The Judgement Of Hercules

While blooming Spring descends from genial skies,
By whose mild influence instant wonders rise;
From whose soft breath Elysian beauties flow;
The sweets of Hagley, or the pride of Stowe;
Will Lyttleton the rural landscape range,
Leave noisy fame, and not regret the change?
Pleased will he tread the garden's early scenes,
And learn a moral from the rising greens?
There, warm'd alike by Sol's enlivening power,
The weed, aspiring, emulates the flower;
The drooping flower, its fairer charms display'd,
Invites, from grateful hands, their generous aid:
Soon, if none check'd the invasive foe's designs,
The lively lustre of these scenes declines!

'Tis thus the spring of youth, the morn of life,
Rears in our minds the rival seeds of strife:
Then passion riots, reason then contends,
And on the conquest every bliss depends:
Life from the nice decision takes its hue,
And blest those judges who decide like you!
On worth like theirs shall every bliss attend,
The world their favourite, and the world their friend.

There are, who, blind to Thought's fatiguing ray,
As Fortune gives examples, urge their way;
Not Virtue's foes, though they her paths decline,
And scarce her friends, though with her friends they join;
In hers or Vice's casual road advance,
Thoughtless, the sinners or the saints of Chance!
Yet some more nobly scorn the vulgar voice,
With judgment fix, with zeal pursue their choice,
When ripen'd thought, when Reason, born to reign,
Checks the wild tumults of the youthful vein;
While passion's lawless tides, at their command,
Glide through more useful tracks, and bless the land.

Happiest of these is he whose matchless mind,
By learning strengthen'd, and by taste refined,
In Virtue's cause essay'd its earliest powers,
Chose Virtue's paths, and strew'd her paths with flowers.
The first alarm'd, if Freedom waves her wings,
The fittest to adorn each art she brings;
Loved by that prince whom every virtue fires,
Praised by that bard whom every Muse inspires;
Blest in the tuneful art, the social flame;
In all that wins, in all that merits, fame!

'Twas youth's perplexing stage his doubts inspired,
When great Alcides to a grove retired:
Through the lone windings of a devious glade,
Resign'd to thought, with lingering steps he stray'd;
Blest with a mind to taste sincerer joys,
Arm'd with a heart each false one to despise.
Dubious he stray'd, with wavering thoughts possest,
Alternate passions struggling shared his breast;
The various arts which human cares divide,
In deep attention all his mind employ'd;
Anxious, if Fame an equal bliss secured;
Or silent Ease with softer charms allured.
The sylvan choir, whose numbers sweetly flow'd,
The fount that murmur'd, and the flowers that blow'd;
The silver flood that in meanders led
His glittering streams along the enliven'd mead;
The soothing breeze, and all those beauties join'd,
Which, whilst they please, effeminate the mind;
In vain! while distant, on a summit raised,
The imperial towers of Fame attractive blazed.

While thus he traced through Fancy's puzzling maze
The separate sweets of pleasure and of praise,
Sudden the wind a fragrant gale convey'd,
And a new lustre gain'd upon the shade:
At once, before his wondering eyes were seen
Two female forms, of more than mortal mien:
Various their charms, and in their dress and face,
Each seem'd to vie with some peculiar grace.
This, whose attire less clogg'd with art appear'd,
The simple sweets of innocence endear'd;
Her sprightly bloom, her quick sagacious eye,
Show'd native merit mix'd with modesty:
Her air diffused a mild, yet awful ray,
Severely sweet, and innocently gay;
Such the chaste image of the martial maid,
In artless folds of virgin white array'd;
She let no borrow'd rose her cheeks adorn,
Her blushing cheeks, that shamed the purple morn:
Her charms nor had nor wanted artful foils,
Or studied gestures, or well-practised smiles:
She scorn'd the toys which render beauty less;
She proved the engaging chastity of dress;
And while she chose in native charms to shine,
Even thus she seem'd, nay, more than seem'd divine.
One modest emerald clasp'd the robe she wore,
And in her hand the imperial sword she bore.
Sublime her height, majestic was her pace,
And match'd the awful honours of her face.
The shrubs, the flowers, that deck'd the verdant ground,
Seem'd, where she trod, with rising lustre crown'd.
Still her approach with stronger influence warm'd;
She pleased while distant, but when near she charm'd.
So strikes the gazer's eye the silver gleam
That, glittering, quivers o'er a distant stream;
But from its banks we see new beauties rise,
And, in its crystal bosom, trace the skies.

With other charms the rival vision glow'd,
And from her dress her tinsel beauties flow'd.
A fluttering robe her pamper'd shape conceal'd,
And seem'd to shade the charms it best reveal'd:
Its form contrived her faulty size to grace,
Its hue, to give fresh lustre to her face.
Her plaited hair, disguised, with brilliants glared;
Her cheeks the ruby's neighbouring lustre shared;
The gaudy topaz lent its gay supplies,
And every gem that strikes less curious eyes;
Exposed her breast, with foreign sweets perfumed,
And round her brow a roseate garland bloom'd.
Soft smiling, blushing lips conceal'd her wiles;
Yet, ah! the blushes artful as the smiles.
Oft, gazing on her shade, the enraptured fair
Decreed the substance well deserved her care;
Her thoughts, to others' charms malignly blind,
Center'd in that, and were to that confined;
And if on others' eyes a glance were thrown,
'Twas but to watch the influence of her own:
Much like her guardian, fair Cythera's queen,
When for her warrior she refines her mien;
Or when, to bless her Delian favourite's arms,
The radiant fair invigorates her charms:
Much like her pupil, Egypt's sportive dame,
Her dress expressive, and her air the same,
When her gay bark o'er silver Cydnus roll'd,
And all the emblazon'd streamers waved in gold.
Such shone the vision, nor forbore to move
The fond contagious airs of lawless love;
Each wanton eye deluding glances fired,
And amorous dimples on each cheek conspired.
Lifeless her gait, and slow; with seeming pain
She dragg'd her loitering limbs along the plain,
Yet made some faint efforts, and first approach'd the swain.
So glaring draughts, with tawdry lustre bright,
Spring to the view, and rush upon the sight;
More slowly charms a Raphael's chaster air,
Waits the calm search, and pays the searcher's care.

Wrapp'd in a pleased suspense, the youth survey'd
The various charms of each attractive maid:
Alternate each he view'd, and each admired,
And found, alternate, varying flames inspired:
Quick o'er their forms his eyes with pleasure ran,
When she, who first approach'd him, first began:-

'Hither, dear boy, direct thy wandering eyes;
'Tis here the lovely Vale of Pleasure lies:
Debate no more, to me thy life resign;
Each sweet which Nature can diffuse is mine:
For me the nymph diversifies her power,
Springs in a tree, or blossoms in a flower;
To please my ear, she tunes the linnet's strains;
To please my eye, with lilies paints the plains;
To form my couch, in mossy beds she grows;
To gratify my smell, perfumes the rose;
Reveals the fair, the fertile scene you see,
And swells the vegetable world for me.

'Let the gull'd fool the toils of war pursue,
Where bleed the many to enrich the few
Where Chance from Courage claims the boasted prize;
Where, though she give, your country oft denies.
Industrious thou shalt Cupid's wars maintain,
And ever gently fight his soft campaign;
His darts alone shalt wield, his wounds endure,
Yet only suffer, to enjoy the cure.
Yield but to me-a choir of nymphs shall rise,
And fire thy breast, and bless thy ravish'd eyes:
Their beauteous cheeks a fairer rose shall wear,
A brighter lily on their necks appear;
Where fondly thou thy favour'd head shalt rest,
Soft as the down that swells the cygnet's nest;
While Philomel in each soft voice complains,
And gently lulls thee with mellifluous strains;
Whilst with each accent sweetest odours flow,
And spicy gums round every bosom glow.
Not the famed bird Arabian climes admire
Shall in such luxury of sweets expire.
At Sloth let War's victorious sons exclaim,
In vain! for Pleasure is my real name:
Nor envy thou the heads with bays o'ergrown;
No, seek thou roses to adorn thy own;
For well each opening scene that claims my care
Suits and deserves the beauteous crown I wear.

'Let others prune the vine; the genial bowl
Shall crown thy table, and enlarge thy soul.
Let vulgar hands explore the brilliant mine,
So the gay produce glitter still on thine.
Indulgent Bacchus loads his labouring tree,
And, guarding, gives its clustering sweets to me.
For my loved train, Apollo's piercing beam
Darts through the passive globe, and frames the gem.
See in my cause consenting gods employ'd,
Nor slight these gods, their blessings unenjoy'd.
For thee the poplar shall its amber drain;
For thee, in clouded beauty, spring the cane;
Some costly tribute every clime shall pay,
Some charming treasure every wind convey;
Each object round some pleasing scene shall yield,
Art built thy dome, while Nature decks thy field:
Of Corinth's Order shall the structure rise,
The spiring turrets glitter through the skies;
Thy costly robe shall glow with Tyrian rays,
Thy vase shall sparkle, and thy car shall blaze;
Yet thou, whatever pomp the sun display,
Shalt own the amorous night exceeds the day.

'When melting flutes and sweetly sounding lyres
Wake the gay Loves, and cite the young Desires;
Or in the Ionian dance some favourite maid
Improves the flame her sparkling eyes convey'd;
Think, canst thou quit a glowing Delia's arms
To feed on Virtue's visionary charms?
Or slight the joys which wit and youth engage
For the faint honour of a frozen sage?
To find dull envy even that hope deface,
And, where you toiled for glory, reap disgrace?

'Oh! think that beauty waits on thy decree,
And thy loved loveliest charmer pleads with me;
She whose soft smile, or gentler glance, to move,
You vow'd the wild extremities of love;
In whose endearments years, like moments, flew;
For whose endearments millions seem'd too few;
She, she implores; she bids thee seize the prime,
And tread with her the flowery tracts of time,
Nor thus her lovely bloom of life bestow
On some cold lover, or insulting foe.
Think, if against that tongue thou canst rebel,
Where Love yet dwelt, and Reason seem'd to dwell,
What strong persuasion arms her softer sighs!
What full conviction sparkles in her eyes!

'See, Nature smiles, and birds salute the shade,
Where breathing jasmine screens the sleeping maid;
And such her charms, as to the vain may prove
Ambition seeks more humble joys than Love!
There busy toil shall ne'er invade thy reign,
Nor sciences perplex thy labouring brain;
Or none, but what with equal sweets invite,
Nor other arts, but to prolong delight.
Sometimes thy fancy prune her tender wing,
To praise a pendant, or to grace a ring;
To fix the dress that suits each varying mien;
To show where best the clustering gems are seen;
To sigh soft strains along the vocal grove,
And tell the charms, the sweet effects, of love!
Nor fear to find a coy disdainful Muse,
Nor think the Sisters will their aid refuse:
Cool grots, and tinkling rills, or silent shades,
Soft scenes of leisure, suit the harmonious maids;
And all the wise, and all the grave decree
Some of that sacred train allied to me.

'But if more specious ease thy wishes claim,
And thy breast glow with faint desire of fame,
Some softer science shall thy thoughts amuse,
And learning's name a solemn sound diffuse.
To thee all Nature's curious stores I'll bring,
Explain the beauties of an insect's wing;
The plant which Nature, less diffusely kind,
Has to few climes with partial care confined;
The shell she scatters with more careless air,
And in her frolics seems supremely fair;
The worth that dazzles in the tulip's stains,
Or lurks beneath a pebble's various veins.

'Sleep's downy god, averse to war's alarms,
Shall o'er thy head diffuse his softest charms,
Ere anxious thought thy dear repose assail,
Or care, my most destructive foe, prevail.
The watery nymphs shall tune the vocal vales,
And gentle zephyrs harmonize their gales;
For thy repose, inform, with rival joy,
Their streams to murmur, and their winds to sigh.
Thus shalt thou spend the sweetly-flowing day,
Till, lost in bliss, thou breathe thy soul away;
Till she the Elysian bowers of joy repair,
Nor find my charming scenes exceeded there.'

She ceased; and on a lilied bank reclined,
Her flowing robe waved wanton with the wind;
One tender hand her drooping head sustains,
One points, expressive, to the flowery plains.
Soon the fond youth perceived her influence roll
Deep in his breast, to melt his manly soul;
As when Favonius joins the solar blaze,
And each fair fabric of the frost decays,
Soon, to his breast, the soft harangue convey'd
Resolves too partial to the specious maid.
He sigh'd, he gazed, so sweetly smiled the dame,
Yet sighing, gazing, seem'd to scorn his flame;
And oft as Virtue caught his wandering eye,
A crimson blush condemn'd the rising sigh.
'Twas such the lingering Trojan's shame betray'd
When Maia's son the frown of Jove display'd;
When wealth, fame, empire, could no balance prove
For the soft reign of Dido, and of love.
Thus ill with arduous glory love conspires,
Soft tender flames with bold impetuous fires!
Some hovering doubts his anxious bosom moved,
And Virtue, zealous fair! those doubts improved.-

'Fly, fly, fond youth! the too indulgent maid,
Nor err, by such fantastic scenes betray'd.
Though in my path the rugged thorn be seen,
And the dry turf disclose a fainter green;
Though no gay rose or flowery product shine,
The barren surface still conceals the mine.
Each thorn that threatens, even the weed that grows
In Virtue's path, superior sweets bestows-
Yet should those boasted specious toys allure,
Whence could fond Sloth the flattering gifts procure?
The various wealth that tempts thy fond desire,
'Tis I alone, her greatest foe, acquire.
I from old Ocean rob the treasured store;
I through each region latent gems explore:
'Twas I the rugged brilliant first reveal'd,
By numerous strata deep in earth conceal'd;
'Tis I the surface yet refine, and show
The modest gem's intrinsic charms to glow;
Nor swells the grape, nor spires its feeble tree,
Without the firm supports of industry.

'But grant we Sloth the scene herself has drawn,
The mossy grotto, and the flowery lawn;
Let Philomela tune the harmonious gale,
And with each breeze eternal sweets exhale;
Let gay Pomona slight the plains around,
And choose, for fairest fruits, the favour'd ground;
To bless the fertile vale should Virtue cease,
Nor mossy grots, nor flowery lawns could please;
Nor gay Pomona's luscious gifts avail,
The sound harmonious, or the spicy gale.

'Seest thou yon rocks in dreadful pomp arise,
Whose rugged cliffs deform the encircling skies?
Those fields, whence Phœbus all the moisture drains,
And, too profusely fond, disrobes the plains?
When I vouchsafe to tread the barren soil,
Those rocks seem lovely, and those deserts smile:
The form thou view'st to every scene with ease
Transfers its charms, and every scene can please.
When I have on those pathless wilds appear'd,
And the lone wanderer with my presence cheer'd,
Those cliffs the exile has with pleasure view'd,
And call'd that desert, blissful solitude!

'Nor I alone to such extend my care,
Fair blooming Health surveys her altars there
Brown Exercise will lead thee where she reigns,
And with reflected lustre gild the plains:
With her in flower of youth and beauty's pride,
Her offspring, calm Content and Peace, reside;
One ready offering suits each neighbouring shrine,
And all obey their laws, who practise mine.

'But Health averse, from Sloth's smooth region flies,
And, in her absence, Pleasure droops and dies;
Her bright companions, Mirth, Delight, Repose,
Smile where she smiles, and sicken when she goes:
A galaxy of powers! whose forms appear
For ever beauteous, and for ever near.

'Nor will soft Sleep to Sloth's request incline,
He from her couches flies unbid to mine.

'Vain is the sparkling bowl, the warbling strain,
The incentive song, the labour'd viand vain!
Where she, relentless, reigns without control,
And checks each gay excursion of the soul;
Unmoved though Beauty, deck'd in all its charms,
Grace the rich couch, and spread the softest arms;
Till joyless Indolence suggests desires,
Or drugs are sought to furnish languid fires;
Such languid fires as on the vitals prey,
Barren of bliss, but fertile of decay:
As artful heats, applied to thirsty lands,
Produce no flowers, and but debase the sands.

'But let fair Health her cheering smiles impart!
How sweet is Nature, how superfluous Art!
'Tis she the fountain's ready draught commends,
And smooths the flinty couch which Fortune lends;
And when my hero from his toils retires,
Fills his gay bosom with unusual fires;
And while no checks the unbounded joy reprove,
Aids and refines the genuine sweets of love.
His fairest prospect rising trophies frame;
His sweetest music is the voice of Fame:
Pleasures to Sloth unknown! she never found
How fair the prospect, or how sweet the sound.

'See Fame's gay structure from yon summit charms,
And fires the manly breast to arts or arms;
Nor dread the steep ascent, by which you rise
From grovelling vales to towers which reach the skies.

'Love, fame, esteem, 'tis labour must acquire,
The smiling offspring of a rigid fire!
To fix the friend, your service must be shown;
All, ere they loved your merit, loved their own;
That wondering Greece your portrait may admire,
That tuneful bards may string for you their lyre,
That books may praise, or coins record your name,-
Such, such rewards 'tis toil alone can claim!
And the same column which displays to view
The conqueror's name, displays the conquest too.

''Twas slow Experience, tedious mistress! taught
All that e'er nobly spoke or bravely fought:
'Twas she the patriot, she the bard, refined
In arts that serve, protect, or please mankind.
Not the vain visions of inactive schools,
Not Fancy's maxims, nor Opinion's rules,
E'er form'd the man whose generous warmth extends
To enrich his country, or to serve his friends.
On active worth the laurel War bestows;
Peace rears her olive for industrious brows;
Nor earth, uncultured, yields its kind supplies;
Nor heaven its showers, without a sacrifice.

'See, far below such grovelling scenes of shame,
As lull to rest Ignavia's slumbering dame;
Her friends, from all the toils of Fame secure,
Alas! inglorious, greater toils endure;
Doom'd all to mourn who in her cause engage;
A youth enervate, and a painful age;
A sickly sapless mass, if Reason flies,
And, if she linger, impotently wise!
A thoughtless train, who, pamper'd, sleek, and gay,
Invite old age, and revel youth away;
From life's fresh vigour move the load of care,
And idly place it where they least can bear;
When to the mind, diseased, for aid they fly,
What kind reflection shall the mind supply?
When with lost health, what should the loss allay?
Peace, peace is lost; a comfortless decay!
But to my friends, when youth, when pleasure, flies,
And earth's dim beauties fade before their eyes,
Through death's dark vista flowery tracts are seen,
Elysian plains, and groves for ever green.
If o'er their lives a refluent glance they cast,
Theirs is the present who can praise the past;
Life has its bliss for these, when past its bloom,
As wither'd roses yield a late perfume.

'Serene, and safe from passion's stormy rage,
How calm they glide into the port of Age!
Of the rude voyage less deprived than eased;
More tired than pain'd, and weaken'd than diseased;
For health on age 'tis temperance must bestow,
And peace from piety alone can flow;
And all the incense bounteous Jove requires,
Has sweets for him who feeds the sacred fires.

'Sloth views the towers of Fame with envious eyes,
Desirous still, still impotent to rise.
Oft, when resolved to gain those blissful towers,
The pensive queen the dire ascent explores,
Comes onward, wafted by the balmy trees,
Some sylvan music, or some scented breeze;
She turns her head, her own gay realm she spies,
And all the short-lived resolution dies.
Thus some fond insect's faltering pinions wave,
Clasp'd in its favourite sweets, a lasting slave;
And thus in vain these charming visions please
The wretch of glory, and the slave of ease,
Doom'd ever in ignoble state to pine,
Boast her own scenes, and languish after mine.
But shun her snares; nor let the world exclaim,
Thy birth, which was thy glory, proved thy shame.
With early hope thine infant actions fired,
Let manhood crown what infancy inspired;
Let generous toils with health reward thy days,
Prolong thy prime, and eternize thy praise.
The bold exploit that charms the attesting age,
To latest times shall generous hearts engage;
And with that myrtle shall thy shrine be crown'd,
With which, alive, thy graceful brows were bound,
Till Time shall bid thy virtues freely bloom,
And raise a temple where it found a tomb.

'Then in their feasts thy name shall Grecians join,
Shall pour the sparkling juice to Jove's and thine:
Thine, used in war, shall raise their native fire;
Thine, used in peace, their mutual faith inspire.
Dulness, perhaps, through want of sight, may blame,
And Spleen, with odious industry, defame;
And that, the honours given, with wonder view,
And this, in secret sadness, own them due.
Contempt and Envy were by fate design'd
The rival tyrants which divide mankind;
Contempt, which none but who deserve can bear,
While Envy's wounds the smiles of Fame repair:
For know, the generous thine exploits shall fire,
Thine every friend it suits thee to require;
Loved by the gods, and, till their seats I show,
Loved by the good, their images below.'

'Cease, lovely maid! fair daughter of the Skies;
My guide! my queen!' the ecstatic youth replies:
'In thee I trace a form design'd for sway,
Which chiefs may court, and kings with pride obey;
And by thy bright immortal friends I swear,
Thy fair idea shall no toils impair.
Lead me, O lead me! where whole hosts of foes
Thy form depreciate, and thy friends oppose.
Welcome all toils the unequal Fates decree,
While toils endear thy faithful charge to thee.
Such be my cares to bind the oppressive hand,
And crush the fetters of an injured land;
To see the monster's noxious life resign'd,
And tyrants quell'd, the monsters of mankind!
Nature shall smile to view the vanquish'd brood,
And none, but Envy, riot unsubdued.
In cloister'd state let selfish sages dwell,
Proud that their heart is narrow as their cell!
And boast their mazy labyrinth of rules,
Far less the friends of Virtue, than the fools;
Yet such in vain thy favouring smiles pretend,
For he is thine, who proves his country's friend.
Thus when my life, well spent, the good enjoy,
And the mean envious labour to destroy;
When strongly lured by Fame's contiguous shrine,
I yet devote my choicer vows to thine;
If all my toils thy promised favour claim,
O lead thy favourite through the gates of Fame!'

He ceased his vows, and, with disdainful air,
He turn'd to blast the late exulting fair:
But vanish'd, fled to some more friendly shore,
The conscious phantom's beauty pleased no more;
Convinced her spurious charms of dress and face,
Claim'd a quick conquest, or a sure disgrace.
Fantastic power! whose transient charms allured,
While Error's mist the reasoning mind obscured;
Not such the victress, Virtue's constant queen,
Endured the test of truth, and dared be seen;
Her brightening form and features seem'd to own,
'Twas all her wish, her interest to be known;
And when his longing view the fair declined,
Left a full image of her charms behind.

Thus reigns the moon, with furtive splendour crown'd,
While glooms oppress us, and thick shades surround;
But let the source of light its beams display,
Languid and faint the mimic flames decay,
And all the sickening splendour fades away.

by William Shenstone

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