Sunday, June 29, 2003

On the Platonic 'Ideal' as it was Understood by Aristotle

Ye sister Pow'rs who o'er the sacred groves
Preside, and, Thou, fair mother of them all
Mnemosyne, and thou, who in thy grot
Immense reclined at leisure, hast in charge
The Archives and the ord'nances of Jove,
And dost record the festivals of heav'n,
Eternity!--Inform us who is He,
That great Original by Nature chos'n
To be the Archetype of Human-kind,
Unchangeable, Immortal, with the poles
Themselves coaeval, One, yet ev'rywhere,
An image of the god, who gave him Being?
Twin-brother of the Goddess born from Jove,
He dwells not in his Father's mind, but, though
Of common nature with ourselves, exists
Apart, and occupies a local home.
Whether, companion of the stars, he spend
Eternal ages, roaming at his will
From sphere to sphere the tenfold heav'ns, or dwell
On the moon's side that nearest neighbours Earth,
Or torpid on the banks of Lethe sit
Among the multitude of souls ordair'd
To flesh and blood, or whether (as may chance)
That vast and giant model of our kind
In some far-distant region of this globe
Sequester'd stalk, with lifted head on high
O'ertow'ring Atlas, on whose shoulders rest
The stars, terrific even to the Gods.
Never the Theban Seer, whose blindness proved
His best illumination, Him beheld
In secret vision; never him the son
Of Pleione, amid the noiseless night
Descending, to the prophet-choir reveal'd;
Him never knew th'Assyrian priest, who yet
The ancestry of Ninus7 chronicles,
And Belus, and Osiris far-renown'd;
Nor even Thrice-great Hermes, although skill'd
So deep in myst'ry, to the worshippers
Of Isis show'd a prodigy like Him.
And thou, who hast immortalized the shades
Of Academus, if the school received
This monster of the Fancy first from Thee,
Either recall at once the banish'd bards
To thy Republic, or, thyself evinc'd
A wilder Fabulist, go also forth.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

To John Milton, English Gentleman

Exalt Me, Clio,1 to the skies,
That I may form a starry crown,
Beyond what Helicon supplies
In laureate garlands of renown;
To nobler worth be brighter glory given,
And to a heavenly mind a recompense from heaven.

Time's wasteful hunger cannot prey
On everlasting high desert,
Nor can Oblivion steal away
Its record graven on the heart;
Lodge but an arrow, Virtue, on the bow
That binds my lyre, and death shall be a vanquished foe.

In Ocean's blazing flood enshrined.
Whose vassal tide around her swells,
Albion. from other realms disjoined,
The prowess of the world excels;
She teems with heroes that to glory rise,
With more than human force in our astonished eyes.

To Virtue, driven from other lands,
Their bosoms yield a safe retreat;
Her law alone their deed commands,
Her smiles they feel divinely sweet;
Confirm my record, Milton, generous youth!
And by true virtue prove thy virtue's praise a truth.

Zeuxis, all energy and flaine,
Set ardent forth in his career,
Urged to his task by Helen's fame,
Resounding ever in his ear;
To make his image to her beauty true,
From the collected fair each sovereign charm he drew.2

The bee, with subtlest skill endued,
Thus toils to earn her precious juice,
From all the flowery myriads strewed
O'er meadow and parterre profuse;
Confederate voices one sweet air compound,
And various chords consent in one harmonious sound.

An artist of celestial aim,
Thy genius, caught by moral grace,
With ardent emulation's flame
The steps of Virtue toiled to trace,
Observed in everv land who brightest shone,
And blending all their best, make perfect good thy own.

Front all in Florence born, or taught
Our country's sweetest accent there,
Whose works, with learned labor wrought,
Immortal honors justly share,
Then hast such treasure drawn of purest ore,
That not even Tuscan bards can boast a richer store.

Babel, confused, and with her towers
Unfinished spreading wide and plain,
Has served but to evince thy powers,
With all hot, tongues confused in vain,
Since not alone thy England's purest phrase,
But every polished realm thy various speech displays.

The secret things of heaven and earth,
By nature, too reserved. concealed
From other minds of highest worth,
To thee ate copiously revealed;
Thou knowest them clearly, and thy views attain
The utmost bounds prescribed to moral truth's domain.

Let Time no snore his wing display,
And boast his ruinous career,
For Virtue, rescued front his sway.
His injuries may cease to fear;
Since all events that claim remembrance find
A chronicle exact in thy capacious mind.

Give me, that I may praise thy song,
Thy lyre, by which alone I can,
Which, placing thee the stars among,
Already proves thee more than man;
And Thames shall seem Permessus,3 while his stream
Graced with a swan like thee. shall be my favorite theme.

I, who beside the Arno, strain
To match thy merit with my lays,
Learn, after many an effort vain,
To admure thee rather than to praise;
And that by mute astonishment alone,
Not by the fathering tongue, thy worth may best be shown.

--Signor Antonio Francini, Gentleman, of Florence.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

That Nature is Not Subject to Decay

Ah, how the Human Mind wearies herself
With her own wand'rings, and, involved in gloom
Impenetrable, speculates amiss!
Measuring, in her folly, things divine
By human, laws inscrib'd on adamant
By laws of Man's device, and counsels fix'd
For ever, by the hours, that pass, and die.
How?--shall the face of Nature then be plow'd
Into deep wrinkles, and shall years at last
On the great Parent fix a sterile curse?
Shall even she confess old age, and halt
And, palsy-smitten, shake her starry brows?
Shall foul Antiquity with rust and drought
And famine vex the radiant worlds above?
Shall Time's unsated maw crave and engulf
The very heav'ns that regulate his flight?
And was the Sire of all able to fence
His works, and to uphold the circling worlds,
But through improvident and heedless haste
Let slip th'occasion?--So then--All is lost--
And in some future evil hour, yon arch
Shall crumble and come thund'ring down, the poles
Jar in collision, the Olympian King
Fall with his throne, and Pallas, holding forth
The terrors of her Gorgon shield in vain,
Shall rush to the abyss, like Vulcan hurl'd
Down into Lemnos through the gate of heav'n.
Thou also, with precipitated wheels
Phoebus! thy own son's fall shalt imitate,
With hideous ruin shalt impress the Deep
Suddenly, and the flood shall reek and hiss
At the extinction of the Lamp of Day.
Then too, shall Haemus cloven to his base
Be shattered, and the huge Ceraunian hills,
Once weapons of Tartarean Dis, immersed
In Erebus, shall fill Himself with fear.
No. The Almighty Father surer lay'd
His deep foundations, and providing well
For the event of all, the scales of Fate
Suspended, in just equipoise, and bade
His universal works from age to age
One tenour hold, perpetual, undisturb'd.
Hence the Prime Mover wheels itself about
Continual, day by day, and with it bears
In social measure swift the heav'ns around.
Not tardier now is Saturn than of old,
Nor radiant less the burning casque of Mars.
Phoebus, his vigour unimpair'd, still shows
Th'effulgence of his youth, nor needs the God
A downward course that he may warm the vales;
But, ever rich in influence, runs his road,
Sign after sign, through all the heav'nly zone.
Beautiful as at first ascends the star
From odorif'rous Ind, whose office is
To gather home betimes th'ethereal flock,
To pour them o'er the skies again at Eve,
And to discriminate the Night and Day.
Still Cynthia's changeful horn waxes and wanes
Alternate, and with arms extended still
She welcomes to her breast her brother's beams.
Nor have the elements deserted yet
Their functions, thunder with as loud a stroke
As erst, smites through the rocks and scatters them,
The East still howls, still the relentless North
Invades the shudd'ring Scythian, still he breathes
The Winter, and still rolls the storms along.
The King of Ocean with his wonted force
Beats on Pelorus, o'er the Deep is heard
The hoarse alarm of Triton's sounding shell,
Nor swim the monsters of th'Aegean sea
In shallows, or beneath diminish'd waves.
Thou too, thy antient vegetative pow'r
Enjoy'st, O Earth! Narcissus still is sweet,
And, Phoebus! still thy Favourite, and still
Thy Fav'rite, Cytherea! both retain
Their beauty, nor the mountains, ore-enrich'd
For punishment of Man, with purer gold
Teem'd ever, or with brighter gems the Deep.
Thus, in unbroken series all proceeds
And shall, till, wide involving either pole,
And the immensity of yonder heav'n,
The final flames of destiny absorb
The world, consum'd in one enormous pyre!