A Collection of English Poems, 1660-1800

By Ronald S. Crane | Go to book overview

JAMES BEATTIE
(1735-176I-1803)

The Minstrel; or, The Progress of Genius1

The First 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 waged with Fortune an eternal war! 5
Check'd by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown, And Poverty's unconquerable bar, In life's low vale remote hath pined alone Then dropt into the grave, unpitied and unknown!


II.

And yet, the languor of inglorious days 10
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; 15
Supremely blest, if to their portion fall Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim Had HE, whose simple tale these artless lines proclaim.


III.

This sapient age disclaims all classic lore;

Else I should here in cunning phrase display, 20
How forth THE MINSTREL fared 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, 25
Which to the whistling wind responsive rung: And ever as he went some merry lay he sung.

____________________
1
Published in 1771. Text of fourth edition, 1774.

-888-

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