Ode X. L'Ozioso.


John Pinkerton

In this allegorical ode John Pinkerton takes his octosyllabic couplets from Milton's companion poems, singing the praises of Indolence before turning to a catalogue of pleasure-giving writers. The list is notable for promiscuity, including writers ancient and modern, English, Italian, Scottish and French, in verse and prose.

Critical Review: "Upon the whole, this book of Rimes, which seems to have cost the author an infinite deal of pains and labour, and which in some parts is polished to the highest degree of poetical lustre, is after all but a lenten entertainment; as, though the verses are written 'secundum artem,' and the exact measurement of syllables most religiously attended to, our readers, we are sensible, would receive more pleasure from the perusal of one little ode (on St. Cecilia's Day) by Dryden, who never talks of Cadence, Unison, or Melos, than from this whole collection" 51 (March 1781) 219.

European Magazine: "We have already said, that what he calls his poetry contains not one ray of invention; and, we now add, not one stroke of originality, if absurdities are excepted. In these, indeed, he is both copious and original. Throughout his whole volume, consisting of forty-three various pieces, there is one unvaried sameness of affected manner, versification, and 'dawbing.' This sameness, with a constant straining at the expression of Gray's Odes, many of whose phrases he has literally adopted, and a total inanity or nothingness of meaning, are the first characteristics of his verses which must strike the reader. When we look farther, in place of description we find a continual repetition of mountains, flowers, hills, rivers, streams, azure seas, and skies, &c. arranged in no landscape, no picture, but huddled together at one time, and tost about at another, as a basket of flowers would be in a cell in Bedlam. Of imagery and metaphor, these spontaneous offsprings of the true poetical feeling, he is very sparing. Here and there you may just have a glympse of their faint shadows; but these vanish instantly as you think to catch them" 1 (July 1782) 46.

Joseph Cooper Walker to John Pinkerton: "An opportunity just occurring of sending you a few lines, I avail myself of it to offer you my warmest thanks for the pleasure which I derived from the perusal of your 'Rimes.' I read them eagerly, and can truly say they answered in the fullest manner my expectations, which were, indeed, very high. You seem, in fact, (to borrow an expression of your own,) 'to have attained the genuine texture of lyric thought and style.' You have all the fire of PIndar, with Gray's happy choice of expression. Your 'Ode on Enthusiasm' hurried me out of this world; and your pathetic tale of 'Adelaide' melted me to tears. I lament that the limitation of my time will not allow me to point out some of the beauties with which I was particularly struck. But you would be little gratified by the praise of a man who has proved himself so indifferent a poet in the few versions which I have given of the specimens in my 'Memoirs,' of which, I presume, you have got a copy ere this. A thousand thanks for your portrait. Though I only saw you once, and for a few minutes, I will venture to pronounce it extremely like" 2 December 1798; in Nichols, Illustrations (1817-54) 7:749.

Begone, away,
Ye serpent brood of gloomy Care,
No longer bar the path to Pleasure's bower.
Begone, away,
To Avarice's castle bare,
Or the more gaudy domes of Pride and Power.

As on this bank diffused I lie,
While Summer deals her stores around,
My tiny harp depending nigh
Chaunts to the gale's amusive sound
Unbidden airs that bathe my breast
O Indolence! in thy sweet dream.
With joy I urge the pleasing theme
In thy enchanting influence blest:
With love thy dearest gifts reveal.
They best can paint who best can feel.

Parent of every virtue hail!
Nor smile that I this title owe,
For from thy silent fountain flow
All steams that deck this desert vale.
The hero's toil, the patriot's care
And all the race of Labour fair,
Where tend they, save beneath thy sway
The evening of a boisterous day
To render to their weary lord?
Blest to thy peaceful port to sail,
And make his former woes a tale,
To pleasure and to thee restored.

And happy did thy wide command
Yet wider territories own;
That every wretch whose restless hand
Spreads ruin thro' a blooming land
To gain a halter or a crown,
From Industry's emotions free,
Had been with Sleep or been with thee!

Still where the blessed Muse is seen
Thy careless step will not be far,
For with thee she delights to play:
With thee she leaves the tainted reign
Of proud Ambition's evil star,
And Wealth's tumultuary fray.
She leaves their sad society,
Where all the flowers Variety
In Pleasure's garden can disclose
Are blasted by Satiety:
And Languor and Anxiety,
Tho' banded guards in vain oppose,
Their melancholy progress steal
To where the potent calls on Rest,
And in his downy couch conceal
Their thorns that rend the feeble breast.

With thee my visionary hours
Now trace the consecrated grove
Of Science; now at random rove
Along the Muse's blissful vale.
With care they crop the Attic flowers,
And in a vase of British frame
Present them to the shrine of Fame.
Even her, the Muse, I second call
To thee, Oh empress! tho' inclined
By her dear aid the mines to find
Of mighty Nature's unsun'd gold,
And stamp with Art's creating mold;
Yet to thy will obedient I
From the delightful labour fly,
The Muse's joy, the Muse's care,
But serve thy slumbers to endear.

When bounteous Summer's golden key
Unlocks the treasures of the year,
Then, queen of pleasures, led by thee,
Me let my musing footsteps bear
Thro' all the scenes of nature free,
The wild, the grand, the soft, the fair.
Now to the verdant champain where
Some ancient mount his royalty
Exalts above the subject lee,
While clad in solar splendor clear
The variegated scenes appear.
To port along the azure sea,
Their swelling pride gay galleys steer,
Where glittering towers their glory rear,
To guard whose hoary majesty
The mazes of a river err.
Low in the sullen heath afar
A silver lake's bright purity
Reflects the sapphire canopy;
And distant music charms the ear,
Sent from the woodland minstrelsy.

Then to the villa's rural mound,
Where Nature reigns by Splendor crowned;
The florid garden's balmy scene,
Amid whose shady alleys green
The tread of Science oft is seen,
When Eve, that lovely nun serene,
Forsakes her western cell to shower
Fresh dews o'er every sleeping flower
And to her star's resplendent ray
The thrush devotes her farewel lay.

But when arrayed in splendor wan,
Wild Winter holds his savage sway,
Add fuel to the fading fire,
Nor heed the storm's destructive ire,
While Indolence governs the day,
And laughs at Sorrow's evil train.
Bring every sage of useful lore,
Bring every bard of magic power
With living numbers to control
Each movement of the raptured soul.
Bring mighty Ossian, Homer old,
The treasures of the Latian pair,
The awful strain of Milton bold,
And Tasso's wanton carol fair,
Whose crown shall equal Spenser share.
Bring father Shakespeare's native lay,
And sly Fontaine, and Moliere gay,
Nor leave the lord of lyric fame,
Grave Pindar, nor the Teian son,
Nor what the page of Sappho lone
Yet breathes of love's delusive flame.

Be here the bards of latest days,
Like planets who by borrow'd rays
Shine thro' the Muse's present night
With feeble, yet with lovely light.
The classic page of moral Gray,
The portrait of the varied year,
And, Indolence, thy castle dear,
The vein of Akenside display,
And his who decked the parrot's bier.
The tender scene of Hume be nigh,
To wake the sympathetic sigh;
Of Maffei, and the Roman fire,
Heir of the Attic art and fire.
The chosen band let Fielding join,
That minstrel sweet of skill divine,
Each generous feeling to impart,
And ope the fountains of the heart.
And here the rival of his throne
Be Smollet, Humour's genuine son.
But why the countless stores relate
That Science to her votary lends?
Even the vain pageants of her state
With joy keen Ridicule attends.
Philosophers in Folly's tire,
Who study much to be unwise,
And bards who from their opiate lyre
Deal slumbers to the hearers eyes.
O times! when oft the torpid Brain
The ghastly shades of Nonsense stain,
While thro' the gloom false beauties tread,
Like glow-worms thro' the midnight mead.
The genuine births of art how rare!
And in their Dead what shapes appear!
Gay Tragedies in Grecian pall,
Scenes that sleep, and songs that brawl:
Sad Comedies, that teach to weep,
With wit so thin and plot so deep;
While Elegy, with pulpit nod,
Starts up a sable man of God,
And Ode, his sullen clerk below,
Hums the rueful ditty slow;
With tinsel pranks his tattered suit,
And flowrets innocent of fruit.

What joys are thine, queen of my song
The voice of Music, Painting's hand—
All arts confess thy soft command;
Their treasures all to thee belong.
O ever let me live with thee,
From care and toil and sorrow free;
And when the Muse partakes the day,
Brief be the magic of her sway.
Ah far remove the hated praise
Of many folio-volumed lays:
Be mine to build the slender RIME,
That haply down the stream of time
With tuneful oar and spangled sail
May move to Fame's indulgent gale.
Yet, yet, dread Power, O, ere confest
Thy influence now invades my breast,
Yet hear me. Ah in vain * * *

[pp. 78-84]