1791
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Solitude.

Genuine Poetical Compositions on Various Subjects. By E. Bentley.

Elizabeth Bentley


An imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso in six couplet stanzas, octosyllabics with a concluding pentameter line to create something of a Spenserian effect. The poem is written in the descriptive as opposed to the allegorical mode, developing the times-of-day theme from Milton's original. The poem is dated "June, 1790."

English Review: "The female to whom the world is indebted for these poetical compositions is but 'lowly born.' — In a letter prefixed to them she gives the following account of herself — That she is daughter of a journeyman cordwainer at Norwich, who taught her reading, writing, and spelling, but did not instruct her in grammar. He leisure hours she employed in reading such books as she could obtain — these were chiefly a spelling book fable-book, dictionary, and books of arithmetic, with some pamphlets.... If the information contained in the preface, that the poetess received no assistance in any of her poems, be true, they certainly are wonderfully correct, both in point of diction and versification. We, however, are rather inclined not to give implicit credit to this assurance, on account of some classic imagery that pervades several of them, and which we cannot suppose she could obtain from those books she is said to have read" 18 (September 1791) 185-87.



O thou, each Muse's dearest friend,
Pensive Solitude, attend;
With musing thought and stedfast eye,
All is peace when thou art nigh;
Parent of Meditation, hail!
O guide my steps to yonder vale;
Where nought disturbs the silent morn,
Save chirping birds on ev'ry dewy thorn.

When first the cock's shrill clarion sounds,
Which Echo from her cave rebounds;
While yet the sons of toil are deep
Lull'd in the downy arms of Sleep;
Then lead me up the mountain's height,
To view the skies in azure dight,
And Phoebus' rising beams behold,
When first they tinge the orient clouds with gold.

Or for a summer seat I'd take
The margin of yon chrystal lake;
Or with the winding current stray,
And see the finny nation play;
'Till fervent Noon, with scorching heat,
Bids to seek some cool retreat;
Then with thee I'd choose to rove
To shades impervious in the thickest grove.

And when the radiant God of Day,
Declining, sheds a milder ray;
And with less dazzling glories crown'd,
Casts the length'ning shadows round;
Then the flow'ry fields invite,
With thee to walk in calm delight;
'Till by degrees each prospect fades,
Involv'd in sable Night's advancing shades.

But see, the full-orb'd Moon appears,
Sublimely soaring 'mid the spheres;
And now the mind, with sacred flame,
Contemplates the starry frame:
As each new wonder she explores,
The great Creator's pow'r adores;
Admires o'er all his wise controul,
'Till heav'nly ecstacy enraps the soul.

O Solitude! thy vot'ry tell,
In what wild wood thou joy'st to dwell;
Amid the desarts thou art found,
Thy awful brows with cypress crown'd:
Through each quick-revolving day,
The Muse delights to own thy sway;
To thee, O thoughtful Nymph, belong
The pow'rs which animate her noblest song.

[pp. 400-42]