1788
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Reflexion.

Gentleman's Magazine 58 (July 1788) 636.

William Hamilton Reid


William Hamilton Reid, a laboring poet whose poetry was appearing in all the magazines at this period, substitutes "reflection" for the usual "fancy" in this imitation of Il Penseroso, which hymns the powers of moral reform: "But when thou, with sober mien, | Deign'st to bless this wayward scene, | Like Aurora shining clear, | O'er th' ideal hemisphere; | Who but hears a soothing strain | Warbling Heaven's ways are plain?" The Gentleman's Magazine printed a biographical letter concering Reid in the July issue.



'Twas when Nature's darling child,
Flora, fann'd by Zephyrs mild,
The gorgeous canopy outspread
O'er the sun's declining head,
Winding from the buz of day,
Thus a bard attun'd his lay:
Noblest gift to mortals given,
Bright Reflexion! child of Heav'n,
Goddess of the speaking eye,
Glancing thro' eternity,
Rob'd in intellectual light,
Come, with all thy charms bedight:
Tho' nor fame nor splendid worth
Mark thy humble vot'ries birth,
Snatch'd by thee from cank'ring care,
I defy the fiend Despair;
All the joys that Bacchus loves,
All inglorious pleasure proves;
All the fleeting modish toys
Buoy'd by Folly's frantic noise,
All, except the sacred lore,
Flowing from thy boundless store!
For when thy bright form appears,
Even wild Confusion hears;
Chaos glows, impervious Night
Shrinks from thy all-piercing sight.
Yet! alas! what vain extremes
Mortals prove in Error's schemes,
Sunk profound in torpor's trance,
Or with levity they dance;
Or in murmurs deep, the soul
Thinks its bliss beyond the pole,
Bounding swift o'er time and place,
Vacant still thro' boundless space,
Leaving happiness at home,
Thus the mental vagrants roam.
But when thou, with sober mien,
Deign'st to bless this wayward scene,
Like Aurora shining clear,
O'er th' ideal hemisphere;
Who but hears a soothing strain
Warbling "Heaven's ways are plain?"
Who but hears the charmer say,
"These obscure the living ray?"
Self-love, the foulest imp of Night,
That ever stain'd the virgin light;
Coward wretch, who shuns to share,
Or soothe the woes which others bare;
Envy with an eagle's eye,
Scandal's tales that never die;
Int'rest vile with countless tongues,
Trembling for ideal wrongs;
Flatt'ry base, with supple knee,
Cringing low servility;
Prejudice, with eyes askew,
Still suspecting aught that's new;
Would but men from these refrain
Eden's bowers would bloom again;
Doubts in embryo melt away,
Truth's eternal Sun-beams play.

[p. 636]