1630 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode.

Original Poems. Sir Egerton Brydges, ed.

William Browne of Tavistock


An undated retirement ode in eight stanzas; this manuscript poem, first published in 1815, appears to allude to William Browne's decision to leave London to return to the West Country. The allusions to Michael Drayton in the first stanza and to Edmund Spenser in the last point to disappointments in the race for patronage; Browne's concluding couplet glances at James I, no Elizabeth he: "And if my Muse to Spenser's glory come, | No king shall own my verses for his tomb."

Thomas Park: "From the additional specimens of his talent, retrieved by Sir Egerton Brydges, and elegantly set forth by the Lee press, it appears that Browne is deserving of a more extended reputation than had before been his allotment. There is a peaceful delicacy and pure morality in these recovered strains, which surpass those previously collected in his works" in Thomas Warton, History of English Poetry (1840) 540n.



Awake, fair Muse; for I intend
These everlasting lines to thee,
And, honour'd Drayton, come and lend
An ear to this sweet melody:
For on my harp's most high and silver string
To those Nine Sisters whom I love, I sing.

This man through death and horror seeks
Honour by the victorious steel;
Another in unmapped creeks
For jewels moors his winged keel.
The clam'rous Bar wins some, and others bite
At looks thrown from a mushroom favourite.

But I, that serve the lovely Graces,
Spurn at that dross which most adore;
And titles hate like painted faces,
And heart-fed care for evermore.
Those pleasures I disdain which are pursu'd
With praise and wishes by the multitude.

The bays, which deathless Learning crowns,
Me of Apollo's troop installs:
The satyrs following o'er the downs
Fair nymphs to rustic festivals,
Make me affect (where men no traffic have)
The holy horror of a savage cave.

Through the fair skies I thence intend,
With an unus'd and powerful wing,
To bear me to my journey's end:
And those that taste the Muses' spring,
Too much celestial fire have at their birth
To live long time like common souls in earth.

From fair Aurora will I rear
Myself unto the source of floods;
And from the Ethiopian bear,
To him as white as snowy woods;
Nor shall I fear (from this day taking flight)
To be wound up in any veil of night.

Of Death I may not fear the dart,
As is the use of human state;
For well I know my better part
Dreads not the hand of Time or Fate.
Tremble at Death, Envy, and Fortune who
Have but one life: Heaven gives a poet two.

All costly obsequies away,
Marble and painting too, as vain;
My ashes shall not meet with clay,
As those do of the vulgar train.
And if my Muse to Spenser's glory come,
No king shall own my verses for his tomb.

[Poems, ed. Goodwin (1893) 2:211-13]