Messiah: a sacred eclogue, in imitation of Virgil's Pollio. By Alexander Pope, Esq;.
Pope, Alexander, 1688-1744.
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IN reading several passages of the prophet Isaiah, which foretell the coming of Christ and the felicities attending it, I could not but observe a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts, and those in the Pollio of Virgil. This will not seem surprising, when we reflect, that the Eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same subject. One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line, but se|lected such ideas as best agreed with the nature of pastoral poetry, and disposed them in that manner which served most to beautify his piece. I have endeavoured the same in this imitation of him, though without admitting any thing of my own; since it was written with this particular view, that the reader, by comparing the several thoughts, might see how for the images and descriptions of the Prophet are superior to those of the Poet. But as I fear I have prejudiced them by my management, I shall subjoin the passages of Isaiah, and those of Virgil, under the same disadvantage of a literal translation.


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Printed for the PROPRIETORS, and sold by all the BOOKSELLERS. M,DCC,LXVI.

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_YE nymphs of Solyma! begin the song;
To heav'nly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains, and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus and the Aonian maids,
Delight no more—O thou my voice inspire,
Who touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fire!
RAPT into future times, the Bard begun:
A Virgin shall conceive, a Virgin bear a Son!
FromaJesse's root behold a branch arise,
Whose sacred flow'r with fragrance fills the skies:
Th' Aethereal spirit o'er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descends the mystic Dove.
Page  6 Yeb Heav'ns! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly show'r!
Thec sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail;
Returningd Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-rob'd innocence from heav'n descend.
Page  7 Swift fly the years, and rise th' expected morn!
Oh spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born!
See Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring:
Seee lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests on the mountains dance,
See spicy clouds from lowly Saron rise▪
And Carmel's flow'ry top perfumes the skies!
Page  8 Hark! a glad voice the lonely desart cheers;
Prepare thef way! a God, a God appears:
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply,
The rocks proclaim th' approaching Deity.
Lo, earth receives him from the bending skies!
Sink down, ye mountains, and, ye vallies, rise;
With heads declin'd, ye cedars, homage pay;
Be smooth, ye rocks, ye rapid floods give way!
The SAVIOUR comes! by ancient bards foretold:
Hearg him, ye deaf, and, all ye blind, behold!
Page  9 He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eye-ball pour the day.
Tis he th' obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm th' unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe;
No sigh, no murmur the wide world shall hear,
From ev'ry face he wipes off ev'ry tear:
Inh adamantine chains shall death be bound,
And hell's grim tyrant feel th' eternal wound.
As the goodi shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pastures and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wand'ring sheep directs,
By day o'ersees them, and by night protects,
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms;
Page  10 Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage,
The promis'dk father of the future age.
No more shalll nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad faulchion in a plow-share end.
Then palaces shall rise; the joyfulm Son
Shall finish what his short-liv'd Sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sow'd shall reap the field.
The swain in barrenn desarts with surprise
See lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise,
And starts amidst the thirsty wilds to hear
New falls of water murm'ring in his ear:
On rifted rocks, the dragon's late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.
Page  11 Vaste sandyo valleys, once perplex'd with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn:
To leafless shrubs the flow'ring palms succeed,
And od'rous myrtle to the noisome weed.
Thep lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys on flow'ry banks the tyger lead!
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmlessq serpents lick the pilgrim's feet.
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk and speckled snake;
Pleas'd, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongue shall innocently play.
Rise, crown'd with light, imperialrSalem, rise!
Exalt thy tow'ry head, and lift thy eyes!
Page  12 See, a longs race thy spacious courts adorn;
See future sons, and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks, on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies!
See barb'roust nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend;
See thy bright altars throng'd with prostrate Kings,
And heap'd with products of Sabeanv springs!
For thee Idume's spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir's mountains glow.
See heav'n its sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon thee in a flood of day.
No more the risingw Sun shall gild the morn,
Nor ev'ning Cynthia fill her silver horn,
But lost, dissolv'd in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
O'erflow thy courts: the LIGHT HIMSELF shall shi
Reveal'd, and God's eternal day be thine!
Thex seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fix'd his word, his saving power remains,
Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own MESSIAH reign
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VER. 8. A Virgin shall conceive—All crimes shall cease, &c.

VIRG. Ecl. iv. ver. 6.
Jam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna;
Jam nova progenies caelo demittiur alto.
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Te duce, si qua manent sceleris vestigia nostri,
Irrita perpetua solvent formidine terras—.
Pacatumque reget patriis virtutibus orbem.

Now the Virgin returns, now the kingdom of Saturn returns, now a new progeny is sent down from high hea|ven. By means of thee, whatever reliques of our crimes Page  7 remain, shall be wiped away, and free the world from per|petual fears. He shall govern the earth in peace, with the virtues of his Father.

ISAIAH, Chap. vii. ver. 14. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and born a Son.—
Chap. ix. ver. 6, 7. Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; the Prince of Peace: of the increase of his government, and of his peace, there shall be no end: Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order and establish it, with judgment, and with justice for ever and ever.

VER. 23. See Nature hastes, &c.] VIRG. Ecl. iv. ver. 18.

At tibi prima, puer, nullo munuscula cultu,
Errantes hederas passim cum baccare tellus,
Mixtaque ridenti colocasia funder acantho—
Ipsa tibi blandos fundent cunabula flores.

For thee, O Child, shall the earth, without being til|led, produce her early offerings; winding ivy, mixed with Baccar, and Colocasia with smiling Achanthus. Thy cradle shall pour forth pleasing flowers about thee.

ISAIAH, Ch. xxxv. ver. 1. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desart shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.
Ch. lx. ver. 13. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of thy sanctu|ary.

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VER. 29. Hark, a glad voice, &c.] VIRG. Ecl. iv. 46.

Aggredere o magnos, aderit jam tempus, honores,
Cara deum soboles, magnum Jovis incrementum—
Ipsi laetitia voces ad sydera jactant
Intonsi montes, ipsae jam carmina rupes,
Ipsa sonant arbusta, Deus, deus ille Menalca!

Ecl. v. ver. 62.

Oh come and receive the mighty honours: the time draws nigh, O beloved offspring of the Gods, O great in|crease of Jove! The uncultivated mountains send shouts of joy to the stars, the very rocks sing in verse, the very shrubs cry out, A God, a God!

ISAIAH, Ch. xl. ver. 3, 4. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord! make strait in the desart a high-way for our God! Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made strait, and the rough places plain.
Ch. iv. ver. 23. Break forth into singing, ye mountains! O forest, and every tree therein! for the Lord hath redeemed Israel.

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VER. 67. The swain in barren desarts, &c.] VIRG. Ecl. iv. ver. 28.

Molli paulatim flavescet campus arista
Incultisque rubens pendebit sentibus uva,
Et durae quercus sodabunt roscida mella.

The fields shall grow yellow with ripened ears, and the red grape shall hang upon the wild brambles, and the hard oaks shall distil honey like dew.

ISAIAH, Ch. xxxv. ver 7. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: In the habitations where dragons lay, shall be grass, and reeds and rushes.
Ch. lv. ver. 13. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree.

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VER. 77. The lambs with wolves, &c.] VIRG. Ecl. iv. ver. 21.

Ipsae lacte domum referent distenta capellae
Ubera, nec magnos metuent armenta leones—
Occidet et ser pens, et fallax herba veneni,

The goats shall bear to the fold their udders distended with milk: nor shall the herds be afraid of the greatest lions. The serpent shall die, and the herb that conceals poison shall die.

ISAIAH, Ch. xi. ver. 16, &c. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling to|gether: and a little child shall lead them.—And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the den of the cockatrice.

VER. 85. Rise, crown'd with light, imperial Salem, rise!] The thoughts of Isaiah, which compose the latter part of Page  12 the poem, are wonderfully elevated, and much above thos general exclamations of Virgil, which make the loftiest part of his Pollio.

Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo!
—toto surget gens aurea mundo!
—incipient magni procedere menses!
Aspice, venturo laetentur ut omnia saeclo! etc.

The reader needs only to turn to the passages of Isaiab, here cited. P.

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VER. 15. Ye Heav'ns! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly show'r!

His Original says,

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righte|ousness spring up together.
—This is a very noble de|scription of divine grace shed abroad in the hearts of the faithful under the Gospel dispensation. And the poet under|stood all its force as appears from the two lines preceding these,—Th' Aethereal Spirit, &c. The prophet describes this under the image of rain, which chiefly fits the first age of the Gospel: The poet, under the idea of dew, which ex|tends it to every age. And as it was his purpose it should be o understood, as appears from this expression of soft silence, which agrees with the common, not the extraordinary effusions of the Holy Spirit. The figurative term is wonderfully hap|py. He who would moralize the ancient Mythology in the manner of Bacn, must say, that by the poetical nectar, is meant theological grace.

VER. 17. ancient fraud] i. e. the fraud of the Serpent.

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VER. 39. He from thick films shall purge the visual ray.] The sense and language shew, that by visual ray, the poet meant the sight, or, as Milton calls it, indeed, something less boldly, visual nerve. And no critic would quarrel with the figure which calls the instrument of vision by the name of the cause. But though the term be just, nay noble, and even sublime, yet the expression of thick films is faulty, and he fell into it by a common neglect of the following rule of good writing,

That when a figurative word is used, whatsoe|ver is predicated of it ought not only to agree in terms to the thing to which the figure is applied, but likewise to that from which the figure is taken.
Thick films agree only with the thing to which it is applied, namely, to the sight or eve; and not to that from which it is taken, namely, a ray of light coming to the eye. He should have said thick clouds, which would have agreed with both. But these inac|curacies are not to be found in his later poems.