1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Merry

Andrew Macdonald, "New Probationary Odes for the Laureatship VII. By a Minstrel of the Della Cruscan Choir" Macdonald, Miscellaneous Works (1791) 79-82.



Ah, whence arose that thrilling sound,
That seem'd THE MUSE herself to wound,
That, gliding swiftly thro' the vale,
Mingles its echoes with the gale;
Then mounts along the steepy hill,
Where slow descends the lucid rill,
And, flutt'ring o'er its dizzy height,
Arrests THE EAGLE in her flight.

Ah me, more dismal is the note
Than is THE RAVEN'S croaking throat,
That rudely rends the troubled air,
And makes the plumy minstrels stare;
Or stop the voice, or flag the wing,
—While vivid smiles the purple spring.

I heard the sound as near the stream
I softly stole in rapt'rous dream,
And ponder'd on the woes that wait
This fev'rish, feeble, fainting state.
I heard the sound ere yet THE DAWN
Had glimmer'd o'er the dewy lawn,
When day's PROUD RULER faintly spread,
Near the high mountain's sapphire head;
And when he gain'd NOON'S fervid height,
And pour'd upon the aching sight,
In one broad wide effulgent stream,
While thirsty NATURE shun'd his beam,
And when he sought the billowy deep,
Leaving the EVENING world to sleep,
The fatal sound would still be near,
To jar upon my tender ear.
I heard the sound at MIDNIGHT hour,
While all around the silv'ry show'r,
Fell from the wand'ring orb of Night,
And touch'd my breast with SAD DELIGHT;
I heard the sound when LAURA'S eyes
Had whelm'd my soul in fond surprize,
When to my view those mounts of snow,
That in her od'rous bosom glow,
Her melting hand, her pretty feet,
Her lips, where rival rubies meet,
Her teeth, that bid the IV'RY sigh,
And envious mourn its SAFFRON DIE,
When all her beauty's glorious blaze
Wrapt my wild senses in amaze.

Ah me, the sound, I know it well,
It sadly tolls a POET'S knell;
It speaks a BARD'S extinguish'd flame,
And is the sigh of sorrowing FAME.
And must a POET'S tuneful breath
Fleet with the vulgar heaps of death;
And does not NATURE too expire,
When TIME has quench'd THE MUSE'S fire?
Ah, no, in earlier days the bard
Has fallen beneath the sad award,
And NATURE, dead to gen'rous shame,
Has still remain'd the VERY SAME.

What can escape thy rage, OH TIME?
THE ROSE, the garden's princely prime,
That round its sweets so freely throws,
And gives such transports TO THE NOSE,
That too must yield its fragrant soul,
And hasten to the awful goal;
THE CATERPILLAR, monster fell,
Steals slily to its blossom'd cell,
And there invades the balmy gem,
Or sometimes preys upon a stem,
And, fearless of THE MUSE'S snub,
Remorseless triumphs o'er the martyr'd shrub.

But oh what lofty bard shall dare
Assume THE LAUREAT'S radiant chair;
Hah — who can boast the burning quill,
To fix the soul of RAPTURE still,
Pluck'd, in th' aethereal tracks above,
From the dread soaring bird of JOVE,
Slit by old VULCAN'S temper'd blade,
By Sov'reign JOVE'S OWN CUTLER made;
Dipp'd in the ink of vermeil die
Of PHOEBUS, Laureat of the sky:
Hah — who among the lyric throng,
But DELLA CRUSCA, soul of song;
On him the verdant crown should shine,
And proudly round his tuneful temples twine;
Then would each conscious leaf exulting glow—
FOR IS NOT DELLA CRUSCA PHOEBUS' SELF BELOW?