1784
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Irregular Ode; addressed to the Hon. William Pitt.

An Irregular Ode; addressed to the Hon. William Pitt.

Rev. John Newell Puddicombe


A Miltonic ode in eleven irregular Spenserians (aabccbdD), written as a sequel to the Regular Ode to Pitt published a few weeks earlier. The title is a little perplexing, since this is likewise a regular ode. The poet lauds the young prime minister, expressing the hope that following the American debacle Pitt will restore to Britain the military honors it had enjoyed under his father. The style height in this patronage poem is quite remarkable: "While I behold thy talents shine, | Some potent sparks of fire divine, | To animate my breast, | Fain would I wish Prometheus boldness steal, | In well adapted strains t' express my strenuous zeal. In the event, Puddicombe, a recent Cambridge graduate, had to be content with an ushership at Dulwich College. The second edition seems to have dropped the word "irregular" from the title, and may have been, like the Public Advertiser text, in regular stanzas. Not seen.

Edmund Cartwright: "A warm, not inelegant, and (we hope) not unmerited compliment to the virtues of the young statesman" Monthly Review 70 (March 1784) 235.

Monthly Review: "The first edition was noticed in our Catalogue for March, Art. 34. under the title of An Irregular Ode. It is here mentioned, on account of the Author's name; which did not accompany the former publication. It now appears with some alterations" 70 (May 1784) 383.

English Review: "This Ode is above mediocrity, and breathes the warmest sentiments of esteem and admiration of our young Atlas. The second edition of this poem is more correct and improved than the first" 3 (May 1784) 387.



Again the tuneful powers of verse
I ask assiduous, to rehearse
Their darling patron's praise;
Illustrious youth, again for thee
I bend the supplicating knee,
Where flames eternal blaze
On Phoebus' altar, brightening as they spread,
Still by each vestal muse with hallow'd Incense fed.

Twice, Veneration's debt to pay,
Have I adorn'd my votive lay
With PITT'S distinguish'd name,
And emptying on Apollo's shrine
My vase of odours, with the Nine,
The sacrificial flame,
With trembling hand, dar'd cherish and diffuse,
Urg'd nor by thirst of fame, or interest's sordid views.

No: the mean dazzling lures of gain,
Or fame's proud laurel, with disdain
Th' ingenuous muse surveys;
The just eulogium she bestows,
But from the heart's pure fountain flows,
Th' effusions of amaze;
Amaze high-kindled by the genial beams
Of that meridian light which from his virtues streams.

Oh may she still uncheck'd proceed,
The music of her rustic reed
To wake in merit's cause,
Till every grove and stream around,
Each plain, and listening dale resound
With PITT'S deserv'd applause.
Begin, O Clio, the prelusive song;
Shrill Echo, babbling maid, each choral note prolong.

O lov'd by Pallas, wisdom's queen,
Whose favouring hand has on thy mien
Her genuine stamp impress'd,
While I behold thy talents shine,
Some potent sparks of fire divine,
To animate my breast,
Fain would I wish Prometheus boldness steal,
In well adapted strains t' express my strenuous zeal.

But, soaring genius, what art thou,
The deathless wreaths that grace thy brow,
And what thy eagle wing?
If from those nobler powers disjoin'd,
The winning graces of the mind,
The pure exhaustless spring,
Whence civil and domestic bliss must flow,
And all that on a Realm can lasting splendor throw.

These too — yes these are all his own;
Imperial reason rears her throne,
Unrivall'd to his soul:
Her chains each willing thought confine,
Which bends obsequious at her shrine,
And owns her just controul.
To Truth's deserted fane he still repairs,
Far from gay Fashion's haunt, and Adulation's snares.

Ulysses thus with steadfast scorn
Beholds the beauties which adorn
Calypso's tempting isle;
In vain melodious fountains flow,
And flower-impurpled meadows glow
With spring's eternal smile;
The groves in vain their gales ambrosial boast,
Penelope's lov'd form his faithful breast ingross'd.

O semblance of thy patriot sire,
Who bade BRITANNIA'S fame aspire
To heights unknown before,
Again her drooping Genius raise,
And to her tarnish'd fading bays
Their pristine bloom restore.
The beams which thy diffusive glories shed,
Add lustre to the blaze circling thy father's head.

O while around thy favour'd brows
In solemn pomp the laurel bows,
Proud of its station there,
Do not this myrtle wreath disdain,
Which for thy head my timid strain
Now ventures to prepare.
O could th' applauding Muse a chaplet frame,
All blooming as thy worth, and lasting as thy name!

Bless, ALBION, these auspicious days!
PITT to th' approving stars shall raise
Thy name (august employ!)
IBERIA owns her heart-felt dread,
Perfidious BELGIA hangs her head,
And sickens at thy joy.
Where ROME'S imperial eagle ne'er appear'd,
Thy conquests shall extend, thy naval Power be fear'd!

[Public Advertiser (20 March 1784)]