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A Pindarick Ode on Painting Part 2

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A

PINDARICK

ODE

on

PAINTING.

Addressed To

JOSHUA REYNOLDS, Esq.

LONDON: Printed for W. GRIFFIN, in Catharine-Street, Strand.

MDCCLXVII.

[Price One Shilling and Six-pence.]

THE PREFACE.

As the subject of this Ode is, from the copiousness of it, almost an inexhaustible one (were I to take notice of all the minuter branches of this art, in which the several masters have distinguish'd themselves, such as the painting of fruit, flowers, still-life, game, buildings, ships, &c.) I have confin'd myself chiefly to the three greater species of it: namely, History (under which Battle-painting may justly be included) Landskip and Portraiture----and as, in a composition of this length, I imagin'd that the perpetual recurrence of the same measure in such a multiplicity of stanzas would have been rather languid and fatiguing, I have therefore indulg'd myself in many different kinds of metre; but, at the same time, have blended them as harmoniously as I could contrive; by which indulgence I have not only consulted my own ease, but hope I have likewise, in some degree, consulted the pleasure of the Reader, by entertaining his ear, at least, with a little variety of wild music, even if the composition should have no other sort of merit to recommend it.

A PINDARICK ODE ON PAINTING.

I.

Sweet mimick art! Which to our ravish'd eyes, From a few blended colours, and the aid Of attemper'd light and shade, Bid'st a new creation rise--- Oh! to this song of tributary praise, Which Poetry thy sister art Now with friendly homage pays, Could I contrive thy beauties to impart!

With my easy flowing line To unite correctness of design, 10 And make a t.i.tIAN's colouring conspire With RAPHAEL's grace, and BUANOROTI's fire---

II.

And this moment I perceive (Or does some illusion bless me, Some sweet madness now possess me?) My tumultuous bosom heave, Like the rapt SIBYLL's when she feels the load, The painful influence of th' in-rushing G.o.d---

III.

Yes---once again with joy I find (Nor think my friend th' a.s.sertion bold) 20 This languid age-enfeebled mind, As in life's prime, it's powers unfold--- Again th' ideal scenes arise, The visions stream before my eyes, Resistless on the rous'd imagination pour, And paint themselves as lively as before-----

IV.

But be this mental picture grac'd With all th' adornings fancy can bestow, How is it's beauty now effac'd, 30 How fast all it's splendor declines, Out-dazzled by those brighter lines Which on yonder canvas glow----

V.

Where---by th' Historick pencil's aid Whose ages are at once display'd--- Some great event of Rome or Greece Fills perhaps each high wrought piece--- There---some triumphal pomp proceeds--- There---th' impetuous battle bleeds--- Mark! while they engage What ardor what rage, 40 How shields are clash'd with shields--- And with what force up-rais'd in air, Each warrior brawny arm stript bare, Darts th' keen spear, or glittering faulchion wields, And while it aims the stroke, or while repels, How justly each inflated muscle swells----

VI.

With the same n.o.ble warmth imprest, As with his Lord the gallant beast Was eager to acquire a name, And combated like him for fame, 50 See the generous steed Fierce as CIRCE's high breed Which she stole from her bright-flaming fire, While he springs on the foe, Like the shaft from the bow, Scarce imprint the trod ground; But curvet and bound As if drawn by a pencil of fire----

VII.

But what endless length of verse Can suffice me to rehea.r.s.e 60 Th' enliven'd action of the whole?

Squadrons this way, that way bending, The depicted forms contending As instinct with real foul----

VIII.

Nay---minutely to describe The varied helm, peculiar shield, The different aspect of each tribe Which animates th' embattled field, Would ask the compa.s.s of an age, To mark the whole---must drawl along 70 The tedious circ.u.mstantial song, And haply languish through the thousandth page---

IX.

But rapidly by Painting's aid Is this intelligence convey'd; E'en in a single moment's s.p.a.ce We see th' extensive plan unfold, Omitted not one trifling grace, In full the complex tale is told; The grand exploits of half an Iliad rise, And flash at once on our astonish'd eyes---- 80

X.

Nor serves this sweet instructive art T' inform the intellect alone, But often melts th' obdurate heart And wakes it's paenitential groan--- For when in some great Master's draught, With genius as with judgement fraught, Nail'd haply to th' accursed tree, On his tenter'd wounds suspended, Every nerve with torture rended, Th' agonizing G.o.d we see--- 90 Supported by her weeping train While the dolorous mother stands With anguish'd features, writhen hands, Expressing e'en superior pain; Who but must mingle in this scene of woe, What breast can cease to heave, what eye forbear to flow?

XI.

But sorrow now o'erpow'rd by fear, Soon is check'd the starting tear, While in yonder piece I view, Which VANDERVELD's bold pencil drew 100 Through all it's gloom'd extent the ocean Work'd into wild impetuous motion, And with more dread t' impress the soul Grimly frowns the lurid sky, And the condensing vapours roll, And the fork'd light'nings fly--- With shatter'd sails and low-bent mast Drives before the whirling blast The fondering vessel---Hark! I hear (Or does the eye deceive the ear?) 110 The thunder's voice, the groaning air, The billows loud roar While they break on the sh.o.r.e, The cries of the wreck'd, and their shrieks of despair.

XII.

With pleasure now I turn my sight From horror and death to those scenes of delight, Where CLAUDIO's pencil has essay'd With every heighten'd touch to trace The wide-stretch'd Landskip's varied face, And all it's sweet delusive skill display'd--- 120

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A Pindarick Ode on Painting Part 2 summary

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