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Hail the task, and hail the hands! Songs of joy and triumph sing! Joy to the victorious bands; Triumph to the younger king.
Mortal, thou that hear'st the tale, Learn the tenor of our song. Scotland, through each winding vale Far and wide the notes prolong.
Sisters, hence with spurs of speed: Each her thundering falchion wield; Each bestride her sable steed. Hurry, hurry to the field.
LYONS, October 13, 1739.
It is a fortnight since we set out from hence upon a little excursion to Geneva. We took the longest road, which lies through Savoy, on purpose to see a famous monastery, called the Grand Chartreuse, and had no reason to think our time lost. After having travelled seven days very slow (for we did not change horses, it being impossible for a chaise to go post in these roads) we [10 arrived at a little village, among the mountains of Savoy, called Echelles; from thence we proceeded on horses, who are used to the way, to the mountain of the Chartreuse. It is six miles to the top; the road runs winding up it, commonly not six feet broad; on one hand is the rock, with woods of pine-trees hanging overhead; on the other, a monstrous precipice, almost perpendicular, at the bottom [20
TO MRS. DOROTHY GRAY
I am this night arrived here, and have just set down to rest me after eight days' tiresome journey. For the first three we had the same road we before passed through to go to Geneva; the fourth we turned out of it, and for that day and the next travelled rather among than upon the Alps; the way commonly running through a deep valley by the side of the river Arve, which works itself a pas- [10 sage, with great difficulty and a mighty noise, among vast quantities of rocks, that have rolled down from the mountaintops. The winter was so far advanced as in great measure to spoil the beauty of the prospect; however, there was still somewhat fine remaining amidst the savageness and horror of the place: the sixth we began to go up several of these mountains; and as we were passing [20 one, met with an odd accident enough: Mr. Walpole had a little fat black spaniel, that he was very fond of, which he sometimes used to set down, and let it run by the chaise side. We were at that time in a very rough road, not two yards broad at most; on one side was a great wood of pines, and on the other a vast precipice; it was noonday, and the sun shone bright, when all of a sudden, from the wood- [30 side (which was as steep upwards as the other part was downwards), out rushed a great wolf, came close to the head of the horses, seized the dog by the throat, and rushed up the hill again with him in his mouth. This was done in less than a quarter of a minute; we all saw it, and yet the servants had not time to draw their pistols, or do anything to save the dog. If he had not been there, and [40 the creature had thought fit to lay hold
of one of the horses, chaise, and we, and must inevitably have tumbled about fifty fathoms perpendicular down the precipice. The seventh we came to Lanebourg, the last town in Savoy; it lies at the foot of the famous Mount Cenis, which is so situated as to allow no room for any way but over the very top of it. Here the chaise was forced to be pulled to [50 pieces, and the baggage and that to be carried by mules. We ourselves were wrapped up in our furs, and seated upon a sort of matted chair without legs, which is carried upon poles in the manner of a bier, and so begun to ascend by the help of eight men. It was six miles to the top, where a plain opens itself about as many more in breadth, covered perpetually with very deep snow, and in the midst [60 of that a great lake of unfathomable depth, from whence a river takes its rise, and tumbles over monstrous rocks quite down the other side of the mountain. The descent is six miles more, but infinitely more steep than the going up; and, here the men perfectly fly down with you, stepping from stone to stone with incredible swiftness in places where none but they could go three paces without [70 falling. The immensity of the precipices, the roaring of the river and torrents that run into it, the huge crags covered with ice and snow, and the clouds below you and about you, are objects it is impossible to conceive without seeing them; and though we had heard many strange descriptions of the scene, none of them at all came up to it. . . .
TO RICHARD WEST
TURIN, November 16, 1739. I have not, as yet, anywhere met with those grand and simple works of Art, that are to amaze one, and whose sight one is to be the better for: but those of Nature have astonished me beyond expression. In our little journey up to the Grande Chartreuse, I do not remember to have gone ten paces without an exclamation that there was no restraining. Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, [10 but is pregnant with religion and poetry. There are certain scenes that would awe an atheist into belief, without the help of
TO HORACE WALPOLE
CAMBRIDGE, February 11, 1751. As you have brought me into a little sort of distress, you must assist me, I believe, to get out of it as well as I can. Yesterday I had the misfortune of receiving a letter from certain gentlemen (as their bookseller expresses it), who have taken the Magazine of Magazines into their hands. They tell me that an ingenious poem, called reflections in a Country Church-yard, has been com- [10 municated to them, which they are printing forthwith; that they are informed that the excellent author of it is I by name, and that they beg not only his indulgence, but the honor of his correspondence, etc. As I am not at all disposed to be either so indulgent, or so correspondent, as they desire, I have but one bad way left to escape the honor they would inflict upon me; and therefore am obliged to desire [20 you would make Dodsley print it immediately (which may be done in less than a week's time) from your copy, but without my name, in what form is most convenient to him, but on his best paper and character; he must correct the press himself, and print it without any interval between the stanzas, because the sense is in some places continued beyond them; and the title must be, Elegy, writ- [30 ten in a Country Church-yard. If he would add a line or two to say it came into his hands by accident, I should like it better. If you behold the Magazine of Magazines in the light that I do, you will not refuse to give yourself this trouble on my account, which you have taken of your own accord before now. If Dodsley do not do this immediately, he may as well let it alone. [40
TO THE REV. WILLIAM MASON
Dear Mason-Though I very well know the bland emollient saponaceous qualities both of sack and silver, yet if any great man would say to me, "I make you ratcatcher to his Majesty, with a salary of £300 a year and two butts of the best Malaga; and though it has been usual to catch a mouse or two, for form's sake, in public once a year, yet to you, sir, we will not stand upon these things," I can- [10 not say I should jump at it; nay, if they would drop the very name of the office, and call me Sinecure to the King's Majesty, I should still feel a little awkward, and think everybody I saw smelt a rat about me; but I do not pretend to blame any one else that has not the same sensations; for my part I would rather be serjeant trumpeter or pinmaker to the palace. Nevertheless I interest my- [20
self a little in the history of it, and rather wish somebody may accept it that will retrieve the credit of the thing, if it be retrievable, or ever had any credit. Rowe was, I think, the last man of character that had it. As to Settle, whom you mention, he belonged to my lord mayor, not to the king. Eusden was a person of great hopes in his youth, though he at last turned out a drunken parson. [30 Dryden was as disgraceful to the office, from his character, as the poorest scribbler could have been from his verses. The office itself has always humbled the professor hitherto (even in an age when kings were somebody), if he were a poor writer by making him more conspicuous, and if he were a good one by setting him at war with the little fry of his own profession, for there are poets little enough to [40 envy even a poet-laureate. . .
JAMES MACPHERSON (1736–1796)
A Tale of the times of old! Why, thou wanderer unseen! Thou bender of the thistle of Lora; why, thou breeze of the valley, hast thou left mine ear? I hear no distant roar of streams!
No sound of the harp, from the rock! Come, thou huntress of Lutha, Malvina, call back his soul to the bard. I look
forward to Lochlin of lakes, to the dark, billowy bay of U-thorno, where Fingal [10 descends from ocean, from the roar of winds. Few are the heroes of Morven, in a land unknown!
Starno sent a dweller of Loda, to bid Fingal to the feast; but the king remembered the past, and all his rage arose. "Nor Gormal's mossy towers, nor Starno, shall Fingal behold. Deaths wander, like shadows, over his fiery soul! Do I forget that beam of light, the white-handed [20 daughter of kings? Go, son of Loda; his words are wind to Fingal: wind, that to and fro drives the thistle, in autumn's dusky vale. Duth-maruno, arm of death! Cromma-glas, of iron shields! Struthmor, dweller of battle's wing! Cormar, whose ships bound on seas, careless as the course of a meteor, on dark-rolling clouds! Arise around me, children of heroes, in a land unknown! Let each look on his [30 shield, like Trenmor, the ruler of wars."
Around the king they rise in wrath. No words come forth: they seize their spears. Each soul is rolled into itself. At length the sudden clang is waked, on all their echoing shields. Each takes his hill, by night; at intervals, they darkly stand. Unequal bursts the hum of songs, between the roaring wind!
Broad over them rose the moon!
In his arms came tall Duth-maruno; he from Croma of rocks, stern hunter of the boar! In his dark boat he rose on
Fingal rushed, in all his arms, widebounding over Turthor's stream, that sent its sullen roar by night through Gormal's misty vale. A moon-beam glittered on a rock; in the midst, stood a stately form; a form with floating [50 locks, like Lochlin's white-bosomed maids. Unequal are her steps, and short. She throws a broken song on wind. At times she tosses her white arms: for grief is dwelling in her soul.
Whence is the stream of years? Whither do they roll along? Where have they hid, in mist, their many-colored sides?
I look into the times of old, but they seem dim to Ossian's eyes, like reflected [60 moonbeams on a distant lake. Here rise the red beams of war! There, silent, dwells a feeble race! They mark no years with their deeds, as slow they pass along. Dweller between the shields! thou that awakest the failing soul! descend from thy wall, harp of Cona, with thy voices three! Come with that which kindles the past: rear the forms of old, on their own dark-brown years! [70
From THE SONGS OF SELMA
It is night; I am alone, forlorn on the hill of storms. The wind is heard in the mountain. The torrent pours down the rock. No hut receives me from the rain; forlorn on the hill of winds!
Rise, moon! from behind thy clouds. Stars of the night arise! Lead me, some light, to the place where my love rests from the chase alone! his bow near him, unstrung; his dogs panting around [10 him. But here I must sit alone, by the rock of the mossy stream. The stream and the wind roar aloud. I hear not the voice of my love! Why delays my Salgar, why the chief of the hill his promise? Here is the rock, and here the tree! here is the roaring stream! Thou didst promise with night to be here. Ah! whither is my Salgar gone? With thee I would fly, from my father; with thee from my [20 brother of pride. Our races have long been foes; we are not foes, O Salgar!
Cease a little while, O wind! stream, be thou silent a while! let my voice be heard around. Let my wanderer hear me! Salgar! it is Colma who calls. Here is the tree, and the rock. Salgar, my love! I am here. Why delayest thou thy coming? Lo! the calm moon comes forth. The flood is bright in the vale. The [30 rocks are grey on the steep. I see him not on the brow. His dogs come not before him, with tidings of his near approach. Here I must sit alone.
OSSIAN'S ADDRESS TO THE SUN
O thou that rollest above, round as the shield of my fathers! Whence are thy beams, O sun! thy everlasting light? Thou comest forth, in thy awful beauty; the stars hide themselves in the sky; the moon, cold and pale, sinks in the western wave. But thou thyself movest alone: who can be a companion of thy course? The oaks of the mountains fall: the mountains themselves decay with years; [10 the ocean shrinks and grows again: the moon herself is lost in heaven; but thou art for ever the same; rejoicing in the brightness of thy course. When the world is dark with tempests; when thunder rolls, and lightning flies; thou lookest in thy beauty from the clouds, and laughest at the storm. But to Ossian, thou lookest in vain; for he beholds thy beams no more; whether thy yellow hair [20 flows on the eastern clouds, or thou tremblest at the gates of the west. But thou art, perhaps, like me, for a season; thy years will have an end. Thou shalt sleep in thy clouds, careless of the voice of the morning. Exult then, O sun! in the strength of thy youth: Age is dark and unlovely; it is like the glimmering light of the moon, when it shines through broken clouds, and the mist is on the [30 hills; the blast of the north is on the plain; the traveller shrinks in the midst of his journey.
Then, tho' at odds wi' a' the warl',
Ye browster16 wives! now busk 17 ye bra,18
Mair precious than the Well of Spa,
Fiddlers! your pins in temper fix,
To skip and dance: Lifeless is he wha canna feel
When merry Yule-day comes, I trow,
O' gusty gear,
And kickshaws, strangers to our view, OR, THE DETHE OF SYR CHARLES Sin' fairn-year.
15 long ago.
16 brewer. 19 draught.
For nought can cheer the heart sae weel
12 mouth. 13 savory food.
Edinburgh ("Old Sooty").
17 dress yourselves.
Let mirth abound; let social cheer
And thou, great god of aqua vita!
To hedge us frae that black banditti,
The feathered songster chaunticleer
THOMAS CHATTERTON (1752-1770)