1769
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Parody of Gray's Installation Ode.]

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (11 July 1769).

Oedipus


A parody, signed "Oedipus" of Thomas Gray's Installation Ode. The St. James Chronicle had printed the Ode in the number for 1-4 July. The poem is possibly a production of George Colman the Elder, who with Robert Lloyd had earlier satirized Gray in "To Obscurity" (1760).

Headnote: "Sir, I never was an Admirer of mysterious Writing, Mr. Baldwin, and as Mistakes of a dangerous Nature frequently arise from studied Obscurity, I think every one deserves well of the Public who clears up such dark Compositions. This was the Motive for the following Attempt to give the true Meaning of Mr. Gray's Installation Ode; for it is plain something more is meant than meets the Eye. For if we understand it literally, it is all a Pack of Lies and Nonsense. I have sent this Paraphrase on the above Ode to you, for the Use of the Public, but submit it to your Discretion. I am, Sir, your's, &c. OEDIPUS. N.B. You may observe that I have dropped his remote Rhymes; my Reason was, that I thought the Ear would not miss them."

Robert Southey: "Thornton and Colman were two of the original proprietors of that newspaper, which at once assumed a literary character far above that of its rivals. They had both been accustomed to write in newspapers and magazines, which in those days exercised more influence than the reviews, and to which indeed men of higher character and greater ability than were engaged in the critical journals, frequently sent communications" Life and Works of Cowper (1835-37) 1:49.



AIR.
Hence! avaunt! 'tis venal Ground,
Wilkes, and all his free-born Crew;
Within our Pale no Room is found,
Ye modern Algernons, for you.
Mute be the bold Alcaic Strain,
Of Liberty, that spurns a Chain,
Nor in these pliant courtly Bow'rs
Let harsh Philippic Weeds choke Adulation's Flow'rs.

CHORUS.
Virtue hence! with Brow severe!
Public Spirit come not near,
While servile Int'rest walks around,
Hence! avaunt! 'tis venal ground!

RECITATIVE.
From yonder Realms of ministerial Day
Steals on my Ear the soothing Lay,
There mitred Hirelings, Dukes divine,
The Lead which Fortune made to shine,
Thro' ev'ry Age corrupt, and unenlighten'd climb.
Warm in the Royal sunshine they;
Yet hither oft a Glance from high
They send of tender Sympathy,
To bless the Place, where on their venal Soul
The pand'ring Eye of Favour stole;
N—st—e beams a fost'ring Ray,
And while his Midday-splendours play,
A hoary Train of Priests from Stalls sublime,
Bask in his Beams, and bless the golden Time.

AIR.
"Ye brown o'er arching Groves,
Which Adulation loves,
Where willowy Camus lingers with Delight,
Oft at Blush of Dawn,"
I've wish'd for Sleeves of Lawn,—
Oft woo'd the Gleam of Bute's bright Northern Light,
In crowded Levees far from Virtue's Haunt,
With Flatt'ry on my Tongue, and temporizing Cant.

RECITATIVE.
But hark! the Portals sound, and pacing forth,
With solemn Step, and slow,
High Potentates, and Dames of Royal Birth,
And mitred Mothers in long Order go—
Great G—, with the Trophies on his Brow,
From bleeding England torn—
While W—y, widow'd on her bridal Morn,
Weeps for her absent Love; and B—d dim,
False M—ue, and all the rav'nous Crew
That England's Constitution slew,
And lopp'd each vig'rous Limb,
A Band accurs'd on m—l L—ds
Who forg'd for Britons — Chains;
Their Wiles, their damned Triumphs o'er,
Their Hopes, to stand are now no more,
Despair alone remains.
[Accompanied.]
All that on Granta's thirsty Plain
Rich Streams of regal Bounty drank,
For whom our awful Fanes and Turrets sprung
To hail their F—y's festal Morning come,
And sweetly sing on Camus' Bank
The liquid Lies of Flatt'ry's Tongue.

QUARTETTO.
What is Grandeur, what is Pow'r?
—The Mead of Bribes and Falsehood's Balm!
What is Corruption's Palm?
—The Curse of ev'ry Child of Grace.—
Sweet is the Breath of vernal Show'r,
The Bees collected Honey sweet—
Sweet Musick's Fall; but sweeter yet
To us, a Pension or a Place.

RECITATIVE.
Foremost, and leaning from her golden Cloud,
The Goddess of Corruption see—
Welcome, my wayward Son, she cries aloud,
To this thy kindred Train and me,
Pleas'd in thy Lineaments to trace
Thy Monarch's Smile, the Premier's Grace!

AIR.
Thy wily Heart, thy poaching Eye
Some wanton H—l—t shall descry,
Shalt round thy Trunk her Tendrils curl,
And bid her all her Charms unfurl,
With Love's bewitching Tricks enthrall,
And raise her — to increase her Fall.

RECITATIVE.
Lo! Granta waits to lead her courtly Band,
Nor coy, nor a Recluse is she;
No Praise sincere, no Heart-sprung Incense flings,
Nor dares with honest Phrase, and plain,
Sully the Glories of thy Reign—
She reveres herself — not thee!
With selfish Pride to grace thy spurious Pow'r,
The fading Wreaths, which Int'rest wove, she brings,
And to the Pressure of thy Hand
The Matron yields her wither'd Charms,
Whilst Prebendaries, Deans, and B—ps cow'r,
To bring her to thy false adult'rous Arms.

GRAND CHORUS.
While the wild Waves boil and roar,
From the threat'ning Tempest flee,
The serpent Course of Traitors keep;
Cautious sail — nor quit the Shore;
If Brunswick's Star should set to thee,
'Twould wreck thee in the howling Deep.

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