1788
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Leisure.

New London Magazine 4 (July 1788) 381.

Arno


An allegorical ode imitating Milton's companion poems, signed "Arno." The opening recalls Collins's Ode to Fear, while the central passage imitates Milton with a nod towards Spenser: "But may my busy fancy paint, | In lightly passing colours faint, | Scenes of fairy-land, whose bowers, | Fashion'd of unfading flowers, | Shelter valour's armed knights, | Well prov'd in many perilous fights." The Ode to Leisure makes a point of mixing mirth with melancholy. Arno, who contributed an imitation of Gray's Elegy to the next number of the New London Magazine, would later publish his verses in The Oracle, becoming a minor member of the Della Cruscan band.



Goddess of ease, delightful leisure!
Mother of divinest pleasure,
May thy desultory sway
Guide to bliss from my quiet night
All quaint chimeras of affright,
That, wrapt in gloomy terrors, rise
To superstition's winding eyes:
Of pallid shades, with ghastly mien
And piteous actions often seen,
Threat'ning vengeance on the head
Of murd'rer vile, and, round the bed
Stalking, bid the sleeper wake,
And, where their bones lie, notice take,
Or dig the treasure-burying floor
That hides the injur'd orphan's store;
But may my busy fancy paint,
In lightly passing colours faint,
Scenes of fairy-land, whose bowers,
Fashion'd of unfading flowers,
Shelter valour's armed knights,
Well prov'd in many perilous fights;
While some beauty o'er their heads
The victim-crowning laurel spreads,
And sweetly cheers their hardy toil
With many a kiss and many a smile;
Or bids their daring courage fly,
To succour danger, shrieking nigh.

And may my sleep just pass away,
As the lark springs to welcome day,
That I may watch his whirring wing,
And hear him, slowly mounting, sing
In notes, whose modulations sweet
Their finely-varied turns repeat,
Until my steady, searching eye,
Lose him in the liquid sky;
Yet then, while musing, slow I tread,
I hear him warbling o'er my head.

At home, may friendly science sit
Around my board, and sprightly wit
Reciprocate the sportive sally,
The keen, but not the wounding rally;
While laughter, with inspiring eyes,
Catches the humours as they rise,
And, while he shakes his sides apace,
The glad tears trickle down his face.

But may my solitary hour
Be pass'd in learning's studious bower;
And, sweet relief from thought abstruse,
Let my soul woo the much-lov'd muse;
Still may beauty's matchless charms
Fold me in her virtuous arms,
And bless me with a cherub race,
In whom their mother's form I trace,
To heap my joys with fresh supply,
While living — mourn me when I die.
These pleasures, Leisure, sure are thine;
Let me — let me make them mine.

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