1746
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode VI. Against Despair.

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

Rev. Joseph Warton


One of the first in a long series of odes to Despair, which would become a popular theme among Spenserian imitators, many of whom were given to youthful fantasys of suicide. In Joseph Warton's gothic fantasy, however, the poet encounters a visionary figure who turns out to be Patience. There are similarities enough with Collins's Ode to Fear (1746) to lead one to suggest that the young poets had been sharing their verses. Thomas Warton would also take up this theme in his much-admired Suicide ode published three decades later.

Richard Mant: "I have been so fortunate as to procure a quarto pamphlet of Odes by Joseph Warton, B.A. of Oriel College, 2d. Edit. Dodsley, 1747. Of these the first alone, the well-known Ode to Fancy, appeared in Dodsley's Collection, which contains several other pieces by the same hand. A republication of all these poems together with others, which might in all probability be occasionally found, and attended with a biographical sketch of the author, would be, to Wykchamists in particular, an intersting work" Verses to the Memory of Joseph Warton (1800) 15-16n.

Frederic Ives Carpenter: "Dr. Joseph Wharton ... has an Ode against Despair in the highly wrought spirit of Horace Walpole and the early imitative romanticists" "Spenser's Cave of Despair, an Essay in Literary Comparison" (1897) 268.

In the first edition of the Odes, Ode V, "Travels Thro' Italy," was by Joseph's brother, Thomas Warton.



Farewell thou dimpled cherub JOY,
Thou rose-crown'd, ever-smiling boy,
Wont thy sister HOPE to lead
To dance along the primrose mead!
No more, bereft of happy hours,
I seek thy lute-resounding bow'rs,
But to yon' ruin'd tower repair,
To meet the god of Groans, DESPAIR;
Who, on that ivy-darken'd ground,
Still takes at eve his silent round,
Or sits yon' new-made grave beside,
Where lies a frantic suicide:
While lab'ring sighs my heart-strings break,
Thus to the sullen power I speak:

"Haste with thy poison'd dagger, haste,
To pierce this sorrow-laden breast!
Or lead me at the dead of night,
To some sea-beat mountain's height,
Whence with headlong haste I'll leap
To the dark bosom of the deep;
Or shew me far from human eye,
Some cave to muse in, starve and die,
No weeping friend or brother near,
My last, fond, fault'ring words to hear!"

'Twas thus with weight of woes opprest,
I sought to ease my bruised breast;
When straight more gloomy grew the shade,
And lo! a tall majestic maid!
Her limbs, not delicately fair,
Robust, and of a martial air;
She bore of steel a polish'd shield,
Where highly-sculptur'd I beheld
Th' Athenian martyr smiling stand,
The baleful goblet in his hand;
Sparkled her eyes with lively flame,
And PATIENCE was the Seraph's name;
Sternly she look'd, and stern began—
"Thy sorrows cease, complaining man,
Rouze thy weak soul, appease thy moan,
Soon are the clouds of sadness gone;
Tho' now in Grief's dark groves you walk,
Where griesly fiends around you stalk,
Beyond, a blissful city lies,
Far from whose gates each anguish flies:
Take thou this shield, which once of yore
ULYSSES and ALCIDES wore,
And which in later days I gave
To REGULUS and RALEIGH brave,
In exile or in dungeon drear
Their mighty minds could banish fear;
Thy heart no tenfold woes shall feel,
'Twas VIRTUE temper'd the rough steel,
And, by her heavenly fingers wrought,
To me the precious present brought."

[pp. 26-29]