1802
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Time.

Monthly Mirror 15 (April, June 1803) 264-66, 340.

Margaret Holford


Twelve, later eleven irregular Spenserians (ababcC) signed "Miss Holford." The younger poet encourages the Anna Seward to trust the Muses to grant her an immortality denied to more wordly souls. Margaret Holford alludes to some of Seward's better-known poems, underscoring the extent to which Seward could be a model for women romantic poets. Holford's own verse marks a link in the sequence leading from eighteenth-century poets like Seward and Barbauld to the more successful female poets of the later era, such as Felicia Hemans and Mary Howitt. She also shared Anna Seward's enthusiasm for Walter Scott, another poetical mentor.

The final stanza was reprinted in a later number as "omitted last month by mistake" p. 340. The title was later given as "Ode to Time. Written in the Year 1802. Inscribed to Miss Seward."

Anna Seward to Mrs. Powys: "The fire of genius irradiates her compositions; they are not book-made strains. The praises of such a muse do honour to the praised, be they whom they may. Her beautiful elegy, addressed to me, crept into the newspapers, with her signature, and dated from Chester; but, indeed, I did not see or know of its being sent to any of the public prints" 28 June 1806; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 6:288-89.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Mrs. Margaret Hodson, formerly Miss Holford, a daughter of Mrs. M. Holford, of Chester, England.... The poems of this lady have been admired" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:858.



Oh Thou! whose viewless form, slow-stealing Time!
Has silent march'd o'er many a conquer'd year!
Shall thy chill pow'r pervade the glowing rhyme?
Shall thy rude hand each tuneful record tear?
Shall genius raise aloft the soul-fraught strain,
And swell the choral tide of Heav'n-taught verse in vain?

Tho' ages past have own'd thy tyrant sway,
Tho' many a wreck the spoiler's power reveals,
Beneath thy scythe, tho' empires pass away,
And countless charms the unconscious grave conceals;
Tho' o'er the laurel'd brow the dusky tomb
In sullen silence sheds its deep impervious gloom—

Not with his ebbing breath the poet dies!
He lives, he speaks to ages yet unborn!
Then boast not Time! thy earthly mould'ring prize—
Well may the Bard thy envious efforts scorn;
Ne'er shall his triumphs to thy sway belong,
All hail'd by distant years, immortal in his song.

Direct thy glance beyond life's fragile hour,
Oh Seward! lov'd of the Aonian Nine!
On thy full gaze bid all the future pour,
And raptur'd, see the admiring future thine!
See laurels bloom, thy shadowy brow to wreathe,
Hear bards yet uncreate, an aweful tribute breathe.

For not to thee with niggard hand assign'd,
The short-liv'd triumph of some local strain!
Thine the proud empire of the enthusiast mind,
Thine, the fine chords which swell to pleasing pain,
To joy's tumultuous throb, to mystic fear,
To friendship's bosom glow, or pity's hallow'd tear.

Lo! where the oral Muse of former time,
By thee invok'd, in gothic state descends,
With potent hand awakes the runic rhyme,
And the thick veil of dark oblivion rends!
See from the tomb the fateful weapon wave!
Oh cease the mutter'd rite! respect the secret grave!

To drop soft dews on beauty's wither'd flower,
From the full breast to urge the slow-heav'd sigh,
Or bid descend the tributary shower
To wet the turf where worth and valour lie,
Snatch Fame's bright banner from the grasp of Time,
O'er the illustrious dead to wave its folds sublime.

The generous task be thine! Lo! Andre's shade,
With flight indignant quits the murd'rous shore!
Spirit of song! instruct the matchless maid,
Teach her sweet pity's seraph strain to pour,
Bid the sad tale descend to latest years,
Enbalm'd to time remote, in friendship's tuneful tears.

What nameless thousands crowd life's little day,
Minions of sordid wealth or pageant pow'r,
Born but to sport in fortune's gilded ray,
The weak ephemera of a sunshine hour!
E'en Memory o'er their urns forgets to weep;—
For them how dark the tomb! the oblivious grave how deep!

And are those eyes but meteors of a day?
Doom'd is that hand in mould'ring dust to sleep?
Those eyes, whence Genius pours his living ray,
That hand, so skill'd the Muse's lyre to sweep?
And shalt thou vanish with the vulgar throng?
How drear the sullen pause when hush'd thy heavenly song!

No, Seward! Tho' those orbs shall cease to roll,
When the freed spirit seeks her native skies,
Still in thy verse survives celestial soul!
Oh! not with Seward's form her memory dies!
Still shall thy song enraptur'd fancy bind,
Still breath the sacred fire of unextinguish'd mind!

Then, Seward, live till Time itself shall close,
Nor mourn mortality's promiscuous doom,
Since Death in vain his dreaded ice-bolt throws,
To blast the laurel Genius bids to bloom.
Lift to thy Muse the soul-enkindled eye—
She grants a glorious boon — 'tis Immortality.

[pp. 264-66, 340]