The Enthusiast: or The Lover of Nature

The Enthusiast: or The Lover of Nature

A Poem

Original Text
A Collection of Poem in Three Volumes. By Several Hands (London: R. Dodsley, 1748) 1: 97-106. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto (shelf-mark B-11 01645)
Rure vero barbaroque laetatur. Martial.
                  Ut! mihi devio
Rupes, et vacuum nemus
Mirari libet! Horace.
2By wondering shepherds seen, to forests brown,
3To unfrequented meads, and pathless wilds,
4Lead me from gardens deck'd with art's vain pomps.
5Can gilt alcoves, can marble-mimic gods,
7Of high relief; can the long, spreading lake,
10As the thrush-haunted copse, where lightly leaps
11The fearful fawn the rustling leaves along,
12And the brisk squirrel sports from bough to bough,
14O’erhang a pensive rill, the busy bees
15Hum drowsy lullabies? The bards of old,
16Fair nature's friends, sought such retreats, to charm
18In summer evenings, near sequester'd bow'rs,
19Or mountain-nymph, or muse, and eager learned
20The moral strains she taught to mend mankind.
22With patriot Numa, and in silent night
23Whisper'd him sacred laws, he list'ning sat
24Rapt with her virtuous voice, old Tiber lean'd
27May boast a thousand fountains, that can cast
28The tortur'd waters to the distant heav'ns;
29Yet let me choose some pine-topp'd precipice
30Abrupt and shaggy, whence a foamy stream,
32Where straggling stand the mournful juniper,
34From the grove's bosom spires emerge, and smoke
35In bluish wreaths ascends, ripe harvests wave,
38Beneath the sunbeams twinkle—the shrill lark,
39That wakes the wood-man to his early task,
41Soothe lone night-wanderers, the mourning dove
42Pitied by listening milkmaid, far excel
43The deep-mouth'd viol, the soul-lulling lute,
44And battle-breathing trumpet. Artful sounds!
45That please not like the choristers of air,
46When first they hail th' approach of laughing May.
49Can the great artist, though with taste supreme
50Endu’d, one beauty to this Eden add?
51Though he, by rules unfetter’d, boldly scorns
52Formality and method, round and square
53Disdaining, plans irregularly great.
56With the rich tints that paint the breathing mead?
57The thousand-colour'd tulip, violet's bell
58Snow-clad and meek, the vermeil-tinctur'd rose,
59And golden crocus?--Yet with these the maid,
61Her jetty locks enamels; fairer she,
62In innocence and home-spun vestments drest,
63Than if caerulean sapphires at her ears
64Shone pendent, or a precious diamond-cross
65Heav'd gently on her panting bosom white.
66        Yon shepherd idly stretch'd on the rude rock,
68High-hovering o'er his head, who views beneath
69The dolphin dancing o'er the level brine,
70Feels more true bliss than the proud admiral,
71Amid his vessels bright with burnish'd gold
72And silken streamers, though his lordly nod
73Ten thousand war-worn mariners revere.
75On the rough mountain shagg'd with horrid shades,
76(Where cloud-compelling Jove, as fancy dream'd,
79On golden columns rear'd, a conquer'd world
80Exhausted to enrich its stately head.
82On shaggy skins, lull'd by sweet nightingales,
84Beneath a gorgeous canopy had plac'd
85His royal guest, and bade his minstrels sound
88To smoky cities; who in sheltering groves,
89Warm caves, and deep-sunk valleys liv'd and lov'd,
90By cares unwounded; what the sun and showers,
91And genial earth untillag'd could produce,
92They gather'd grateful, or the acorn brown,
93Or blushing berry; by the liquid lapse
94Of murm'ring waters call'd to slake their thirst,
95Or with fair nymphs their sun-brown limbs to bathe;
96With nymphs who fondly clasp'd their fav'rite youths,
98Nor wiles, nor artificial coyness knew.
99Then doors and walls were not; the melting maid
100Nor frowns of parents fear'd, nor husband's threats;
101Nor had curs'd gold their tender hearts allur'd;
102Then beauty was not venal. Injur'd love,
103O whither, God of raptures, art thou fled?
104While avarice waves his golden wand around,
105Abhorr'd magician, and his costly cup
106Prepares with baneful drugs, t' enchant the souls
107Of each low-thoughted fair to wed for gain.
109Who strongly painted, what he boldly thought)
110Though the fierce north oft smote with iron whip
111Their shiv'ring limbs, though oft the bristly boar
112Or hungry lion woke them with their howls,
113And scar'd them from their moss-grown caves to rove
114Houseless and cold in dark, tempestuous nights;
115Yet were not myriads in embattl'd fields
116Swept off at once, nor had the raging seas
118In vain the glassy ocean smil'd to tempt
119The jolly sailor unsuspecting harm,
120For commerce ne’er had spread her swelling sails,
123Sunk to the grave their fainting limbs; but us
124Diseaseful dainties, riot and excess,
125And feverish luxury destroy. In brakes
126Or marshes wild unknowingly they cropp’d
127Herbs of malignant juice, to realms remote
128Whilst we for powerful poisons madly roam,
129From every noxious herb collecting death.
130What though unknown to those primeval sires,
132By fair Italia's skilful hand, unknown
133The shapely column, and the crumbling busts
134Of awful ancestors in long descent?
135Yet why should man mistaken deem it nobler
136To dwell in palaces, and high-roof'd halls,
137Than in God's forests, architect supreme!
139Or meadow's mantle gay, more richly wov'n;
140Or softer to the votaries of ease,
141Than bladed grass, perfum'd with dew-dropp'd flow'rs?
142O taste corrupt! that luxury and pomp
143In specious names of polish'd manners veil'd,
144Should proudly banish nature's simple charms!
145All-beauteous nature! by thy boundless charms
146Oppress’d, O where shall I begin thy praise,
147Where turn th’ ecstatic eye, how ease my breast
148That pants with wild astonishment and love!
149Dark forests, and the opening lawn, refresh’d
150With ever gushing brooks, hill, meadow, dale,
152So sweetly interchang’d, the lowing ox,
153The playful lamb, the distant water-fall
154Now faintly heard, now swelling with the breeze,
155The sound of pastoral reed from hazel-bower,
157His dappled mate, stung with intense desire,
158The ripen’d orchard when the ruddy orbs
159Betwixt the green leaves blush, the azure skies,
160The cheerful sun that through earth’s vitals pours
161Delight and health and heat; all, all conspire
162To raise, to soothe, to harmonize the mind,
163To lift on wings of praise, to the great sire
164Of being and of beauty, at whose nod
165Creation started from the gloomy vault
167Murmur’d to feel his boisterous power confin’d.
170Whom on the winding Avon's willow'd banks
172To a close cavern: (still the shepherds show
173The sacred place, whence with religious awe
174They hear, returning from the field at eve,
175Strange whisp’ring of sweet music thro' the air)
177She fed the little prattler, and with songs
178Oft sooth'd his wondering ears, with deep delight
179On her soft lap he sat, and caught the sounds.
180        Oft near some crowded city would I walk,
182Loud shouts of joy, sad shrieks of sorrow, knells
183Full slowly tolling, instruments of trade,
184Striking mine ears with one deep-swelling hum.
185Or wandering near the sea, attend the sounds
186Of hollow winds, and ever-beating waves.
187Ev'n when wild tempests swallow up the plains,
189To shake the groves and mountains, would I sit,
190Pensively musing on th' outrageous crimes
191That wake heav'n's vengeance: at such solemn hours,
192Daemons and goblins thro' the dark air shriek,
194Rides o'er the earth, and scatters woes and deaths.
195Then too, they say, in drear Egyptian wilds
196The lion and the tiger prowl for prey
197With roarings loud! the list'ning traveller
198Starts fear-struck, while the hollow-echoing vaults
199Of pyramids increase the deathful sounds.
200        But let me never fail in cloudless nights,
202Thro' the blue concave slides, when shine the hills,
203Twinkle the streams, and woods look tipp'd with gold,
204To seek some level mead, and there invoke
205Old midnight's sister Contemplation sage,
206(Queen of the rugged brow, and stern-fix'd eye)
207To lift my soul above this little earth,
208This folly-fetter'd world; to purge my ears,
210And tuneful-turning spheres: if this be barr'd,
212Sipping the night-dew, while they laugh and love,
213Shall charm me with aërial notes.--As thus
214I wander musing, lo, what awful forms
215Yonder appear! sharp-ey'd Philosophy
217First meets my eye; next, virgin Solitude
218Serene, who blushes at each gazer's sight;
219Then Wisdom's hoary head, with crutch in hand,
220Trembling, and bent with age; last Virtue's self
221Smiling, in white array'd, who with her leads
222Fair Innocence, that prattles by her side,
223A naked boy!--Harass'd with fear I stop,
224I gaze, when Virtue thus--"Whoe'er thou art,
225Mortal, by whom I deign to be beheld,
226In these my midnight-walks; depart, and say
227That henceforth I and my immortal train
228Forsake Britannia's isle; who fondly stoops
229To vice, her favourite paramour."—-She spoke,
230And as she turn'd, her round and rosy neck,
231Her flowing train, and long ambrosial hair,
232Breathing rich odours, I enamour'd view.
233        O who will bear me then to western climes,
234(Since Virtue leaves our wretched land) to fields
236To isles of innocence, from mortal view
238Where Happiness and Quiet sit enthron’d,
239With simple Indian swains, that I may hunt
242There fed on dates and herbs, would I despise
244Of narrow-hearted Avarice; nor heed
245The distant din of the tumultuous world.
246So when rude whirlwinds rouse the roaring main,
248Serenely gay, nor sinking sailors' cries
249Disturb her sportive nymphs, who round her form
251Weave rosy crowns, or with according lutes
252Grace the soft warbles of her honey'd voice.


1] The date of composition of this poem is uncertain; it may have been written as much as four years before its first, anonymous, publication in a handsomely printed quarto by Robert Dodsley in 1744. Four years later Warton made significant changes to the poem when it was included, with his name as author, in the third volume of Dodsley's popular anthology, A Collection of Poems. By Several Hands (first edition, March 1748). A considerably re-arranged and revised second edition of the Collection was issued in the same year, 1748. The version given here is the revised text as printed in the second edition of 1748. The title and subtitle record the shift in the semantic content of the word "enthusiast" from the formerly dominant sense, "one who vainly believes a private revelation [of God]," to a sense particularly appropriate to Warton's poem, "one of elevated fancy [imagination], or exalted ideas." (These definitions come from Johnson's Dictionary of 1755.) Although he rejects the cold correctness of Addison's neo-classicism, Warton by no means rejects the classics themselves, as his persistent allusions to ancient lore and his footnote references to Virgil and Lucretius make clear. While Milton is not named in the poem, it is his influence rather than Shakespeare's that appears in allusions to "L'Allegro" and to Paradise Lost; the latter has also influenced Warton's use of blank verse. Hostile references to France and Spain, Britain's enemies in the war that had begun in 1739 and ended in 1748, attach patriotism to the love of nature. The first epigraph is from Martial, Epigrams, 3: 58: "he rejoices in a real, down-to-earth farm." The second is from Horace, Odes, 2: 20: "How much it delights me as I wander to marvel at the rocks and the uninhabited woodland groves!" Dryads: in classical mythology, nymphs who looked after trees and woodlands. Back to Line
6] Parterres: level areas laid out in ornamental flowerbeds, a characteristic feature of formal gardens. Back to Line
8] Stowe: the Buckinghamshire home of Viscount Cobham, famous for its neo-classical manor house and beautifully landscaped grounds. Stowe is often cited as a model of good taste in the informal, "English" style of gardening by Pope in his poems of the 1730s. Back to Line
9] Attic fanes: buildings in the style of Greek temples. Stowe is famous for its various temples of this kind; in the early 1740s, these included the Temple of Venus and the Temple of Ancient Virtue. Back to Line
13] whose . . . rill: added in 1748. Back to Line
17] Echo: in classical mythology, a daughter of earth and air who was deprived of the power of independent speech by Juno. Back to Line
21] Egeria: Numa, the second king of Rome, claimed that the laws and regulations that he imposed were dictated to him by a woodland nymph named Egeria, whom he met at night in a woodland grove outside the city, which stands on the river Tiber. Back to Line
25] his urn: the river gods of classical mythology were conventionally depicted with urns from which they poured the waters of their rivers. Back to Line
26] Versailles: the palace built by Louis XIV of France, the seat of government of Louis XV at the time of the poem's composition. The fountains around the palace are numerous and spectacular. Back to Line
31] Anio: the river Anio, now Aniente, a tributary of the Tiber, famous in the eighteenth century for its waterfalls at Tivoli. Back to Line
33] scath’d: withered. Back to Line
36] Low . . . appear: so 1748; 1744 has a single line: Herds low, and straw-roof'd cots appear, and streams Back to Line
37] Gothic: medieval. A "Gothic Temple" had been completed at Stowe in 1744, intended to represent the ancient liberties believed to have been enjoyed by the Anglo-Saxons. This addition to the text may be not only for picturesque effect, but also a reinforcement of the patriotic element of the poem. Back to Line
40] Philomel: the nightingale; in classical mythology, the unfortunate young woman Philomela was transformed into a nightingale. Back to Line
47] Can Kent . . . irregularly great: lines 47-53 were added in 1748. William Kent (1685-1748), the leading landscape designer of his time, laid out the grounds at Stowe. Together with the addition at 36 above, this insertion suggests that Warton may have revisited Stowe after 1744 and before completing his revision of the poem in 1748. Back to Line
48] Warton’s note: “The Earl of Lincoln’s terrace at Weybridge in Surrey, one of the finest spots in Europe.” Henry Fiennes Clinton, ninth Earl of Lincoln (1721-94), laid out gardens at Oatlands House, overlooking the Thames valley near Weybridge. The composer Joseph Haydn visited Oatlands in 1791 and remarked on the "glorious view." Back to Line
54] Titian: Tiziano Vecelli (c.1488-1576), the famous Venetian painter. Back to Line
55] Raphael: Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520), Florentine painter; like Titian, greatly admired in eighteenth-century England. Back to Line
60] Phillis or Phoebe: generic names for country maids in classical pastoral poetry. Back to Line
67] sea-mews: seagulls. clang: shrill scream, probably suggested by Milton, Paradise Lost 7: 422 (of sea birds generally; and "dolphins" are mentioned in 410). Back to Line
74] Aeneas: Warton notes that lines 74 to 82 are based on Virgil's Aeneid, viii. 337-69. Back to Line
77] Aegis: the shield of Jupiter. Back to Line
78] Capitol: the greatest and richest temple of Rome, first built by the early kings of Rome, to which it was customary for the consuls, appointed annually, to make gifts. Back to Line
81] Evander: a former king of Arcadia in Greece, living in exile in Italy near the future site of Rome, who gave shelter to Aeneas on his arrival in Italy. Back to Line
83] Nero: emperor of Rome from 54 to 68; famous for his luxurious tastes. Back to Line
86] Lydian airs: the Lydian mode in ancient Greek music was supposed to be relaxed and effeminate. Cf. Milton, "L'Allegro," 136: "Lap me in soft Lydian airs". Back to Line
87] Happy the first of men: in 1748 there is a note: "See Lucretius, lib. V." In 1744 the corresponding note reads: "The author has ventured to take some hints in the following lines, from Lucretius's description of the uncivilized state of man; which is one of the finest pieces of poetry extant." The note quotes lines 937-9 and 955-8 from Book V of De Rerum Natura, of which the present lines 87-94 are a free translation. Back to Line
97] Unaw'd by shame: in 1744 there is a footnote quoting the Roman elegiac poet Tibullus, Book II, iii. 74-77, of which the present lines 97-100 are a free translation. This note does not appear in 1748. Back to Line
108] the bard: Lucretius. Lines 108-109 were added in 1748, to introduce a re-ordering of the following passage. In <1744>, lines 130-144 preceded a slightly different version of lines 110-129. Warton's lines 110-114 are based on De Rerum Natura, V. 925-30, and 115-129 on V. 999-1010, which he quotes in a footnote in 1744. Back to Line
117] bark: a small sailing ship. Back to Line
121] Nereids: the fifty nymphs of the sea; they re-appear in line 249 below. Back to Line
122] pine: suffering. Back to Line
131] dome: a large building, a palace or a great church, here one decorated with frescos. In citing this typically Italian example of high sophistication, Warton again implies the associatiion of simplicity with patriotism. Back to Line
138] Say . . . wov'n: See Matthew 6: 28-30. Back to Line
151] close: an enclosed field, especially a meadow; there is a contrast between the clover of the fallow close and and the tillage of the bean-field. Back to Line
156] the neighing steed . . . desire: perhaps suggested by Lucretius, V. 1473-1474. Back to Line
166] Chaos: both the vast stretch of nonentity between Heaven and Hell in Milton's poetic cosmology, and the name of its "griesly king." See Milton, Paradise Lost, 2: 954-1009. Back to Line
168] Addison: Joseph Addison (1672-1719) is now better remembered as a prose writer than as a poet, but Warton has in mind his verse tragedy Cato, which continued to be widely admired throughout the eighteenth century. Back to Line
169] warblings wild: Milton, "L'Allegro," 133-134: 'Or sweetest Shakespeare, fancy's child,/ Warble his native wood-notes wild." Back to Line
171] fancy: imagination (the words were practically synonymous in the eighteenth century). Back to Line
176] honey gather’d from the rock: see Psalm 81: 16. Back to Line
181] cars: horse-drawn vehicles. Back to Line
188] Boreas: in classical mythology, the north wind. Back to Line
193] Hecat: in classical mythology, Hecat or Hecate was the name of the goddess Diana in her role as goddess of the underworld. The nine sisters may a version of the nine Muses, who, as daughters of Jupiter, were Diana's half-sisters. Back to Line
201] Cynthia: Diana again, this time in her capacity as goddess of the moon. Back to Line
209] the rolling planets' song: referring to the pre-Newtonian belief that the heavenly bodies were set in spheres which rotated around the earth, creating celestial harmonies inaudible to human ears. Back to Line
211] Fayes: fairies. In earlier times, fairies had been supposed to be the same size as human beings, and potentially threatening in various ways as a result; in the eighteenth century, they become "little" and thus delightful rather than threatening. Back to Line
216] an eagle: king of birds, whose acuity of vision is here transferred to Philosophy; its soaring flight symbolized elevated thoughts. Back to Line
235] Iberian swords: an allusion to the bitter commercial and naval rivalry of Britain and Spain in the Caribbean, which had led to outright war in 1739. Back to Line
237] plantane: a plane tree. Back to Line
240] savannahs: Johnson's Dictionary (1755) defines "savanna" as "an open meadow without wood; pasture ground in America." Back to Line
241] Through . . . citron-groves: this line was added in 1748 Back to Line
243] cates: delicacies, fancy dishes. Back to Line
247] Thetis: in classical mythology, a powerful sea-nymph, and mother of the hero Achilles. The nymphs are the Nereids (line 121 above), who, like Thetis, were daughters of the sea-god Nereus. Back to Line
250] light fantastic: Milton, “L’Allegro,” 34: “the light fantastic toe”. Back to Line
Publication Start Year
RPO poem Editors
John D. Baird
RPO Edition
2RP.1.680 (excerpt)
Special Copyright

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