1750
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Taste.

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


After Milton's Il Penseroso. On Taste, after the traditional address to the goddess, traces the progress of Taste from Greece to Italy to England. There follows a descriptive account of the duke of Richmond's gardens at Goodwood, where Taste is invited to take up her residence: "For thee a happier fate remains; | You still shall view more blissful plains, | Where the soft guardian of thy charms | Expects thee to his longing arms: | He shall with fix'd attention gaze, | Shall crown thee with immortal bays. In addition to its Vitruvian residence, Godwood could boast a Temple of Innocence, a Hermit's Cell, Catacombs, and an American Wood. The imagery in this poem seems to derive from William Gerard Hamilton's fellow Wykhamite, William Collins.



Say, Goddess, wilt thou never smile
Indulgent on Britannia's Isle!
Hither thy gentle Footsteps bend,
On Albion's Sea-girt Cliffs descend;
O come, and with thy genial Ray
Chase ev'ry gloomy Cloud away:
No more shall Ignorance preside,
Or Gothic Rage in Triumph ride.
Let Judgment, thy unshaken Friend,
With polish'd Elegance attend:
Simplicity, meek rural Queen,
With downcast Looks and modest Mien,
In loosely-flowing neat Attire,
Shall charm thee with her rustic Lyre.
To that in her enchanting Court
The Frolic Graces ever sport,
And guarded by their watchful Aid,
The finer Arts shall never fade.

Blest Pow'r! whose Charms alone dispense
A keener Rapture to each Sense:
If Melody enchant my Breast,
Or sooth my soften'd Soul to Rest:
By thee may ev'ry Strain be crown'd,
May'st thou still harmonize each Sound.
If blooming Colours seem to live,
May you fresh Life and Vigour give;
May you restrain each Poet's Rage,
Or animate his purer Page.
Do'st thou his savage Wrath appease,
Ev'n Terror's Giant-Form can please;
'Mid shadowy Shapes in Dead of Night,
That shoot a-cross my dazzled Sight;
'Mid Spectres of enormous Size,
'Mid Ghosts that from their Charnels rise,
'Mid shrouded Friends who solemn stalk,
And haunt me in my Midnight Walk;
While Wild-Winds blust'ring round my Head,
Inspire me with Poetic Dread;
Thro' closing Shades o'er Valleys green,
May'st thou still solemnize the Scene;
And as the Storms innoxious roll,
Pour thy lov'd Horrors o'er my Soul.

Yet not alone Britannia's Shore
Thy fatal Absence shall deplore.
See old Achaia's Genius mourn,
His Bosom bare, his Garments torn;
See his gen'rous Patriot Breast
By all his Country's Wrongs opprest.
See him with haughty fix'd Disdain
Lament his Dastard Sons in vain!
To fairer happier Climes belong
The Painter's Tints, the Poet's Song.
Lo! conscious of approaching Night:
Where Picture wings her destin'd Flight.
Behold dejected Sculpture stand,
Prepar'd to leave our desart Land.
Yet, Goddess, yet thy secret Fire
With wond'ring Rapture we admire.
By thee 'mid rugged Rocks we find
Each speaking Passion of the Mind.
With awfull Horror we behold
Th' immense Alcides' monstrous Mould;
While Venus, Queen of soft Desires,
Each tender gentler Thought inspires.

O Alexander, not alone
The Warrior's Skill to thee was known.
Fair Science, Heav'n-descended Maid,
Confesses thy propitious Aid:
To thee the grateful Arts shall raise,
Eternal Monuments of Praise.
Behold, with thee they die away,
To Roman Ignorance a Prey,
And lo! again in conqu'ring Rome
With all their usual Vigour bloom;
Again they feel the fatal Blow,
And sink beneath the Vandal Foe.
Once more the Arts began to spread
Once more gay Science rear'd her Head:
Alas! in vain she strove to assuage
The Enthusiast Zealot's bigot Rage.
Wilt thou, O Taste, again appear,
Protectress of each circling Year!
Wilt thou in all thy wonted Prime
Review this lost unhallow'd Clime;
Or here far distant Regions lie,
'Mid dreary Desarts bloom and die!
Say, shall the stern Olympian God
No more in living Marble nod!
Shall never Raphael charm the Heart,
Shall never Nature yield to Art,
Shall never Maro's Beauties shine,
Except in Armstrong's Classic Line!
And does no Leo now remain,
Who yet shall chear thy drooping tTain!
There are, who still thy Aid implore,
Who still thy sov'reign Po'er adore,
Thy Relics with religious Fear
Fond Italy shall yet revere.

Sweet Pow'r, in simple Pomp array'd
Be all thy native Charms displayd.
Again reviving Sculpture breathes;
Fair Science trims her blasted Wreaths;
With suppliant willing Hand to thee
The pencil Picture shall decree;
With one Consent the Muse's Choir
To thee shall dedicate the Lyre.

Come, Goddess, feast my longing Sight,
Let me direct thy pleasing Flight:
Whate'er voluptuous Slaves could boast
On fair Phaeacia's sunny Coast,
Whate'er the Poet's Fancy taught,
Or imag'd to his wanton Thought:
For thee a happier Fate remains;
You still shall view more bliss-full Plains,
Where the soft Guardian of thy Charms
Expects thee to his longing Arms:
He shall with fix'd Attention gaze,
Shall crown thee with immortal Bays;
With lenient Hand thy Cares assuage,
Protect thee from Time's lawless Rage,
The taunt of Scorn, the dark Revile,
The languid, faint-approving Smile,
The Noise of Mirth, the plaintive Sigh,
And simp'ring Folly's heedless Eye.

Would'st thou with Innocence reside,
Behold the Temple's modest Pride;
Or in the darksome cavern'd Cell
With solitary Hermits dwell;
Would'st thou with faint desponding Air
To melancholy Vaults repair,
With aching, sicken'd, cold Review,
Bid ev'ry Sorrow stream anew:
Here may'st thou weep thy Fav'rite Rome,
Sad-sighing o'er each Martyr's Tomb:
Meek Pity, Attic Maid, shall join
Her tender social Tears with thine,
O'er ev'ry Urn fresh Laurels strow,
And fondly emulate thy Woe.

Or wouldst thou newer Worlds survey,
Where Darkness holds her barren Sway,
Where ne'er the Muse's Chaplet blew,
Where Learning's Laurel never grew;
Where Nature to our wond'ring Eyes
Each salutary Herb supplies:
Where Flow'rs their fragrant Sweets diffuse,
Where Rrees distil their kindly Dews;
And blest with ev'ry Pow'r to heal,
Soft Slumbers o'er the Senses steal.
In such enchanting, artless Scenes,
'Mid bow'ry Mazes, spreading Greens,
Sooth'd by the breezy western Gale,
In scented Grove, or rocky Dale,
Or wand'ring from the russet Cot,
To seek the deep embosom'd Grot,
Beneath the Orange Shade inclos'd,
Or in the Myrtle Bow'r repos'd,
Or where the flaunting Flow'rs have wove
With mingl'd Sweets the high Alcove,
Each Indian wooes his fav'rite Mate:
What Nature dictates they relate:
No Youths by Love's cold Arts are won,
Nor Maids by easy Faith undone;
With eye up rais'd the simple Swain
Dreads not the Tortures of Disdain,
But, kneeling at his Fair One's Feet,
Breathes Vows unconscious of Deceit:
Each pleasing Sound she sighs to hear
Repeated on her longing Ear;
Amaz'd, nor anxious to controul
The mutual Wishes of her Soul,
Attests each unknown Pow'r above,
As Witness of her spotless Love;
Yet rack'd by fond distrustful Fears,
Pours out her aching Heart in Tears,
And tells to her admiring Youth
Sweet Tales of Innocence and Truth.

Fancy such Raptures shall suggest,
Lov'd Inmate of thy ravish'd Breast;
Shall point where wanton Zephyrs stray,
And o'er the unruffled Ocean play.
Or snatch thee to some wave-worn Shore,
Where fierce Atlantic Surges roar:
Where Plata with resistless Force
Thro' Desarts rolls his rapid Course,
Or where Maragnan proudly laves
Waste Regions with his circling Waves:
Where boundless Oroonoko fills
His Channels from a thousand Hills,
And with regardless Rage destroys;
While twenty Mouths with hideous Noise,
From some immense Peruvian Steep,
Spout his vex'd Billows to the Deep.
Thus while you view the tyrant Flood,
Wild Dread shall chill thy loit'ring Blood;
And frighted Fancy, self-amaz'd,
Start at the Phantom she had rais'd.

Should Nature's simple Beauties fail,
And Art's gay Structures more prevail,
Here too the polish'd Dome is plac'd,
With each Vitruvian Beauty grac'd:
Or would'st thou at the early Dawn
Transport thee to the dew-clad Lawn;
Or from the Mid-day Fervor rove
Beneath the silent Plantane Grove:
Or with the fairy Elves be seen
In Dances on the level Green:
Should baleful War, 'mid loud Alarms,
'Mid vanquish'd Foes, and conq'ring Arms,
'Mid Hosts o'erthrown, and Myriads slain,
On Britain fix his Iron Reign;
Should Jove's fair Daughter, Oliv'd Peace,
Bid the wild Battle's Tumult cease;
In polish'd Ease you still shall share
Thy kind Protector's fost'ring Care;
His faithful Love shall still appear,
His friendly Aid shall still be near,
His constant, his unwearied Pow'r
Shall lull thee in the balmy Bow'r;
Shall watch thee o'er the dewy Glade,
And guard thee from the Midnight Shade.

Thou too shalt all his tTils repay,
Slow-ling'ring here with fond Delay;
Here shalt thou choose thy fav'rite Seat,
Here fix thy last, thy blest Retreat;
Each old Athenian Bloom regain,
And here in Attic sSlendour reign.

[pp. 17-32]