1775
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode to Fancy.

Town and Country Magazine 7 (March 1775) 158.

J. Hall


An imitation of Milton's L'Allegro, signed "J. Hall, London, March 2." This ode interjects considerable melancholy with its mirth, beginning with the suggestion that the poet, writing from London, is remembering scenes of his childhood. And there are other curious juxtapositions: "Sad nymph, who courts the silent shade, | And the gloom for sorrow made; | Or what daisy'd meads among, | Dost thou laugh at mirth's gay song?"



Sweet fancy, hail! to thee I pay
The tribute of a grateful lay!
I'll tune my pipe, and gladly sing—
Accept the trifling meed I bring:
A meed from such a youthful muse,
Sweet nymph, thou wilt not sure refuse!
Since it issues from the heart,
By nature taught, devoid of art—
Entic'd by thy enliv'ning fire,
I early strove to touch the lyre;
And on the gay, bespangled mead,
To tune the harmless rural reed.
What tho' I've left my native bow'rs,
Where sprung the choicest, sweetest flow'rs,
Where wanton songster, on the spray,
So sweetly carol all the day;
And where the shepherds oft are seen
Cheerful sporting on the green;
Where the laughing sun displays
His temp'rate, sweet, and cheering rays;
Yet thou, sweet nymph, canst still impart
Thy pleasing transports to my heart!
By what heath-clad mountain's side
Dost thou, goddess, oft reside?
By what clear as crystal brook,
Gushing from an awful rock,
Dost thou stalk, with manly mien,
By every human eye unseen?
When the lark salutes the dawn,
Dost thou skiff the verdant lawn;
With thy lovely locks behind,
Waving in the wanton wind;
While thy blue, bright piercing eye,
Tow'ring on each object nigh,
Views with joy the sun-beams now
Dancing o'er a mountain's brow?
Sometimes, in thy lightsome round,
Dost thou listen to the sound
Of the huntsman's early horn,
Winding in a harvest morn;
Or the happy rustic's song,
As he trudging toils along
To his sweetheart, with her pail,
Rosy in the morning gale?
When the scowling north wind loud
Rages in the waving flood;
When the streams in ice appear,
And winter desolates the year,
Then, on some high cliff's dread brow,
Dost thou, goddess, sit and view
Many landscapes bleak around,
All in frozen fetters bound?
With thy locks and bosom bare
Braving the inclement air;
While the rude storm rages high,
And the billows touch the sky,
Dashing oft against the shore,
In a plaintive, sullen roar!
Loud the blasts terrific rail,
Beating on the canvass sail;
Whilst the sea bred mariners round
Fearless, whistle to the sound.
But when summer gilds the morn,
And dew-drops glisten on the thorn;
When the blooming month of May
Warms the warblers to the spray,
In what sequester'd wild or wood
Dost thou stray, in pensive mood?
And oft return the tender sigh
To elegy, with tearful eye!
Sad nymph, who courts the silent shade,
And the gloom for sorrow made;
Or what daisy'd meads among,
Dost thou laugh at mirth's gay song?
So blithsome, light — so free from care;
From pining grief and sorrow far.
Sweetest nymph, that lives unseen,
Or that sports upon the green,
Fancy! ever fair and free!
Queen of rural sports and glee,
Approve a museling's trifling meed,
Who tries to tune the rural reed.

[p. 158]