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AN ODE, HUMBLY INSCRIBED TO THE QUEEN, ON THE GLORIOUS SUCCESS OF HER MAJESTY'S
ARMS. MID CCVI.
“Te non paventis funera Gallias,
WHEN I first thought of writing upon this occasion, I found the ideas so great and numerous, that I judged them more proper for the warmth of an Ode, than for any other sort of poetry: I therefore set Horace before me for a pattern, and particularly his famous ode, the fourth of the fourth book, “Qualem ministrum fulminis alitem,” &c. which he wrote in praise of Drusus after his expedition into Germany, and of Augustus upon his happy choice of that general. And in the following poem, though I have endeavoured to imitate all the great strokes of that ode, I have taken the liberty to go off from it, and to add variously, as the subject and my own imagination carried me. As to the style, the choice I made of following the ode in Latin determined me in English to the stanza; and herein it was impossible not to have a mind to follow our great countryman Spenser; which I have done (as well at least as I could) in the manner of my expression, and the turn of my number: having only added one verse to his stanza, which I thought made the number more harmonious; and avoided such of his words as I found too obsolete. I have, however, retained some few of them, to make the colouring look more like Spenser's. Behest, command; band, army; prowess, strength; I weet, I know; I ween, I think; whilom, heretofore; and two or three more of that kind, which I hope the ladies will pardon me, and not judge my Muse less handsome, though for once she appears in a farthingale. I have also, in Spenser's manner, used Caesar for the emperor, Boya for Bavaria, Bavar for that prince, Ister for Danube, Iberia for Spain, &c.
That noble part of the Ode which I just now mentioned,
“Gens, quae, cremato fortis ab Ilio
where Horace praises the Romans as being descended from AEneas, I have turned to the honour of the British nation, descended from Brute, likewise a Trojan. That this Brute, fourth or fifth from AEneas, settled in England, and built London,
story which (I think) owes its original, if not to Geoffry of Monmouth, at least to the Monkish writers; yet it is not rejected by our great Camden; and is told by Milton, as if (at least) he was pleased with it, though possibly he does not believe it: however, it carries a poetical authority, which is sufficient for our purpose. It is as certain that Brute came into England, as that Æneas went into Italy; and upon the supposition of these facts, Virgil wrote the best poem that the world ever read, and Spenser paid Queen Elizabeth the greatest compliment.
I need not obviate one piece of criticism, that I bring my hero
“From burning Troy, and Xanthus red with blood:”
whereas he was not born when that city was destroyed. Virgil, in the case of his own AFneas relating to Dido, will stand as a sufficient proof, that a man in his poetical capacity is not accountable for a little fault in chronology. My two great examples, Horace and Spenser, in many things resemble each other: both have a height of imagination, and a majesty of expression in describing the sublime; and both know to temper those talents, and sweeten the description, so as to make it lovely as well as pompous: both have equally that agreeable manner of mixing morality with their story, and that Curiosa Felicitas in the choice of their diction, which every writer aims at, and so very few have reached: both are particularly fine in their images, and knowing in their numbers. Leaving therefore our two masters to the consideration and study of those who design to excel in poetry, I only beg leave to add, that it is long since I have (or at least ought to have) quitted Parnassus, and all the flowery roads on that side the country; though I thought myself indispensably obliged, upon the present occasion, to take a little journey in those parts.
WHEN great Augustus govern’d ancient Rome,
When bright Eliza rul’d Britannia's state, Widely distributing her high commands, And boldly wise, and fortunately great, Freed the glad nations from tyrannic bands; An equal genius was in Spenser found; To the high theme he match'd his noble lays; He travell’d England o'er on fairy ground, In mystic notes to sing his monarch's praise: Reciting wondrous truths in pleasing dreams, He deck’d Eliza's head with Gloriana's beams.
But, greatest Anna! while thy arms pursue Paths of renown, and climb ascents of fame, Which nor Augustus, nor Eliza knew ; What poet shall be found to sing thy name? What numbers shall record, what tongue shall say, Thy wars on land, thy triumphs on the main? O fairest model of imperial sway ! What equal pen shall write thy wondrous reign? Who shall attempts and feats of arms rehearse, Not yet by story told, nor parallel'd by verse?
Me all too mean for such a task I weet: Yet, if the Sovereign Lady deigns to smile, I’ll follow Horace with impetuous heat, And clothe the verse in Spenser's native style. By these examples rightly taught to sing, And smit with pleasure of my country's praise, Stretching the plumes of an uncommon wing, High as Olympus I my flight will raise;