1790
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode, to Great Britain.

Poems by George Butt. In Two Volumes.

Rev. George Butt


Seven Prior stanzas on Burkean themes, more in the manner of Thomas Warton than Mark Akenside, whose Ode to the Country Gentleman is the ultimate source for this patriot ode published in 1793. George Butt was an Oxford poet a royal chaplain, and a defender of monarchy. His poem alludes to the events unfolding in France, and the reaction at home: "We stand | Strong with augmented liberty and fame, | And more than ever the proud world command, | Fresh blooming still from Envy's trait'rous aim, | Nor would we pillage peerage, church and throne, | To favour low-born pride, and make the world our own" 1:115.

Author's note: "Occasioned by the recent and judicious re-publication of Dr. Price's Sermon in praise of his country" 1:113n." Richard Price's A Discourse on the Love of our Country was first published in 1789; it was reprinted in 1790, the same year as Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (which ridicules Price's lack of patriotism). Robert Southey selected this poem for his Later English Poets (1807).

British Critic: "The gentleman here calling himself by the simple appellation of George Butt, is a Doctor of Divinity, and one of the Chaplains to his Majesty. When individuals like Dr. Butt collect for their own satisfaction and the amusement of their friends, the trifles they have written in the progress of their lives, and finally think proper to publish them in a splendid and expensive form, criticism is, in some degree, disarmed" 3 (1794) 608.



"Set in the silver sea," a diamond bright,
Dear native Albion, would I sing thy praise
I need but ask of Truth his purest light,
To lend the lyric Muse her proudest blaze.
Borrowing from fable, what we boast our own,
Let foreign Fancy turn the florid tale;
Whilst, worshipping thy sea-sequester'd throne,
We, what we truly paint, with rapture hail.
Thus Gratitude to loftiest transport fires,
And Tuscan Fancy yields to what the Truth inspires.

In proud array thy guardian forests rise,
The vigorous products of their genial home,
And, whilst thy mountains touch the sun-bright skies,
Half o'er their heights, majestic mantles, roam.
Nor wants sweet Poesy her sweetest range,
By glen and dale, by bow'r and murmuring brook;
Toil has his field, and Yeomanry his grange,
Whilst on his down the shepherd casts his crook,
O'er many a lowland Eden glad to gaze,
And on his doric reed to list'ning Phillis plays.

Thy varying Ether's rolling mirror, shine
Rivers that silver-streak the verdant plains,
Nor seldom pass beside some fane divine,
Where hoar Antiquity sublimely reigns
To tell the glories of thy elder days;
Or to the muses courteous still, afford
To them, that emulate ingenuous praise,
The cloister'd walk, and hospitable board,
And oft thy floods beneath those burdens bend,
Which seas triumphant waft as far as seas extend.

No Norman bulwarks, Cambrian castles, now
Frown in their strength, nor thence th' embattled throng,
Children of blood, as fierce a torrent flow
As that which thunders Snowdon's side along;
But there the kids disport, or pensive seers
Stray pleased though pensive, and with profit stray,
Conscious that, after the long lapse of years,
Illumin'd more and more by Wisdom's ray,
Here Liberty at last her throne has plac'd,
And views her floating guards lords of the wat'ry waste.

Far as her eye from this her gorgeous tower
Darts o'er the world she sighs to see mankind,
So many groan beneath the despots power,
So widely spectral horrors rack the mind.
She knows its pow'r, she best its pow'r expands,
Its warmth increases, and unclouds its sight;
Here then she sees Religion's fostering hands
Drop Hope's best balm, distribute Faith's best light,
Whilst human Law weds sacred Charity,
And tells the wond'ring earth that mind is here most free.

Thus a far-famous sage, thrice ten years pass'd,
With all a lover's zeal his country prais'd;
But, ah! the fall, the sage, grown blind at last,
Fell as he shook the column he had rais'd.
So Sampson fell, but not alone. We stand
Strong with augmented liberty and fame,
And more than ever the proud world command,
Fresh blooming still from Envy's trait'rous aim,
Nor would we pillage peerage, church and throne,
To favour low-born pride, and make the world our own.

Firm English honesty, sound English sense,
Touch rights existing, holy ground, with care,
Scorn Envy's fraud, pert Vanity's pretence,
Nor dash to dust what Wisdom should repair.
Hence Hist'ry, proud on Britain's acts to wait,
Has told the world she can her rights maintain,
From tyrant-pow'r with temper save her State,
With ease majestick cast her papal chain,
Too wise for hurry, too humane for rage,
Dauntless as Youth's blind zeal, and cool as well taught Age.

[1:113-15]