Ode On The Poetical Character

A poem by William Collins

As once, if not with light regard,
I read aright that gifted bard,
(Him whose school above the rest
His loveliest Elfin Queen has blest,)
One, only one, unrival’d fair,
Might hope the magic girdle wear,
At solemn tourney hung on high,
The wish of each love-darting eye;
Lo! to each other nymph in turn applied,
As if, in air unseen, some hov’ring hand,
Some chaste and angel-friend to virgin-fame,
With whisper’d spell had burst the starting band,
It left unblest her loath’d dishonour’d side;
Happier, hopeless fair, if never
Her baffled hand with vain endeavour
Had touch’d that fatal zone to her denied!
Young Fancy thus, to me divinest name,
To whom, prepar’d and bath’d in Heav’n,
The cest of amplest pow’r is giv’n:
To few the god-like gift assigns,
To gird their blest prophetic loins,
And gaze her visions wild, and feel unmix’d her flame!

The band, as fairy legends say,
Was wove on that creating day,
When He, who call’d with thought to birth
Yon tented sky, this laughing earth,
And dress’d with springs, and forests tall,
And pour’d the main engirting all,
Long by the lov’d enthusiast woo’d,
Himself in some diviner mood,
Retiring, sate with her alone,
And plac’d her on his sapphire throne,
The whiles, the vaulted shrine around,
Seraphic wires were heard to sound,
Now sublimest triumph swelling,
Now on love and mercy dwelling;
And she, from out the veiling cloud,
Breath’d her magic notes aloud:
And thou, thou rich-hair’d youth of morn,
And all thy subject life was born!
The dang’rous Passions kept aloof,
Far from the sainted growing woof:
But near it sate ecstatic Wonder
List’ning the deep applauding thunder:
And Truth, in sunny vest array’d,
By whose the tarsel’s eyes were made
All the shad’wy tribes of mind,
In braided dance their murmurs join’d,
And all the bright uncounted Pow’rs
Who feed on Heav’n’s ambrosial flow’rs.
Where is the bard, whose soul can now
Its high presuming hopes avow?
Where he who thinks, with rapture blind,
This hallow’d work for him design’d?

High on some cliff, to Heav’n up-pil’d,
Of rude access, of prospect wild,
Where, tangled round the jealous steep,
Strange shades o’erbrow the valleys deep,
And holy genii guard the rock,
Its glooms embrown, its springs unlock,
While on its rich ambitious head,
An Eden, like his own, lies spread.
I view that oak, the fancied glades among,
By which as Milton lay, his ev’ning ear,
From many a cloud that dropp’d ethereal dew,
Nigh spher’d in Heav’n its native strains could hear:
On which that ancient trump he reach’d was hung;
Thither oft his glory greeting,
From Waller’s myrtle shades retreating,
With many a vow from Hope’s aspiring tongue,
My trembling feet his guiding steps pursue;
In vain, such bliss to one alone,
Of all the sons of soul was known,
And Heav’n, and Fancy, kindred pow’rs,
Have now o’erturn’d th’ inspiring bow’rs,
Or curtain’d close such scene from ev’ry future view.

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