Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Court of Fancy
By Thomas Godfrey (1736–1763)
 
’TWAS sultry noon,—impatient of the heat
I sought the covert of a close retreat;
Soft by a bubbling fountain was I laid,
And o’er my head the spreading branches play’d;
When gentle slumber stole upon my eyes,        5
And busy fiction bid this vision rise.
 
  Methought I pensive, unattended, stood,
Wrapp’d in the horrors of a desert wood;
Old night and silence spread their sway around,
And not a breeze disturb’d the dread profound.        10
To break the wild, and gain the neighboring plain,
Oft I essay’d, and essay’d oft in vain;
Still in intricate mazes round I run;
And ever ended where I first begun.
While thus I laboring strove t’ explore my way,        15
Bright on my sense broke unexpected day:
Retiring night in haste withdrew her shade,
And sudden morn shone through the opening glade.
No more the scene a desert wild appear’d,
A smiling grove its vernal honors rear’d;        20
While sweetness on the balmy breezes hung,
And all around a joyful matin rung.
Soft was the strain of Zephyr in the grove,
Or purling streams that through the meadows rove.
Now wild in air the varying strain is toss’d,        25
In distant echoes then the sound is lost;
Again revived, and lo! the willing trees
Rise to the powerful numbers by degrees.
Trees now no more, robb’d of their verdant bloom,
They shine supporters of a spacious dome,        30
The wood to bright transparent crystal changed,
High fluted columns rise, in order ranged.
 
  So to the magic of Amphion’s lyre
Stones motion found, and Thebes was seen t’ aspire;
The nodding forests rose with the soft sound,        35
And gilded turrets glitter’d all around:
Each wond’ring god bent from his heavenly seat
To view what powerful music could complete.
 
  High on a mountain was the pile disclosed,
And spreading limes th’ ascending walks composed;        40
While far below the waving woods declined.
Their verdant tops bow’d with the gentle wind.
Bright varying novelty produced delight,
And majesty and beauty charm’d the sight.
Such are the scenes which poets sweetly sing,        45
By Fancy taught to strike the trembling string.
Here Fancy’s fane, near to the blest abode
Of all her kindred gods, superior stood.
Dome upon dome it sparkled from on high,
Its lofty top lost in the azure sky.        50
By fiction’s hand the amazing pile was rear’d,
In ev’ry part stupendous skill appear’d;
In beautiful disorder, yet complete,
The structure shone irregular and great:
The noble frontispiece of antique mould        55
Glitter’d with gems, and blazed with burnish’d gold.
 
  Now through the sounding vaults, self-opening, rung
The massy gates on golden hinges hung;
All the bright structure was disclosed to view,
Magnificent with beauty ever new!        60
Trembling I stood absorb’d in dread surprise,
And sudden glory dimm’d my aching eyes.
Unnumber’d pillars all around were placed,
Their capitals with artful sculpture graced.
Wide round the roof a fictious sky was raised,        65
A glorious sun in the meridian blazed,
On the rich columns played his dazzling ray,
And all around diffused immortal day;
A shining phœnix on the effusive rays
Fix’d his aspiring eye with steady gaze.        70
Beneath appear’d a chequer’d pavement, bright
With sparkling jaspanyx and chrysolite.
Round, by creating Fiction’s hand renew’d
Gay visionary scenes in order stood;
The obedient figures at her touch disclosed,        75
And various tales the glowing walls composed.
 
  Here mighty Jove, amidst assembled gods,
Raised on his starry throne, majestic nods;
On his right hand the dreadful fates are seen,
And on his left is placed his haughty queen.        80
There the pale tyrant of the dreary coasts
Sways with his powerful sceptre fleeting ghosts.
Blue Neptune scours along his wat’ry reign,
Now lifts the waves aloft, now stills the raging main.
Perch’d on a lofty rock Æolus stands,        85
And holds the winds in strong coercive bands.
Here the bright queen of beauty stands confess’d,
There angry Mars in martial honors dress’d.
Alcides here appears with warrior pride,
The lion’s spoil descending o’er his side,        90
The watchful dragon at his feet is lain,
The Lernean Hydra and dire Centaurs slain.
Here glows Diana, eager in the chace,
And there Minerva shows with sober grace.
There with the maddening rout close at his heels,        95
Young Bacchus, jolly god, triumphant reels.
Gay Maia’s son, high mounted on the wind,
Cuts through the air and leaves the clouds behind.
 
  Toward the rosy east, great Mithra shone,
Bright in the glories of a rising sun.        100
Beneath, in solemn pomp, with hands uprear’d,
In flowing robes the Magi all appear’d;
Here the sage 1 Bactrian poised his magic wand,
Obedient Genii waited his command.
There Thammuz lay, while from the gaping wound        105
Pour’d the rich stream, and sanguined all the ground.
Amidst his impious votaries Chemos stood,
And horrid Moloch, smear’d with infant blood.
 
  Northward fierce Woden stood, with terrors crown’d,
And angry Thor threw heedless thunder round.        110
Fair Friga with her lovely train was seen,
The beauteous rival of the Paphian queen.
Old Merlin struck the lyre, the wond’ring throng
Attended round to his prophetic song.
 
  Southward disorder’d figures struck my eyes,        115
Monkeys and serpents raised to deities;
Mad, superstitious Egypt these revered,
And to the hideous tribe their prayers preferr’d.
Maim’d Memnon there seem’d on his harp to play,
And hail Osiris bringing on the day.        120
Pale Isis’ crescent faintly glimmer’d here,
And barking Anubis display’d the year.
 
  Gay sportive fawns adorn’d the distant scene,
In antic measures skipping o’er the green.
There sea nymphs wanton’d on the wat’ry gleam,        125
Rode on the waves, or cleaved the yielding stream.
Here the pale Sybils ranged their mystic leaves,
And Ætna with the laboring Cyclops heaves.
There craggy rocks the sons of Titan tore,
And mountains shaggy roots tremendous bore,        130
And threaten’d Jove with the promiscuous war.
 
  Bold Phaeton here urged his mad request,
Ambitious joy swell’d his presumptuous breast;
Elate he mounted in the flaming car,
The sire attended with a fix’d despair;        135
Nor could the parent’s tears the youth restrain,
He laugh’d at fear, and daring took the rein.
The fiery steeds his feeble hand despise,
And stretch’d with glowing ardor through the skies;
Now thunders roll’d, pale lightning play’d around,        140
And the rash boy soon felt the burning wound.
 
  Pygmalion there the statue seem’d to move,
Assisted by the powerful queen of love;
With rapture fired, to his exulting breast
The animated stone he fondly press’d;        145
Transported on each shining feature gazed,
Now soften’d into life, and saw amazed,
Awaken’d into sense, her eye-balls roll,
And heaving breasts bespoke the entering soul;
Saw on her cheek the rosy tincture burn,        150
And felt her lips the ravish’d kiss return.
 
  Famed Dædalus here wing’d the midway air,
And sighing, saw his son disdain his care.
Young Icarus on spreading pinions rose,
And scorn’d the path his weary sire had chose:        155
For heaven the aspiring boy his flight begun,
But felt the ardor of too near a sun;
The temper’d wax before the scorching ray
Melted, and lo! the loosen’d wings gave way;
And while his father’s name his accents gave,        160
Fell from the height, and sunk beneath the wave.
 
  Diana’s rage there hapless Acteon feels,
And saw his hounds pursuing at his heels;
Changed to a stag, he swept along the plain,
In vain his speed, he flew from death in vain.        165
 
  Elysium next disclosed its blissful bowers,
With heavenly fruitage deck’d, and radiant flowers;
Celestial Amaranth eternal bloom’d,
And the bright plains with odorous scents perfumed;
Through the gay meads an amber current roll’d,        170
O’er sands resplendent as Arabia’s gold,
On whose green banks the happy shades reclined,
Quaff’d its sweet stream, and left their cares behind.
 
  What ever dreamer dreamt, or poet sung,
Or lying fable with her double tongue        175
Told the believing world, now did appear
Delusions all, for when approaching near,
They shunn’d the view, and shrunk to empty air.
 
  High in the midst, raised on her rolling throne,
Sublimely eminent, bright Fancy shone.        180
A glitt’ring 2 tiara her temples bound,
Rich set with sparkling rubies all around;
Her azure eyes roll’d with majestic grace,
And youth eternal bloom’d upon her face,
A radiant bough, ensign of her command,        185
Of polish’d gold, waved in her lily hand;
The same the sybil to Æneas gave,
When the bold Trojan cross’d the Stygian wave.
In silver traces fix’d unto her car,
Four snowy swans, proud of the imperial fair,        190
Wing’d lightly on, each in gay beauty dress’d,
Smooth’d the soft plumage that adorn’d her breast.
Sacred to her the lucent chariot drew,
Or whether wildly through the air she flew,
Or whether to the dreary shades of night,        195
Oppress’d with gloom she downward bent her flight,
Or proud aspiring sought the bless’d abodes,
And boldly shot among the assembled gods.
 
  On her right hand appear’d the joyful nine,
And on her left the graces all divine;        200
Young infant love soft on her breast reclined,
And with his mother’s glowing beauty shined.
Her favorite sons were ranged in order round;
In three bright bands with deathless laurels crown’d;
Great Homer here enjoy’d superior day,        205
Illuminated by bright fancy’s ray;
Apelles there, whose magic hand could give
Form to the mass, and bid the fiction live;
Timotheus next, whose animated lyre
Cold grief could charm, and thoughtless rage inspire.        210
 
  Close at her feet a bard in raptures lost,
Was placed, and wildly round his eyeballs toss’d;
Great Fancy was the theme! the soothing train
In floods of pleasure thrill’d through every vein.
Thus, while the trembling notes ascend on high,        215
He sung; “Indulgent queen of every joy,
What rapture fills the breast thou dost inspire,
The lover’s transport, and the poet’s fire!
At thy command obedient pleasure bends,
And rosy beauty to thy call attends;        220
The fanning gales shall swelling spread thy fame,
And echoing groves well pleased resound thy name!”
 
  While thus around my eyes I wildly threw,
From charm to charm, and did each wonder view,
Pleased on the heavenly ravishment to gaze,        225
Rose with the strain, or wanton’d in the blaze!
Her awful silence the bright goddess broke,
And frowning, thus in angry mood she spoke:
“Com’st thou, vain mortal, here with searching eye,
Into the secrets of our court to pry?        230
What rash presumption swells thy youthful breast,
That in our presence thus you ’ve rudely press’d?”
 
  Trembling I kneel’d, with fear my tongue was tied
A space, when speech regain’d, I thus replied:
“With lowly reverence I hither came,        235
Not to deride, but to adore thy name;
To thee I ever dedicate my song,
To hail thy glories ’midst this suppliant throng.”
 
  Then from her shining seat, the heavenly maid
In beautiful arrision, answering said;        240
“Then have thy wish—here, mortal, take this lyre,
Strike bold the strings, and sing as I inspire.
Humbly I bow’d, her mild commands obey’d,
And careless o’er the lyre my fingers laid,
And soon with wild poetic rage possess’d,        245
All my frame shook, and laboring heaved my breast.
By Fancy fired, enraptured thus I sung,
Whilst all around redoubling echoes rung.
 
  “Zephyr attend, or whether through the grove
Soft whisp’ring, you the leafy branches move,        250
Or, shaking dulcet dew-drops from each flower,
Wide through the plain you spread the fragrant shower,
Or whether Sylvia, panting in some shade,
In tender accents woos thee to her aid!
No more in amorous sporting spend the day,        255
No longer wanton on her bosom play;
Fancy commands! obey the regal fair,
Fancy commands! quick all your wings prepare!
From the sun’s early dawn till where again
He sets his glories in the azure main;        260
Through every clime her royal mandate bear,
And bid mankind to her bright court repair.
Hear, earth’s inhabitants! ye mortals, hear!
And let attentive wonder fix each ear.
Fancy invites! nor let her ask in vain.        265
Come, taste her heavenly sweets, and hail her reign!”
 
  Zephyr, obedient, on his wings convey’d
The joyful summons warbling through the glade;
Swiftly he swept along the spicy vale,
Caught all its sweets, and in a balmy gale        270
Gently he stole on the fond lover’s ear,
And in loud accents bade the warrior hear!
From different climes the thronging nations came,
And rush’d promiscuously before the dame;
Prostrate before her throne their hands they rear,        275
And to the goddess loud prefer their prayer.
Confused, they all demand her promised joys,
While the long vaults resound their clamorous noise.
As when loud billows break upon the shore,
Or o’er the opposing rocks the torrents roar.        280
Her glittering branch impatient round she swung,
And instant silence seized each babbling tongue.
Abash’d they trembling stood, and seem’d to be
Transfix’d in mute insensibility.
Quick was dispersed each wild tumultuous sound,        285
And the soft breezes all were hush’d around.
 
  Now swiftly forward false Delusion came,
Wrapt in a fulvid cloud appear’d the dame.
Thin was her form, in airy garments drest,
And grotesque figures flamed upon her vest;        290
In her right hand she held a magic glass,
From whence around reflected glories pass.
Blind by the subtle rays, the giddy croud
Rush’d wildly from the dome and shouted loud.
The few remain’d whom Fancy did inspire,        295
Yet undeceived by vain Delusion’s fire.
 
  A troop of shining forms the next came on,
Foremost bright Nature’s awful goddess shone.
Fair Truth she led, in spotless white array’d,
And pleasing Beauty, sweet celestial maid;        300
Where Truth and Nature aid the great design,
Beauty attends, and makes it all divine.
 
  Sweet Poesy was seen their steps behind,
With golden tresses sporting in the wind;
In careless plaits did her bright garments flow,        305
And nodding laurels waved around her brow;
Sweetly she struck the string, and sweetly sung,
Th’ attentive tribe on the soft accents hung.
’Tis hers to sing who great in arms excel,
Who bravely conquer’d or who glorious fell;        310
Heroes in verse still gain a deathless name,
And ceaseless ages their renown proclaim.
Oft to philosophy she lends her aid,
And treads the sage’s solitary shade;
Her great first task is nobly to inspire        315
The immortal soul with Virtue’s sacred fire.
 
  Then Painting forward moved in garlands drest,
The rainbow’s varied tints adorn’d her vest.
Great Nature’s rival!——quick to her command
Beauty attends, and aids her powerful hand.        320
At her creative touch gay fictions glow,
Bright tulips bloom, and opening roses blow.
The canvass see, what pleasing prospects rise!
What varying beauty strikes our wondering eyes!
Chill winter’s wastes, or spring’s delightful green,        325
Hot summer’s pride, or autumn’s yellow scene;
Here lawns are spread, there towering forests wave,
The heights we fear, or wish the cooling lave!
 
  Her blooming sister in her hand she led,
Joy in her eye, fair Sculpture, heaven-taught maid.        330
’Tis hers to stone a mimic life to give,
Heroes and sages at her call revive;
See flowery orators with out-stretched hand
Addressed to speak, in glowing marble stand!
 
  Sudden I heard soft sounds, a pleasing strain!        335
Music advanced with all her heavenly train.
Sweetly enraptured then my pulse beat high,
And my breast glow’d, fraught with unusual joy.
’Tis harmony can every passion move,
Give sorrow ease, or melt the soul to love;        340
Exulting pleasure to her call attends,
E’en stormy rage to powerful Music bends.
 
  With turrets crown’d bright Architecture shone.
The lovely maid with easy steps came on;
Graceful her mien, her looks celestial shined,        345
Where majesty and softening beauty join’d.
At her command see lofty piles ascend,
Columns aspire, triumphal arches bend.
 
  Astronomy, with proud aspiring eye,
Gazed on the glowing beauties of the sky.        350
Her vest with glittering stars was spangled o’er,
And in her hand a telescope she bore.
With this she marked the rolling planet’s way,
Or where portentous comets dreadful stray.
 
  Though last, not least, Philosophy was seen:        355
Slow was her step, and awful was her mien.
A volume open in her hand she held;
With nature’s law the ample page was fill’d.
’Tis hers great Nature’s wondrous depths t’ explore,
Or to the gods in heavenly rapture soar.        360
 
  With these bright Fancy’s sons their hours employ,
Pursue their lore, and taste each rising joy.
 
  Now suddenly the scene was changed again,
And brought to view Delusion’s spreading reign:
There intermingled hills and rocks were seen,        365
Here shady groves and flowery lawns between.
Full in the front a lofty pile was rear’d,
The architecture old and rude appear’d.
Delusion’s residence, within confined
Gay fictions lurk, and dreams of every kind.        370
Constant as waters roll, or flames ascend,
Hither their course the rising vapors bend;
Dress’d by her hand they shine with mimic bloom,
Or at her word their nothingness resume.
But still from Fancy all her power she draws,        375
Bows to her name, and owns her sacred laws.
Some in light dreams the sleeping senses move,
And led by them the thoughts unsettled rove,
Others, more bold, majestic portments take,
And plague delighted those who dream awake.        380
Such are the dreams of those who thirst for power,
The superstitious, and a thousand more.
Others usurp the features of the dead,
And shake the torch around the murderer’s bed;
Affright the vigil, or in wanton mirth,        385
Make fools seek hidden treasures in the earth,
Or lead the weary traveller awry,
Or rising, flame amazement in the sky.
 
  Now with the crowd Delusion forward came,
A troop of phantoms flutter’d round the dame;        390
In bands the throng she instantly divides,
A phantom over every band presides.
 
  Foremost a bright majestic form appear’d,
And in her hand the honor’d fasces rear’d;
Forward she strode with more than virgin pace,        395
And leer’d upon the crowd with haughty grace.
Power was her name; assuming, selfish Pride
And glittering Pomp attended by her side.
Her favorite son on a high seat she placed,
With mimic gems and glassy bawbles graced;        400
Close by his side was seated wrinkled Care,
While Envy view’d him with malicious stare:
Sternly he eyed around the servile throng,
While loud acclaim proceeded from each tongue;
But from the giddy height devolving soon,        405
Reproach, contempt, and shame is on him thrown.
Eager another mounts the chair of power,
And shines the empty pageant of an hour.
 
  Dame Superstition was the next came on,
Bright on her head the gilded mitre shone,        410
Varying her aspect, now she raised her eye,
And seem’d bewilder’d with ecstatic joy;
Then sudden gloom her countenance depress’d,
Tears roll’d apace, and sorrow heaved her breast;
Now calm again she silent view’d around        415
The prostrate crowd bent humbly to the ground:
Then, caught with sudden rage, she hurl’d about
Her thund’ring anathema ’mong the rout.
 
  An aged, wrinkled hag the next appear’d,
Four mouldering turrets o’er her temples rear’d;        420
In rows like beads the faithful medals tied,
In ornamental rust adorn’d her side.
A broken column of an ancient date
She dragg’d, and sinking seem’d beneath the weight.
The column all admired, the medals more,        425
“The inscription value, but the rust adore.”
 
  The next to her approach’d a reverent dame,
In trophies great, from insects torn, she came;
With stately step she trod the plain along,
And threw her treasure ’midst the admiring throng.        430
Forward with joy each curious mortal sprang,
This caught a gaudy wing, and that a pointed fang.
 
  Before the giddy throng, which now advanced,
With mincing step gay Affectation danced,
Then sudden stopp’d, and staring on the crowd,        435
She frown’d, then smiled, and giggled out aloud.
The numerous throng attending round the fair,
Mimic’d her gestures, and assumed her air.
 
  A crowd of mortals here, with wondering eyes,
All pale and trembling gazed upon the skies;        440
Where on blue plains opposing hosts engage,
While shouts are heard and all the battle’s rage.
Amidst the throng stood cold and heartless Fear,
The fall of nations whispering in each ear.
 
  Here pallid spectres gleam’d, and there were seen        445
The fairy train in gambols on the green.
Through miry ways the rustic journeys round,
Nor dares presuming tread the hallow’d ground;
Dire ills await the wretch, so fable sings,
Or pinch’d all o’er, or pierced with thousand stings.        450
 
  The structure entering, as around I threw
My wondering eyes, gay forms arose to view.
False Pleasure here the borrow’d form of Joy
Assumed, and roll’d around her sparkling eye.
But who, allured by her enchanting song,        455
From virtue shrinks, and mingles with her throng,
Soon sees her beauties fade, and to his eyes
Deformity and sad disease arise.
 
  In a dark corner hell-born Jealousy,
A wan and haggard sprite, I did espy;        460
Watchful she roll’d her ghastly eyes around,
And cautious trod, to catch the whispering sound.
Her heart for ever deathless vultures tear,
And by her side stalk anguish and despair.
Curst is the wretch with her dire rage possess’d,        465
When fancied ills destroy his wonted rest.
 
  Pale Avarice was seen with looks of care,
And clasp’d her bags with never ceasing fear.
Close following her, a wretched spectre came,
With tatter’d garments, Poverty her name.        470
In vain her search t’ elude still Avarice strives,
Amidst her store in endless want she lives.
 
  False Honor here I saw all gaily dress’d,
Glass were her beads, and tinsel’d was her vest;
Form’d in barbaric ages, rude her mien,        475
And in her hand the sanguined sword was seen.
Not stain’d like patriots in their country’s cause,
To save religion, or support the laws;
In private strife the crimson torrents flow,
Their country wounded by each fatal blow.        480
 
  With chequer’d hood Dissembling stood behind,
And Falsehood, coining lies to cheat mankind;
While with smooth art deceitful Flattery
Address’d the ear of listening Vanity.
 
  The gloom was now disclosed where Spleen remain’d:        485
A thousand various ills the goddess pain’d.
As powerful Fancy works, here mortals are
Transform’d to glass, or China’s brittle ware;
Oppress’d by Spleen, no longer joy they know,
For ever tortured with imagined woe.        490
 
  As thus I onward moved with wandering pace,
And view’d the varied wonders of the place;
“Just heaven,” I cried, “Oh! give me to restrain
Imagination with a steady rein!
Though oft she leads through Pleasure’s flowery ways,        495
In Error’s thorny path she sometimes strays.
Let me my hours with solid judgment spend,
Nor to Delusion’s airy dreams attend;
By Reason guided, we shall only know
Those heavenly joys which Fancy can bestow!        500
 
Note 1. Zoroaster. [back]
Note 2. This conceit is occasioned, by the tiara’s being a badge of royalty used in the east, and the oriental writers abounding much in pieces of imagination. [back]
 
 
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