1804
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Innocence. Addressed to a Lady.

Poems, by the late John Nesbitt White.

John Nesbitt White


An allegorical ode after Milton's L'Allegro by a schoolboy who died very young. The conclusion imitates Collins's Ode to Evening: "When flow'ry wreaths of spring appear, | Or summer wakes the vernal year, | Or autumn spreads her golden store, | Or winter's billowy tempests roar, | Thy gracious influence impart, | And fix thy temple near my heart; | Be thou my guide, auspicious guest, | And rule triumphant in my breast." White would have been fifteen years old when he wrote these lines in "June 1804." He died the following year. This is the first of a pair of odes; "To Content" follows.



Sweet Innocence! whose milder sway
E'en Ocean's farthest isles obey;
Beneath whose silent moss-grown cell
For ever peace, and virtue dwell;
Where Hyacinth's eternal bloom
And zephyrs waft a rich perfume;
Ah! lead me to thy hallow'd shrine,
And make thy pleasures ever mine!
Methinks I see the goddess fair,
With buskin'd leg and flowing hair,
'Mid forests dark, or allies green,
Or verdant meads, a busy scene,
With modesty that looks behind,
And blushes at the rustling wind;
Diffusing health, and bliss around,
While airs ecstatic swell the sound,
Or through the vale sequester'd stray,
And brush the morning dew away.
Now by the mountain's hoary side,
Where woodbines grow in vernal pride,
And lifted on her craggy throne,
Majestic nature sits alone,
Retiring to the close retreat
To shun the fervor of the heat;
With fawns, and dryads there resort,
And keep Arcadia's festive court,
While nut-brown nymphs the chorus lead,
Light-tripping through the yellow mead,
And every hill, and every grove
Re-echoes to the voice of love.
Oh source of comfort, joy, and fame,
Through life's perplexing maze the same,
When flow'ry wreaths of spring appear,
Or summer wakes the vernal year,
Or autumn spreads her golden store,
Or winter's billowy tempests roar,
Thy gracious influence impart,
And fix thy temple near my heart;
Be thou my guide, auspicious guest,
And rule triumphant in my breast.

[pp. 69-71]