1794
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Farewell Ode on a distant Prospect of Cambridge.

A Farewell Ode on a distant Prospect of Cambridge. By the Author of the Brunoniad.

Anonymous


36 irregular Spenserians (ababccC — an uncommon stanza pattern invented by Phineas Fletcher). The title alludes to Thomas Gray's Eton College Ode, perhaps more to underscore contrasts than comparisons. The Farewell Ode is a late, elegiac contribution to the mode of Miltonic academic verse Gray had fostered half a century earlier; amid the turmoil of impending war the writer takes comfort in what the University has traditionally stood for. The Brunoniad (1789) is attributed to the Rev. William Margetson Heald (1767-1837) who took an M.A. from Catherine Hall, Cambridge in 1798.

Upon leaving Cambridge the poet (in contrast to the innocent youth of Gray's Eton College Ode) anticipates an uncertain future. Before his retrospective glance appears a procession of heroic Cambridge figures of times past: "midst the evenings sombrous gloom, | In sheeny state, august and slow, | They rise, with renovated bloom, | And rang'd, in long procession, go" p. 8. Following Bacon, Newton, and Clarke, the figure of Milton occupies the center of the poem; he is followed by "Smooth Muller's bard" [ sic] p. 10, and in subordinate positions, Dryden, Gray, Cowley, and Prior. The poet resolves, despite poverty and neglect, to embrace retirement and the academic life. The poem concludes with an affirmation of the Cambridge ideal: "Thine be the truly liberal plan, | And, dauntless, in the philosophic van, | Assert, with steady zeal, the dignity of man" p. 15.

Critical Review: "The author laments, but not in the strains of a Mason or a Gray, that he must quit the quiet scenes of academic leisure for the sorrows and anxieties of the world, particularly at this moment of alarm and slaughter.... He enumerates several of the great men who have illustrated this seminary, and proceeds to advise his Alma Mater that she would encourage the future growth of such, by laying aside all bigotry to ancient systems and dispositions to persecute, referring to the proceedings against Mr. Frend.... We meet with several inaccurate or quaint expressions in this little piece, such as, 'careering tempest,' 'sheeny state,' 'wailful woe,' 'brawling billows,' 'splended ray.' We should not suppose the last to be an error for the press, for 'splendid,' if it were not so common for verse-writers to confound all the parts of speech by illegitimate derivation of adverbs from adjectives, nouns from verbs, and participles from nouns in every mode of grammatical confusions" NS 11 (August 1794) 473-74.

John Aikin: "In our opinion, this writer has here a much more favourable subject for the display of his poetical powers, than that of the former effort, by which he chuses to identify himself. It is, however, a subject which almost necessarily leads to imitation; and our poet can hardly be reckoned of that order of genius which can bestow originality on a beaten topic. With some vigorous lines and poetical ideas, we meet with too much of the lyric obscurity and affected phraseology: — but the sentiments of the ode are liberal, as will appear from the concluding stanzas.... We wish that this writer, and all writers who make use of rhime, would be more attentive than they often are, to the legitimacy of their rhimes. A bad rhime is a mere bastard in poetry: — Such, for instance, (in the above extract,) as 'strays — embrace.' Where a competent EAR presides as Judge, in a Court of Criticism, such defects can never hope to escape condemnation" Monthly Review NS 15 (October 1794) 210-11



Ceas'd has the hamlet's distant sound
To fluctuate, in the fluttering breeze:
And, wandering down the vast profound,
Yon orb, enlarging by degrees,
With clouds of purple wreaths his brow.
And now he sinks, while, o'er the plain below,
The sullen shades of night, in mute succession flow.

As o'er yon time-worn turret, gleams
Mild evening's solitary star,
Wak'd by its soft, its sliver beams,
Can fancy curb her airy car?
Ah! can the drowsy god invade,
When calm with solitude and silence laid,
She rests, propitious CAM, beneath the willowy shade?

Conduct me to the deep retreat
Where erst thy godlike bards reclin'd;
For now my burning pulses beat,
And gorgeous visions fire my mind.
My conscious harp, spontaneous, rings,
Thy breeze, O parent CAM, benignant, brings
New vigour to its frame, new modulates its strings.

While yet I breathe this balmy gale,
While yet the willing muse inspires,
With solemn awe, I pondering, hail,
From far, yon dim-discover'd spires,
Where science haunts the classic dome,
Where cloister'd study, 'midst the midnight gloom,
Collects the scatter'd spoils of Greece and Rome.

Farewell ye meads! ye honour'd streams!
Farewell ye academic shades!
With soul intent on mighty themes,
Which many a devious step pervades:
Where yet, by fond attachment led,
Majestic shades the well-known mansions tread,
Where, first, ingenuous youth her infant blossoms spread.

Farewell, farewell, thou hallow'd soil!
Ye gothic roofs, ye hoary spires!
On life's tumultuous flood to toil,
I go where tyrant fate requires.
O might thy hand, auspicious peace,
From sorrow's chain, my struggling heart release,
And bid the fiends of care their rustic clamour cease.

Farewell! desponding, sad, forlorn,
I breathe the solitary lay;
And, far to distant regions borne,
With lingering step, reluctant, stray.
With anxious thought, reflections pale,
While tremors strange her fearful heart assail,
Lifts, with enfeebled arm, futurity's dull veil.

Long tost through varied scenes, she knows,
Round the gay forms of fancy's train,
Fictitious hope, thy plumage shows,
Thy smiles forebode no future pain.
But soon the orient colours die,
In vain, to find them, roves the startled eye;
Before it's humid orb careering tempests fly.

While wandering through life's dreary vale,
Adversity, unfeeling power!
Hurls on the wretch, with terror pale,
From sorrow's urn, the baleful shower;
Nor partial falls the deepening gloom,
The slave, the despot mingle in the tomb:
The orb of empire wanes, and monarchs mourn its doom.

What hope for man, o'erwhelming war,
Uncommon furies in his train,
O'er heaps of carnage rolls his car,
And Europe mourns her thousands slain:
What hope, amidst disastrous days,
When freedom's temple totters to its base,
And, with earth's vilest brood, dishonour'd science strays!

Night, with her dun barbaric gloom,
The moral empire wide o'ershades.
How blest the tenant's of the tomb,
Whose ears no mortal voice pervades!
Yet, fair philosophy, thine eyes,
See, from the flames, a new-born phoenix rise,
And future Edens hail, and gaze with sweet surprise.

From festive throngs, methinks, I hear
His voice some boon associate raise,
Enough, sad moralist, forbear
The tenor of thy mournful lays:
And why thy serious numbers pour,
Where revels youth, within his roseate bower?
Expand the glowing soul, enjoy the present hour.

Awake the strain, for ah! when past
The vernal morn returns no more,
And wailful woe's intrusive blast,
Resounding, howls on pleasure's shore.
Bring, bring Oporto's juice along,
With willing speed, convene the jovial throng,
Let mirth, and frolic joy, begin the merry song.

Yet, while the jocund notes aspire,
O CAM, beside thy reedy streams,
Let me, in careless ease, retire,
Entranc'd in sweet poetic dreams.
As now, along the banks reclin'd,
Where thy grey willows chide the wanton wind,
Thoughts, in romantic train, invade my pensive mind.

Of yore, o'er this renowned plain,
What heroes, sages, patriots stray'd,
Who now, in fame's transcendent fane,
In gorgeous characters pourtray'd,
Flame through the drear abyss of time,
And thron'd, in glory's starry robes, sublime,
Receive the genial hail of every various clime.

Ha! midst the evenings sombrous gloom,
In sheeny state, august and slow,
They rise, with renovated bloom,
And rang'd, in long procession, go.
Dim seen, through twilight's dusky veil,
Smooth, up the void, the forms aerial sail,
While round them, breaths the breath of heaven's ambrosial gale.

Nature's inimitable laws,
Tracing to one harmonious whole,
And wandering on from cause to cause,
See Bacon's philosophic soul.
While error clanks her slavish chain,
Reviving science lights her torch again,
And crowns her hero's front, and hails her future reign.

Plung'd in the depth of thought profound,
Great Newton his intrepid gaze,
From orb to orb directing round,
Th' expanded universe surveys.
Immortal truth's unclouded ray
Pours, round his steadfast steps, eternal day,
And, o'er his hoary brows the lambent lightnings play.

In morals as in arts supreme,
Clarke, thy seraphic mind I hail.
Let bigots mark its placid stream,
Unmov'd by passion's wayward gale.
They cannot stem oblivion's wave,
But thou, in memory's purest font, shall lave,
And burst, with soary wing, the bondage of the grave.

Borne on the pinions of the breeze,
But hark! celestial music sighs.
Ah! peace with yonder tossing trees!
Ye brawling billows cease to rise!
With frenzied eyes, replete with fire,
Poetic genius leads the tuneful quire,
And sounds her epic trump, and kindles fierce desire.

With fame's reluctant laurels crown'd,
Sweet Eden's poet next appears,
Maeonian measures, all around,
Resounding, strike my ravish'd ears,
As o'er the strings his fingers rove,
Fantastic forms, in gay succession, move,
The purple pomp of war, the paradise of love.

Smooth Mulla's bard now, lonely, strays,
With doric reed, midst rural charms;
And now his martial lyre displays
Regions of blood, and clash of arms.
Round, in th' enchanter's subtil chain,
Heroic hearts, in mournful verse complain,
And halls, and wizzard bowers, adorn the fairy plain.

I see satyric Dryden rear,
High on his front, the splendid ray;
And hush'd in awful transport, hear
Thy pealing harp Pindaric Gray.
Attention bends to Cowley's strain,
Familiar Prior leads his comic train,
Or paints the woes of man, the progeny of pain.

Nurse of each thought erect and bold,
Sweet poesy, whose fervid fire
Prompted the genuine sons of old,
With happiest hands, to sweet the lyre,
Parent of virtue! haste along,
Like them instruct me o'er the listening throng,
From passion's flood, to pour the torrent of the song.

How blythe the season when, of yore,
Crowding along the wintry blaze,
I learnt the legendary lore
Of the grey gossip's tragic lays.
Oh, tell! what mightier strain can, now,
Make the rude soul with such emotion glow,
Or bid the bounding blood with equal vigour flow.

Wandering, I mourn'd the buried brave,
Careless of night's unsocial noon,
When slept upon the glimmering wave,
The splendour of the summer's moon.
Ah, happy days! serene and clear!
In memory's flattering glass, your charms appear
Ting'd with the richest blooms of life's inconstant year.

Be still, thou voice, whose friendly tone
Foretells the poet's scanty fare.
He will not pour the hopeless moan,
Visions of bliss when you are there.
Can all the floods of wealth impart
The balm which softens woe's severest smart,
The philosophic calm, the sunshine of the heart?

Luxurious plenty, spread thy board,
And wave thy rod, despotic power,
And avarice, heap thy sordid hoard,
Tempests of care around you lour.
My heart no envious pangs invade,
From pride, from pomp, in slavish garb array'd,
I fly, with temperate hope, to freedom's holy shade.

Blest, if with years of pleasing toil,
I might to Britain's distant bowers,
From Greece, from Rome's paternal soil,
Transplant some solitary flowers.
Thrice blest, if to my dazzled sight,
Some happy hand might raise, serene and bright,
Thy star of science, CAM, rich with redoubled light.

Alert, beneath its humble shed,
My joyous soul should still exclaim,
O wider yet and wider spread,
Fair orb, thine energizing flame.
While Europe, with incessant gaze,
Pours the loud pean of tumultuous praise,
And warns her smiling realms beneath thy boundless blaze.

But ah! ye visions of delight!
Too fast your tarnish'd splendour fades!
Ye sink! ye vanish from my sight!
While factions deep and dreary shades
Descend, while freedom, wan with care,
Flies from the hostile roof, with scattered hair,
And fetter'd genius comes her gloomy grief to share.

History, thy doleful valves unfold,
Bring forth the great of every age,
In blood their goary garments roll'd,
The martyrs of imperial rage.
The servile chain, the rod of power,
With baleful influence, blast the muse's power,
They haste to happier climes, and shun th' oppresive hour.

'Twas thus, when Greece, in ruin, laid,
Prostrate, beneath the tyrant's arm.
They sought Ausonian freedom's shade,
Each breast with patriot passions warm.
Albion, they linger round thine isles.
Wishful, they gaze her fane where virtue piles,
And, o'er th' Atlantic waste, a new creation smiles.

Let Europe, CAM, with hidious mien,
Light persecution's frightful fire.
Amid the general storm serene,
Bid thou the new-born thought aspire.
Let not thine hand its course controul,
Unbounded bid the seas of science roll;
Nor bind, in slavery's chain, the bold the vigorous soul.

Why should the gloom of antient years
O'ercloud the day-spring of the mind?
In youth renew'd, dispel thy fears,
And cast the wither'd slough behind.
Amidst mortality's drear maze,
From hope's high cliff, let virtue's beacons blaze,
And, up perfection's steep, thine eye insatiate raise.

Wherever truth and reason meet,
Wherever worth, deserted, strays,
Do thou afford a generous seat,
And clasp them, with a friend's embrace.
Thine be the truly liberal plan,
And, dauntless, in the philosophic van,
Assert, with steady zeal, the dignity of man.

[pp. 3-15]