ODE TO TRAGEDY.
1 GODDESS supreme! whose power divine
2 The yielding Passions all obey,
3 On me, O! with thy influence shine!
4 O! send a spark to fire each lay!
5 A soul by nature form'd to feel
6 Grief sharper than the tyrants steel,
7 And bosom big with swelling thought,
8 From ancient lore's remembrance brought,
9 Prompt me with pinions bold my way to wing,
10 And like the sky-lark at heaven's gate to sing.
11 Come, mistress of superior grace,
12 Daughter in hour sublime of Jove!
13 O'er the strong features of whose face
14 With air of distant awe we rove:
15 While mingling softness to the eye
16 Seems o'er each lineament to fly;
17 As when the sun's resplendent rays
18 In summer glow with redd'ning blaze,
19 A floating blue-ting'd cloud does interveen,
20 And thro' a veil the sire of light is seen.
21 Come, Muse! while Terror's ghastly form,
22 And Pity, gentle maid, appear,
23 Or to assault the soul by storm,
24 Or steal the generous heart-sprung tear:
25 While they attendant on thy state,
26 Submissive thy behests await,
27 Dread as a hideous lion chain'd,
28 And Pity's looks with crying stain'd,
29 O in thy dazzling majesty advance,
30 Thou who thro' nature shoot'st with eagle glance.
31 'Tis thine the soul to humanize
32 By fancied wo; — Goddess! 'tis thine
33 To bid compassion melt the eyes,
34 And all the feelings soft refine.
35 'Tis thine, with great Apollo's skill,
36 The inmost springs of life to thrill;
37 'Tis thine to move a breast of stone,
38 And make a brazen heart to own,
39 That solemn tragic numbers are of force,
40 To stop a villain in his bloody course.
41 Behold the buskin'd bard of Greece!
42 Th' inchantment of whose tuneful shell
43 Could sooth the mind to gentle peace,
44 Or rouse to fury sprung from hell!
45 See in his kindling look, the fire
46 Bright flaming from his golden lyre!
47 Hark how he sweeps the strings! — such tones
48 Nature design'd affliction's groans.
49 I feel, when now he wakes another strain,
50 The love of glory panting in each vein!
51 Unhappy Oedipus! thy fate —
52 — Gods! for one mortal how severe! —
53 While Sophocles deigns to relate,
54 In pomp of sadness shall appear.
55 The direful oracle we dread,
56 While on thy bare dejected head,
57 We see the black tempest'ous shower
58 Of Fortune's wrath incessant pour:
59 We see a wretch o'er boiling eddies tost,
60 Till in a gulf of wo the victim's lost!
61 O say, thou arbitress of mind,
62 What sympathy unites our race,
63 That even in savages we find
64 This wondrous tender, human grace?
65 How is the heart of man so soft?
66 — Which I, alas! have felt too oft. —
67 How are we mov'd with others wo?
68 How do the streams of pity flow?
69 How does the breast with throbs spontaneous beat?
70 How is compassion found so strangely sweet?
71 Hail! father of the British stage!
72 Shakespear! to whom shall still belong
73 Thro' each successive wond'ring age,
74 The glories of immortal song!
75 Melpomene, with aspect mild,
76 With joyful hope exulting smil'd,
77 What time on Avon's banks she saw
78 Thee young thy first rude sketches draw
79 Of richest poesy, whose strains sublime
80 Already aim'd th' empyreum's height to climb.
81 Genius unbounded as the sky,
82 That spreads itself from pole to pole,
83 Disdains a formal course to fly,
84 Or sweep the ground with lazy stole.
85 The Stagyrite may preach in vain,
86 And tasteless critics cold complain
87 That thou all rules of art hast broke,
88 And flung away the stated yoke;
89 To the kind heart alone thou dost appeal,
90 And bidst th' ingenuous there conviction feel.
91 Say thou! th' illustrious poet's shade!
92 Whether old Westminster's fam'd dome
93 Thou haunt'st, or where his childhood stray'd,
94 And where his bones have fix'd their home;
95 O say from whence such powers he drew,
96 By which the universe he knew:
97 Ye ghosts, and beings of the brain!
98 Witches, and all the magic train!
99 You he could lively paint with pencil nice,
100 And scourge, by force infernal, blasted vice!
101 Greatest of bards! O hear my prayer!
102 Gleam on my soul with chearing view:
103 Yet think not that I rashly dare
104 One of thy footsteps to pursue.
105 How have I, in my youthful age,
106 Ador'd to see the passions rage!
107 As when her swain with Juliet strove,
108 Who felt the anguish most of love;
109 Or when Old England's annals were display'd,
110 And Piercy storm'd in martial fire array'd.
111 Forgive, tho' I forbear to tell
112 Of you, ye other bards who shine,
113 Forgive tho' I forbear to swell
114 With croud of names the sounding line.
115 When Oroonoko's godlike soul,
116 By misery distracted, roll
117 In gloomy blood-streak'd eyes we see,
118 Can any bosom ruthless be?
119 Will not a hapless orphan make us weep?
120 Or Randolph's lady plung'd in sorrows deep?
121 Augusta's theatres! — with pride
122 How often have I witness'd there,
123 The lucid pearls of pity glide
124 From lovely eyes of British fair!
125 How often have I raptur'd seen
126 The passion of the present queen
127 With uncontroll'd applauses loud
128 Burn in each feature of the croud!
129 Lo! boundless liberty submissive deigns —
130 Triumph how great! to wear the actor's chains!
131 See Garrick in poor Lear rave,
132 Borne down the tide of sore distress!
133 He seems 'gainst each o'erwhelming wave
134 With hoary majesty to press!
135 See Sheridan in Denmark's heir! —
136 Wide spreads the prospect of despair!
137 With dusky clouds the sky is hung!
138 Pale horror falters on his tongue!
139 Torn is his wretched mind! ev'n now I view
140 Cold, pain-wrought drops his mournful face bedew!
141 O why by Cam's delightful streams,
* Mr Mason.he who sung Elfrida's wo,
143 Indulge his warm, poetic dreams,
144 But to the private eye to show?
145 Why does the moralizing train†
† The ancient chorus.
146 Him from the world's just glass detain?
147 Beams not bright beauty brighter still,
148 From the high summit of yon hill?
149 Drive him, Ambition, from th' inglorious seat,
150 Tho' Hurd approve his indolent retreat.
151 Goddess supreme! my vows attend.
152 O let the honour'd task be mine,
153 Thy temple trembling to ascend;
154 Trembling to offer at thy shrine.
155 While idle Folly's glitt'ring train
156 Bask in the sunshine, ever vain;
157 Like Juno's bird so pert and gay,
158 Their gaudy plumage still display;
159 O! let me visit oft thy sacred store,
160 And in ecstatic heat intranc'd adore!
About this text
Author: James Boswell
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Boswell, James, 1740-1795. An ode to tragedy. By a gentleman of Scotland. Edinburgh: printed by A. Donaldson and J. Reid. For Alex. Donaldson MDCLXI, 1761, pp. -12. 12p.; 4⁰. (ESTC T71923; OTA K060978.000)
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