1756
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode to Melancholy.

Scots Magazine 18 (February 1756) 75.

Anonymous


An allegorical ode in 26 quatrains, addressed from "Aberdeen." The poem takes a kind of imaginative tour of scenes and passions associated with melancholy. At times it assumes the manner of Milton's Il Penseroso: "Come, heav'nly fair, and bring thy sister-train: | Wan Sorrow, drooping her dejected head; | Calm Thought, that walks along the flowery plain; | And pensive Solitude, that loves the shade." And at other times the mode of Gray's recently-published Elegy written in a Country Churchyard: "The burst of grandeur, and the pomp of power, | Can these bid Sorrow's gushing tears subside? | Can these avail in that tremendous hour | When Death's cold hand congeals the purple tide?" The poem is not by James Beattie, but it could conceivably be by his early friend John Ogilvie.

Eleanor M. Sickels: "One would like to think that this anonymous poem was written by John Ogilvie, and that the Ode to Melancholy which he later published with his Day of Judgment [1759] was merely a later version; for certain it is tht long stretches of the two odes ... are identical" Sickels, Gloomy Egoist (1932) 50.



Come, sweet enthusiast, from the lonely vale,
Whence streams o'er all thy sadly-soothing lay;
While Night sits list'ning to thy tender tale,
That melts the heart, and steals the soul away.

O! let me woo thee from thy cool retreat,
Whether thy wand'ring steps delight to rove,
O'er Afric's woods; — or court some softer seat;
And lead thee musing to yon bowery grove.

Say, dost thou walk o'er Libya's trackless waste,
Or seek some distant solitary shore?
Or on the Andes' topmost mountain plac'd,
Dost sit, and hear the solemn thunder roar?

Is some lone forest now thy dark abode,
Where breathes sweet Philomel's inchanting strain?
Or didst thou listen to some rushing flood,
And suit thy cadence to the sounding main?

Or does some rural scene delight thee most,
Where all around the bloomy landscapes glow?
There in deep thoughtful contemplation lost,
Dost muse, and pore upon the stream below?

Come, heav'nly fair, and bring thy sister-train:
Wan Sorrow, drooping her dejected head;
Calm Thought, that walks along the flowery plain;
And pensive Solitude, that loves the shade.

The blue ey'd Eve, in gilded mantle drest,
Paints deep with gold the mountain's airy brow!
Pale Envy's watchful eyes are clos'd in rest,
Nor sounds the voice of music from the bough.

This, this is Wisdom's soft transporting hour,
When by some purling stream at ease reclin'd,
She sits all serious, near yon arching bower,
And pours her treasures on the op'ning mind.

O, bear me to some scene remov'd from sight,
Some awful shade, the deep recess of thought,
Where the lone warbler on the ear of Night
Pours sweetly slow her melancholy note.

Far hence be Tumult, Vanity, and Noise,
Far hence be Envy's deeply lurking wiles,
Far hence Ambition's momentary joys,
Hate's stormy frowns, and Love's deceitful smiles.

All hail, ye gentle, undisturb'd retreats,
Save that invited by the breezy gale,
When Evening gilds your flower-embroider'd seats,
Calm Peace sits musing in the lowly dale.

Here let me mark, from human ken remote,
The crouds that land in Death's dark dismal dome,
Here weigh th' events in cool impartial thought
That pass betwixt the cradle and the tomb.

A scanty space, and clouded o'er with care:
Yet here black Terror spreads her raven wing,
Here sound the shrieks of Fury and Despair,
And jaundic'd Malice points her poison'd sting.

From scene to scene the busy rambler flies,
As Passion, Fear, and lawless Frenzy call,
Elate with hope, or spent with bursting sighs,
Till Death's destructive hand determines all.

Come, mournful maid, from thy sequester'd bower,
And o'er this breast, long conscious of thy sway,
Exert thy genial heav'n-descended power,
And sweep the sparkling scenes of life away.

Quick to yon forest let my steps retire,
Where nodding yews and arching cypress grow;
There let me tune the sweetly plaintive lyre,
Till all my melting soul dissolve in woe.

There if Ambition's tow'ring hopes inflame,
Let judging Reason draw the veil aside;
Or fir'd with envy at some mighty name,
Read o'er the monument that tells, — he dy'd.

Say, gentle mourner, in yon mouldy vault,
Where the worm fattens on some scepter'd brow,
Beneath that roof with sculptur'd marble fraught,
Why sleeps unmov'd the breathless dust below?

Sleeps it more sweetly than the simple swain
Beneath some mossy turf that rests his head,
Where the lone widow tells the night her pain,
And eve with dewy tears embalms the dead?

The lily, screen'd from ev'ry ruder gale,
Ne'er courts the cultur'd spot where roses spring;
But blows neglected in the peaceful vale,
And scents the zephyrs balmy-breathing wing.

The burst of grandeur, and the pomp of power,
Can these bid Sorrow's gushing tears subside?
Can these avail in that tremendous hour
When Death's cold hand congeals the purple tide?

Ah, no! — the charms of nature and of art,
Youth's smiling pride, and Beauty's lovely bloom,
Lopt like a flower by his relentless dart,
Like pale and with'ring in the silent tomb.

For me: — may passion ne'er my soul invade,
Nor be the whims of tow'ring frenzy given:
Let wealth ne'er court me from the lonely shade
Where Contemplation wings the soul to heav'n.

O guard me safe from Envy's lurking snare!
With each extreme that Pleasure tries to hide,
The poison'd breath of slow-consuming Care,
The noise of Folly, and the dreams of Pride.

But lead, sweet nymph, my devious steps away,
Far from the haunts of Pleasure, Pomp, and Pow'r,
Where Science musing at the close of day,
Spends the calm, thoughtful, solitary hour.

There let my little span of life be led,
And grant some friend, that pays a kind return
To mutual love, may seek my grassy bed,
And pour the tears of friendship o'er my urn.

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