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Tlie bloody axe his body fair
Into four partis cat;
Upon a pole was put.
One part did rot on Kinwulph-hill,
One on the minster-tower,
The crowen did devour.
A dreary spectacle;
In high street most noble.
God prosper long our king,
In heaven God's mercy sing!
0 God, whose thunder shakes the sky, Whose eye this atom globe surveys;
To Thee, my only rock, I fly,
The mystic mazes of thy will,
Are past the power of human skill—
0 teach me in the trying hour,
When anguish swells the dewy tear,
To still my sorrows, own thy power,
If in this bosom aught but Thee
Encroaching sought a boundless sway,
Omniscience could the danger see,
Then why, my soul, dost thou complain 1
Shake off the melancholy chain,
But ah! my breast is human still—
My languid vitals' feeble rill,
But yet, with fortitude re9ign'd,
Forbid the sigh, compose my mind,
The gloomy mantle of the night,
Will vanish at the morning light,
Which God, my East, my Sun, reveal*. MARK AKENSIDE 1721—1770.
Few English poets of the eighteenth century are to be ranked before the author of « The Pleasures of the Imagination." He was born on the 9th of November, 1721, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and was educated at the University of Edinburgh. His parents designed him for the ministry, but as his education progressed, other views governed him, and he devoted himself to the »>u<ly of medicine as his future profession. After remaining three years at die Scottish capital, he went to Leyden, where he also studied three years, and took his degree of M. D. in 1744. Returning home the same year, he published his poem, "The Pleasures of the Imagination." On offering the copy to Dodsley, he demanded JE120 for the manuscript, but the wary publisher hesitated at paying such a price for the work of an unknown youth of twentythree. He therefore showed the work to Pope, when the latter, having glanced over a few pages, said, "Don't be niggardly about the terms, lor this is no every-day writer."
No sooner was it published than it excited great attention, and received general applause. But he could not reap from it "the means whereby to live," and he betook himself to the practice of his profession. He first settled in Northampton; but finding little encouragement there, he removed to Hampstead, and thence finally to London. Here he experienced die difficulty of getting into notice in a large city, and though he acquired several professional honors, he never obtained any large share of practice. He was busy in presenting himself to public notice, by publishing medical essays and observations, and delivering lectures, when his career was terminated by a putrid fever, on the 23d of January, 1770.
The Pleasures of the Imagination is written in blank verse, with great beauty of versification, elegance of language, and splendor of imagery. Its object is to trace the various pleasures which we receive from nature and art to their respective principles in the human imagination, and to show the connection of those principles with the moral dignity of man, and the final purposes of his creation.1 This task Akenside has executed in a most admirable manner. If his philosophy bo not always correct, his general ideas of moral truth are lofty and prepossessing. He is peculiarly eloquent in those passages in which ho describes the final causes of our emotions of taste; he is equally skilful in delineating the processes of memory and association; and he gives an animating view of Genius collecting her stores for works of excellence. Of this poem Dr. Johnson remarks, "It has undoubtedly a just claim to a very particular notice, as an example of great felicity of genius and uncommon amplitude of acquisitions, of a young mind stored with images, and much exercised in combining and comparing them. The subject is well chosen, as it includes all images that can strike or please, and thus comprises every species of poetical delight." He complains, however, with equal justice, of the poet's amplitude of language, in which his meaning is frequently obscured, and sometimes wlnlly buried.
In maturer life Akenside intended to revise and alter the whole poem, but he died before he had completed his design. The portion that he did « improve" is contracted in some parts and expanded in others; but if it be more philosophically correct, it is shorn of much of its beauty and poetic fire; and
the original inspiration, under which he had written the work, does not ap pear to have been ready at his call.1
INTRODUCTION. THE SUBJECT PROPOSED
With what attractive charms this goodly frame
Oft have the laws of each poetic strain
1 Bead—Mr*. Barbauld'a elegant Essay, prefixed to an edition of his poem, published In I7DG; m which she characterises hu ireilus an lofty and elegant, chaste, class'ca], ana correct.
Of nature and the muses bids explore,
But not alike to every mortal eye
Man's Immortal Aspirations.
Say, why was man so eminently raised Amid the vast creation; why ordain'd Through life and death to dart his piercing eye, With thoughts beyond the limit of his frame; But that th' Omnipotent might send him forth In sight of mortal and immortal powers, As on a boundless theatre, to run The great career of justice; to exalt His generous aim to all diviner deeds; To chase each partial purpose from his breast, And through the mists of passion and of sense, And through the tossing tide of chance and pain, To hold his course unfaltering, while the voice Of truth and virtue, up the steep ascent Of nature, calls him to his high reward, Th' appla jding smile of heaven? Else wherefore burns In mortal bosoms this unquenched hope,
That breathes from day to day sublimer things,
And mocks possession? wherefore darts the mind,
With such resistless ardor, to embrace
Majestic forms; impatient to be free;
Spurning the gross control of wilful might;
Proud of the strong contention of her toils;
Proud to be daring? Who but rather turns
To heaven's broad fire his unconstrained view, t
Than to the glimmering of a waxen flame?
Who that, from Alpine heights, his laboring eye
Shoots round the wild horizon, to survey
Nilus or Ganges rolling his bright wave
Through mountains, plains, through empires black with shade,
And continents of sand; will turn his gaze
To mark the windings of a scanty rill
That murmurs at his feet? The high-born soul
Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing
Beneath its native quarry. Tired of earth
And tliis diurnal scene, she springs aloft
Through fields of air; pursues the flying storm;
Rides on the volley'd lightning through the heavens;
Or, yoked with whirlwinds, and the northern blast,
Sweeps the long tract of day. Then high she soars
The blue profound, and hovering round the sun,
Beholds him pouring the redundant stream
Of light; beholds his unrelenting sway
Bend the reluctant planets to absolve
The fated rounds of time. Thence far effused,
She darts her swiftness up the long career
Of devious comets; through its burning signs
Exulting measures the perennial wheel
Of nature, and looks back on all the stars,
Whose blended light, as with a milky zone,
Invests the orient Now amazed she views
Th' empyreal waste, where happy spirits hold,
Beyond this concave heaven, their calm abode;
And fields of radiance, whose unfading light
Has travell'd the profound six thousand years, ,
Nor yet arrives in sight of mortal things.
E'en on the barriers of the world untired
She meditates th' eternal depth below;
Till, half recoiling, down the headlong steep
She plunges; soon o'erwhelm'd and swallow'd up
In that immense of being. There her hopes
Rest at the fated goal. For from the birth
Of mortal man, the sovereign Maker said,
That not in humble nor in brief delight,
Not in the fading echoes of renown,
Power's purple robes, nor pleasure's flowery lap,
The soul should find enjoyment: but from thesti
Turning disdainful to an equal good,
Through all th' ascent of things enlarge her view,
Till every bound at length should disappear,
And infinite perfection close the scene.