James G. Percival


&Esmogr;σπετε νυν μοι, Μψσαι, &osmogr;Ιυμπια δωματ &esmogr;χψσαι.

Iliad, B. 2.
DESCEND, and with thy breath inspire my soul;
Descend, and o'er my lyre
Diffuse thy living fire;
Oh! bid its chords a strain of grandeur roll:
Touched by thy hand their trembling accents ring;
Borne on thy sounding pinions through the sky,
To Heaven the notes in burning ardour spring,
And as the tones in softened whispers die,
Love seems to flutter round on his Aurora-wing.
Oh! Muse, who erst in Tempe's flowery vale
Wert wont to tune thy harp and breathe thy soul,
And o'er Peneus pour thy dying wail;
Who, when loud roaring thunders rocked the pole,
Burst from the dell and 'mid the growling storm
Involved in lurid gloom thy shining form;
And while the tempest o'er Olympus frowned,
And lightnings glittered round the throne of Jove,
Thy lyre, with hurried notes and awful sound,
Seemed like the voice that rung through dark Dodona's grove.
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Reclined amid the woods that waved around
Castalia's crystal fount and murmuring stream,
While ever blooming flowerets decked the ground,
And brightened in the summer's softened beam,
Thy virgins nine, with lyres of burnished gold,
Around thy Sylvan throne their descant rolled,
And through the mountain glen—the pensive shade,
A mellow echo would the strain prolong,
And as around the hollow cliffs it played,
A thousand heavenly harps seemed answering to the song.
Urania, o'er her star-bespangled lyre,
With touch of majesty diffused her soul;
A thousand tones, that in the breast inspire,
Exalted feelings, o er the wires 'gan roll—
She sang of night that clothed the infant world,
In strains as solemn as its dark profound—
How at the call of Jove the mist unfurled,
And o'er the swelling vault—the glowing sky,
The new-born stars hung out their lamps on high,
And rolled their mighty orbs to music's sweetest sound.
Majestic Clio touched her silver wire,
And through time's lengthened vista moved a train,
In dignity sublime;—the patriot's fire
Kindled its torch in heaven's resplendent ray,
And 'mid contention rose to Heaven again.
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In brightness glowing like the orb of day,
The warrior drove his chariot o'er the slain,
And dyed its wheels in gore;—the battle's yell,
The dying groan, the shout of victory—
Now like the tempest-gust in horror swell,
Now like the sighing breeze in silence melt away.
But when Erato brushed her flowery lute,
What strains of sweetness whispered in the wind!
Soft as at evening when the shepherd's flute
To tones of melting love alone resigned,
Breathes through the windings of the silent vale;
Complaining accents tremble on the gale,
Or notes of ecstacy serenely roll.
So when the smiling muse of Cupid sung,
Her melody sighed out the sorrowing soul,
Or o'er her silken chords sweet notes of gladness rung.
But oh Melpomene! thy lyre of wo—
To what a mournful pitch its keys were strung,
And when thou badest its tones of sorrow flow,
Each weeping Muse, enamoured, o'er thee hung:
How sweet—how heavenly sweet, when faintly rose
The song of grief, and at its dying close
The soul seemed melting in the trembling breast;
The eye in dews of pity flowed away,
And every heart, by sorrow's load opprest,
To infant softness sunk, as breathed thy mournful lay.
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But when, Calliope, thy loud harp rang—
In Epic grandeur rose the lofty strain;
The clash of arms, the trumpet's awful clang
Mixed with the roar of conflict on the plain;
The ardent warrior bade his coursers wheel,
Trampling in dust the feeble and the brave,
Destruction flashed upon his glittering steel,
While round his brow encrimsoned laurels waved,
And o'er him shrilly shrieked the demon of the grave.
Euterpe glanced her fingers o'er her lute,
And lightly waked it to a cheerful strain,
Then laid it by, and took the mellow flute,
Whose softly flowing warble filled the plain:
It was a lay that roused the drooping soul,
And bade the tear of sorrow cease to flow;
From shady woods the Nymphs enchanted stole,
While laughing Cupids bent the silver bow,
Fluttering like fays that flit in Luna's softened glow.
The rage of Pindar filled the sounding air,
As Polyhymnia tried her skill divine;
The shaggy lion roused him from his lair,
And bade his blood-stained eyes in fury shine;
The famished eagle poised his waving wings,
Whetting his thirsty beak—while murder rose,
With hand that grasps a dirk, with eye that glows
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In gloomy madness o'er the throne of kings,
And, as she bade her tones of horror swell,
The demon shook his steel with wild exulting yell.
How light the strain when, decked in vernal bloom,
Thalia tuned her lyre of melody,
And when Terpsichore, with iris-plume,
Bade o'er her lute her rosy fingers fly;
'T was pleasure all—the fawns in mingled choirs,
Glanced on the willing nymphs their wanton fires,
Joy shook his glittering pinions as he flew;
The shout of rapture and the song of bliss,
The sportive titter and the melting kiss,
All blended with the smile, that shone like early dew.
Their music ceased—and rising from thy throne,
Thou took'st thy harp that on the laurel hung,
And bending o'er its chords to try their tone,
A faintly trembling murmur o'er them rung:
At each sweet sound that broke upon the ear,
Started the listening throng, and gazed and smiled;
The satyr leaning on his ivy spear,
Peeped forth delighted from the flowery wild,
And, while thou tunedst the keys, the raptured soul
Hung o'er the flying tones that on the zephyrs stole.
This prelude o'er, a solemn strain arose,
As strayed thy fingers slowly o'er the wire;
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How grand the diapason—and its close,
As when to Heaven the organ notes aspire,
And through the gloomy aisle, the lofty nave,
Swell out the anthem pealing o'er the grave—
Low muttering thunders seemed to roar around,
And rising whirlwinds whispered in the ear;
The warrior started at the solemn sound,
Half drew his sword and slowly shook his spear;
The tiger couched and gazed with burning eye,
In horror growled, and lashed his waving tail;
The serpent rustled like the dying gale,
And bade his tongue in purple ardour fly,
Quivering like lurid flames beneath the midnight sky.
The fury of the storm is howling by,
The whirlwinds rush, the bursting thunders roll,
Grim horror settles o'er the lowering sky,
And ruin flashes on the shuddering soul:
So burst with sudden swell thy awful strain,
And every blast of war was on the gale;
The maddening warriors mingled on the plain,
Loud rose the yell, and rang the clanging mail;
The victor's dripping chariot crushed the slain;
The raging tiger with terrific roar
Sprang on his prey, and dyed his claws in gore;
Rising on spires that shone with varied hue—
Bright crimson, burnished gold, and livid blue,
The serpent hissing in his burning ire,
Glanced on his flying foe, and fixed his tooth of fire.
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Struck by thy bounding quill, a mellow lay
Rang o'er the harp and softly died away:
As poured the descant in the warrior's ear,
The roar of conflict ceased along the plain,
The foes exulting trampled on the slain,
And shook in mingled dance the glimmering spear;
In listless ease reclined, the tiger lay,
And fondly sported with his bleeding prey;
At times the serpent waved his quivering tail,
Then coiled his folds and all to peace resigned,
Listened the strain that sported in the wind,
And hissed his pleasure, shrill as sounds the infant's wail.
At last a murmur trembled on the lyre,
Soft as the dirge that echoes o'er the bier:
Robbed of his spirit bold, his daring fire—
The vanquished warrior dropped a tender tear,
Leant on his bloody sword and breathed a sigh;
And as the tiger spread his claws of gold,
Fawned round thy form and purred his ecstacy—
His emerald eyes in languid softness rolled;
The serpent falling gently from his spire,
Glided with easy sweep along the plain,
In graceful windings wantoned round thy lyre,
And kissed the trembling chord that breathed the soothing strain.