1710 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Aaron Hill

Anonymous, "An Ode. Inscrib'd to Aaron Hill Esq; upon his being appointed Governor of the Royal-Theater" British Apollo 3 (3 April 1710).



Thou ROYAL THEATER, who long hast lay'n
Opprest beneath Intollerable Weight,
Rear up thy Glorious Head again,
Hear! for it is the Voice of Fate.
Long did'st thou Reign, and with Unrivall'd Sway,
While the Beau Monde was brighten'd by thy Beams,
Regaling ev'ry Passion with thy Streams,
Flowing from Unhausted Springs,
Of sprightly Wit and Nervous Sense,
Which in thy TREAS'RY lay,
And Nightly Issu'd thence,
The Joy of BEAUTY and Delight of KINGS;
'Till a dark sullen Cloud,
Did all your Glories Shroud,
Eclipse thy Daz'ling Light,
And almost sink thee to Eternal Night.

Rear up again thy Glorious Head,
Thy Stars shine bright, thy Mournful Hour's are fled,
A MIGHTY GENIUS now sits at thy Helm,
Too Great for Envy, tho' with Malice Joyn'd,
Too Great, for both their Pow'rs Combin'd,
To sink or overwhelm.
A BARD whose vast Capacious Soul,
Hath Innate Force sufficient to Controul,
The vain assaults of Snarling Critics, while
Beneath his Auspices you sit and smile;
As these he awes, the rest his Wit alarms,
While the Fair Sex are Captivated by his Charms.

Such Images, Thoughts, Epithets sublime,
Ne'er Grac'd Preceeding, nor the Present Time,
And which so swift and in such plenty flow,
Not their Celerity, the lagging Minutes know,
Nor all the Modern Bards their equal Numbers show;
Such strong Imagination on him waits,
It Loiters not to Form, but suddenly Creates:
Such bright Idea's, Nations so refin'd,
Flash from his teeming Mind,
That they appear tumult'ously to throng,
About his El'quent and Perswasive Tongue,
Our Passions He Commands, Provokes, Restrains,
And o'er them with a Pow'r Despotic Reigns.

When Tragick-Tales of dire Events he tells,
In Style Majestic; by his Potent Art,
He Shocks our Souls, and makes them have a Part,
Controul'd and aw'd by his Inchanting Spells;
As he disposes to Relate,
We Grieve, we Pity, or we hate,
And are what he Inspires in ev'ry State.
But when his Comic Scenes our minds unbend,
To such free Mirth, his Wit, and Humour tend,
The Theater rings out with loud Applause,
And Claps, like Thunder Peals, approve the Cause.
Not one Sow'r Stoic then is seen,
Nor one so much devoted to the Spleen,
But with frank Jollity appears,
While Gladness gilds each Face,
And Brightens all the Place,
And Shouts of Laughter deafens all their Ears.

When such a Spring is at the Fountain Head,
What Lucid Streams must through the Soil be spread!
From such a Magazine of Fancy we
May vast Improvements well expect to see,
Nothing of Indigested Mass,
The Curious Test can pass,
Of his Discerning Mind,
But what is first abstracted and refin'd.
The Stage we shall with wondrous Art, behold
Adorn'd for such a Fertile Brain;
Must suit all to it's Genuine Strain;
Surpassing both the Modern and the Old:
Athens and Rome, no longer shall be Fam'd,
Nor Gallick Theaters again be nam'd,
Eclips'd by the Superior Rays,
Which here shall Shine, and bear from all the World the Bays.

But what, GREAT BARD, adds to thy Glory more,
Than t' any, Crown'd the Theater before,
Thy Life unstain'd by Vice, the Guilty Stage,
(Which but too often, hath debauch'd the Age)
By Thee shall be REFORM'D, by which the Town,
At once shall both your Skill and Virtue own:
Now Ribaldry and Impudence,
No more shall pass for Wit and Sense;
Nor Virgins more be shock'd with Fear.
Some Rudeness may assault their Ear,
But Chearfully, without a Blush appear.
Morality no more offended be,
But her bright Rules, promulg'd by Thee:
And after the Fatigues of Day,
Our Minds will be relax'd at Night;
Nay you'll Improve them while we stay,
By adding Profit to Delight.

Proceed, ILLUSTRIOUS GENIUS, may you find,
When you have Till'd the Fertile Soil,
Fruits worthy of your Toil,
'Till you become the DARLING OF MANKIND;
Nor can your Noble Views and Gen'rous Strain,
Make such Attempts in vain,
When Virtue with such Wit and Sense are Joyn'd,
Ingratitude will so Deform'd appear,
When to such Merit, 'tis oppos'd,
All from Her Gorgon-locks will start with Fear,
Soon as her Ugly Form shall be disclos'd:
Yet wou'd the World be Grateful, it must be
Profuse ev'n to Exorbitance, to such a BARD as THEE.