Sonnets and Odes by Henry Francis Cary, Author of an Irregular Ode to General Eliott.

Rev. Henry Francis Cary

A Pindaric ode on the poetical character. Henry Francis Cary's juvenile odes are Wartonian; his two Spenserian sonnets are not collected in this volume. One suspects that his patroness, Anna Seward, did not think very highly of the form.

Anna Seward to Thomas Swift: "Cary, literally but just fifteen, is a miracle. I never saw him, nor heard of him till after his Ode to General Elliot came out.... You suspect my having assisted Cary. Upon my honour, I never saw anything of his that has been published before it was sent away to be printed. The strength and solidity of that boy's mind, his taste, his judgment, astonish me, if possible, even more than the vigour and grace of his fancy" 5 June 1788; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:131.

Gentleman's Magazine: "We should be fastidious indeed were we not to give much commendation to the young Bard whom the Muse of Lichfield thus beautifully introduces to public notice.... The reader will here find XXVIII Sonnets, exquisitely beautiful, the production of a writer whose 'sixteenth summer' has yet 'scarcely dawn'd.'... Two odes are annexed; which are good, but not equal to the Sonnets" 58 (November 1788) 993-94.

Anna Seward to William Hayley: "Our friend Nichols has published Cary's sonnets. They might have been corrected to advantage, had he employed the hand of friendship in a task, of which you have finely described the use, even to the best poets, in your epistles on epic poetry. In spite of now and then a little hardness in the expressions, I dare believe you will think them charming, since you will recollect the blossoming age of their author. When he brought them to me last week, he said, with a deep sigh, 'I wish Mr. Hayley may look at a few of them.' Send him a copy, said I: 'Ah no! I cannot be so obtrusive. If he should take no notice even of a tribute so worthless I should be wounded, nor can I wish he should have the trouble of writing one line of acknowledgment for what perhaps he cannot endure to read'" 9 November 1788; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:192.

Christopher Lake Moody: "We ... disapprove extremely of dressing a youthful Muse in the apparel of her forefathers, and consequently wish modern poets to avoid obsolete words and hackneyed similes, epithets, and expressions. We are fatigued with 'groves among,' 'streams among,' 'woods among,' 'what time,' 'gray flies,' 'gad-flies and their sultry horns,' 'twilight grey' o'er the 'dank' mead throwing her 'dusky mantle,' — and in short all the paraphernalia of the ancient Muse; whom we recollect, on these occasions, only by her old clothes" Monthly Review 81 (July 1789) 81.

W. Davenport Cartwright: "Henry Francis Cary, poet and biographer (b. 1772, d. 1844), published a translation, in English blank verse, of Dante's Divina Commedia (1814), An Irregular Ode to General Elliot (1787), Sonnets and Odes (1788), versions of The Birds of Aristophanes and the Odes of Pindar, Lives of the English and Early French Poets, and editions of the works of Pope, Cowper, Milton, Thomson, and Young" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 119.

The Man, on whom the genial Muse
Has at his birth propitious smil'd,
And nurtur'd with her fost'ring dews
The heav'nly-favour'd child,
That happy Man shall ne'er be seen
Amid the ruthless din of war,
Where horror stalks in wildest mien,
To guide the rattling car,
His humble brow no olive wreath shall crown,
That to the skies exalts a mortal in renown.

His mind no sordid Thirst of Gain,
No dread of Penury possess,
He ne'er shall tempt the fickle main,
In search of Happiness;
Not false Unkindness' changeful hue
Shall his indignant cheek deform,
Nor sallow Envy e'er embrew
The bosom's inward storm;
But Peace and Calmness bless the tranquil soul,
While each wild Passion hears the Muse's soft control.

As a clear stream, that slowly glides
Through many a winding vale, and nodding grove,
While where'er it's waters rove,
Brighter verdure decks it's sides,
Laughing flow'rs more fragrant blow,
And the fair harvest richer seems to glow;
Thus through the peaceful vale of Life,
Shall he steal on unconscious of decay,
Unruffled by the storms of strife,
Pure as the beam, that gilds the golden day,
While Poesy and Nature fondly strew
His simple way, with sweets of Pleasure's vivid hue.

Methinks I hear some Sage reply,
Deep-vers'd in Science rigid lore;
"What then shall Man, but born to die,
Thus waste Life's little store,
In vain delusion's empty dreams;
While levell'd at his native land,
The sword of dire Destruction gleams,
And calls a patriot hand?
Shall he exempted from it's cares and strife,
Be free to taste alone the peaceful sweets of life?

Cease, nor the sacred Muse prophane;
Each has his lot by Jove decreed.
Though one on Honor's warlike plain,
Be nobly doom'd to bleed,
Unless some raptur'd Bard rehearse
The triumphs won on Honor's field,
In songs of never-fading verse,
No meed his labors yeild,
Whelm'd in the tide of blank oblivion's stream,
While Time's relentless hand quenches each vital gleam.

On the broad Heaven's etherial plain,
What wondrous fires, what various signs appear,
Crowning bright the circling year!
Say what tongue shall dare arraign,
The supreme omniscient Soul,
At whose command the appointed Planets roll?
For though the grosser mortal eye,
In the revolving orbs no order find,
Yet as in mystic dance the sky
They round, each has his several part assign'd;
Though the Sun shine with more resplendent light,
Yet the pale Moon and Stars illume the vault of night.

[pp. 46-50]