1780
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on the Author's Birth-Day.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 47 (24 January 1780) 111.

M.


Ten irregular Spenserians (ababccdD) signed "M—., Banks of Ayr, Jan. 1780." The sober manner adopted in this poem was conventional to the occasion in the eighteenth century, and had become associated with a stanza used in Gray's Hymn to Adversity. But instead of seeking comfort by conversing with the usual allegorical figure, the poet addresses a pious friend: "What tho' we feel the hand of pain, | Nor earth's supremest bliss obtain, | Far other joys exalted and refin'd, | Far other bliss shall soothe the sympathetic mind." The intimate tone adopted in this ode is unusual for both the genre and the period.



While o'er a parent's urn reclin'd,
And all on earth my soul holds dear,
Hap'ly to soothe the pensive mind,
The Muse forlorn still drops the tear:
She sees another year return,
Sighing, she hails th' important morn,
That claims the tribute of an annual lay,
And sings, in solemn strains, this new-born natal day.

To notes of unavailing woe,
Long has she tun'd the broken lyre,
In vain — the numbers cease to flow,
That warm'd with true poetic fire:
Yet lonely at the midnight hour
Languid, she lov'd her plaint to pour;
Nor deem'd, a stranger to the sweets of joy,
That soon afflictive grief would youth's gay bloom destroy.

Ah! where these early scenes, she sung,
By fancy's vernal rays illum'd;
When flow'ry nature, sweet and young,
In all the pride of summer bloom'd?
'Twas then that lovely pleasure smil'd;
Then hope each vacant hour beguil'd,
Then were the tumults of my infant breast
By soft maternal fondness lull'd to rest.

But mem'ry! why these scenes pourtray,
That life's sweet mourning gave to view;
Why weep to see their tints decay,
To which I've bid a long adieu?
On other banks, by other streams,
Silver'd with Cynthia's ev'ning beams,
Tho' distant far from G—IE'S verdant plain,
The Muse shall often sit, and tune the solemn strain.

No more the tender tears shall flow;
No more in solitude I mourn;
From the sad scenes of genuine woe,
To thee, FIDELE! now I turn:
To thee the Muse directs her eye,
From these implores the friendly sigh;
While thus a stranger on this distant shore,
She hails her native fields, and much-lov'd friends, no more.

Fair as the morn, the chearful smile,
That mantles o'er thy beauteous face,
Shall ev'ry tedious hour beguile,
And give my mind its wonted ease:
Sweet as the dew-besprinkled rose,
That with the summer's radiance glows,
Thy ev'ry grace, and ev'ry winning charm,
Shall chear the desart wild, and hush the rising storm.

If yet thy soul to mine attun'd,
'Ere own'd compassion's friendly sway;
'Ere lov'd to heal affliction's wound,
And wipe the falling tear away;
What tho' we feel the hand of pain,
Nor earth's supremest bliss obtain,
Far other joys exalted and refin'd,
Far other bliss shall soothe the sympathetic mind.

For here religion's sacred pow'r,
In virtue's snowy form array'd,
Shall brighten ev'ry future hour,
And gently lend her friendly aid;
While cheerful patience, modest fair!
Shall smoothe the wrinkled brow of care;
And meek-ey'd peace, with hope's transporting ray,
Shall calm the whirlwind's rage, and give eternal day.

Here, fair FIDELE! let us turn,
And worship at this radiant shrine;
With purest love our bosoms burn,
And own the mutual bliss divine—
For me who tunes the annual lay,
That celebrates this natal day,
As months, and rising years incessant roll,
Still may religion's joys support my grateful soul!

And when the last sad hour is come,
That calls me from these scenes away,
FIDELE, o'er her poet's tomb,
The solemn rites shall duteous pay:
With friendship's fairest hand shall bring
The richest gifts of flow'ry spring;
And, while she kindly sheds the parting tear,
Shall strew them round his grave whom once she held so dear.

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