1763
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode for the New Year, 1763.

Plays and Poems by William Whitehead, Esq. Poet Laureate, and Register and Secretary to the most Honourable Order of the Bath. 2 Vols.

William Whitehead


An example of William Whitehead's laureate verse, this allegorical ode imitates Milton's L'Allegro with debts to William Collins's Ode to Peace. Compare this example of professional verse to the similar occasional poems published in the Oxford and Cambridge volumes, or to Thomas Warton's later laureate odes.

William Mason: "I advised him to employ a deputy to write his annual odes, and reserve his own pen for certain great occasions that might occur, such as a peace or a marriage; and then to address his Royal Master with some studied ode or epistle, as Boileau and Racine had done in France, for their pensions.... This advice, given partly in jest, partly in earnest, was not attended to by my friend: He set himself to his periodical task, with the zeal of a person who wished to retrieve the honours of that laurel which came to him from the head of Cibber, in a very shrivelled, or rather blasted, state" Memoirs of Whitehead (1788) 89-90.

J. W. Croker: "William Whitehead, born about 1715, was the fashionable poet of a day, when Horace's exclusion of 'mediocrity' was forgotten. He succeeded Cibber as laureate in 1757. He died in 1785. He must not be confused with Paul Whitehead, no better poet, and a much less estimable man" Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 1:411n.



At length th' imperious Lord of War
Yields to the Fates their ebon car,
And frowning quits his toil:
Dash'd from his hand the bleeding spear
Now deigns a happier form to wear,
And peaceful turns the soil.
Th' insatiate Furies of his train,
Revenge, and Hate, and fell Disdain,
With heart of steel, and eyes of fire,
Who stain the sword which Honour draws,
Who sully Virtue's sacred cause,
To Stygian depths retire.
Unholy shapes, and shadows drear,
The pallid family of Fear,
And Rapine, still with shrieks pursued,
And meagre Famine's squalid brood
Close the dire crew. — Ye eternal gates, display
Your adamantine folds, and shut them from the day!

For lo, in yonder pregnant skies,
On billowy clouds the Goddess lies,
Whose presence breathes delight,
Whose power th' obsequious Seasons own,
And Winter loses half his frown,
And half her shades the Night,
Soft-smiling PEACE; whom VENUS bore
When, tutor'd by th' enchanting lore
Of MAIA'S blooming son,
She sooth'd the synod of the Gods,
Drove Discord from the blest abodes,
And JOVE resum'd his throne.
Th' attendant Graces gird her round,
And sportive Ease, with locks unbound,
And every Muse to leisure born,
And Plenty, with her twisted horn,
While changeful Commerce spreads his loosen'd sails,
Blow as ye list, ye winds, the reign of PEACE prevails!

And lo, to grace that milder reign,
And add fresh lustre to the year,
Sweet Innocence adorns the train,
In form, and features, Albion's heir!
A future GEORGE! — Propitious powers,
Ye delegates of Heav'n's high King,
Who guide the years, the days, the hours
That float on Time's progressive wing,
Exert your influence, bid us know
From parent worth wht Virtues flow!
Be to less happy realms resign'd
The Warriour's unrelenting rage,
We ask not kings of hero-kind,
The storms, and earthquakes of their age,
To us be nobler blessings given:
O teach us, delegates of Heaven,
What mightier bliss from Union springs!
Future subjects, future kings,
Shall bless the fair example shown,
And from our character transcribe their own:
"A people, zealous to obey,
A monarch, whose parental sway
Despises regal art:
His sheild, the laws which guard the land;
His sword, each Briton's eager hand;
His throne, each Briton's heart."

[2:279-81]