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As if Britannia now were sunk so low,
But catch the morning breeze from fragrant
Or shun the noontide ray in wholesome shades?
Not given thee form alone, but means, and art,
What can be added more to mortal bliss?
A precept which, unpractis'd, renders vain
Or should to Morrow chance to cheer thy sight
Who thus can think, and who such thoughts pur
Content may keep his life, or calmly lose :
With morals much, and now and then with rhyme:
WRITTEN AT TUNBRIDGE WELLS, ON
AFTERWARDS LADY OF SIR THOMAS LYTTELTON,
LEAVE, leave the drawing-room,
Cease, cease, to ask her name,
Then look round yonder dazzling row;
You may be sure 'tis she.
Like her, this charmer now
seems to be altogether forgotten, or unknown, by our English writers.
There is nothing more frequent among us, than a sort of poems entitled Pindaric Odes; pretending to be written in imitation of the manner and style of Pindar, and yet I do not know that there is to this day extant, in our language, one ode contrived after his model. What idea can an English reader have of Pindar, (to whose mouth, when a child, the bees brought their honey, in omen of the future sweetness and melody of his songs) when he shall see such rumbling and grating papers of verses, pretending to be copies of his works?
The character of these late Pindarics is, a bundle of rambling incoherent thoughts, expressed in a like parcel of irregular stanzas, which also consist of such another complication of disproportioned, uncertain, and perplexed verses and rhymes. And I appeal to any reader, if this is not the condition in which these titular odes appear.
stanza; and which accordingly perpetually agreed whenever repeated, both in number of verses and quantity of feet: he was then again at liberty to make a new choice for his third stanza, or epode; where, accordingly, he diversified his numbers, as his ear or fancy led him: composing that stanza of more or fewer verses than the former, and those verses of different measures and quantities, for the greater variety of harmony, and entertainment of the ear..
But then this epode being thus formed, he was strictly obliged to the same measure as often as hel should repeat it in the order of his ode, so that every epode in the same ode is eternally the same in measure and quantity, in respect to itself; as is also every strophé and antistrophe, in respect to each other.
The lyric poet Stesichorus (whom Longinus reckons amongst the ablest imitators of Homer, and of whom Quintilian says, that if he could have kept within bounds, he would have been On the contrary, there is nothing more regular nearest of any body, in merit, to Homer) was, if than the odes of Pindar, both as to the exact ob-not the inventor of this order in the ode, yet so servation of the measures and numbers of his stanzas and verses, and the perpetual coherence of his thoughts. For though his digressions are frequent, and his transitions sudden, yet is there ever some secret connection, which, though not always appearing to the eye, never fails to communicate itself to the understanding of the reader.
The liberty which he took in his numbers, and which has been so misunderstood and misapplied by his pretended imitators, was only in varying the stanzas in different odes; but in each particular ode they are ever correspondent one to another in their turns, and according to the order of the
All the odes of Pindar which remain to us, are songs of triumph, victory, or success, in the Grecian games: they were sung by a chorus, and adapted to the lyre, and sometimes to the lyre and pipe: they consisted oftenest of three stanzas; the first was called the strophe, from the version or circular motion of the singers in that stanza from the right hand to the left. The second stanza was called the antistrophé, from the contraversion of the chorus; the singers, in performing that, turning from the left hand to the right, contrary always to their motion in the strophe. The third stanza was called the epode, (it may be as being the after-song) which they sung in the middle, neither turning to one hand nor the other.
What the origin was of these different motions and stations in singing their odes, is not our present business to inquire. Some have thought, that, by the contrariety of the strophé and antistrophé, they intended to represent the contrarotation of the primum mobile, in respect of the secunda mobilia; and that, by their standing still at the epode, they meant to signify the stability of the Earth. Others ascribe the institution to Theseus, who thereby expressed the windings and turnings of the labyrinth, in celebrating his return from thence.
The method observed in the composition of these odes, was therefore as follows: The poet having made choice of a certain number of verses to con stitute his strophé, or first stanza, was obliged to observe the same in his antistrophé, or second
strict an observer of it in his compositions, that the three stanzas of Stesichorus became a common proverb to express a thing universally known, ne tria quidem Stesichori nôstri; so that when any one had a mind to reproach another with excessive ignorance, he could not do it more effectually than by telling him, "he did not so much as know the three stanzas of Stesichorus ;" that is, did not know that an ode ought to consist of a strophé; an antistrophé, and an epode. If this was such a mark of ignorance among them, I am sure we have been pretty long liable to the same reproof; I mean, in respect of our imitations of the odes of Pindar.
My intention is not to make a long preface to a short ode, nor to enter upon a dissertation of lyric poetry in general: but thus much I thought proper to say, for the information of those readers whose course of study has not led them into such inquiries.
I hope I shall not be so misunderstood, as to have it thought that I pretend to give an exact copy of Pindar in this ensuing ode; or that I look upon it as a pattern for his imitators for the future: far from such thoughts, I have only given an instance of what is practicable, and am sensible that I am as distant from the force and elevation of Pindar, as others have hitherto been from the harmony and regularity of his numbers.
Again, we having no chorus to sing our odes, the titles, as well as use of strophé, antistrophé, and epode, are obsolete and impertinent: and certainly there may be very good English odes, without the distinction of Greek appellations to their stanzas. That I have mentioned them here, and observed the order of them in the ensuing ode, is therefore only the more intelligibly to explain the extraordinary regularity of the com position of these odes, which have been repre sented to us hitherto, as the most confused structures in nature.
However, though there be no necessity that our triumphal odes should consist of the three aforementioned stanzas; yet if the reader can observe, that the great variation of the numbers in the third stanza (call it epode, or what you please) has a pleasing effect in the ode, and makes him
return to the first and second stanzas with more appetite than he could do, if always cloyed with the same quantities and measures; I cannot see why some use may not be made of Pindar's example, to the great improvement of the English ode There is certainly a pleasure in beholding any thing that has art and difficulty in the contrivance; especially if it appears so carefully executed, that the difficulty does not show itself, till it is sought for; and that the seeming easiness of the work, first sets us upon the inquiry. Nothing ; can be called beautiful without proportion. When symmetry and harmony are wanting, neither the eye nor the ear can be pleased. Therefore certainly poetry, which includes painting and music, should not be destitute of them; and of all poetry, especially the ode, whose end and essence is harmony.
Mr. Cowley, in his preface to his Pindaric Odes, speaking of the music of numbers, says, "which sometimes (especially in songs and odes) almost without any thing else, makes an excellent poet."
Having mentioned Mr. Cowley, it may very well be expected, that something should be said of him, at a time when the imitation of Pindar is the theme of our discourse. But there is that great deference due to the memory, great parts, and learning, of that gentleman, that I think nothing should be objected to the latitude he has taken in his Pindaric odes. The beauty of his verses is an atonement for the irregularity of his stanzas; and though he did not imitate Pindar in the strictness of his numbers, he has very often happily copied him in the force of his figures, and sublimity of his style and sentiments.
Yet I must beg leave to add, that I believe those irregular odes of Mr. Cowley may have been the principal, though innocens, occasion of so many deformed poems since, which, instead of being true pictures of Pindar, have (to use the Italian painters' term) been only caricatures of him, resemblances that, for the most part, have been either horrid or ridiculous.
For my own part, I frankly own my errour in having heretofore miscalled a few irregular stanzas a Pindaric ode; and possibly, if others, who have been under the same mistake, would ingenuously confess the truth, they might own, that, never having consulted Pindar himself, they took all his irregularity upon trust; and, finding their account in the great ease with which they could produce odes without being obliged either to measure or design, remained satisfied; and, it may be, were not altogether unwilling to neglect being undeceived.
Though there be little (if any thing) left of Orpheus but his name, yet, if Pausanias was well informed, we may be assured that brevity was a beauty which he most industriously laboured to preserve in his hymns, notwithstanding, as the same author reports, that they were but few in number.
The shortness of the following ode will. I hope, atone for the length of the preface, and, in some measure, for the defects which may be found in it. It consists of the same number of stanzas with that beautiful ode of Pindar, which is the first of his Pythics; and though I was unable to imitate him in any other beauty, I resolved to endeavour
to copy his brevity, and take the advantage of a remark he has made in the last strophé of the same ode; which take in the paraphrase of Sudorius.
Qui multa paucis stringere commode Novere, morsus hi facile invidos Spernunt, & auris mensque pura Omne supervacuum rejectat.
DAUGHTER of Memory, immortal Muse,
To whom wilt thou thy fire impart,
Nor e'er can hope with equal lays
Thy aid obtain'd, ev'n I, the humblest swain, climb Pierian heights, and quit the lowly plain.
High in the starry orb is hung,
And next Alcides' guardian arm,
That harp which on Cyllene's shady hill,
With more than mortal skill
Indulgent, gave the gift divine:
Who sings of Anna's name.
The lyre is struck! the sounds I hear!
O Muse, propitious to my prayer!
O well-known sounds! O Melody, the same That kindled Mantuan fire, and rais'd Mæonian flame.
Nor are these sounds to British bards unknown,
[praise. And mighty William sing with well proportion'd
Rise, fair Augusta, lift thy head,
With golden towers thy front adorn;
Then bless thy better fate,
While distant realins and neighbouring lands, | Attempt not to proceed, unwary Muse,
Arm'd troops and hostile bands
On every side molest:
Thy happier clime is free,
Fair Capital of Liberty!
And plenty knows, and days of halcyon rest.
As Britain's isle, when old vex'd Ocean roars,
His foaming billows beat;
So Britain's queen, amidst the jars
Fix'd on the base of her well-founded state, Serene and safe looks down, nor feels the shocks of fate.
But greatest souls, though blest with sweet re-
Are soonest touch'd with sense of others' woes.
To mercy and soft pity prone,
And mov'd with sorrows not her own, Has all her peace and downy rest resign'd,
To wake for common good, and succour human
Fly, Tyranny; no more be known
Far as th' unhabitable zone
Fly every hospitable ground.
To horrid Zembla's frozen realms repair,
And rob those lands of legal right.
Again Astrea reigns!
Anna her equal scale maintains,
And Marlborough wields her sure-deciding sword.
Now, couldst thou soar, my Muse, to sing the man
Nor there thy song should end; though all the
Might well their harps and heavenly voices join
When bold Bavaria fled the field,
And veteran Gauls, unus'd to yield,
But could thy voice of Blenheim sing,
For as the Sun ne'er stops his radiant flight,
To all who want his light
Alternately transfers the day:
To climes remote and near
His conquering arms by turns appear,
For O! what notes, what numbers could'st thou Though in all numbers skill'd,
To sing the hero's matchless deed,
In the short course of a diurnal Sun,
What verse such worth can raise?
To middle virtue may impart;
But deeds sublime, exalted high like these, Transcend his utmost flight, and mock his distant praise.
Still would the willing Muse aspire,
With transport still her strains prolong;
And admiration stops her song.
Go on, great chief, in Anna's cause proceed;
Till Europe thou hast freed,
And universal peace restor❜d.
This mighty work when thou shalt end,
Of value far above
Thy trophies and thy spoils;
Rewards ev'n worthy of thy toils,
The queen's just favour, and thy country's love.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE
LORD HIGH-TREASURER OF GREAT BRITAIN.
-Quemvis mediâ erue turba:
Aut ob avaritiam, aut miserá ambitione laborat.
Hic mutat merces surgente à sole, ad eum quo
Omnes hi metuunt versus, odêre poetas.
To hazardous attempts and hardy toils
And some desire of martial spoils
Others insatiate thirst of gain
Can stop th' invader's force;
Nor swelling seas, nor threatening skies,
Their lives to selfish ends decreed,
Suspend th' impetuous and unjust pursuit:
But not for these his ivory lyre Will tuneful Phoebus string,
Nor Polyhymnia, crown'd amid the choir,
Thy springs, Castalia, turn their streams aside
Nor do thy greens, shady Aonia, grow
To bind with wreaths a tyrant's brow.
How just, most mighty Jove, yet how severe,
That impious men shall joyless hear
Their sacred songs, (the recompense
Of virtue and of innocence)
Which pious minds to rapture raise,
But add inflaming rage, and more afflicting grief.
And now beneath the burning hill
Hearing the lyre's celestial sound,
Tremble the seas, and far Campania's shore; While all his hundred mouths at once respire Volumes of curling smoke, and floods of liquid fire.
From Heaven alone all good proceeds;
To heavenly minds belong
All power and love, Godolphin, of good deeds,
And thus most pleasing are the Muse's lays
To them who merit most her praise! Wherefore, for thee her ivory lyre she strings,
And soars with rapture while she sings.
Whether affairs of most important weight
And Anna's cause and Europe's fate
To manly sports, or to refin'd delight;
Thee still she seeks, and tumeful sings thy name,
While with the deathless worthy's fame
Nor less sublime is now her choice:
And now she loves aloft to sound
The man for more than mortal deeds renown'd; Varying anon her theme, she takes delight The swift-heel'd horse to praise, and sing his rapid flight.
And see the air-born racers start,
Impatient of the rein;
Faster they run than flies the Scythian dart,
Nor, passing, print the plain!
The winds themselves, who with their swiftness
So far in matchless speed thy coursers pass
And now awhile the well-strain'd coursers
And now, my Muse, prepare [breathe;
To bind the victor's hair.
The fruitful olive first design'd;
Deep in the glebe her spear she lanc'd, When all at once the laden boughs advanc'd: The gods with wonder view'd the teeming Earth, And all, with one consent, approv'd the beauteous birth.
This done, earth-shaking Neptune next essay'd, In bounty to the world,
To emulate the blue-ey'd maid;
And his huge trident hurl'd
The central earth, whence, swift as light, Forth rush'd the first-born horse. Stupendous
Neptune for human good the beast ordains, Whom soon he tam'd to use, and taught to bear the reins.
Thus gods contended (noble strife,
Worthy the Heavenly mind!)
Who most should do to soften anxious life,
Thus thou, Godolphin, dost with Marlborough strive,
From whose joint toils we rest derive: Triumph in wars abroad his arm assures,
Sweet Peace at home thy care secures.
AN IMPOSSIBLE THING.
To thee, dear Dick, this tale I send,
I tell it with some variation
(Not altogether a translation)
From La Fontaine; an author, Dick,
To which thy heart seems most inclin'd:
A goblin of the merry kind, More black of hue, than curst of mind, To help a lover in distress,
That in short space the cruel dame
Contriv'd a charm with such success,
Relented, and return'd his flame.