Ode to Melancholy. To the Memory of a Lady who died of a Cancer in the Breast.

A Select Collection of Poems: with Notes, biographical and historical: and a complete Poetical Index. 8 Vols [John Nichols, ed.]


A lyric variation on Il Penseroso in fourteen quatrains, dated 1760 and published 1784. The couplets of Milton's measure are divided into quatrains, as the central portion of the poem is an elegy for a woman who displayed piety and fortitude in the face of an unpleasant death. The name "Kunigunda" presumably alludes to Voltaire's Candide, which appeared in 1759. The concluding stanza incorporates a of Francis Beaumont's from the lyric on melancholy thought to have inspired Milton's companion poems: "There's nought so dainty sweet as lovely Melancholy."

John Nichols: "The Author professes to have had in his eye that beautiful song of Beaumont in the 'MAD LOVER,' which breathes the very soul of poetry, and may possibly have the merit of suggesting the idea of 'IL PENSEROSO'" 8:62n.

Eleanor M. Sickels: "avowedly modeled on [John] Fletcher ['Hence vaine delights'], and between his aid and Milton's the poet has managed to produce a rather charming, if thoroughly derivative poem. It is further distinguished in being, as far as I have observed, the only one of the odes to Melancholy (except the early ode by Broome) to be written as a funeral elegy" Sickels, Gloomy Egoist (1932) 45.

Hence ye Follies, light and vain!
Hence, with Pleasure's siren train!
But come, thou Goddess sage and holy,
Sable-vested Melancholy!

Come with sadly-plaintive sigh,
With folded hands, and heaven-ward eye;
With streaming tears that ceaseless flow,
And all the solemn suit of woe.

Come with sadly-plaintive sigh,
With folded hands, and heaven-ward eye;
With streaming tears that ceaseless flow,
And all the solemn suits of woe.

Here let pale-ey'd Sorrow mourn
O'er Kunigunda's honour'd urn;
Here empty all her stores of grief,
To bring a busting heart relief.

No woes ideal court thy aid;
No love-lorn grief for faith betray'd:
Ah no! 'tis Nature heaves the sigh,
'Tis Nature bathes the filial eye.

Mother of Musings, hear me tell
How valued, and how wept she fell;
How great, how good, and how serene
She liv'd superior to the sense of pain.

By Reason's and Religion's aid,
In keenest tortures undismay'd,
She own'd unerring Wisdom's hand,
And bow'd obedient to his dread command.

Oppression knew not to controul
Her native dignity of soul;
Unmov'd her conscious virtue bore
The fiercest shocks of Fortune's tyrant power.

With more than female tenderness,
She triumph'd ev'n amid distress;
With more than manly fortitude,
Look'd up to Heav'n, and "saw that all was good."

Midst every hope and comfort lost,
A CHRISTIAN'S name was all her boast:
This could all other wants supply,
By this she dar'd to live, nor fear'd to die.

Unruffled in the hour of death,
To heaven she pour'd her latest breath;
She crown'd her character, and said,
"Such is thy will, and be that will obey'd!"

Teach me, Goddess, hence to scan
With thee the frail estate of man;
With thee remark this reptile vain,
Mouldering to kindred dust again!

Teach me that life's an empty name,
The baseless fabric of a dream;
A weather-beaten skiff that's driven
To make the grave — its destin'd haven.

Teach me to hope, by Virtue's lore,
Soon to meet that form once more;
And, like th' Arabian bird, to rise
From kindred earth to kindred skies.

These pious truths, O Goddess, tell,
And I with thee will chuse to dwell;
And own, in spite of noise and folly,
"There's nought so dainty sweet as lovely Melancholy."