1750 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Indifference.

A Select Collection of Poems: with Notes, biographical and historical: and a complete Poetical Index. 8 Vols [John Nichols, ed.]

Thomas Pennant


Thomas Pennant, hardly known as a poet, wittily constructs an erotic lyric from the invocation to Milton's L'Allegro. The poem was published in 1782, long after the distinguished naturalist and antiquary (b. 1726) was likely to be writing such things. There is little in the poem, however, to suggest an appropriate date. In the Annual Register it is reprinted under the title "Ode, occasion'd by a Lady's professing an Attachment to Indifference."

John Nichols: "I am enabled to ascribe this elegant little poem to its proper author on the best authority, that of Mr. Pennant himself, who informs me that it was written on account of a Lady speaking in praise of Indifference" 8:229n.



Fly, Indifference, hated maid,
Seek Spitsbergen's horrid shade,
Where old Winter keeps his court,
There, fit guest, do thou resort,
And thy frosty breast repose
Amidst congenial ice and snows.
There reside, insipid maid,
But ne'er infect my Emma's head.

Or else seek the cloiser's pale,
Where reluctant virgins veil,
In the corner of whose heart
Earth with heaven still keeps a part;
There thy fullest influence shower,
Free poor grace from passion's power;
Give fond Eloisa rest,
But shun, oh shun my Emma's breast.

Or on Lyce, wanton maid,
Be thy chilling finger laid;
Quench the frolic beam that flies
From her bright, fantastic eyes;
Teach the sweet coquette to know
Heart of ice in breast of snow;
Give peace to her, give peace to me,
But leave, oh leave my Emma free.

But if thou, in grave disguise,
Seek'st to make that nymph thy prize;
If that nymph, deceiv'd by thee,
Listens to thy sophistry;
If she courts thy cold embraces,
And to thee resigns her graces;
What, alas! is left for me,
But to fly, myself, to thee?

[8:229-30]