Ode to David Garrick, Esq. On his quitting the Stage.

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (3 May 1776).


A Pindaric ode in nine irregular stanzas, loosely modeled on the plan of Collins's Ode on the Passions. The ode is signed "Impartialist, May 29, 1776." David Garrick was possibly the literary figure most frequently addressed in eighteenth-century newspaper verse, and his retirement from the stage occasioned a number of laudatory poems. In this ode, after an invocation modeled on Milton's L'Allegro, the passions are summoned to admire Garrick's art: "Attend ye Passions which controul, | Madden with rage, or freeze with fear the soul! | Each soft Emotion, Energy divine, | Approach, and bend at Merit's shrine!" The succeeding stanzas describe Garrick's chief Shakesperian roles: Macbeth, Lear, Richard III, and Hamlet. The concluding stanza wittily casts Garrick as the Bard himself, passing into well-earned retirment.

This is the first of a small series of imitations of Collins's poem concerned with the arts of drama, painting, and music. The Ode on the Passions was frequently performed in public, which seems to have stimulated an association with the performing arts.

Hence, ENVY, to thy noisome cell!
There wrapt in pitchy darkness dwell,
And idly dart thy venom'd sting!
There are, whose boyant wing
Uplifts them soaring high
Above the vision of thy jaundiced eye;
Where crown'd with rays of purest light,
They scorn thy fury vain, and low malicious might.

This lot, O GARRICK, at thy natal hour,
The Fates to thee decreed:
Each movement of the human breast,
Hath long thy potent sway confest,
They stoop'd beneath thy sovereign power,
While Reason sanctify'd the deed.
Oft hath the Muse her fairest blossoms twin'd,
Around thy head a fragrant wreathe to bind,
Oft pour'd to thee her genuine strains;
Still may she charm thy polish'd ear,
Unconscious she of sordid strains,
Offers at Merit's shrine the verse sincere.

Attend ye Passions which controul,
Madden with rage, or freeze with fear the soul!
Each soft Emotion, Energy divine,
Approach, and bend at Merit's shrine!

And lo! where riding on the storm,
I see the wild, and gloomy form
Of Horror, through the troubled air
With ghastly mein draw near!
What dreadful spectres? Sounds of death?
The weird sisters hail MACBETH!
'Tis he! — the dagger drops with gore—
The Royal Duncan wakes no more!
I hear the dire prophetic strain!
His murd'rer ne'er shall sleep again.
I mark the pangs, which tear his heart—
Remorse hath lanc'd her keenest dart;
Yet, alienate from good,
Deeper he wades in blood.
I mark his savage sterness, pallid fear,
And the last furious efforts of despair!

Descend thou Goddess from on high!
Where 'mid th' Angelic throng
Thou tun'st thy melting song,
Soothing each list'ning inmate of the sky;
Who silent droop their plumed wings,
While feeling Pity sings.
Hither cast thy soften'd eye!
Here indulge th' impassion'd sigh!
That hoary head behold.—
'Tis LEAR! — th' unhappy and the old!—
Mangled by filial Vespers, see
Th' extreme of human misery!
What sudden transports, bursts of rage,
Distort the feeble breast of age!
What fierce, what agonizing pain!
Nature can no more sustain—
Madness fires the tortur'd brain!

Cease, my Muse — thro' Aether float
Many a harsh and broken note.
Darkness hath the shrine o'erspread,
Each ideal form is fled.
The Master of the Passions, lyes
In solitude inactive; — to the eyes
Of Admiration he no more appears,
No more a Nation's plaudits strike his ears.

Who now the Tyrant King shall paint?
His hypocritic art display?
Or who his terror and dismay?
When round his couch in dark midnight
(While burns the taper blue, and faint)
His conscience views the direful sight,
The injur'd ghosts of those,
Who victims to his lust of Empire fell,
Who sternly rouse him from repose,
And his unpitied death foretell.

Oh! HAMLET! who shall now
Thy amiable emotions scan?
The grief which makes thee lowly bow
In all thy pride of youth?
Who shall describe thy generous plain
Of fix'd Revenge? Thy Soul of Truth?
Each Grace? Each Virtue? — Who with eye
Darting through Vice, with magic fire,
Shall in thy Mother's secret bosom pry?
Yet mingle filial love with justest ire?
Thy Madness who shall feign?
Assume thy Wit, and poignant hum'rous vein?
Yet ev'ry sally curb with Judgment's sober rein?

Cease plaintive Muse — with well earn'd Fame
Thy Favorite retires: — Invidious blame
May penetrate to his retreat.—
Thou o'er his hallow'd seat
Shalt scatter flow'rs. — Thus Nature's other Son
SHAKESPEARE, (his public journey run)
Sought Avon's peaceful stream;
His Genius shrouded from the noon-day glare,
There bade adieu to bursting care,
And spent the remnant of life's little dream!