1817
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Horror.

Odes, and other Poems.

Henry Neele


A Pindaric ode in nine stanzas in which Horror's train is enumerated in a series of allegorical characters: "These, Horror, these the circle dire, | Who form around thy midnight fire, | Where side by side, a withering band, | Plying their mystic trade they stand." Henry Neele's To Horror is a tissue of echoes and allusions from Shakespeare and Spenser; William Collins is of course the presiding genius (To Fear, but also The Passions and others), though Neele also remembers Thomas Penrose's once-popular ode on madness.

British Lady's Magazine: "The succeeding Ode to Horror is of a bolder caste, and in it Mr. Neele exhibits a very honourable title to be ambitious. The opening invocation and description are very marked.... Frenzy and Death are strikingly painted: the garland of the latter is finely original, and, though the 'horrid joy' is a spark from Milton, it is boldly expressed.... We are aware that Johnson and others have disapproved of the ode without rhyme in the English language; but who, unfettered by critical authority, can read that of Collins's to Evening, and agree with them 5 (March 1817) 163.

Nathan Drake: "Of the three remaining Odes of the first book, which are entitled 'To Horror,' 'To Despair,' and 'To the Moon,' the first and third are finely contrasted in their subject, their imagery, and their style. Mr. Neele, like his great predecessor, sacrifices at the shrines both of pity and terror, and his notes awakening fear are not less potent than those which call forth the tears of sympathy and sorrow. He is one of those gifted mortals '—to whom the world unknown, | With all its shadowy shapes, is shown;' and he is evidently possesses the faculty the faculty of communicating in all their primal strength and heart-withering force, the appalling impressions resulting from this visionary intercourse. Had the following lines from the 'Ode to Horror' ['Yonder comes the spectre guard. . .'] been found in the pages of Collins, they would not have been thought to derogate from the genius of that powerful bard: '—Yonder came the spectre guard | Who gibber in the dark church-yard. . .'" "Critical Observations on the Odes of Henry Neele" Winter Evenings (1820) 2:79-80.



I. 1.
Where dost thou wander, haggard Queen,
To shun the agony of light?
Why dost thou hate the morning's radiant shene,
And with dark footsteps haunt the shades of night?
Why do the lustre and the roses fail
In thy sunk eye, and cheek so pale?
Human footsteps shun and fear thee,
Human voices are not near thee.
Only shadowy shapes are found,
And still, small sounds that murmur round.
What are those shapes, those accents drear,
Still flitting o'er thy path — still ringing in thy ear?

I. 2.
Oh! she has gaz'd on unholy rite,
Till her cheek it grew pale, and her eye lost its light;
And she has danc'd by the light of the moon,
With the spectres that shrink from the lustre of noon.
She blasts in the desert, she whelms in the sea;
The spirit that raves on the night-wind is she.
She rides on the thunder,
When tempests roll under,
With the beldams of darkness she sits and confers;
The sigh and the languish,
The pang and the anguish,
The heave, and the start, and the death-shriek are hers.

I. 3.
But mark her melancholy train;
This blights the eye, that fires the brain;
These creep unmark'd into the cheek,
And blast it with a paleness bleak;
And yonder come the spectre guard,
Who gibber in the dark church-yard;
Obscure the moon's refulgent ray,
And scare the traveller from his way.
And now they come, a sweeping train,
From fell, from flood, from fire, from rain;
Around the mystic fire to trip,
Lay the lean finger on the lip;
To look the tale that none must speak,
To hide the deed that none must seek;
And bow, in withering circles down,
Before the Mistress Demon's throne.

II. 1.
But who is he, advancing first,
With blood-stain'd banner wide unfurl'd—
With eye that looks like some red meteor burst,
Pouring its dark sides o'er a trembling world?
Revenge! Revenge! hark, with what loud acclaim,
The echoes catch the dreaded name.
Hark! the curses howling o'er him,
See! the forms that fly before him,
Mercy seeks her native skies,
Pity sinks and Freedom dies.
Sorrow alone survives his reign,
Like one lorn thistle left upon the blasted plain.

II. 2.
Next Guilt, son of Darkness and Death, rushes by,
With hope in his step, but despair in his eye;
Behind him scowls Memory, before him stalks Fear,
And they mingle the flame of their torches so drear.
Fool! fool! tho' that flame and those bearers be dire,
He walks in its light nor reflects on its fire.
Tho' the rays he recline on,
Fire all that they shine on;
Tho' they scatter that lurid and far-streaming glare
To delude and confound him,
Till the flames rush around him,
Till they rise from his garments and hiss in his hair.

II. 3.
Behold where Frenzy wanders wild,
Dead Expectation's orphan child!
Wilder'd and weary as she goes,
She tells a tale — a tale of woes
And as she tells her voice grows loud,
Her brow more dark, her step more proud,
And terror wild, and fervour high,
Have fit her dark disorder'd eye,
And thrown one flush, one quivering streak,
A moment o'er her livid cheek.
She raves, she storms, she pauses now—
The darkness passes from her brow;
She gazes on the calm moon-ray,
And that has charm'd her tears away.
Then sings, forgot her untold pains,
To the wild rattling of her chains.

III. 1.
See Death, the mightiest of all,
Yet not the direst of the train!
To deck him for the ghastly festival,
He gathers a dark garland from the plain,
Of flowers whose sweets the worm has suck'd away;
Of eglantine that once was gay;
Lilies dead and wither'd roses,
Blooming once in fragrant posies,
Nauseous and unlovely now,
Rotting on his fleshless brow;
He smiles when finish'd his employ,
And waves his bony hand, and laughs a horrid joy.

III. 2.
Next him stalks Superstition, the hand on her heart:
Is red with the gore it has order'd to start;
The eye that she raises as placid on high,
Is wild with the horrors before it that fly;
And the incense she offers as pure and sublime
Has been rais'd from delirium, and nurtur'd in crime.
Oh hide thee, thou blaster,
Than happiness faster,
Than life and hope surer, from human breast fly;
Thy music is madness,
Thy pleasure is sadness,
And baleful and black is the scowl of that eye.

III. 3.
These, Horror, these the circle dire,
Who form around thy midnight fire,
Where side by side, a withering band,
Plying their mystic trade they stand;
Thy influence on those nights of fear,
Binds high and low, spreads far and near,
Thy step is seen on every glade,
Thy voice is heard from every shade;
The timid weep, the pensive sigh,
The infant starts it knows not why;
The dreamer wakes from pangs so deep,
So fierce, he fears again to sleep;
The traveller trembling, totters on,
Breathes many a prayer, heaves many a groan,
Fears all he hears, doubts all he sees,
And starts and shakes with every breeze.

[(1821) 21-30]