1762
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Impudence.

Two Odes. To Indolence, and To Impudence.

Andrew Erskine


The second of Andrew Erskine's companion poems is a mock ode in twelve stanzas. The Ode to impudence is, of course, an impudent ode, not least in the Scottish poet's snigger at the Irish: "And ancient legends say, | Soon as their young race see the day, | That plung'd in Shannon's wond'rous stream, | They strait become insensible of Shame" p. 15. Perhaps the use of this variation of the Spenserian stanza pattern (ababccdD) is taken from Gray's Hymn to Adversity. The two odes were anonymously published.

Critical Review: "The address to Impudence is not inferior to the other in poetical description, and abounds with humour as well as invention. The genealogy of the power is well conceived" 13 (May 1762) 443.

John Langhorne: "In the Ode to Impudence the Author describes the power and influence of that Goddess as particularly prevalent in the kingdom of Ireland, and descants on the wondrous efficacy of the River Shannon, in bronzing the brow of Modesty. But notwithstanding his cruel raillery on the poor Hibernians, we are inclined to believe that he is a native of the same soil; for surely none but an Irishman could have wrote the following line: 'And they were wise before their beards had hairs.' Our Poet himself, perhaps, has been actually plunged in the Shannon, though he affects to wish for it; at least here is strong presumptive evidence: Were there no Impudence in the world, says he, then 'Each with his real merit would appear, | And MY WELL-POLISH'D LINES WOULD CHARM EACH FEELING EAR'" Monthly Review 26 (June 1762) 473-74.

A different Ode to Impudence was published in the Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 20 (10 June 1773) 337.



1. 1.
Hail Heav'n-sprung Impudence, by Mars begot
On lovely Venus, in that fatal hour,
When by black Vulcan's fraudful plot,
The net unseen hung o'er each raptur'd pow'r:
While leaving all their bright abodes,
Met the full synod of the Gods,
And all with envy view'd the melting sight,
And wish'd to be involv'd in such an amorous plight.

I. 2.
Hence to the warlike soldier's stately port,
And to the courtesan's full staring eye,
Thou fondly frequent dost resort,
There, there we best thy genuine force descry:
And oft in print thou dost appear,
With counsel for the statesman's ear,
How best the helm of government to guide,
And how to swell more high Corruption's foaming tide.

I. 3.
But chief to one exalted clime,
Thro' all the long records of time,
We find thou didst dispense,
With ever nobly liberal hand,
O'er all the happy happy land,
The generous gift of boundless confidence:
And ancient legends say,
Soon as their young race see the day,
That plung'd in Shannon's wond'rous stream,
They strait become insensible of Shame.

II. 1.
Ah! where is he that would not fondly chuse
Oft to be dipt within that sacred flood,
And there with eager haste to lose
Th' emotions wild that fire the glowing blood,
The downcast glances of the eyes,
The blushes deep that sudden rise,
With all that agitates the human race,
With feelings quickly keen when o'er them hangs Disgrace.

II. 2.
Had I the mighty pow'r to mount and soar,
On wand'ring plume thro' all the laughing sky,
I'd waft me to that river's shore,
And o'er the beauteous rolling current fly;
And oft I'd skim the liquid verge,
And oft I'd sink and oft emerge,
And still my brow so oft abash'd I'd lave,
Till Modesty was drown'd deep in the closing wave.

II. 3.
Eas'd of that still-intruding guest,
That cruel joy-dispelling pest,
How freely would I scorn
The base, the self-applauding train,
For ever weak, for ever vain,
That to their own praise wind the sounding horn;
And by kind Nature blest,
With arrogance above the rest,
Boast that all wit, all sense is theirs,
And they were wise before their beards had hairs.

III. 1.
Ev'n Wisdom's precious self with look demure,
Might turn for years the page of Science o'er,
Might boast her classic fountains pure,
And bid the world admire the sacred store;
But yet if not upheld by thee,
How very weak the vaunt would be;
Unless by thy undaunted look inspir'd,
Vain might she strive to mount the height she had aspir'd.

III. 2.
Shall still despis'd the sons of Merit pine,
Low sunk in dark Obscurity's deep vale;
Must Genius still to woe resign,
And will not Greatness hear her moving tale,
Unless with Impudence allied,
He throws his bashful chains aside,
And lost to Modesty transmits to Fame,
Embalm'd with venal praise some high-detested name.

III. 3.
Yet hard the struggle to expell
The seeds of Shame when rooted well,
And Diffidence resign;
For if your voice or look betray,
You cannot force it quite away,
By Heav'n you'll envy him who digs the mine:
Still in confusion lost,
You'll shun the ever treacherous coast,
Nor hoist the bold advent'rous sail,
Lest Impudence refuse the welcome gale.

IV. 1.
Were she at once to lose her glorious pow'r,
How very low would shoals of mortals sink,
Ev'n some that now the highest tow'r,
Would almost into very nothing shrink;
The land would be with fools o'erspread,
Dulness the sagest would invade,
Each with his real merit would appear,
And my well-polish'd lines would charm each feeling ear.

IV. 2.
Then meek-ey'd Modesty might grace the earth,
With Diffidence retiring from the view,
Two angels of celestial birth,
Of beauteous form, and glowing rosy hue;
Where'er the lovely cherubs rov'd,
Their blushing charms would be approv'd;
Chear'd by their light would ev'ry virtue shine,
With flame unborrow'd all, with radiance all divine.

IV. 3.
Farewell alas to thoughts like these,
Weak fool, to think that they could please,
That they could fire the soul:
Then come, kind Impudence, to all,
No more let Bashfulness enthrall,
And o'er the face warm burning blushes roll:
But case us all in brass,
Hence shall this age each age surpass,
And truly be the brazen nam'd,
Hence Albion as Hibernia shall be fam'd.

[pp. 13-19]