1795
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Nature.

The Courier and Evening Gazette (19 October 1795).

J. H.


An imitation of Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso signed "J. H., Catharine Hall." This descriptive ode, composed in the best Della Cruscan manner, alternates jovial and somber scenes, often reading like a cento of quotations from William Collins, as in a Despair passage adapted from Collins's Ode to Fear: "There hold sad converse with the midnight storm, | While near thee Fear's terrific form, | With giant arm and hollow eye, | Oft casts a phrensied look behind, | And trembling starts at every wind, | But forward dreads to fly." The poem concludes with the ritual resolve: "Oh hear, sweet nymph, my ardent prayer, | And let me all thy pleasures share!" The poem was reprinted two weeks later over the signature "Clio."

Headnote in The Oracle, Public Advertiser: "The following proceeds evidently from the Schools of Gray and Collins, whose beauties it combines with great skill" (3 November 1795).



O Thou whose joy inspiring smile,
Can yet the weary traveller beguile,
As slow he wanders thro' the secret vale;
Or pausing on the steep hill's sunny brow,
To catch the gladdening impulse of the gale,
Gazing the while on the fair scene below;
I'll shun the pride of Courts, the smiles of power,
To muse at eventide with thee
And blue-eyed meek Simplicity.
All in the cottag'd vale or woodbine bower,
Where Youth, whose loose hair riots in the wind,
And Peace with loveliest innocence combin'd,
And Liberty, and health, of rosiest hue,
And Industry that pours her cheerful song
On mountains wild, on rugged rocks among;
As the sun glitters in the morning dew:
With these thro' all thy haunts, sweet maid, I'll stray,
While life's long hours steal unperceiv'd away.

But thee, O nymph serene,
Parent of Peace! thee, modest Eve, I hail;
I love thy placid mien,
As now thou draw'st with lenient hand,
Waving around thy magic wand,
O'er many a troublous scene thy gradual veil;
Far off the warning Curfew meets mine ear,
And mingled notes of soul enlivening cheer
From yonder village rise!
And all unseen along the moon-light plain,
Sweet Bird of solitude, thy tuneful strain
Thou warblest to the skies;
Calm as the pensive smile that evening wears,
Then might in peace declining age repose,
And, like the scene, life's pictur'd curtain close.

Child of despair! lone wanderer of the night,
Whose heart ne'er gladdened, when the morn rose bright,
That haply 'midst some rude sequestered dell
May'st live with musing solitude to dwell:
Oh, hie thee to the bleak Cliff's shaggy steep,
That beetles o'er the hoarse resounding deep,
Mocking the wild wild winds and the tempests sway,
The dark clouds gath'ring round its forehead grey;
There hold sad converse with the midnight storm,
While near thee Fear's terrific form,
With giant arm and hollow eye,
Oft casts a phrensied look behind,
And trembling starts at every wind,
But forward dreads to fly.
Let fancy in that awe-inspiring hour,
Paint how the bitter storms of passion lour,
In many a peace-forsaken breast,
By wan disease and penury opprest;
And as the eddying whirlwind's round thee blow,
Oh, let if figure to thy mournful sight,
The crazy bark that thro' the o'erwhelming deep,
Is driven by the waves resistless sweep,
A scene with horror fraught, and wild affright!
And down thy cheek the pitying tear shall flow;
Hark, 'tis the seaman's helpless cry,
It speaks of death and passes by.
Saw ye yon solitary light,
Lone glimmering thro' the glooms of night?
Heard ye the signal of despair
Thro' the tempest troubled air?
Eternal mover of each rolling sphere,
Yon poor adventurers on their voyage cheer;
Oh! bid the elemental conflict cease,
And to each hopeless wanderer whisper Peace.

Now change again the fearful scene,
Nature is tranquil, calm, serene,
Lo! the waves slumber on yon rocky pile,
The hills are crown'd with joy, and all the valleys smile!
Securely o'er the blue unrippled tide,
In gilded pomp the light-oar'd vessels glide,
And from the sunny deck yon festive throng
Join the loud laugh or raise the patriot song;
Thus on the short liv'd chase of pleasure bent,
Awhile the circling hours of life are spent;
But ah, how soon fade hope's delusive gleams!
As when far off the Sun's departing beams,
Rest their last tints upon the mountains height,
Then cheerless fall the lengthened shades of night.
Enough — no more I'll woo life's thorny maze,
But, in some spot untrodden, end my days;
Thine nature, is the happiest reign,
Unmix'd with sorrow, free from pain;
Oh hear, sweet nymph, my ardent prayer,
And let me all thy pleasures share!

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