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Poem by William Whitehead
An Hymn to the Nymph of Bristol Spring
Nymph of the Fount! from whose auspicious Urn Flows health, flows strength, and Beauty's roseate bloom, Which warms the virgin's cheek, thy gifts I sing! Whether inclining from thy rocky couch Thou hear'st attentive, or with Sister-nymphs Fast by Sabrina's hoarse-resounding stream, Thou cull'st fresh flowers, regardless of my song. Avonia hear'st thou, from the neigh'bring stream So call'd; or Bristoduna; or the sound Well-known, Vincentia? Sithence from the dry rock The Hermit pour'd his Orisons of old, And dying, to thy fount bequeath'd his Name. Whate'er thy title, Thee the azure God Of Ocean erst beheld, and to the shore Fast flew his pearly Car; th' obsequious winds Drop'd their light pinions, and no sounds were heard In Earth, Air, Sea, but murmuring sighs of Love. He left thee then; yet not, penurious, left Without a boon the violated maid; But, grateful to thy worth, with bounteous hand Gave thee to pour the salutary rill, And pay this precious tribute to the Main: And still he visits, faithful to his flame, Thy moist abode, and each returning tide Mingles his wave with thine; hence brackish oft And foul, we fly th' adulterated draught And scorn the proffer'd bev'rage; thoughtless we That then the Naiads hymenaeals chaunt, And rocks re-echo to the Triton's shell. Love warm'd thy breast; to love thy waters pay A kind regard: and thence the pallid Maid Who pines in fancy for some fav'rite Youth Drinks in new lustre, and with surer aim Darts more enliven'd glances. Thence the Boy, Who mourns in secret the polluted charms Of Lais or Corinna, grateful feels Health's warm return, and pants for purer joys. Nor Youth alone, thy power indulgent owns, Age shares thy blessings, and the tott'ring frame By thee supported: not, Tithonus-like To linger in decay, and daily seek A death in every pain; such cruel aids, Unknown to Nature, Art alone can lend: But taught by Thee Life's latter fruits enjoy A warmer winter, and at last fall off Shook by no boist'rous, or untimely blasts. But why on single objects dwells my Song? Wide as the neigh'bring Sons of Commerce waft Their unexhausted Stores, to every Clime On every wind up-born thy triumphs spread! Thee the glad Merchant hails, whom choice or fate Leads to some distant home, where Sirius reigns, And the blood boils with many a fell disease Which Albion knows not. Thee the sable Wretch, To ease whose burning Entrails swells in vain The Citron's dewy moisture, thee he hails; And oft from some steep Cliff at early dawn In Seas, in Winds, or the vast Void of Heaven Thy Power unknown adores; or ranks, perhaps, Amid his fabled Gods Avonia's name. Scared at thy presence start the train of Death, And hide their whips and scorpions. Thee confus'd Slow Febris creeps from; thee the meagre Fiend Consumption flies, and checks his rattling Coughs. But chief the dread Disease, whose wat'ry power, Curb'd by thy wave restringent, knows it's bounds, And feels a firmer Barrier. Ocean thus Once flow'd, they say, impetuous; 'till restrain'd By force almighty streams were taught to flow In narrower channels, and once more relieve The thirsty hind, and wash the fruitful vale. What shrieks, what groans torment the lab'ring Air, And pierce th' astonish'd hearer? ah, behold Yon agonizing Wretch, that pants and writhes, Rack'd with the Stone, and calls on thee for ease! Nor calls he long in vain; the balmy draught Has done its office, and resign'd and calm The poor pale sufferer sinks to sweet repose. O could thy lenient wave thus charm to peace That fiercer fiend Ill-nature; Argus-like, Whose eyes still open watch th' unwary steps Which tread thy Margin, and whose subtle brain To real mischief turns ideal ills. But not thy stream nectareous, nor the smiles Of rosy-dimpled innocence can charm That Monster's rage: dark, dark as midnight damps And ten times deadlier, steals along unseen Her blasting venom, and devours at once Fair Virtue's growth, and Beauty's blooming spring. But turn we from the sight, and dive beneath Thy darksome Caverns; or unwearied climb Thy tow'ring Mountains, studious to explore The latent seeds and magazine of Health. "Ye Rocks that round me rise, ye pendant Woods High-waving to the breeze, ye gliding streams That steal in silence thro' the mossy clefts Unnumber'd, tell me in what secret Vale Hygeia shuns the day? Ч O, often seen In dreams poetic, pour thy radiant form Full on my sight, and bless my waking sense!Ч But not to me such visions, not to me; No son of Paeon I, like that sweet Bard Who sung her charms profest; or him, whose Muse Now builds the lofty Rhime, and nobly wild Crops each unfading flower from Pindar's brow, To form fresh garlands for the Naiad train. Yet will I view her still, however coy, In dreams poetic; see her to the sound Of dulcet symphonies harmonious lead Her sportive Sister-Graces, Mirth serene, And Peace, sweet Inmate of the sylvan shade. These are thy handmaids, Goddess of the Fount, And these thy Offspring. Oft have I beheld Their airy revels on the verdant steep Of Avon, clear as Fancy's Eye could paint. What time the dewy Star of Eve invites To lonely musing, by the wave-worn beach, Long th' extended mead. Nor less intent Their fairy forms I view, when from the height Of Clifton, tow'ring Mount, th' enraptur'd Eye Beholds the cultivated Prospect rise Hill above Hill, with many a verdant bound Of Hedge-row chequer'd. Now on painted Clouds Sportive they roll, or down yon winding Stream Give their light Mantles to the wafting Wind, And join the Sea-green Sisters of the Flood. Happy the Man whom these amusive walks, These walking dreams delight! No cares molest His vacant bosom; Solitude itself But opens to his keener view new worlds, Worlds of his own: from every genuine scene Of Nature's varying hand his active Mind Takes fire at once, and his full Soul o'erflows With heaven's own bounteous joy; He too creates, And with new Beings peoples Earth and Air, And Ocean's deep Domain. The Bards of old, The godlike Grecian Bards, from such fair founts Drank inspiration. Hence on airy Cliffs Light Satyrs danc'd, along the woodland shade Pan's mystic pipe resounded, and each rill Confest it's tutelary Power, like thine. But not like thine, bright Deity, their urns Pour'd Health's rare treasures; on their grassy sides The panting Swain reclin'd with his tir'd flock At sultry noon-tide, or at evening led His unyok'd heifers to the common stream. Yet some there have been, and there are, like thee Profuse of liquid balm; from the fair train Of eldest Tadmor, where the sapient King For the faint Traveller, and diseas'd, confin'd To salutary baths the fugitive Stream. And still, tho' now perhaps their Power unknown, Unsought, the solitary Waters creep Amid Palmyra's ruins, and bewail To rocks, and desert caves, the mighty loss Of two imperial cities! so may sink Yon cloud-envelop'd towers, and times to come Enquire where Avon flow'd, and the proud Mart Of Bristol rose. Nay, Severn's self may fail With all that waste of Waters: and the Swain From the tall summit, (whence we now survey The anchoring Bark, and see with every tide Pass and re-pass the wealth of either World,) May hail the softer Scene, where groves aspire, And bosom'd villages, and golden fields Unite the Cambrian to the English Shore. Why should I mention many a fabled fount By Bards recorded, or Historians old; Whether they water'd Asia's fertile Plains With soft Callirhoe; or to letter'd Greece Or warlike Latium lent their kindly Aid? Nor ye of modern fame, whose rills descend From Alps and Appennines, or grateful lave Germania's harrass'd realms, expect my Verse Should chaunt your praise, and dwell on foreign themes; When chief o'er Albion have the healing Powers Shed wide their influence: from a thousand rocks Health gushes, thro' a thousand vales it flows Spontaneous. Scarce can Luxury produce More pale diseases than her streams relieve. Witness, Avonia, the unnumber'd tongues Which hail thy Sister's name! on the same banks Your Fountains rise, to the same stream they flow. See in what myriads to her watry shrine The various Votaries press! They drink, They live! Not more exulting crouds in the full height Of Roman Luxury proud Baiae knew; Ere Musa's fatal Skill, fatal to Rome, Defam'd the tepid Wave. Nor round thy shades, Clitumnus, more recording Trophies hung. O for a Shakespear's pencil, while I trace In Nature's breathing paint, the dreary waste Of Buxton, dropping with incessant rains Cold, and ungenial; or it's sweet reverse Enchanting Matlock, from whose rocks like thine Romantic foliage hangs, and rills descend And Echoes murmur. Derwent, as he pours His oft obstructed stream down rough cascades And broken precipices, views with awe, With rapture, the fair scene his Waters form. Nor yet has Nature to one spot confin'd Her frugal Blessings. Many a different Site And different Air, to smit Man's varying frame The same relief extends. Thus Cheltenham sinks Rural and calm amid the flowery vale, Pleas'd with it's pastoral Scenes; while Scarbro' lifts It's towering summits to th' aspiring Clouds, And sees th' unbounded Ocean roll beneath. Avonia frowns! and justly mayst thou frown O Goddess, on the Bard, th' injurious Bard Who leaves thy pictur'd scenes, and idly roves For foreign Beauty to adorn his Song. Thine is All Beauty; every site is thine. Thine the sweet vale, and verdure-crowned Mead Slow rising from the Plain, which Cheltenham boasts. Thine Scarbro's Clifts; and thine the russet heaths Of sandy Tunbridge; o'er thy spacious Downs Stray wide the nibbling flocks; the Hunter train May range thy forests; and the Muse-led Youth Who loves the delicious walk, and simple scene, May in thy Kingswood view the scatter'd Cots, And the green Wilds of Dulwich. Does the Sun, Does the free Air delight? lo! Clifton stands Courted by every breeze; and every Sun There sheds a kinder ray; whether he rides In southern skies sublime, or mildly pours O'er Bristol's red'ning towers his orient beam, Or gilds at Eve the shrub-clad rocks of Ley. Beneath thy Mountains open to the South Pale Sickness sits, and drinks th' enlivening day; Nor fears th' innumerable pangs that pierce In keener anguish from the north, or load The flagging pinions of the peevish East. Secure she sits, and from thy sacred Urn Implores, and finds relief. The slacken'd nerves Resume their wonted tone, of every wind And every season patient. Jocund Health Blooms on the cheek; and careless Youth returns (As fortune wills) to pleasure or to toil. Yet think not, Goddess, that the Muse ascribes To thee unfailing Strength, of force to wrest Th' uplifted bolts of fate; to Jove alone Belongs that high Pre-eminence. Full oft, This feeling heart can witness, have I heard Along thy shores the piercing Cries resound Of Widows and of Orphans. Oft beheld The solemn funeral pomp, and decent rites Which human Vanity receives and pays When dust returns to dust. Where Nature fails There too thy power must fail; or only lend A momentary aid to soften pain, And from the King of terrors steal his frown. Nor yet for Waters only art thou fam'd, Avonia; deep within thy cavern'd rocks Do Diamonds lurk, which mimic those of Ind. Some to the curious Searcher's Eye betray Their varying hues amid the mossy clefts Faint-glimmering; others in the solid Stone Lie quite obscur'd, and wait the patient hand Of Art, or quick explosion's fiercer breath, To wake their latent glories into day. With these the British Fair, ere Traffic's Power Had made the Wealth of other Worlds our own, Would deck their auburn tresses, or confine The snowy roundness of their polish'd arm. With these the little Tyrants of the Isle, Monarchs of Counties, or of clay-built Towns Sole Potentates, would bind their haughty brows, And awe the gazing Croud. Say, Goddess, say, Shall, studious of thy praise, the Muse declare When first their lustre rose, and what kind Power Unveil'd their hidden charms? The Muse alone Can call back time, and from Oblivion save The once-known tale, of which Tradition's self Has lost the faintest Memory. 'Twas ere The titles proud of Knight or Baron bold Were known in Albion; long ere Caesar's Arms Had tried its prowess, and been taught to yield. Westward a mile from yon aspiring shrubs Which front thy hallow'd Fount, and shagg with thorns The adverse side of Avon, dwelt a Swain. One only Daughter bless'd his nuptial bed. Fair was the Maid; but wherefore said I fair, For many a Maid is fair, but Leya's form Was Beauty's self, where each united charm Ennobled each, and added grace to all. Yet cold as mountain snows her tim'rous heart Rejects the voice of Love. In vain the Sire With prayers, with mingled tears, demanded oft The name of Grandsire, and a prattling race To chear his drooping Age. In vain the Youths To Leya's fav'rite Name in every dale Attun'd their rustic pipes, to Leya's ear Music was discord when it talk'd of Love. And shall such Beauty, and such Power to bless, Sink useless to the Grave? forbid it Love! Forbid it, Vanity! Ye mighty two Who share the female breast! The last prevails. "Whatever Youth shall bring the noblest Prize May claim her conquer'd heart." The day was fix'd, And forth from Villages, and turf-built Cots, In crouds the Suitors came: From Albion's vale, From Pil, from Porshut, and the Town whose tower Now stands a sea-mark to the Pilot's ken. Nor were there wanting Clifton's love-sick sons To swell th' enamour'd train. But most in thought Yielded to Cadwal's Heir, proud Lord of Stoke; Whose wide dominions spread o'er velvet lawns And gently-swelling hills, and tufted groves, Full many a mile. For there, e'en then, the scene We now behold to such perfection wrought, Charm'd with untutor'd wildness, and but ask'd A Master's hand to tame it into grass. Against such Rivals, prodigal of wealth, To venal Beauty off'ring all their Stores, What Arts shall Thenot use, who long has lov'd, And long, too long despair'd? Amid thy rocks Nightly he wanders, to the silent Moon And starry host of heaven he tells his pain. But chief to thee, to thee his fond complaints At Morn, at Eve, and in the Midnight hour Frequent he pours. No wealth of waving gold Or flowering orchats, no wide-wandering herds Or bleating firstlings of the flock were his To tempt the watry Maid. Yet could his pipe Make Ecchoes listen, and his flowing tongue Could chaunt soft ditties in so sweet a strain, They charm'd with native Music all but her. Oft had'st thou heard him, Goddess; oft resolv'd To succour his distress. When now the day The fatal day drew near, and Love's last hope Hung on a few short moments. Ocean's god Was with thee, and observ'd thy anxious thought. And what, he cry'd, can make Avonia's face Wear ought but smiles? What jealous doubts perplex My Fair, my best-belov'd? No jealous doubts, Thou answered'st mild, and on his breast reclin'd Thy blushing cheek, perplex Avonia's breast; A cruel Fair One flies the voice of Love, And gifts alone can win her. Mighty Power, O bid thy Tritons ransack Ocean's wealth, The coral's living branch, the lucid pearl, And every shell where mingling lights and shades Play happiest. O if ever to thy breast My Artful coyness gave a moment's pain, Learn from that pain to pity those that love. The God return'd: Can his Avonia ask What Neptune would refuse? Beauty like thine Might task his utmost labours. But behold How needless now his treasures! What thou seek'st Is near thee; in the bosom of thy rocks Myriads of glittering gems, of power to charm More wary eyes than Leya's, lurk unseen. From these select thy store. He spake, and rais'd The massy trident; at whose stroke the Womb Of Earth gave up it's treasures. Ready Nymphs Receiv'd the bursting gems, and Tritons lent A happier polish to th' encrusted stone. Scarce had they finish'd, when the plaintive strains Of Thenot reach'd thy Ears. Approach, approach, The Trident-bearer cried, and at his voice The rocks divided, and the awe-struck Youth (Like Aristaeus thro' the parting wave) Descended trembling. But what words can paint His Joy, his Rapture, when, surprize at length Yielding to Love, he grasp'd the fated Gems And knew their wond'rous import. O! he cried, Dismiss me, gracious Powers; ere this, perhaps, Young Cadwal clasps her charms, ere this the Wealth Of Madoc has prevail'd! Ч Go, Youth, and know Success attends thy enterprize, and Time Shall make thee wealthier than the proudest Swain Whose rivalship thou fear'st; go, and be blest. Yet let not gratitude be lost in joy; But when thy wide possession shall extend Farm beyond Farm, remember whence they rose, And grace thy village with Avonia's Name. How shall the blushing Muse pursue the tale Impartial, and record th' ungrateful Crime Of Thenot love-deluded? When success Had crown'd his fierce desires, awhile he paid Due honors at the shrine, and strew'd with flowers Jasmin and rose, and Iris many-hued, Thy rocky margin. 'Till at length intent On Leya's charms alone, of ought beside Careless he grew; and scarcely now his hymns Of praise were heard; if heard, they fondly mix'd His Leya's praise with thine; or only seem'd The dying Ecchoes of his former strains. Nor did he (how wilt thou excuse, O Love, Thy Traitor?) when his wide possessions spread Farm beyond Farm, remember whence they rose, Or grace his Village with Avonia's Name. But on a festal day, amid the shouts Of ecchoing shepherds, to the rising town, Be Leya nam'd, he cried: and still unchang'd (Indelible disgrace!) the Name remains. 'Twas then, Avonia, negligent of all His former injuries, thy heav'nly breast Felt real rage; and thrice thy Arm was rais'd For speedy vengeance; thrice the azure God Restrain'd its force, or ere th' uplifted rocks Descending had o'erwhelm'd the fated Town. And thus he sooth'd thee, "Let not rage transport My injur'd Fair-one; Love was all his crime, Resistless Love. Yet sure Revenge awaits Thy utmost wishes; never shall his Town, Which had thy title grac'd it had aspir'd To the first Naval Honours, and look'd down On Carthage and the Ports which grace my own Phoenicia, never shall it rise beyond That humble village thou behold'st it now. And soon transported to the British Coast From farthest India Vessels shall arrive Full fraught with gems, Myself will speed the sails, And all th' imaginary wealth he boasts Shall sink neglected: Rustics shall deride His Diamond's mimic blaze. Nor thou regret Their perish'd splendor; on a firmer base Thy Glory rests, reject a spurious praise, And to thy Waters only trust for fame." And what of fame, O Goddess, canst thou ask Beyond thy Waters, ever-streaming source Of health to thousands? Myriads yet unborn Shall hail thy fost'ring wave: perchance to Thee Shall owe their first Existence. For if Fame Relate not fabling, the warm genial breath Of Nature, which calls forth the bursting forms Through wide Creation, and with various life Fills every teeming Element, amid Thy stream delighted revels, with increase Blessing the nuptial bed. Suppliant to thee The pensive Matron bends; without thy aid Expiring Families had ask'd in vain The long-expected Heir; and States perhaps, Which now stand foremost in the lists of Fame, Had sunk unnerv'd, inglorious, the vile Slaves Of Sloth, and crouch'd beneath a Master's frown, Had not thy breath awak'd some chosen Soul, Some finer Aether, scarce ally'd to Clay, Heroe to act, or Poet to record. O if to Albion, to my native Land, Of all that glorious that immortal Train Which swells her Annals, Thy prolific Stream Has given One Bard, One Heroe, may not Storms Nor Earthquakes shake thy Mansion; may the Sweep The silent Sweep of slow-devouring Time Steal o'er thy rocks unfelt, and only bear To future Worlds thy virtues, and thy praise. Still, still, Avonia, o'er thy Albion shed Benignant influence; nor to her alone Confine thy partial boon. The Lamp of day, God of the lower world, was meant to all A common Parent. Still to every Realm Send forth thy blessings; for to every Realm Such its peculiar Excellence, thy Wave May pass untainted; Seasons, Climates, spare Its virtues, and the power which conquers all, Innate corruption, never mixes there. And might I ask a boon, in whispers ask One partial favour; Goddess, from the power Of Verse, and Arts Paeonian, gracious Thou Intreat this One. Let other Poets share His noisy honors, rapid let them roll As neigh'bring Severn, while the voice of Fame Re-ecchoes to their numbers, but let mine My humbler weaker Verse, from scantier rills Diffusing wholesome draughts, unheard, unseen, Glide gently on, and imitate thy Spring.
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