1770 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

J. S., "Ode, in honour of Thomson's Birth-day" Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 8 (31 May 1770) 275.



As we are informed, that several gentlemen of eminence in the literary world, intend, in the month of SEPTEMBER next, to celebrate the anniversary of the birth-day of Mr. THOMSON, author of the inimitable poem on the Seasons, and may other justly celebrated performance; and that this public-spirited ceremony will be conducted with such grandeur and dignity, such prudence, and decorum, as will add a fresh lustre to the extensive glory of the SCOTS BARD: In contemplation of this festivity, we have been favoured with the following ODE, which we are informed, will be set to music for the occasion.

Genius of the lyric song,
To whom th' harmonious strains belong,
That crown fair virtue with the meed of fame:
'Twas thou alone that could'st inspire
The numbers of th' Horatian lyre,
Which gave the bard a poet's deathless name:
On thee I call! great pow'r of song!
To thee the noblest strains belong;
'Tis thine to strike the tuneful lyre,
And build the lofty rhime:
To soar above the narrow rules
Of pedant critics in the schools,
And brave the rage of time.

Prepare! prepare the song of praise,
Thy THOMSON claims the lay;
In loud acclaims the chorus raise,
And hail his natal day.
Let the proud victor boast the car,
Deck'd with the spoils of horrid war,
Let the chief, by heaven design'd
The scourge and plague of humankind,
By millions slain to fame aspire:
'Twas his true science to impart,
Strengthen each gen'rous youthful heart,
And wake the Attic lyre:

'Twas his to sweep the vocal shell,
And point the road to Virtue's cell;
His on th' enraptur'd ear to pour the lay,
And raise such numbers as can ne'er decay:
Thine be the praise — O honour'd shade!
Haste! twine the wreathe of glory for his head:
Ye Muses! raise the tributary lay,
And mark, with honour due, great THOMSON'S natal day.

Sound! sound the strings again:
Awake, O Muse! awake the lyre!
With nobler strains your poet fire.
His song let all the nine inspire,
And yield a deathless strain.
Let THOMSON'S name from the full chorus burst,
The Bard that shone the greatest, and the first
Of Science' glorious train.

SCOTIA views with parent eyes,
A Son, who, warm with glory's fires,
With more than Attic wisdom wise,
To more than Attic fame aspires.
Hail, chief of sacred song,
Favourite of the tuneful throng,
Heir of eternal fame!
While science guide our glowing youth
To paths of wisdom and of truth,
So long shall live thy name.

But cease the song! Apollo in my ear
Close whisper'd — cease thy feeble lays!
Thy strains forbear, fond bard forbear!
To speak great THOMSON'S praise.

Th' important task I glad resign
To T—, the fav'rite of the Nine:
Him on whose birth the Muses smil'd,
And fancy hail'd her fav'rite child,
Son of eternal fame:
'Tis his to wake the living lyre;
His numbers all the nine inspire,
And yield a deathless name.
'Tis his to strike the sounding string;
'Tis his to soar with THOMSON'S wing,
And emulate his praise:
'Tis his our Poet's praise to tell;
'Tis his in numbers to excel,
And justly claim the bays.