THE ENTHUSIAST: OR, THE LOVER OF NATURE - Joseph Warton Poems

 
 

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THE ENTHUSIAST: OR, THE LOVER OF NATURE

Happy the first of men, ere yet confin'd
To smoky cities; who in sheltering groves,
Warm caves, and deep-sunk valleys 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),
Though the fierce north oft smote with iron whip
Their shiv'ring limbs, though oft the bristly boar
Or hungry lion 'woke them with their howls,
And fear'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'erwhelm'd 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 destroy. In brakes,
Or marshes wild unknowingly they cropp'd
Herbs of malignant juice; to realms remote
While we for powerful poisons madly roam,
From every noxious herb collecting death.
What though unknown to those primeval fires
The well-arch'd dome, peopled with breathing forms
By fair Italia's skilful 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-dropt 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' ecstatic eye, how ease my breast
That pants with wild astonishment and love!
Dark forests, and the op'ning 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 through 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 of 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 Shakespear'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 show
The sacred place, whence with religious awe
They hear, returning from the field at eve,
Strange whisp'rings of sweet music through the air)
Here, as with honey gather'd from the rock,
She fed the little prattler, and with songs
Oft sooth'd his wond'ring ears; with deep delight
On her soft lap he sat, and caught the sounds.
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