1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hayley

Anna Seward, "Ode to William Hayley, Esq. imitated from Horace, B. VII. Od. IV." Gentleman's Magazine (May 1786) 426.



The snows dissolve! — the rains no more pollute!
Green are the sloping fields, and uplands wide!
And green the trees luxuriant tresses shoot,
And in their daisied banks the shrinking rivers glide.

Beauty and Love the smiling change have hail'd!
While in smooth mazes, o'er the painted mead,
Aglaia dares, with ev'ry limb unveil'd,
Light thro' the dance each Sister Grace to lead.

But, oh! reflect, that sport and beauty wing
Th' unpausing hour! — if Winter, cold and pale,
Flies from the soft and rosy-mantled Spring,
Summer, with sultry breath, absorbs the vernal gale.

Reflect, that Summer glories pass away
When mellow Autumn shakes her golden sheaves!
While she, as Winter re-assumes his sway,
Speeds with disorder'd vest thro' rustling leaves!

But a short space the moon illumes the sky;
Yet she repairs her wainings, and again
Silvers the vault of night! — but no supplies,
To feed their wasting fires, the vital lamps obtain.

When our dim form shall pallid vigils keep
Where Collins, Shenstone, Churchill, viewless roam;
Or quiet with the despot Johnson sleep
In that dark cell, the body's final home,

To senseless dust, and to a fleeting shade
Changes the life-warm spirit! — ah! who knows
If the next dawn our eye-lids may pervade?
Darken'd, and seal'd perchance in long and last repose!

When vivid thought's unceasing force assails,
It shakes from life's frail glass the ebbing sands;
Their course run out, say, what to us avails
Our fame's sweet note, tho' loud'ning it expands?

Reflect, that each convivial joy we share
Amid encircling friends, with grace benign,
Escapes the grasp of our rapacious heir!
Pile then the smoking board, and quaff the sparkling wine!

Illustrious Hayley! in that cruel hour,
When o'er thee Fate the sable flag shall wave,
Not thy keen wit, thy fancy's splendid power,
Knowledge, nay worth, shall snatch thee from the grave!

Not to his Mason's grief, from Death's pale plains
Was honor'd Gray's departed form resign'd;
No tears dissolve the cold eternal chains,
That far from busy life the mortal semblance bind!

Then, for the bright creations of the brain,
O! do not thou from Health's gay leisure turn;
Lest we, like tuneful Mason, sigh in vain,
And grasp a timeless, tho' a laurel'd urn.
Lichfield, May 10.