To Hope.

Odes Descriptive and Allegorical.

Rev. Richard Shepherd

An allegorical ode, after Milton's L'Allegro. After dismissing melancholy, the poet bids "Hope, fair Child of Phantasy, | Tho' ever absent, ever nigh, | With waxen Taper beaming bright | Auspicious chear my ravished Sight" p. 39. The ode illustrates the potency of Hope in a variety of circumstances, before arriving, more soberly, at the hope of Heaven: "Such pleasing Prospects, Hope, inspire, | And the rapt Muse shall catch the Fire: | To Themes like these attune the String, | And decent Awe shall prune her Wing" p. 46. One might compare the imagery of this allegorical ode to the more extended treatment in Thomas Campbell's Pleasures of Hope (1799). Unlike Richard Shepherd's companion ode To Health, To Hope seems not to have been reprinted.

Raymond Dexter Havens: "in the preface to a volume of 1761 Richard Shepherd tells his readers that the ode, the favorite species of verse with the new school, 'is built intirely upon Fancy, and Ease and Simplicity of Diction are its peculiar Characteristicks.' When men held these ideas regarding reason and imagination in verse, it is not strange that the dominant influence in poetry passed from Pope to Spenser and Milton. We have seen that there is good reason for thinking Spenser attracted by no means so many readers as Milton; it might also be shown that his influence was practically confined to the Faerie Queene and did not affect his admirers so profoundly as that of the later did his. At any rate, no characteristic of the men of the new school is more marked than their admiration for Milton" Influence of Milton (1922) 435.

Hence, Fiend of horrid Mien,
Whose bugbear Phantoms haunt the clouded Breast,
The calm of Life molest,
And torture with ideal Pangs of Spleen:
With downcast Eye, that ne'er
Aspires above the Ground; hence, Melancholy,
"'Mongst Shrieks and Sights unholy"
Thy hateful Orgies hold; or happly find
The dark Assassin's Mind,
Be that thy Seat, plant all thy Daggers there.
But Hope, fair Child of Phantasy,
Tho' ever absent, ever nigh,
With waxen Taper beaming bright
Auspicious chear my ravished Sight;
For thy gay Prospects Pleasure crowns
Beyond the Pale of Fortune's Frowns.
Enchanting Dreams and fond Desires
The Radiance of thy Beams inspires;
That nearer as they tend decay,
And in Fruition fade away.

Thou are not of the servile Fry
Of Dunghill-nested Flattery;
That meanly cringes at the Gate
Where swells the Pomp of gilded State,
While Virtue lays her lowly Head
Beneath an unfrequented Shed.
Thy honest Beams to all dispense
Fond Flattery's lulling Influence,
Soften Affliction's bitterest Throw,
And bring a Balm for every Woe.
Oh let thy Care-beguiling Ray
In fond Illusion round me play;
Nor on the rosy Pinions borne
Desert me here a Wretch forlorn;
Of thee bereft in gloomy Cell,
The Sister Cave of blackest Hell,
With Hair upreared, and stony Eyes,
'Midst doleful Shrieks and hollow Sighs
To trace thro' Avenues of Care
The dark Abodes of dread Despair.
That Phantom vain I cast behind
To Ocean drear or empty Wind
For thee, whose Heart-enlivening Gleam
Gilds the gay Courtier's splendid Dream;
The Statesman's anxious Bosom warms
With Glory's light ideal Charms,
While Fancy stamps upon his Name
A Cecil's or a Bethune's Fame.

Lured by that Ore's resplendent Hue,
That marks the Veins of rich Peru,
The Sailor quits his Bed of Ease,
Alert to roam the treacherous Seas;
His Life for flattering Hopes resigned
A Victim to each veering Wind.
Another in the rattling Car
Sweeps to the Work of wasteful War;
There gives his brazen Throat to roar,
While blood-stained Slaughter shuts the Door
Of Pity; o'er th' embattled Plain
Tho' Danger threat and Terror reign,
Their Giant Forms in vain assail,
Hope steels his Breast in triple Mail.
Thus thro' the World's tempestuous Tide
The fickle Bark of Life we guide;
No hideous Shapes of Fear dismay,
But pleasing Prospects smooth the Way,
If thy bright Influence gild our Sky,
The Cynosure of every Eye.

On some lone unfrequented Shore
Place me, where lashing Surges roar,
Where each hoar Mountain's shaggy Brow
Is mantled deep in fleecy Snow,
Or Drought embrowns the thirsty Lands
In Africk's waste and barren Sands:
While float no Bird's wild-warbling Strains
Along the melancholy Plains,
And human Vestige none is found
To mark th' inhospitable Ground.
Still on the Wings of Hope I'll dare
Th' Icarian Flight thro' trackless Air;
While swift as Sol's descending Ray
Impetuous Fancy shapes the Way
To Albion's Cliffs, to Isis' Plain,
Where Liberty and Science reign.

Should Fortune in fantastick Sport
Decoy me to the busy Court;
With Ostentation false and vain,
And airy Fame's ideal Train,
And Promises as vain as these,
There cheat me of my present Ease:
Or to that Mansion dark and drear
A Prison's hollow Wasteness bear;
Where Time's dank Hand in Filth obscene
Paints naked Walls with mildewed Green,
Where the proud Porter Scorn awaits,
And Grief sits staring thro' the Grates:
Yet chearful Hope's benignant Ray
Shall chase each gloomy Thought away,
His Taper trim shall glad my Eye
With pristine Ease and Liberty.

See Phoebus thro' the waning Year
His fiery-footed Coursers bear
From Libra's Equinox, to shed
His genial Warmth on Scorpio's Head.
While Age's Hand, imprest on all
Rich Nature's Works, has sealed their Fall;
From each gay Leaf the Verdure flies,
The drooping Foliage fades and dies:
I read in Nature's Ethick Plan,
How short, how fleet the Life of Man.
Oh now, fond Flatterer, now diffuse
Thy genial Sparks, and rouse the Muse,
Check her mean Fears, and hush each Sigh,
Give her to stretch her Eagle Eye
To Mansions, whence the Mind serene
Shall view this sublunary Scene;
Unshocked at that tremendous Day,
When Nature's Works shall melt away.
There throned in yon' Empyrean Sky
Above the Ken of mortal Eye,
Unbounded by the starry Pole,
Transports refined shall touch the Soul;
Pure as from Source celestial Spring,
And mock the Reach of Fancy's Wing.

Oft as chill Horror damps the Mind
In Matter's sluggish Cell confined;
Such pleasing Prospects, Hope, inspire,
And the rapt Muse shall catch the Fire:
To Themes like these attune the String,
And decent Awe shall prune her Wing.

[pp. 39-46]