1788
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Mrs. Siddons.

European Magazine 13 (January 1788) 48.

Robert Merry


An allegorical ode in fourteen quatrains signed "Della Crusca." Robert Merry paints allegorical portraits of Fear, Revenge, Horror, Despair, and Madness. As one might infer, Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was most esteemed in tragic roles: "And e'en thy pow'rful spell the soul can sway: | While Sympathy with melting eye, | Hangs on thy bosom's fervid sigh, | And finds th' unbidden tear down her hot cheek to stray." The poem is a contribution to the series of imitations of Collins's Ode on the Passions concerned with the fine arts. This poem likely made its first appearance in The World, Fashionable Advertiser.

Anna Seward to Hester Thrale Piozzi: "I admire Mr. Merry's poem to Mrs. Siddons very much; we forgive imitation, however obvious, when the result is good. Here the imagery, in some parts, approaches that of its archetype, Collins's Ode on the Passions, in the portraits of horror, despair, and madness. That of revenge is almost verbatim from Collins; but the other three are sublime and more original" 13 March 1788; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:55-56.



Thee Queen of Pathos shall my proud Verse hail,
Illustrious SIDDONS! should I go,
Whether to Zembla's waste of snow,
Or Aetna's cavern'd height, or Tempe's vaunted vale;

Or where on Caucasus the fierce storm blows,
Or near the violated flood
Of Ganges, blushing oft with blood;
Or where his rainbow arch loud Niagara throws,

For, not th' exulting Monarch on his throne,
Tho' grateful nations round him bow,
Is more a Potentate than Thou,
Feeling, and Sense, and Worth, and Virtue, are thy own;

And e'en thy pow'rful spell the soul can sway:
While Sympathy with melting eye,
Hangs on thy bosom's fervid sigh,
And finds th' unbidden tear down her hot cheek to stray.

Lo! at thy voice, from solitary cave,
With hair erect, peeps forth pale FEAR,
Nor will he longer wait to hear,
But flies with culprit haste a visionary grave.

Amongst the hollow mountain's shadowy cells,
Dark-brow'd REVENGE, that strangely walks,
And to himself low-mutt'ring talks,
While with convulsive throb his breast unsated swells.

And gelid HORROR in the haunted hall,
That with dread pause, and eye stretch'd wide,
Marks the mysterious spectre glide,
Nor dare his flagging knees obey the Phantom's call.

And lost DESPAIR with desolating cry,
That head-long darts from some tall tow'r,
On fire at thick night's saddest hour,
When not a watchman wakes, and not an aid is nigh.

These all are thine — and barefoot MADNESS too,
Dancing upon the flinty plain,
As tho' 'twere gay to suffer pain,
That sees his tyrant Moon, and raving runs to woo.

Alike the mild, benevolent desires,
That wander in the pensive grove,
Pity, and generous-minded Love,
To thrill thy kindred pulse, shoot their electric fires.

Ah! let not then my fond admiring Muse
Restrain the ardor of her song,
In silent wonder fix'd so long,
Nor thou! from humble hands the homage meet refuse.

And I will hasten oft from short repose,
To wake the lily, on moist bed
Reclining meek her folded head:
And chase with am'rous touch the slumber of the rose.

Then will I bathe them in the tears of morn,
That they a fresher gale may breathe,
Then will I form a votive wreath,
To bind thy sacred brows, — to deprecate thy scorn.

But shouldst thou still disdain these proffer'd lays,
Which choak'd alas! with weedy woe,
Like yon dull stream can scarcely flow—
Take from BRITANNIA'S HAND the Triumph of thy Praise.

[p. 48]