1763
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode. Secundam Artem.

St. James's Magazine 3 (November 1763) 187-89. [Robert Lloyd, ed.]

Robert Lloyd


Three Pindaric stanzas burlesque writers of Miltonic odes as "Mechanic dealers in sublime." The reference to "Granta's shore" points to Thomas Gray and William Mason as particular targets, though as the poem implies, "expressions quaint" and "tinsel vest" were ubiquitous in the 1760s. The poem illustrates the "rules" for the ode-writing laid out in an earlier essay by "W. C." published in the April number, pp. 118-25. This poem is signed "L." — the authors may be William Cowper and Robert Lloyd, or both in collaboration.

Robert Southey thought both were by Cowper: "This ode, secundum artem, is signed L., but it is exactly what W. C. promised in the last volume, p. 125. And I take it to be his" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:341.

"An Ode" does not appear in Lloyd's collected Poems (1774) or in editions of Cowper's works.

Robert Southey: "After conducting the poetical department of a periodical publication, entitled the Library, and publishing a quarto volume of poems, for which he obtained a considerable number of subscribers, he engaged to edit the St. James Magazine, the first number of which appeared in September, 1762, with his name on the cover; on this it seems the publisher insisted; and Lloyd, if he did not feel the cogency of his arguments, felt that of his authority. Both counted upon the aid of Lloyd's literary friends.... Some contributions seem to have come from Colman; considerable ones, certainly, from Thornton; none from Churchill, who had no time to spare, but who assisted him more effectually in another way. The chief contributor was Charles Denis, to whom the first volume was dedicated, 'in honour of favours received'" Life and Works of Cowper (1835-37) 1:93-94.



I.
Shall I begin with Ah, or Oh?
Be sad? Oh! yes. Be glad? Ah! no.
Light subjects suit not grave Pindaric ode,
Which walks in metre down the Strophic road.
But let the sober matron wear
Her own mechanic sober air;
Ah me! ill suits, alas! the sprightly jig,
Long robes of ermine, or Sir Cloudsley's wig.
Come, placid DULLNESS, gently come,
And all my faculties benumb,
Let thought turn exile, while the vacant mind
To trickie words, and pretty phrase confin'd,
Pumping for trim description's art,
To win the ear, neglects the heart.
So shall thy sister TASTE'S peculiar sons,
Lineal Descendants from the GOTHS AND HUNS,
Struck with the true and grand sublime
Of rythm converted into Rime,
Court the quaint Muse; and con her lessons o'er,
Where sleep the sluggish waves by Granta's shore:
There shall each poet pare and trim,
Stretch, cramp, or lop the verse's limb,
While rebel WIT beholds them with disdain,
And fancy flies aloft, nor heeds their servile chain.

II.
Oh FANCY, bright aerial maid!
Where have thy vagrant footsteps stray'd?
For ah! I miss thee midst thy wonted haunt,
Since silent now th' enthusiastic chaunt,
Which erst like frenzy roll'd along,
Driv'n by th' impetuous tide of song,
Rushing secure where native genius bore,
Not Cautious Coasting by the Shelving Shore.
Hail to the sons of modern Rime,
Mechanic dealers in sublime,
Whose lady Muse full wantonly is dress'd
In light expressions quaint, and tinsel vest,
Where swelling epithets are laid
(Art's ineffectual parade)
As varnish on the cheek of Harlot light;
The rest thin sown with profit or delight,
But ill compares with antient song,
Where Genius pour'd its flood along;
Yet such is art's presumptuous idle claim,
She marshals out the way to modern fame;
From Grecian fables pompous lore,
Description's studied, glittering store,
Smooth, Soothing Sounds, and sweet alternate rime,
Clinking like change of bells, in tingle tangle chime.

III.
The lark shall soar in ev'ry Ode,
With flow'rs of light description strew'd,
And sweetly, warbling Philomel, shall flow
Thy Soothing Sadness in mechanic woe.
Trim Epithets shall spread their gloss,
While ev'ry Cell's o'ergrown with moss;
Here Oaks shall rise in chains of ivy bound,
There Smould'ring Stones o'er-spread the rugged ground.
Here forests brown, and azure hills,
There babbling fonts, and prattling rills;
Here some gay river float in crisped streams,
While the bright Sun now gilds his morning beams,
Or sinking to his Thetis' breast,
Drives in description down the west.
—Oh let me boast, with pride-becoming skill,
I crown the summit of Parnassus' Hill:
While Taste and Genius shall dispense,
And sound shall triumph over sense;
O'er the gay mead with curious steps I'll stray,
And, like the Bee, steal all its sweets away,
Extract its beauty, and its power,
From every new poetic flow'r,
Whose sweets collected may a wreathe compose,
To bind the Poet's brow, or please the Critic's nose.

[pp. 187-89]