Saturday, December 12, 2015
A Weeping Hamadryad
Consider too that a poet, if he wishes to work out and accomplish a worthy result, must leave the society of his friends, and the attractions of the capital; he must relinquish every other duty, and must, as poets themselves say, retire to woods and groves, in fact, into solitude.If woods and groves are cut down, poets will lose their solitary retreats, and poetry will as a result languish. This is the argument of Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806), "To a Gentleman. On his intending to cut down a Grove to enlarge his prospect," Poems by the Most Eminent Ladies of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. I (London: W. Stafford, 1785), pp. 52-53:
adice quod poetis, si modo dignum aliquid elaborare et efficere velint, relinquenda conversatio amicorum et iucunditas urbis, deserenda cetera officia utque ipsi dicunt, in nemora et lucos, id est in solitudinem secedendum est.
In plaintive sounds, that turn'd to woeOn the poem see Richard Pickard, "Environmentalism and 'Best Husbandry': Cutting Down Trees in Augustan Poetry," Lumen: Selected Proceedings from the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 17 (1998) 103–126 (at 113-117).
The sadly-sighing breeze,
A weeping Hamadryad mourn'd
Her fate-devoted trees.
Ah! stop thy sacrilegious hand,
Nor violate the shade,
Where nature form'd a silent haunt
For contemplation's aid.
Can'st thou, the son of science, bred
Where learned Isis flows,
Forget that, nurs'd in shelt'ring groves,
The Grecian genius rose?
Within the plantane's spreading shade,
Immortal Plato taught;
And fair Lyceum form'd the depth
Of Aristotle's thought.
To Latian groves reflect thy views,
And bless the Tuscan gloom;
Where eloquence deplor'd the fate
Of Liberty and Rome.
Retir'd beneath the beechen shade,
From each inspiring bough
The Muse's wove th' unfading wreathes,
That circled Virgil's brow.
Reflect, before the fatal ax
My threaten'd doom has wrought;
Nor sacrifice to sensual taste
The nobler growth of thought.
Not all the glowing fruits that blush
On India's sunny coast,
Can recompense thee for the worth
Of one idea lost.
My shade a produce may supply,
Unknown to solar fire;
And what excludes Apollo's rage,
Shall harmonize his lyre.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.