1795
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Genius of Melancholy, an Ode.

European Magazine 27 (February 1795) 125.

William Ashburnham


An imitation of Milton's L'Allegro in eight stanzas of octosyllabic lines terminating in a pentameter. The stanzas end in a triplet, for a total of nine lines, as in Spenserians. The poem sketches the character of a melancholy man, reconceived along the lines of romantic sensibilities that owe more to contemporary novels than to Milton's renaissance conception of melancholia: "How I glory to impart | Comfort to a sinking heart, | Smooth affliction's thorny bed, | Sooth the mourner, raise his head!" I have not identified "Wm. Ashburnham, Jun." who also published sonnets in the European Magazine at this period.



Close enwrapt in musing trance,
See yon pensive youth advance,
Drest in flowing sable robe,
Grasping in his hand a globe:
Mark his step, and mark his gait,
See he scorns the pomp of state;
Looks with pity on a throne,
Love to live and die alone,
For Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Hence, begone! th' Enthusiast cries,
(Darting wild his flaming eyes)
Folly fond, and fashion gay,
Silken pleasure, hence away.
By the world forsook, forgot,
Let me seek thy shady grot,
Melancholy, heav'nly maid,
Thick embower'd in cypress glade,
And weave a chaplet Fortune cannot fade.

While the shades that glimm'ring fall,
Gently steal along the wall,
Mantling some monastic pile,
Or cathedral's holy aisle,
Let me haunt the sacred gloom,
Watch, and whisper round the tomb:
Meditation mild, and fair,
Soars sublime, through fields of air,
To worlds of glory which the blessed share,

Or when sober twilight gray
Closes up the eye of day,
Let me tread where giant oak
Never felt the Woodman's stroke;
Seek some Hermit's lone retreat,
Or some mossy grass-grown seat:
There entranc'd I love to lie,
And with keen and piercing eye
Explore the gems that glitter'd in the sky.

Aweful grandeur! splendid sight!
Glorious frame refulgent bright!
Lo! the Moon, serenely sweet,
Tips with gold the Eagle's seat;
Gilds the cliff's rough rugged side,
Trembles o'er the wat'ry tide:
Not a breeze presumes to blow,
Solemn silence rules below;
Charm'd with the sight, my bosom learns to glow.

Let me tread the pebbly shore,
When the wild waves rave and roar;
When the mighty whirlwinds sweep
O'er the bosom of the deep;
When the surges mountain high
Seem to dash against the sky;
String my arm with strength to save,
Beating back the boist'rous wave,
Yon ship wreck'd Sailor from a wat'ry grave.

Oft I range the desart plain,
Oft attend the house of pain,
Bending o'er the bed of death,
Cheer the sufferer's parting breath;
Or unbolt the Felon's cell,
Where despair and anguish dwell;
Call repentance from on high,
On his sullen couch to lie,
And calm his woe to-morrow doom'd to die.

How I glory to impart
Comfort to a sinking heart,
Smooth affliction's thorny bed,
Sooth the mourner, raise his head!
While my time I thus employ,
Catch a melancholy joy;
Far from cities far I flee,
Scenes like these I seek to see—
O Melancholy, let me dwell with thee!

[p. 125]