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JAMES BEATTIE. 1735–1803.
THE MINSTREL ; OR, THE PROGRESS OF GENIUS. Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar; Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime Has felt the influence of malignant star, And waged with Fortune an eternal war ; Check by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown, And Poverty's unconquerable bar, In life's low vale remote has pined alone, Then dropp'd into the grave, unpitied and unknown! And yet the languor of inglorious days Not equally oppressive is to all ; Him who ne'er listend to the voice of praise, The silence of neglect can ne'er appal. There are, who, deaf to mad Ambition's call, Would shrink to hear th’ obstreperous trump of
Supremely bless'd if to their portion fall
Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim
Had he, whose simple tale these artless lines pro-
The rolls of Fame I will not now explore ;
Nor need I here describe in learned lay,
How forth the Minstrel fared in days of yore,
Right glad of heart, though homely in array ;
His waving locks and beard all hoary gray :
While from his bending shoulder decent hung
His harp, the sole companion of his way,
Which to the whistling wind responsive rung;
And ever, as he went, some merry lay he sung.
Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of pride,
That a poor villager inspires my strain ;
With thee let Pageantry and Power abide :
The gentle Muses haunt the sylvan reign;
Where, through wild groves at eve the lonely swain
Enraptured roams, to gaze on Nature's charms.
They hate the sensual, and scorn the vain,
The parasite their influence never warms,
Nor him whose sordid soul the love of gold alarms.
Though richest hues the peacock's plumes adorn,
Yet horror screams from his discordant throat.
Rise, sons of Harmony, and hail the morn,
While warbling larks on russet pinions float:
Or seek at noon the woodland scene remote,
Where the gray linnets carol from the hill.
Oh, let them ne'er, with artificial note,
To please a tyrant, strain the little bill,
But sing what Heaven inspires, and wander where
Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature's hand;
Nor was perfection made for man below.
Yet all her schemes with nicest art are plann'd,
Good counteracting ill, and gladness wo.
With gold and gems if Chilian mountains glow-
If bleak and barren Scotia's hills arise-
There plague and poison, lust and rapine grow;
Here peaceful are the vales, and pure the skies,
And freedom fires the soul, and sparkles in the eyes.
Then grieve not thou, to whom th' indulgent Muse
Vouchsafes a portion of celestial fire :
Nor blame the partial Fates if they refuse
Th’ imperial banquet and the rich attire.
Know thine own worth, and reverence the lyre.
Wilt thou debase the heart which God refined ?
No ; let thy heaven-taught soul to Heaven aspire,
To Fancy, Freedom, Harmony resignd;
Ambition’s grovelling crew for ever left behind.
Canst thou forego the pure ethereal soul,
In each fine sense so exquisitely keen,
On the dull couch of Luxury to loll,
Stung with disease, and stupified with spleen;
Fain to implore the aid of Flattery's screen,
Even from thyself thy loathsome heart to hide
(The mansion then no more of joy serene),
Where Fear, Distrust, Malevolence abide,
And impotent Desire, and disappointed Pride ?
Oh, how canst thou renounce the boundless store
or charms which Nature to her votary yields !
The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields ;
All that the genial ray of morning gilds,
And all that echoes to the song of even,
All that the mountain's sheltering bosom shields,
And all the dread magnificence of Heaven, (given?
Oh, how canst thou renounce, and hope to be for-
These charms shall work thy soul's eternal health,
And love, and gentleness, and joy impart.
But these thou must renounce, if lust of wealth
E’er win its way to thy corrupted heart :
For ah! it poisons like a scorpion's dart ;
Prompting th' ungenerous wish, the selfish scheme,
The stern resolve unmoved by pity's smart,
The troublous day, and long distressful dream,
Return, my roving Muse, resume thy purposed
There lived in Gothic days, as legends tell,
A shepherd-swain, a man of low degree ;
Whose sires, perchance, in Fairy-land might dwell,
Sicilian groves, or vales of Arcady;
But he, I ween, was of the north countrie ;
A nation famed for song and beauty's charms;
Zealous, yet modest ; innocent, though free ;
Patient of toil, serene amid alarms,
Inflexible in faith, invincible in arms.
The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made,
On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock;
The sickle, scythe, or plough he never sway'd ;
An honest heart was almost all his stock;
His drink the living water from the rock :
The milky dams supplied his board, and lent
Their kindly fleece to baffle winter's shock;
And he, though oft with dust and sweat besprent,
Did guide and guard their wanderings wheresoe'er
they went. From labour health, from health contentment
springs : Contentment opes the source of every joy. He envied not, he never thought of kings; Nor from those appetites sustain'd annoy, That chance may frustrate, or indulgence cloy; Nor Fate his calm and humble hopes beguiled ; He mourn'd no recreant friend nor mistress coy, For on his vows the blameless Phæbe smiled, And her alone he loved, and loved her from a child. No jealousy their dawn of love o'ercast, Nor blasted were their wedded days with strife ; Each season look'd delightful as it pass'd, To the fond husband and the faithful wife. Beyond the lowly vale of shepherd-life They never roam'd ; secure beneath the storm Which in Ambition's lofty land is rife, Where peace and love are canker'd by the worm Of pride, each bud of joy industrious to deform. The wight, whose tales these artless lines unfold, Was all the offspring of this humble pair: His birth no oracle or seer foretold ; No prodigy appear'd in earth or air,