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Their pleas were different, their request the same;
First at the shrine the learned world appear, And to the goddess thus prefer their prayer : “ Long have we sought t'instruct and please
mankind, With studies pale, with midnight vigils blind; But thank'd by few, rewarded yet by none, We here appeal to thy superior throne : On wit and learning the just prize bestow, For fame is all we must expect below.”
The goddess heard, and bade the Muses raise The golden trumpet of eternal praise : From pole to pole the winds diffuse the sound, That fills the circuit of the world around; Not all at once, as thunder breaks the cloud, The notes at first were rather sweet than loud ; By just degrees they every moment rise, Fill the wide earth, and gain upon the skies. At every breath were balmy odours shed, Which still grew sweeter as they wider spread; Less fragrant scents th’unfolding rose exhales, Or spices breathing in Arabian gales.
Next these the good and just, an awful train, Thus on their knees address'd the sacred fane :
“ Since living virtue is with envy curs’d, And the best men are treated like the worst, Do thou, just goddess, call our merits forth, And give each deed th’exact intrinsic worth.” “Not with bare justice shall your act be crown'd, (Said Fame) but high above desert renown'd: Let fuller notes th'applauding world amaze, And the loud clarion labour in your praise.
This band dismiss'd, behold another crowd Preferr'd the same request, and lowly bow'd; The constant tenor of whose well spent days No less deserv'd a just return of praise. But straight the direful trump of Slander sounds; Thro' the big dome the doubling thunder bounds; Loud as the burst of cannon rends the skies, The dire report through every region flies, In every ear incessant rumours rung, And gathering scandals grew on every tongue. From the black trumpet's rusty concave broke Sulphureous flames, and clouds of rolling smoke: The poisonous vapour blots the purple skies, And withers all before it as it flies.
A troop came next, who crowns and armour wore, And proud defiance in their looks they bore : “ For thee (they cried) amidst alarms and strife, We sail'd in tempests down the stream of life; For thee whole nations fill'd with flames and blood, And swam to empire through the purple flood : Those ills we dar'd, thy inspiration own; What virtue seem'd, was done for thee alone.”
* Ambitious fools! (the queen replied, and frown'd) Be all your acts in dark oblivion drown'd; There sleep forgot, with mighty tyrants gone, Your statues moulder'd, and your names un
known !” A sudden cloud straight snatch'd them from my
And each majestic phantom sunk in night.
Then came the smallest tribe I yet had seen; Plain was their dress, and modest was their mien: “ Great idol of mankind ! we neither claim The praise of merit, nor aspire to fame! But safe in deserts from th' applause of men, Would die unheard of, as we liv'd unseen; 'Tis all we beg thee, to conceal from sight Those acts of goodness which themselves requite. O let us still the secret joy partake, To follow virtue e'en for virtue's sake.”
“And live there men who slight immortal fame? Who then with incense shall adore our name? But, mortals ! know, 'tis still our greatest pride To blaze those virtues which the good would hide. Rise! Muses, rise! add all your tuneful breath, These must not sleep in darkness and in death." She said: in air the trembling music floats, And on the winds triumphant swell the notes; So soft, though high, so loud, and yet so clear, E'en listening angels lean'd from Heaven to hear : To farthest shores th'ambrosial spirit flies, Sweet to the world, and grateful to the skies.
Next these a youthful train their vows expressid, With feathers crown'd, with gay embroidery
dress'd: “ Hither (they cried) direct your eyes, and see The men of pleasure, dress, and gallantry; Ours is the place at banquets, balls, and plays, Sprightly our nights, polite are all our days; Courts we frequent, where 'tis our pleasing care To pay
due visits, and address the fair; In fact, 'tis true, no nymph we could persuade, But still in fancy vanquish'd every maid; Of unknown duchesses lewd tales we tell, Yet, would the world believe us, all were well; The joy let others have, and we the name, And what we want in pleasure, grant in fame.” The
queen assents : the trumpet rends the skies, And at each blast a lady's honour dies. Pleas'd with the strange success, vast numbers
prest Around the shrine, and made the same request; “What, you (she cried), unlearn'din arts to please, Slaves to yourselves, and e'en fatigu'd with ease, Who lose a length of undeserving days, Would you usurp the lover's dear-bought praise? To just contempt, ye vain pretenders, fall, The people's fable, and the scorn of all." Straight the black clarion sends a horrid sound, Loud laughs burst out, and bitter scoffs fly round, Whispers are heard, with taunts reviling loud, And scornful hisses run through all the crowd.
Last, those who boast of mighty mischiefs done, Enslave their country, or usurp a throne; Or who their glory’s dire foundation laid On sovereigns ruin'd, or on friends betray'd ; Calm, thinking villains, whom no faith could fix, Of crooked counsels and dark politics; Of these a gloomy tribe surround the throne, And beg to make th' immortal treasons known. The trumpet roars, long flaky flames expire, With sparks that seem’d to set the world on fire. At the dread sound pale mortals stood aghast, And startled nature trembled with the blast. This having heard and seen, some power unknown
[the throne. Straight chang'd the scene, and snatch'd me from Before
my view appear'd a structure fair, Its site uncertain, if in earth or air; With rapid motion turn'd the mansion round; With ceaseless noise the ringing walls resound : Not less in number were the spacious doors Than leaves on trees, or sands upon the shores; Which still unfolded stand, by night, by day, Pervious to winds, and open every way. As flames by nature to the skies ascend, As weighty bodies to the centre tend, As to the sea returning rivers roll, And the touch'd needle trembles to the pole; Hither, as to their proper place, arise All various sounds from earth, and seas, and skies, Or spoke aloud, or whisper'd in the eai;