1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hypocrisy; or, Vice cloaked under the Semblance of Virtue.

The Pleasures of Piety, with other Poems. By Eleanor Dickinson.

Eleanor Dickinson


A brief allegorical ode in octosyllabic couplets. Odes like "Hypocrisy" had once been a mainstay of eighteenth-century periodicals, though they were becoming scarce by the 1820s. The imagery of Dickinson's Miltonic ode likely owes something to Spenserianism: "The orphan's cry is music dear, | To thy unpitying, wizard ear | The beverage thou delight'st to drink, | Are tears which stain Destruction's brink. | Thy smiles like vapour dank — that gleams | Where Death lurks hid — in earth's dark seams." Little is known of the poet, who with her husband Robert Dickinson seems to have managed the Springfield Academy in Liverpool.



Hypocrisy, with double face,
With solemn mien, and measured pace,
How I should like to steal thy mask,
And see thee in the day-light bask;
Or rather, writhe to view the sight,
Thy hideous form had brought to light;
With very agony expire,
Beneath fair Truth's celestial fire!
Cold blooded monster! where's the steel
Can make thy heart of marble feel?
Say, hast thou dipt thy brazen front
In Styx, or Phlegethon's fiery font;
That it defies all human art,
To make thee show a mortal heart?
Thou pest of Virtue! fiend of night!
Thou pilferer of the widow's mite!
Thou would'st erect thy odious crest,
And plant thy foot on Truth's fair breast.
The orphan's cry is music dear,
To thy unpitying, wizard ear
The beverage thou delight'st to drink,
Are tears which stain Destruction's brink.
Thy smiles like vapour dank — that gleams
Where Death lurks hid — in earth's dark seams.
Thy tears are poison — drops which flow
To lure thy victim to his foe!
Thy joy, his heart's cold agonies,
When writhing under wan distress!
The ruffian, who, his purpose foul,
Avows beneath a villain's cowl,
Is a pure child of light to thee,
Thou murderer, where no wound we see!!

[pp. 29-31]