,
And flowery chaplets wreath'd her hair:
Fraud taught the queen a thousand wiles,
A thousand soft insidious smiles;
Love taught her lisping tongue to speak,
And form'd the dimple in her cheek;
The lily and the damask rose,
The tincture of her face compose;
Nor did the god of Wit disdain
To mingle with the shining train.
Her votaries flock from various parts,
And chiefly youth resign'd their hearts;
The old in sparing numbers press'd,
But awkward devotees at best.
Now let us range at large, we cried,
Through all the garden's boasted pride.
Here jasmines spread the silver flow'r,
To deck the wall, or weave the bow'r;
The woodbines mix in amorous play,
And breathe their fragrant lives away.
Here rising myrtles form a shade,
There roses blush, and scent the glade.
The orange, with a vernal face,
Wears every rich autumnal grace;
While the young blossoms here unfold,
There shines the fruit like pendent gold.
Citrons their balmy sweets exhale,
And triumph in the distant gale.
Now fountains, murmuring to the song,
Roll their translucent streams along.
Through all the aromatic groves,
The faithful turtles coo their loves.
The lark ascending pours his notes,
And linnets swell their rapturous throats.
Pleasure, imperial fair! how gay
Thy empire, and how wide thy sway!
Enchanting queen! how soft thy reign!
How man, fond man! implores thy chain!
Yet thine each meretricious art,
That weakens, and corrupts the heart.
The childish toys and wanton page
Which sink and prostitute the stage!
The masquerade, that just offence
To virtue, and reproach to sense!
The midnight dance, the mantling bowl,
And all that dissipate the soul;
All that to ruin man combine,
Yes, specious harlot, all are thine!
Whence sprung the' accursed lust of play,
Which beggars thousands in a day?
Speak, sorceress, speak (for thou canst tell)
Who call'd the treacherous card from hell?
Now man profanes his reasoning pow'rs,
Profanes sweet friendship's sacred hours;
Abandon'd to inglorious ends,
And faithless to himself and friends;
A dupe to every artful knave,
To every abject wish a slave;
But who against himself combines,
Abets his enemy's designs.
When Rapine meditates a blow,
He shares the guilt who aids the foe.
Is man a thief who steals my pelf?
How great his theft, who robs himself!
Is man, who gulls his friend, a cheat?
How heinous then is self-deceit!
Is murder justly deem'd a crime?
How black his guilt, who murders time:
Should custom plead, as custom will,
Grand precedents to palliate ill,
Shall modes and forms avail with me,
When Reason disavows the plea?
Who games, is felon of his wealth,
His time, his liberty, his health.
Virtue forsakes his sordid mind,
And Honour scorns to stay behind.
From man when these bright cherubs part,
Ah! what's the poor deserted heart?
A savage wild that shocks the sight,
Or chaos, and impervious night!
Each generous principle destroy'd,
And demons crowd the frightful void!
Shall Siam's elephant supply
The baneful desolating die?
Against the honest silvan's will,
You taught his ivory tusk to kill.
Heav'n, fond its favours to dispense,
Gave him that weapon for defence.
That weapon, for his guard design'd,
You render'd fatal to mankind.
He plann'd no death for thoughtless youth,
You gave the venom to his tooth.
Blush, tyrant, blush, for oh! 'tis true
That no fell serpent bites like you.
The guests were order'd to depart,
Reluctance sat on every heart:
A porter show'd a different door,
Not the fair portal known before!
The gates, methought, were open'd wide,
The crowds descended in a tide.
But oh! ye heavens, what vast surprise
Struck the adventurers' frighted eyes!
A barren heath before us lay,
And gathering clouds obscur'd the day;
The darkness rose in smoky spires;
The lightnings flash'd their livid fires:
Loud peals of thunder rent the air,
While Vengeance chill'd our hearts with fear.
Five ruthless tyrants sway'd the plain,
And triumph'd o'er the mangled slain.
Here sat Distaste, with sickly mien,
And more than half-devour'd with spleen:
There stood Remorse, with thought opprest,
And vipers feeding on his breast:
Then Want, dejected, pale, and thin,
With bones just starting through his skin;
A ghastly fiend!—and close behind
Disease, his aching head reclin'd!
His everlasting thirst confess'd
The fires which rag'd within his breast:
Death clos'd the train! the hideous form
Smil'd unrelenting in the storm:
When straight a doleful shriek was heard;
I woke—The vision disappear'd.
Let not the unexperienc'd boy
Deny that Pleasures will destroy;
Or say that dreams are vain and wild,
Like fairy tales, to please a child.
Important hints the wise may reap
From sallies of the soul in sleep.
And, since there's meaning in my dream,
The moral merits your esteem.





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