1758
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Sleep.

Scots Magazine 20 (August 1758) 419-20.

Rev. John Ogilvie


An atmospheric Pindaric ode in the manner of Milton and Collins, the stanzas terminating in Spenserian alexandrines. John Ogilvie refers to Spenser ("Oft too with Spenser let me tread | The Fairy field where Una strays"), James Thomson (a note informs us that "Pleasure's flow'ry bed" alludes to the Castle of Indolence), Milton, and Shakespeare. The poem, published without a signature, is addressed "Aberdeen," where John Ogilvie at this time was an acquaintance and poetical rival of James Beattie.

While Ogilvie made relatively few changes when the poem was republished in 1762 under his name, "Hamlet" is altered to "Richard." Ogilivie defends the practice of allegory in the preface to Providence: an Allegorical Poem (reprinted 1764).

W. Davenport Adams: "John Ogilvie, Prebyterian minister (b. 1733, d. 1814), published, in 1769, a volume of Poems, of which Dr. Johnson said that 'he could find no thinking in them'; also Sermons (1767); Philosophical and Critical Observations on the Nature, Character, and Various Species of Composition (1774); Rona: a poem (1777); Britannia: a National Epic Poem, in Twenty Books, to which is prefixed a Critical Dissertation on Epic Machinery (1801); and other works" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 439.

William Walker: "Less pretentious than the greater works they were usually attached to, his smaller poems, consisting of odes, eclogues, fables, and elegiac pieces, show a more equal level of workmanship, if a lower level of thought. Indeed, had they not been obscured by the claims of their bulkier and more imposing brethren, their merits might have helped considerably to float his name down to a posterity that may be said to know him not. In his Ode to Sleep the apt selection of language and imagery strikes one at once" Bards of Bon-Accord (1887) 261.



I.
Sweet god of ease! whose opiate breath
Pour'd gently o'er the heaving breast,
Steals like the solemn hand of Death,
And sheds the balm of visionary rest;
Come, with ev'ry powerfull spell
From the hermit's gloomy cell,
From the swallow's mossy bed,
When bleak Winter blasts the mead;
Come with Night's cold, cloudy brow,
With sky-rob'd Thought demure and slow,
With Rest, that charms the drowsy air,
And folds the wakeful eyes of melancholy Care.

II.
O, by thy robe of purest white,
Thy tresses bound with funeral yew,
Thy voice that sooths the ear of Night,
Thine ebon rod that sweeps the pearly dew;
By the pale moon's trembling beam,
By the ghosts on Lethe's stream;
By the silent solemn gloom,
By the beetle's drowsy hum,
By the zephyr's dying breath,
When sleeps th' unruffled wave beneath;
By the long voice of murm'ring seas,
Lull each reposing sense in calm, oblivious ease.

RECITATIVE.
Pour on my soul the sweetly-melting lay,
That once on Argus could prevail;
When sooth'd by Hermes' wondrous tale,
Each list'ning sense dissolv'd and dy'd away:
Lull'd by the magic doubling sound,
Slow-stealing Slumber lock'd his iron breast;
His thoughts in sweet delirium drown'd,
His falling arms the god confess'd:
On his numb'd ear and wavering soul
The hollow murmur feebly stole:
O'erpower'd at last, he yields the beauteous prize,
And drops supinely down, and folds an hundred eyes.

III.
Then too let bold-ey'd Fancy come,
With bright'ning look and bosom bare,
Her features flush'd with vivid bloom,
With fluttering wings, and loosely-flowing hair:
Then let all the bursting soul
Boldly dart from pole to pole;
Starting from the airy steep,
Lightly skim the wavy deep:
Up the rough rock let me climb,
'Till thy strong voice, with note sublime,
Wakes, fires, and thrills with rapid strains,
And leads the lighten'd mind to soft Elysian plains.

IV.
Yet then let no fantastic tale,
No ruder thought disturb the dream;
But bear me to some lonely dale,
Where weeps the willow o'er the murm'ring stream;
Or where in the bowery shade
Quiet leans her drooping head,
Where from the hollow cave beneath
Sweeps the wild wind through the heath;
Or with notes that deeply more,
Wake all the tuneful soul of Love;
Let bright Lucinda's charms arise,
With all the dazzling flame, the lightning of her eyes.

RECITATIVE.
Then on the rapid wings of Fancy born,
Bold let me soar with steady flight,
Where bursts the radiant blaze of light,
Or where Aurora sheds the rosy morn:
Or lead me where the warbling Nine
With flying fingers touch the melting lyre;
There sooth with harmony divine,
Or nobly breathe celestial fire:
Or in the soft Idalian grove,
With all the Graces let me rove,
Where gay Anacreon haunts the genial bow'r,
And crowns the blushing nymph with every balmy flow'r.

V.
Oft too with Spenser let me tread
The Fairy field where Una strays;
Or loll in Pleasure's flowery bed,
Or burst to heav'n in Milton's high-wrought lays:
Or on Ariel's airy wing,
Let me chase the young-ey'd Spring,
Where the powder'd cowslips bloom,
Where the wild thyme breathes perfume:
Or with solemn steps and sad,
Slow let me haunt the deep'ning shade,
Where Hamlet, thro' the op'ning ground,
Beheld the white-rob'd Ghost, and mark'd the gushing wound.

VI.
Come, gentle god, with magic wand
Of power, to calm the soul of Care,
From Envy's grasp to loose the brand,
Or lull th' envenom'd snakes that prompt despair:
Bring thy vision's airy show,
Yews that wave o'er Lethe slow,
Glimmering beams, and taper blue,
Rod that drops with Stygian dew,
Sloth on down supinely laid,
And slow-ey'd Ease that droops the head,
Pale Languor wrapt in thoughtless gaze,
And wild Oblivion lost in Fancy's boundless maze.

RECITATIVE.
See, Night's dun robe involves the pathless waste,
Black clouds in heaps confus'dly thrown,
Roll awful o'er her gloomy throne:
While through the dark cave sweeps the plaintive blast:
Yon car by boding ravens led,
Bears the lone Goddess through the murky gloom;
Before slow Darkness breathes her shade,
And Rest forsakes the yawning tomb.
Around at midnight's solemn noon,
Rapt Fancy gazes on the moon:
Care folds her arms, nor knows th' unpleasing theme,
And Grief dissolving shares the sweetly-soothing dream.

[pp. 419-20]