To Health.

Odes Descriptive and Allegorical.

Rev. Richard Shepherd

Richard Shepherd adapts the format of Milton's L'Allegro in the tenth ode in his collection, addressed to Health. In the genealogical passage Hygeia is the daughter of "Temperance the mountain maid" and sturdy Exercise; the Orpheus passage becomes the basis of the body of the poem, which describes the poet's recovery from consumption. The ode concludes with a hymn of thanksgiving: "But chief, my Muse, with reverent Awe | To Him, whose Will is Nature's Law, | Thy Hymns of Gratulation pay, | To Him direct the Tribute Lay. | From whom derives the balmy Pill | Its Virtues, the Physician Skill."

Though hardly a familiar name, Richard Shepherd was a prolific and apparently a successful writer: the Ode to Health was reprinted at least six times during the poet's lifetime.

British Magazine: "The genuine production of the Muse" 2 (1761) 161.

Hence, meagre pale Disease,
From the crude Banquets of Intemperance bred;
Nurs'd in the sluggard Bed,
And folded in the Arms of pamper'd Ease:
Hence to Boetian Bogs;
Whence humid Auster on his dropping Wings
Gross Exhalations brings,
Where rank Effluvia from the marshy Brake,
Or murky stagnate Lake
Pregnant with Ills arise in misty Fogs.
And come, Hygeia, bland and fair,
Flush'd with the Glow or Morning Air;
With coral Lip and sparkling Eye,
Complexion of ensanguin'd Dye;
With chearful Smile, and open Brow,
Where Care could ne'er one furrow Plow;
With steady Step, and Aspect sleek,
The Rose that glows on Stella's Cheek,
And snowy Bosom, whence exhales
The Sweetness of Etesian Gales.

In Sylvan Scenes is thy Delight,
To climb the towering Mountain's Height,
Or blithely on thy native Plain,
To gambol with the Dryad Train.
Those Plains, where in unguarded Hour
Far from the Ken of her chaste Bower,
As o'er the dew-bespangled Glade
Rov'd Temperance the Mountain Maid;
She stopt, in fixt Attention viewing
Lusty Exercise pursuing;
With missive Shaft and beechen Spear,
Thro' opening Lawns the trembling Deer.
The God surveys the musing Dame,
The Lover quits his flying Game:
His Tresses dropped with Morning Dew,
While to the Wood-Nymph's Srms he flew;
And from their hale Embraces sprung
Hygeia, ever fair and young.

Long, Virgin, may thy genial Fire
Each late exhausted Vein inspire,
The crimson Tide of Life renew,
And give to glide in Channels blue.
Thee Wit and Mirth spontaneous serve,
That give a Tone to every Nerve,
Invoke thee, Harmony's bright Queen,
To tune the disarranged Machine.
The Glow of Titan's orient Ray
Thy happy Pencil shall pourtray
With Grace more exquisite than lies
In Guido's Air, or Titian's Dyes;
Hence the pale Hue of Sickness chase,
And call up each reviving Grace;
O'er which, as late with haggard Hand
Consumption shook her magic Wand;
Nature's last Debt prepar'd to pay,
Youth's drooping Flowers 'gan fade away.
No crimson Hue was seen to glow,
The stagnate Blood forgot to flow;
Their Lustre fled, the languid Eyes
Stood fixt in motionless Surprise;
Each Sense seem'd lost in endless Night,
The trembling Soul was wing'd for Flight:
Which Death's rude Shaft had half set free
In unconceiv'd Eternity.

Then, Varus, was the power displayed
Of Medicine's Heaven-directed Aid.
Vers'd in each Drug's balsamick Use
The Daedal Soils of Earth produce,
In every Flower of every Hue,
And Herb that drinks the Morning Dew,
Thy lenient Hand allay'd each Throw,
And gave a milder Face to Woe:
Bade the bold Pulse elastick play,
The Eye emit its vivid Ray,
Called back the flitting Life again,
And Health inspired thro' every Vein.

Again thrills with her genial Zest
Each Nerve; again my languid Breast
Visits the Cherub Joy. For this
May thy auspicious Art ne'er miss,
Oft as the Fair for Charms decayed
Implores thy salutary Aid,
To smoothe the lovely Mourner's Brow,
And bid reviving Beauties glow;
To soothe the tender Parent's Cries,
And wipe the Tears from infant Eyes.

But chief, my Muse, with reverent Awe
To Him, whose Will is Nature's Law,
Thy Hymns of Gratulation pay,
To Him direct the Tribute Lay.
From whom derives the balmy Pill
Its Virtues, the Physician Skill:
That o'er each Act and Thought presides,
Directs his Hand, his Counsel guides.
Else Medicine's unavailing Store
Shall vainly glide thro' every Pore,
Thro' every Pore the mineral Rill
In vain its gifted Powers instill.

Father divine, eternal King,
To Thee I wake the trembling String:
If mad Ambition ne'er misled,
In Paths, where Virtue dares not tread,
My vagrant Step; if sordid Views
Ne'er won the prostituted Muse;
For others let Pactolus flow,
Let Honour wreathe another's Brow:
Health I intreat; whose jocund Throng
Wantons each laughing Grace among;
With Health the dancing Minutes crowned
The Field of all my Wishes bound.

[pp. 32-38]