1788
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Invocation to Horror.

The World (3 January 1788).

Hannah Cowley


An imitation of Collins's Ode to Fear (1746) signed "Anna Matilda," the pen name adopted by Hannah Cowley, then at the height of her fame as a Della Cruscan poet. While the Della Cruscan school enjoyed but brief reign, it had the effect of popularizing the highly literary romantic modes previously associated largely with university poets. Cowley's poem was reprinted a number of times in the periodicals. Compare the Ode to Terror in the Monthly Magazine 3 (June 1797) 457-58, and Robert Southey's Ode to Horror, in Poems (1797).

Anna Seward to Hester Thrale Piozzi: "The Ode to Horror, signed Anna Matilda, though it has enormous faults, forms, on the whole, a spirited imitation of Collins's Ode to Fear, though it by no means equals its original. Anna's poem to Indifference, with D. Crusca's answer to it, are each of them a twin-mixture of wild ideas and absurd appellations, illumined with flashes of poetic fire" 13 March 1788; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:54-55.



Far be remov'd each painted scene!
What is to me the sapphire sky?
What is to me the earth's soft dye?
Or fragrant vales which sink between
Those velvet hills? yes, there I see—
(Why do those beauties burst on me?)
Pearl-dropping groves bow to the sun;
Seizing his beams, bright rivers run
That dart redoubled day:
Hope ye vain scenes, to catch the mind
To torpid sorrow all resign'd,
Or bid my heart be gay?
False are those hopes! — I turn — I fly,
Where no enchantment meets the eye,
Or soft ideas stray.

HORROR! I call thee from the mould'ring tower,
The murky church-yard, and forsaken bower,
Where 'midst unwholesome damps
The vap'ry gleamy lamps
Of ignes fatui, shew the thick-wove night,
Where morbid MELANCHOLY sits,
And weeps, and sings, and raves by fits,
And to her bosom strains the fancied sprite.

Or, if amidst the arctic gloom
Thou toilest at thy sable loom,
Forming the hideous phantoms of Despair—
Instant thy grisly labours leave,
With raven wing the concave cleave,
Where floats, self-borne, the dense nocturnal air.

Oh! bear me to th' impending cliffs,
Under whose brow the dashing skiffs
Behold Thee seated on thy rocky throne;
There, 'midst the shrieking wild wind's roar,
Thy influence, HORROR, I'll adore,
And at thy magic touch, congeal to stone.

Oh! hide the Moon's obtrusive orb,
The gleams of ev'ry star absorb,
And let CREATION be a moment thine!
Bid billows dash; let whirlwinds roar,
And the stern, rocky-pointed shore,
The stranded bark, back to the waves resign!
Then, whilst from yonder turbid-cloud,
Thou roll'st thy thunders long, and loud,
And light'nings flash upon the deep below,
Let the expiring Seaman's cry,
The Pilot's agonizing sigh
Mingle, and in the dreadful chorus flow!

HORROR! far back thou dat'st thy reign;
Ere KINGS th' historic page could stain
With records black, or deeds of lawless power;
Ere empires Alexanders curst,
Or Faction, mad'ning Caesars nurst,
The frighted World receiv'd thy awful dower!

Whose pen JEHOVAH'S self inspir'd;
He, who in eloquence attir'd,
Led Israel's squadrons o'er the earth,
Grandly terrific, paints thy birth.
Th' ALMIGHTY, 'midst his fulgent seat on high,
Where glowing Seraphs round his footstool fly,
Beheld the wanton cities of the plain,
With acts of deadly name his laws disdain;
He gave th' irrevocable sign,
Which mark'd to man the hate divine;
And sudden from the starting sky
The Angels of his wrath bid fly!
Then HORROR! thou presidest o'er the whole,
And fill'd, and rapt, each self-accusing soul!
Thou did'st ascend to guide the burning shower—
On THEE th' Omnipotent bestow'd the hour!

'Twas thine to scourge the sinful land,
'Twas thine to toss the fiery brand;
Beneath thy glance the temples fell,
And mountains crumbled at thy yell.
ONCE MORE thou'lt triumph in a fiery storm;
ONCE MORE the Earth behold thy direful form;
Then shalt thou seek, as holy prophets tell,
Thy native throne, amidst th' eternal shades of HELL!

[Poetry of the World (1788) 1:57-60]