1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Horror. In the Allegoric Descriptive, Alliterative, Epithetical, Fantastic, Hyperbolical, and Diabolical Style.

The Student. Or, the Oxford and Cambridge Monthly Miscellany 2 (1751) 313-15.

Rev. Thomas Warton


A burlesque ode published under the pseudonym "Chimaericus Oxoniensis": the complete title is given as "Ode to Horror. In the Allegoric Descriptive, Alliterative, Epithetical, Fantastic, Hyperbolical, and Diabolical Style of our modern Ode-Wrights and Monody-Mongers." In part, the burlesque takes aim at William Collins's Odes: "O goddess, erst, by SPENSER view'd, | What time th' enchanter vile embru'd | His hands in FLORIMEL'S pure heart, | Till loos'd by steel clad BRITOMART"; "Let me with her, in magic trance, | Hold most delirious dalliance; | Till I, thy pensive votary, | HORROR, look madly-wild like thee." But the burlesque is also directed at mid-century Miltonism generally, which had become the fashionable literary mode at both universities. Some of the humor points at Thomas Warton himself, including his reply to William Mason's attack on Oxford, the Triumph of Isis (1749): "O queen! that erst did'st thinly spread | The willowy leaves o'er Isis' head.... | What time, in cave, with visage pale, | She told her elegiac tale," and his Miltonic Pleasures of Melancholy (1747).

Joseph Warton: "The above [Pope's Song by a Person of Quality] is a pleasant burlesque on the gawdy, glittering, florid style and manner of certain descriptive poets. I think the reader will pardon me for laying before him part of a piece of ridicule on the same subject, and of equal merit, which made its first appearance many years ago in the Oxford Student.... The author was himself a descriptive poet of the first class. Mr. William Collins thought himself aimed at by this piece of ridicule. His odes had been just published; and the last lines seemed to refer to a particular passage in them" Works of Pope (1797) 2:345-46n.

Joseph Dennie: "The ensuing burlesque, though written before the era of the Della Cruscans, is a very appropriate satire upon the affectation, tinsel, and nonsense of a tribe of wittlings who have of late so much infected the whole body of literature" Port Folio [Philadelphia] 5 (7 September 1805) 278.

William Lisle Bowles: "The author was Thomas Warton; and it is a curious fact, that it was ridicule which at first led him to the very studies, in which he afterwards so eminently shone. He began by ridiculing Hearne, and afterwards became an antiquarian of the most accurate, as well as elegant character; and from laughing at Collins, he wrote odes of the same description. The humour of this ode (which I had doubts whether I should preserve) is not half so obvious as the humour of Pope's ballad [Song, by a Person of Quality]. It might pass for a serious Descriptive Ode of the eighteenth century, with a certain class of poetical readers" Works of Pope, ed. Bowles (1806) 2:363.

Nathan Drake: "This Ode, though intended as a ridicule on the school of the Wartons, possesses so much merit in point of imagery, that were it not for its alliterative extravagance, it might pass for a serious effort of descriptive poetry; the allusion to the story of the Egyptian catacomb is highly poetical" The Gleaner (1811) 2:232n.

John Wilson: "Strip Warton of his antiquarianism, we have heard it said, and seen it written, and you leave him bare. Strip a cathedral of its antiquity, and it becomes a barn. Play at the innocent game of strip-Peter-naked till you are tired, but let Tom wear his weeds" Blackwood's Magazine 44 (October 1838) 557.

Edmund Blunden: "Collins was able in June 1751 to send Warton a letter on some private matter, 'written in fine hand, and without the least symptom of a disordered or debilitated understanding.' Was the private matter a question about the parody of Collins which appeared this year in The Student, signed Chimaericus Oxoniensis, and attributed to Warton? ... The victim is Joseph Warton as much as Collins, but the latter is taken off in the footnotes and in passages such as these: 'O bid my well-rang'd Numbers rise, | Pervious to none but Attic eyes; | O give the Strain that Madness loves | Till every starting Sense approves' .... The jest on madness, as that in Gifford's review of Charles Lamb, was unfortunate indeed" Poems of Collins (1929) 23-24.

Eleanor M. Sickels: "It is so neat a take-off of the Wartons themselves, chief among many, that one is not surprised to learn that the quizzical young Thomas Warton is suspected to have done it himself.... The first part of this passage clearly refers to The Pleasures of Melancholy, but the last sounds more like The Enthusiast. Now if the faintly ecstatic mood of Joseph Warton's Enthusiast is thus to be ascribed to Horror, do we not already in 1751 have a somewhat scrambled tradition?" Gloomy Egoist (1932) 68-70.



O Goddess of the gloomy scene,
Of shadowy shapes thou black-brow'd queen;
Thy tresses dark with ivy crown'd,
On yonder mould'ring abbey found;
Oft wont from charnels damp and dim,
To call the sheeted spectre grim,
While, as his loose chains loudly clink,
Thou add'st a length to ev'ry link:
O thou, that lov'st at eve to seek
The pensive pacing pilgrim meek,
And sett'st before his shudd'ring eyes
Strange forms, and fiends of giant-size,
As wildly works thy wizard will,
Till fear-struck fancy has her fill:
Dark pow'r, whose magic might prevails
O'er hermit-rocks, and fairy-vales;
O goddess, erst, by SPENSER view'd,
What time th' enchanter vile embru'd
His hands in FLORIMEL'S pure heart,
Till loos'd by steel clad BRITOMART:
O thou that erst, on fancy's wing,
Didst terror-trembling TASSO bring
To groves where kept damn'd furies dire
Their blazing battlements of fire:
Thou that through many a darksome pine
O'er the rugged rock recline,
Didst wake the hollow-whisp'ring breeze
With care-consumed ELOISE:
O thou with whom, in cheerless cell,
The midnight clock pale pris'ners tell;
O haste thee, mild Miltonic maid,
From yonder yew's sequestered shade;
More bright than all the fabled Nine,
Teach me to breathe the solemn line!
O bid my well-ranged numbers rise
Pervious to none but Attic eyes;
O give the strain that madness moves,
Till every starting sense approves!

What felt the Gallic traveller,
When far in Arab-desert drear,
He found within the catacomb,
Alive, the terrors of a tomb?
While many a mummy, through the shade,
In hieroglyphic stole array'd,
Seem'd to uprear the mystic head,
And trace the gloom with ghostly tread;
Thou heardst him pour the stifled groan,
HORROR! his soul was all thy own!

O mother of the fire-clad thought,
O haste thee from thy grave-like grot!
(What time the witch perform'd her rite,)
Sprung from th' embrace of TASTE and Night
O queen! that erst did thinly spread
The willowy leaves o'er ISIS' head,
And to her meek mien didst dispense
Woe's most awful negligence;
What time, in cave, with visage pale,
She told her elegiac tale:
O thou! whom wand'ring WARTON saw,
Amaz'd with more than youthful awe,
As, by the pale moon's glimmering gleam,
He mus'd his melancholy theme:
O curfeu-loving goddess haste!
O waft me, to some SCYTHIAN waste,
Where, in Gothic solitude,
Mid prospects most sublimely rude,
Beneath a rough rock's gloomy chasm,
Thy sister sits, ENTHUSIASM:
Let me with her, in magic trance,
Hold most delirious dalliance;
Till I, thy pensive votary,
HORROR, look madly-wild like thee;
Until I gain true transport's shore,
And life's retiring scene is o'er,
Aspire to some more azure sky,
Remote from dim mortality;
At length, recline the fainting head,
In Druid-dreams dissolv'd and dead!

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