1773
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Simplicity.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 19 (18 March 1773) 369.

John Tait


Nine ababcc stanzas, a lyric variation of Milton's L'Allegro composed by John Tait, a young Edinburgh poet: "Oft will I seek the mountain's brow, | Where midnight fairies join the ring, | Where tuneful streamlets sweetly flow, | And prompt the sylvan Muse to sing, | And there, from pride, from envy free, | I'll dedicate myself to thee." At the time of publication Tait was at work on his Spenserian allegory, The Land of Liberty (1775).

Tait's Ode to Sincerity, though written in a different measure and less obviously a Milton imitation, may have been intended as a companion poem. It appeared in the Weekly Magazine for 8 April 1773.



Simplicity, thou lovely fair!
To thee the Muse devotes her song;
To thee directs her ardent pray'r;
For thee she leaves the civic throng,
Who vainly chase the baseless joys
Which ev'ry empty breeze destroys.

To gain the courtier's faithless smile,
Amid the glare of courts to shine,
Let giddy mortals idly toil,
I'll seek thy calm sequester'd shrine,
Where health, content and peace unite,
To give the soul supreme delight.

How sweet, fair nymph! with thee to dwell
Where vernal beauty's clothe the field;
How sweet to view thy rugged cell,
Beneath the moss-grown rock conceal'd,
Where Contemplation's heav'nly beams
Exalt wild Fancy's airy dreams.

How sweet with Innocence to rove
Amid thy soft bewitching throng,
Who tread the pleasing paths of love,
And sweetly raise the rural song,
That soothes the fondly-listening ear,
And melts the souls of those who hear.

Haste then, dear nymph, with brow serene
Conduct me to thy sylvan seat,
Haste, lead me to the peaceful scene,
Where thou hast fix'd thy blest retreat,
And there with fond regard I'll pay
The tribute of a rustic lay.

Beneath yon shade, behind yon thorn,
Where Nature's songsters raise the strain,
With thee I'll pass the chearful morn,
Remote from sorrow, grief and pain,
Save when the sadly plaintive note
Bursts from sweet Philomela's throat.

Oft on yon blooming bed of flow'rs,
Whose balmy fragrance scents the gale,
With thee I'll pass the noon-tide hours,
Intent to hear the shepherd's tale,
Which flows from thy exhaustless store,
And gives me joys unknown before.

Oft when the shades of ev'ning fall,
And Cynthia beams with borrow'd light,
On thee, delightful nymph! I'll call,
To show the rock's stupendous height,
Where all thy beauties strike the eye
With grandeur pomp and majesty.

Oft will I seek the mountain's brow,
Where midnight fairies join the ring,
Where tuneful streamlets sweetly flow,
And prompt the sylvan Muse to sing,
And there, from pride, from envy free,
I'll dedicate myself to thee.

[p. 369]