THE ORIGIN OF SONG-WRITING. *
THE ORIGIN OF SONG-WRITING. ** Addressed to the Author of Essays on Song-Writing.
Illic indocto primum se exercuit arcu;
Hei mihi quam doctas nunc habet ille manus!
1 WHEN Cupid, wanton boy, was young,
2 His wings unfledg'd, and rude his tongue,[Page 60]
3 He loiter'd in Arcadian bowers,
4 And hid his bow in wreaths of flowers;
5 Or pierc'd some fond unguarded heart,
6 With now and then a random dart;
7 But heroes scorn'd the idle boy,
8 And love was but a shepherd's toy:
9 When Venus, vex'd to see her child
10 Amidst the forests thus run wild,
11 Would point him out some nobler game,
12 Gods, and godlike men to tame.
13 She seiz'd the boy's reluctant hand,
14 And led him to the virgin band,
15 Where the sister muses round
16 Swell the deep majestic sound;
17 And in solemn strains unite,
18 Breathing chaste, severe delight:
19 Songs of chiefs, and heroes old,
20 In unsubmitting virtue bold;[Page 61]
21 Of even valour's temperate heat,
22 And toils to stubborn patience sweet;
23 Of nodding plumes, and burnish'd arms,
24 And glory's bright terrific charms.
25 The potent sounds like light'ning dart
26 Resistless thro' the glowing heart;
27 Of power to lift the fixed soul
28 High o'er fortune's proud controul;
29 Kindling deep, prophetic musing;
30 Love of beauteous death infusing;
31 Scorn, and unconquerable hate
32 Of tyrant pride's unhallow'd state.
33 The boy abash'd, and half afraid,
34 Beheld each chaste immortal maid:
35 Pallas spread her Egis there;
36 Mars stood by with threat'ning air;[Page 62]
37 And stern Diana's icy look
38 With sudden chill his bosom struck.
39 Daughters of Jove receive the child,
40 The queen of beauty said, and smil'd:
41 (Her rosy breath perfum'd the air
42 And scatter'd sweet contagion there;
43 Relenting nature learnt to languish,
44 And sicken'd with delightful anguish:)
45 Receive him, artless yet and young;
46 Refine his air and smooth his tongue;
47 Conduct him thro' your fav'rite bowers,
48 Enrich'd with fair perennial flowers,
49 To solemn shades and springs that lie
50 Remote from each unhallow'd eye;
51 Teach him to spell those mystic names
52 That kindle bright immortal flames;[Page 63]
53 And guide his young unpractis'd feet
54 To reach coy learning's lofty seat.
55 Ah, luckless hour! mistaken maids!
56 When Cupid sought the Muses shades:
57 Of their sweetest notes beguil'd,
58 By the sly insidious child,
59 Now of power his darts are found
60 Twice ten thousand times to wound.
61 Now no more the slacken'd strings
62 Breathe of high immortal things,
63 But Cupid tunes the Muses lyre,
64 To languid notes of soft desire:
65 In every clime, in every tongue,
66 'Tis love inspires the poet's song.
67 Hence Sappho's soft infectious page;
68 Monimia's woe; Othello's rage;
69 Abandon'd Dido's fruitless prayer;[Page 64]
70 And Eloisa's long despair;
71 The garland bless'd with many a vow,
72 For haughty Sacharissa's brow;
73 And wash'd with tears the mournful verse
74 That Petrarch laid on Laura's herse.
75 But more than all the sister quire,
76 Music confess'd the pleasing fire.
77 Here sovereign Cupid reign'd alone;
78 Music and song were all his own.
79 Sweet as in old Arcadian plains,
80 The British pipe has caught the strains:
81 And where the Tweed's pure current glides,
82 Or Liffy rolls her limpid tides,
83 Or Thames his oozy waters leads
84 Thro' rural bowers or yellow meads,
85 With many an old romantic tale
86 Has cheer'd the lone sequester'd vale;[Page 65]
87 With many a sweet and tender lay
88 Deceiv'd the tiresome summer-day.
89 'Tis yours to cull with happy art
90 Each meaning verse that speaks the heart;
91 And fair array'd, in order meet,
92 To lay the wreath at beauty's feet.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): THE ORIGIN OF SONG-WRITING.
Author: Anna Laetitia Barbauld
Themes: love; mythology; music
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