1747 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Fame.

Virginia, a Tragedy, with Odes, Pastorals, and Translations. By Mrs. Brooke.

Frances Brooke


"Strong-fancied Spenser" appears in this patriotic ode in thirteen stanzas (ababcc) published in 1756. The "prophetic" reference to the "patriot monarch" Prince Frederick and to the war with France dates the poem to before the treaty of Aix la Chapelle in 1748. Frances Brooke lauds Queen Elizabeth not only as the model for modern statesmen, but as a warrant for female ambition: "Nor be my weaker sex denied | To breathe the glorious patriot strain: | Since we can boast, with pleasing pride, | The Virgin Queen's triumphant reign." The Ode to Fame belongs to the group of Opposition poems which include the Spenser imitations by James Thomson and Gilbert West. The stanza, though it lacks the characteristic alexandrine, is probably meant to signal Spenser, as does the archaic phrase, "Me best beseems." "Cecil" in the last line is glossed as "Lady Eliz. Cecil."

Note to "patriot monarch": "The author would not be misunderstood as meaning any disrespect to a name for which she has the greatest veneration; all she meant was, to express the hopes, almost universally conceived at the time this ode was written, of a most amiable prince, who died not long after, lamented by a whole people; and, like Titus, left behind him the character of the friend of human kind" p. 46.

Monthly Review: "To the number of learned and ingenious Ladies whom we have had the honour of celebrating, since the commencement of our Review, we have now the pleasure to add the name of Mrs. Frances Brooke" 14 (June 1756) 560.

Walter Scott: "Author of Lady Julia Mandeville, Emily Montague, &c. She generally resided with an aunt in Lichfield, and was a near relative of Dr. Brooke, rector of Birmingham, the friend and contemporary of Dr. Johnson" Anna Seward, Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:65n.

J. W. Croker: "Frances More, wife of the Rev. Mr. Brooke, chaplain to the forces in Canada, whither she accompanied him, and wrote a novel called Emily Montague. She afterwards produced several dramatic pieces, one of which, Rosina, still keeps the stage. She is said to have been much esteemed by Johnson. She died in 1789" Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 1:439n.

W. Davenport Adams: "Frances Brooke, poetess, novelist, and dramatist (b. 1745, d. 1789), wrote The Old Maid (1755); Virginia, a Tragedy, with Odes, Pastorals, and Translations (1756); The History of Lady Julia Mandeville (1763); The History of Emily Montague (1770); The Excursion (1777); The Siege of Sinope, a Tragedy (1781); Rosina, a Play (1782); Marian, a Play (1783); The History of Charles Mandeville (1790)" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 98.



O thou, my lov'd, my latest choice,
To whom my riper vows are paid!
Though, thoughtless of my heavenly voice,
I first the plaintive strain essay'd;
Be thou, O Fame, my sweetest, best reward,
And crown with deathless bays thy raptur'd bard!

Awhile, by Sappho's numbers fir'd,
I touch'd the languid Lesbian string;
But now by thee arous'd, inspir'd,
Of noble themes I burn to sing:
Of godlike Britain's liberty and laws,
And heroes bleeding in her beauteous cause.

So wanders wild the generous steed,
In wanton youth, of ease possess'd,
Serene he crops the flowery mead;
No thought of glory fires his breast:
But when he hears the trumpet's sound from far,
His soul dilates; and, swelling, pants for war.

O beauteous Liberty! for thee
The Rhine's unhappy exiles roam;
Forc'd by a tyrant's hard decree,
To quit their dear paternal home:
By thee Helvetia's barren mountains smile,
Nor envy fair Campania's fruitful soil.

Nor be my weaker sex denied
To breathe the glorious patriot strain:
Since we can boast, with pleasing pride,
The Virgin Queen's triumphant reign;
When Tyranny forsook th' enfranchis'd land,
And freedom rose beneath a female hand.

With freedom rose her genuine train;
The Statesman wise, the letter'd Sage,
The laurell'd Bard, the chieftain plain;
And own'd a new Augustan age:
Around the great Eliza's dreaded throne,
Victorious Essex, Drake, and Raleigh, shone.

Then blameless Walsingham arose,
At once his queen's and country's friend;
Skill'd to discern their lurking foes,
And from the secret dart defend:
And deathless Bacon's comprehensive soul
Of boundless science grasp'd th' amazing whole.

But, see! to guide the golden reins
Of empire, mighty Burleigh rise!
He pours forth plenty o'er the plains;
Calm, steady, uncorrupted, wise:
O sacred shade, accept the grateful lay
Each British voice must to thy virtues pay.

Then, too, the favour'd Muses smil'd;
And, sporting on the banks of Thame,
Strong-fancied Spenser, Shakespeare wild,
And Sydney, hail'd Eliza's name:
Then manly Johnson's justly-pictur'd page,
And humorous Fletcher's, shook the laughing stage.

O might those glorious days return!
Would statesmen, fir'd by Burleigh's name,
With ancient British ardour burn,
Scorn selfish views, and pant for fame!
Again our conqu'ring arms should Gallia weep,
And Albion reign triumphant o'er the deep.

Prophetic, lo! my raptur'd mind
Beholds, as rolling minutes move,
A patriot-monarch, who shall find
His safety in his people's love:
Unbrib'd, around his grateful subjects stand,
While base Corruption, blushing, leaves the land!

Then o'er Britannia's beauteous isle
Shall peace and arts together rise;
Encourag'd by the Royal smile,
Shall future Homer's reach the skies:
Each modest muse shall raise her drooping head,
Nor pine, neglected, in the barren shade.

But whither, fir'd, would Fancy rove;
And, soaring, dare the lofty theme!
Me best beseems, amid the grove,
To paint the mead, or murmuring stream;
There let me warble still my artless lays,
Too blest in beauteous Cecil's generous praise.

[p. 46]