James Beattie

Here you will find the Long Poem The Minstrel; Or, The Progress Of Genius : Book I. of poet James Beattie

The Minstrel; Or, The Progress Of Genius : Book I.

Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb 
The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar! 
Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime 
Hath felt the influence of malignant star, 
And wag'd with Fortune an eternal war! 
Check'd by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown, 
And Poverty's unconquerable bar, 
In life's low vale remote hath pin'd alone 
Then dropt into the grave, unpitied and unknown! 

And yet, the languor of inglorious days 
Not equally oppressive is to all. 
Him, who ne'er listen'd to the voice of praise, 
The silence of neglect can ne'er appal. 
There are, who, deaf to mad Ambition's call, 
Would shrink to hear th' obstreperous trump of Fame; 
Supremely blest, if to their portion fall 
Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim 
Had he, whose simple tale these artless lines proclaim.

This sapient age disclaims all classic lore; 
Else I should here in cunning phrase display, 
How forth The Minstrel far'd in days of yore, 
Right glad of heart, though homely in array; 
His waving locks and beard all hoary grey: 
And, from his bending shoulder, decent hung 
His harp, the sole companion of his way, 
Which to the whistling wind responsive rung: 
And ever as he went some merry lay he sung.

Fret not yourselves, ye silken sons of pride, 
That a poor Wanderer should inspire my strain. 
The Muses Fortune's fickle smile deride, 
Nor ever bow the knee in Mammon's fane; 
For their delights are with the village-train, 
Whom Nature's laws engage, and Nature's charms: 
They hate the sensual, and scorn the vain; 
The parasite their influence never warms, 
Nor him whose sordid soul the love of wealth alarms. 

Though richest hues the peacock's plumes adorn, 
Yet horror screams from his discordant throat. 
Rise, sons of harmony, and hail the morn, 
While warbling larks on russet pinions float; 
Or seek at noon the woodland scene remote, 
Where the grey linnets carol from the hill. 
O let them ne'er with artificial note, 
To please a tyrant, strain the little bill, 
But sing what Heaven inspires, and wander where they will. 

Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature's hand; 
Nor was perfection made for man below. 
Yet all her schemes with nicest art are plann'd, 
Good counteracting ill, and gladness woe. 
With gold and gems if Chilian mountains glow, 
If bleak and barren Scotia's hills arise; 
There plague and poison, lust and rapine grow; 
Here peaceful are the vales, and pure the skies, 
And freedom fires the soul, and sparkles in the eyes. 

Then grieve not, thou to whom th' indulgent Muse 
Vouchsafes a portion of celestial fire; 
Nor blame the partial Fates, if they refuse 
Th' imperial banquet, and the rich attire. 
Know thine own worth, and reverence the lyre. 
Wilt thou debase the heart which God refin'd? 
No; let thy heaven-taught soul to heaven aspire, 
To fancy, freedom, harmony, resign'd; 
Ambition's groveling crew for ever left behind. 

Canst thou forego the pure ethereal soul,
In each fine sense so exquisitely keen,
On the dull couch of Luxury to loll,
Stung with disease and stupified with spleen;
Fain to implore the aid of Flattery's screen,
Even from thyself thy loathsome heart to hide
(The mansion then no more of joys serene)
Where fear, distrust, malevolence, abide,
And impotent desire, and disappointed pride?

O how canst thou renounce the boundless store
Of charms which Nature to her votary yields!
The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields;
All that the genial ray of morning gilds,
And all that echoes to the song of even,
All that the mountain's sheltering bosom shields,
And all that dread magnificence of heaven,
O how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgiven!

These charms shall work thy soul's eternal health,
And love, and gentleness, and joy, impart.
But these thou must renounce, if lust or wealth
E'er win its way to thy corrupted heart;
For, ah! it poisons like a scorpion's dart,
Prompting th' ungenerous wish, the selfish scheme,
The stern resolve, unmoved by pity a smart,
The troublous day, and long distressful dream -
Return my roving Muse, resume thy purposed theme.

There lived in Gothic days, as legends tell,
A shepherd-swain, a man of low degree;
Whose sires, perchance, in Fairyland might dwell,
Sicilian groves, or vales of Arcady;
But he, I ween, was of the north country:
A nation famed for song, and beauty's charms;
Zealous, yet modest; innocent, though free;
Patient of toil; serene amidst alarms;
Inflexible in faith; invincible in arms.

The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made,
On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock