Alma; or, The Progress of the Mind. In Three Cantos. - Canto I.

Matthew met Richard, when or where
From story is not mighty clear:
Of many knotty points they spoke,
And pro and con by turns they took:
Rats half the manuscript have ate;
Dire hunger! which we still regret;
O! may they ne'er again digest
The horrors of so sad a feast;
Yet less our grief, if what remains,
Dear Jacob, by thy care and pains
Shall be to future times convey'd:
It thus begins:

** Here Matthew said,
Alma in verse, in prose, the mind,
By Aristotle's pen defined,
Throughout the body squat or tall,
Is
bona fide
, all in all;
And yet, slapdash, is all again
In every sinew, nerve, and vein;
Runs here and there, like Hamlet's ghost,
While every where she rules the roast.

This system, Richard, we are told
The men of Oxford firmly hold:
The Cambridge wits, you know, deny
With
ispe dixit
to comply:
They say (for in good truth they speak
With small respect of that old Greek)
That, putting all his words together,
'Tis three blue beans in one blue bladder.

Alma, they strenuously maintain,
Sits cock-horse on her throne, the brain,
And from that seat of thought dispenses,
Her sovereign pleasure to the senses.
Two optic nerves, they say, she ties,
Like spectacle across the eyes,
By which the spirits bring her word
Whene'er the balls are fix'd or stirr'd;
How quick at Park and play they strike;
The duke they court; the toast they like;
And at St. James's turn their grace
From former friends, now out of place.

Without these aids, to be more serious,
Her power they hold had been precarious;
The eyes might have conspired her ruin,
And she not known what they were doing.
Foolish it had been and unkind
That they should see and she be blind.

Wise Nature, likewise, they suppose,
Has drawn two conduits down our nose:
Could Alma else with judgement tell
When cabbage stinks or roses smell?
Or who would ask for her opinion
Between an oyster and an onion?
For from most bodies, Dick, you know,
Some little bits ask leave to flow,
And as through these canals they roll,
Bring up a sample of the whole;
Like footmen running before coaches,
To tell the inn what lord approaches.

By nerves about our palate placed,
She likewise judges of the taste;
Else (dismal thought!) our warlike men
Might drink thick Port for fine Champaign,
And our ill-judging wives and daughters,
Mistake small-beer for citron-waters.

Hence, too, that she might better hear,
She sets a drum at either ear,
And loud or gentle, harsh or sweet,
Are but the alarums which they beat.

Last, to enjoy her sense of feeling,
(A thing she much delights to deal in)
A thousand little nerves she sends
Quite to our toes and fingers' ends,
And these, in gratitude, again
Return their spirits to the brain,
In which their figure being printed,
(As just before I think I hinted)
Alma inform'd can try the case,
As she had been upon the place.

Thus while the judge gives different journeys
To country counsel and attorneys,
He on the bench in quiet sits,
Deciding as they bring the writs.
The Pope thus prays and sleeps at Rome,
And very seldom stirs from home,
Yet sending forth his holy spies,
And having heard what they advise,
He rules the church's bless'd dominions,
And sets men's faith by his opinions.

The scholars of the Stagyrite,
Who for the old opinion fight,
Would make their modern friends confess
The difference but from more or less:
The Mind, say they, while you sustain
To hold her station in the brain,
You grant, at least, she is extended,

Ergo
, the whole dispute is ended:
For till to-morrow should you plead,
From form and structure of the head,
The Mind as visibly is seen
Extended through the whole machine.
Why should all honour then be ta'en
From lower parts to load the brain,
When other limbs we plainly see
Each in his way as brisk as he?
For music, grant the head receives it,
It is the artist's hand that gives it:
And though the skull may wear the laurel,
The soldier's arm sustains the quarrel.
Besides, the nostrils, ears, and eyes,
Are not his parts, but his allies:
E'en what you here the tongue proclaim,
Comes
ab origine
from them.
What could the head perform alone
If all their friendly aids were gone?
A foolish figure we must make,
Do nothing else but sleep and ake.

Nor matters it that you can show
How to the head the spirits go;
Those spirits started from some goal
Bef
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Matthew Prior

Matthew Prior was an English poet and diplomat. more…

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