Ye kind transporters of th' excursive soul!
by William Hayley
Ye visions! that, when night enwraps the pole,
The lively wanderer to new worlds convey,
Escaping from her heavy house of clay,
How could the gentle spirit, foe to strife,
Bear without you this coil of waking life?
Its grief imbitter'd cares, its joyless mirth,
And all the flat realities of earth?
Sweet phantoms! you the glowing hope inspire,
You give to beauty charms, to fancy fire,
When, soaring like the eagle's kindred frame,
The poet dreams of everlasting fame;
Or, tickled by the feather of the dove,
The softer virgin dreams of endless love.
There was a time, when fortune's bright decrees
Were seen to realize such dreams as these:
Now dangerous visions the fond mind decoy,
Vainly to pant for unexisting joy;
While belles and bards with mournful sighs exclaim,
Mortality has seized both Love and Fame.
Ah, fair Serena! might the boast be ours
To clear from such a charge these heavenly powers!
Bless'd! might thy bard deserve in fame to see
A guard as faithful as Love proves to thee!
Bless'd! if that airy being gild his life,
Who saved thee trembling on the brink of strife,
And now kind prompter of thy nightly dream,
Fill'd thy rapt spirit with her sacred beam!
For soon as slumber set thy soul at large,
Thy guardian power revisited her charge;
And, lightly hovering o'er th' illumined bed,
Thus with fond smiles of approbation said:
'Well hast thou pass'd, sweet maid! one trying scene,
One fiery ordeal of the tyrant Spleen:
Thus, my Serena, may thy force sustain
Each harder trial that may yet remain!
Against the fiend to fortify thy soul,
By useful knowledge of her dark control,
I come to show thee what no mortal eye,
Save thine, was e'er permitted to descry:
The realms, where Spleen's infernal agents goad
The ghostly tenants of her drear abode.
Now summon all thy strength! throw fear aside,
And firmly trust in thy ethereal guide.'
She spoke: and through the night's surrounding shade,
Th' obedient nymph, not unappall'd, convey'd;
Through long, long tracts of darkness, on they pass'd
With speed, that struck the trembling maid aghast,
Till now, recovering by degrees, she found
Her firm foot press upon the solid ground;
Encouraged by her guide, at length she tries
To search the gloomy scene with anxious eyes.
'Through me ye pass to Spleen's terrific dome,
Through me, to Discontent's eternal home:
Through me, to those, who sadden'd human life,
By sullen humour, or vexatious strife;
And here through scenes of endless vapours hurl'd,
Are punish'd in the forms they plagued the world;
Justly they feel no joy, who none bestow;
All ye who enter, every hope forego!'
O'er an arch'd cavern, rough with horrid stone,
On which a feeble light by flashes shone,
These characters, that chill'd her soul with dread,
Serena, fix'd in silent wonder, read.
As she began to speak, her voice was drown'd
By the shrill echo of far other sound:
Forth from the portal lamentable cries
Of wailing infants, without number, rise.
Compassion to this poor and piteous flock,
Led the kind nymph still nearer to the rock.
The pining band within she now espied,
And, touch'd with tender indignation, cried,
'How could these little forms, of life so brief,
Deserve this dire abode of lasting grief?'
'- Well may thy gentle heart be sore concern'd
At sight so moving,' the mild sprite return'd:
'Thou seest in those, whose wailings wound thy ears,
The puny progeny of modern peers:
Their sires, by avarice or ambition led,
Aliens to love, approach'd the nuptial bed;
Their homely brides reluctantly embrac'd,
And by such union gave disastrous birth
To these poor pale encumbrances of earth;
Who, bred in vanity, with pride their dower,
Were Spleen's sure victims from their natal hour,
And in their splendid cradles pul'd and pin'd,
Till Fate their ill-spun thread of life untwin'd,
And to this vestibule convey'd their ghosts,
To form the vanguard of th' infernal hosts.
But let not pity's ineffectual charm
Impede thy progress, or thy strength disarm!
Follow and fear not! guarded by my care
From all the phantoms that around thee glare.'
She spoke: and enter'd, ere the nymph replied,
A pass, that open'd in the cavern's side,
Low, dark, and rocky - with her body bent,
Serena followed down the dire descent.
A sudden light soon struck her dazzled view;
But 'twas a light of such infernal hue,
As double horror to the darkness gave,
With dread reflection from a dusky wave.
Round a black water tatter'd spectres stand
With each a tiny taper in its hand;
Fierce mendicants! who strive some alms to win
From the fair stranger, with incessant din.
The guardian spirit saw Serena grieve,
To hear of wants she knew not to relieve;
And to the generous nymph in pity cries:
'The gulph of Indolence before us lies,
O'er whose dull flood, to which no bank is seen,
A boat must waft thee to the dome of Spleen.
These palid figures that around thee press,
And haunt thee with importunate distress,
On earth were beggars of each different class,
Though blended here in one promiscuous mass.
The poor, who spurn'd kind Industry's control,
The rich, who begg'd from penury of soul;
Both by their abject pride alike debas'd,
Blasphemed that nature, which they both disgrac'd,
And, hither by the sullen fiend convey'd,
Here still they ply their ineffectual trade;
In chase of each new passenger they run,
Condemn'd to beg from all, to gain by none.
But from these wretches turn thy fruitless care,
Behold the gulf before thee, and beware!
Nor touch the stream, which mortal sense o'ercomes,
And by its baleful charm the soul benumbs.'
'Can mortal pass!' the shuddering nymph replied,
'This sullen, slow, unnavigable tide,
In whose black current this enormous mound
Of shapeless stone appears, this horrid bound,
That seems an everlasting guard to keep
O'er the dull waters, that beneath it creep?'
While yet she spoke, with a resounding shock,
Forth from the arch of the impending rock,
Which o'er the murmuring eddy hung so low,
The lazy river scarce had room to flow,
Of rude construction, and in roughest plite,
A boat now issued to Serena's sight:
An empty boat, that slowly to the shore
Advanced, without the aid of sail or oar;
Self-moved it seem'd, but soon the nymph beheld
A grisly figure, who the stern impell'd.
Wading behind, the horrid form appear'd;
Above the water his strong arm he rear'd,
And cross the creeping flood the crazy vessel steer'd.
The heavenly sprite observed her trembling ward,
Whose growing fears the hideous pass abhorr'd,
And cheering thus she spake: 'This spectre boasts
The chief dominion of these dreary coasts:
To him, thy pilot, without dread, consign,
And place thy body in his bark supine!
So through this arching rock advance alone,
Safe from the perils of th' incumbent stone:
Embark undaunted! - on the farther side
Expect to find me, thy unfailing guide.
Nor let this pilot raise thy groundless dread,
This sullen Charon of the froward dead,
A phantom, never bless'd with human life,
Though oft on earth his noxious power is rife;
And in that region, ne'er from error free,
The words he dictates are assign'd to me.
Observe this fiend, that Nature scorn'd to frame,
Offspring of Pride, and Apathy his name!
Passions he ne'er can feel, and ne'er impart,
A mis-created imp, without a heart;
In place of which his subtle parent pinn'd
A bladder, fill'd with circulating wind,
Which seems with mimic life the mass to warm,
And gives false vigour to his bloated form.
But place thee in the boat, his arms direct,
My love shall watch thee, and my power protect.'
So spake the friendly sprite; th' obedient maid
Her form along the narrow vessel laid!
But oh! what terrors shake her tender soul,
As from the shore the bark begins to roll,
And, sever'd from her friend, her eyes discern
The steering spectre wading at the stern!
Far stronger fears her resolution melt,
Than those, which erst the bard of Florence felt,
When, by the honour'd shade of Virgil led,
Through all the dreary circles of the dead,
Hell's fiercest demons threaten'd to divide
The living poet from his shadowy guide;
And bade him, friendless, and alone, return,
Through the dire horrors of the dark sojourn.
Not long the lovely fair one's terrors last;
For safely through th' impending rock she pass'd:
And slow advancing to the gloomy strand,
The sullen pilot brings her safe to land.
There, fondly hovering on her guardian plumes,
The heavenly monitor her charge resumes;
And smiling, leads along the rocky road,
Whose windings open into Spleen's abode.
Thou queen of shades! whose spirit-damping spell
Too oft is seen the poet's pride to quell,
May I, unpunish'd by thy subtle power,
Dare to display thy subterranean bower,
And to this wondering upper world explain
The shadowy horrors of thy secret reign?
Entering beneath a wide fantastic arch,
Round the drear circuit of the dome they march;
Which a pale flash from many a fiery sprite
Frequent illumes with intermitting light;
Such as on earth to Superstition's eye,
Denounces ruin from the northern sky,
While she discerns, amid the nightly glare,
Armies embattled in the blazing air.
Around the nymph unnumber'd phantoms glide;
Here swell the bloated race of bulky Pride;
In close and horrid union, there appear
The wilder progeny of frantic Fear;
Misshapen monsters! whose stupendous frame
Abhorrent Nature had refused to name.
Here, in chameleon colours, lightly flit
The motley offspring of disorder'd Wit.
All things prodigious the wide cave contain'd,
And forms, beyond what fable ever feign'd:
But, as the worm, that on the dewy green
Springs half to view, and half remains unseen,
Perceiving near its cell a human tread,
Slinks back to earth, and hides its timid head:
So, where the heavenly spirit deign'd to lead,
The startled spectres from her step recede;
And as abash'd they from her eye retire,
Sink into mist, or melt in fluid fire.
High on an ebon throne, superbly wrought
With every figure of fantastic thought,
In a deep cove, where no bright beam intrudes,
O'er her black schemes the sullen empress broods.
The screech-owl's mingled with the raven's plume,
Shed o'er her furrow'd brows an awful gloom:
A garb, that glares with stripes of lurid flame,
Wraps in terrific pomp her haggard frame;
Round her a serpent, as her zone, is roll'd,
Which, writhing, stings itself in every fold.
Near her pavilion in barbaric state,
Four mutes the mandates of their queen await.
From sickly Fancy bred, by sullen Sloth,
Both parents' curse; yet pamper'd still by both.
First stands Disease; a hag of magic power,
Varying her frightful visage every hour,
Her horrors heightening as those changes last,
And each new form more hideous than the past.
Distraction next, a shapeless fiend, appears,
Whose shrivell'd hand a misty mirror rears;
Framed by malignant Art, th' infernal toy
Inverts the lovely mien of smiling Joy,
Robs roseate Beauty of attractive grace,
And gives a step-dame's frown to Nature's face.
The third in place, but with a fiercer air,
See the true Gorgon, Disappointment, glare!
By whose petrific power Delight's o'erthrown,
And Hope's warm heart becomes an icy stone.
Last, in a gorgeous robe, that, ill bestow'd,
Bows her mean body by its cumbrous load.
Stands fretful Discontent, of fiends the worst,
By dignity debased, by blessings curs'd,
Who poisons Pleasure with the sourest leaven,
And makes a hell of Love's ecstatic heaven.
The guide celestial, near this ghastly group,
Perceived her tender charge with terror droop:
'Fear not, sweet maid!' she cries, 'my steps pursue,
Nor gaze too long on this infernal crew!
Turn from Detraction's fascinating glass!
In silence cross the throne! observe, and pass!
Beyond this dome, the palace of the queen,
Her empire winds through many a dreary scene,
Where she torments, as their deserts require,
Her various victims that on earth expire;
Each class apart: for in a different cell
The fierce, the fretful, and the sullen dwell:
These shalt thou slightly view, in vapours hurl'd,
And swiftly then regain thy native world.
But first remark, within that ample niche,
With every quaint device of splendour rich,
Yon phantom, who, from vulgar eyes withdrawn,
Appears to stretch in one eternal yawn:
Of empire here he holds the tottering helm,
Prime minister in Spleen's discordant realm,
The pillar of her spreading state, and more,
Her darling offspring, whom on earth she bore;
For, as on earth his wayward mother stray'd,
Grandeur, with eyes of fire, her form survey'd,
And with strong passion starting from his throne,
Unloos'd the sullen queen's reluctant zone.
From his embrace, conceiv'd in moody joy,
Rose the round image of a bloated boy:
His nurse was Indolence; his tutor Pomp!
Who kept the child from every childish romp;
They rear'd their nursling to the bulk you see,
And his proud parents call'd their imp Ennui.
This realm he rules, and in superb attire
Visits each earthly palace of his sire:
A thousand shapes he wears, now pert, now prim,
Pursues each grave conceit, or idle whim;
In arms, in arts, in government engages,
With monarchs, poets, politicians, sages;
But drops each work, as it is just begun,
And, trying all things, can accomplish none.
Yet o'er each rank, and age, and sex, his sway
Spreads undiscern'd, and makes the world his prey
The light coquette, amid flirtation, sighs,
To find him lurk in pleasure's vain disguise;
And the grave nun discovers, in her cell,
That holy water but augments his spell.
As the strange monster of the serpent breed,
That haunts, as travellers tell, the marshy mead
Devours each nobler beast, though firmly grown
To size and strength superior to his own;
For on the grazing horse, or larger bull,
Subtly he springs, of dark saliva full,
With a swiftly-darting tongue his prey anoints
With venom, potent to dissolve its joints,
And, while its bulk in liquid poison swims,
Swallows its melting bone and fluid limbs: -
So this Ennui, this wonder-working elf,
Can vanquish powers far mightier than himself:
Nor Wit nor Science soar his reach above,
And oft he seizes on successful Love.
Of all the radiant host, who lend their aid
To light mankind through life's bewildering shade,
Bright Charity alone, with cloudless ray,
May boast exemption from his baleful sway:
Haste then, sweet nymph! nor let us longer roam
Round the drear circle of this dangerous dome!
Lest e'en thy guide, entangled in his spell,
Should fail to guard thee from a fiend so fell!'
So speaking, the kind Spirit's anxious care
Led from the palace the attentive fair,
And winding through a passage dark and rude,
Thus the mild monitor her speech renew'd:
''Gainst fear and pity now thy bosom steel,
For sights more horrible I now reveal!
Spleen's tortur'd victims view with dauntless eyes
For lo! her penal realms before thee rise!'
The nymph advancing saw, with mute amaze,
A dismal, deep, enormous dungeon blaze;
Stones of red fire the hideous wall compose,
And massive gates the horrid confine close.
Th' infernal portress of this doleful dome,
With fiery lips, that swell'd with poisonous foam,
Pale Discord, rag'd; with whose tormenting tongue,
Through all its caves th' extensive region rung;
A living vulture was the fury's crest,
And in her hand a rattlesnake she press'd,
Whose angry joints incessantly were heard
To sound defiance to the screaming bird.
'The boundless depth of this dire prison hold
The untam'd spirits of imperious scolds:
Nor think that females only fill the cave!
Male termagants have liv'd, and here they rave.
Polemics, who of peace with rancour preach,
And violate themselves the law they teach.
All of each sex are pent within this pale,
Who knew no use of language but to rail.'
Thus to her charge exclaim'd the heavenly guide,
And, as she spoke, the portals open'd wide,
And to th' observance of the shuddering maid,
Th' immeasurable den was all display'd.
But oh! what various noises from within
Fill the vex'd air with one stupendous din!
Mourning's deep groan, and Anger's furious call,
Terror's loud cry, and Affectation's squall,
The sob of Passion, the hysteric scream,
And shrieks of Frenzy, in its fierce extreme!
In this wild uproar every sound's combin'd,
That stuns the senses, and distracts the mind.
'Mark (to the nymph Sophrosyne began)
The fierce Xantippe flaming on the van;
The vase she emptied on the sage's head,
Hangs o'er her own, a different shower to shed:
For, drop by drop, distilling liquid fire,
It fills the vixen with new tropes of ire.
Beyond the Grecian dame extend your view,
And mark the spectre of a modern shrew!
She, who whene'er she din'd, with furious look,
Spurn'd her nice food, and bellow'd at her cook,
Here justly feels a culinary rack,
Bound, like Ixion, to a whirling jack.'
Serena gaz'd, but soon she turn'd away,
Mute with disgust, and shuddering with dismay;
'To scenes less hideous let us now repair;'
(Said the kind guard to the dejected fair)
And, cheering her faint charge, her step she led
To the near dwelling of the fretful dead.
Of dusky adamant, the dungeon rose;
A dingy mirror its dark sides compose,
Reflecting, with a thousand quaint grimaces,
The pale inhabitants' distorted faces.
'Here, like a dame of quality array'd,
Sits Peevishness, presiding o'er the shade,
And frowning at her own uncomely mien,
Whose coarse reflection on the wall is seen.
A snarling lap-dog her right hand restrains,
Her lap an infant porcupine contains,
Which, while her fondness tries its wrath to still,
Wounds her each moment with a pointed quill.
The froward spirits here in durance fret,
Whose testy life was one continued pet:
Here they in trifles that vexation find,
Which teas'd on earth their irritated mind.
Observe the phantom, who with eyes askance
Still to the mirror turns her eager glance!
See! to her cheek, incessant as she turns,
Her vex'd blood rushes, and her visage burns.
Beauty for lasting bliss had form'd the maid;
Love to her charms his faithful homage paid;
But, all this swelling tide of joy to check,
A fatal freckle rises on her neck:
Her soft cosmetics the griev'd nymph applies,
Success attends her and the freckle dies:
But ah! this victory avails her not;
She finds a hydra in the teasing spot;
Fast as one flies, another still succeeds,
And with eternal food her fretful humour feeds.
'Near to the nymph, in a more moody fit,
See the pale phantom of a peevish wit!
Mark with what frowns his eager eyes peruse,
Wet from the press, three Critical Reviews!
With wounded vanity's distracting rage
How rapidly he runs through every page!
He finds some honours lavish'd on his verse,
And joy's faint gleams his gloomy spirit pierce.
But oh! too soon these feeble sparks decay;
And keen vexation reassumes her prey.
Hating reproof, in every fibre sore,
One censur'd particle torments him more,
More than a hundred happier lines delight,
Which liberal favour condescends to cite.
'But time will fail us, if we pause to view
The various torments of the testy crew;
Those wretched chemists, whose o'er-heated brain
Extracts from nothing - a substantial pain.
Yet, ere to different districts we advance,
Take of one fretful tribe a transient glance!
Their unsuspected punishments supply
A lesson - useful to the female eye.
Spleen's liveliest agent here beguiles the gay,
Fair to attract, and flattering to betray.'
As thus the kind ethereal guardian spoke,
Within a rock, whence plaintive murmurs broke,
She touch'd a secret a secret spring, whose power was such,
Two jarring doors unfolded at the touch,
And, with the charms of regal splendour bright,
A cheerful banquet sparkles to the sight:
Viands so light, so elegantly grac'd,
Might tempt e'en Temperance herself to taste;
For fruits alone compos'd th' enticing treat,
Fair to the eye, and to the palate sweet.
In such bright juice the peach and cherry swim,
As make the topaz and the ruby dim.
Here, crown'd with every flower, and gaily drest
In all the glitter of a Gallic vest,
Whose ample folds her loathsome body screen'd,
A child of luxury reigns - a subtle fiend!
Who, with a grace that every heart allures,
Smiles on the lustre of her rich
Her fatal smiles their utmost power exert
To poison beauty at her dire dessert;
To blast the rose that health's bright cheek adorns,
And fill each festive heart with latent thorns;
For the sly fiend, of every art possess'd,
Steals on th' affection of her female guest;
And, by her soft address seducing each,
Eager she plies them with a brandy peach:
They, with keen lip, the luscious fruit devour;
But swiftly feel its peace-destroying power.
Quick through each vein new tides of frenzy roll:
All evil passions kindle in the soul,
Drive from each feature every cheerful grace,
And glare ferocious in the sallow face;
The wounded nerves in furious conflict tear,
Then sink in blank dejection and despair.
Effects more dire, thus tempting to deceive,
The apple wrought not in the soul of Eve.
Howe'er disguis'd, in jelly or in jam,
Spleen has no poison surer than a dram.
'But haste we now (the heavenly leader cries)
To where this penal world's last wonder lies!'
She spoke: and led the nymph through deeper dells,
Low murmuring vaults, and horror-breathing cells.
And now they pass a perforated cage,
Where rancorous spectres without number rage;
'Avert thine eye! (the heavenly Spirit said)
Nor view these abject tribes of envious dead!
Who pin'd to hear the voice of truth proclaim
A sister's beauty, or a brother's fame!
Though crown'd with all prosperity imparts
High in their various ranks, and several arts,
Yet, meanly sunk by envy's base control,
They died in that consumption of the soul;
And here, through bars that twisted adders make,
And the long volumes of the envenom'd snake,
O'er this dark road they dart an anxious eye,
Still envying every fiend that flutters by.
Pass! and regard them not!' - The attentive maid
In silent tremor the behest obey'd.
This dungeon cross'd, her weary feet she drags
Through winding caverns, and o'er icy crags:
Soul-chilling damps in the dark passage reign,
Which issues on a dark and dreary plain,
Fann'd by no breezes, with no verdure crown'd;
The black horizon is its only bound.
And now advancing, in a drizzly mist,
Through sullen phantoms, hating to exist,
Serena spies, high o'er his subjects placed,
The ghastly tyrant of the gloomy waste.
Murmuring he sits upon a rocking stone,
Th' unstable base of his ill-founded throne;
Hideous his face, and horrible his frame,
Misanthropy - the grisly monster's name;
Him to fierce Pride, with raging passion sore,
The frowning gorgon, Disappointment, bore;
On earth detested, and by heaven abhorr'd,
Of this drear wild he reigns - the moody lord.
Few are the subjects of his waste domain,
And scarce a female in his frightful train,
Except one changing corps of ancient prudes,
Reluctant here the prying band intrudes.
Each, who on earth, behind her artful fan,
Feign'd coarse aversion to the creature - man,
Is doom'd in this dark region to abide
Some transient pains for hypocritic pride.
Here ever-during chains these scoffers bind,
Whose writings deaden and debase the mind;
Who mock creation with injurious scorn,
And feel a fancied void in plenty's horn.
In his right hand, an emblem of his cares,
A branch of aconite the monarch bears;
And those sour phantoms, who this region haunt,
He feeds with berries from this deadly plant;
For, strange to tell! though sever'd from its root,
The bough still blackens with successive fruit.
The tribes who taste it burst into a fit
Of raving mockery and rancorous wit;
And pleased their tyrant's ghastly smile to court,
By vile distortions make him various sport.
The frantic rabble, who his sway confess,
Before his throne a hideous puppet dress;
When in unseemly rags they have array'd
The image, from their own dark semblance made,
In horrid gambols round their work they throng,
With antic dance and rude discordant song;
Satire's rank offals on the block they fling,
And call it nature, to delight their king:
While in their features he exults to see
The frowns of torture, mix'd with grims of glee:
For, as these abject toils engage the crew,
Their own grim idol darkens to their view:
Wide and more wide its horrid stature spreads,
And o'er its form their dizzy glances roll,
It strikes a cheerless damp through all the soul,
Vainly to shun the baleful sight they try,
It draws for ever the reluctant eye;
At each review with deeper dread they start;
A colder chaos numbs each freezing heart.
No mutual confidence, no friendly care,
Relieves the panic they are doom'd to bear;
For as they shrink absorb'd in wild affright,
When each to each inclines his wounded sight,
They feel, for social comfort, sour disgust,
And all the sullen anguish of distrust.
Around these wretches in the drear abode,
The ghastly grinning fiend Derision rode,
Who to their wayward minds on earth supplied,
Perverted ridicule's malignant tide.
His steed of Pegasus the semblance bore,
But with false wings that knew not how to soar:
Whene'er he pass'd with mischief in his look,
A sounding whip of knotted snakes he shook;
And laugh'd in lashing each pretended sage,
Whose malice wore the mask of moral rage.
An uncouth bugle his left hand display'd,
From a grey monkey's skull by Cunning made,
And form'd to pour, in harmony's despite,
Sounds that each jarring sense of pain excite:
And now his livid lips the bugle blew;
Through every den the piercing discord flew:
The fiends all answered in one hideous yell,
And in a fearful trance Serena fell.
Hence from the lovely nymph her senses fled,
Till through the parted curtains of her bed,
The amorous sun, who now began to rise,
Kiss'd, with a sportive beam, her opening eyes.