To Mr. John Rouse, Librarian of the University of Oxford, An Ode on a Lost Volume of my Poems Which He Desired Me to Replace that He Might Add Them to My Other Works Deposited in the Library.

A poem by William Cowper

Strophe I

My two-fold Book! single in show
But double in Contents,
Neat, but not curiously adorn'd
Which in his early youth,
A poet gave, no lofty one in truth
Although an earnest wooer of the Muse--
Say, while in cool Ausonian[2] shades
Or British wilds he roam'd,
Striking by turns his native lyre,
By turns the Daunian lute
And stepp'd almost in air,--


Say, little book, what furtive hand
Thee from thy fellow books convey'd,
What time, at the repeated suit
Of my most learned Friend,
I sent thee forth an honour'd traveller
From our great city to the source of Thames,
Caerulean sire!
Where rise the fountains and the raptures ring,
Of the Aonian choir,[3]
Durable as yonder spheres,
And through the endless lapse of years
Secure to be admired?

Strophe II

Now what God or Demigod
For Britain's ancient Genius mov'd
(If our afflicted land
Have expiated at length the guilty sloth
Of her degen'rate sons)
Shall terminate our impious feuds,
And discipline, with hallow'd voice, recall?
Recall the Muses too
Driv'n from their antient seats
In Albion, and well-nigh from Albion's shore,
And with keen Phoebean shafts
Piercing th'unseemly birds,
Whose talons menace us
Shall drive the harpy race from Helicon afar?


But thou, my book, though thou hast stray'd,
Whether by treach'ry lost
Or indolent neglect, thy bearer's fault,
From all thy kindred books,
To some dark cell or cave forlorn,
Where thou endur'st, perhaps,
The chafing of some hard untutor'd hand,
Be comforted--
For lo! again the splendid hope appears
That thou may'st yet escape
The gulphs of Lethe, and on oary wings
Mount to the everlasting courts of Jove,

Strophe III

Since Rouse desires thee, and complains
That, though by promise his,
Thou yet appear'st not in thy place
Among the literary noble stores
Giv'n to his care,
But, absent, leav'st his numbers incomplete.
He, therefore, guardian vigilant
Of that unperishing wealth,
Calls thee to the interior shrine, his charge,
Where he intends a richer treasure far
Than Ion kept--(Ion, Erectheus' son[4]
Illustrious, of the fair Creusa born)--
In the resplendent temple of his God,
Tripods of gold and Delphic gifts divine.


Haste, then, to the pleasant groves,
The Muses' fav'rite haunt;
Resume thy station in Apollo's dome,
Dearer to him
Than Delos, or the fork'd Parnassian hill.
Exulting go,
Since now a splendid lot is also thine,
And thou art sought by my propitious friend;
For There thou shalt be read
With authors of exalted note,
The ancient glorious Lights of Greece and Rome.


Ye, then my works, no longer vain
And worthless deem'd by me!
Whate'er this steril genius has produc'd
Expect, at last, the rage of Envy spent,
An unmolested happy home,
Gift of kind Hermes and my watchful friend,
Where never flippant tongue profane
Shall entrance find,
And whence the coarse unletter'd multitude
Shall babble far remote.
Perhaps some future distant age
Less tinged with prejudice and better taught
Shall furnish minds of pow'r
To judge more equally.
Then, malice silenced in the tomb,
Cooler heads and sounder hearts,
Thanks to Rouse, if aught of praise
I merit, shall with candour weigh the claim.

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