An allegorical ode in eight irregular Spenserians (ababccdD). The pattern is that of Gray's Hymn to Adversity, though here with pentameter lines. Richard Shepherd's poem is plainly a Spenser imitation, though it makes sparing use of the Spenser's mannerisms: "girlond" as an archaism, an eye-rhyme on "fiend-friend," alliteration, and some twisted syntax. Most obviously, the poem attempts to encompass a brief allegorical narrative, describing the death of "Colin," a virtuous Oxford scholar: "By Love unnerved his Arm sustained the Shield | Of Chastity; where, on an argent Field, | Three Virgins stood embossed, a radiant Train; | Pure Emblem of his Heart, without or Speck or Stain" p. 18.
Shepherd was himself an Oxford student, though apart from his title there seems to be no indication that he knew William Collins's volume of Odes on several descriptive and allegorical Subjects, which would not be generally disseminated until 1763.
Preface: "The proper Subjects of Lyrick Poetry are, according to Horace, the Exploits and Triumphs of Heroes, Love's Cares, and the free Joys of Wine. In the first of these Pindar stands unrivalled; Sappho and Anacreon have left us Specimens of the last; and Horace has given us Examples of both the one and the other. But though he seems to confine Lyrick Poetry to these two Subjects, he has in his own Writings shewn that it will admit of other Topicks; for the greatest Part of his Odes are moral and sentimental, of which Kind also are the Lyricks of Boethius. But of the descriptive and allegorical Ode the Writings of the Ancients afford no Examples: The Choruses of their Drama bear the greatest Similarity to it; and particularly those of Euripides, in which he is followed by Seneca. This Species of Writing is in almost every Circumstance different from the Pindarick Ode, which has its foundation in Fact and Reality, that Fact worked up and heightened by a studied Pomp and Grandeur of Expression; it not only admits of, but requires bold Digressions, abrupt and hasty Transitions: while the other is built intirely upon Fancy, and Ease and Simplicity of Diction are its peculiar Characteristicks" Sig. A2-A2v.
The Sun was set, the Eve with russet Veil
Curtained the lucid Beauties of the Sky;
The fading Landscapes, painted Mount and Dale,
Wrapt in rude Darkness undistinguish'd lie:
Pale Death, as slowly moved the conscious Night,
Stalked grimly forth, intent with withering Blight
To crop the Blossom in its youthful Hour,
Than which in Virtue's Garden bloomed no fairer Flower.
Low in a Vale sequestered from the Throng
Of Folly's Sons, the Muses' loved Resort;
A laureled Youth, famed Isis' Banks along,
Held with the lovely Graces gay Disport.
Science his Temples with the Wreath impaled,
But ah! the sacred Girlond nought availed,
Tho' culled from Learning's every choicest Flower,
For he must Victim fall to Death's relentless Power.
His Guardian Virtues saw the prowling Fiend,
And trembling round their favourite Charge repair;
For every Virtue was to him a Friend,
For every Virtue was his earliest Care.
By Love unnerved his Arm sustained the Shield
Of Chastity; where, on an argent Field,
Three Virgins stood embossed, a radiant Train;
Pure Emblem of his Heart, without or Speck or Stain.
Nor was the Sister Virtue absent thence,
Temperance, who hasted from her rural Bower,
And buckled on her Breast-Plate, rare Defence!
Yet vain 'gainst Fate's indisputable Power.
Patience, a Nymph of Air, sedate and free,
Came sheathed in adamantine Panoply;
Beneath her Victor Foot couched frantick Pain,
And oft indignant strove to break the captive Chain.
"This radiant Armour, gentle Youth, she cried,
From every Throb of bitter Pain shall free;
'Tis heavenly fashioned, and the Metal tried
In the fierce Forge of rough Adversity.
Against the Breast thus fortified, in vain
Stern Fortune shall her teeming Quiver drain,
In vain shall launch her missive Weapons round;
The vengeful Shaft may strike, but has no Power to wound."
The Fiend, with ghastly Grin as he drew near,
Marking their vain, their pious Care, stretched forth
His clay cold Hand, and to th' untimely Bier
Snatched this fair Sample of untainted Worth.
So Boreas, pouring from some northern Clime,
Crops the fair Lilly in its early Prime,
While neighbouring Weeds the Blast's vain Fury foil,
And spread their Rankness round, the Nusance of the Soil.
T' emblaze his Name of Fancy's gaudy Wing,
Thro' Fiction's Realms the Muse disdains to rove;
Content the votive Wreath of Praise to bring,
Culled for his Brows from Truth's unfading Grove:
A Wreath, that mocks foul Rumour's rancorous Spite,
Nor has the Tooth of Envy where to bite;
So bloomed each social Virtue in his Breast,
He was by Nature formed to bless, and to be blest.
Such Colin was: ah me, the darling Theme
Calls forth the bursting Tear, the heaving Sigh;
But in sad Silence flows the deepest Stream,
While shallow Currents loudly murmur by.
Thus sung the Swain; and Shame the Muse attend,
That leaves unwept, unsung the Muse's Friend;
That breaths no Sigh melodious o'er his Hearse,
Suspends at Friendship's Shrine no consecrated Verse.