Ode to Hope.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 31 (11 January 1776) 80.


A new-year's ode in ten irregular Spenserians (ababccdD) signed "M—, Jan. 1, 1776." The poet describes how his desires have been crossed by false ambitions, a fickle lover, and a friend who died, then turning to Hope declares, "Lead me thro' life's deceitful road | To thine, and wisdom's bright abode; | Diffuse thy healing comforts o'er the mind, | And to the will of Heav'n teach me to be resign'd." New-year's odes tended to be very sober affairs in this period (the measure here is that of Gray's Hymn to Adversity). "M" was a regular contributor to the poetry columns of the Weekly Magazine.

Sweet hope! that cheer'st the lonely hour,
I woo thee gently to my breast;
Extend thy kind and healing pow'r,
And give thy humble suppliant rest:
Attune the music of his lyre
With strains of extacy inspire:
Bid endless joys in radiant lustre shine,
And raise to transports new — to transports all divine.

To thee I turn with eager eye
In ev'ry scene of deep distress,
And while from cares to thee I fly,
I feel my burden'd sorrows less:
While calm reflection leads the way
That opens to eternal day,
And kindly smooths the wrinkled brow of pain,
Thy smile, bless'd maid! illumes the melancholy scene.

Yet let the youthful mind beware
Of sickly hopes, deceitful joys!
With caution shun the fatal snare
That flatt'ry plants, and pride employs;
Erroneous fancy may beguile
In pleasure's garb with studied smile,
While plunging into scenes of deeper woe,
Sad disappointment strikes the unexpected blow.

For oft, all wretched and forlorn,
False hope! thy vot'ries I have seen;
Fair shone in purple dress their morn,
The prospect blissful and serene;
But quickly from the ravish'd view
The distant fairy scene withdrew,
To raging storms a melancholy prey,
While ruthless fortune frown'd, and snatch'd each hope away.

Led, too, by fancy's airy form,
I bow'd obsequious at thy shrine:
Almira's looks, each killing charm
I saw, and own'd her pow'r divine.
Enamour'd with her heav'nly air,
To thee I rais'd my votive pray'r;
She smil'd, or feign'd a mutual love begun,
I thought the faithful smil'd, but trusting was undone.

Turning to friendship's hallow'd fire
With joy I felt a purer flame,
Check'd the vain wish, each proud desire,
Which truth and probity disclaim;
And cheer'd by virtue's social ray,
With Strephon pass'd the hours away,
With Strephon hop'd sublimer joys to share,
When death in fury rag'd, and plung'd me in despair.

In every varied scene of life
Still disappointment frowns severe,
Nurs'd by the pangs of hopeless grief,
With many a sigh, and many a tear:
While ranking in the wounded breast
By cares and future ills oppress'd,
Pale fear and envy shake the pois'nous dart,
And keener sorrows give, and deeper woes impart.

Say, what is life? — a busy dream,
All but to fancy's vision's blind,
That, like the glow-worm's erring gleam,
Mock with false hopes the youthful mind;
Tho' crouding dangers round us wait,
We slumber on the brink of fate,
Till landed on the silent, solemn shore
Of vast eternity, we wake to dream no more.

From scenes as these, celestial maid!
To thee I turn my eager view;
To thee, sweet hope! who ne'er betray'd,
I bid the blushing world adieu:
Lead me thro' life's deceitful road
To thine, and wisdom's bright abode;
Diffuse thy healing comforts o'er the mind,
And to the will of Heav'n teach me to be resign'd.

Then deep distress, nor fear's dread dart,
Nor all the world's fantastic show
Shall change the purpose of my heart,
Or tempt thy presence to forego:
Supported by thy friendly pow'r,
I'll sing in ev'ry lonely hour,
Nor quit thy joys, till newer scenes arise
Where bloom fruition's sweets, eternal in the skies.

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