1755
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Health.

A Collection of Poems in four Volumes. By Several Hands. [Robert Dodsley, ed.]

Rev. John Duncombe


An allegorical ode in seven couplet-Spenserians "by Mr. Duncombe, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge." The octosyllabic couplets used in this Horatian ode indicate a source in Milton's L'Allegro: "Nymph! with thee, at early Morn, | Let me brush the waving corn; | And, at Noon-tide's sultry hour, | O bear me to the wood-bine bow'r!" Like much of Duncombe's early verse, this poem grows out of the poet's relationship to Samuel Richardson's intellectual circe; the "Palemon" of the fifth stanzas is the "Author of Clarissa." In the sixth stanza "Heberden" is the physician William Heberden (1710-1801) whose literary patients included Johnson, Warburton, and Cowper. At the time of composition he was treating Samuel Richardson.

John Dyer to William Duncombe: "I have not met with Dodsley's two last volumes, and have hitherto missed the pleasure of seeing the Ode to health. Though head-achs and sickness make me fearful of reading much, yet I will haste to see it; it will particularly suit me: I will seek it, as I seek health, which, alas! I very much want" 24 November 1756; in Duncombe, Letters of Eminent Persons (1772; 1773) 3:58.

William Seward: "On being asked in his last illness, what physician he [Dr. Johnson] had sent for, 'Dr. Heberden,' replied he, 'ulimum Romanorum, the last of the learned physicians'" Biographiana (1799) 2:601.

William Tooke: "Dr. William Heberden, the celebrated physician; he died in 1801, in the 91st year of his age. The amiable and unsullied character he enjoyed during his long protracted existence, is too recent in the recollection of the public, to require any additional testimony on our part. He was the author and editor of several valuable publications, to which he found leisure to attend in the intervals of an extensive practice. On his skill in his profession it were needless to enlarge, or on the dignity and benevolence with which he exercised it. He was too well aware of the uncertainty of the art, not to pay due attention to the numerous improvements of which it was susceptible, and which this more enlightened age afforded. Attached to no system, he cautiously took experience for his guide, and equally rejected the authoritative maxims of ancient writers, and the not less authoritative theories of modern ones, until they were sanctioned by something better than a name. Nature was his goddess, and her alone he consulted in the prescriptions he wrote. Their simplicity could only be equalled by the liberality with which he attended to their effects; the patient recovered at the expense of the apothecary. We dwell with pleasure on the character of such a man, who, for so long a period of time, enjoyed the highest satisfaction a good man can covet, the diffusion of health and happiness round a wide circle of his grateful countrymen" Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 2:266n.

A Lady: "The stile [of Dodley's Collection] is beautiful, the Poetry elegant and easy, the subjects judiciously chosen; and in a word, a sensible mind cannot fail of being most agreeably entertained by this valuable Collection" New and Elegant Amusements for the Ladies of Great Britain (1772) 63.



Health! to thee thy vot'ry owes
All the blessings life bestows,
All the sweets the summer yields,
Melodious woods, and clover'd fields;
By thee he tastes the calm delights
Of studious days and peaceful nights:
By thee his eye each scene with rapture views;
The Muse shall sing thy gifts, for they inspire the Muse.

Does increase of wealth impart
Transports to a bounteous heart?
Does the sire with smiles survey
His parting children round him play!
Does love with mutual blushes streak
The swain's and virgin's artless cheek?
From HEALTH these blushes, smiles and transports flow;
Wealth, children, love itself, to HEALTH their relish owe.

Nymph! with thee, at early Morn,
Let me brush the waving corn;
And, at Noon-tide's sultry hour,
O bear me to the wood-bine bow'r!
When Evening lights her glow-worm, lead
To yonder dew-enamel'd mead;
And let me range at Night those glimm'ring groves,
Where Stillness ever sleeps, and Contemplation roves.

This my tributary lay,
Grateful at thy shrine I pay,
Who for sev'n whole years hast shed
Thy balmy blessings o'er my head;
O! let me still enamour'd view
Those fragrant lips of rosy hue,
Nor think there needs th' allay of sharp disease,
To quicken thy repast, and give it pow'r to please.

Now by swiftest Zephyrs drawn,
Urge thy chariot o'er the lawn;
In yon gloomy grotto laid,
PALEMON asks thy kindly aid;
If goodness can that aid engage,
O hover round the virtous sage:
Nor let one sigh for his own suff'rings rise;
Each human suff'ring fills his sympathizing eyes.

Venus whom Aeneas' side
With successful efforts try'd
To extract th' envenom'd dart,
That baffled wise Iapis' art,
If thus, HYGEIA, thou couldst prove
Propitious to the queen of love,
Now on thy favour'd HEBERDEN bestow
Thy choicest healing pow'rs, for Pallas asks them now.

What tho', banish'd from the fight,
To the hero's troubled sight,
Ranks on ranks tumultuous rose
Of flying friends and conqu'ring foes;
He only panted to obtain
A laurel wreath for thousands slain;
On nobler views intent, the SAGE'S mind
Pants to delight, instruct, and humanise mankind.

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