An allegorical ode in mixed measures modeled, it would seem, on Collins's Ode on the Passions. Immortal Genius views how "SPENSER shook a magic banner bright" p. 21. Diversity is written in the manner of the odes by Milton and Collins, though extended to much greater length; one might compare the similar allegories by John Ogilvie and Alexander Thomson. "More" is identified as "Sir John Henry More, Bart. who died in the year 1780, at about the age of twenty-five"; he was a relative of George Ellis. The poem was originally published anonymously.
Preface: "It is not my intention here to examine the propriety of Mr. [William] Mason's opinion, upon the regularity of lyric poetry constituting its merit, I will only say, that though I respect his talents, I differ from him; — because, I find the irregular ode to have been susceptible of the greatest beauties, and to have been employed with peculiar success by the best writers in the best languages. The use of the STROPHE, ANTI-STROPHE, and EPODE, might do very well formerly at Athens and at Thebes, but having no analogy to our customs and manners, need surely never be introduced; unless, in some birth-day song, when the accompanyment of dancing might be the means of exhibiting in a fair point of view the activity and grace of the lovely MAIDS OF HONOUR" p. viii.
Town and Country Magazine: "This is by far superior to most of our modern productions; though by no means perfect. The author affects his imagery, but rather dazzles than enlightens with the fire of his genius" 21 (March 1789) 114.
Anna Seward to Helen Maria Williams: "Such odes as Diversity will confirm, instead of invalidating, Mr. Mason's objections to the irregular ode — yet, since Dryden and Lord Lyttelton have produced the possibility of making sublime and beautiful poems upon that model, I wonder at Mason's reprobating it. We may venture to pronounce, that a composition, which fails to interest us in irregular lyrics, would not please us better, if we were to see it reduced to the regular form — though fine odes are certainly more perfect on that account" 3 March 1789; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:249-50.
Christopher Lake Moody: "Our readers must not conclude, either from the title or the motto, that DIVERSITY is a wild rhapsodical effusion. It is a regularly diversified poem; in which POETRY (the 'vivifying Maid') is boldly sketched, under the influence and direction of Genius. With a description of GENIUS the poem commences.... Hence the Muse regularly proceeds to exhibit her various powers, under the inspiration of Genius, in diversified measures. We cannot, however, follow her through all her changes; but we must not forget to notice the elegant tribute which Della Crusca pays to the memory of a deceased friend, with whose name he concludes his enumeration of the English Poets" Monthly Review 80 (June 1789) 529-31.
W. N. Hargreaves-Mawdsley: "Fitfully it displays its attractions, and if the danger of pushing originality too far is always present, when it does succeed it is with an originality which startles as it was meant to do. Epithets are mixed, often with unpleasant results; but other gambles succeed, as when, as in some modern painting, the abstract is given physical endowments, music and thought for example" The English Della Cruscans and their Time, 1783-1828 (1967) 189.
'Twas on a mountain's airy spire,
With eye that flash'd celestial fire,
That quench'd the dawn's expanding ray,
And pre-assumed the day,
Immortal GENIUS stood.
Anon, his sapphire wings unfold
With ample spread, and starr'd with beamy gold;
His loose hair hover'd o'er the prostrate flood,
And on each bounding billow threw
A quiv'ring shade of deeper blue.
Sudden he darts a light'ning smile,
And "blest" (he cries) "be BRITAIN's isle,
Dear proud Asylum of my favor'd race!
Where Contemplation joys to trace
The classic feature, and the form of sense,
And hail the MUSE SUBLIME, and PATRIOT ELOQUENCE.
These are the plains that FANCY loves,
O'er these white cliffs she wanders free,
And scatters in the floating gale,
Her long array of fairy pageantry.
While MELODY, in some far vale,
Weaves on the air a length'ning line
Of cadence soft, and swell divine;
What time the maniac RAPTURE roves,
His jet locks dripping with the vap'ry show'r,
That EVENING weeps upon each folded flow'r,
As down the shad'wy hills her less'ning car
Tracks the slow progress of her idol star.
Then here, in sweet delirium will I stay,
And meet on every blast a variegated lay."
Lured by the voice, from solemn glade
The vivifying Maid,
Extatic POETRY, was seen
To pace the upland green—
With many a curl luxuriant flowing,
Cheeks with light purpureal glowing,
While her long, unsettled gaze
That VARYING PASSION's force displays,
Fix'd on him she most ador'd,
Her SACRED SOUL'S ETERNAL LORD.
Ha! as she swept with wild'ring hand
Her charmed harp, o'er sea and land
Fleet ZEPHYR bore each melting tone,
That MELANCHOLY thought her own,
That frolic PLEASURE smiled to hear,
And MADNESS welcomed with a tear:
While VALOUR, rushing at the sound,
Dash'd his burning eye-balls round,
And as far off his shield he hurl'd,
WITH NAKED BREAST DEFIED THE WORLD!
Scarce was the mystic strain begun,
When from his eastern tent, the Sun
Leapt forth in arms,
And rear'd his crest sublime,
THE PROTOTYPE OF TIME!
How lovely then were NATURE'S CHARMS!
Glitt'ring OCEAN never ending,
Ruby ROCKS, and FORESTS bending,
Bending to the lawns below,
Where countless flow'rets countless tints bestow
Wide LAKES their lucid mirrors spread,
Upon whose banks the white flocks fed,
And seem'd their silv'ry fleeces to adorn
With the last lustre of the moon of morn.
ART, alike transported straying,
Was her, rival, pow'r displaying;
O'er the sleek wave she bade a NUM'ROUS SAIL
Stretch the fair canvas to the wafting gale;—
From shelving hills triumphant CITIES rise,
And tow'rs and column'd domes usurp the skies;—
Bade meadows smile with many a cultur'd bow'r,
And bursting fountains toss the spangled show'r.
Such was the scene when the rapt Maiden sung,
Ah, who shall tell the music of her tongue!
The undulation of the stream
Low murm'ring on the pebbly shores,
The warble of her fav'rite theme,
That PHILOMEL incessant pours,
From solitary, lov'd retreat,
When STAR-LIGHT drops a tissued veil
O'er the clear brook, and moisten'd dale;—
Such sounds, were never half so sweet,
As when SHE told, of roseate blisses,—
Tender smiles, — and vermil kisses,—
Nor half so thrilling BATTLE's call
That sends defiance from th' assaulted wall,
As when she told of HONOR's merit,
Glories that the BRAVE inherit,
How, th' exulting breast, disdains
Selfish pleasures — selfish pains!
From couch where downy Peace had spread
A jasmine pillow for his head,
Borne upon translucent wings,
LOVE, the wanton Cherub, springs;
And flutters round in mazy play,
Enthusiastic at the lay!
But soon he hies him to the cypress grove,
Where JEALOUSY retires to rove,
And chase soft slumbers from the virgin's brow,
And tell her timid heart of many a broken vow.
Then the BENIGN CONSOLER leads
Her fearful steps o'er fringed meads,
Where Hope indulgent freely throws
Fresh ether from enchanted rose!
He brings her to the tear-bath'd stone,
Where, all repentant and alone,
In settled anguish of despair,
Her Lover lies — he brings her there!—
And on quick pinion brushing by,
Breathes the languor of a sigh,
The Youth revives, — with eager bound,
Clasps his speechless Fair-one round,
While from her eye the swift drop rushes,
In vain to quench her burning blushes!
O now the Goddess of the potent lyre,
Proves at her heart the sympathetic fire,
Invokes the DRYAD and the FAWN,
The fabled people of each wood and lawn,
And they that in the bright stream lave
Their glossy breasts, or skim the ocean wave,
She woos them to the scene, to show
How near allied are BLISS and WOE,
How sweetly powerful to move,
The silent sentiment of LOVE!
But soon the measure changed, and slow she draws
Her elegiac trill, with doleful sweep,
And at each sadly-penetrating pause,
Teaches the meek morality to weep.
She sung of those, to happiest fortune born,
Whose downcast looks a dire reverse reveal,
Who long, too long neglected and forlorn,
Had known to suffer, and had learnt to feel;
By ling'ring sorrow, soften'd to excess,
Of many a genial consolation flown,
Who still regretted most, the pow'r to bless,
And others pangs, lamented as their own.
Of those, who oft, when Day's proud torch was sped,
Held wayward converse with the wintry wind,
Who found on some cold rock their craggy bed,
And met a season suited to their mind.
They, like the plant with vegetative sense,
That silent droops when touches rude annoy,
Shrunk from the pressure of a World's offence,
Yet gain'd in pity what they lost in joy.
Of such as school'd in Life's sad scene, too well,
Had cherish'd scorn amid the wilds of woe,
Or charm'd by SUICIDE's opprobrious spell,
Had bared their bosoms to his tempting blow.
"And where" (she cried) "does mild Compassion stray,
Must that fell tyrant grant alone relief,
Drive the wet crystal from their lids away,
And close the bleeding artery of grief?"
Now more subdued, she sunk — a keener pain
Stole to her inmost feeling, for she thought
Of all the sacred melancholy train,
That ever here her inspiration caught,
From rugged CHAUCER, with uncouthest phrase,
To the chaste classic race of later days.
And when on AVON'S BARD her Fancy dwelt,
Her bosom 'gan to heave, and glow, and melt,
For He was of her offspring dearest far,
In her own hemisphere the solar star.
Whether some strange horrific tale he wove,
Or shew'd the pangs, the extacies of love,
Or pierc'd with daring wing the heavenly height,
And soar'd beyond the Theban eagle's flight,
MOST EXCELLENT WAS HE — then, too, a tear
Dropp'd for her hallow'd DRYDEN's injur'd bier;
And OTWAY, luckless OTWAY! sad she view'd,
Wither'd by deep distress, in anguish go
To Death's dark cavern, through the gates of woe;
And POPE, his strong unrivall'd sense renew'd,—
And SPENSER shook a magic banner bright,
And sainted COLLINS came in meekness due,
"With sky-worn robes of tenderest blue,
And eyes of dewy light."
Nor was not MILTON mourn'd — unmatch'd! — To pour
Magnificently wild, the seraph lay!—
GOLDSMITH, and GRAY she wept, and gentle GAY—
And THOMSON, potent in description's pride—
Light PRIOR — solemn YOUNG — inventive AKENSIDE:
And all who on the calm, autumnal heath,
Had ever listen'd to her tuneful breath,
And bade from silver lute responsive measures fly;
For these she gave a retrospective sigh;
Nor wert thou then forgotten, hapless MORE!
Her last lost son, dead in thy very prime!
Yet sure among the friends who wish'd thee well,
Sure one remains to tell
That thou could'st sing, "and build the lofty rhime."
And that if Fate had kindly spared thy days,
Few would have match'd, and none excell'd thy lays.
Sure He may speak, who oft in TAPLOW's grove,
With thee was wont the Summer noon to rove,
Or aid thee with his feath'ring oar to guide,
Thy buoyant skiff on Thames' meand'ring tide;
Or at thy social board delighted sit,
And watch the animation of thy wit,
Pleas'd when he heard thee boast the valued name
Of ELLIS, then prophetic of his fame.
He, who yet ling'ring on this weary scene,
Has never found thy equal; never known
A heart so pure, so gen'rous as thy own!
Who, when he saw thee borne across the green
To the cold grave, a helpless statue stood,
While the deep murmur of each neighb'ring wood,
In desolating language join'd
Sad unison with his distracted mind.
O! do not then, DEAR SHADE! the grief disdain,
That constant flows, altho' it flows in vain.
Now the strong meridian beam
Downward pours a fiercer stream,
And bounding o'er each russet hill,
MIRTH with LAUGHTER at his side,
In jovial freak, and careless pride,
Comes of sport to take his fill.
With eager step he seeks to measure
Ev'ry labyrinth of PLEASURE,—
Who, coy Nymph! abash'd appears,
And hides her in a veil of tears.
Such tears as oft at morning, speed
To call to life the languid mead,
Or on the teeming harvest roll'd,
With pearls bedeck its wavy gold.
Yet alluring glances fly
From her soft enamour'd eye,
That soon discover, tho' she shun,—
She'd fain to his embraces run!
But again his course he changes,
And each varying landscape ranges,
Till in a wilderness of sweets,
The mighty QUEEN OF SONG he greets.
Then lowly bows the suppliant knee,
In well dissembled mockery,
While shaking LAUGHTER offers up,
Sweet liquor of Circean cup.
The Goddess tastes — a sportive ray
Drives ev'ry mournful thought away,
And as the sad reflections, go,—
Thus, her livelier numbers flow.
"No longer my vot'ries shall desolate rave
In the depth of the forest, or gloom of the grave,
But far diff'rent cares shall they hasten to prove,
And press the rich grapes of the vintage of love.
Then let us not languish, my friends! tho' 'tis true,
That when you want others, they never want you,
Tho' pleasures will pass, yet the short time they stay,
To shun them is error, 'tis sense to be gay.
Does the full-moon less sweetly enamel the plain,
Because she's inconstant, and destin'd to wane,
Or do flowers, when gather'd, less odour bestow,
Than those that are suffer'd to fade as they grow?
In the calm of enjoyment then think not of sorrow,
Nor brood on the storm that may threaten to-morrow."
She paused, for Genius waved his head,
And straight the wild illusion fled,
The fev'rish vapours from her brain depart,
And sober reason settles at her heart.
'Twas then obedient to her sov'reign's will,
She finds obtrusive rage her bosom fill,
On Folly's monster offspring darts her gaze,
Lifts a SATIRIC SCOURGE, and thus indignant says:—
"BRITAIN! behold a Demon is come forth,
Child of the Tropic heat, and frozen North,
In whose dull breast contrasted evils jar,
And wage with Common Sense perpetual war,
Out-smiling truth, and e'en outblushing shame,
He reigns, and AFFECTATION is his name!
Lo! now methinks on yonder porcelain throne,
Glazed o'er in France, but all the dirt your own,
With mimic mien of majesty he sits,
And smirks, and prattles, and looks grave by fits,
Then seems so destitute of hope and fear,
As life itself, were nothing but a sneer.
And mark what crowds advance to swell his state,
In pompous nonsense miserably great;
Grim Doctors, Men of study, Men of gold,
The Moralizing Young, and Vicious Old,
And stale Coquets, with ogles feebly sent,
And musing Members of the Parliament!
See, see, how quick, how numerous they glide,
All unsubstantial as the rainbow's pride!
Like Banquo's shades before the King that past,
And each fresh fool more solemn to the last!
In their dear Idol's honor they declaim,
Poets unknown, and idiots with a name.
Slow-lab'ring logick, and discussion bare,
And Mangled Metaphor, alas! is there.
Pert Pun, quaint Epigram, smart Repartee,
And there the Witty Wink, and he! he! he!
While Blockheads praise what livelier Blockheads spoke,
And nodding Nabobs analyze each joke.
O MODEST LIT'RATURE! must thou too feel
Th'assasin vengeance of this tyrant's steel,
Must thou, no longer liberal and free,
Lose all thy nature's genuine dignity?
Catch ev'ry gewgaw of the vulgar tribe,
Thy fame, a mumm'ry! and thy lays, a bribe?
Must vain Pretenders throng thy fair abode,—
And simp'ring Smatt'rers pen the patchwork ode?
Who, tho' unschool'd, yet eager to prevail,
Snatch the glib Eel of Learning by the tail,
And as their filthy fingers smear the rhime,
Admire the gloss, and glitter of the slime:
O scorn'd be those, who each emotion hide
In lordly littleness, and pamper'd pride,
To Affectation raise alone their eyes,
Contrive their smiles, and fabricate their sighs.
O scorn'd be such! but may the true combine
T' attack the Pagod, and deface his shrine,
To dart their arrows at his tinsel brow,
And lay at last the Necromancer low.
Then shall SIMPLICITY, sweet Maid! appear
Fresh with the blushes of the vernal year,
Her gen'rous impulse to mankind impart,
And own no law but nature, and the heart.
Till ev'ry wish still verging to one end,
Each object, virtue, and each man, a friend,
TRIUMPHANT REASON shed her potent ray,
To drive distorted Prejudice away,
Cheer the lone hamlet, the gay court illume,
AND BLESSING LIFE, BEATIFY THE TOMB!
"Peace, peace," (the Godhead cries) "nor more
Trace the dim failings of this, MATCHLESS SHORE,
Observe the VIRTUES! how they rise—
In proud profusion, to the skies!
See CHASTITY, with purest mien,
That loves to bless the rural scene,
And in CONTENT's domestic bow'r,
To guard AFFECTION's modest flow'r!
Here soft-ey'd PITY duly sends
Her tenderest look to solace woe,
And as a balmy wreath she blends,
Her silent, sacred sorrows flow.—
Here FRIENDSHIP ev'ry danger shares!—
And HONOR ev'ry trial dares!—
Here COURAGE stalks his awful round,
Here TRUTH, ETERNAL TRUTH is found!
Nor think that thou, DEAR NYMPH! alone
Canst call my influence thy own,
Though full of me, — in madd'ning trance,
When early Twilight's streaks advance,
By the clear fount, or whisp'ring wood,
By the loud torrent's foamy flood,
Thou lov'st to stray — or when the night blasts sweep,
With pilgrim footsteps, wind the dreary steep,
There near some bending beech reclin'd,
While moral musings fill thy mind,
The world's best joys like meteors seem,
And all its boast a fading dream.
Though at thy mandate Nature rears
A wizard wand of hopes and fears,
That as she waves amid the blaze of day,
Wakes into birth — the sad — the gay—
And ev'ry jocund Phantom fair,
And ev'ry Spectre of Despair.
Tho' such my hallow'd boon to thee;
Unnumber'd, rival vot'ries see!
And first behold yon female form,
In talent rich, in feeling warm,
'Tis gentle DAMER, she whose hand
The insensate marble can command,
And bid it emulate the grace,
Of winning FOSTER's angel face,
Force the rude block her chisel's spell to own,
Till THAMES and ISIS live in sculptur'd stone!
Here REYNOLDS, on the canvas; throws
His true proportions, vivid glows,
That shall to radiant beauty, join
A charm, thro' centuries to shine.
Nor yet be STUART's art unsung,
Who, tho' in fame and fortune young,
Can finely seize th' impassion'd look,
Can show the mind that anguish shook,
Th' identifying magic, steal,
To paint, what KEMBLE's pow'rs reveal.
Here, intellectual SIDDONS draws
The sudden tremor of applause,
When, from her lovely eye she sends,
The tear that burns — the look that rends,
And seems to realize the stage,
With melting grief, or desp'rate rage!
Ah! let me not, too proud! explain
The triumph of the exalted train,
Or tell of all who grace the BAR;—
Or lead the glitt'ring ranks of WAR;—
Or those, whose wisdom GUIDES THE STATE,—
Or vaunt MY OWN TRIUMVIRATE!
Nor yet of those, who catch my ray,
Where heavenly duty points the way,
And teach Religion's laws refin'd,
Like ESTE, with sense and pathos join'd!
Long were the task, the flaming orb
Again his rising course might run,
Again the West his beams absorb,
Nor would the length'ning tale be done.
To naught confin'd, I ever range
In wild propensity of change,
When first CREATION fill'd the void,
I, was the minister employ'd,
'Twas I, that fix'd yon central light;—
I, bless'd with all its gems the night!—
"But WHAT ART THOU, who loit'ring near,
Where these mysterious forests low'r,
Giv'st to my tongue a list'ning ear,
And steal'st upon this sacred hour?
PRESUMPTUOUS BARD! think not, from me,
T' attract the glowing spark of energy,
Or with frail touch, and imitative tone,
To draw sweet numbers from thy tuneless lyre;
'Tis darkness all, unless I lend my fire!
And MUSICK wakes at my command alone.
Fond CHILD OF DUST! thy hopes forego!—
O! reconcile thy soul to woe!
But ne'er imagine that I bear a part,
In the deep anguish of thy struggling heart;
Nor idly look for FAME — her breath
IS FOUND BUT IN THE GALES OF DEATH!
She seeks the slumb'rous Raven's gloom,—
To whisper o'er the lonely tomb!—
Deigning, at last, that praise to give,
Which none might e'er receive, and live!
HARD IS THE POET'S LOT! — in vain
He pours an inoffensive strain,
To cheer the Woodlark brooding on her nest,
To soothe the secret sorrows of his breast,
Tho' but a Shepherd's song it flow,
In ev'ry vale he meets a foe.—
While e'en amid the peasant throng,
Shall hiss pale Envy's viper tongue!
Or could his pen, with strength sublime,
To high perfection lift the rhime;—
Or teach instructive truth to doubly please,
With PIOZZI's brilliant wit, and learned ease,
Still would dull MALICE shout around,—
Still feebly aim th' assassin wound!—
Still dark DETRACTION hurl the lance,—
And her whole harpy, hideous groupe, advance!—
"Rather, with weeds thy temples bind;—
Ah! mourn, thy faults, — thy follies, past,—
Mourn thy rash youth, — that fled so fast,—
And mourn, the fever of thy mind:—
SUBMISSIVE YIELD TO STEDFAST FATE'S DECREE,
AND LEARN TO PITY BASE MALIGNITY!—
"So, when I view thee at declining eve
Bathe thy hot bosom in the lunar tide,
Or near yon cataract hear thee grieve,—
Down my sad cheek, perchance, a tear shall glide."
HE SPOKE — AND DARTING UPWARDS FROM THE SIGHT,
SAIL'D THRO' TH' IMMENSE ABYSS, AND VANISH'D INTO LIGHT!