1823
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on a May Morning, MDCCCXXIII. By Odoherty.

Blackwood's Magazine 13 (June 1823) 689-93.

William Maginn


Eighteen Prior stanzas, signed "Tityrus." William Maginn's Ode is a burlesque cockney epistle in celebration of the vernal season: "Haste — haste — put on (fear not the dandy's eye) | Shirt, breeches, socks, boots, cravat, waistcoat, coat. | Unwire the cork, let the loud soda fly, | Gulp the carbonic with intrepid throat" p. 691. The extra syllable terminating the alexandrine contributes to the tipsy effect.

John Wilson: "The remaining verses [stanzas 10-99] touching principally on love, poetry, pugilism, chivalry, gourmandizing, sympathy, and bull-baiting, we beg leave to omit until a more convenient opportunity. We subjoin the last verse. C. N." 692n.

Margaret Oliphant: "He was indeed one of the best specimens of the typical Irishman, the crystallised Paddy, ready to jest and sing, to speechify, to fight, to flatter, to make promises and to break them, with all the unstable charm of a being beyond rule, guided by his impulses, and following them to much enjoyment and renown for a time, but soon into ruin and dismay. He seems to have dropped into the Blackwood band in 1819 as accidentally as he did most other things, without, as we have said, either introduction or guarantee, without even a name or a local habitation, a mere collocation of initials, dating from a public news-room. The initials were not even his own" Blackwood and his Sons (1897) 1:364-65.

Edward Lovibond's "The Tears of Old May-Day" appears in the fourth volume of Dodsley's Collection.



PROEM.
This is the season for the young and gay,
The day of jollity, of mirth, and glee;
Because it is the very first of May—
(The year eighteen hundred, twenty-three:)
This is the day that many a bard has chosen
To hymn in rapture with poetic quill.
Of late the gallant Cockneys by the dozen,
The subject tribes of him of Hampstead-Hill,
Have in its praise become exceeding boisterous,
And, with Bohea inspired, done many a deed most roysterous.

They sing of "valiant cowslips peering up,"
Of "passionate daisies", "dandelions brave;"
Of "out blown primrose," "melting butter-cup;"
Of "dillies (daffydown) sublime and grave ;"
Of "jet-peak'd pansies," (that they stole from Milton;)
Of "Celadine," (that they from Wordsworth stole;)
Of "stonecrop, yellower than cheese from Stilton;"
Of "snow-drop, whitest creature of the whole;"
As for the violet, it would take ten stanzas
To say how it has felt all their extravaganzas.

Roses, of course, appear in blushing blow,
But these your Peter Pastorals little prize,
Because they see them in the realms of Bow,
Beaming in pots, and therefore half despise.
But grass, weeds, hay, and all such rural matters;
Oxen, and kine, clean water, genuine milk,
Quite turn the brain of every bard that chatters
In expressibles of yellow silk.
Why so? I'll tell you more scientifico,
OMNE, as Sages say, IGNOTUM PRO MAGNIFICO.

Therefore, "a babbling on green fields" they keep.
Ah me! what sacrilege I here have done!
Could I, while talking of these silly sheep,
Quote what must call to mind DIVINE SIR JOHN!
Bombard of sack and wit! your scenes of revel
Lay to the eastward of old Temple-bar;
How you would laugh to scorn each washy devil
Who now vents sonnets to fair Helenar,
Cropful of tea, and muffins butter'd thickly,
On the same ground where you drank fist to fist with Quickly.

Yet shop breaks out in every thing they do;
One jot of Cockney-land they can't abate us;
Praise they a garland? 'Tis "complete and new,"
Like the last patent shaving apparatus.
Must they describe a rill or dewy fountain,
Behold 'tis "crisp," like Mother Runule's paste.
Have they to tell us of a cloud-capt mountain,
'Tis "draperied about in finest taste."
And while we deem the poet an upholsterer,
The Cockneys shout applause, and dub their bard a soul-stirrer.

One of them wrote a poem on the pot—
(The pot! what pot? Pray guess. Perhaps of beer.
No, my good sir; you were esteemed a sot,
Were you to puff such potent liquor here.)
THE POT OF BASIL! There's a title! Marry,
It smells most Jauntily of the sweet south;
And Bryan William Proctor Cornwall Barry
Opening his sketchico-dramatic mouth,
Sung to the thin-clad prentices most prettily,
A tale of far-off flowers — a tale of sunny Italy.

I too shall sing upon this day of feast,
Albeit no pastoral juvenile am I;
An innocent lamb, "to my ideas at least,"
Seems sweetest, most engaging, in a pie.
The feather'd train, the theme of many a ditty,
Appear to me most lovely on the dish;
Fish, in clear streamlets bathed, no doubt look pretty,
But bathed in streams of Harvey be my fish.
And not a nosegay — trust me, I'm not joking—
Smells to me half so sweet as rump or sirloin smoking.

Yet I shall now forget each proper thought,
And pay due honours to this lovely time;
Happy if any gentle spirit aught
Of solace may derive from this my rhyme;
If purer currents of delicious feeling
Shall flow through breasts congenial as they read;
If holier thoughts, through lovely bosoms stealing,
Shall golden hopes or generous purpose breed.
Listen, fair dames, soft smiles on me bestowing!
I sing of dewy morns, bright noons, and evenings glowing.

ODE.
"The sun shines bright, it is the morn of May,"
The most renowned morning in the year!
Quick! quick I arise, we lose the prime of day;
Long since, the dawn was hail'd by Chanticleer;
Bird, beast, and fish, have cast away their slumbers;
Loud hums the bee, wantoning from flower to flower;
The fresh, warm air, seems living with the numbers
Of happy insects, sporting for their hour.
While all around is life in joyous motion,
Should man alone withhold from nature his devotion?

Haste — haste — put on (fear not the dandy's eye)
Shirt, breeches, socks, boots, cravat, waistcoat, coat.
Unwire the cork, let the loud soda fly,
Gulp the carbonic with intrepid throat.
Firm on your pate erect your patent Dando,
Grasp the stout cudgel in your vigorous fist;
Then marching forth, brisk as the briskest can do,
Wander we rurally where'er we list;
While round us youths and maidens will be saying,
There goes a pair of gentlemen, intent on Maying.

Tom! store the hamper with abundant prog,
The sleeping ducks, that perish'd in their youth,
The ham, exsected from Westphalia hog,
The pastry, grateful to esurient tooth;
Stow with them half-a-dozen of Madeira—
London — East India — picked — particular;
Stingo divine! best comforter to cheer a
Weary pedestrian, roaming from afar;
And then with tender thoughts, on this sweet morrow,
We'll rove like youthful bards, touch'd with love's blissful sorrow.

Sweet is each object, both of sight and sound,
Where'er the ear can reach — where'er the eye—
The blushing heavens — the dew-bespangled ground—
The streams that, slumbering, in the mild dawn lie:
The new-come swallow, from the thatch resounding;
The lark, up-springing to salute the day;
The hawthorn hedge the verdant field surrounding
With silver wreaths of balmy blossoms gay;
All all around the glory and the splendour
Of Nature fill the soul with thoughts sublime or tender.

I'm getting devilish hungry from my walk—
Consider we have march'd almost three miles—
Though rural scenery, or pastoral talk
The moments, in a certain sense, beguiles.
Yet they can never still that clamorous member,
That growling master of arts, as Persius sings,
Who, from chill January to chill December,
His changes on but two small matters rings,
Crying — Drink, Vittle — Vittle, Drink — Drink, Vittle—
In tones more suasive far than those of Tom the little.

So, dearest friend, companion of my way,
Thou whom I love with true and constant breast,
Let us from off the trodden highway stray,
And in yon wood spread we our frugal feast.
"Not I, by jing!" quoth he; "before us proudly,
The Cock and Bottle its gilt sign presents;
The former seems in act of crowing loudly,
Bidding us try the latter's sweet contents;
And I maintain the inside of a tavern
Is quite as picturesque as wood or rocky cavern.

"'His bill is raven black, and shines like jet,
White are his nails, like silver to behold,
Blue are his legs, and orient are his feet,
His body glitters like the burnish'd gold.'
From Glorious John I take this apt quotation,
So let us hear no more of woody glades."—
An argument, when urged with moderation,
A man of sense most commonly persuades.
So, yielding to my friend's well-judged suggestion,
We to the Cock and Bottle went sans farther question.

Oft did the pasty to our carvers yield,
The corkscrew oft up-drew the stubborn cork;
How jocund o'er the ham the knives we wield!
How bend the ducklings 'neath our vigorous fork!—
Soft was the breeze, and balmy was the morning,
Such as young poets fancy when they love,
And soon the calls of baser nature scorning,
We let our souls to melting topics rove;
And mourn'd with Lovibond the sad mutation
In this day's sports, and damned civilization.

"No more," said we, "in choral bands unite
Her virgin votaries, and at early dawn,
Sacred to May and love's mysterious rite,
Brush the light dew-drop from the spangled lawn;
No more the Maypole's verdant height surrounding,
To valour's games the ambitious youth advance;
No merry bells, and tabours sprightlier sounding,
Wake the loud carol and the bounding dance,"
[Dodsley, vol. iv. (see the whole poem fully),
Printed in 63, beneath the head of Tully.]

This is my hundredth verse — and so I end—
To you, dear ****, I dedicate the lay,
HAPPY, if while o'er the mild verse you bend,
Your thoughts towards him who penn'd the stanzas stray;
Happier, if, while at tender fancies sighing,
Touch'd by the simple pathos of my song,
A single sigh, on Cupid's pinions flying,
Should 'scape for him who loves you — deep — and long.—
Meanwhile, TOM, pack the plates and empty bottles—
To breakfast hie we home, propped on our wearied wattles!

[pp. 689-93]