1791
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Pleasure.

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

Elizabeth Bentley


An allegorical ode, after Milton's L'Allegro. In this imitation Elizabeth Bentley varies her procedure by taking up the Choice of Hercules format, describing Pleasure's wicked train in the first half of the ode, and the pleasures of Virtue in the second half. The catalogue of the naughty personifications is longer and more compelling: "With thee if Vice's train advance, | And Folly's race around thee dance; | And Guilt and Pain, who ne'er divide, | O'er the motley tribe preside; | With sullen mien succeeds Disgrace, | And Shame, who veils her abject face." The poem is dated "November, 1790."

Editor's preface: "In general, Authors of this class have but a few brilliant passages to compensate for many a dreary page; it is not so with E. Bentley. To the Philosopher of the human mind it may be curious to trace the progress of her fancy, and the growing powr of her expression. This is not a place for such an investigation: it may, nevertheless, be transitorily remarked, that the Poems in ten-syllable verse are prosaic, compared with those of a more varied and free measure; and the first superior exertion of her Muse is when she bids it 'expand thy gentle wing,' in the Ode on a Summer Morning" Sig A2v.



Come, thou, who art by all pursu'd;
Art thou with magic pow'rs endu'd,
To charm each woe, each bliss impart,
Fill with delight th' enraptur'd heart,
And make the gloomy aspect gay,
Then child of Fancy hither stray.
But how wilt thou thy footsteps guide?
If, to Frenzy near ally'd,
Thou com'st with loose, ungovern'd pace,
Void of ev'ry decent grace;
If deck'd with each alluring spoil,
If Lux'ry, with unceasing toil,
With Art combin'd, has rang'd the globe,
To form thy gaudy, glitt'ring robe;
With thee if Vice's train advance,
And Folly's race around thee dance;
And Guilt and Pain, who ne'er divide,
O'er the motley tribe preside;
With sullen mien succeeds Disgrace,
And Shame, who veils her abject face;
Malignant Strife, with blood-stain'd hands,
And lawless Mischief grinning stands;
And dark Deceit, with baleful smiles,
Thy thoughtless vot'ries still beguiles;
Led by specious, false Pretence,
Foes to Virtue, Goodness, Sense;
And thou with Riot spend'st the day,
Vain Goddess, then I scorn thy sway.
True to Wisdom's hallow'd flame,
True to Honor's sacred name;
On Virtue's nobler pinions rise,
And all thy glaring pomp despise.
But if thou com'st by Reason led,
If sweetest flow'rs adorn thy head,
Cull'd from Nature's simplest walks;
If with thee fair Prudence talks,
And Innocence, in snowy vest,
And Temp'rance, with unruffled breast;
And Exercise, to crown whose brows,
Enliv'ning Health a wreath bestows;
If Friendship, open and sincere,
And smooth Tranquility be there;
Then, Pleasure, I no more disdain
To join thy sportive, harmless train;
To quit the hut of sordid Care,
Awhile thy sylvan joys to share;
To range the riv'let's grassy side,
Or view the garden's purple pride;
Or meet the smiling, festive throng,
With lively dance and artless song;
Still awake at Wisdom's voice,
And in her just commands rejoice;
When she bids to shun thy gate,
And on her solemn footsteps wait;
With her th' instructive page turn o'er,
And all her hidden laws explore;
Her studious paths ne'er end in pain,
But lead to thy eternal reign.

[pp. 46-48]