1776
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode for the New Year, Jan. 1, 1776.

London Chronicle (2 January 1776) 2.

William Whitehead


An allegorical ode in three stanzas, the strophe and antistrophe irregular Spenserians (ababccdD). In the new year's ode for 1776, Britannia looks westward to the rebellious colonies and appeals for peace: ""Sheathe, sheathe the Sword which thirsts for Blood, | (She cried) deceiv'd, mistaken Men! | Nor let your Parent, o'er the Flood, | Send forth her Voice in vain!" Political passions were running high on both sides of the Atlantic at this time; two parodies of Whitehead's ode were printed in the London Chronicle.



On the white Rocks which guard her Coast,
Observant of the parting Day,
Whose Orb was Half an Ocean lost,
Reclin'd Britannia lay.
Wide o'er the wat'ry Waste
A pensive Look she cast;
And scarce could check the rising Sigh,
And scarce could stop the Tear, which trembled in her Eye.

"Sheathe, sheathe the Sword which thirsts for Blood,
(She cried) deceiv'd, mistaken Men!
Nor let your Parent, o'er the Flood,
Send forth her Voice in vain!
Alas, no Tyrant She,
She courts you to be free:
Submissive hear her soft Command,
Nor force unwilling Vengeance from a Parent's Hand.

"Hear her ye Wise, to Duty true,
And teach the Rest to feel,
Nor let the Madness of a few
Distress the publick Weal!
So shall the opening Year assume,
Time's fairest Child, a happier Bloom;
The white-wing'd Hours shall lightly move,
The Sun with added Lustre shine;
'To err is human.' — Let us prove
'Forgiveness is divine!'"

[p. 2]