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The Enthusiast, or the Lover of Nature

Ye green-rob'd Dryads, oft' at dusky Eve
By wondering Shepherds seen, to Forests brown,
To unfrequented Meads, and pathless Wilds,
Lead me from Gardens deckt with Art's vain Pomps.
Can gilt Alcoves, can Marble-mimic Gods,
Parterres embroider'd, Obelisks, and Urns
Of high Relief; can the long, spreading Lake,
Or Vista lessening to the Sight; can Stow
With all her Attic Fanes, such Raptures raise,
As the Thrush-haunted Copse, where lightly leaps
The fearful Fawn the rustling Leaves along,
And the brisk Squirrel sports from Bough to Bough,
While from an hollow Oak the busy Bees
Hum drowsy Lullabies? The Bards of old,
Fair Nature's Friends, sought such Retreats, to charm
Sweet Echo with their Songs; oft' too they met,
In Summer Evenings, near sequester'd Bow'rs,
Or Mountain-Nymph, or Muse, and eager learnt
The moral Strains she taught to mend Mankind.
As to a secret Grot Ægeria stole
With Patriot Numa, and in silent Night
Whisper'd him sacred Laws, he list'ning sat
Rapt with her virtuous Voice, old Tyber leant
Attentive on his Urn, and husht his Waves.
Rich in her weeping Country's Spoils Versailles
May boast a thousand Fountains, that can cast
The tortur'd Waters to the distant Heav'ns;
Yet let me choose some Pine-topt Precipice
Abrupt and shaggy, whence a foamy Stream,
Like Anio, tumbling roars; or some bleak Heath,
Where straggling stand the mournful Juniper,
Or Yew-tree scath'd; while in clear Prospect round,
From the Grove's Bosom Spires emerge, and Smoak
In bluish Wreaths ascends, ripe Harvests wave,
Herds low, and Straw-rooft Cotts appear, and Streams
Beneath the Sun-beams twinkle -- The shrill Lark,
That wakes the Wood-man to his early Task,
Or love-sick Philomel, whose luscious Lays
Sooth lone Night-wanderers, the moaning Dove
Pitied by listening Milkmaid, far excell
The deep-mouth'd Viol, the Soul-lulling Lute,
And Battle-breathing Trumpet. Artful Sounds!
That please not like the Choristers of Air,
When first they hail th'Approach of laughing May.

Creative Titian, can thy vivid Strokes,
Or thine, O graceful Raphael, dare to vie
With the rich Tints that paint the breathing Mead?
The thousand-colour'd Tulip, Violet's Bell
Snow-clad and meek, the Vermil-tinctur'd Rose,
And golden Crocus? -- Yet with these the Maid,
Phillis or Phoebe, at a Feast or Wake,
Her jetty Locks enamels; fairer she,
In Innocence and home-spun Vestments drest,
Than if coerulean Sapphires at her Ears
Shone pendant, or a precious Diamond-Cross
Heav'd gently on her panting Bosom white.

Yon' Shepherd idly stretcht on the rude Rock,
Listening to dashing Waves, and Sea-Mews Clang
High-hovering o'er his Head, who views beneath
The Dolphin dancing o'er the level Brine,
Feels more true Bliss than the proud Ammiral,
Amid his Vessels bright with burnish'd Gold
And silken Streamers, tho' his lordly Nod
Ten thousand War-worn Mariners revere.
And great Æneas gaz'd with more Delight
On the rough Mountain shagg'd with horrid Shades,
(Where Cloud-compelling Jove, as Fancy dream'd,
Descending shook his direful Ægis black)
Than if he enter'd the high Capitol
On golden Columns rear'd, a conquer'd World
Contributing to deck its stately Head:
More pleas'd he slept in poor Evander's Cott
On shaggy Skins, lull'd by sweet Nightingales,
Than if a Nero, in an Age refin'd,
Beneath a gorgeous Canopy had plac'd
His royal Guest, and bade his Minstrels sound
Soft slumb'rous Lydian Airs to sooth his Rest.

Happy the first of Men, ere yet confin'd
To smoaky Cities; who in sheltering Groves,
Warm Caves, and deep-sunk Vallies liv'd and lov'd,
By Cares unwounded; what the Sun and Showers,
And genial Earth untillag'd could produce,
They gather'd grateful, or the Acorn brown,
Or blushing Berry; by the liquid Lapse
Of murm'ring Waters call'd to slake their Thirst,
Or with fair Nymphs their Sun-brown Limbs to bathe;
With Nymphs who fondly clasp'd their fav'rite Youths,
Unaw'd by Shame, beneath the Beechen Shade,
Nor Wiles, nor artificial Coyness knew.
Then Doors and Walls were not; the melting Maid
Nor Frowns of Parents fear'd, nor Husband's Threats;
Nor had curs'd Gold their tender Hearts allur'd;
Then Beauty was not venal. Injur'd Love,
O whither, God of Raptures, art thou fled?
While Avarice waves his golden Wand around,
Abhorr'd Magician, and his costly Cup
Prepares with baneful Drugs, t'enchant the Souls
Of each low-thoughted Fair to wed for Gain.

What tho' unknown to those primæval Sires,
The well-arch'd Dome, peopled with breathing Forms
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:52 min read

Joseph Warton

Joseph Warton was an English academic and literary critic. He was born in Dunsfold, Surrey, England, but his family soon moved to Hampshire, where his father, the Reverend Thomas Warton, became vicar of Basingstoke. There, a few years later, Joseph's younger brother, the more famous Thomas Warton, was born. Their father later became an Oxford professor. Joseph was educated at Winchester College and at Oriel College, Oxford, and followed his father into the church, becoming curate of Winslade in 1748. In 1754, he was instituted as rector at The Church of All Saints, Tunworth. In his early days Joseph wrote poetry, of which the most notable piece is The Enthusiast, an early precursor of Romanticism. In 1755, he returned to his old school to teach, and from 1766 to 1793 was its headmaster, but it was a role in which he did not distinguish himself. His career as a critic was always more illustrious, and he produced editions of classical poets such as Virgil as well as English poets including John Dryden. Like his brother, he was a friend of Samuel Johnson, and formed part of the literary coterie centered around the publisher Robert Dodsley. A monument to Joseph Warton by the neoclassical sculptor John Flaxman is in Winchester Cathedral. more…

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