1791
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Autumn.

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

Elizabeth Bentley


An allegorical ode consisting of seven aabccb stanzas, dated "October, 1790." Elizabeth Bentley follows several seasonal vignettes with classical figures with a concluding Christian devotion: "Thus flee our days with swiftest pace, | Seasons to seasons yield their place, | And year to year succeeds; | Thus spends vain man his transient life, | Immers'd in pleasure, bus'ness, strife, | Nor Wisdom's dictates heeds." The poem is part of a long series of poems written by this autodidact developed out of Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso; since they are dated and published in sequence, one can follow the development of the poet's skills as she varies her themes from poem to poem.

Christopher Lake Moody: "The editor assures us that the poems are the genuine and sole productions of E. Bentley; that neither correction nor addition has been made nor suggested but by her; and he concludes his preface with observing, that she is not less respectable for her modest virtues, than for her superior abilities. The general estimation of her worth may, with some certainty, be inferred from the very long list of subscribers. A portrait of the poetess fronts the title; by which any one would guess her to be forty years of age, at least, when, by the account, she is only twenty-four" Monthly Review NS 6 (November 1791) 286.



Hail! temp'rate Autumn, Nymph sedate,
With russet clad in simple state,
Thou claim'st the votive lay;
Thy dew the thirsty earth revives,
Each drooping plant new strength derives,
Nor dreads the scorching ray.

Though blooming Spring delights no more,
And ruddy Summer's charms are o'er,
Some beauties grace thy reign;
A second Spring adorns thy breast,
Some blushing flow'rets deck thy vest,
The last in Nature's train.

Now sheaf-crown'd Ceres leads her throng,
Whilst Gratitude inspires their song,
To Heav'n's all-bounteous King;
Now rural mirth their hours employ,
With chearful sounds of guiltless joy
The peaceful vallies ring.

See, rich Pomona next appears,
Her choicest wealth the Goddess bears,
To crown thy festive board;
The Vine her circling arms extends,
Beneath her purple burden bends,
With luscious nectar stor'd.

While yet thy golden presents please,
Rude Winter's hand unrobes the trees,
And ends thy mild domain;
And soon the tyrant's piercing storm
Shall Nature's beauteous face deform,
And desolate the plain.

Thus flee our days with swiftest pace,
Seasons to seasons yield their place,
And year to year succeeds;
Thus spends vain man his transient life,
Immers'd in pleasure, bus'ness, strife,
Nor Wisdom's dictates heeds.

But soon the gay delusion's past,
And Time, with Age's wint'ry blast,
Each fleeting bliss destroys;
Ah! be it then our ceaseless care
To fit th' immortal soul to share
In Heav'n's substantial joys.

[pp. 54-55]