1785
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Indolence.

The Florence Miscellany.

Robert Merry


Robert Merry sings the praises of the tranquil goddess in the octosyllabic measures of Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso: "O hence, ye fury passions, hence! | But welcome to my longing arms, | Array'd in all thy sober charms, | Mild tranquil Indolence!" In eighteenth-century poetry Indolence had been gradually revalued since it had appeared as the wicked Wizard of James Thomson's Castle of Indolence, no doubt because it correspondend to the deliberate purposelessness of the aesthetic attitude. Merry gives a rather different turn to this subject in his Ode to Tranquility, published in The World (25 August 1787).

The Ode to Indolence was apparently written and published before 1783; see W. N. Hargreaves-Mawdsley, The English Della Cruscans and their Time, 1783-1828 (1967) 67.



O peace to yonder tumult rude
That bursts upon my solitude!
And mingles with the storm afar,
The frantic ravings of despair,
While thro' the dreary deep of air,
Thy fatal voice is heard, O blood-stain'd war!
Yes, now the Passions wildly rage,
And sadly gloom the human scene;
Forgotten all the poet's page,
His pensive joys, and hour serene.
O hence, ye fury passions, hence!
But welcome to my longing arms,
Array'd in all thy sober charms,
Mild tranquil Indolence!
For much I love to view thy melting eye,
Thy wanton tresses careless fly,
The zoneless breast, the open grace,
The vagrant undetermin'd pace,
The aspect bland, the form benign,
The winning air, and smile divine.

Amid the silent noon of night,
When sailing on in lustre bright,
O'er pathless wilds, and mountains drear,
The pale moon throws her silver ray,
Guiding the Pilgrim's lonely way,
To where the convent's distant spires appear;
O then thou lov'st, at ease reclin'd,
With contemplation by thy side,
Where gently steals the whisp'ring wind,
And soft the ling'ring waters glide,
To think, alas! how short, how vain,
The rich man's boast, the poor man's woe!
What madness to exult below,
What folly to complain!
See hope's gay altars by fresh vot'ries drest,
The swarm of yesterday at rest,
Those budding flow'rs their seasons gave,
Have prov'd the blossoms of the grave,
And death alike shall soon efface,
The glories of the present race.

O Goddess! wave thy lily hand,
That meekly bears the magic wand,
To soothe the mental storm to rest;
And now life's drops unruffled flow,
Nor burn with rage, nor chill with woe;
But all is sweet, and tranquil, in the breast;
Nought now the placid soul can move,
Save Pity comes with tear-ful eye,
Or the fixt gaze the feeling Love,
Or gentle Mercy's heart-felt sigh:
Yet these will not disturb thy cell,
For Echo's dirge-like notes, and clear,
Shall oft inform thy list'ning ear,
With these the virtues dwell.
And see the fleecy clouds transparent fly,
Leaving serene the summer's sky,
And see gray Evening's gloom appears,
While Nature melts in dewy tears
O hither come, and bring with thee,
The rural nymph, Simplicity.

Where Arno's waves uncertain flow,
Where rapid rolls the brighter Po,
Oft have I woo'd thee, Goddess dear!
To bless with ease my future days,
From censure far, or noisy praise:
O may thy clarion Fame! sublime to hear,
Be ever to my senses mute;
'Tis true the thrilling notes are strong,
Yet cannot charm like Pity's lute,
Nor Philomela's plaintive song.
Beneath his courser's boundings fleet,
The laurel'd Hero as he goes,
Temples unseen full many a rose,
Nor heeds the perfume sweet.
But thou, indulgent Pow'r! canst point the way,
Where all the milder pleasures stray,
The upland lawns, the shad'wy vales,
Cool lucid streams, and tepid gales,
And where the feather'd choir around,
Wanton amid the wilds of sound.

Each haughty tyrant scorns to tread
Thy simple path, with flow'rs bespread;
He too, whose sordid soul requires
Still to encrease his daily heap,
Who leaves th' unfriended race to weep,
Base, wretched victim to his own desires,
Alas! his bosom ne'er shall feel,
The bliss thy radiant smiles bestow,
When soft thy 'luring slumbers steal,
And charm away the sense of woe:
But bright Content shall thee be near,
And oft, to catch the breeze, unfold
Her waving locks of downy gold,
And chase the rising tear.
There glowing Genius shall in rapture muse,
And round his holy rays diffuse,
With comprehensive thought shall scan,
The windings in the maze of Man,
And thus with thee my limbs reclin'd,
Far from the world shall soar my mind.

[pp. 51-54]