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ODE TO SUPERSTITION.*
I. 1. HENCE, to the realms of Night, dire Demon, hence !
Thy chain of adamant can bind
That little world, the human mind,
Wake the lion's loudest roar,
At thy command he plants the dagger deep,
I. 2. Wlien, with a frown that froze the peopled earth,
Thou dartedst thy huge head from high,
Night waved her banners o'er the sky, And, brooding, gave her shapeless shadows birth.
† The sacrifice of Iphigenia.
* Written in 1785. Lucretius, I. 63.
Rocking on the billowy air,
Ha! what withering phantoms glare ! As blows the blast with many a sudden swell, At each dead pause, what shrill-toned voices yell! The sheeted spectre, rising from the tomb, Points to the murderer's stab, and shudders by; In every grove is felt a heavier gloom, That veils its genius from the vulgar eye:
The spirit of the water rides the storm, And, thro' the mist, reveals the terrors of his form.
And holds each mountain-wave in chains,
By glistering star-light thro’ the snow,
Breathes softly in her wondering ear
His spirit laughs in agonies,
Mark who mounts the sacred pyre,*
Blooming in her bridal vest:
To die is to be blest:
* The funeral rite of the Hindoos.
O'ershadowing Scotia's desert coast,
Weave the airy web of Fate;
Each unhewn mass of living stone
Was clad in horrors not its own, And at its base the trembling nations bowed.
Giant Error, darkly grand,
Grasped the globe with iron hand.
Sweet Music breathes her soul into the wind; And bright-eyed Painting stamps the image of the mind.
A timbrelled anthem swells the gale,
And bids the God of Thunders hail; $
Clouds of incense woo thy smile,
* The Fates of the Northern Mythology. See Mallet's Antiquities. † An allusion to the Second Sight.
I Æn. II. 172, &c. & The bull, Apis.
|| The Crocodile.
But ah! what myriads claim the bended knee? Go, count the busy drops that swell the sea. Proud land! what eye can trace thy mystic lore, Locked up in characters as dark as night? † What
those long, long labyrinths dare explore, & To which the parted soul oft wings her flight;
Again to visit her cold celt of clay, Charmed with perennial sweets, and smiling at decay ?
On yon hoar summit, mildly bright §
With purple ether's liquid light,
On dazzling bursts of heavenly fire;
Her figure swells ! she foams, she raves !
Streams of rapture roll along,
Silver notes ascend the skies :
Oh catch it, ere it dies !
* According to an ancient proverb, it was less difficult in Egypt to find a god than a man. + The Hieroglyphics.
The Catacombs. & “ The Persians," says Herodotus, “have no temples, altars, or statues. They sacrifice on the tops of the highest mountains.” I. 131.
|| En. VI. 46, &c.
The Sibyl speaks, the dream is o'er,
Breathing a prophetic flame.
Even whisper to the idle air ;
Shivered by thy piercing glance,
Pointless falls the hero's lance. Thy magic bids the imperial eagle fly,* And blasts the laureate wreath of victory. Hark, the bard's soul inspires the vocal string ! At every pause dread Silence hovers o'er: While murky Night sails round on raven-wing, Deepening the tempest's howl, the torrent's roar;
Chased by the Morn from Snowdon's awful brow, Where late she sate and scowled on the black wave below.
The red-cross squadrons madly rage,t
And mow thro' infancy and age;
* See Tacitus, 1. xiv. c. 29.
† This remarkable event happened at the siege and sack of Jerusalem in the last year of the eleventh century. Matth. Paris, IV. 2.