1814
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Aspirants: an Ode for Music.

Posthumous Parodies and other Pieces, composed by several of our most celebrated Poets, but not published in any former Edition of their Works.

Horace Twiss


The complete title is "The Aspirants: an Ode for Music. Being a Paraphrase of the The Passions, an Ode for Music, by William Collins." In this parody of Collins's Ode on the Passions (1746) Horace Twiss (writing anonymously) assembles the leading politicians of the day in the Regent's music room, where they perform in aspiration of the prime ministry. The conceit is adapted from the "Probationary Odes" genre (Robert Southey had recently assumed the position). Among the aspirants is Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who "with viny crown advancing" sings the "patriot note of Grecian war." The last verse character is of George Canning, Anti-Jacobin poet, "Statesman, Poet, Scholar, Wit, | Pupil, and Friend, and Heir of Pitt," who has evidently refused to perform.

Critical Review: "Our parodist is a poetical politician of the Pitt school; an admirer of Mr. Croker, Mr. Canning, and the noblemen and gentlemen with whom they 'have the honour to act.' Having fared, we perceive, very scurvily by attachment to the great, we hope he will get more by cultivating a connexion with the muses; but we caution him against expressing political antipathies and personal dislikes in verse; they read awkwardly to an ear accustomed to urbanity, and distress minds that would otherwise be pleased with his talents. He has powers which, unless the Parnassian dames be coy, may make him some amends for disappointment in state affairs" S4 5 (March 1814) 325.



When G-rge our Pr-nce, first sway'd the land,
While yet Restriction cramp'd his hand,
Aspirants oft, with smiles and bows,
Throng'd the door of Carlton House,
Expecting, hinting, praying, striving,
To get the reigns, and shew their driving.
By turns they found the Princely mind
Disturb'd or calm, displeased or kind,
Till once, 'tis said, when one and all
Met impatient in his hall,
From a music-room beyond
They snatch'd the instruments of sound;
And, having heard, perhaps, at school,
How fiddling Orpheus rose to rule,
Each, for Madness ruled the hour,
Would tempt the self-same path to pow'r.

First fiddle Gr-nv-lle needs must try,—
And strain'd the chords, to make them sure:
Then back recoil'd, he knew not why,
From the unfinish'd overture.

Next, Br-gh-m came pushing from behind,
His native bagpipe at his side:
In one rude roar he forc'd the wind,
And sounded strong, and far, and wide.

The organ fell to B-r-n's share,
Low, sullen sounds his grief beguil'd:
A solemn, strange, and mingled air!
'Twas sad by fits, by starts 'twas wild.

But thou, O Cr-k-r, bard of flame,
What was thy prophetic story?
Still it spoke of promised glory,
And bade the lofty hopes at distance hail.
Still would his touch the strain prolong:
And from the fort, the height, the vale,
He call'd on W-ll-ngt-n through all the song;
And as that noble theme he chose,
Britain responsive cheer'd at every close,
And Cr-k-r smil'd, well pleas'd, and Britain boasts his fame,
And longer had he sung; but with a frown
Wh-thr-d impatient rose;
He threw his hat with boist'rous gesture down,
And, with a sulky look,
The lute of gentle Peace he took;
But swept a crash so loud and dread,
Were never sounds of war so full of woe!
And ever and anon he beat
A table near with furious heat:
And though sometimes, each breathless pause between,
C-stl-r-gh with courteous pride
His moderating voice applied,
Yet still he kept his bold unmanner'd mien,
While phrase of foul abuse seem'd brewing in his head.

The strains of M-ra's muse to nought were fix'd,—
A tremulous though ardent lay:
His theme was intermediarily mix'd,
And now he cheer'd the Prince, now grieving call'd on Gr-y.

With nose and chin that long'd to meet,
Pale St-nh-pe took his darkling seat:
And from that solitary place,
With measure long, and longer face,
Twang'd to the harpsichord his wiry drawl:
And jumbling there from jest-books old,
Quirks and quiddits quaintly roll'd.
Pert, yet unmark'd, the nasal numbers fall;
Or, after long and wearisome delay,
Ev'ry hearer's mind disposing
To a heavy mood of dozing,
In hollow murmurs die away.

But oh! how alter'd was the livelier tone,
When W-ll-sley, with a soul of loftiest frame,
On whom expectant nations hung,
His eagle eye bright'ning in flame,
Blew an inspiring air, that Europe's confines rung,
The trumpet-blast, to Swede and Spaniard known!
High-born Castilians, gallant, yet serene,
Lusians and Catalans were seen,
Leaving their groves of orange green;
Siberia's sons rejoiced to hear,
And Austria, waking, seized the vengeful spear.

Sh-r-d-n came at least to trial:
He, with viny crown advancing,
First to the lively pipe his hand address'd:
But soon he saw the soul-awak'ning viol,
Whose tone his nobler judgment love the best:
They would have thought, who heard the strain,
They mark'd Tyrtaeus breathing far
The patriot note of Grecian war,
To many a martial chorus dancing;
While, as his skilful fingers kiss'd the strings,
Wisdom and Mirth framed a harmonious round:
Then Wisdom gracious smil'd, with zone unbound,
And Mirth, amid his frolic play,
Beating brisk measure to the jocund lay,
Waved in the Sun his gaily burnish'd wings.

O Statesman, Poet, Scholar, Wit,
Pupil, and Friend, and Heir of Pitt,
Why, C-nn-ng, why, to us denied,
Lay'st thou thy wonted lyre aside?
As from great Chatham's son, of yore
Thou learn'dst an all-commanding pow'r,
Thy patriot soul, thine ardent strain,
Might bring those wish'd for days again.
Still be thy full and manly tone
True to the country and the throne;
Be still, as in all former time,
Warm, energetic, chaste, sublime;
Shine on this dark and fearful age,
And gild our hist'ry's deathless page.
'Tis said, and I believe the tale,
Thy slend'rest breath can more prevail,
Has more of strength and harmony—
Than all the Opposition's cry,
Although against thee jointly play
The bands of Gr-nv-lle and of Gr-y.
O bid their scattering forces fly:
Accord once more with Ministry:
Return to aid their skilful band,
And charm the discords of the land!

[pp. 33-40]