1750
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to the Right Honourable the Lady **** on the Death of her Son.

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


William Gerard Hamilton's ode to a young lady who had lost her child is written in the measure of William Collins's Ode to Pity and contains several echoes of his other poems in the elegiac vein: "Let Grief no more thy youth consume, | Nor sighing o'er the silent tomb | Thy piteous murmurs breathe: | Reject the gloomy cypress bough; | Each airy form to grace thy brow | Shall twine the festive wreath."



While you 'mid Spring's gay Months deplore,
Till lessening Grief's exhausted Store,
By Time subsiding fail;
The Muse, Affliction's constant Friend,
With social Woe shall still attend,
If aught her Aid avail.

'Tis her's in Life's most ruffled Scene
To smooth Misfortune's angry Mien,
And watch each rising Sigh:
'Tis her's to bid the Guilty fear,
To wipe the virtuous starting Tear
That swells in Sorrow's Eye.

'Mid simple Scythia's dreary Land
Her gentle, sweet, assuasive Hand
Could give sad Ovid Rest;
She still in mournful Numbers pleas'd,
With her the hapless Exile eas'd
His sadly-plaintive Breast.

For thee she still shall seek the Plain,
Where Severn leads his dusky Train,
Or Wey's smooth Waters roll;
Her Pow'r could blunt Affliction's Dart,
And fondly sooth the keener Smart
Of Sappho's Love-sick soul.

On you propitious she bestows
A Mind too chaste for Sappho's Woes,
Unstain'd by wild Desire;
She Sappho's Charms in you supplies,
To me the partial Pow'r denies
The Lesbian's purer Fire.

Did bounteous Heav'n, profusely kind,
To frame the fav'rite Infant Mind
Its fondest Care employ;
How idle yet the Hopes you raise
In planning of his future Days,
How vain each fancy'd Joy!

Had Fate prolong'd th' uncertain Flame,
Nor from the weak enfeebled Frame
Had Life's sweet Vision past;
Who knows but angry Heav'n had still
With ev'ry baleful bitter Ill
Each future Day o'ercast!

Since awful Prudence ne'er appears,
'Till calmer Thoughts and milder Years
Each lawless Wish assuage;
A Fruit unknown to Summer's Heat,
That buds alone in Life's Retreat,
And only blooms in Age.

'Mid Solitude's sequester'd Joy
May no rude Cares thy Peace destroy,
By sure Remembrance brought:
Nor e'er from Grief's abundant Source
May dark Reflection's secret Force
Recall one aching Thought.

Oft as to each regardless Wind
With simple Notes the Village-Hind
Attunes his Love-lorn Reed,
When Night her dewy Curtain spreads,
And Cynthia Silver Glimm'rings sheds
O'er Thicket Vale and Mead,

Thou too beneath the Moon's pale Gleams,
Shall haunt those Glades, where Fairy Streams
To Sorrow's Softness flow;
Where Love and Grief alone have trod,
Where bending Willows seem to nod
With sympathetic Woe.

Wan Melancholy 'mid the Storm
Shall rear her meek dejected Form,
In sable Vest array'd;
While sullen Silence reigns around,
Her Voice in slow and solemn Sound
Shall whisper through the Shade:

"Stranger, draw near! — To Sorrow true
With me these lonesome Walks review,
Where Horror's Charms invite;
Daughter of Joy! — I know thy Air!
Retract thy hurry'd Steps! — nor dare
Profane each hallow'd Rite!

"To mix with Mirth's mad Train be thine:
The dismal drearier Task be mine
'Mid these lorn Scenes to weep!
My Days in these still Bow'rs immur'd,
By no false flatt'ring Hopes allur'd,
Shall one sad Tenor keep.

"Let Grief no more thy Youth consume,
Nor sighing o'er the silent Tomb
Thy piteous Murmurs breathe.
Reject the gloomy Cypress Bough,
Each airy Form to grace thy Brow
Shall twine the festive Wreath.

"The Infant Shade, where'er you rove,
Shall faithful to that sacred Grove
With sure Return appear;
Nor e'er his filial Love shall cease,
He still with soothing Sounds of Peace
Shall charm thy list'ning Ear.

"At Morn, when deep sepulchral Caves,
When op'ning Vaults, and yawning Graves
Their wand'ring Dead recall;
He ne'er shall quit that sainted Place,
Till ling'ring in thy fond Embrace
The shadowy Tear shall fall.

"May'st thou, 'mid Pleasure's Sons rejoice,
Each Muse shall with according Voice
Confirm the pleasing Tale."
This said — the melting Maid of Woe
Shall cease — and o'er her Charms shall throw
The thin translucent Veil.

The Time shall come, when Fancy's Pow'r
To each slow-sorrowing pensive Hour
Shall gladly bring Relief;
When ev'ry Care shall die away,
And wakeful Mem'ry's gentler Sway
Dissolve the Reign of Grief.

Thus, by the Painter's just Design,
From each judicious happy Line
The Colours bloom or fade;
Elude the nice Observer's Sight,
By soft Gradations dawn to Light,
Or languish into Shade.

[pp. 33-43]