1790
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Content.

Gentleman's Magazine 60 (Supplement, 1790) 1167-68.

Elizabeth Bentley


An allegorical ode in nine ababcc stanzas by Elizabeth Bentley, a Norwich autodidact whose first volume was about to be published by subscription. The ode, consisting of a catalogue of personifications, appears in Raymond Dexter Havens's list of Milton imitations: "Deign, Gentle Power, on earth t' abide, | And shed thy breathing sweets around; | Now o'er the social hours preside, | Now tread the solitary ground." This stanza had previously been used in Milton imitations.

In the Gentleman's Magazine the poem is preceded by a letter from the author describing the progress of her education; this publication anticipated the appearance of the first of her three collected volumes of poems, the last published in 1835.



Daughter of Innocence, descend,
Thou stranger to repining Care;
Whose breast no serious passions rend,
Let human hearts thy influence share,
Why wilt thou still our eager search elude,
And thy fair form seclude?

Tho' Plenty decks the sumptuous board,
And gaudy Splendour rules the feast;
Can these felicity afford,
If thou, Content, be not a guest?
Not all the wealth that rears an Indian throne
Thy absence can atone.

See idle Folly's frantic train,
Loud Riot rules their midnight hour;
Their bosoms, rack'd with guilty pain,
Ne'er own'd thy soothing, balmy power.
Remorse with deadly venom points her dart;
They feel the rankling smart.

The simple hind, whose lowly cot,
Thy ever-placid smiles adorn;
Blest in his undistinguish'd lot,
With joy salutes each rising morn;
And when he quits his daily toils for rest,
No evil haunts his breast.

Be thou, O Nymph, my constant guide,
Thro' varying life's tempestuous seas;
'Tis thou canst stem each adverse tide,
And find th' unruffled port of Ease;
Thou canst in ev'ry storm a calm create,
And smile at angry Fate.

O grant me oft the temp'rate bliss
With thee to pass the silent hour
(To changeful Fortune's frown submiss),
In calm Retirement's shady bow'r;
Or with thy peaceful family to dwell,
In some sequester'd cell;

Where Health is found with ruddy brow,
And Meekness flies the voice of Fame;
And Contemplation feels the glow
Of pure Devotion's hallow'd flame;
And radiant Hope, who darts her eagle-eye
To scenes beyond the sky.

Sincerity, with artless mien,
Firm Faith, whom Doubt can ne'er annoy;
Thy beauteous race shall join the scene,
Sedate Repose, and tranquil Joy;
With Industry, who slavish Want disdains,
And spurns Sloth's lagging chains.

Deign, Gentle Power, on earth t' abide,
And shed thy breathing sweets around;
Now o'er the social hours preside,
Now tread the solitary ground;
Celestial Happiness thy constant friend,
Shall all thy paths attend.

[pp. 1167-68]