1790
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to the Spirit of Freshness.

Universal Magazine 103 (August 1798) 135-36.

Rev. Richard Polwhele


Thirty blank-verse quatrains "Sketched on the First day of May, 1790, at Mamhead, near an Evergreen Oak." In this poem Richard Polwhele pays homage to William Collins in the high-Della Cruscan manner: "Haply, thy slippers glance along my path | Where frosted lilies veil their silver bells | Beneath thy lively green | Of their full-shading leaves." Instead of light, the poet observes the effects of the times-of-day on moisture in an ode that follows its original in mingling the descriptive with the allegorical mode.

Polwhele's ode appeared in the Edinburgh Magazine for July, but given the habit of the Scottish periodicals of printing late and taking materials from English magazines, it seems likely that this poem originally appeared in the Universal Magazine for August. It was reprinted in Poems (1806).



O thou, the daughter of the vernal dew,
That, glistering to the morn with pearly light
The gentle Aura woo'd
Beside a dripping cave;
There, midst the blush of roses, won the nymph
To dalliance, as in sighs she whisper'd love;
There saw thee born, as May
Unclos'd her laughing eye;
Spirit of Freshness, hail! At this dim hour
While, streakt with recent grey, the dawn appears
Where sport thy humid steps,
Ambrosial essence, say?
Haply, thy slippers glance along my path
Where frosted lilies veil their silver bells
Beneath thy lively green
Of their full-shading leaves.
Or dost thou wander in the hoary field
Where, overhead, I view the cautious hare
Nibbling, while stillness reigns,
The light-sprent barley-blade?
Or dost thou hover o'er the hawthorn bloom,
Where, in his nest of clay, the blackbird opes
His golden lids, and tunes
A soft-preluding mid the fleeced air
To meet the day-spring, where the plume-wet lark
Pours, sudden, his shrill note
Beneath a dusky cloud?
I see thee not — But lo! a vapory shape
That oft belies thy form, emerging slow,
From that deep central gloom,
Rests on the moontipt wood;
Now, by a halo circled, falls along,
As gleams with icicles his azure vest,
Now shivers on the trees,
And feebly sinks from sight.

'Tis cold! And lo, upon the whitening folds
Of the dank mist that fills the hollow dell,
Chill damp with drizzly locks
Glides in his lurid car;
Where a long fane o'er those broad rushes nods
In slumbering torpor; save when flitting bat
Stirs the rank of ivy brown
That clasps its oozing walls!
Yet, yet descending from yon eastern tent,
Whose amber seems to kiss the wavy plain,
A form, half-viewless, spreads
A flush purpureal round,
I know thee, Freshness! Lo, delicious green
Sprinkles thy path. The bursting buds above
With vivid moisture glow,
To mark thy gradual way.
The florets, opening, from their young cups dart
The carmine blush, the yellow lustre clear:
And now entranc'd, I drink
Thy breath in living balms!
And not a ryegrass trembles, but it gives
A scent salubrious: not a flower exhales
Its odours, but it breathes
O'er all, a cool repose.
Mild shadowy power! whilst now thy tresses bath'd
In primrose tints, the snowdrop's coldness shed
On sky-blue hyancinths,
Thy chaste and simple wreath;
While flows to zephyr thy transparent robe
Stealing the colors of the lunar bow,
How short thy vestal reign
Amid the rosy lawn!
Yes! if thou mix the saffron hues that stream
From the bright orient with the roscid rays
Of yonder orb that hangs
A silvery drop, on high;
Or, if thou love, along the lucent sod,
To catch the sparkles of thy modest star;
With all the mingling beams
Heightening some virgin's bloom;
Fleet as the shadow from the breded heaven
Brushing the gossamer, thy steps retire
Within the gelid gloom
Of thy green vested oak.
There, as its ambient arch with airy sweep
Chequers the ground, thine "eyes of dewy light,"
Pursue the turf that floats
In many a tremulous wave.
And now, retreating to the breezy marge
Of the pure stream, thy ruby fingers rear
The new-blown flowers that wake
To tinge its crystal tide:
Or gently on thine alabaster urn
Thy head reclines, beneath some aged beech
That mid the crisped brook
Steeps its long-wreathed roots;
While from the cave where first thine essence sprung,
Where the chaste naiads rang'd their glittering spars,
Rills, trickling thro' the moss,
Purl o'er the pebbled floor.
There sleep till eve; as now the tyrant Heat,
Kindles, with rapid strides, the extensive lawn,
And e'en thy favourite haunt,
The verdurous oak, invades.
And may no vapors from that osier'd bank
Annoy thee — thou, whose delicacy dreads,
Tho' shrinking from the sun,
The fallow's stagnant shade.
There sleep till eve; unless the spring-lov'd showers,
Pattering among the foliage, bid thee rise
To taste those transient blooms
That with the rainbow live.
There sleep till eve; when, as thy parent Air
With feathery softness flutters o'er thine urn,
And midst the vermeil bower,
The dew thy feet impearls;
Joy'd shalt thou hail the watery-tinted cloud,
Whose radiant skirts half-hide the westering orb,
Whilst a fine emerald hue
The whose horizon stains;
Till thro' the fragrance of his sweet-briar leaves
Thy glow-worm flings a solitary ray,
As peace descends, to hush
The twilight-bosom'd scene!

[pp. 135-36]