1773
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Impudence.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 20 (10 June 1773) 337-38.

S. D.


A burlesque ode in thirteen stanzas, signed "S. D., Edinburgh, June 1." One imagines that the poet is a young barrister, for the logic of his wit is unassailable: "For modest merit tries in vain | A scrimped livelihood to gain; | But Impudence presides | At court, at church, and on the bench, | And nothing sooner wins a wench, | Or for a man provides." Part of the humor of the poem lies in the fact that allegorical odes were commonly written as advertisements for young men in search of a place; the Ode to Impudence is thus ironically self-recommending.

Andrew Erskine had previously published an "Ode to Impudence" in Two Odes (1762). In this vain, compare also Richard Hole's better-known "Ode to Stupidity" in Poems, chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall (1792).



Away, thou shame-fac'd modest maid!
Too much to thee my court I've paid,
But now my faults I see;
There's nought from thee I can expect
But poverty and cool neglect,
'Twill never do for me:

But come, bold maid! with sprightly looks,
Pregnant with wit ne'er learn'd from books
(For books make ladies dull);
Be thou my friend, sweet IMPUDENCE!
Let learning, modesty, and sense,
No more possess my skull.

I like thy meretricious air,
That wanton eye, that bosom bare,
Inviting to the touch;
Thy well-turn'd limbs become the gauze,
Thy beauty strikes, but never awes,
Nor can we love too much.

For long by Modesty restrain'd,
From seeking thee I have refrain'd,
But now I've broke the chain;
Her blushing cheeks, her downcast eyes,
Her formal lessons I despise,
Preach'd up to me in vain.

For oft the man of modest mien,
In lowly sphere to move is seen,
While fools, with face of brass,
By Fortune favour'd high will rise,
Altho' the tongue of envy cries,
He's nothing but an ass.

And now my humble vot'ry hear,
Blest Impudence! to me give ear,
Inspirer of my song;
Infuse thy spirit in each vein,
That backwardness which you disdain,
Let me not keep it long.

And teach me to assume that face,
Which far surpasseth ev'ry grace
That modesty can boast;
That look important, vainly big,
Oft seen beneath the bushy wig
At bar or pulpit toss'd:

And may I learn to prize my worth,
And set my parts and genius forth
In such conspicuous light,
That gaping fools, with curious stare,
May wonder how these talents were
Conceal'd so long in night.

Give me with stately stride to walk,
With empty sounding words to talk,
Such as the ladies hear,
When, tattling by their sides, the beaux
Now praise their tops, and now their toes,
With many a foolish sneer.

And far be diffidence from me;
That bashful maid Humility
I turn away with scorn;
The man of humble lowly views
Is like the vulgar grov'ling Muse,
To greatness never born.

Thus, Impudence! by thee inspir'd,
That quality so long admir'd,
But never yet assum'd;
With pertness, boldness, on my side,
And all the insolence of pride,
For Fortune's smile I'm doom'd.

For modest merit tries in vain
A scrimped livelihood to gain;
But Impudence presides
At court, at church, and on the bench,
And nothing sooner wins a wench,
Or for a man provides.

Then mine be matchless Impudence,
And bold Assurance, void of sense,
To bear me up in life;
The little Modesty I have,
Now lost to me, I freely leave
To ev'ry modern wife.

[pp. 337-38]