Excerpt from “The Progress of Poetry” by Judith Cowper Madan

Unequal, how shall I the search begin,
Or paint with artless hand the awful scene?
Thro’ paths divine with steps advent’rous tread,
And trace the muses to their fountain head?

Ye sacred nine, your mighty aid impart,
Assist my numbers, and enlarge my heart!
Direct my lyre, and tune each trembling string,
Where POETRY’S exalted charms I sing;
How, free as air, her strains spontaneous move,
Kindle to rage, or melt the soul to love:
How her first emanations dawn’d, disclose;
And where, great source of verse! bright PHOEBUS first arose.

Where nature warmth and genius has deny’d,
In vain are art’s stiff languid pow’rs apply’d.
Unforc’d the muses smile, above controul:
No art can tune the inharmonious soul.
Some rules, ’tis true, unerring, you may cull,
And void of life, be regularly dull:
Correctly flat may flow each study’d rhyme,
And each low period indolently chime.
A common ear perhaps, a vulgar heart,
Such lays may please, the labour’d work of art!
Far other strains delight the polish’d mind
The ear well judging, and the taste refin’d.
To blend in heavenly numbers ease and fire
An ADDISON will ask, a POPE require:
Genius alone, can force, like theirs, bestow,
As stars, unconscious of their brightness, glow.

From: http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/TextRecord.php?action=GET&textsid=33938

Date: 1721

By: Judith Cowper Madan (1702-1781)


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