1746
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode II. To Liberty.

Odes on Various Subjects. By Joseph Warton, B.A. of Oriel College, Oxon.

Rev. Joseph Warton


Inspired by Mark Akenside as much as John Milton, this patriotic Pindaric became one of Joseph Warton's best-known poems.

John Aikin: "LIBERTY has frequently received the homage of poets, especially of British ones; but few have exercised their fancy in painting the object of their adoration. She is generally represented as a goddess, fair and majestic, but distinguished by scarcely any emblematical accompaniments. Formerly she bore the wand and cap, employed by the Romans as symbols in the emancipation of slaves; but Thomson, with propriety, rejects these tokens, when he describes her as the guardian deity of Britain" "Personification in Poetry" Monthly Magazine 7 (May 1799) 371.

Herbert E. Cory: "In his youth Joseph Warton sketched a stiff allegorical poem with pageants of Vices in a Spenserian cast. His Ode to Liberty, in tetrameter couplets, is varied by two Prior-Spenserian stanzas His poems in general contain occasional allusions to Spenser" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 61n.

See also Joseph Warton's romantically patriotic "Verses written at Montauban in France, 1750" in Wooll, Memoirs (1806).



O Goddess, on whose steps attend
PLEASURE and laughter-loving HEALTH,
White-mantled PEACE with olive-wand,
Young JOY, and diamond-sceptred WEALTH,
Blithe PLENTY with her loaded horn,
With SCIENCE bright-ey'd as the morn,
In Britain, which for ages past
Has been thy choicest darling care,
Who mad'st her wise, and strong, and fair,
May thy best blessings ever last.

For thee the pining pris'ner mourns,
Depriv'd of food, of mirth, of light;
For thee pale slaves to galleys chain'd,
That ply tough oars from morn to night;
Thee the proud Sultan's beauteous train,
By eunuchs guarded, weep in vain,
Tearing the roses from their locks;
And Guinea's captive kings lament,
By christian lords to labour sent,
Whipt like the dull, unfeeling ox.

Inspir'd by thee, deaf to fond nature's cries,
Stern BRUTUS, when Rome's genius loudly spoke,
Gave her the matchless filial sacrifice,
Nor turn'd, nor trembled at the deathful stroke!
And he of later age, but equal fame,
Dar'd stab the tyrant, tho' he lov'd the friend.
How burnt the Spartan with warm patriot-flame,
In thy great cause his valorous life to end!
How burst GUSTAVUS from the Swedish mine!
Like light from chaos dark, eternally to shine.

When heav'n to all thy joys bestows,
And graves upon our hearts — BE FREE—
Shall coward man those joys resign,
And dare reverse this great decree?
Submit him to some idol-king,
Some selfish, passion-guided thing,
Abhorring man, by man abhorr'd,
Around whose throne stands trembling DOUBT,
Whose jealous eyes still rowl about,
And MURDER with his reeking sword?

Where trampling TYRANNY with FATE
And black REVENGE gigantick goes,
Hark, how the dying infants shriek,
How hopeless age is sunk in woes!
Fly, mortals, from that fated land,
Tho' rivers rowl o'er golden sand;
Tho' birds in shades of cassia sing,
Harvests and fruits spontaneous rise,
No storms disturb the smiling skies,
And each soft breeze rich odours bring.

BRITANNIA, watch! — remember peerless ROME,
Her high-tow'r'd head dash'd meanly to the ground;
Remember, freedom's guardian, GRECIA's doom,
Whom weeping the despotic Turk has bound:
May ne'er thy oak-crown'd hills, rich meads and downs,
(Fame, virtue, courage, property, forgot)
Thy peaceful villages, and busy towns,
Be doom'd some death-dispensing tyrant's lot;
On deep foundations may thy freedom stand,
Long as the surge shall lash thy sea-encircled land.

[pp. 12-15]