The Poet

Mark Akenside 1721 (Newcastle upon Tyne) – 1770

—A Rhapsody

Of all the various lots around the ball,
Which fate to man distributes, absolute;
Avert, ye gods! that of the Muse's son,
Curs'd with dire poverty! poor hungry wretch!
What shall he do for life? he cannot work
With manual labour: shall those sacred hands,
That brought the counsels of the gods to light;
Shall that inspired tongue, which every Muse
Has touch'd divine, to charm the sons of men:
These hallow'd organs! these! be prostitute
To the vile service of some fool in power,
All his behests submissive to perform,
Howe'er to him ingrateful? Oh! he scorns
The ignoble thought; with generous disdain,
More eligible deeming it to starve,
Like his fam'd ancestors renown'd in verse,
Than poorly bend to be another's slave,—
Than feed and fatten in obscurity.
—These are his firm resolves, which fate, nor time,
Nor poverty can shake. Exalted high
In garret vile he lives; with remnants hung
Of tapestry. But oh! precarious state
Of this vain transient world! all powerful time,
What dost thou not subdue? See what a chasm
Gapes wide, tremendous! see where Saul, enrag'd,
High on his throne, encompass'd by his guards,
With levell'd spear, and arm extended, sits,
Ready to pierce old Jesse's valiant son,
Spoil'd of his nose!—around in tottering ranks,
On shelves pulverulent, majestic stands
His library; in ragged plight, and old;
Replete with many a load of criticism,
Elaborate products of the midnight toil
Of Belgian brains; snatch'd from the deadly hands
Of murderous grocer, or the careful wight,
Who vends the plant, that clads the happy shore
Of Indian Patomack; which citizens
In balmy fumes exhale, when, o'er a pot
Of sage-inspiring coffee, they dispose
Of kings and crowns, and settle Europe's fate.

Elsewhere the dome is fill'd with various heaps
Of old domestic lumber: that huge chair
Has seen six monarchs fill the British throne:
Here a broad massy table stands, o'erspread
With ink and pens, and scrolls replete with rhyme:
Chests, stools, old razors, fractur'd jars, half full
Of muddy Zythum, sour and spiritless:
Fragments of verse, hose, sandals, utensils
Of various fashion, and of various use,
With friendly influence hide the sable floor.

This is the bard's museum, this the fane
To Phœbus sacred, and the Aonian maids:
But oh! it stabs his heart, that niggard fate
To him in such small measure should dispense
Her better gifts: to him! whose generous soul
Could relish, with as fine an elegance,
The golden joys of grandeur, and of wealth;
He who could tyrannize o'er menial slaves,
Or swell beneath a coronet of state,
Or grace a gilded chariot with a mien,
Grand as the haughtiest Timon of them all.

But 'tis in vain to rave at destiny,
Here he must rest, and brook the best he can,
To live remote from grandeur, learning, wit:
Immur'd amongst th' 'ignoble, vulgar herd,
Of lowest intellect; whose stupid souls
But half inform their bodies; brains of lead
And tongues of thunder; whose insensate breasts
Ne'er felt the rapturous, soul-entrancing fire
Of the celestial Muse; whose savage ears
Ne'er heard the sacred rules, nor even the names
Of the Venusian bard, or critic sage
Full-fam'd of Stagyra: whose clamorous tongues
Stun the tormented ear with colloquy,
Vociferate, trivial, or impertinent;
Replete with boorish scandal; yet, alas!
This, this! he must endure, or muse alone,
Pensive and moping o'er the stubborn rhyme,
Or line imperfect—No! the door is free,
And calls him to evade their deafening clang,
By private ambulation;—'tis resolved:
Off from his waist he throws the tatter'd gown,
Beheld with indignation; and unloads
His pericranium of the weighty cap,
With sweat and grease discolour'd: then explores
The spacious chest, and from its hollow womb
Draws his best robe, yet not from tincture free
Of age's reverend russet, scant and bare;
Then down his meagre visage waving flows
The shadowy peruke; crown'd with gummy hat,
Clean brush'd; a cane supports him. Thus equipp'd
He sallies forth; swift traverses the streets,
And seeks the lonely walk. “Hail sylvan scenes!
Ye groves, ye valleys, ye meand'ring brooks,
Admit me to your joys,” in rapturous phrase,
Loud he exclaims; while with the inspiring Muse
His bosom labours; and all other thoughts,
Pleasure and wealth, and poverty itself,
Before her influence vanish. Rapt in thought,
Fancy presents before his ravished eyes
Distant posterity, upon his page
With transport dwelling; while bright Learning's sons,
That ages hence must tread t
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:53 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,369
Words 743
Stanzas 4
Stanza Lengths 40, 10, 11, 42

Mark Akenside

Mark Akenside was an English poet and physician. more…

All Mark Akenside poems | Mark Akenside Books

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