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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Aspirations after the Infinite
By Mark Akenside (1721–1770)
 
From ‘Pleasures of the Imagination’

WHO that, from Alpine heights, his laboring eye
Shoots round the wide horizon, to survey
Nilus or Ganges rolling his bright wave
Thro’ mountains, plains, thro’ empires black with shade,
And continents of sand, will turn his gaze        5
To mark the windings of a scanty rill
That murmurs at his feet? The high-born soul
Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing
Beneath its native quarry. Tired of earth
And this diurnal scene, she springs aloft        10
Through fields of air; pursues the flying storm;
Rides on the volleyed lightning through the heavens;
Or, yoked with whirlwinds and the northern blast,
Sweeps the long tract of day. Then high she soars
The blue profound, and, hovering round the sun,        15
Beholds him pouring the redundant stream
Of light; beholds his unrelenting sway
Bend the reluctant planets to absolve
The fated rounds of Time. Thence, far effused,
She darts her swiftness up the long career        20
Of devious comets; through its burning signs
Exulting measures the perennial wheel
Of Nature, and looks back on all the stars,
Whose blended light, as with a milky zone,
Invests the orient. Now, amazed she views        25
The empyreal waste, where happy spirits hold
Beyond this concave heaven, their calm abode;
And fields of radiance, whose unfading light
Has traveled the profound six thousand years,
Nor yet arrived in sight of mortal things.        30
Even on the barriers of the world, untired
She meditates the eternal depth below;
Till half-recoiling, down the headlong steep
She plunges; soon o’erwhelmed and swallowed up
In that immense of being. There her hopes        35
Rest at the fated goal. For from the birth
Of mortal man, the sovereign Maker said,
That not in humble nor in brief delight,
Nor in the fading echoes of Renown,
Power’s purple robes, nor Pleasure’s flowery lap,        40
The soul should find enjoyment: but from these
Turning disdainful to an equal good,
Through all the ascent of things enlarge her view,
Till every bound at length should disappear,
And infinite perfection close the scene.        45
 
 
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