1776 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Fun.

Gentleman's Magazine 59 (November 1789) 1034-35.

Rev. George Butt


Published in 1789; the title is given as "Ode to Fun, by Mr. Butt. Spoken at the Reading School Speeches, Oct. 19, 1789, by Mr. Sheldon." The Rev. George Butt, a royal chaplain whose son was a pupil at Reading School, contributes an appropriately uproarious imitation of Milton's L'Allegro. How the boys at Reading School responded, one can only imagine: "Virtue, genius, erudition, | Make unequal men's condition, | But that you your level lay, | To reduce their swelling sway" p. 1034. A different version was reprinted by Richard Valpy's Poems, Odes, Prologues, and Epilogues spoken at public Occasions at Reading School (1804). It appears from Butt's Poems (1793) that the poem was originally written for Lady Miller's urn ("for Bath-Easton") 1:95.

George Butt tutored a number of noblemen at Christ Church College, Oxford, teaching English as well as Latin authors: "Among other exercises it was his custom on Sunday evenings to assemble his pupils, and to read to them his favorite MILTON. Those who have witnessed the divine powers of eloquence, which he so eminently possessed, will not easily forget the impression, which he made on their minds. He expressed, with characteristic force and beauty, every thought of the Author; he warmed or chilled the hearts of his auditors, according to the passion which the Poet intended to delineate" "Some Acccount of George Butt" in Valpy, ed. Poems ... at Reading School (1804) 232.



Wisdom, hence! and seek thy crony,
Religion grave,
In some lone cave,
With Hermit-Virtue, lanthorn-jaw'd, and bony!
Or seek some parsonage mean,
Where yews, and ghastly graves deform the scene;
Where the tythe-pigs seldom squeak,
But squalling brats molest the Vicar meek!
Nor let him read, nor let him pray,
Nor e'er know Pleasure's holiday;
There, Wisdom, there, with sober Sadness stay!
Hither, Goddess blythe and boon,
Whom on earth we title FUN;
But the name in Heaven you bear,
Can I tell, who am not there?
Spread thy wing, and hither flee,
Since I solely worship thee!
Whom (as sing the seers of yore)
Malice keen to laughter bore,
Goddess from thy jovial air,
We thy jocund fire declare;
Goddess, in thy spirit keen,
All thy mother's force is seen.

Haste then, Goddess, and to me
Bring thy whole artillery:
Squibs and crackers, salt and brandy,
Sheets for ghosts, and bludgeons handy.
Batter down the Shrovetide cocks;
Batter down the borough's blocks,
Where, beside the travel'd way,
Wont plebeian wights display
Or Pomona's fruitage fair,
Or the potter's shining ware.—
Mark! I hear, the thund'rous fall
Bolts out Goodman from his stall,
Up the street, and up the lane,
Some to scold, but more to cane.

Bring turnips scoop'd, and bladders blown;
Bring the sling, and bring the stone,
This for window, that for door;
Instruments a thousand more,
Thou shalt bring for urchin-play,
On the truant holyday!

O what bliss, at dead of night
Village Thestylis to fright,
From the market as she steals
Homeward by the church, and feels
All the fears her childhood brought
From the tales her Grandam taught.
Wintry night, and wintry wind,
Dart their horrors o'er her mind.
Candle plac'd on bladder blown,
Glares a skull upon the stone.
Phrensied at the ghastly sight,
Screams the nymph, and faints with fright.
Scours away the raptur'd boy.—
Fun, O Fun, how vast thy joy!

Flooding fount of my delight!
Fount of my supremest might!
When thy tide supplies my course,
Countless wrecks proclaim its force.
Thy puissance to restrain,
Wisdom lifts an aegis vain.
Virtue's self, beneath thy ray,
Throws her robe of state away.
Wit, that puny ape of thee,
Dares not wear thy armoury:
Feeble flies his silver dart;
Thine of steel divides the heart.

What would hypercritics do,
Were the beasts not quell'd by you?
Stripp'd of your offensive geer,
Tiny bodies they appear;
Nor to battle dare advance,
Till you arm their ignorance.

Bear me hence, from rustic sport,
To my Queen's majestic court,
Where in tower'd Augusta she
Shines with crown'd authority.

There, 'mid pomp of tragic rage,
Oft will I frequent the stage,
And will urge the damning groan,
When some novel buskin's on;
Or the shrill-ton'd cat-call use,
Fatal to the strutting Muse.

Sometimes at the dead of night
Let me rise, with zeal to write
Tales tremendous, murders dire,
Here a plague, and there a fire;
Or by fictions of my pen,
Discord pour on peaceful men;
And in covert veil'd from view,
Pierce the grave ones thro' and thro'.

Virtue, genius, erudition,
Make unequal men's condition,
But that you your level lay,
To reduce their swelling sway,
Or by laughable confusion,
Check at times their proud intrusion.
Thus the comic wag with ease
Tumbles down sage Socrates;
And with bellows arm'd, and pokers,
Rochester, the cream of jokers,
With the fun of Buckingham
Hyde's puissant torrent dam.

When to imps of yonger sort
I resign robuster sport,
All the tricks in taverns known,
Tricks that once were all my own.
Let me then repair my race
In some water-drinking place.
Virtue says — but then we know,
Virtue ever was thy foe—
Wisdom says — that pedant prig,
Or by some yclept a gig—
That where case should most abound,
Fun the worst disease is found.

Bear me then to Bladad's town,
Where you reign with most renown;
And, though Anstey should be there,
Arm'd by you, I need not fear,
Fear his humour's Attic kind,
Fear his wit with truth combin'd;
Virtue, learning, wit, and taste,
Banish'd thence with Anstey haste,
Fun, my Empress, bids you flee,
Folly, Bath, and her, and me.

Now, dear Goddess, what remains,
Meed of all my loyal pains?
Thro' thy warfare I am sure,
Thou thy champion wilt secure
From resentment's fatal blow,
Want, and pain's extremest woe?
That I may in hope behold
Life in gather'd honours old,
Wanting strength, yet blest with ease,
And departing by degrees.
Wilt thou then the pillow lend
Of the lov'd consoling friend?
Conscious then of actions kind,
Shall I soothe my mourning mind?
See, with Loveday, roses blow
'Mid my honour'd age's snow,
And arriv'd at life's last bench,
Heaven in hope with Loveday reach?
Shall I shew indeed, when age
Pours on me his wintry rage,
All within secure and calm,
Friendship's warmth, and virtue's balm?
From without, while well-earn'd praise
Decks my dome with sun-bright rays,
Shall I, Loveday-like, perceive
Finer forms in life's cool eve,
Than in manhood's busy noon,
Met its warm meridian fun?
Heaven in prospect, and a tomb
Deck'd with wreaths that ever bloom?
Tears of tender mem'ry, shed,
Not to weep, but praise the dead;
And a lasting meed to grace
Conquest in the noblest race?

Fun! I do but jest with thee
Thou shalt never govern me!
Taught by Truth, and forc'd to think
Thee more dev'lish than divine,
Cheating still thy souls with chink;—
While Wisdom pays with weighty coin!

[pp. 1034-35]