When bold Ambition tempts the ingenuous mind
To leave the beaten paths of life behind,
Sublime on Glory’s pinions to arise,
Urg’d by the love of manly enterprize;
Swol’n Indolence and Fear, with envious view
The radiant track incessant will pursue,
The sneer of Malice to the croud will teach,
And mock those labors they despair to reach.
Nor does the bold Adventurer dread alone
The poison’d shafts by scowling Envy thrown;
For deck’d in Wisdom’s garb pedantic Pride,
And pompous Dulness constant to her side,
Shall try with looks profound each new design
By the strict rules of Compass and of Line,
And damn the Scheme, whose Author can’t produce
The exact returns of profit and of use.
Far be it from the Muse with Siren song
To draw from useful toil the industrious throng,
Or o’er the serious arts of life to raise
Warm Speculation’s yet unsanction’d praise.
Earth’s genial lap who teaches to unfold
A richer store of vegetable gold,
Who knows in union’s closer bands to draw
The opposing claims of Liberty and Law,
Who dares in Freedom’s holy cause to brave
The adverse legion and the hostile wave,
Shall gain from Virtue’s breath a purer fame
Than all the Poet or the Sage can claim.
Yet, led by Science, they whose steps explore
Each deep resource of Nature’s hidden store;
Whether pale study prompt them to reveal
What wonderous scenes her shapes minute conceal,
Or with superior zeal and bolder toil,
Which danger cannot check, or labor foil,
They trace her giant form and march sublime
Through each vicissitude of soil and clime,
Shall surely there some treasur’d secrets find,
Parents of good and useful to mankind,
Which far conceal’d from vulgar eye-sight lay
Till active Science call’d them into day.
When first sage Mathesis those laws reveal’d
Which lead the Stars thro’ Heaven’s eternal field,
What prescience could foresee their course should guide
The future vessel through the unfathom’d tide?
Does Botany collect her flowers in vain
Without one lenient herb to soften pain?
And has the Muse still pour’d an empty lay,
Nor charm’d one vagrant foot to virtue’s way?
Or grant that Science, of her stores profuse,
Forsake awhile her toils of graver use,
Yet sure no vulgar joys his breast engage
Who reads the wonders of her awful page,
Pursues the paths by former Sages trod,
Which lead thro’ Nature’s works, to Nature’s God:
Now follows Vegetation’s varied powers,
Thro’ all the change of foliage, fruit, and flowers,
Now feels the electric spark with sudden flame
Shoot mimic lightning through his thrilling frame,
And now delights the etheraal orbs to trace
Amid the vast expanse of boundless space.
Hail then ye daring few! who proudly soar
Through paths by mortal eye unview’d before!
From earth and all her humble scenes who rise
To search the extended mansions of the skies.
If firm his breast who first undaunted gave
His fragile vessel to the stormy wave,
How much superior he! whose buoyant car
Borne through the strife of elemental war,
Driven by the veering wind’s uncertain tide,
No helm to steer him, and no oar to guide,
See Earth’s stupendous regions spread below,
To hillocks shrunk the mountains loftiest brow.
Who now his head sublime, astonish’d shrouds
In the dull gloom of rain-distended clouds,
And sits enthron’d mid solitude and shade
Which human eye-sight never can pervade,
Or rides amidst the howling tempest’s force
Tracing the volley’d lightning to it’s source,
Or proudly rising o’er the lagging wind
Leaves all the jarring Atmosphere behind,
And at his feet, while spreading clouds extend,
While thunders bellow, and while storms descend,
Feels on his head the enlivening sun-beams play,
And drinks in skies serene the unsullied stream of day.
And say ye gloomy Cynics who despise
The manly labors of the brave and wise,
Who damp with envious breath the generous fires
Which Science kindles and which Fame inspires,
Yet Hell’s remotest regions would explore
If the rich mine allur’d with proffer’d ore.
Say can ye tell what this, yet novel art,
May to the future race of man impart,
What wonders hence may to our sons be shewn,
Truths now untaught, and blessings yet unknown?
Tempted by cloudless skies, yet half afraid,
When first the novice mariner essay’d
On the frail raft the border to forsake
To try the bosom of the unruffled lake;
Grasping with trembling hand the ill-form’d oar,
And scarcely venturing from the lessening shore,
While shouting crouds applauding rent the skies,
And weeping matrons blam’d the bold emprize:
Had some enthusiast bosom then foretold
What wonderous scenes the invention should unfold,
That Ocean sway’d by this improving Art
Should join those coasts it’s billows seem’d to part,
Bear the stupendous Bark in safety o’er,
And every produce waft to every shore;
Had talk’d of climes by future Navies cross’d
From scenes of Arctic to Antarctic frost,
And regions open’d to the astonish’d sight
Beyond Imagination’s wildest flight;
Such credit had he gain’d, as now would gain
The sanguine votary from the sneering train,
Whose hopes should promise from the improv’d balloon
Planets explor’d, and Empires of the Moon.
Then while the sons of Gallia justly claim
The earliest trophies in this field of fame,
Shall Albion’s race with impotence of Pride
Not emulate their triumphs, but deride?
No! while they candid own their Rivals here
Have started first in Glory’s bright career,
Let generous ardor fire each kindred soul
To join their footsteps ere they reach the goal.
And while the Wealthy and the Great combine
United Patrons of this bold design,
The applauding Muse her garlands shall bestow
To crown the intrepid Youth’s successful brow,
Who first of Britain’s offspring dar’d to rise
Upborne by native Genius to the skies,
New laurels rais’d on Isis’ learned plain,
And taught her osier’d brink to rival Seine.
(Henry James Pye)
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