1784
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode to Mirth.

The Wit's Magazine; or Library of Momus 1 (July 1784) 273-74.

Mr. Carr


An imitation of Milton's L'Allegro, signed "Mr. Carr, Stourbridge." The poem, which is in the allegorical as opposed to the descriptive mode, develops a retirement theme: "All I ask of Heaven to give, | Is with thee, O Mirth! to live: | And, where Stour's meandering maze | Thro' the sedgy valley strays, | Careless pipe my native strains, | To blooming nymphs and jovial swains." "Mr. Carr" is possibly William Windle Carr, who published a volume of Poems on Various subjects in 1791. He was an admirer of Shenstone. In The Wit's Magazine Carr's poem follows immediately after William Cowper's History of John Gilpin, which had yet to be collected or to appear under Cowper's name.



Hence, lethargic Melancholy!
Seek the empty courts of Folly!
Hence! with all thy gloomy train,
Sullen Grief, and restless Pain,
Pensive Sorrow's hollow groan,
Plaintive Trouble's piercing moan,
Low Suspicion, busy Care,
Anguish fell, and black Despair;
Hence, to dark Tartarian shade!
Fly, nor dare this breast invade!

Hither, fairest! hither, fly!
Goddess of the sparkling eye,
Rosy Mirth! and, with thy train,
Come! and gladden all the plain.
Haste, the powers of bliss display;
Lead the dance, and wake the lay!
Joys, disdaining measure, give;
Come, and teach me how to live!
Charm me with thy jocund lay;
Youthful smiler, come away!

Shield me, Heaven! what bright'ning shade
Trips fantastic o'er the glade?
Hah! 'tis she! gay Mirth descending,
Round her jovial train attending!
Laughing youth, disdaining care;
Bright Hygeia, bland and fair;
Soft Delight, and young Desire;
Love's and Friendship's ambient fire;
Rose-lipp'd Joy, and Peace serene;
Play and gambol round their queen.

Now, as round they social sit,
Brilliant, smiling, young-ey'd Wit,
Careless flings his sprightly dart,
Guiltless, at the willing heart.
Humour, now, with mirthful lore,
Sets the table on a roar.
Hark! he bids Iberia's knight,
Trim him for the vent'rous fight;
Shake his lance, and set his shield,
And hurry, dreadful, to the field!

See, his voice all care beguiles!
Grim fac'd Melancholy smiles;
Sullen Grief, and Care, look gay;
Sorrow hears her plaints away;
Sable-vested Woe, in peace,
Wond'ring, finds her troubles cease;
Terror sinks from palsied Fear;
Drowsy Midnight starts to hear;
Discontent no more complains;
Pleasure universal reigns!

Thine, heart-easing Mirth! be thine,
O'er the woes of life to shine!
Gild the gloom that shadows here,
Cherish Hope, and soften Care!
Give the storms of life to cease,
And smile our troubles into peace!
Never may the votary
Dwell an hour estrang'd from thee!
Ne'er his vagrant footsteps stray
From thy flower-bespangled way!

See where Stour meandering flows;
Onward still he ceaseless goes:
Wave succeeding wave, they keep
Ever wandering to the deep.
Emblem of this Life's fair prime
Hast'ning down the steep of Time:
Soon, too soon, it steals away;
What, O what! can bribe it's stay?
Titles, stars, nor scepter'd things,
Toys of infants, and of kings!

Let who will to courts repair,
I shall never visit there;
Never strike the vocal strings
To the pageant pomp of kings;
Never songs of triumph raise
To the blood-stain'd hero's praise;
Never tread the purple ground,
Where the brazen trumpet's sound,
And the murderous cannon's breath,
Drown the heavy groan of Death!

Cease, then, cease! to urge my flight
Up Ambition's dangerous height!
Whisper not of rising fame,
Nor with gold my breast inflame!
What is fame? — A transient bubble!
Gold? — A fleeting, shining trouble!
These no more shall give me pain,
All elusive as they're vain:
Other joys I'll now pursue;
All ye gay deceits, adieu!

All I ask of Heaven to give,
Is with thee, O Mirth! to live:
And, where Stour's meandering maze
Thro' the sedgy valley strays,
Careless pipe my native strains,
To blooming nymphs and jovial swains;
While, around, their antic feet,
Deftly to my measures beat;
And my blooming Stella smiles
Sweet approvement of my toils.

Come, then, Mirth! for I am thine;
Make thy social pleasures mine!
Let thy thrilling joys impart
All their raptures to my heart!
Then, my careless footsteps lead,
O'er the lawn, and o'er the mead!
Or, with thee, in blooming bowers,
Hear the gay, ambrosial Hours,
"Happy! happy youth!" still cry,
"Thus to live and thus to die!"

[pp. 273-74]