Friday, 14 December 2012

Odes: the Mason-Keats line

These two Odes, by William Mason, appear next to one another in the sixth volume of Dodsley's popular and much-reprinted A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands: Printed by J Hughs, for J Dodsley, in Pall-Mall (1765). I think Keats read them, and they fed his own odes.


On my native shore reclin'd,
While Silence rules this midnight hour,
I woo thee. Goddess.
On my musing mind
Descend, propitious Power!
And bid these ruffling gales of grief subside:
Bid my calm'd soul with all thy influence shine;
As yon chaste orb along this ample tide
Draws the long lustre of her silver line,
While the hush'd breeze its last weak whisper blows,
And lulls old Humber to his deep repose.

Come to thy vot'ry's ardent prayer,
In all thy graceful plainness drest:
No knot confines thy waving hair,
No zone, thy floating vest;
Unsullied Honour decks thine open brow,
And Candour brightens in thy modest eye:
Thy blush is warm Content's ethereal glow;
Thy smile is Peace; thy step is Liberty:
Thou scatter'st blessings round with lavish hand,
As Spring with careless fragrance fills the land.

As now o'er this lone beach I stray,
Thy fav'rite swain oft stole along,
And artless wove his Dorian lay,
Far from the busy throng.
Thou heard'st him, Goddess, strike the tender string,
And bad'st his soul with bolder passions move:
Soon these responsive shores forgot to ring,
With Beauty's praise, or plaint of slighted Love;
To loftier flights his daring genius rose,
And led the war, 'gainst thine, and Freedom's foes.

Pointed with Satire's keenest steel,
The shafts of Wit he darts around;
Ev'n mitred Dulness learns to feel,
And shrinks beneath the wound.
In awful poverty his honest Muse
Walks forth vindictive thro' a venal land:
In vain Corruption sheds her golden dews,
In vain Oppression lifts her iron hand;
He scorns them both, and, arm'd with Truth alone,
Bids Lust and Folly tremble on the throne.


Oh! cease this kind persuasive strain.
Which, when it flows from friendship's tongue,
However weak, however vain,
O'erpowers beyond the Siren's song:
Leave me, my friend, indulgent go,
And let me muse upon my woe.
Why lure me from these pale retreats?
Why rob me of these pensive sweets?
Can Music s voice, can Beauty s eye,
Can Painting's glowing hand, supply
A charm so suited to my mind,
As blows this" hollow gust of wind,
As drops this little weeping rill
Soft-tinkling down the moss-grown hill,
Whilst through the west, where sinks the crimson day,
Meek Twilight slowly sails, and waves her banners gray.

Say, from Affliction's various source
Do none but turbid waters flow?
And cannot Fancy clear their course?
For Fancy is the friend of woe.
Say, 'mid that grove, in love-lorn state,
When yon poor ringdove mourns her mate,
Is all that meets the shepherd's ear,
Inspired by anguish, and despair?
Ah no, fair Fancy rules the song:
She swells her throat; she guides her tongue;
She bids the waving aspen-spray
Quiver in cadence to her lay;
She bids the fringed osiers bow,
And rustle round the lake below,
To suit the tenor of her gurgling sighs,
And sooth her throbbing breast with solemn sympathies.

To thee, whose young and polish'd brow
The wrinkling hand of Sorrow spares;
Whose cheeks, bestrew'd with roses, know
No channel for the tide of tears;
To thee yon abbey dank, and lone,
Where ivy chains each mould'ring stone
That nods o'er many a martyr's tomb,
May cast a formidable gloom.
Yet some there are, who, free from fear,
Could wander through the cloisters drear,
Could rove each desolated isle,
Though midnight thunders shook the pile;
And dauntless view, or seem to view,
(As faintly flash the lightnings blue)
Thin shiv'ring ghosts from yawning charnels throng,
And glance with silent sweep the shaggy vaults along.

But such terrific charms as these,
I ask not yet: my sober mind
The fainter forms of sadness please;
My sorrows are of softer kind.
Through this still valley let me stray,
Wrapt in some strain of pensive Gray:
Whose lofty genius bears along
The conscious dignity of song;
And, scorning from the sacred store
To waste a note on Pride, or Power,
Roves, when the glimmering twilight glooms,
And warbles 'mid the rustic tombs:
He too perchance, (for well I know
His heart would melt with friendly woe)
He too perchance, when these poor limbs are laid,
Will heave one tuneful sigh, and sooth my hov'ring shade.

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