"Lines Inscribed to P. De Loutherbourg, Esq. R. A. " by Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)
On seeing his Views in Switzerland, &c. &c.
WHERE on the bosom of the foamy RHINE,
In curling waves the rapid waters shine;
Where tow'ring cliffs in awful grandeur rise,
And midst the blue expanse embrace the skies;
The wond'ring eye beholds yon craggy height,
Ting'd with the glow of Evening's fading light:
Where the fierce cataract swelling o'er its bound,
Bursts from its source, and dares the depth profound.
On ev'ry side the headlong currents flow,
Scatt'ring their foam like silv'ry sands below:
From hill to hill responsive echoes sound,
Loud torrents roar, and dashing waves rebound:
Th' opposing rock, the azure stream divides
The white froth tumbling down its sparry sides;
From fall to fall the glitt'ring channels flow,
'Till lost, they mingle in the Lake below.
Tremendous spot ! amid thy views sublime,
The mental sight ethereal realms may climb,
With wonder rapt the mighty work explore,
Confess TH' ETERNAL'S pow'r ! and pensively adore !
ALL VARYING NATURE ! oft the outstretch'd eye
Marks o'er the WELKIN's brow the meteor fly:
Marks, where the COMET with impetuous force,
O'er Heaven's wide concave, skims its fiery course:
While on the ALPINE steep thin vapours rise,
Float on the blast–or freeze amidst the skies:
Or half congeal'd in flaky fragments glide
Along the gelid mountain's breezy side;
Or mingling with the waste of yielding snow,
From the vast height in various currents flow.
Now pale-ey'd MORNING, at thy soft command,
O'er the rich landscape spreads her dewy hand:
Swift o'er the plain the lucid rivers fly,
Imperfect mirrors of the dappled sky:
On the fring'd margin of the dimpling tide,
Each od'rous bud, by FLORA'S pencil dy'd,
Expands its velvet leaves of lust'rous hue,
Bath'd in the essence of celestial dew:
While from the METEOR to the simplest FLOW R,
Prolific Nature ! we behold thy pow'r !
Yet has mysterious Heaven with care consign'd
Thy noblest triumphs to the human mind;
MAN feels the proud preeminence impart
Intrepid firmness to his swelling heart;
Creation's lord ! where'er HE bends his way,
The torch of REASON spreads its godlike ray.
As o'er SIClLlAN sands the Trav'ler roves,
Feeds on its fruits, and shelters in its groves,
Sudden amidst the calm retreat he hears
The pealing thunders in the distant spheres;
He sees the curling fumes from ETNA rise,
Shade the green vale, and blacken all the skies.
Around his head the forked lightnings glare,
The vivid streams illume the stagnant air:
The nodding hills hang low'ring o'er the deep,
The howling winds the clust'ring vineyards sweep;
The cavern'd rocks terrific tremours rend;
Low to the earth the tawny forests bend:
While He an ATOM in the direful scene,
Views the wild CHAOS, wond'ring, and serene;
Tho' at his feet sulphureous rivers roll,
No touch of terror shakes his conscious soul:
His MIND ! enlighten'd by PROMETHEAN rays
Expanding, glows with intellectual blaze !
Such scenes, long since, th' immortal POET charm'd,
His MUSE enraptur'd, and his FANCY warm'd:
From them he learnt with magic eye t' explore,
The dire ARCANUM of the STYGIAN shore !
Where the departed spirit trembling, hurl'd
"With restless violence round the pendent world," *
On the swift wings of whistling whirlwinds flung,
Plung'd in the wave, or on the mountain hung.
While o'er yon cliff the ling'ring fires of day,
In ruby shadows faintly glide away;
The glassy source that feeds the CATARACT's stream,
Bears the last image of the solar beam:
Wide o'er the Landscape Nature's tints disclose,
The softest picture of sublime repose;
The sober beauties of EVE'S hour serene,
The scatter'd village, now but dimly seen,
The neighb'ring rock, whose flinty brow inclin'd,
Shields the clay cottage from the northern wind:
The variegated woodlands scarce we view,
The distant mountains ting'd with purple hue:
Pale twilight flings her mantle o'er the skies,
From the still lake, the misty vapours rise;
Cold show'rs descending on the western breeze,
Sprinkle with lucid drops the bending trees,
Whose spreading branches o'er the glade reclin'd,
Wave their dank leaves, and murmur to the wind.
Such scenes, O LOUTHERBOURG ! thy pencil fir'd,
Warm'd thy great mind, and every touch inspir'd:
Beneath thy hand the varying colours glow,
Vast mountains rise, and crystal rivers flow:
Thy wond'rous Genius owns no pedant rule,
Nature's thy guide, and Nature's works thy school:
Pursue her steps, each rival's art defy,
For while she charms, THY NAME shall never die.
* Shakspere's Measure for Measure.
[Notes were included in the original text by Mrs. Robinson, at the bottom of each individual page. They are given here at the end of each poem. ]