1777
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Health.

Poetical Amusement on the Journey of Life; consisting of Various Pieces in verse: serious, theatric, epigrammatic and miscellaneous. by William Meyler.

William Meyler


An imitation of Milton's companion poems "Read at Batheaston, 1777." Omitting the usual preliminaries, William Meyler opens with an allusion to the dissipations of life at Bath, from which the company had retired to Lady Miller's villa at Bath-Easton: "Rattling rakes thou leavest groan, | On the bed of sickness prone; | Prey to pining-eyed disease, | Rack'd with torture, wanting peace, | Then, and not 'till then, they know | Health's the greatest bliss below!" p. 106. The poem then launches off in a geographical pursuit of Health, eventually discovering the goddess in an unusual place: "There, there behold — delightful scene! | Our Monarch and his gracious Queen, | Surrounded by a prattling throng, | Twelve rose-hued babes from Charlotte sprung; | Hygeia there her blessings shed, | And crown'd with Health each royal head" pp. 108-09. The poem was belatedly published in 1806, along with several other contributions to the famous urn, in a volume whose title alludes to the volumes originally produced by Lady Miller: Poetical Amusements at a Villa near Bath.

British Critic: "This author tells us he was distinguished by the reward (which he thought as great an honour as ever kings could confer) of several myrtle wreaths, for verses approved by the Society instituted by Lady Miller, at Bath Easton villa, he adds, that the greater part was 'finished at one sitting.' They are very various in their subjects, and necessarily of various merit in their execution" 27 (March 1806) 316.

Christopher Lake Moody: "In works of length and transcendant merit, we are enjoined by high authority to overlook the 'paucae maculae': but short compositions, not hastily published, have no claims to similar indulgence. Several of the present juvenile productions, though honoured with myrtle wreaths at Bath-Easton villa, bear revision; and some might have remained in the author's repositories without subtracting from the value of the collection: but from the charge of high crimes and literary misdemeanours, we willingly absolve Mr. Meyler, and he is hereby absolved accordingly." Monthly Review 52 (January 1807) 91.



Ruddy nymph, of pleasing mien,
Beauty's sister, Pleasure's queen!
Oh! what blessings from thee flow;
Greatest blessings mortals know!
Laughter, liberty, and love,
In thy daisied pastures rove;
Friendship calls thee to her aid,
In her amaranthine shade:
Lured by false, delusive joys,
Madness, revelry, and noise,
Rattling rakes thou leavest groan,
On the bed of sickness prone;
Prey to pining-eyed disease,
Rack'd with torture, wanting peace,
Then, and not 'till then, they know
Health's the greatest bliss below!

Where, Hygeia, dost thou dwell,
On shepherd's mount, or hermit's cell?
Where, Oh! where shall I thee seek,
in verdant vale, or rocky peak?
Should I visit Montpelier,
Art thou, sweet Hygeia, there?
Perhaps in Mona's sea-girt isle,
Thou deignest, rose-lip'd maid, to smile?
There, in russet weeds adorn'd,
Weeds by pomp and grandeur scorn'd,
Wooing one of humble birth,
Cheering winter's turf-lit hearth;
Or dost wanton gambols take
On the ice-bemantled lake;
Searching now the wily fox
Round the chrystal spangled rocks;
Beating every bush and tare
For the timid, harmless hare;
Brushing through the twilight grove,
Seat of Solitude and Love;
Arm'd with instrument of death,
Robbing choristers of breath—
Stop the sad, destructive blow,
Hear the downy warblers coo;
Hear the turtle's love-fraught tale,
Let Mercy's pleading plaint prevail!
Be it e'er thy constant care
Trembling Innocence to spare.

Often, Goddess, thou art seen
With the youngsters on the green;
Oft at country wake I've found thee,
John and Susan dancing round thee;
Sometimes thee I chance to hail,
Dress'd like lass with milking pail;
Or in plough-boy's garb conceal'd,
Whistling loud his teem afield:
If at peep of morn I stray
'Midst the new-mown fragrant hay,
Where soft circling eddies glide,
Or on yonder mountain's side,
I ne'er fail to meet thee there,
"Buxom, blithe, and debonnaire."

But thou art chiefly, Goddess, found
In quiet Reason's sober round;
There I see thee oft advance,
With thy helpmate Temperance;
But I never thee descried
By pale Riot's noisy side;
Nor where Luxury and Waste
Triumph'd o'er the pamper'd feast.
This may teach the sons of Wealth
That Temp'rance is the friend of Health.

Turn, Luxury, thy bloated eyes
To where Britannia's glories rise,
There, there behold — delightful scene!
Our Monarch and his gracious Queen,
Surrounded by a prattling throng,
Twelve rose-hued babes from Charlotte sprung;
Hygeia there her blessings shed,
And crown'd with Health each royal head.
Learn too from them — ye sons of Wealth!
That Temp'rance is the friend of Health.
Divinest, sweet Hygeia! list,
My fervent, plaintive prayer assist!
Guard, Oh! guard with parent wing,
Bathonia's life-restoring spring!
May every valetudinaire
Find relief and comfort there;
May each fair maid, who round this vase
Hears rival poets plead thy cause,
Ever, ever be endued
With thy bright beatitude!

[pp. 106-09]