A Letter From Italy

A poem by Joseph Addison

Salve magna parens frugum Saturnia tellus,
Magna virûm! tibi res antiquæ laudis et artis
Aggredior, sanctos ausus recludere fontes.
Virg. Geor. 2.

1 While you, my Lord, the rural shades admire,
2 And from Britannia's public posts retire,
3 Nor longer, her ungrateful sons to please,
4 For their advantage sacrifice your ease;

5 Me into foreign realms my fate conveys,
6 Through nations fruitful of immortal lays,
7 Where the soft season and inviting clime
8 Conspire to trouble your repose with rhyme.

9 For wheresoe'er I turn my ravish'd eyes,
10 Gay gilded scenes and shining prospects rise,
11 Poetic fields encompass me around,
12 And still I seem to tread on classic ground;
13 For here the Muse so oft her harp has strung
14 That not a mountain rears its head unsung,
15 Renown'd in verse each shady thicket grows,
16 And ev'ry stream in heavenly numbers flows.

17 How am I pleas'd to search the hills and woods
18 For rising springs and celebrated floods!
19 To view the Nar, tumultuous in his course,
20 And trace the smooth Clitumnus to his source,
21 To see the Mincio draw his wat'ry store
22 Through the long windings of a fruitful shore,
23 And hoary Albula's infected tide
24 O'er the warm bed of smoking sulphur glide.

25 Fir'd with a thousand raptures I survey
26 Eridanus through flowery meadows stray,
27 The king of floods! that rolling o'er the plains
28 The towering Alps of half their moisture drains,
29 And proudly swoln with a whole winter's snows,
30 Distributes wealth and plenty where he flows.

31 Sometimes, misguided by the tuneful throng,
32 I look for streams immortaliz'd in song,
33 That lost in silence and oblivion lie,
34 (Dumb are their fountains and their channels dry)
35 Yet run forever by the Muse's skill,
36 And in the smooth description murmur still.

37 Sometimes to gentle Tiber I retire,
38 And the fam'd river's empty shores admire,
39 That destitute of strength derives its course
40 From thrifty urns and an unfruitful source;
41 Yet sung so often in poetic lays,
42 With scorn the Danube and the Nile surveys;
43 So high the deathless Muse exalts her theme!
44 Such was the Boin, a poor inglorious stream,
45 That in Hibernian vales obscurely stray'd,
46 And unobserv'd in wild meanders play'd;
47 'Till by your lines and Nassau's sword renown'd,
48 Its rising billows through the world resound,
49 Where-e'er the hero's godlike acts can pierce,
50 Or where the fame of an immortal verse.

51 Oh could the Muse my ravish'd breast inspire
52 With warmth like yours, and raise an equal fire,
53 Unnumber'd beauties in my verse should shine,
54 And Virgil's Italy should yield to mine!

55 See how the golden groves around me smile,
56 That shun the coast of Britain's stormy isle,
57 Or when transplanted and preserv'd with care,
58 Curse the cold clime, and starve in northern air.
59 Here kindly warmth their mounting juice ferments
60 To nobler tastes, and more exalted scents:
61 Ev'n the rough rocks with tender myrtle bloom,
62 And trodden weeds send out a rich perfume.
63 Bear me, some god, to Baia's gentle seats,
64 Or cover me in Umbria's green retreats;
65 Where western gales eternally reside,
66 And all the seasons lavish all their pride:
67 Blossoms, and fruits, and flowers together rise,
68 And the whole year in gay confusion lies.

69 Immortal glories in my mind revive,
70 And in my soul a thousand passions strive,
71 When Rome's exalted beauties I descry
72 Magnificent in piles of ruin lie.
73 An amphitheatre's amazing height
74 Here fills my eye with terror and delight,
75 That on its public shows unpeopled Rome,
76 And held uncrowded nations in its womb:
77 Here pillars rough with sculpture pierce the skies:
78 And here the proud triumphal arches rise,
79 Where the old Romans deathless acts display'd,
80 Their base degenerate progeny upbraid:
81 Whole rivers here forsake the fields below,
82 And wond'ring at their height through airy channels flow.

83 Still to new scenes my wand'ring Muse retires,
84 And the dumb show of breathing rocks admires;
85 Where the smooth chisel all its force has shown,
86 And soften'd into flesh the rugged stone.
87 In solemn silence, a majestic band,
88 Heroes, and gods, the Roman consuls stand,
89 Stern tyrants, whom their cruelties renown,
90 And emperors in Parian marble frown;
91 While the bright dames, to whom they humbly su'd,
92 Still show the charms that their proud hearts subdu'd.

93 Fain would I Raphael's godlike art rehearse,
94 And show th' immortal labours in my verse,
95 Where from the mingled strength of shade and light
96 A new creation rises to my sight,
97 Such heav'nly figures from his pencil flow,
98 So warm with life his blended colours glow.
99 From theme to theme with secret pleasure tost,
100 Amidst the soft variety I'm lost:
101 Here pleasing airs my ravish'd soul confound
102 With circling notes and labyrinths of sound;
103 Here domes and temples rise in distant views,
104 And opening palaces invite my Muse.

105 How has kind Heav'n adorn'd the happy land,
106 And scatter'd blessings with a wasteful hand!
107 But what avail her unexhausted stores,
108 Her blooming mountains, and her sunny shores,
109 With all the gifts that heav'n and earth impart,
110 The smiles of nature, and the charms of art,
111 While proud oppression in her valleys reigns,
112 And tyranny usurps her happy plains?
113 The poor inhabitant beholds in vain
114 The red'ning orange and the swelling grain:
115 Joyless he sees the growing oils and wines,
116 And in the myrtle's fragrant shade repines:
117 Starves, in the midst of nature's bounty curst,
118 And in the loaden vineyard dies for thirst.

119 Oh Liberty, thou goddess heavenly bright,
120 Profuse of bliss, and pregnant with delight!
121 Eternal pleasures in thy presence reign,
122 And smiling plenty leads thy wanton train;
123 Eas'd of her load subjection grows more light,
124 And poverty looks cheerful in thy sight;
125 Thou mak'st the gloomy face of Nature gay,
126 Giv'st beauty to the sun, and pleasure to the day.

127 Thee, goddess, thee, Britannia's Isle adores;
128 How has she oft exhausted all her stores,
129 How oft in fields of death thy presence sought,
130 Nor thinks the mighty prize too dearly bought!
131 On foreign mountains may the sun refine
132 The grape's soft juice, and mellow it to wine,
133 With citron groves adorn a distant soil,
134 And the fat olive swell with floods of oil:
135 We envy not the warmer clime, that lies
136 In ten degrees of more indulgent skies,
137 Nor at the coarseness of our heaven repine,
138 Tho' o'er our heads the frozen Pleiads shine:
139 'Tis Liberty that crowns Britannia's Isle,
140 And makes her barren rocks and her bleak mountains smile.

141 Others with towering piles may please the sight,
142 And in their proud aspiring domes delight;
143 A nicer touch to the stretch'd canvas give,
144 Or teach their animated rocks to live:
145 'Tis Britain's care to watch o'er Europe's fate,
146 And hold in balance each contending state,
147 To threaten bold presumptuous kings with war,
148 And answer her afflicted neighbours' pray'r.
149 The Dane and Swede, rous'd up by fierce alarms,
150 Bless the wise conduct of her pious arms:
151 Soon as her fleets appear, their terrors cease,
152 And all the northern world lies hush'd in peace.

153 Th' ambitious Gaul beholds with secret dread
154 Her thunder aim'd at his aspiring head,
155 And fain her godlike sons would disunite
156 By foreign gold, or by domestic spite;
157 But strives in vain to conquer or divide,
158 Whom Nassau's arms defend and counsels guide.

159 Fir'd with the name, which I so oft have found
160 The distant climes and different tongues resound,
161 I bridle in my struggling Muse with pain,
162 That longs to launch into a bolder strain.

163 But I've already troubled you too long,
164 Nor dare attempt a more advent'rous song.
165 My humble verse demands a softer theme,
166 A painted meadow, or a purling stream;
167 Unfit for heroes; whom immortal lays,
168 And lines like Virgil's, or like yours, should praise.

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