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ISIS. An ELEGY.

WRITTEN BY MR. MASON OF CAMBRIDGE, 1748.

1 FAR from her hallow'd grot, where mildly bright,
2 The pointed crystals shot their trembling light,
3 From dripping moss where sparkling dew-drops fell,
4 Where coral glow'd, where twin'd the wreathed shell,
5 Pale ISIS lay; a willow's lowly shade
6 Spread its thin foliage o'er the sleeping maid;
7 Clos'd was her eye, and from her heaving breast
8 In careless folds loose flow'd her zoneless vest;
9 While down her neck her vagrant tresses flow,
10 In all the awful negligence of woe;
11 Her urn sustain'd her arm, that sculptur'd vase
12 Where Vulcan's art had lavish'd all its grace;
13 Here, full with life, was heav'n-taught Science seen,
14 Known by the laurel wreath, and musing mein:
15 There cloud-crown'd Fame, here Peace sedate and bland,
16 Swell'd the loud trump, and wav'd the olive wand;
17 While solemn domes, arch'd shades, and vistas green,
18 At well mark'd distance close the sacred scene.
19 On this the goddess cast an anxious look,
20 Then dropt a tender tear, and thus she spoke:
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21 Yes, I could once with pleas'd attention trace
22 The mimic charms of this prophetic vase;
23 Then lift my head, and with enraptur'd eyes
24 View on yon plain the real glories rise.
25 Yes, ISIS! oft hast thou rejoic'd to lead
26 Thy liquid treasures o'er yon fav'rite mead;
27 Oft hast thou stopt thy pearly car to gaze,
28 While ev'ry Science nurs'd it's growing bays;
29 While ev'ry Youth with fame's strong impulse fir'd,
30 Prest to the goal, and at the goal untir'd,
31 Snatch'd each celestial wreath, to bind his brow,
32 The Muses, Graces, Virtues could bestow.
33 E'en now fond Fancy leads th' ideal train,
34 And ranks her troops on Mem'ry's ample plain;
35 See! the firm leaders of my patriot line,
36 See! Sidney, Raleigh, Hamden, Somers shine.
37 See Hough superior to a tyrant's doom
38 Smile at the menace of the slave of Rome:
39 Each soul whom truth could fire, or virtue move,
40 Each breast, strong panting with its country's love,
41 All that to Albion gave the heart or head,
42 That wisely counsel'd, or that bravely bled,
43 All, all appear; on me they grateful smile,
44 The well-earn'd prize of every virtuous toil
45 To me with fillial reverence they bring,
46 And hang fresh trophies o'er my honour'd spring
47 Ah! I remember well yon beachen spray,
48 There Addison first tun'd his polish'd lay;
49 'Twas there great Cato's form first met his eye,
50 In all the pomp of free-born majesty;
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51 "My son, he cry'd, observe this mien with awe,
52 "In solemn lines the strong resemblance draw;
53 "The piercing notes shall strike each British ear;
54 "Each British eye shall drop the patriot tear!
55 "And rous'd to glory by the nervous strain,
56 "Each youth shall spurn at slav'ry's abject reign,
57 "Shall guard with Cato's zeal Britannia's laws,
58 "And speak, and act, and bleed, in freedom's cause. "
59 The hero spoke; the bard assenting bow'd,
60 The lay to liberty and Cato flow'd;
61 While Echo, as she rov'd the vale along,
62 Join'd the strong cadence of his Roman song.
63 But ah! how stillness slept upon the ground,
64 How mute attention check'd each rising sound;
65 Scarce stole a breeze to wave the leafy spray,
66 Scarce trill'd sweet Philomel her softest lay,
67 When Locke walk'd musing forth; e'en now I view
68 Majestic wisdom thron'd upon his brow,
69 View Candor smile upon his modest cheek,
70 And from his eye all judgment's radiance break.
71 'Twas here the sage his manly zeal exprest,
72 Here stript vain falshood of her gaudy vest;
73 Here truth's collected beams first fill'd his mind,
74 Ere long to burst in blessings on mankind;
75 Ere long to shew to reason's purged eye,
76 That "Nature's first best gift was liberty."
77 Proud of this wond'rous son, sublime I stood,
78 (While louder surges swell'd my rapid flood)
79 Then vain as Niobe, exulting cry'd,
80 Ilissus! roll thy fam'd Athenian tide;
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81 Tho' Plato's steps oft mark'd thy neighb'ring glade,
82 Tho' fair Lycaeum lent its awful shade,
83 Tho' ev'ry academic green imprest
84 It's image full on thy reflecting breast,
85 Yet my pure stream shall boast as proud a name,
86 And Britain's Isis flow with Attic fame.
87 Alas! how chang'd! where now that Attic boast?
88 See! Gothic licence rage o'er all my coast;
89 See! Hydra faction spread it's impious reign,
90 Poison each breast, and madden ev'ry brain:
91 Hence frontless crouds, that not content to fright
92 The blushing Cynthia from her throne of night,
93 Blast the fair face of day; and madly bold,
94 To freedom's foes infernal orgies hold;
95 To freedom's foes, ah! see the goblet crown'd,
96 Hear plausive shouts to freedom's foes resound;
97 The horrid notes my refluent waters daunt,
98 The echoes groan, the Dryads quit their haunt;
99 Learning, that once to all diffus'd her beam,
100 Now sheds, by stealth, a partial private gleam,
101 In some lone cloister's melancholy shade,
102 Where a firm few support her sickly head,
103 Despis'd, insulted by the barb'rous train,
104 Who scour like Thracia's moon-struck rout the plain,
105 Sworn foes like them to all the Muse approves,
106 All Phoebus favours, or Minerva loves.
107 Are these the sons my soft'ring breast must rear,
108 Grac'd with my name, and nurtur'd by my care?
109 Must these go forth from my maternal hand
110 To deal their insults thro' a peaceful land;
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111 And boast while Freedom bleeds, and virtue groans,
112 That "Isis taught rebellion to her sons?"
113 Forbid it heaven! and let my rising waves
114 Indignant swell, and whelm the recreant slaves!
115 In England's cause their patriot floods employ,
116 As Xanthus delug'd in the cause of Troy.
117 Is this deny'd; then point some secret way
118 Where far far hence these guiltless streams may stray;
119 Some unknown channel lend, where nature spreads
120 Inglorious vales, and unfrequented meads,
121 There, where a hind scarce tunes his rustic strain,
122 Where scarce a pilgrim treads the pathless plain,
123 Content I'll flow; forget that e'er my tide
124 Saw yon majestic structures crown its side;
125 Forget, that e'er my rapt attention hung,
126 Or on the sage's or the poet's tongue;
127 Calm and resign'd my humbler lot embrace,
128 And pleas'd, prefer oblivion to disgrace.

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Title (in Source Edition): ISIS. An ELEGY. WRITTEN BY MR. MASON OF CAMBRIDGE, 1748.
Author: William Mason
Themes: liberty; patriotism; glory of the British nation
Genres: elegy; heroic couplet
References: DMI 20469

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Source edition

A collection of the most esteemed pieces of poetry: that have appeared for several years. With variety of originals, by the late Moses Mendez, Esq; and other contributors to Dodsley's collection. To which this is intended as a supplement. London: printed for Richardson and Urquhart, 1767, pp. 294-298. [8],320p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T124631; DMI 1073; OTA K099398.000)

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