Ode IV; To The Honourable Charles Townshend In The Country

A poem by Mark Akenside

I

How oft shall i survey
This humble roof, the lawn, the greenwood shade,
The vale with sheaves o'erspread,
The glassy brook, the flocks which round thee stray?
When will thy cheerful mind
Of these have utter'd all her dear esteem?
Or, tell me, dost thou deem
No more to join in glory's toilsome race,
But here content embrace
That happy leisure which thou had'st resign'd?
Alas, ye happy hours,
When books and youthful sport the soul could share,
Ere one ambitious care
Of civil life had aw'd her simpler powers;
Oft as your winged train
Revisit here my friend in white array,
Oh fail not to display
Each fairer scene where i perchance had part,
That so his generous heart
The abode of even friendship may remain.
For not imprudent of my loss to come,
I saw from contemplation's quiet cell
His feet ascending to another home
Where public praise and envied greatness dwell.
But shall we therefore, o my lyre
Reprove ambition's best desire?
Extinguish glory's flame?
Far other was the task injoin'd
When to my hand thy strings were first assign'd:
Far other faith belongs to friendship's honor'd name.


II

Thee, Townshend, not the arms
Of slumbering ease, nor pleasure's rosy chain,
Were destin'd to detain:
No, nor bright science, nor the Muse's charms.
For them high heaven prepares
Their proper votaries, an humbler band:
And ne'er would Spenser's hand
Have deign'd to strike the warbling Tuscan shell,
Nor Harrington to tell
What habit an immortal city wears,
Had this been born to shield
The cause which Cromwell's impious hand betray'd,
Or that, like Vere, display'd
His redcross banner o'er the Belgian field.
Yet where the will divine
Hath shut those loftiest paths, it next remains,
With reason clad in strains
Of harmony, selected minds to inspire,
And virtue's living fire
To feed and eternize in hearts like thine.
For never shall the herd, whom envy sways,
So quell my purpose or my tongue control,
That I should fear illustrious worth to praise,
Because it's master's friendship mov'd my soul.
Yet, if this undissembling strain
Should now perhaps thine ear detain
With any pleasing sound,
Remember thou that righteous fame
From hoary age a strict account will claim
Of each auspicious palm with which thy youth was crown'd.

III

Nor obvious is the way
Where heaven expects thee, nor the traveler leads,
Through flowers or fragrant meads,
Or groves that hark to Philomela's lay.
The impartial laws of fate
To nobler virtues wed severer cares.
Is there a man who shares
The summit next where heavenly natures dwell?
Ask him (for he can tell)
What storms beat round that rough laborious height.
Ye heroes, who of old
Did generous England freedom's throne ordain;
From Alfred's parent reign
To Nassau, great deliverer, wise and bold;
I know your perils hard,
Your wounds, your painful marches, wintry seas,
The night estrang'd from ease,
The day by cowardice and falsehood vex'd,
The head with doubt perplex'd,
The indignant heart disdaining the reward
Which envy hardly grants. But, o renown,
O praise from judging heaven and virtuous men,
If thus they purchas'd thy divinest crown,
Say, who shall hesitate? or who complain?
And now they sit on thrones above:
And when among the gods they move
Before the sovran mind,
"Lo, these," he saith, "lo, these are they
"Who to the laws of mine eternal sway
"From violence and fear asserted human kind."


IV

Thus honor'd while the train
Of legislators in his presence dwell;
If I may aught foretell,
The statesman shall the second palm obtain.
For dreadful deeds of arms
Let vulgar bards, with undiscerning praise,
More glittering trophies raise:
But wisest heaven what deeds may chiefly move
To favor and to love?
What, save wide blessings, or averted harms?
Nor to the imbattled field
Shall these achievements of the peaceful gown
The green immortal crown
Of valor, or the songs of conquest, yield.
Not Fairfax wildly bold,
While bare of crest he hew'd his fatal way,
Through Nasesby's firm array,
To heavier dangers did his breast oppose
Than Pym's free virtue chose,
When the proud force of Strafford he controul'd.
But what is man at enmity with truth?
What were the fruits of Wentworth's copious mind
When (blighted all the promise of his youth)
The patriot in a tyrant's league had join'd?
Let Ireland's loud-lamenting plains,
Let Tyne's and Humber's trampled swain
Let menac'd London tell
How impious guile made wisdom base;
How generous zeal to cruel rage gave place;
And how unbless'd he liv'd and how dishonor'd fell.

V

Thence never hath the Muse
Around his tomb Pierian roses flung:
Nor shall one poet's tongue
His name for music's pleasing labor chuse.
And sure, when nature kind
Hath deck'd some favor'd breast above the throng,
That man with grievous wrong
Affronts and wounds his genius, if he bends
To guilt's ignoble ends
The functions of his ill-submitting mind.
For worthy of the wise
Nothing can seem but virtue; nor earth yield
Their fame an equal field,
Save where impartial freedom gives the prize.
There Somers fix'd his name,
Inroll'd the next to William. there shall Time
To every wondering clime
Point out that Somers, who from faction's croud,
The slanderous and the loud,
Could fair assent and modest reverence claim.

Nor aught did laws or social arts acquire,
Nor this majestic weal of Albion's land
Did aught accomplish, or to aught aspire,
Without his guidance, his superior hand.
And rightly shall the Muse's care
Wreaths like her own for him prepare,
Whose mind's inamor'd aim
Could forms of civil beauty draw
Sublime as ever sage or poet saw,
Yet still to life's rude scene the proud ideas tame.


VI

Let none profane be near!
The Muse was never foreign to his breast:
On power's grave seat confess'd,
Still to her voice he bent a lover's ear.
And if the blessed know
Their ancient cares, even now the unfading groves,
Where haply Milton roves
With Spenser, hear the enchanted echo's round
Through farthest heaven resound
Wise Somers, guardian of their fame below.

He knew, the patriot knew,
That letters and the Muses powerful art
Exalt the ingenuous heart,
And brighten every form of just and true.
They lend a nobler sway
To civil wisdom, than corruption's lure
Could ever yet procure:
They too from envy's pale malignant light
Conduct her forth to sight
Cloath'd in the fairest colors of the day.
O Townshend, thus may Time, the judge severe,
Instruct my happy tongue of thee to tell:
And when I speak of one to freedom dear
For planning wisely and for acting well,
Of one whom glory loves to own,
Who still by liberal means alone
Hath liberal ends pursu'd;
Then, for the guerdon of my lay,
"This man with faithful friendship," will i say,
"From youth to honor'd age my arts and me hath view'd."

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Ode IV; To The Honourable Charles Townshend In The Country' by Mark Akenside

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy