Messiah. A Sacred Eclogue, In Imitation Of Virgil's 'pollio.' Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


In reading several passages of the Prophet Isaiah which foretell the coming of Christ and the felicities attending it I could not but observe a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts and those in the 'Pollio' of Virgil This will not seem surprising when we reflect that the eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same subject One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line but selected such ideas as best agreed with the nature of pastoral poetry and disposed them in that manner which served most to beautify his piece I have endeavoured the same in this imitation of him though without admitting anything of my own since it was written with this particular view that the reader by comparing the several thoughts might see how far the images and descriptions of the prophet are superior to those of the poet But as I fear I have prejudiced them by my management I shall subjoin the passages of Isaiah and those of Virgil under the same disadvantage of a literal translationB
Ye Nymphs of Solyma begin the songC
To heavenly themes sublimer strains belongC
The mossy fountains and the sylvan shadesD
The dreams of Pindus and the Aonian maidsD
Delight no more O Thou my voice inspireE
Who touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fireF
Rapt into future times the bard begunB
A virgin shall conceive a virgin bear a sonB
From Jesse's root behold the branch ariseG
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skiesG
The ethereal Spirit o'er its leaves shall moveH
And on its top descends the mystic DoveI
Ye Heavens from high the dewy nectar pourJ
And in soft silence shed the kindly showerF
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aidK
From storms a shelter and from heat a shadeK
All crimes shall cease and ancient fraud shall failL
Returning Justice lift aloft her scaleL
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extendM
And white robed Innocence from heaven descendM
Swift fly the years and rise the expected mornN
Oh spring to light auspicious Babe be bornN
See Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bringO
With all the incense of the breathing springO
See lofty Lebanon his head advanceP
See nodding forests on the mountains danceP
See spicy clouds from lowly Saron riseG
And Carmel's flowery top perfumes the skiesG
Hark a glad voice the lonely desert cheersQ
'Prepare the way a God a God appears '-
'A God a God ' the vocal hills replyR
The rocks proclaim the approaching DeityS
Lo Earth receives him from the bending skiesG
Sink down ye mountains and ye valleys riseG
With heads declined ye cedars homage payT
Be smooth ye rocks ye rapid floods give wayT
The Saviour comes by ancient bards foretoldU
Hear him ye deaf and all ye blind beholdU
He from thick films shall purge the visual rayT
And on the sightless eyeball pour the dayT
'Tis he the obstructed paths of sound shall clearV
And bid new music charm th' unfolding earW
The dumb shall sing the lame his crutch foregoX
And leap exulting like the bounding roeX
No sigh no murmur the wide world shall hearW
From every face he wipes off every tearY
In adamantine chains shall Death be boundZ
And Hell's grim tyrant feel th' eternal woundZ
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy careY
Seeks freshest pasture and the purest airY
Explores the lost the wandering sheep directsA2
By day o'ersees them and by night protectsA2
The tender lambs he raises in his armsB2
Feeds from his hand and in his bosom warmsC2
Thus shall mankind his guardian care engageD2
The promised Father of the future ageD2
No more shall nation against nation riseG
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyesG
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'erF
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no moreJ
But useless lances into scythes shall bendM
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare endM
Then palaces shall rise the joyful sonB
Shall finish what his short lived sire begunB
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yieldE2
And the same hand that sow'd shall reap the fieldE2
The swain in barren deserts with surpriseG
See lilies spring and sudden verdure riseG
And start amidst the thirsty wilds to hearW
New falls of water murmuring in his earW
On rifted rocks the dragons' late abodesG
The green reed trembles and the bulrush nodsG
Waste sandy valleys once perplex'd with thornN
The spiry fir and shapely box adornN
To leafless shrubs the flowering palms succeedF2
And odorous myrtle to the noisome weedF2
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant meadF2
And boys in flowery bands the tiger leadG2
The steer and lion at one crib shall meetH2
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim's feetH2
The smiling infant in his hand shall takeI2
The crested basilisk and speckled snakeI2
Pleased the green lustre of the scales surveyT
And with their forky tongue shall innocently playT
Rise crown'd with light imperial Salem riseG
Exalt thy towery head and lift thy eyesG
See a long race thy spacious courts adornN
See future sons and daughters yet unbornN
In crowding ranks on every side ariseG
Demanding life impatient for the skiesG
See barbarous nations at thy gates attendM
Walk in thy light and in thy temple bendM
See thy bright altars throng'd with prostrate kingsG
And heap'd with products of Sabean springsG
For thee Idume's spicy forests blowX
And seeds of gold in Ophir's mountains glowX
See Heaven its sparkling portals wide displayT
And break upon thee in a flood of dayT
No more the rising sun shall gild the mornN
Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver hornN
But lost dissolved in thy superior raysG
One tide of glory one unclouded blazeG
O'erflow thy courts The Light himself shall shineJ2
Reveal'd and God's eternal day be thineJ2
The seas shall waste the skies in smoke decayT
Rocks fall to dust and mountains melt awayT
But fix'd his word his saving power remainsG
Thy realm for ever lasts thy own MESSIAH reignsG

Alexander Pope


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