"While all their [ideas'] features, fine; complexions, pure, / Neglected rust--nor long their dates endure--"

— Woodhouse, James (bap. 1735, d. 1820)

1814, 1816, 1896
"While all their [ideas'] features, fine; complexions, pure, / Neglected rust--nor long their dates endure--"
Metaphor in Context
Ideas, dealt about, like current coin,
By motion, smooth'd, assimilate--and shine;
Thro' circulation still increasing store,
New generations rising, more and more--
But cloister'd, close, in such sequester'd shades,
Each strong impression, clear inscription, fades;
While all their features, fine; complexions, pure,
Neglected rust--nor long their dates endure--

Or all their broods, prohibited, to hide,
Become abortive, or, if born, destroy'd;
Like undrawn swords, in scabbards, cankering, lie,
While useless edge, and point, and polish, fly;
Unfit for Justice--Right, nor Truth, defend--
Intimidate no Foe--protect no Friend--
Or, like the silent Snows, by Winter spread,
In silvery treasures, o'er the mountain's head;
Whose stores, while undisturb'd, each hour decay,
And hue, form, substance, quickly waste away;
But stirr'd, by winds, like words, with action strong,
Each sphere enlarges as it rolls along--
Escapes the common crowd's oblivious fate,
Expands its fame, and amplifies its date--
Or, mix'd, and press'd, in masses, may produce,
Some future solace, or substantial use;
But fix'd, and frozen, in its pristine place,
Yields small advantage to Man's reasoning Race:
When thrown in sport, or spite, by human arm,
Dire mischief Causes, or creates alarm;
Or, with a blow, like a pestilential breath,
Endangers harmless individual's death--
But launch'd from Alpine heights by Heav'n's command,
Like words of Kings, which vex a vicious Land;
Tho', at the first, in force, and bulk, but small,
With widening horrors rolls the rapid ball;
Till, grown a mountain, with augmented pow'rs,
Flocks--families--huts--hamlets--towns, devours!
Thoughts, like Churl's corn, in chamber'd stores entomb'd,
Devour'd by vermin, or, decay, consum'd;
Whose fruits might food, or opulence, afford;
Enrich the Rich, or bless the poor Man's board--
For soon the pregnant vegetative grain
When scatter'd, aptly, o'er the cultur'd plain,
In vernal Spring expands its verdant smiles
To pay, in part, with hopes, the Seedsman's toils;
With golden wealth, in time, to flood the ground,
And spread strength, health, and happiness, around!
(I, p. 114)
Searching "coin" and "idea" in HDIS (Poetry)
Poem first published in its entirety in 1896. The 1814 first edition receives notice in The New Monthly Magazine (March 1815); the poem was written "in the last century" (w. 1795-1820?).

Text from The Life and Poetical Works of James Woodhouse, ed. R. I. Woodhouse, 2 vols. (London: The Leadenhall Press, 1896). <Link to Hathi Trust> <Link to LION>
Date of Entry

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