1750
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on Beauty. To *****

Four odes. I. On Sleep. II. On Beauty. III. On Taste. IV. To the Right Hon. the Lady **** on the death of her Son.

William Gerard Hamilton


In this Horatian ode William Gerard Hamilton asserts that the sense of beauty is a universal passion, proceeding to catalogue a series of poets, painters, and musicians, and concluding: "Musick her sister arts may aid, | And Poetry o'er light and shade | Reflect her mutual fire; | Meek suppliants all at Beauty's shrine,— | In one united there shall join | The Pencil, Muse, and Lyre." The ode consists of fifteen aabccb stanzas, a form recently used by both Joseph Warton and William Collins.

Later in life "one-speech" Hamilton became a noted politician and a member of Samuel Johnson's circle; he employed Edmund Burke as his secretary and was evidently acquainted with Edmond Malone, who left a memoir.



And wilt thou, Romeo, still maintain
That Beauty holds a boundless Reign,
Soft Pow'r, by all confest!
See'st thou the Coward and the Brave,
The freeborn Briton and the Slave,
With equal Rapture blest?

The Gods indulgent to Mankind,
The tend'rest Passions of the Mind
With frugal Hands dispense:
For faithless I can ne'er believe,
That rude untutor'd Hearts perceive
The finer Joys of Sense.

Mark but the ruthless Indian's Soul,
Which no ingenuous Thoughts controul,
Where Pity never dwelt:
By Beauty, Fancy's loveliest Child,
Mid lorn Savannahs waste and wild,
With human Feelings melt!

Behold the pow'rful Charm assuage
The hoary Lion's lawless Rage:
He owns the wanton Fire;
And lordly roaming o'er the Plain,
Singles the fairest of his Train,
To feed the loose Desire!

But would'st thou feel a purer Flame
Than e'en the warmest Wish can frame,
By much too fine to cloy;
Far, far beyond that aking Breast,
With which the Village-Hind's opprest,
Who idly terms it Joy?

Has Heaven indulgent to thy Make,
Form'd thee to ev'ry Sense awake,
Blithe Hope, or frantick Fear?
Can human Mis'ries steal a Sigh,
Or from thy soft consenting Eye
Can Pity draw the Tear?

Canst thou with wild Othello glow
In all his madd'ning jealous Woe,
By Love's dark Doubts distrest?
With treach'rous Jaffier dost thou feel
Th' impending Tortures of the Wheel,
That wound his guilty Breast?

Tell me, can Pindar's lofty Strain,
Luxuriant Fancy's fruitful Vein,
The noblest Thoughts infuse?
Say, do you taste his gen'rous Fire,
Or canst thou feelingly expire
To Sappho's plaintive Muse?

See'st thou the Warmth, the Grace divine,
That breathes thro' mild Correggio's Line,
By Heav'ns peculiar Care:
Does Guido wrap thee in Delight?
Can Titian's Colours charm thy Sight?
Or Julio's godlike Air?

Say, does thy Heart with Rapture spring,
When Handel strikes the magic String,
With Transport do you hear?
Or dost thou languish into Pain,
When soft Corelli's tender Strain
Subdues the ravish'd Ear?

Canst thou with Freedom's Sons rejoice
To hear th' Athenian Patriot's Voice,
'Mid Tyrants undismay'd;
But fails his bolder Fire, — O say,
Can Tully charm each Sense away,
And baffle Reason's Aid?

Canst thou with Pity mov'd bewail
The simple Emma's hapless Tale,
The fond believing Heart?
Or say, does Eloisa's Line,
Where Learning, Taste, and Love combine,
A nobler Flame impart?

The Muse in wild melodious Lays
Instruction's awful Voice conveys,
And each wild Wish disarms:
While Picture's Arts alone can trace
Each soften'd Line, each secret Grace,
And add to Beauty's Charms.

Should Hope her lenient Aid refuse,
Tho' each disast'rous Day renews
One sadden'd Scene of Woe,
From pleasing Symphony of Sound,
When melting Notes dissolve around,
Unnumber'd Raptures flow.

Musick her Sister Arts may aid,
And Poetry o'er Light and Shade
Reflect her mutual Fire;
Meek Suppliants all at Beauty's Shrine
In one united there shall join
The Pencil, Muse, and Lyre.

[pp. 9-16]