Ode to Simplicity
William Collins, Odes on several descriptive and allegoric subjects (London: A. Millar ..., 1747 [i.e. 1746]). pam Fisher Library (Rare Books).
1 O thou, by Nature taught
2 To breathe her genuine thought
3In numbers warmly pure, and sweetly strong;
4 Who first on mountains wild,
5 In Fancy, loveliest child,
6Thy babe, or Pleasure's, nurs'd the pow'rs of song!
7 Thou, who with hermit heart,
8 Disdain'st the wealth of art,
9And gauds, and pageant weeds, and trailing pall,
12O chaste, unboastful nymph, to thee I call!
13 By all the honey'd store
15By all her blooms, and mingled murmurs dear;
17 In ev'ning musings slow
20 Who spread his wavy sweep
22 On whose enamell'd side,
23 When holy Freedom died,
24No equal haunt allur'd thy future feet.
25 O sister meek of Truth,
26 To my admiring youth,
27Thy sober aid and native charms infuse!
28 The flow'rs that sweetest breathe,
29 Tho' Beauty cull'd the wreath,
30Still ask thy hand to range their order'd hues.
31 While Rome could none esteem
32 But virtue's patriot theme,
33You lov'd her hills, and led her laureate band;
35 To one distinguish'd throne,
36And turn'd thy face, and fled her alter'd land.
37 No more, in hall or bow'r,
38 The passions own thy pow'r;
39Love, only love her forceless numbers mean;
40 For thou hast left her shrine,
41 Nor olive more, nor vine,
42Shall gain thy feet to bless the servile scene.
43 Tho' taste, tho' genius bless
44 To some divine excess,
45Faints the cold work till thou inspire the whole;
46 What each, what all supply,
47 May court, may charm our eye;
49 Of these let others ask,
50 To aid some mighty task,
51I only seek to find thy temp'rate vale;
52 Where oft my reed might sound
53 To maids and shepherds round,
54And all thy sons, O Nature, learn my tale.
10] decent: decorous, comely. Back to Line
11] Attic: simplicity as realized in Greek (Attic) literature. Back to Line
14] Hybla: a city in Sicily famous for its honey. Back to Line
16] her: "the ... nightingale, for which Sophocles seems to have entertained a peculiar fondness" (Collins). Back to Line
18] sad Electra's poet. The reference is to Sophocles' tragedy Electra. Cf. Milton, Sonnet viii ("Captain or Colonel, or Knight in Arms"), 13: "sad Electra's poet." Back to Line
19] Cephisus: the largest river in Attica, in the vicinity of Athens. Back to Line
21] thy green retreat: Athens. The reference is to Greek literature, as without equal in simplicity. Back to Line
34] Collins refers to the gradual decline of Roman poetry after the reign of Augustus, the patron of Virgil and Horace. Back to Line
48] meeting soul: cf. Milton, L'Allegro, 136-38: "Lap me in soft Lydian airs, / Married to immortal verse, / Such as the meeting soul may pierce." Back to Line
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RPO poem Editors:
G. G. Falle