1814
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode for the Spring of 1814.

The Examiner (17 April 1814) 251.

Leigh Hunt


A descriptive and allegorical ode in six short-line Spenserians (ababccdeedD), signed "Leigh Hunt." In Miltonic strains, Hunt connects the appearance of peace in the Peninsular War with the coming of Spring: "Never did sweeter sound | From discord drop resolving, | Than struck the balanc'd world around, | Once more set smooth revolving; | And princely visions rare | West stepping through the air." The rhyme-pattern is that of Gray's Ode to Spring; the peace would prove as ephemeral as the season. But Hunt's stanza is also a modification of that in Mark Akenside's belligerent Ode to the Country Gentlemen. While it is not obvious that Hunt's poem was written with Akenside's famous ode in mind (published in 1758 to inspire the nation to wage war against France) it does seem possible that this is a kind of answering poem.



The vision then is past,
That held the eyes of nations,
Swept in his own careering blast,
That shook the earth's foundations.
No more throughout the air
Settles the burning glare,
That, far and wide, metallic twilight shone;
No more the bolts, from south to north,
Leap in the fiery passion forth:
We look'd, and saw the wonder on his throne;
We rais'd our eyes again, and lo, his place was gone.

Nor did the shape give way
To mightier spirits like him;
Nor did, upon that final day,
Elder corruption strike him.
The long taught world no more
Those idle charms explore,
Nor call on evil to restore from ill:—
But heav'n-ward things, that have their birth,
And shed their early tears on earth,
Experience, Truth, and Conquest of the Will,
These took the troubler's place, and bade the plague be still.

Never did sweeter sound
From discord drop resolving,
Than struck the balanc'd world around,
Once more set smooth revolving;
And princely visions rare
West stepping through the air,
With frank eyes listening in the glassy spheres;
The Eagles of the North were seen
Sailing the sunny doves between;
The Lily, whiten'd from its dust with tears;
And Hopes with lifted smiles, and holy-minded Fears.

And lo, how earth and sky,
As if the charm completing,
From winter's other tyranny
Revive, and give us greeting.
There's not a joy of spring,
But's up upon the wing;
The leaves put out their hands into the ray;
The bee, that sings the basking hour,
Comes for his kiss from flow'r to flow'r;
Glad faces are abroad with crowding play;
And all creation keeps full-hearted holiday.

The soldier sheathes his sword;
The statesman breathes from thinking;
The freeman feels his hope restor'd,
When most his heart was shrinking;
No more the widow bleeds
To see the babe that feeds
At her dear breast with sudden-stopping moan;
But while his earnest task he plies,
Smiles in his full, uplifted eyes,
Gath'ring his little hand into her own,
And feels that in the world she shall not be alone.

O Liberty! O breath
Of all that's true existence!
Thou, at whose touch the soul at death
But leaps to joy and distance;
Before thy present call
The very captive's wall,
If wrongly round him like a curtain flies;
The green and laughing world he sees,
Waters, and plains, and waving trees,
The skim of birds, and the blue-doming skies,
And sits with smile at heart, and patience levell'd eyes.

[p. 251]