1757
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode to that heroick and learned Prince, Frederick III. King of Prussia, &c.

Poems on Several Occasions, formerly written by John Free, D.D. Vicar of East-Coker in Somersetshire.

Rev. John Free


Eight stanzas, seven in the Prior pattern (lacking the alexandrine). In this heroic ode John Free imitates Matthew Prior's Ode to the Queen (1706). The poet compares Frederick the Great to Xenophon's Cyrus, with reflections on fame, education, and emulation. "Occasioned by the signal Victory, which His Majesty obtained over the Austrian Army, near the City of Prague, on the 6th of May 1757, first printed in the London Chronicle of May 24, about which Time the News arrived in England."

William Cowper makes a comment that suggests something of the circumstances under which such poems were written: "I learned when I was a boy, being the son of a staunch Whig, and a man that loved his country, to glow with that patriotic enthusiasm which is apt to break forth into poetry, or at least to prompt a person, if he has inclination that way, to poetical endeavours. Prior's pieces of that sort were recommended to my particular notice; and as that part of the present century was a season when clubs of a political character, and consequently political songs, were much in fashion, the best in that style, some written by Rowe, and I think some by Congreve, and many by other wits of the day, were proposed to my admiration" to Rev. John Newton, 4 December 1781; in Southey, Life and Works of Cowper (1835-37) 4:160.

The reprint of this poem in the Gentleman's Magazine is erroneously cited as "Ode to Fear" by Andrew Erskine in Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 401.

James Beattie composed an "Epitaph" on Frederick: "He every human talent misemploy'd, | And men at once delighted and destroy'd; | Savage in action, but a sage in rhyme, | Each virtue sung, and practis'd every crime; | The scorn of Venus, but of Mars the pride, | He fill'd his country, and the world with strife; | Thousands for him in honour's bed have died, | But from his own not one e'er sprung to life" Literary Panorama 5 (December 1809) 573.



When antient HORACE took his Lyre in hand,
Dispos'd some Hero of those Times to praise,
He view'd the Roman Race, and at a stand,
Ask'd of his Muse the Subject of his Lays.
Not undetermin'd I attempt to sing,
Their dubious Worth his Fancy might divide,
I see in one the Hero, Sage, and King,
And want no fabled Clio for my Guide,
The World's great Circus echoes to my Choice;
'Tis FRED'RICK, says the universal Voice.

What Sons of Merit in past Ages shone
Dim now, as Stars remote, we scarce can see,
Some with faint Glories clust'ring into one,
Mix in Confusion, like the Galaxy,
Or where, like Cynthia, more distinct in Light,
They roll around, as Planets of our own,
And great seem to us as near our Sight,
Yet in the vast Expanse they're hardly known.
And all these Tribes of Night at once give Way,
Lost in the Splendour of thy solar Ray.

Nimrod, the first great Hunter, disappears,
The sacred Record just preserves his Name,
While his proud Tow'r, once lifted to the Stars,
Has moulder'd to the Dust, from whence it came;
And all the human Savages, that fear'd
His iron Rod, and far alarming Rage,
Have the same Fate from old Oblivion shar'd,
Who draws her Curtain round a barb'rous Age,
And leaves scarce Egypt's Pyramids to tell
By whom they rose, or who within them dwell.

What then is fame? — It is the Breath of Man
Inform'd by Wisdom, and by Words preserv'd,
Then dealt to others, by what Arts we can,
On Mind imprinted, and on Marble carv'd:
Tradition failing, makes Oblivion's Age,
Where that's corrupt, 'tis fabulous and vain;
But Times obscure Attention scarce engage,
And the gross Fable Sense and Truth disdain,
Old Bards, indeed, may story as they please,
Dictaean JOVE, or Graecian Hercules.

We judge of real Heroes, for whose Worth
Historic TRUTH can give her Evidence;
Not Homer's Captains here may issue forth,
Nor Pindar's Champions of athletic Sense,
For mean their Occupation to obtain
Place with imperial Conquerors, who hurl'd
Their Terrors o'er the Earth, and o'er the Main,
Thro' the wide Quarters of a subject World;
Where dwell these Demigods, her chosen few,
Fair FAME her inmost Temple opes to view.—

"There tow'rds the Windows of the East, she cries,
Where Sol emerging darts his vig'rous Beam,
On yon fair Portrait cast your wond'ring Eyes,
A mighty Artist! and a mighty Theme!
That fam'd Athenian erst the Picture wrought
Socratic XENOPHON, who shews the Piece,
His Pupil near, who comprehends his Thought,
Argesilaus was, — the Pride of Greece!
As on a Tablet, see expanded lie,
Whole Asia, with her Mountains, Rivers, Plains;
Nor ask what Art such Numbers could supply
Of Armies marching o'er her wide Domains,
Yon brave young Persian, Gods! what kingly Mien
What heav'nly Aspect in that Face is seen!

Hail, mighty Cyrus, the Humane and Great,
Whose Mind capacious could for these provide;
Whose pow'r so many warlike Nations beat,
Or Wisdom won unconquer'd to his Side.
See savage People now in friendly Guise
Unite together in the Arts of Peace;
See Cities spread, and solemn Temples rise,
To bless this Friend and Lord of human Race,
Whose Laws could profit, whose Examples bind,
And Virtue fix his Empire in the Mind.

Unequal'd this bright Model of a King!
Till twice a thousand Years produc'd his Peer;
For, hark! the Mansions of my Temple ring,
With the loud Rumour of decisive War.
Sudden as vain Belshazzar's heretofore,
I see another Capital descend;
The Moldow wafts the Cry from Shore to Shore,
And, like Euphrates, turns the Victor's Friend,
Again the Babylonish Idols bow,
And what great CYRUS was, is German FRED'RICK now.

[Second edition (1757) 1-5]