1780
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Health.

Caledonian Mercury (25 Septemeber 1780).

M.


An imitation of Milton's L'Allegro signed "M." Though the sequence of parts has been rearranged in this poem, most the commonplaces of the form are retained: "Hence Disease, and Pain, and Folly, | Sadness sour, and Melancholy:— | Back to your Tartarian cell, | There in darkness deep to dwell; | There the slow-pac'd hours to waste, | In pining fits, and sick distaste."

Headnote: "Sir, If, in the midst of political squabbles, you can find room in your paper for the following lines upon Health, they are much at your service. M. Edin. Sept. 21."

Mary Elizabeth Craig: "The Caledonian Mercury, begun in 1720, was one of the three leading newspapers produced in the city between 1750 and 1789. It was a tri-weekly paper which, in 1772, passed out of the hands of Thomas and Walter Ruddiman into those of John Robertson. Although occasionally it incorporated current odes, epitaphs, elegies, and similar matter, it was largely given over to advertisements" The Scottish Periodical Press 1750-1789 (1931) 24.



Hail thou smiling, blooming Maid,
In all the flow'rs of spring array'd:
On thee all the Graces wait,
And compose thy comely gait.
Youth is ever by thy side,
Clad in robes of strength and pride:
Beauty mingles in thy train,
Holding myriads in her chain:
Mirth and Joy thee dance around,
With verdant boughs and garlands crown'd.

At morn thou lov'st the dewy fields,
Where Nature freshest fragrance yields:
The blushing rose then sweetest smells;
Then daily gayest paints the dells;
The lark then sweetest tunes her song
Earliest of the feather'd throng,
Cheering shepherd as he goes,
To let loose his bleating ewes.
At noon thou lov'st the cool retreat,
Shaded from the scorching heat;
Where the western breezes blow,
And the crystal fountains flow.
When Ev'ning comes in robes of gray,
Or Phoebe throws her silver ray,
Thou lov'st to walk in flow'ry mead,
Or by the silent stream to tread;
List'ning, thoughtful, to the tale
Of the plainful nightingale:
When thou view'st the vaulted skies,
Glowing rapture fills thy eyes;
Orbs unnumber'd glide along,
Hymning in a sacred throng.

HEALTH, with thee I mean to live,
Since thou only joy canst give:
And, without thee, what is life,
Toss'd in scenes of grief and strife?
Hence Disease, and Pain, and Folly,
Sadness sour, and Melancholy:—
Back to your Tartarian cell,
There in darkness deep to dwell;
There the slow-pac'd hours to waste,
In pining fits, and sick distaste.
Come ye Laughs, and Jests, and Smiles,
And festive Sport that time beguiles,
Lead me to Hygeia's bow'r,
Deck'd with ev'ry blooming flow'r,
Where the pinks and lilies grow,
And their sweetest odours throw:
Where the orange and the vine
Their loaded branches thick entwine;
Fast beside a myrtle grove,
Where the little Cupids rove,
Shooting arrows, casting darts
At the gay and youthful hearts;
Where the tender feelings move
That feed the flames of purest love.
Here I'd spend the night and day,
And never from thy dwelling stray:
Tasting comfort here, and joy,
In thy bow'r, without alloy.

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