Ode on Ranelagh. Addressed to the Ladies.

Public Advertiser (20 April 1763).

Henry James Pye

Ten stanzas, signed "H. P." The complete title is given as "Ode on Ranelagh. Addressed to the Ladies. Being a Parody on Mr. Gray's Celebrated Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College." The poem substitutes the hopes and cares of young women for those of Gray's schoolboys: "Alas! regardless of their doom, | The lovely victims rove; | No sense of sufferings yet to come | Can now their prudence move." The Public Advertiser had published very little poetry until it came under the editorial control of Henry Sampson Woodfall (1736-1805). Pye's contributions to the paper (at the time he was an Oxford undergraduate) inspired others, until in 1763 the Public Advertiser publishing verse on an almost daily basis.

Headnote: "We think ourselves happy in so valuable as well as frequent a Correspondent as H. P. and we do not doubt but our Readers join with us in Opinion."

Author's note: "Mr. Lacy, one of the mangers of Drury-Lane theatre, is said to have first planned Ranelagh."

G. F. Russell Barker: "Ranelagh Gardens, a favourite fashionable resort, the site of which is now part of the garden of Chelsea Hospital. They were first opened to the public on 24th May 1742. The last entertainment given there was on the occasion of the installation of the Knights of the Bath in 1802" Walpole, Memoirs of George III (1894) 1:317n.

Ye dazz'ling lamps, ye jocund fires,
That from yon fabric shine,
Where grateful pleasure yet admires
Her Lacy's great design:
And ye, who from the fields which lie
Round Chelsea, with amazement's eye,
The gardens, and the dome survey,
Whose walks, whose trees, whose lights among,
Wander the courtly train along
Their thought-dispelling way.

Ah, splendid room! ah, pleasing shade!
Ah, walks belov'd in vain!
Where oft in happier times I stray'd,
A stranger then to pain:
I feel the gales, which from you blow
A momentary bliss bestow,
As waving fresh their gladsome wing,
They seem to sooth my famish'd soul,
And redolent of tea, and roll,
To breathe a second spring.

Rotonda, say, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race,
In thy bright round with step serene,
The paths of pleasure trace;
Who chiefly now delight to lave
Green Hyson in the boiling wave,
The sable Coffee which distill?
What lounging progeny are found,
Who stroll incessant round, and round,
Like horses in a mill?

While some on earnest business dream,
And gravely stupid try
To search each complicated scheme
Of public policy:
Some ladies leave the spacious dome,
Around the garden's maze to roam,
And unknown regions dare descry;
Still as they walk they look behind,
Lest fame, a secret foe, should find
From some malicious eye.

Loud mirth is theirs, and pleasing praise,
To beauty's shrine address'd;
The sprightly songs, the melting lays,
Which charm the soften'd breast;
Theirs lively wit, invention free,
The sharp bon mot, keen repartee,
And every art coquets employ,
The thoughtless day, the jocund night,
The spirits brisk, the sorrows light,
That fly th' approach of day.

Alas! regardless of their doom,
The lovely victims rove;
No sense of suff'rings yet to come
Can now their prudence move:
But see where all around them wait!
The ministers of female fate,
An artful, perjur'd, cruel train;
Ah! shew them where in ambush stand,
To seize their prey, the faithless band,
Of false deceitful men!

These shall the lust of gaming wear,
That harpy of the mind,
With all the troop of rage and fear,
That follows close behind:
Or pining love shall waste their youth,
Or jealousy with rankling tooth
That gnaws bright Hymen's golden chain,
Who opens wide the fatal gate,
For sad distrust, and ruthless hate,
And Sorrow's pallid train.

Ambition this shall tempt to fix
Her hopes on something high,
To barter for a coach and six
Her peace and liberty.
The stings of Scandal these shall try,
And Affectation's haughty eye
That scowls on those it us'd to greet,
The cutting sneer, th' abusive song,
And false report that glides along
With never-resting feet.

And lo! where in the vale of years
A grizly tribe are seen;
Fancy's pale family of fears,
More hideous than their Queen:
Struck with th' imaginary crew,
Which artless Nature never knew,
These aid from quacks, and cordials beg,
While this transform'd by folly's hand,
Remains a while at her command,
A tea-pot, or an egg.

To each her suff'rings, all must grieve,
And pour a silent groan;
At homage others charms receive,
Or slights that meet their own:—
But ill the voice of truth severe,
Will suit the gay regardless ear
Whose joy in mirth, and revels lies;
Thought would destroy this paradise,
No more! — Where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.