1788 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Della Crusca.

The Poetical Works of the late Mrs. Mary Robinson: including many Pieces never before published. In Three Volumes.

Mary Robinson


A Horatian ode in twenty undated blank-verse quatrains addressed by "Sappho" to "Della Crusca" (Robert Merry) posthumously published in 1806. Mary Robinson lauds Merry as a prince among poets and appeals to him to appear again before the public: "Ah! whither art thou flown? where pours thy song? | The model and the pride of British bards! | Sweet STAR of FANCY'S orb, | 'O tell me, tell me, where?'" In the concluding lines she declares her intention to travel to Italy: "Where the loud TIBER flows, | Or milder ARNO slowly steals along." The poem may have been written at the height of Merry's reputation, when the Della Cruscans and their imitators were publishing many similar effusions in the newspapers, often in verse, as here, imitating the manner of William Collins. However, the use of the name "Sappho" may indicate a later date, after the publication of Robison's sonnet-cycle Sappho and Phaon in 1796. Robinson does not seem to have travelled to Italy.



ENLIGHTEN'D Patron of the sacred Lyre!
Whose ever-varying, ever-witching song
Revibrates on the heart
With magic thrilling touch,
Till ev'ry nerve, with quiv'ring throb divine,
In madd'ning tumults, owns thy wondrous powr;
For well thy dulcet notes
Can wind the mazy song,
In labyrinth of wild fantastic form;
Or with empassion'd pathos woo the soul
With sounds more sweetly mild
Than SAPPHO'S plaint forlorn,
When bending o'er the waves she sung her woes,
And pitying ECHO hover'd o'er the deep,
Till in their coral caves
The tuneful NEREIDS wept.
Ah! whither art thou flown? where pours thy song?
The model and the pride of British bards!
Sweet STAR of FANCY'S orb,
"O tell me, tell me, where?"
Say, dost thou waste it on the viewless air
That bears it to the confines of high Heav'n?
Or does it court the meed
Of proud pre-eminence?
Or steals it o'er the glitt'ring Sapphire wave,
Calming the tempest with its silver sounds?
Or does it charm to love
The fond believing maid?
Or does it hover o'er the ALPINE steep,
Or, softly breathing under myrtle shades,
With SYMPATHY divine,
Solace the child of woe?
Where'er thou art, Oh! let thy gentle strain
Again with magic pow'r delight mine ear,
Untutor'd in the spells
And mysteries of song.
Then, on the margin of the deep I'll muse,
And bless the rocking bark ordain'd to bear
My sad heart o'er the wave,
From this ungrateful isle;
When the wan queen of night, with languid eye,
Peeps o'er the mountain's head, or thro' the vale
Illumes the glassy brook,
Or dew-besprinkled heath,
Or with her crystal lamp directs the feet
Of the benighted TRAV'LLER, cold and sad,
Thro' the long forest drear,
And pathless labyrinth,
To the poor PEASANT'S hospitable cot,
For ever open to the wretch forlorn;
O then I'll think on THEE,
And iterate thy strain,
And chant thy matchless numbers o'er and o'er;
And I will court the sullen ear of night,
To bear the rapt'rous sound,
On her dark shadowy wing,
To where, encircled by the sacred NINE,
The LYRE awakes the never-dying song!
Now, BARD admir'd, farewell!
The white sail flutters loud,
The gaudy streamers lengthen in the gale,
Far from my native shore I bend my way;
Yet, as my aching eye
Shall view the less'ning cliff,
Till its stupendous head shall scarce appear
Above the surface of the swelling deep,
I'll snatch a ray of hope,
For HOPE'S the lamp divine
That lights and vivifies the fainting soul,
With ecstacies beyond the pow'rs of song!
That ere I reach those banks
Where the loud TIBER flows,
Or milder ARNO slowly steals along,
To the soft music of the summer breeze,
The wafting wing of TIME
May bear this last ADIEU,
This wild, untutor'd picture of the heart,
To HIM whose magic verse INSPIR'D THE STRAIN.

[1:87-90]