1761
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Wisdom.

Odes on Several Subjects. By James Scott, M.A. Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Rev. James Scott


In octosyllabic couplets, adapted from Milton's Il Penseroso. The catalogue of wise figures in this ode ranges from Hesiod ("Ascraeus") and Plato, to Tillotson and Sherlock, to "thou pure, immortal Spirit, | That did'st unbounded space inherit, | Ere God beheld the shapeless Void, | His golden compasses employ'd, | And mark'd the new-created Earth, | While Infant Nature sprung to birth." The Rev. James Scott was a talented poet and orator who made the transition from distinguished Cambridge poet to a career as a Whig political writer.

Critical Review: "By chusing the subjects just as they happened to suit his present humour, Mr. Scott has attained a pleasing variety of sentiment and facility, uncommon in the compositions of some of the best modern lyrists, who seem to imagine that the sublime consists in elevating sense on the stilts of bombast. A few specimens will shew, that our author is not wanting in dignity, while he is at the same time perfectly easy and natural.... The ode on Despair contains lines which strongly mark the powers of genius, and a happy talent for nervous description" 11 (June 1761) 462, 68.



Hence vain, deluding Joys,
And Inspirations lighter than the wind!
How little can we find
Solid content in fleeting, fancy'd toys?
Hence ev'ry idle dream
Of laureat Phoebus, and th' Aonian Maids,
And Thespia's breathing shades,
And virgin Helicon forever green,
At whose fair foot is seen
Soft-trickling Aganippe's limpid stream!

But come thou Goddess sage, and mild,
Jove's first begotten darling child!
O Wisdom come, and bring with thee
Rich volumes of antiquity,
In whose ample page appears
The learning of two thousand years,
The truths which old Ascraeus sung,
And eloquence of Plato's Tongue.
Him Wisdom claim'd (the child was prest
Close to his trembling Mother's breast)
First when the Bees prophetic flew,
And on his lips drops honey'd dew:
Sithence in hoar Lycaeum's shade,
Where oft her musing Son was laid,
She deign'd to visit, and impart
Heav'nly raptures to his heart.
With Her, to mortal sight reveal'd,
The holy Sage high converse held,
And found the dark, mysterious Road,
Thro' Nature's path, to Nature's God.

Hence then be Folly's idle train,
Loud, impertinent, and vain:
Mirth that Thought, and Care derides,
And "Laughter holding both his sides;"
And jeering Wit, the time beguiling,
And Ignorance forever smiling;
And Affectation spruce, and trim,
Settling each feature, and each limb;
With Vanity perfum'd, and gay,
Prancing lightly on her way;
Hence to the base ignoble croud,
The mad, the wealthy, and the proud!
And thou, my Cynthia, fair and young,
Whom oft the willing Muse hath sung,
Expect no more my breast to warm
With beauty's brightest, fiercest charm,
Nor ye, my Thoughts, too wanton rove,
Adieu to Poesy, and Love,
Adieu the gay, the flow'ry plains,
Where Harmony, sweet minstrel, reigns;
Adieu the visionary seat,
Where Fancy's fairy-train retreat;
The Druids' cells, the Naiads' caves,
Which ivy binds, or ocean laves;
The pleasing vein, the pensive folly,
And thou, divinest Melancholy!—

Come Truth's fair Guide, and Virtue's Friend,
Oh come, my studious walks attend!
With Thee, when o'er yon mountain gray
Jocund springs the early Day;
With Thee, when hot Meridian beams.
Thro' Aether flow in sultry streams;
And when the Moon-light sleeps around,
While Silence chains each ruder sound;
Permit me, heav'nly Maid, to rove
The dewy lawn, or pathless grove,
Where oaks and poplars join their aid,
To form an hospitable shade.
There rapt in holy thought be mine
To meditate on works divine;
Whether thy easy flowing page,
O TILLOTSON, my thoughts engage,
Where Elegance with Learning join'd
Convince, and captivate the mind;
Or, SHERLOCK, charm'd I find in thee
Death swallow'd up in Victory!
Then, O sweet Virgin, to my heart
The sacred heav'n-fraught truths impart;
While in my self-collected soul
Enthusiastic raptures roll!
Teach me to pierce, with reason's eye,
That vast profound, Eternity,
And grasp, in comprehensive thought,
The mighty chain from God to Nought.

Come too, thou pure, immortal Spirit,
That did'st unbounded space inherit,
Ere God beheld the shapeless Void,
His golden compasses employ'd,
And mark'd the new-created Earth,
While Infant Nature sprung to birth.
The Work eternal Wisdom saw,
And gave the trembling Ocean law;
Unfurl'd the bright aetherial sky,
Heav'n's star-besprinkled canopy,
The azure vault, the blest abode
Of Saints, of Angels, and of God.
Come, Essence uncreate, inspire
My glowing breast with holy fire,
Such as enraptured Seraphs own,
When near the blazing, Sapphire Throne.
In living Glory clad, they sing
Their Hymns to Heav'n's eternal King.

[pp. 43-46]