1744
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode to a Gentleman, on his pitching a Tent in his Garden.

A Collection of Poems in three Volumes. By Several Hands. Second Edition. [Robert Dodsley, ed.]

William Whitehead


A Horation retirement ode in nine (later ten) irregular Spenserians (ababcC) with some Spenserian diction. In its reflections on retirement in a time of conflict this garden poem recalls Andrew Marvell's Upon Appleton House. Isaac Reed identifies Romely as "in Scarsdale, in the County of Derby" in Dodsley, Collection of Poems (1782) 2:270n, but the "Gentleman" is not identified. A note to the fifth stanza, on a Scottish visitor states that "This Ode was written in 1744." Perhaps "1745" was intended.

Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole: "I like Mr. Whitehead's little poems, I mean the Ode on a Tent, the Verses to Garrick, and particularly those to Charles Townsend, better than anything I had seen before of him" 1748; in Works, ed. Gosse (1895) 2:220.

William Shenstone to Lady Luxborough: "I thank you for the Use of Dodsley's Miscellanies. They have afforded me much Pleasure. The Variety of Styles is an advantage to such Collections. I think, had he reduc'd them to two volumes, even tho' he had omitted my sublime Piece, the Garland had been more beautifull; But it is as good a Collection as one often meets with" 18 December 1748; Letters, ed. Mallam (1939) 124-35.



Ah! friend, forbear, nor fright the fields
With hostile scenes of imag'd war;
Content still roves the blooming wilds,
And sheds her mildest influence there:
Ah! drive not the sweet wand'rer from her seat,
Nor with rude arts profane her latest best retreat.

Are there not bowers, and sylvan scenes,
By nature's kind luxuriance wove?
Has Romely lost the living greens
Which erst adorn'd her artless grove?
Where thro' each hallow'd haunt the poet stray'd,
And met the willing muse, and peopled every shade.

But now no bards thy woods among,
Shall wait th' inspiring muse's call;
For tho' to mirth and festal song
Thy choice devotes the woven wall,
Yet what avails that all be peace within,
If horrors guard the gate, and scare us from the scene?

'Tis true, of old the patriarch spread
His happier tents which knew not war,
And chang'd at will the trampled mead
For fresher greens and purer air:
But long has man forgot such simple ways;
Truth unsuspecting harm! — the dream of ancient days.

Ev'n the most northern hind, whom chance,
Or business to thy shades shall lead,
Will eye the floating veil askance,
And tremble for his native Tweed,
While dire presage in every breeze that blows
Hears shrieks and clashing arms, and all Germania's woes.

And doubt not thy polluted taste
A sudden vengeance shall pursue;
Each fairy form we whilom trac'd
Along the morn or evening dew,
Nymph, Satyr, Faun, shall vindicate their grove,
Robb'd of its genuine charms, and hospitable Jove.

I see, all-arm'd with dews unblest,
Keen frosts, and noisome vapours drear,
Already, from the bleak north-east,
The genius of the wood appear!
—Far other office once his prime delight,
To nurse thy saplings tall, and heal the harms of night.

With ringlets quaint to curl thy shade,
To bid the insect tribes retire,
To guard thy walks, and not invade—
O wherefore then provoke his ire?
Alas! with prayers, with tears, his rage repel,
While yet the red'ning shoots with embryo-blossoms swell.

Too late thou'lt weep, when blights deform
The fairest produce of the year;
Too late thou'lt weep, when every storm
Shall loudly thunder in thy ear,
"Thus, thus the green-hair'd deities maintain
Their own eternal rights, and nature's injur'd reign."

[2:262-64]