A poet shouldn't unfurl his sails in a gale of ungovernable rage

— Pitt, Christopher (1699-1748)

Place of Publication
Printed by Sam. Palmer, For A. Bettesworth
A poet shouldn't unfurl his sails in a gale of ungovernable rage
Metaphor in Context
Why should I mention how our souls aspire,
Lost in the raptures of the sacred fire?
For ev'n the soul not always holds the same,
But knows at diff'rent times, a diff'rent frame.
Whether with rolling seasons she complies,
Turns with the sun, or changes with the skies.
Or thro' long toil, remissive of her fires,
Droops with the mortal frame her force inspires.
Or that our minds alternately appear
Now bright with joy, and now o'er-cast with care.
The gods, the gods much rather must supply
The glorious fires; they speak the deity.
Then blest is he who waits th' auspicious nod,
The warmth divine, and presence of the god;
Who his suspended labours can restrain,
'Till heav'ns serene indulgence smile again.
But strive, on no pretence, against your pow'r,
'Till time brings back the voluntary hour.
Sometimes their verdant honours leave the woods,
And their dry urns defraud the thirsty floods;
Nor rivers always a full channel yield,
Nor spring with flow'ry beauties paints the field;
The bards no less such fickle changes find,
Dampt is the noble ardor of the mind;
Their wonted toil her wearied pow'rs refuse;
Their souls grow slack and languid to the muse,
Deaf to their call; their efforts are withstood;
Round their cold hearts congeals the freezing blood.
You'd think the muses fled; the god no more
Would fire the bosom where he dwelt before,
How often, ah! how often, tho' in vain
The poet would renew the wonted strain!
Nor sees the gods who thwart his fruitless care,
Nor angry heav'n relentless to his pray'r.
Some read the antient bards, of deathless fame,
And from their raptures catch the noble flame,
By just degrees; they feed the glowing vein;
And all th' immortal ardor burns again
In its full light and heat; the sun's bright ray
Thus, (when the clouds disperse) restores the day:
Whence shot this sudden flash that gilds the pole?
The god, the god comes rushing on his soul;
Fires with æthereal vigor ev'ry part,
Thro' ev'ry trembling limb he seems to dart,
Works in each vein, and swells his rising heart.
Deep in his breast the heav'nly tumult plays,
And sets his mounting spirits on a blaze.
Nor can the raging flames themselves contain,
For the whole god descends into the man.
He quits mortality; he knows no bounds;
But sings inspir'd in more than human sounds.
Nor from his breast can shake th' immortal load,
But pants and raves impatient of the God;
And rapt beyond himself admires the force
That drives him on reluctant to the course.
He calls on Phoebus by the god opprest,
Who breaths excessive spirit in his breast;
No force of thirst or hunger can controul
The fierce, the ruling transport of his soul.
Oft' in their sleep inflam'd with rage divine,
Some bards enjoy the visions of the nine;
Visions! Themselves with due applause may crown,
And ev'n Apollo would not blush to own.
To such an height the god exalts the flame,
And so unbounded is their thirst of fame;
But here, ye youths, exert your timely care,
Nor trust th' ungovernable rage too far;
Use not your fortune, nor unfurl your sails,
call'd, tho' courted by the flatt'ring gales,
Refuse them still; and
call your judgment in,
While the fierce god exults and reigns within,
To reason's standard be your thoughts confin'd,
reason rule the sallies of the mind.
Indulge your heat with conduct, and restrain,
Learn when to draw, and when to give the rein.
But always wait, 'till the warm raptures cease,
And lull the tumults of the soul to peace;
Then, nor 'till then, examine strictly o'er
What your wild sallies might suggest before.
Searching in HDIS (Poetry)
At least 5 entries in ECCO and ESTC (1725, 1726, 1742, 1743, 1750).

Text from Vida's Art of poetry, Translated Into English Verse, by the Reverend Mr. Christoph. Pitt, A. M. Late Fellow of New-College in Oxford, Rector of Pimpern in Dorsetshire, and Chaplain to the Right Honourable Philip, Earl Stanhope, &c. (London : printed by Sam. Palmer, for A. Bettesworth, at the Red Lion in Pater-Noster-Row, 1725). <Link to ESTC>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.