1792
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Stupidity.

Poems, chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall. In Two Volumes. [Rev. Richard Polwhele, ed.]

Rev. Richard Hole


A burlesque Miltonic ode in which Richard Hole amplifies Thomas Gray's sentiment that "where Ignorance is Bliss, 'tis Folly to be wise": "O Queen of those who never think, | With poppies pluck'd from Lethe's brink, | Be thy votary's temples crown'd, | While sombrous vapours float around!"

Anna Seward to Richard Polwhele: "I think myself much honored and obliged, by a present from the Bards of Devonshire and Cornwall, of their collected poetic orbs; and that the brightest star in the galaxy bends its auspicious rays on my muse, in an elegant manuscript sonnet, their harbinger. I am not insensible of the many emanations of genius and fancy in these volumes; though it has been my lot, alas! to bend upon them an eye languid from indisposition, an attention wandering, and robbed of all its energy by the dangerous illness of a friend, long, very long beloved" 25 May 1792; in Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 293.

European Magazine: "Odes, Elegies, Heroic Pieces, Sonnets, and Songs, chiefly compose these volumes; and they afford no mean specimen of the poetical genius of Devonshire and Cornwall; the first county represented by Dr. Downman, the second by Mr. Polwhele, the principal contributors to this collection, and already known to the literary world by their various publications" 22 (August 1792) 129.



O Thou! to whom these lines belong,
Inspirer of the languid song,
In apathy my senses steep,
Or lull them in the arms of sleep;
Deaden each active power of soul:
Reflection's deep-felt pangs controul;
Quench Fancy's beam — enough to know
Our present state, or joy, or woe.
For ills to come, as yet are not;
Those past, are nothing if forgot.
This state by DULLNESS realiz'd,
Is to be envied, not despis'd.

If ills the thinking mind annoy,
STUPIDITY is surely joy.
Of calm Indifference possest,
And by unfeeling Folly blest,
Her son, unmov'd, with tearless eye,
Beholds a friend or mistress die:
Unmov'd by the wild shrieks of pain;
Unmov'd by Want's imploring train:
Unmov'd he views the Widow's tears;
Unmov'd the Orphan's cry he hears.
On evils past, or those to come,
Disease, or Death's impending doom,
The Dull ne'er muse, but wear away
In thoughtless ease life's transient day.
Should o'er their heads Affliction lour,
And all its stores of sorrow pour,
Insensible they still remain—
Kind DULLNESS blunts the shafts of pain:
And gross STUPIDITY supplies
Those aids Philosophy denies.

But men who of their reason boast,
In idle speculation lost,
Who vainly plume themselves as wise,
With others' evils sympathize.
Their own misfortunes rend their heart
With keenest pangs and torturing smart.
They shudder at ideal ills;
And causeless care their bosom fills.
Does Mirth, at some auspicious hour,
O'er their sad breasts exert its power;
Reflection soon their joy controuls;
And Melancholy sways their souls.
For Pleasures, when we analize,
And hold them forth to Reason's eyes,
A test so strong they cannot bear,
But melt like vapours into air.
Thus tricks display'd by juglers' sleight,
No longer than they cheat, delight.

O Queen of those who never think,
With poppies pluck'd from Lethe's brink,
Be thy votary's temples crown'd,
While sombrous vapours float around!
No more perplex'd with worldly cares,
Heedless of life's surrounding snares;
With soul that never quits its home,
But takes things easy as they come,
Be Dullness with Contentment mine!—
Let others reason and repine.

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