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What is this absorbs me quite, Steals my senses, shuts my sight, Drowns my spirits, draws my breath? Tell me, my soul! can this be death?
The world recedes; it disappears!
Heaven opens on my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O grave! where is thy victory?
O death! where is thy sting?
Chorus of Athenians.
YE shades, where sacred truth is sought;
Groves, where immortal sages taught:
Where heavenly visions Plato fired,
And Epicurus lay inspired!
In vain your guiltless laurels stood
Unspotted long with human blood.
War, horrid war, your thoughtful walks invades,
And steel now glitters in the Muses' shades.
O heaven-born sisters! source of art!
Who charm the sense, or mend the heart;
Who lead fair Virtue's train along,
Moral truth and mystic song!
To what new clime, what distant sky,
Forsaken, friendless, shall ye fly?
ye bless the bleak Atlantic shore? Or bid the furious Gaul be rude no more?
When Athens sinks by fates unjust, When wild Barbarians spurn her dust; Perhaps e'en Britain's utmost shore Shall cease to blush with strangers' gore: See arts her savage sons control, And Athens rising near the pole ! Till some new tyrant lifts his purple hand, And civil madness tears them from the land.
Ye gods! what justice rules the ball?
Freedom and arts together fall;
Fools grant whate'er ambition craves,
And men, once ignorant, are slaves.
Oh, cursed effects of civil hate,
every age, in every state!
Still, when the lust of tyrant power succeeds,
Some Athens perishes, some Tully bleeds.
Chorus of Youths and Virgins.
O tyrant Love; hast thou possess'd
The prudent, learn'd, and virtuous breast?
Wisdom and Wit in vain reclaim,
And Arts but soften us to feel thy flame.
Love, soft intruder, enters here,
But, entering, learns to be sincere.
Marcus with blushes owns he loves,
And Brutus tenderly reproves.
Why, Virtue, dost thou blame desire
Which Nature hath impress'd?
Why, Nature, dost thou soonest fire
The mild and generous breast?
Love's purer flames the gods approve; The gods and Brutus bend to Love: Brutus for absent Porcia sighs, And sterner Cassius melts at Junia's eyes. What is loose love? a transient gust, Spent in a sudden storm of lust, A vapour fed from wild desire, A wandering, self-consuming fire. But Hymen's kinder flames unite, And burn for ever one: Chaste as cold Cynthia's virgin light, Productive as the sun.
Oh, source of
every social tie,
United wish, and mutual joy!
What various joys on one attend,
As son, as father, brother, husband, friend!
Whether his hoary sire he spies,
While thousand grateful thoughts arise;
Or meets his spouse's fonder eye,
Or views his smiling progeny;
What tender passions take their turns,
What home-felt raptures move!
His heart now melts, now leaps, now burns,
With reverence, hope, and love.
Hence, guilty joys, distastes, surmises,
Hence, false tears, deceits, disguises,
Dangers, doubts, delays, surprises,
Fires that scorch, yet dare not shine. Purest love's unwasting treasure, Constant faith, fair hope, long leisure, Days of ease, and nights of pleasure ; Sacred Hymen! these are thine.
To wake the soul by tender strokes of art,
To raise the genius, and to mend the heart;
To make mankind, in conscious virtue bold,
Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold;
For this the tragic Muse first trod the stage,
Commanding tears to stream through every age:
Tyrants no more their savage nature kept,
And foes to virtue wonder'd how they wept.
Our author shuns by vulgar springs to move
The hero's glory, or the virgin's love;
In pitying love, we but our weakness show,
And wild ambition well deserves its woe.
Here tears shall flow from a more generous cause,
Such tears as patriots shed for dying laws :
He bids your breasts with ancient ardour rise,
And calls forth Roman drops from British eyes.
Virtue confess'd in human shape he draws,
What Plato thought, and godlike Cato was :
No common object to your sight displays,
But what with pleasure Heaven itself surveys,
A brave man struggling in the storms of fate,
And greatly falling with a falling state.
While Cato gives his little senate laws,
What bosom beats not in his country's cause?
Who sees him act, but envies every deed?
Who hears him groan, and does not wish to bleed?
E'en when proud Cæsar, midst triumphal cars,
The spoils of nations, and the pomp of wars,
Ignobly vain, and impotently great,
Show'd Rome her Cato's figure drawn in state;
As her dead father's reverend image pass'd,
The pomp was darken'd, and the day o'ercast;
The triumph ceased, tears gush'd from every eye;
The world's great victor pass'd unheeded by ;
Her last good man dejected Romé adored,
And honour'd Cæsar's less than Cato's sword.
Britons! attend: be worth like this approved,
you have the virtue to be moved.
With honest scorn the first famed Cato view'd
Rome learning arts from Greece, whom she sub-
Your scene precariously subsists too long
On French translation and Italian song.
Dare to have sense yourselves; assert the stage,
Be justly warm'd with your own native rage:
Such plays alone should win a British ear,
As Cato's self had not disdain'd to hear.