1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hymn to Virtue.

Poems, chiefly Rural.

William Richardson


An allegorical ode in octosyllabic measure by a humanities professor at Glasgow University. The poet appeals to Virtue for the ability to stem harmful passions, and thus to elevate him above the cares of life: "To me thy sovereign gift impart, | The resolute unshaken heart | To guide me from the flowery way | Where Pleasure tunes her siren-lay" p. 4. At the same time, he requests powers of virtuous sympathy to enliven his mind to the concerns of others: "Teach me the kind endearing art | To heal the mourner's broken heart, | To ease the rankling wounds of Care, | And sooth the frenzy of Despair" p. 4.

Richardson's poems, several times reprinted, originally appeared anonymously, published by the Foulis press in Glasgow.

Robert Alves: "At the head of our modern poets, and indeed of modern poetry in general, behold Thomson, the glory of Scotland! Then come Mallet, Armstrong, Hamilton, Home, Beattie, Ogilvie, Blacklock, Richardson, Wilkie, all men of renown and abilities in the world of poetry" Sketches of a History of Literature (1794) 159.



Ever lovely and benign,
Endowed with energy divine,
Hail Virtue! hail! from thee proceed
The great design, the heroic deed,
The heart that melts for human woes,
Valour, and truth, and calm repose.
Though fortune frown, though fate prepare
Her shafts, and wake corroding care,
Though wrathful clouds involve the skies,
Though lightnings glare, and storms arise,
In vain to shake the guiltless soul,
Changed fortune frowns, and thunders roll.
Pile, Avarice, thy yellow hoard;
Spread, Luxury, thy costly board;
Ambition, crown thy head with bays,
Let Sloth recline on beds of ease;
Admired, adored, let Beauty roll
The magic eye that melts the soul;
Unless with purifying fires
Virtue the conscious soul inspires,
In vain, to bar intruding wo,
Wealth, fame, and power, and pleasure flow.
To me thy sovereign gift impart,
The resolute unshaken heart
To guide me from the flowery way
Where Pleasure tunes her siren-lay:
Deceitful path! where Shame and Care
The poisonous shaft concealed, prepare!
And shield me with thy generous pride
When Fashion scoffs, and fools deride.
Ne'er let Ambition's meteor-ray
Mislead my reason, and betray
My fancy with the gilded dream
Of hoarded wealth, and noisy fame.
But let my soul consenting flow
Compassionate of others wo:
Teach me the kind endearing art
To heal the mourner's broken heart,
To ease the rankling wounds of Care,
And sooth the frenzy of Despair.
So, lovely virgin, may I gain
Admission to thy hallowed fane,
Where Peace of Mind, of eye serene,
Of heavenly hue, and placid mien,
Leads, smiling, thy celestial choir,
And smites the consecrated lyre.
And may that minstrelsy, whose charm
Can Rage, and Grief, and Care disarm,
Can passion's lawless force controul,
Soothe, melt, and elevate my soul!

[pp. 3-4]