John Hawes, “On Seeing an Infant Boy Seven Years of Age learning to write”

JOHN HAWES

“On Seeing an Infant Boy of Seven Years of Age learning to write”

 

HIS Infant Fingers, scarce could grasp the Quill
And yet with Ardour, he pursu’d his Skill;
Attention fix’d his Mind, and fill’d his Brain,
His Copy in Perfection to explain;
His Eye pursu’d each Stroke so superfine,                                         5
And strove to improve, each Character and Line;
So far before the common Time of Youth.
Did Art appear in Innocence, and Truth;
He forc’d these Lines, to vindicate his Praise,
And in my Mind did these Ideas raise.                                               10

But when I found Apollo fir’d his Soul,
To Musick’s Charms, and saw his Fingers roll,
I found his Frame with Heavenly Gifts endow’d,
‘Bove vulgar Mortals, blest by mighty Jove.
He joins the sounding Lyre with Infant Voice,                                  15
“By Inclination led, and fix’d by Choice;”
Points full Perfection, in his Time to come,
If Manhood crowns Him, in Time’s fickle Womb

Thus when Pygmalion strove to carve his Maid,
Each stroke with curious View, his Mind survey’d;                          20
He still pursu’d the chissel, and improv’d
Each Touch Divine, to gain the Art he lov’d.
In Innocence, by his own Skill betray’d,
The Goddess Venus, bless him in his Maid;
Gave Life to Ivory, for his matchless Strife,                                       25
Made his own Genius to become his Wife.

NOTES:

1 Quill  A pen made from the hollow shaft of a bird’s feather (OED).

2 Ardour  Burning with ferocity and intensity (OED).

6 Character  The letters of the alphabet (OED).

9 vindicate  “To clear from censure, criticism, suspicion, or doubt, by means of demonstration; to justify or uphold by evidence or argument” (OED).

11 Apollo  A Greek God of music and poetry, among many things, and known for his youthfulness (OED).

11 fir’d  An archaic contraction of the word “fired”; to ignite (OED).

14 Jove  Refers to Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Zeus (OED).

15 sounding Lyre  The instrument of Apollo, Greek God of Music (OED).

 16 “By Inclination led, and fix’d by Choice”  Quoted From William Congreve’s “Epistle to the Right Honourable Charles Lord Halifax” (Line 4).

19 Pygmalion A sculptor from Cyprus who fell in love with the sculpture that he carved (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book X, ll. 243-297).

24 Venus  The Roman goddess of love, beauty, and desire grants Pygmalion his wish for his sculpture to come to life (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book X, ll. 243-297).

SOURCE:  Poems, Moral and Divine (Norwich, 1754), pp. 21-22. [Google Books]

Edited by Paul Madariaga


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