1745
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Vacuna.

A Collection of Original Poems and Translations. By John Whaley.

Rev. Sneyd Davies


An allegorical ode to Indolence, contributed to John Whaley's volume "By a Friend." The format of the ode derives from Milton's companion poems, the manner from Philips's Splendid Shilling. Like both these sources, Davies's poem sketches the character of a poet, though perhaps the most amusing passage in the ode is that describing an indolent reader: "Others more sage, | Place, Year, and Printer not unnoted, well | Examine the whole Frontispiece, and if | Yet stricter their Inquiry, e'en proceed | To Leaves within, and Curious there select | Italicks, or consult the Margin, pleas'd | To find a Hero or a Tale: all else, | The Observation, Maxim, Inference | Disturb the Brain with Thought" pp. 179-80. The topics in this burlesque ode bear more than a casual resemblance to those in more serious Miltonic odes, such as Thomas Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy (1747).

Francis Galloway: "Davies, archdeacon of Derby, is representative. He wrote many vers de societe and imitated many Latin odes and epistles. Men like Davies seldom took verse seriously. He acquired the habit of writing verse at school; then continued it later because it was the fashion" Reason, Rule, and Revolt (1940) 213.



Sceptre of Ease! whose calm Domain extends
O'er the frozen Chronian, or where lagging Gales
Fan to repose the Southern Realms, O! whom
More Slaves obey than swarm about the Courts
Pekin, or Agra, — Universal Queen!

Me hap'ly slumb'ring all a Summer's Day,
Thy meanest Subject, often has thou deign'd
Gracious to visit. If thy Poppy then
Was e'er infus'd into my gifted Quill,
If e'er my nodding Muse was blest with Pow'r,
To doze the Reader with her opiate Verse—
Come, Goddess; but be gentle; not as when
On studious Heads attendant thou art seen
Fast by the twinkling Lamp, poring and pale
Immers'd in Meditation, Sleep's great Foe?
Where the Clue-guided Casuist unwinds
Perplexities; or Halley from his Tower
Converses with the Stars. In other Guize
Thy Presence I invoke, serene approach,
With Forehead smooth, and sauntring Gait; put on
The Smile unmeaning, or in sober Mood
Fix thy flat, musing, leaden eye: As looks
Simplicius, when he stares and seems to think.
Prompted by thee, Reservo keeps at Home,
Intent on Books: He when alone applies
The Needle's Reparation to his Hose,
Or studious slices Paper. Taught by thee
Dullman takes Snuff, and ever and anon
Turns o'er the Page unread. Others more sage,
Place, Year, and Printer not unnoted, well
Examine the whole Frontispiece, and if
Yet stricter their Inquiry, e'en proceed
To Leaves within, and Curious there select
Italicks, or consult the Margin, pleas'd
To find a Hero or a Tale: all else,
The Observation, Maxim, Inference
Disturb the Brain with Thought. — It sure were long
To name thy sev'ral Vot'ries, Pow'r supine,
And all thy various Haunts. Why should I speak
Of Coffee-house? Or where the Eunuch plays,
Or Roscius in his Buskin? These and more
Thy crouded Temples, where thou sit'st enshrin'd
Glorious, thy Incense Ambergris, and Time
Thy Sacrifice. — About Three Cards and Dice
Lie scatter'd, and a thousand Vassal Beaux
Officiate at thy Worship. — Nor mean while
Is Solitude less thy peculiar Sphere;
There unattended you vouchsafe to shroud
Your Beauties, gentle Potentate; with me
By Vale or Brook to loiter not displeas'd:
Hear the Stream's pebbled Roar, and the sweet Bee
Humming her Fairy-tunes, in Praise of Flowers;
—Or clam'rous Rooks, on aged Elm or Oak,
Aloft the cawing Legislators sit,
Debating, in full Senate, Points of State.

My Bower, my Walks, my Study all are thine,
For Thee my Yews project their Shade; the Green
Spreads her soft Lap, and Waters whisper Sleep.
Here Thou may'st reign secure, nor hostile Thought,
Nor Argument, nor Logick's dire Array
Make Inroad on thy Kingdom's Peace. — what tho'
Malicious Tongues me harmless represent,
A Traitor to thy Throne: Or that I hold
Forbidden Correspondence with the Nine,
Plotting with Phoebus, and thy Foes! what tho'
Of Satyre they impeach me, Strain severe!
Thou know'st my Innocence: 'tis true indeed
I sometimes scribble, but 'tis thou inspir'st:
In Proof accept, O Goddess, this my Verse.

[pp. 178-81]