1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Melancholy.

The Oracle. Bell's New World (17 December 1789).

Mary Robinson


A Miltonic ode in seven irregular stanzas, signed "Laura Maria." The fourth stanza in particular seems to have been inspired by William Collins's Superstitions Ode, published the year before: "DREAD POW'R! — whose touch magnetic leads | O'er enchanted spangled meads, | Where, by the Glow-worm's twinkling ray, | Aery Spirits lightly play." The "New World" of the newspaper's title reflects the intention of the publisher, Bell, to enter into competition with The World, the premier Della Cruscan organ. Over the years Mary Robinson would publish scores of poem in The Oracle.

Headnote: "Thus rapid is the stream of this Writer's melody — Laura Maria is of Milton's School — we have much of the exquisite imagery of his early Song recalled to our minds by the Ode that follows. It muses over the Spectres that glide across the dim vestibule of day, or, lingering by the Haunted Tower, listening to the nightly noise of the boding Raven, mournfully moralizing upon the misery of Man. The structure too of the Verse is admirable — 'Winding in liquid lapse is pleasurable way,' with suavity and strength, like the Belvidere Apollo."



SORC'RESS OF THE CAVE PROFOUND!
Hence with thy pale and meagre train,
Nor dare my roseate bow'r prophane
Where LIGHT-HEEL'D MIRTH despotic reigns,
Slightly bound in feath'ry chains,
And scatt'ring blisses round.

HENCE, to thy native CHAOS, where,
Nurs'd by the haggard Dam, DESPAIR,
Shackled by thy numbing spell,
Mis'ry's pallid Children dwell;
Where, brooding o'er thy fatal charms,
FRENZY ROLLS THE VACANT EYE;
Where hopeless Love, with folded arms,
Drops the tear, and heaves the sigh;
Till cherish'd Passion's tyrant sway
Chills the warm pulse of Youth with premature decay.

O, fly thee, to some church-yard's gloom,
Where beside the mould'ring tomb
Restless Spectres glide away,
Fading in the glimpse of day;
Or where the Virgin Orb of Night
Silvers o'er the forest wide,
Or across the silent tide,
Flings her soft, and quiv'ring light;
Where beneath some aged tree,
Sounds of mournful melody,
Caught from the Nightingale's enamour'd tale,
Steal on faint Echo's ear, and float upon the gale.

DREAD POW'R! — whose touch magnetic leads
O'er enchanted spangled meads,
Where, by the Glow-worm's twinkling ray,
Aery Spirits lightly play;
Where around some Haunted Tow'r
Boding Ravens wing their flight,
VIEWLESS, in the gloom of night,
Warning oft the luckless hour;
Or, beside the Murd'rer's bed,
From thy dank and morbid wing,
O'er his fev'rish burning head
DROPS of CONSCIOUS ANGUISH FLING;
While freezing Horror's direful scream
Rouses his guilty Soul FROM KIND OBLIVION'S DREAM.

Oft beneath the witching YEW
The trembling Maid steals forth unseen,
With true-love wreaths of deathless green
Her Lover's grave to strew;
Her downcast eyes no joy illumes,
Nor on her cheek the soft rose blooms—
Her mourning heart the victim of thy power,
Shrinks from the glare of Mirth, and HAILS THE MURKY HOUR.

O say, What FIEND first gave thee birth?
In what FELL DESART wert thou born?
Why does thy hollow voice forlorn,
So fascinate the Sons of Earth?
That once encircled in thy icy arms,
They court thy torpid touch, and doat upon thy charms?

HATED IMP, I brave thy spell,
REASON shuns thy barb'rous sway;
LIFE with MIRTH shou'd glide away,
DESPONDENCY with Guilt shou'd dwell;
For conscious Truth's unruffled mien
Displays the DAUNTLESS EYE, AND PATIENT SMILE SERENE.

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