1761
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Envy.

Odes Descriptive and Allegorical.

Rev. Richard Shepherd


An allegorical ode in four irregular stanzas in diction and imagery that begins to approach Spenser in the joy of repulsiveness: "Slow halts Ill-nature in the Rear, | That Poisons as she probes the Wound, | And Rumour's noisome Breath is near, | To waft the Poison round." Richard Shepherd, who writes anonymously, was an Oxford Fellow who went on to become a distinguished divine and Bampton lecturer. Shepherd's allegorical odes were several times reprinted in Pearch's supplement to Dodsley's Collection.

James Kirkpatrick: "All the Odes, which are twelve, though of different merit, and varying in sentiment as in subject, have in general a delicate purity and elevation of spirit, with a corresponding terseness and elegance of diction. The verse is, for much the greater part, melodious, and the style equally poetic and perspicuous.... The sixth ode, to the Memory of a deceased Friend — is no unhappy imitation of the fine descriptive manner and poetical spirit of Spenser. The Ode to Melancholy, reminds a Reader too naturally of Milton's Il Penseroso, to appear to advantage" Monthly Review 24 (1761) 139, 141.

Critical Review: "Our author observes, that the descriptive and allegorical ode differs in every circumstance from the Pindaric, because it is founded intirely upon imagination, and peculiarly distinguished by ease and simplicity; while the Pindaric ode, heightened by the grandeur and sublimity of expression, requires bold digressions, abrupt and hasty transitions.... The ode on envy will possibly be thought the most poetical of the whole.... Upon the whole, our author wants that wildness, glow, and heat of imagination, which constitutes the true poet, though he is every where greatly superior to the common herd of ode-writers" 11 (February 1761) 158-59.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Richard Shepherd, D.D., Archdeacon of Bedford, 1783, and Rector of Wetherden and Helmingham, Suffolk, died 1809, in his 78th year, was the author of a number of works — poetical, dramatic, theological, &c." Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 2:2074.

Compare Jane Bowdler's "Envy, A Fragment" (1786) in Poems and Essays by a Lady lately deceased; and Richard Cumberland's "Envy" in Universal Magazine 87 (October 1790) 216.



I.
Beneath yon Chain of barren Rocks,
Where niggard Nature ne'er unlocks
One Hoard of chearful Green;
The brown Yew forms a gloomy Shade,
The blasted Oak erects its Head,
A dreary wasteful Scene.
Oh haste, oh fly, th' accursed Cell,
Where Envy's fiendly Faction dwell;
Else shall her Glance, malignant cast,
The fairest Shoots of Merit blast:
He risks his Ease, who ventures nigh
The baleful Witchcraft of her Eye.

II.
Ev'n now from her infernal dark Abyss,
At Merit's Name she lifts her Head,
At Merit's Name prepared to shed
Their Influence all her snaky Tresses hiss.
Ev'n now the languid Mind opprest,
Droops under Horrors damp and chill,
Whilst heaves the Sigh from the distended Breast,
Slow winds the Tide of Life along each azure Rill.
Arise, my Muse, the chorded Shell prepare,
Awake the drowsy String;
For thou canst lull the gathering Storms of Care,
Thou canst disarm dire Envy of her Sting,
And smooth the haggard Brow of fell Despair.

III.
Ah strange Reverse of honest Joys!
The pale-eyed Fiend elate
Smiles, if Adversity annoys
Her Neighbour's hapless State.
Yet Spleen oppressive marrs her Chear;
And signs the bitter Day:
For Envy drops the scalding Tear,
When all the World is gay.
The Tenant of some narrow Mind,
She bids Suspicion launch the Dart;
And all her secret Powers combined
Excite the poignant Smart.
Slow halts Ill-nature in the Rear,
That Poisons as she probes the Wound,
And Rumour's noisome Breath is near,
To waft the Poison round.

IV.
Say, Theron, yet shall torpid Fear
Obstruct your Virtue's high Career,
Shall Envy's Menace wrest
Thy Merit's well directed Aim,
And quench the noble Thirst of Fame
That warms thy youthful Breast?
Oh no: pursue the glorious Road
A Bacon, Hide, and Osborne trod:
Her snaky Head tho' Envy rear,
Fame's Eagle Wing thy Name shall bear
O'er black Oblivion's frozen Sea,
Ranked with great Chiefs of old in Immortality.

[pp. 28-31]