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PROCEED, ye Nine, defcended from above,
Ye tuneful daughters of almighty Jove;
To teach the future age, I haften on,
And open every fource of Helicon.
Your priest and bard with rage divine inspire,
While to your shrine I lead the blooming choir.
Hard was the way, and dubious, which we trod,
Now fhow, ye goddeffes, a furer road;
Point out thofe paths, which you can find alone,
To all the world but to yourfelves unknown;
Lo! all th' Hefperian youths with me implore
Your fofter influence, and propitious power,
Who, rang'd beneath my banners, boldly tread
Thofe arduous tracks to reach your mountain's head.
New rules 'tis now my province to impart;
First to invent, and then difpofe with art;
Each a laborious tafk: but they who fhare
Heaven's kinder bounty, and peculiar care,
A glorious train of images may find,
Preventing hope, and crowding on the mind.
The other task, to fettle every part,
Depends on judgment, and the powers of art ;
From whence in chief the poet hopes to raise
His future glory, and immortal praife.
This as a rule the nobleft bards efteem,
To touch at firft in general on the theme;
To hint at all the fubject in a line;
And draw in miniature the whole defign.
Nor in themselves confide; but next implore
The timely aid of fome celeftial power ;
To guide your labours, and point out your road,
Choose, as you please, your tutelary God;
But ftill invoke fome guardian deity,
Some power, to look aufpicious from the sky:
To nothing great should mortals bend their care,
Till Jove be folemnly addrest in prayer.
'Tis not enough to call for aid divine,
And court but once the favour of the Nine;
When objects rife, that mock your toil and pain,
Above the labour and the reach of man;
Then you may fupplicate the bleft abodes,
And ask the friendly fuccour of the Gods.
Shock not your reader, nor begin too fierce,
Nor fwell and blufter in a pomp of verse;
At first all needlefs ornament remove,
To fhun his prejudice, and win his love.
At first, you find moft favour and fuccefs
In plain expreffion, and a modest drefs.
For if too arrogant you vaunt your might,
You fall with greater fcandal in the fight,
When on the niceft point your fortune stands,
And all your courage, all your ftrength demands.
With gradual flights furprize us as we read;
And let more glorious images fucceed,
To wake our fouls; to kindle our defire
Still to read on, and fan the rifing fire.
But ne'er the fubject of your
In its own colours, and its genuine name;
Let it by diftant tokens be convey'd,
And wrapt in other words, and cover'd in their shade.
At laft the fubject from the friendly shrowd
Burfts out, and fhines the brighter from the cloud;
Then the diffolving darkness breaks away,
And every object glares in open day.
Thus great Ulyffes' toils were I to choose,
For the main theme that should employ my Muse;
By his long labours of immortal fame,
Should shine my hero, but conceal his name ;
As one, who loft at fea, had nations feen,
And mark'd their towns, their manners, and their men, Since Troy was level'd to the dust by Greece;
Till a few lines epitomiz'd the piece.
But ftudy now what order to maintain,
To link the work in one continued chain,
That, when the Mufe difplays her artful scheme,
And at the proper time unfolds the theme;
Each part may find its own determin'd place,
Laid out with method, and difpos'd with grace;
That to the deftin'd fcope the piece may tend,
And keep one conftant tenor to the end.
Firft to furprizing novelties inclin'd,
The bards fome unexpected objects find,
To wake attention, and suspend the mind.
* Vid. Hom. Odyff. Lib. I.
A cold dull order bravely they forfake;
Fixt and refolv'd the winding way to take,
They nobly deviate from the beaten track.
The poet marks th' occafion, as he fings,
To launch out boldly from the midst of things,
Where fome diftinguish'd incident he views,
Some fhining action that deferves a Mufe.
Thence by degrees the wondering reader brings
To trace the fubject backward to its fprings,
Left at his entrance he fhould idly stay,
Shock'd at his toil, and dubious of his way;
For when fet down fo near the promis'd goal,
The flattering profpect tempts and fires his foul;
Already paft the treacherous bounds appear,
Then most at diftance, when they feem fo near;
Far from his grafp the fleeting harbour flies,
Courts his purfuit, but mocks his dazled eyes;
The promis'd region he with joy had spy'd,
Vaft tracts of oceans from his reach divide;
Still muft he backward fteer his lengthen'd way,
And plough a wide interminable fea.
No skilful poet would his Muse employ,
From Paris' vote to trace the fall of Troy,
Nor every deed of Hector to relate,
While his ftrong arm fufpended Ilion's fate;
Work! for fome annalift! fome heavy fool,
Correctly dry, and regularly dull.
Best near the end thofe dreadful fcenes appear;
Wake then, and rouze the furies of the war.
But for his ravish'd fair at first engage
Peleides' foul in unrelenting rage.
Be this the cause that every Phrygian flood
Swells with red waves, and rolls a tide of blood;
That Xanthus' urns a purple deluge pour,
And the deep trenches float with human gore.
Nor former deeds in filence muft we lofe,
The league at Aulis, and the mutual vows,
The Spartan raging for his ravish'd spouse;
The thousand ships; the woes which Ilion bore
From Greece, for nine revolving years before.
This rule with judgment should the bard maintain,
Who brings Laërtes' wandering fon again,
From burning Ilion to his native reign.
Let him not launch from Ida's strand his fhips,
With his attendant friends into the deeps;
Nor stay to vanquish the Ciconian host;
But let him first appear (his comrades loft)
With fair Calypfo on th' Ogygian coast.
From thence, a world of toils and dangers past,
Waft him to rich Phæacia's realms at last,
There at the feaft his wanderings to relate,
His friends dire change; his own relentless fate.
But if the bard of former actions fings,
He wifely draws from those remoter springs
The present order, and the course of things.
As yet unfold th' event on no pretence,
'Tis your chief task to keep us in suspense.
* See the Odyssey.