1804
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Suicide.

The Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry for 1804 (1806) 115-16.

Rev. John Whitehouse


An allegorical ode in three irregular stanzas signed "the Rev. J. Whitehouse." There is a general resemblance to the Despair episode in the first book of the Faerie Queene, and to Collins's Ode to Fear: "Hence away! — thou fiend forlorn! | Nor bid me climb you summit steep, | That beetling o'er the fearful deep, | Hears the hoarse surge, and the wild tempest borne, | In ceaseless turmoil o'er the wintry main, | Rush by with hideous sweep!" But so many poems had been written on this topic in this manner that it is is hardly necessary to trace Whitehouse to particular sources.

The poet, a Cambridge man who was chaplain to the Duke of York, had enjoyed some success with his Odes Moral and Descriptive (1794).



Dark, sullen power!
Whom oft beside some ruined wall I've seen,
With stolen step, and clouded mien,
Gathering the night-shade's juices pale,
When shadows dimmed the moon, and midnight hour
Tolled from some steeple nigh!
And downy sleep
Refused to steep
In opiate dews thy ghastly-glaring eye!
While at thy elbow stood Despair,
Grim-visaged man! with bristled hair,
Shaking aloft his iron flail!
And in the blasted vale
The raven shrieked with funeral cry,
A choral dirge the Furies sung,
And while Fate's solemn knell was rung,
Thy voice of dreary dole still bade the wretched die.

Hence away! — thou fiend forlorn!
Nor bid me climb you summit steep,
That beetling o'er the fearful deep,
Hears the hoarse surge, and the wild tempest borne,
In ceaseless turmoil o'er the wintry main,
Rush by with hideous sweep!
Nor whisper in my startled ear
Thy murmured woes, whose accents drear
Freeze the warm blood; with dire controul
Strike Reason's mintage from the soul,
And all it's powers enchain,
Till from her anchor Hope reluctant driven,
Foregoes her firm support, and quits her hold on heaven.

Nor yet, where thick-incumbent shadows scowl,
Meet me, beside the lonely wood,
When night comes lowering on, and the winds howl
Among the branches — rapt in pensive mood,
If there, indulging grief, I chance to stray,
While stern Adversity's dire ills infest,
Or untamed passion boil within my breast,
Ah, turn thy steps afar, nor cross my way!
Lest of light's cheering ray
Bereft, and wildered more, as thy dim form
Bids Fancy saddest hues of sorrow bring,
While Death, half-seen, amidst the twilight storm
Sails by on dusky wing;
Aghast, and vanquish'd by thy potent spells,
I drop into the gulph where Frenzy dwells!

[pp. 115-16]