1790 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Hope.

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

Mary Robinson


An allegorical ode in seven irregular stanzas, posthumously published in 1806. While this ode is modeled on Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, the structure is not particularly easy to follow. The poet bids Despondency avaunt, and hails Fair Hope. Reposing on her couch she then falls victim to melancholy thoughts, and in her imagination walks upon a cliff where, led by Despondency, se encounters the fell figure of Despair. After throwing herself over the precipice, she beholds a vision of the rosy dawn, and the poem concludes with a second address to Hope: "Her eye with sparkling lustre shines; | Her hand a beauteous chaplet twines; | And marking Fame's fair temple in the skies, | Bids for my grateful brow a budding laurel rise!" 1:167. This Ode to Hope is one of a score of allegorical odes collected in Robinson's Poetical Works, several of which appear to be previously unpublished.



FLY, DARK DESPONDENCY! away!
Parent of FRENZY and DESPAIR!
Go, seek the lurid haunts of CARE,
Nor here thy haggard form display!
I hate thy ever scowling eye;
Thy icy hand; thy rending sigh;
Thy slow congealing, sullen tear;
Thy listless pace; thy wither'd breast,
That owns no DISTANT GLEAM of rest,
No promis'd TRANQUIL HOUR, thy SOUL'S deep night to cheer!

But come, FAIR HOPE, heart-soothing maid!
Come, with thy beaming eye the gloom pervade.
Smiling harbinger of pleasure!
Here unfold thy promis'd treasure!
At THY approach the weedy BOW'R
Blooms with many an op'ning FLOW'R;
The SKIES with brighter azure glow;
The STREAMS in clearer windings flow;
The BIRDS new melodies essay;
Luxuriant FOLIAGE bends the SPRAY;
While all the glories of earth, sea, and sky,
Proclaim, CELESTIAL HOPE, that THOU ART NIGH!

Now on my couch, where o'er my MIND
Dull-ey'd DESPONDENCY reclin'd,
Fair blossoms shoot! rich fragrance teems,
To prompt young FANCY'S rapt'rous dreams;
While at my feet LETHEAN waters glide;
ETERNAL SILENCE PRIESTESS of the tide!
Where FEELING, meek and trembling guest,
Bathes in the magic stream her wounded breast,
Care's deadly venom to destroy,
Till, every pang forgot, she hails approaching JOY.

Now banish'd from ELYSIAN vales and groves,
DESPONDENCY with moody MADNESS roves!
Or sits upon the craggy mountain steep,
Whose dizzy edge hangs shadowing o'er the deep:
The lightning's glare displays her form;
And while the deaf'ning whirlwinds blow,
She views, UNMOV'D, the rising storm,
That shatters the devoted BARK below!
The SEA-BIRDS scream! the billows rise!
The loud-ton'd thunder rends the skies!
The warring elements conspire
To taunt her breast with furious ire!
She seems their direst rage to brave,
Till, rising from the yawning wave,
DESPAIR appears, the SPIRIT of the DEEP!
The whelming surge her flaming pinions sweep;
The howling winds with louder clamours roar;
The angry billows lash the rocky shore;
While livid lightnings, flashing death around,
Quench their blue arrows in the gulph profound!

Hark! how the flinty fabric shakes!
While pale DESPONDENCY awakes!
And, rising from her hanging seat,
Darts forth DESPAIR to meet.
The with'ring victim seems to glide
Along the cliff's tremendous side;
Now, by her dark associate borne,
Awhile she seems to weep and mourn;
Then, lock'd within her cold embrace,
Sinks 'midst the horrors of UNFATHOM'D space!

Now, the dreary tempest o'er,
Madd'ning horror reigns no more;
On the eastern summit bright,
Day unbars the gates of light;
And rushing forward, rob'd in crimson fire,
Bids sombre night with all her train retire!

The sev'ring clouds dissolving fly;
The soft breeze fans the glitt'ring main;
The lucid rill runs babbling o'er the plain,
Its crystal breast reflects the glowing sky!
HOPE comes in heavenly colours drest;
Her golden pinions cool my breast;
Her eye with sparkling lustre shines;
Her hand a beauteous chaplet twines;
And marking Fame's fair temple in the skies,
Bids for my grateful brow a budding laurel rise!

[1:164-67]