1723 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Melancholy, an Ode.

Poems on Several Occasions. By William Broome.

Rev. William Broome


Thirteen couplet quatrains, composed after the death of a favorite daughter. The first and last imitate Milton's Il Penseroso: "Come then, O Friend of virtuous Woe, | With solemn Pace, demure, and slow...." William Broome is remembered today, if at all, as Pope's collaborator in translating the Odyssey. Milton's poems would not become popular for another two decades, making Broome's dirge a very early example of the kind of allegorical ode that would preoccupy English poets well into the nineteenth century.

Alexander Pope to William Broome: "Whatever real concern a friend can feel, or whatever heavy wound one bears either for oneself or for another, it is certain no reason, no religion can go so far towards quieting the mind and reducing it to its own state, as time alone. It is to that hand of time we must owe the healing what the hand of God has inflicted. I do not therefore make you any apology for not immediately writing to you upon the news of your loss. It was the juncture at which any arguments could do you the least good. I trusted you awhile to that only physician, time, to make you capable of hearing any, or forming any to yourself. And as I very well know that none can be suggested from abroad to you, which you have not already at home, so indeed no man can give another a disposition of resignation unless he has it from himself. That is a gift, not of man, but of God. I hope, and believe, you have it. As a friend, I feel for you heartily. That is all I am able" Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 8:69-70.

Samuel Johnson: "Of Broome, though it cannot be said that he was a great poet, it would be unjust to deny that he was an excellent versifyer; his lines are smooth and sonorous, and his diction is select and elegant. His rhymes are sometimes unsuitable: in his Melancholy he makes 'breath' rhyme to 'birth' in one place, and to 'earth' in another. Those faults occur but seldom; and he had such power of words and numbers as fitted him for translation" "Life of Broome" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 3:80.

Whitwell Elwin: "Broome had lately lost his daughter Anne, who was born on October 1, 1718. She was the 'pretty Miss' to whom Fenton sent his humble service. Her father was overwhelmed with grief, and his sorrow was as prolonged as it was acute. In March, 1725, another little girl, born in December, 1722, died while he was absent from home; and writing on his return to Lord Cornwallis he says, 'To speak the truth, the pain I feel proceeds from the opening of an old wound, and from making it bleed anew.' His Melancholy, was written to commemorate the first loss, and it is described as 'an Ode, occasioned by the death of a beloved daughter, 1723;' but he had not the power to embody his feelings in adequate language,, and his verses have neither poetry nor pathos" Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 8:69n.

Amy Louise Reed: "If we may accept the date assigned to William Broome's Melancholy, an Ode, it was written in 1723.... The occasion was the death of a beloved daughter. Its opening and closing lines and its meter are evidently influenced by Milton's Il Penseroso. It has a line taken pretty directly from Hamlet, while stanzas five and six recall Job" The Background of Gray's Elegy (1924) 103-04.

A stanza was added in later editions. The description of Death, "High on a trophy, raised of human bones" in Broome's "Poem on Death" recalls Spenser.



Adieu vain Mirth, and noisy Joys!
Ye gay Desires, deluding Toys!
Thou thoughtful Melancholy deign
To hide me in thy pensive Train!

If by the Fall of murmuring Floods,
Where awful Shades embrown the Woods,
Or if where Winds in Caverns groan,
Thou wand'rest silent and alone;

Come, blissful Mourner, wisely sad,
In Sorrow's Garb, in Sable clad,
Henceforth, thou Care, my Hours employ!
Sorrow, be thou henceforth my Joy!

By Tombs where sullen Spirits stalk,
Familiar with the Dead I walk;
While to my Sighs and Groans by turns,
From Graves the midnight Echo mourns.

Open thy marble Jaws, O Tomb,
Thou Earth conceal me in thy Womb!
And you, ye Worms, this Frame confound,
Ye Brother Reptiles of the Ground.

O Life, frail Offspring of a Day!
'Tis puff'd with one short Gasp away!
Swift as the short-liv'd Flow'r it flies,
It springs, it blooms, it fades, it dies.

With Cries we usher in our Birth,
With Groans resign our transient Breath:
While round, stern Ministers of Fate,
Pain, and Disease, and Sorrow wait.

While Childhood reigns, the sportive Boy
Learns only prettily to toy;
And while he roves from Play to Play,
The Wanton trifles Life away.

When to the Noon of Life we rise,
The Man grows elegant in Vice;
To glorious Guilt in Courts he climbs,
Vilely judicious in his Crimes.

When Youth and Strength in Age are lost,
Man seems already half a Ghost;
Wither'd, and wan, to Earth he bows,
A walking Hospital of Woes.

O! Happiness, thou empty Name!
Say, art thou bought by Gold or Fame?
What art thou Gold, but shining Earth?
Thou common Fame, but common Breath?

If Virtue contradict the Voice
Of publick Fame, Applause is Noise;
Ev'n Victors are by Conquest curst,
The bravest Warrior is the worst.

Come then, O Friend of virtuous Woe,
With solemn Pace, demure, and slow:
Lo! sad and serious, I pursue
Thy Steps — adieu, vain World, adieu!

[pp. 43-47]