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William Mason: Il Pacifico: Joys that peace inspires

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

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William Mason
Il Pacifico
Written on the Conclusion of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle

Hence, pestilential Mars,
Of sable-vested Night and Chaos bred,
On matters formless bed,
Mid the harsh din of elemental jars:
Hence with thy frantic croud,
Wing’d Flight, pale Terror, Discord cloath’d in fire,
Precipitate retire;
While mad Bellona cracks her snaky thong,
And hurries headlong on,
To Ach’ron’s brink and Phlegethon’s flaming flood.
But hail fair Peace, so mild and meek,
With polish’d brow and rosy cheek,
That, on thy fleece-white cloud descending,
Hither, soft-eyed queen, art tending
Gently o’er thy fav’rite land
To wave thy genial myrtle wand:
To shake from off thy turtle wing
Th’ ambrosial dews of endless spring;
Spring, like that, which poets feign,
Gilded Saturn’s easy reign:
For Saturn’s first-born daughter thou;
Unless, as later bards avow,
The youthful God with spangled hair
Closely clasp’d Harmonia fair:
For, banish’d erst Heav’ns star-pav’d floor,
(As sings my legendary lore),
As Phoebus sat by weeping brook,
With shepherds scrip and shepherds crook,
Pensive ‘midst a savage train
(For savage then was all the plain);
Fair Harmonia left her bow’r,
To join her radiant paramour:
Hence didst thou spring; and at thy birth
Lenient Zephyrs fan’d the earth,
Rumbling thunders growl’d no more,
Prowling wolves forgot to roar,
And man, whom fiercer rage possest,
Smil’d dissension from his breast.
She comes, she comes: ye Nymphs, prepare
Gay floral wreaths to bind your hair;
Ye swains, inspire the mellow flute
To dulcet strains, which aptly suit
The featly-footed saraband
Of Phillis trim and Marian bland,
When nimbly light each simpering lass
Trips it o’er the pliant grass.
But see, her social smiling train
Now invests th’ inraptured plain!
Plenty’s pleasure-teeming horn
Showers its fruits, its flow’rs, its corn;
Commerce spreads his amplest sail;
Strong-nerv’d Labour lifts his flail,
Sylvanus too attends (’tis he
That bears the root-pluck’d cypress tree):
He shall my youngling footsteps lead
Thro’ tufted lawn and fringed mead,
By scooped valley, heaped hill,
Level river, dancing rill,
Where the shepherds all appear,
To shear and wash their fleecy care,
Which bleating stand the streams around,
And whiten all the close-cropp’d ground:
Or when the maids in bonnets sheen,
Cock the hay upon the green;
Or up yon steep rough road the swains,
Drive slow along their rolling wains
(Where laughing Ceres crowns the stack,
And makes the pond’rous axle crack),
Then to the village on the hill,
The barns capacious jaws to fill,
Where the answ’ring flails rebound,
Beating bold with thund’ring sound.
Enchanted with this rural scene,
Here let me weave my arb’retts green:
Here arch the woodbine, mantling neat,
O’er my noontide cool retreat;
Or bind the oak with ivy-twine;
Or wed the elm and purpling vine.
But, if my vagrant fancy pants
For charms, that simple nature wants,
Grant, Power benign, admittance free
To some rang’d Academy:
There to give to arts refind
All the impulse of my mind;
And oft observant take my stand,
Here the painter’s magic band
From sketches rude, with gradual art,
Calls dawning life to ev’ry part,
Till, with nice tints all labour’d high,
Each starting hero meets the eye:
Oft too, oh! let me nice inspect,
The draughts of justest architect:
And hence delighted let me pass,
Where others mould the ductile brass;
Or teach the parian stone to wear
A letter’d sage’s musing air.
But ah! these Arts have fix’d their home
In Roman or in Gallic dome:
Though strange beseems, that Arts shou’d spread
Where frowns black Slav’ry’s baleful shade;
And stranger far that Arts decay
Where Freedom deals her warmest ray.
This then denied; I’ll swift retreat,
Where Camus winds with murmur sweet:
There teach me, piercing Locke, t’ explore
The busy mind’s ideal store;
There, heav’n-rapt Newton, guide my way
Mid rolling worlds, thro’ floods of day,
To mark the vagrant comets road,
And thro’ his wonders trace the God.
Then, to unbend my mind, I’ll roam
Amidst the cloysters silent gloom:
Or, where rank’d oaks their shades diffuse,
Hold dalliance with my darling Muse,
Recalling oft some heav’n-born strain,
That warbled in Augustan reign;
Or turn well pleas’d the Graecian page,
If sweet Theocritus engage,
Or blithe Anacreon, mirthful wight,
Caroll his easy love-lay light.
Yet let not all my pleasure lie
Confined to one Phoebeian joy;
But ever give my fingers wings
Lightly to skim the trembling strings,
And from some bow’r to tune the lay:
While list’ning birds croud ev’ry spray,
Or hovering silent o’er my head,
Their quiv’ring wings exulting spread;
Save but the turtles, they alone
With tender plaintive faithful moan,
Shall tell, to all the secret grove,
Their soft thick-warbled tale of love:
Sweet birds! your mingling bliss pursuing,
Ever billing, ever cooing,
Ye! constant pair! I love to note
Your hoarse strain gurgling in your throat;
And, ye unheard, from sidelong hills,
The liquid lapse of whisp’ring rills,
I hist to hear: such sounds diffuse
Sweet transports to the thoughtful Muse.
Thus Summer sees me brisk and light,
‘Till Winter spreads her ‘kerchief white;
Then to the city’s social walls,
Where tolling clock to business calls.
There the weaver’s shuttle speeds,
Nimbly thro’ the fine-spun threads:
There the vocal anvil rings,
While the smith his hammer swings,
And ev’ry man and ev’ry boy
Briskly join in warm employ.
Thro’ such throng’d scenes full oft I’ll range,
Oft croud into the rich exchange:
Or to yon wharf, aside the mote,
Where the anchor’d ships do float,
And others, hast’ning into bay,
Swell their sails in fair array:
Wafting to Albion’s sons the store,
That each Peruvian mine can pour;
Wafting to Albion’s smiling dames,
The ruby’s glow, the diamond’s flames,
Till all the Indies rush into the Thames.
Joys vast as these my fancy claims;
And joys like these, if Peace inspire,
Peace with thee, I string the lyre.

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