1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Fancy.

Monthly Magazine 57 (April 1824) 236-37.

J. S. H.


An allegorical and descriptive ode, signed "J. S. H." in the manner of Milton and Collins. The first half of the ode is a progress of poesy, in which Fancy makes her way to Britain in the person of Edmund Spenser: "Lo! when thy golden tresses fair | Wanton'd in the playful air, | And shook sweet odours from thy wing; | Then was the heav'n-inspiring hour, | And its secret working pow'r, | Sweet Spencer, elfin child, can sing" p. 236. The conceits in this part suggest the Ode on the Poetical Character of William Collins, one of four English poets in the catalogue: "Oh! see the shapes, how fast they rise, | The fleeting spectres of the mind; | Some potent spirit call'd them up, | 'Twas Collins sure" p. 236. The second half of the ode takes up the imagery of seasons and times of day, in the manner of Milton's Il Penseroso and Collins's Ode to Evening.



When blue-ey'd Fancy, heavenly maid!
With sister arts and charms array'd,
Rose from her fairy chambers, wrought
By self-creating genius taught,
With purple wings she wav'd the air,
Prepar'd to leave her rosy sphere;
With magic art then veil'd her eyes,
And left the soft ambrosial skies,
To visit with her playful grace
The favor'd sons of mortal race.
To Grecian plains she bent her way,—
The fairy land for her display,—
And, when alighted on the earth,
What fairy regions hail'd her birth;
What figures wild, disorder'd, fair,
Forth danc'd, and shook their mystic hair.

But when she held her glass to view,
The magic mirror of her charms,
The Grecian bard the goddess knew,
And hail'd her with extended arms.

But, when the Mantuan swain beheld her,
He gently clasp'd the slender reed,
And sung an oaten song so tender,
'Twas Fancy's image to his aid.

Lo! when thy golden tresses fair
Wanton'd in the playful air,
And shook sweet odours from thy wing;
Then was the heav'n-inspiring hour,
And its secret working pow'r,
Sweet Spencer, elfin child, can sing.

But oh! thou sylph, with floating hair,
With bonny look, and gait so fair,
And eyes that sparkle inward pleasure;
Ah! say the heav'n-inspiring view,
That first a laughing Comus drew,
The fair Miltonic fertile treasure.

Oh! see the shapes, how fast they rise,
The fleeting spectres of the mind;
Some potent spirit call'd them up,
'Twas Collins sure, — a favor'd child
That with a sweep, rude as the wind,
He struck, with hurried hand, the lyre,
And sung the 'Passions,' lofty theme,
The soul's delight, the Muses fire,
That fancy scarce withstood the power
That rul'd and govern'd in that hour.

Thee last I sing, sweet Fancy's child,
The bard of numbers sweetly wild,
E'en Shakspeare, genius of the mount
By Hippocrene's sacred fount;
Who lov'd to range the chosen air
Where high poetic visions are;
But chiefly lov'd the heaven-born smile,
That lit thy temples all divine,
Sweet smiling goddess, soft array'd,
The poet's own fantastic maid.

Thee, goddess, rule the varied year,
And wave thy wand around the sphere,
When Spring comes tripping o'er the land,
To scatter sweets with liberal hand,
With soft delight to press the earth;
Oh be then present at her birth,
To conjure with a livelier green,
And add a charm to ev'ry scene;
When o'er the burning zenith shines,
Oh seek the shade, where heat reclines,
By haunted stream, or fountain clear,
Where lovers drop the stealing tear,
Where laughing satyrs dance around,
And wood-nymphs from their alleys bound,
From out their leafy covert hie,
And view thy form with curious eye.

A softer verdure clads the fields,
A richer grain the harvest yields,
When Ceres o'er the sheaf presides,
With rosy pleasure in her eyes;
When blushing fruits perfume the air,
The nymph of orchards tends with care;
While golden vintage sparkles round,
And laughing Bacchus, ivy crown'd,
With jollity, and dimpled smiles,
Surveys the cup of many wiles.

When down the west the tardy sun declines,
Shorn of his locks of amber dipt in gold,
And the drear solstice sits upon the hills,
And the last sun-beam flies the wood,
When Nature throws her moody trail
Along the wide and dreary plain,
Then haste thee, goddess, bright and fair,
Oh come and deck thy braided hair,
Tho' now the gentle zephyr's fled,
Yet thou can'st deck each mountain's head,
And tho' the morning scented dew
Has lost its sweet and fragrant hue,
Yet thou can'st give the vales perfume,
And all the Summer's verdant bloom;
When the loud tempest rushes forth,
To hold its wild terrific course,
On the arrowy, sleety show'r,
I see thine all-pervading pow'r;
I see thee on the storm's career,
Thro' whirlwinds riding, void of fear.
Lo! when the icy champion, Frost,
Forth holds his dread despotic course,
And chains the polar wat'ry deep,
And binds its waves in icy sleep,
Ah! then thou tak'st thy rudest form,
Terrific as the midnight storm;
E'en then I see thee, gentle maid,
In some cavern reclining laid,
Which Nature, in her kindest mood,
Thus form'd to be the spot she lov'd;
Here, on a clear and crystal bed,
A sparkling radiance round thee shed,
Thou view'st the forms and shapes that rise,—
Spires, — villages, — delight thine eyes;
While mighty columns heave the arch,
And dancing tapers light the trance.

The woods, — the rocks, — the swelling flood,—
The mountain steep, and quiet vale,—
The winding stream, that murmurs rude,
And lisps its purlings thro' the dale,—
The peeping dawn, — th' ascending fire,
That lifts the rising hills with joy,—
These thy fair form can e'er inspire,
Sweet Fancy, nymph so shy and coy.

Sweet rosy maid, with colours drest,
Then come and be my welcome guest;
My humble roof should fairer rise
Beneath thy soft enchanting eyes;
With thee in hand, I fain would go,
More eager than the mountain roe,
And in thy flitting beams would play,
To chase Life's dreary clouds away;
Could the dear Muse of Shakspeare blest
But breathe its sweetness o'er my breast,
My winged soul would upward rise,
And like a bird that soars the skies,
Fond of her daring pinions, bold,
Fond of the space her eyes behold,
Would spurn with lighter feet away,
And soar amid the purple ray,
On the stretch'd wings of rapture rise,
With thee, O Fancy, by my side.

[pp. 236-37]