1739
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode I. To Fancy.

Three Odes. To which is added, the Miss and the Butterfly, a Fable, in the Manner of the Late Mr. Gay.

William Hamilton of Bangour


After Milton's Il Penseroso: a troubled erotic vision. James Paterson reprints a shorter version from manuscript that corresponds better to the L'Allegro poem following as "Ode II" in the original, anonymously printed volume.

Critical Review: "His Contemplation, his ode to Fancy, his ballad, in the old Scotch stile, called The Braes of Yarrow, and many of his songs, have been generally admired" review of Hamilton, Poems on Several Occasions (1760), 11 (January 1761) 48.

Raymond Dexter Havens: "Four of Hamilton's octosyllabics, written in 1739 or somewhat earlier, have the cadence of Allegro, as well as the 'hence,' 'come,' the personifications, a number of verbal borrowings, and in one place something of the parentage and birth, — pretty good evidence that he derived the meter, which he used extensively, from Milton. The structure of his second ode, which consists of four paragraphs, the first and third devoted to 'hence,' the second and fourth to 'come,' may help to account for the later vogue of the companion poems, for any one can write verses of this kind on any occasion or without occasion" The Influence of Milton (1922) 452.

Nelson S. Bushnell: "The two odes promise to be antithetical in theme and mood, like Milton's famous pair, but turn out as parallel invocations of Love and Beauty. 'To Fancy' particularly in the early, short version, is one of Willy's most attractive compositions; the subject, the verse, the spirit of liveliness, and the texture of vivid detail — all remind us of the ode of similar title published eighty-one years later by an incomparably greater poet. Changes in later versions, effected by notable expansion of five passages and insertion of yet another, are regrettable in that they obscure the original structure of the the two balanced visions, one actually experienced by the lover, the other invoked by him for his lady" William Hamilton of Bangor (1957) 51.

The fourth ode mentioned by Havens, "On the New Year MDCCXXXIX," first appeared in the Scots Magazine; it is in a lighter and more satirical vein.



Fancy, bright and winged maid!
In thy night-drawn car conveyed,
O'er the green earth and wide-spread main,
A thousand shadows in thy train,
A varied, air-embodied host,
To don what shapes thou pleasest most;
Brandish no more thy scorpion stings
Around the destined couch of kings;
Nor in rebellion's ghastly size
A dire gigantic spectre rise:
Cease, for a while, in rooms of state
To damp the slumbers of the great;
In merit's lean-looked form to appear,
And holloa traitor in their ear:
Or freedom's holier garb belie,
While justice grinds her axe fast by:
Nor o'er the miser's eyelids pour
The unrefreshing golden shower;
Whilst, keen the unreal bliss to feel,
His breast bedews the ruffian steel.

With these (when next thou tak'st thy round)
The thoughts of guilty pride confound:
These swell the horrors and affright
Of conscience' keen condemning night.
For this (nor, gracious power! repine)
A gentler ministry be thine:
Whate'er inspires the poet's theme,
Or lover's hope-enlivened dream.
MONIMIA's mildest form assume;
Spread o'er thy cheeks her youthful bloom;
Unfold her eyes unblemished rays,
That melt to virtue as we gaze;
That envy's guiltiest wish disarm,
And view benign a kindred charm:
Call all the graces from thy store,
Till thy creative power be o'er;
Bid her each breathing sweet dispense,
And robe in her own innocence.

My wish is given: the spells begin;
The ideal world awakes within;
The lonely void of still repose
Pregnant with some new wonder grows;
See, by the twilight of the skies,
The beauteous apparition rise;
Slow, in MONIMIA's form, along
Glides to the harmony of song.

But who is he the virgin leads,
Whom high a flaming torch precedes,
In a gown of stainless lawn,
O'er each manly shoulder drawn?
Who, clad in robe of scarlet grain,
The boy that bears her flowing train?
Behind his back a quiver hung,
A bended bow across is flung;
His head and heels two wings unfold,
The azure feathers girt with gold.
Hymen! 'tis he who kind inspires
Joys unfeign'd and chaste desires.
And thou, of Love, deceitful child!
With tiger-heart, yet lamb-like mild,
Fantastic by thyself, and vain,
But seemly seen in Hymen's train;
If Fate be to my wishes kind,
O! may I find ye ever join'd;
But if the Fates my wish deny,
My humble roof come ye not nigh.

The spell works on: yet stop the day
While in the house of sleep I stay.
About me swells the sudden grove,
The woven arbourette of Love;
Flow'rs spring unbidden o'er the ground,
And more than nature plants around.
Fancy, prolong the kind repose;
Still, still th' enchanting vision glows;
And now I gaze o'er all her charms,
Now sink transported in her arms.
Oh sacred energy divine!
All these enraptur'd scenes are thine.
Hail! copious source of pure delight;
All hail! thou heaven-revealed rite;
Endearing Truth thy train attends,
And thou and meek-ey'd Peace are friends:
Closer entwine the magic bow'r;
Thick rain the rose-empurpl'd show'r;
The mystic joy impatient flies
Th' unhallow'd gaze of vulgar eyes.
Unenvied let the rich and great
Turmoil without, and parcel Fate,
Indulging here, in bliss supreme,
Might I enjoy the golden dream:
But, ah! the rapture must not stay;
For see! she glides, she glides away.

Oh Fancy! why did'st thou decoy
My thoughts into this dream of joy,
Then to forsake me all alone,
To mourn the fond delusion gone?
O! back again, benign, restore
The pictur'd vision as before.
Yes, yes: once more I fold my eyes;
Arise, ye dear deceits, arise.
Ideas bland! where do ye rove?
Why fades my visionary grove?
Ye fickle troop of Morpheus' train,
Then will you, to the proud and vain,
From me, fantastic, wing your flight,
T' adorn the dream of false delight?
But now, seen in MONIMIA's air,
Can you assume a form less fair,
Some idle Beauty's wish supply,
The mimic triumphs of her eye?
Grant all to me this live-long night,
Let charms detain the rising light;
For this one night my liv'ries wear,
And I absolve you for the year.

What time your poppy-crowned God
Sends his truth-telling scouts abroad,
Ere yet the cock to matins rings,
And the lark with mounting wings,
The simple village swain has warn'd
To shake off sleep by labour earn'd;
Or on the rose's silken hem,
Aurora weeps her earliest gem;
Or beneath the opening dawn,
Smiles the fair-extended lawn.
When in the soft encircled shade
Ye find reclined the gentle maid,
Each busy motion laid to rest,
And all compos'd her peaceful breast:
Swift paint the fair internal scene,
The phantom labours of your reign;
The living imag'ry adorn
With all the limnings of the morn,
With all the treasures nature keeps
Conceal'd below the forming deeps;
Or dress'd in the rich waving pride,
That covers the green mountain's side,
Or blooms beneath the am'rous gale
In the wide embosom'd vale.
Let pow'rful Music too essay
The magic of her hidden lay:
While each harsh thought away shall fly
Down the full stream of harmony,
Compassion mild shall fill their place,
Each gentle minister of grace,
Pity, that often melts to Love,
Let weeping Pity, kind improve,
The soften'd heart, prepar'd to take
Whate'er impressions Love shall make.
Oh! in that kind, that sacred hour,
When Hate, when Anger have no pow'r;
When sighing Love, mild simple boy,
Courtship sweet, and tender joy,
Alone possess the fair one's heart;
Let me then, Fancy, bear my part.

Oh goddess! how I long t' appear;
The hour of dear success draws near:
See where the crowding shadows wait;
Haste and unfold the iv'ry gate:
Ye gracious forms, employ your aid,
Come in my anxious look array'd,
Come Love, come Hymen, at my pray'r
Led by blyth Hope, ye decent pair
By mutual confidence combin'd,
As erst in sleep I saw you join'd.
Fill my eyes with heart-swell'd tears,
Fill my breast with heart-born fears,
Half-utter'd vows and half-suppress'd,
Part look'd, and only wish'd the rest;
Make sighs, and speaking sorrows prove,
Suffering much, how much I love;
Make the Muse's lyre complain,
Strung by me in warbled strain;
Let the melodious numbers flow
Pow'rful of a lover's woe,
Till, by the tender Orphean art,
I through her ear shall gain her heart.

Now, Fancy, now the fit is o'er;
I feel my sorrows vex no more:
But when condemn'd again to mourn,
Fancy, to my aid return.

[Paterson (1850) 47-51]