Mary Alcock, “The Air Balloon”


“The Air Balloon”


No more of Phaeton let poets tell,
I care not where he drove nor where he fell;
No more I’ll wish for fam’d Aurora’s car,
To drive me forth, high as the morning star;
In Air Balloon to distant realms I go,                                              5
“And leave the gazing multitude below.”

No more I’ll hear of Venus and her doves,
Nor Cupid flying with the little loves;
Nor would I now in Juno’s chariot ride
In princely pomp, with peacock by my side;                                10
In higher state, in Air Balloon I go,
I’d have the gods and goddesses to know.

No more in oriental language fair
I’ll read of Genii wafting through the air;
Nor longer will I seek (by Persian wrought)                                  15
A carpet, to transport me by a thought;
Enough for me in Air Balloon to go,
And leave th’ enquiring multitude below.

No more of Pegasus (unruly steed)
To reach Parnassus’ Mount, shall I have need;                             20
Nor will I now the Muses favour court,
To shew me Pindus’ Hill, their chief resort;
To these fair realms in Air Balloon I go,
And leave the grov’ling multitude below.

No more shall Fancy now (betwitching fair!)                                 25
Erect me castles, floating in the air;
Such vague, such feeble structures I despise,
I’ll kick them down as I ascend the skies;
For higher far in Air Balloon I go,
And leave the wond’ring multitude below.                                    30

No longer, now, at distance need I try
To trace each planet with perspective eye;
Nor longer wish, with fairies from afar,
To slide me gently down on falling star;
For up or down with equal ease I steer,                                          35
And view with naked eye the splendid sphere.

Alas poor Newton! late for learning fam’d,
Nor more shall thy researches e’er be nam’d;
For greater Newtons now each day shall soar,
High up to Heaven, and new worlds explore;                                40
Since swift, in Air Balloons, aloft we go,
And leave the stupid multitude below.

No more the terrors of the deep I fear;
Alike to me, if friend be far or near;
This sea-girt isle I distant leave behind,                                          45
Visit each kingdom and survey mankind;
For now with ease in Air Balloon I ride,
No more compell’d to wait for wind or tide.

Hail, happy lovers! late by distance curst,
(Of all the worldly tortures sure the worst)                                    50
No more condemn’d an absence to deplore,
And, sighing, breathe your vows from shore to shore;
For through the air, swift in Balloons ye roll,
“And waft yourselves from India to the pole.”

In vain may party rage assail mine ear;                                           55
If war or peace, alike I’m free from care;
Should plague or pestilence infect the land,
The purest regions are at my command;
Where safe from harm, in Air Balloon I go,
And leave the sickly multitude below.                                             60

No more of judge or jury will I hear,
The laws of land extend not to the air;
Nor bailiff now my spirits can affright,
For up I mount, and soon am out of sight;
Thus, screen’d from justice, in Balloon I go,                                     65
And leave th’ insolvent multitude below.

How few the worldly evils now I dread,
No more confin’d this narrow earth to tread;
Should fire, or water, spread destruction drear,
Or earthquake shake this sublunary sphere,                                    70
In Air Balloon to distant realms I fly,
And leave the creeping world to sink and die.


1 PhaetonSun God of Greek myth whom Zeus struck down after nearly scorching the Earth” (Britannica).

3 AuroraPersonification of dawn in Roman mythology” (Britannica).

6 A translated line from Virgil, probably sourced from the title page of a popular periodical, The Adventurer (1788), “On vent’rous wing in quest of praise I go,/And leave the gazing multitude below.”

7 Venus Roman goddess of love and beauty (Britannica).

 8 Cupid Roman god of love who used arrows to inspire passion and love (Britannica).

 9 Juno Roman goddess of birth and marriage (Britannica).

 14 Genii Plural of “Genius,” guardian spirits (Brittanica).

 15 wrought “Created” (OED).

 19 Pegasus Winged horse of Greek mythology (OED).

 20 Parnassus’ Mount Mythical “source of literary, esp. poetic inspiration” (OED).

 21 Muses “The nine goddesses regarded as presiding over and inspiring learning and the arts” (OED).

 22 Pindus’ Hill Principal mountain range of mainland Greece (Britannica).

 37 Newton Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and theologian (Britannica).

 45 sea-girt isle England and Scotland.

54 A slight variation of Alexander Pope’s (1688-1744) line from Eloisa and Abelard (1717), “And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole” (l.58).

 57 pestilence “A fatal epidemic” (OED).

 63 bailiff “An officer of justice” (OED).

 70 sublunary “Earthly; terrestrial” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems, &c. &c. (London, 1799) pp. 107-11.  [Google Books]

Edited by Hailey Franzese