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HYMN TO THE NAIADS.

MDCCXLVI.

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ARGUMENT.

The Nymphs who preside over springs and rivulets are addressed at day-break in honour of their several functions, and of the relations which they bear to the natural and to the moral world. Their origin is deduced from the first allegorical deities, or powers of nature; according to the doctrine of the old mythological poets, concerning the generation of the Gods and the rise of things. They are then successively considered, as giving motion to the air and exciting summer-breezes; as nourishing and beautifying the vegetable world; as contributing to the fulness of navigable rivers, and consequently to the maintenance of commerce; and by that means, to the maritime part of military power. Next is represented their favourable influence upon health, when assisted by rural exercise: which introduces their connection with the art of physic, and the happy effects of mineral, medicinal springs. Lastly, they are celebrated for the friendship which the Muses bear them, and for the true inspiration which temperance only can receive: in opposition to the enthusiasm of the more licentious poets.

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HYMN TO THE NAIADS.

1 O'ER yonder eastern hill the twilight throws
2 Her dusky mantle; and the God of day,
3 With bright Astraea seated by his side,
4 Waits yet to leave the ocean. Tarry, Nymphs,
5 Ye Nymphs, ye blue-ey'd progeny of Thames,
6 Who now the mazes of this rugged heath
7 Trace with your fleeting steps; who all night long
8 Repeat, amid the cool and tranquil air,
9 Your lonely murmurs, tarry: and receive
10 My offer'd lay. To pay you homage due,
11 I leave the gates of sleep; nor shall my lyre
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12 Too far into the splendid hours of morn
13 Ingage your audience: my observant hand
14 Shall close the strain ere any sultry beam
15 Approach you. To your subterranean haunts
16 Ye then may timely steal; to pace with care
17 The humid sands; to loosen from the soil
18 The bubbling sources; to direct the rills
19 To meet in wider channels; or beneath
20 Some grotto's dripping arch, at height of noon
21 To slumber, shelter'd from the burning heaven.
22 Where shall my song begin, ye Nymphs? or end?
23 Wide is your praise and copious First of things,
24 First of the lonely powers, ere Time arose,
25 Were Love and Chaos. Love, the fire of Fate;
26 Elder than Chaos. Born of Fate was Time,
27 Who many sons and many comely births
28 Devour'd, relentless father: till the child
29 Of Rhea drove him from the upper sky,
30 And quell'd his deadly might. Then social reign'd
31 The kindred powers, Tethys, and reverend Ops,
32 And spotless Vesta; while supreme of sway
33 Remain'd the cloud-compeller. From the couch
34 Of Tethys sprang the sedgy-crowned race,
35 Who from a thousand urns, o'er every clime,
36 Send tribute to their parent; and from them
37 Are ye, O Naiads: Arethusa fair,
38 And tuneful Aganippe; that sweet name,
39 Bandusia; that soft family which dwelt
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40 With Syrian Daphne; and the honour'd tribes
41 Belov'd of Paeon. Listen to my strain,
42 Daughters of Tethys: listen to your praise.
43 You, Nymphs, the winged offspring, which of old
44 Aurora to divine Astraeus bore,
45 Owns; and your aid beseecheth. When the might
46 Of Hyperion, from his noontide throne,
47 Unbends their languid pinions, aid from you
48 They ask: Favonius and the mild South-west
49 From you relief implore. Your sallying streams
50 Fresh vigour to their weary wings impart.
51 Again they fly, disporting; from the mead
52 Half-ripen'd and the tender blades of corn,
53 To sweep the noxious mildew; or dispel
54 Contagious steams, which oft the parched earth
55 Breathes on her fainting sons. From noon to eve,
56 Along the river and the paved brook,
57 Ascend the cheerful breezes: hail'd of bards
58 Who, fast by learned Cam, the Mantuan lyre
59 Sollicit; nor unwelcome to the youth
60 Who on the highths of Tybur, all inclin'd
61 O'er rushing Anio, with a pious hand
62 The reverend scene delineates, broken fanes,
63 Or tombs, or pillar'd aqueducts, the pomp
64 Of ancient time; and haply, while he scans
65 The ruins, with a silent tear revolves
66 The fame and fortune of imperious Rome.
67 You too, O Nymphs, and your unenvious aid
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68 The rural powers confess; and still prepare
69 For you their grateful treasures. Pan commands,
70 Oft as the Delian king with Sirius holds
71 The central heavens, the father of the grove
72 Commands his Dryads over your abodes
73 To spread their deepest umbrage. well the God
74 Remembereth how indulgent ye supplied
75 Your genial dews to nurse them in their prime.
76 Pales, the pasture's queen, where'er ye stray,
77 Pursues your steps, delighted; and the path
78 With living verdure clothes. Around your haunts
79 The laughing Chloris, with profusest hand,
80 Throws wide her blooms, her [odours]. Still with you
81 Pomona seeks to dwell: and o'er the lawns,
82 And o'er the vale of Richmond, where with Thames
83 Ye love to wander, Amalthea pours
84 Well-pleas'd the wealth of that Ammonian horn,
85 Her dower; unmindful of the fragrant isles
86 Nysaean or Atlantic. Nor can'st thou,
87 (Albeit oft, ungrateful, thou dost mock
88 The beverage of the sober Naiad's urn,
89 O Bromius, O Lenaean) nor can'st thou
90 Disown the powers whose bounty, ill repaid,
91 With nectar feeds thy tendrils. Yet from me,
92 Yet, blameless Nymphs, from my delighted lyre,
93 Accept the rites your bounty well may claim;
94 Nor heed the scoffings of the Edonian band.
95 For better praise awaits you. Thames, your sire,
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96 As down the verdant slope your duteous rills
97 Descend, the tribute stately Thames receives,
98 Delighted; and your piety applauds;
99 And bids his copious tide roll on secure,
100 For faithful are his daughters; and with words
101 Auspicious gratulates the bark which, now
102 His banks forsaking, her adventurous wings
103 Yields to the breeze, with Albion's happy gifts
104 Extremest isles to bless. And oft at morn,
105 When Hermes, from Olympus bent o'er earth
106 To bear the words of Jove, on yonder hill
107 Stoops lightly-sailing; oft intent your springs
108 He views: and waving o'er some new-born stream
109 His blest pacific wand, "And yet," he cries,
110 "Yet," cries the son of Maia, "though recluse
111 "And silent be your stores, from you, fair Nymphs,
112 "Flows wealth and kind society to men.
113 "By you my function and my honour'd name
114 "Do I possess; while o'er the Boetic vale,
115 "Or through the towers of Memphis, or the palms
116 "By sacred Ganges water'd, I conduct
117 "The English merchant: with the buxom fleece
118 "Of fertile Ariconium while I clothe
119 "Sarmatian kings; or to the household Gods
120 "Of Syria, from the bleak Cornubian shore,
121 "Dispense the mineral treasure which of old
122 "Sidonian pilots sought, when this sair land
123 "Was yet unconscious of those generous arts
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124 "Which wise Phoenicia from their native clime
125 "Transplanted to a more indulgent heaven. "
126 Such are the words of Hermes: such the praise,
127 O Naiads, which from tongues coelestial waits
128 Your bounteous deeds. From bounty issueth power:
129 And those who, sedulous in prudent works,
130 Relieve the wants of nature, Jove repays
131 With generous wealth and his own seat on earth,
132 Fit judgments to pronounce, and curb the might
133 Of wicked men. Your kind unfailing urns
134 Not vainly to the hospitable arts
135 Of Hermes yield their store. For, O ye Nymphs,
136 Hath he not won the unconquerable queen
137 Of arms to court your friendship? You she owns
138 The fair associates who extend her sway
139 Wide o'er the mighty deep; and grateful things
140 Of you she uttereth, oft as from the shore
141 Of Thames, or Medway's vale, or the green banks
142 Of Vecta, she her thundering navy leads
143 To Calpe's foaming channel, or the rough
144 Cantabrian coast; her auspices divine
145 Imparting to the senate and the prince
146 Of Albion, to dismay barbaric kings,
147 The Iberian, or the Celt. The pride of kings
148 Was ever scorn'd by Pallas: and of old
149 Rejoic'd the virgin, from the brazen prow
150 Of Athens o'er Aegina's gloomy surge,
151 To drive her clouds and storms; o'erwhelming all
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152 The Persian's promis'd glory, when the realms
153 Of Indus and the soft Ionian clime,
154 When Lybia's torrid champain and the rocks
155 Of cold Imaüs join'd their servile bands,
156 To sweep the sons of liberty from earth.
157 In vain: Minerva on the brazen prow
158 Of Athens stood, and with the thunder's voice
159 Denounc'd her terrours on their impious heads,
160 And shook her burning Aegis. Xerxes saw:
161 From Heracleum, on the mountain's highth
162 Thron'd in his golden car, he knew the sign
163 Coelestial; felt unrighteous hope forsake
164 His faltering heart, and turn'd his face with shame.
165 Hail, ye who share the stern Minerva's power;
166 Who arm the hand of liberty for war:
167 And give, in secret, the Britannic name
168 To awe contending monarchs: yet benign,
169 Yet mild of nature: to the works of peace
170 More prone, and lenient of the many ills
171 Which wait on human life. Your gentle aid
172 Hygeia well can witness; she who saves,
173 From poisonous cates and cups of pleasing bane,
174 The wretch devoted to the entangling snares
175 Of Bacchus and of Comus. Him she leads
176 To Cynthia's lonely haunts. To spread the toils,
177 To beat the coverts, with the jovial horn
178 At dawn of day to summon the loud hounds,
179 She calls the lingering sluggard from his dreams:
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180 And where his breast may drink the mountain-breeze,
181 And where the fervour of the sunny vale
182 May beat upon his brow, through devious paths
183 Beckons his rapid courser. Nor when ease,
184 Cool ease and welcome slumbers have becalm'd
185 His eager bosom, does the queen of health
186 Her pleasing care withold. His decent board
187 She guards, presiding; and the frugal powers
188 With joy sedate leads in: and while the brown
189 Ennaean dame with Pan presents her stores;
190 While changing still, and comely in the change,
191 Vertumnus and the Hours before him spread
192 The garden's banquet; you to crown his feast,
193 To crown his feast, O Naiads, you the fair
194 Hygeia calls: and from your shelving seats,
195 And groves of poplar, plenteous cups ye bring,
196 To slake his veins: till soon a purer tide
197 Flows down those loaded channels; washeth off
198 The dregs of luxury, the lurking seeds
199 Of crude disease; and through the abodes of life
200 Sends vigour, sends repose. Hail, Naiads: hail,
201 Who give, to labour, health; to stooping age,
202 The joys which youth had squander'd. Oft your urns
203 Will I invoke; and, frequent in your praise,
204 Abash the frantic Thyrsus with my song.
205 For not estrang'd from your benignant arts
206 Is he, the God, to whose mysterious shrine
207 My youth was sacred, and my votive cares
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208 Are due; the learned Paeon. Oft when all
209 His cordial treasures he hath search'd in vain;
210 When herbs, and potent trees, and drops of balm
211 Rich with the genial influence of the sun,
212 (To rouze dark fancy from her plaintive dreams,
213 To brace the nerveless arm, with food to win
214 Sick appetite, or hush the unquiet breast
215 Which pines with silent passion) he in vain
216 Hath prov'd; to your deep mansions he descends.
217 Your gates of humid rock, your dim arcades,
218 He entereth; where impurpled veins of ore
219 Gleam on the roof; where through the rigid mine
220 Your trickling rills insinuate. There the God
221 From your indulgent hands the streaming bowl
222 Wafts to his pale-ey'd suppliants; wafts the seeds
223 Metallic and the elemental salts
224 Wash'd from the pregnant glebe. They drink: and soon
225 Flies pain; flies inauspicious care: and soon
226 The social haunt or unfrequented shade
227 Hears Io, Io Paean; as of old,
228 When Python fell. And, O propitious Nymphs,
229 Oft as for hapless mortals I implore
230 Your salutary springs, thro' every urn
231 O shed selected atoms, and with all
232 Your healing powers inform the recent wave.
233 My lyre shall pay your bounty. Nor disdain
234 That humble tribute. Though a mortal hand
235 Excite the strings to utterance, yet for themes
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236 Not unregarded of coelestial powers,
237 I frame their language; and the Muses deign
238 To guide the pious tenour of my lay.
239 The Muses (sacred by their gifts divine)
240 In early days did to my wondering sense
241 Their secrets oft reveal: oft my rais'd ear
242 In slumber felt their music: oft at noon
243 Or hour of sunset, by some lonely stream,
244 In field or shady grove, they taught me words
245 Of power from death and envy to preserve
246 The good man's name. whence yet with grateful mind,
247 And offerings unprofan'd by ruder eye,
248 My vows I send, my homage, to the seats
249 Of rocky Cirrha, where with you they dwell:
250 Where you their chaste companions they admit
251 Through all the hallow'd scene: where oft intent,
252 And leaning o'er Castalia's mossy verge,
253 They mark the cadence of your confluent urns,
254 How tunefull, yielding gratefullest repose
255 To their consorted measure: till again,
256 With emulation all the sounding choir,
257 And bright Apollo, leader of the song,
258 Their voices through the liquid air exalt,
259 And sweep their lofty strings: those awful strings,
260 That charm the mind of Gods: that fill the courts
261 Of wide Olympus with oblivion sweet
262 Of evils, with immortal rest from cares;
263 Assuage the terrours of the throne of Jove;
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264 And quench the formidable thunderbolt
265 Of unrelenting fire. With slacken'd wings,
266 While now the solemn concert breathes around,
267 Incumbent o'er the sceptre of his lord
268 Sleeps the stern eagle; by the number'd notes,
269 Possess'd; and satiate with the melting tone:
270 Sovereign of birds. The furious God of war,
271 His darts forgetting and the rapid wheels
272 That bear him vengeful o'er the embattled plain,
273 Relents, and sooths his own fierce heart to ease,
274 Unwonted ease. The sire of Gods and men,
275 In that great moment of divine delight,
276 Looks down on all that live; and whatsoe'er
277 He loves not, o'er the peopled earth and o'er
278 The interminated ocean, he beholds
279 Curs'd with abhorrence by his doom severe,
280 And troubled at the sound. Ye, Naiads, ye
281 With ravish'd ears the melody attend
282 Worthy of sacred silence. But the slaves
283 Of Bacchus with tempestuous clamours strive
284 To drown the heavenly strains; of highest Jove,
285 Irreverent; and by mad presumption fir'd
286 Their own discordant raptures to advance
287 With hostile emulation. Down they rush
288 From Nysa's vine-impurpled cliff, the dames
289 Of Thrace, the Satyrs, and the unruly Fauns,
290 With old Silenus, through the midnight gloom
291 Tossing the torch impure, and high in air
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292 The brandish'd Thyrsus, to the Phrygian pipe's
293 Shrill voice, and to the clashing cymbals, mix'd
294 With shrieks and frantic uproar. May the Gods
295 From every unpolluted ear avert
296 Their orgies! If within the seats of men,
297 Within the seats of men, the walls, the gates
298 Which Pallas rules, if haply there be found
299 Who loves to mingle with the revel-band
300 And hearken to their accents; who aspires
301 From such instructers to inform his breast
302 With verse; let him, fit votarist, implore
303 Their inspiration. He perchance the gifts
304 Of young Lyaeus, and the dread exploits,
305 May sing in aptest numbers: he the fate
306 Of sober Pentheus, he the Paphian rites,
307 And naked Mars with Cytheraea chain'd,
308 And strong Alcides in the spinster's robe,
309 May celebrate, applauded. But with you,
310 O Naiads, far from that unhallow'd rout,
311 Must dwell the man whoe'er to praised themes
312 Invokes the immortal Muse. the immortal Muse
313 To your calm habitations, to the cave
314 Corycian or the Delphic mount, will guide
315 His footsteps; and with your unsullied streams
316 His lips will bathe: whether the eternal lore
317 Of Themis, or the majesty of Jove,
318 To mortals he reveal; or teach his lyre
319 The unenvied guerdon of the patriot's toils,
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320 In those unfading islands of the blest,
321 Where sacred bards abide. Hail, honour'd Nymphs;
322 Thrice hail, for you the Cyrenaïc shell,
323 Behold, I touch, revering. To my songs
324 Be present ye with favourable feet,
325 And all profaner audience far remove.

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    About this text

    Title (in Source Edition): HYMN TO THE NAIADS.
    Author: Mark Akenside
    Themes: mythology; poetry; literature; writing; virtue; vice; nature
    Genres: blank verse; hymn
    Headnote: Written in 1746. First published in Dodsley's Collection (1758).
    References: DMI 27801

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    A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. VI. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758], pp. [1]-15. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163; OTA K104099.006)

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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.