To MRS. P—, With some Drawings of BIRDS and INSECTS.
The kindred arts to please thee shall conspire,
One dip the pencil, and one string the lyre.
1 AMANDA bids; at her command again
2 I seize the pencil, or resume the pen;
3 No other call my willing hand requires,
4 And friendship, better than a Muse inspires.
5 Painting and poetry are near allied;
6 The kindred arts two sister Muses guide;[Page 42]
7 This charms the eye, that steals upon the ear;
8 There sounds are tun'd; and colours blended here:
9 This with a silent touch enchants our eyes,
10 And bids a gayer brighter world arise:
11 That, less allied to sense, with deeper art
12 Can pierce the close recesses of the heart;
13 By well set syllables, and potent sound,
14 Can rouse, can chill the breast, can sooth, can wound;
15 To life adds motion, and to beauty soul,
16 And breathes a spirit through the finish'd whole:
17 Each perfects each, in friendly union join'd;
18 This gives Amanda's form, and that her mind.
19 But humbler themes my artless hand requires,
20 Nor higher than the feather'd tribe aspires.
21 Yet who the various nations can declare
22 That plow with busy wing the peopled air?
23 These cleave the crumbling bark for insect food;[Page 43]
24 Those dip their crooked beak in kindred blood:
25 Some haunt the rushy moor, the lonely woods;
26 Some bathe their silver plumage in the floods;
27 Some fly to man; his houshold gods implore,
28 And gather round his hospitable door;
29 Wait the known call, and find protection there
30 From all the lesser tyrants of the air.
31 The tawny EAGLE seats his callow brood
32 High on the cliff, and feasts his young with blood.
33 On Snowden's rocks, or Orkney's wide domain,
34 Whose beetling cliffs o'erhang the western main,
35 The royal bird his lonely kingdom forms
36 Amidst the gathering clouds, and sullen storms;
37 Thro' the wide waste of air he darts his sight
38 And holds his sounding pinions pois'd for flight;
39 With cruel eye premeditates the war,
40 And marks his destin'd victim from afar:[Page 44]
41 Descending in a whirlwind to the ground,
42 His pinions like the rush of waters sound;
43 The fairest of the fold he bears away,
44 And to his nest compels the struggling prey;
45 He scorns the game by meaner hunters tore,
46 And dips his talons in no vulgar gore.
47 With lovelier pomp along the grassy plain
48 The silver PHEASANT draws his shining train;
49 On India's painted shore, by Ganges' stream,
50 He spreads his plumage to the sunny gleam:
51 But when the wiry net his flight confines,
52 He lowers his purple crest, and inly pines;
53 The beauteous captive hangs his ruffled wing
54 Oppress'd by bondage, and our chilly spring.
55 To claim the verse, unnumber'd tribes appear
56 That swell the music of the vernal year:
57 Seiz'd with the spirit of the kindly spring[Page 45]
58 They tune the voice, and sleek the glossy wing:
59 With emulative strife the notes prolong
60 And pour out all their little souls in song.
61 When winter bites upon the naked plain,
62 Nor food nor shelter in the groves remain,
63 By instinct led, a firm united band,
64 As marshall'd by some skilful general's hand,
65 The congregated nations wing their way
66 In dusky columns o'er the trackless sea;
67 In clouds unnumber'd annual hover o'er
68 The craggy Bass, or Kilda's utmost shore:
69 Thence spread their sails to meet the southern wind,
70 And leave the gathering tempest far behind;
71 Pursue the circling sun's indulgent ray,
72 Course the swift seasons, and o'ertake the day.
73 Not so the Insect race, ordain'd to keep
74 The lazy sabbath of a half-year's sleep.[Page 46]
75 Entomb'd, beneath the filmy web they lie,
76 And wait the influence of a kinder sky;
77 When vernal sun-beams pierce their dark retreat,
78 The heaving tomb distends with vital heat;
79 The full-form'd brood impatient of their cell
80 Start from their trance, and burst their silken shell;
81 Trembling a-while they stand, and scarcely dare
82 To launch at once upon the untried air:
83 At length assur'd, they catch the favouring gale,
84 And leave their sordid spoils, and high in Ether sail.
85 So when Rinaldo struck the conscious rind,
86 He found a nymph in every trunk confin'd;
87 The forest labours with convulsive throes,
88 The bursting trees the lovely births disclose,
89 And a gay troop of damsels round him stood,
90 Where late was rugged bark and lifeless wood.
91 Lo! the bright train their radiant wings unfold,
92 With silver fring'd and freckl'd o'er with gold:[Page 47]
93 On the gay bosom of some fragrant flower
94 They idly fluttering live their little hour;
95 Their life all pleasure, and their task all play,
96 All spring their age, and sunshine all their day.
97 Not so the child of sorrow, wretched man,
98 His course with toil concludes, with pain began:
99 Pleasure's the portion of th' inferior kind;
100 But glory, virtue, Heaven for Man design'd.
101 What atom forms of insect life appear!
102 And who can follow nature's pencil here?
103 Their wings with azure, green, and purple gloss'd,
104 Studded with colour'd eyes, with gems emboss'd,
105 Inlaid with pearl, and mark'd with various stains
106 Of lively crimson thro' their dusky veins.
107 Some shoot like living stars, athwart the night,
108 And scatter from their wings a vivid light,
109 To guide the Indian to his tawny loves,
110 As thro' the woods with cautious step he moves.
111 See the proud giant of the beetle race;
112 What shining arms his polish'd limbs enchase!
113 Like some stern warrior formidably bright
114 His steely sides reflect a gleaming light;
115 On his large forehead spreading horns he wears,
116 And high in air the branching antlers bears;
117 O'er many an inch extends his wide domain,
118 And his rich treasury swells with hoarded grain.
119 Thy friend thus strives to cheat the lonely hour,
120 With song, or paint, an insect, or a flower:
121 Yet if Amanda praise the flowing line,
122 And bend delighted o'er the gay design,
123 I envy not, nor emulate the fame
124 Or of the painter's, or the poet's name:
125 Could I to both with equal claim pretend,
126 Yet far, far dearer were the name of FRIEND.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): To MRS. P—, With some Drawings of BIRDS and INSECTS.
Author: Anna Laetitia Barbauld
Genres: heroic couplet
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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.
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