1778
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Malevolence: an Ode.

Odes, on several Subjects. By Robert Alves, A.M.

Robert Alves


An allegorical ode in seven fourteen-line stanzas, subtitled "Being an allusion to ill-natured Criticism." At the time of publication Robert Alves was teaching at the grammar school in Banff. The imagery of his ode to Malevolence is more Spenserian than is usually the case in such performances; the middle stanzas develop an allegory in which the Muse figures as Una, or the Lady in Comus: "Yet oft thro' loneliest den or dell, | Unhurt hath holy Virgin sped; | No savages 'gainst Chastity rebel, | Nor dare profane the gem which Heaven hath sacred made" p. 27. The poet had been a pupil of James Beattie, who is saluted in the concluding stanza. Not seen.

Edmund Cartwright: "Of the pieces in this collection, the principal is a philosophical poem, intitled Vicissitude, An Ode; 'the intention of which is to describe the variety and consistency of nature's plan both in the physical and moral world.' The remaining pieces are, Malevolence, an Ode, Ode to Night, Ode to Hygeia, and Ode to Wisdom. They are none of them wholly destitute of merit. The versification is easy, and, if allowance is made for some few defective rhymes, for the most part harmonious" Monthly Review 61 (July 1779) 76.



Hence, fiend, to where in caverns dun
Thee Envy bore to wan Despair,
When Phoebus check'd his burning throne,
And Chaos rul'd the stormy air;
There darkling pine alone;
There fret thy heart, and tear thy ragged hair.
Go where no smiling beams of Morn
Were ever seen to dwell,
But Melancholy, midnight-born,
Weeps in the shades of hell.
Or go where Night and Silence reign,
And hoary towers delight thy sight;
There in dim covert with the owl complain;
There curse the dawning day, and call for endless night.

Thou fiend accurst, begone:
Of fellest fiends the fellest thou!
Whose heart at others bliss is heard to groan,
But joys malignant at another's woe.
When Transport crowns the bowl,
In Plenty's gay triumphant day,
When tides of wealth in golden billows roll,
And Fortune smiles, and wanton Pleasures play;
Then rolling eyes of fiercest fire,
As lightnings dart before the storms,
Thou howl'st thy execrations dire,
And tenfold rage thy face deforms;
Not want'st within thy grasp the angry sword,
And thousand daggers stab obedient to thy word.

Lo where its flowering boughs,
The consecrated laurel rears,
Ambitious to bedeck the poet's brows,
With impious hand the radiant wreath she tears.
And lo, more spiteful still,
Fierce from Fame's mouth she pulls the clarion shrill,
Scarce yet applied to sound your name,
Ye masters of the lyre,
Whom gifts of sacred verse inflame,
And melodies of fire.
Tho' Virtue kindles at your strain,
And Fancy feels her own enchantments there;
Yet snake like Malice, glaring proud disdain,
Stops the dull ear, nor deigns the magic notes to hear.

Now Slander plies her forky tongue,
And Hatred, frightful child of hell;
Blind Pride, wild Caprice, join the throng,
And angry Spleen, and Satire fell,
Impetuous haste along.
And far before them send their hideous yell.
Safe from this barbarous ravening band,
Ah, what shall guard the Muse!
How can the gentle fawn withstand,
When tyger fierce pursues?
Yet oft thro' loneliest den or dell,
Unhurt hath holy Virgin sped;
No savages 'gainst Chastity rebel,
Nor dare profane the gem which Heaven hath sacred made.

Who heeds the praise or scorn
Of Envy, black Tartarian maid?
Or those whom doom'd to Ignorance forlorn,
Dulness detains benighted in her shade?
Their pathless way to tread.
Thro' the lone weary wildering maze,
Where glimmering gleams at best the gloom bespread,
And Truth but shines by starts upon the gaze,
But Knowledge guides th' ingenuous mind.
Where godlike Truth, whom she adores,
Resides in purest glory shrin'd,
With Virtue, in immortal bowers:
Fame standing near waves high th' applausive bay,
And strews with many a wreath the flowery-cover'd way.

Hail days of heavenly light!
Hail fruitful in eternal lays!
When every Science starts from shades of night,
And all the Arts shine forth in all their blaze.
To damp th' high-born Muse,
In vain does Malice shed her poison'd dews;
Since every Muse, and Muse's son,
Still brightening like the Morn,
In Glory's dazzling paths shall run,
Thro' ages yet unborn.
Tho' vapours hide the golden Sun,
His living torch again he soon displays;
And tho' they shade the land where late he shone,
On other lands he shines that bask beneath the blaze.

O B***e, could thy Muse of fire
Transport me to th' Aonian grove,
Where all the Muses wake the lyre,
And hand in hand the Graces rove,
Then would my verse foretell,
(For Inspiration thence my breast would swell)
What bards on wings of boundless Fame,
High as the stars shall fly,
And Time resound their sacred name
Till Time himself shall die.
But, ah, my trembling strains forbear,
Such mighty bards, such mighty song;
Not all bold Pindar's god-like fury share,
Or roll the rapid flood of sounding verse along.

[Poems (1782) 24-29]