The Progress of Poesy


Thomas Gray.

    AWAKE, Æolian lyre, awake,

And give to rapture all thy trembling strings,

From Helicon’s harmonious springs

  A thousand rills their mazy progress take:

The laughing flowers, that round them blow,

Drink life and fragrance as they flow.

Now the rich stream of music winds along

Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong,

Thro’ verdant vales, and Ceres’ golden reign:

Now rolling down the steep amain,

Headlong, impetuous, see it pour;

The rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar.


  O Sovereign of the willing soul,

Parent of sweet and solemn-breathing airs,

Enchanting shell! the sullen Cares

  And frantic Passions hear thy soft controul.

On Thracia’s hills the Lord of War

Has curb’d the fury of his car,

And dropp’d his thirsty lance at thy command.

Perching on the sceptred hand

Of Jove, thy magic lulls the feather’d king

With ruffled plumes and flagging wing:

Quench’d in dark clouds of slumber lie

The terror of his beak, and lightnings of his eye.


Thee the voice, the dance, obey,

Temper’d to thy warbled lay.

  O’er Idalia’s velvet-green

  The rosy-crownéd Loves are seen

On Cytherea’s day

  With antic Sports, and blue-eyed Pleasures,

  Frisking light in frolic measures;

Now pursuing, now retreating,

  Now in circling troops they meet:

To brisk notes in cadence beating,

  Glance their many-twinkling feet.

Slow melting strains their Queen’s approach declare:

  Where’er she turns the Graces homage pay.

With arms sublime, that float upon the air,

  In gliding state she wins her easy way:

O’er her warm cheek and rising bosom move

The bloom of young Desire and purple light of Love.


  Man’s feeble race what ills await,

Labour, and Penury, the racks of Pain,

  Disease, and Sorrow’s weeping train,

  And Death, sad refuge from the storms of fate!

The fond complaint, my song, disprove,

And justify the laws of Jove.

Say, has he giv’n in vain the heav’nly Muse?

Night, and all her sickly dews,

Her sceptres wan, and birds of boding cry,

He gives to range the dreary sky:

Till down the eastern cliffs afar

Hyperion’s march they spy, and glitt’ring shafts of war.


  In climes beyond the solar road,

Where shaggy forms o’er ice-built mountains roam,

The Muse has broke the twilight gloom

  To cheer the shiv’ring native’s dull abode,

And oft, beneath the od’rous shade

Of Chili’s boundless forests laid,

She deigns to hear the savage youth repeat

In loose numbers wildly sweet

Their feather-cinctured chiefs, and dusky loves.

Her track, where’er the Goddess roves,

Glory pursue, and generous Shame,

Th’ unconquerable Mind, and Freedom’s holy flame.


Woods, that wave o’er Delphi’s steep,

Isles, that crown th’ Ægean deep,

  Fields, that cool Ilissus laves,

  Or where Mæander’s amber waves

In lingering lab’rinths creep,

  How do your tuneful echoes languish,

  Mute, but to the voice of anguish?

Where each old poetic mountain

  Inspiration breathed around:

Ev’ry shade and hallow’d fountain

  Murmur’d deep a solemn sound:

Till the sad Nine, in Greece’s evil hour,

  Left their Parnassus for the Latian plains.

Alike they scorn the pomp of tyrant Power,

  And coward Vice, that revels in her chains.

When Latium had her lofty spirit lost,

They sought, O Albion! next, thy sea-encircled coast.

literature, poetry

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