1790
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode, on reading Mr. Hole's Arthur, or The Northern Enchantment.

Poems. By Hugh Downman, M.D.

Dr. Hugh Downman


Hugh Downman admires Richard Hole's Arthur, or the Northern Enchantment (1789), declaring that "I range through long-deserted glades, | With Hole, companion of my way, | Through scenes where Spenser lov'd to stray." Richard Hole's verse romance composed in couplets seemed a good deal less exotic to Robert Southey and the later generation of romantic poets. Downman and Hole were members of the literary society that met at the Globe Inn at Exeter.

Gentleman's Magazine: "To write panegyrick with success is given to few. The general topicks on which it hinges are worn to rags; and it is difficult to divest encomiums, however, just they may be in reality, from hacknied phrases and an appearance of adulation. Those of Dr. Downman's have no tendency to either, and are no less varied than appropriate. The opening of that on Mr. Hole's Arthur, or, The Northern Enchantment, will serve as a specimen, and corroborate the opinion we gave of that performance" 61 (March 1791) 254.



I hate the streams which smoothly glide
In channel trim with measur'd tide,
Whose shapely banks, for ever neat,
The grot adorns, or mossy seat.
While the calm waters, as they creep,
Lull the poetic mind to sleep.
Or where, if vagrant Fancy deigns
Ever to walk, she walks in chains.

No, rather eager let me haste,
Enthusiastic Maid! to taste
Of thy belov'd, deceptive rills,
Which high among the Gothic hills
Forth from the well of Fiction spring,
And thence their mingled currents fling
O'er rocks whose heads are wreath'd in snow,
And thro' romantic vales below.

Th' inspiring draught my soul pervades,
I range through long-deserted glades,
With Hole, companion of my way,
Through scenes where Spenser lov'd to stray,
O'er the wild heath, or trembling sod,
Which Ariosto whilom trod;
Where the free Muse with native charms,
Her votary's panting bosom warms.

With him my keen undazzled sight
Shall trace Conagra's stormy height;
There the Gigantic Sisters view,
Their gore-drench'd robes of russet hue;
Behold them gird the mountain round,
Uttering their dire, terrific sound,
Exciting the loud thunder's roar,
Stirring the sea from shore to shore.

Now see the Magic Towers arise,
And Urda wrapt in dark disguise,
And Hengist rushing to the sight,
And Arthur's fierce indignant might;
The dreary Spectres, shrieking fell,
Harpies, the progeny of hell,
Each Shade obscene which wants a name,
The Moat which burns with sulphurous flame.

Now Odin's regal form behold,
His beaming arms, and throne of gold,
The vivid lightnings round him play,
His potent voice forbids dismay.
Sudden the runic rhyme I hear,
And orgies of th' enfrenzied Seer,
His strains prophetic nerve the soul,
The tides of war tumultuous roll.

Rapt to Biarmia's freezing skies
What new, portentous visions rise!
Valdandi, Skulda, burst the ground,
The icy pillars tremble round,
In Arthur's shape, and burnisht mail,
Aloft, impetuous on the gale,
The cloud-form'd car their Hero bears,
His bosom every terror dares.

What beauteous Maid, in purest white,
Now steals upon my ravisht sight!
Her brow with golden wreathe entwined,
Her tresses floating on the wind;
'Tis Inogen — with joy and love
Resound the bowers, and vocal grove,
Ambrosial blossoms deck each spray,
The streams o'er lucid marble play.

Deaf to the tones of modern art,
To song like this I ope my heart;
And tho' abstracted from the Muse,
Cannot the Lyric Note refuse.
For as I read, th' enchantment thrills,
And every sense with pleasure fills;
Or in attention fixt I stand,
As struck by Merlin's powerful wand.

[pp. 195-99]