Mark Akenside

(1721-1770 / England)

Ode XII: To Sir Francis Henry Drake, Baronet


I.
Behold; the Balance in the sky
Swift on the wintry scale inclines:
To earthy caves the Dryads fly,
And the bare pastures Pan resigns.
Late did the farmer's fork o'erspread
With recent soil the twice-mown mead,
Tainting the bloom which autumn knows:
He whets the rusty coulter now,
He binds his oxen to the plough,
And wide his future harvest throws.

II.
Now, London's busy confines round,
By Kensington's imperial towers,
From Highgate's rough descent profound,
Essexian heaths, or Kentish bowers,
Where'er i pass, i see approach
Some rural statesman's eager coach
Hurried by senatorial cares:
While rural nymphs (alike, within,
Aspiring courtly praise to win)
Debate their dress, reform their airs.

III.
Say, what can now the country boast,
O Drake, thy footsteps to detain,
When peevish winds and gloomy frost
The sunshine of the temper stain?
Say, are the priests of Devon grown
Friends to this tolerating throne,
Champions for George's legal right?
Have general freedom, equal law,
Won to the glory of Nassau
Each bold Wessexian squire and knight?

IV.
I doubt it much; and guess at least
That when the day, which made us free,
Shall next return, that sacred feast
Thou better may'st observe with me.
With me the sulphurous treason old
A far inferior part shall hold
In that glad day's triumphal strain;
And generous William be rever'd,
Nor one untimely accent heard
Of James or his ignoble reign.

V.
Then, while the Gascon's fragrant wine
With modest cups our joy supplies,
We'll truly thank the power divine
Who bade the chief, the patriot rise;
Rise from heroic ease (the spoil
Due, for his youth's Herculean toil,
From Belgium to her savior son)
Rise with the same unconquer'd zeal
For our Britannia's injur'd weal,
Her laws defac'd, her shrines o'erthrown.

VI.
He came. The tyrant from our shore,
Like a forbidden demon, fled;
And to eternal exile bore
Pontific rage and vassal dread.
There sunk the mouldering Gothic reign:
New years came forth, a liberal train,
Call'd by the people's great decree.
That day, my friend, let blessings crown:
—Fill, to the demigod's renown
From whom thou hast that thou art free.

VII.
Then, Drake, (for wherefore should we part
The public and the private weal?)
In vows to her who sways thy heart,
Fair health, glad fortune, will we deal.
Whether Aglaia's blooming cheek,
Or the soft ornaments that speak
So eloquent in Daphne's smile,
Whether the piercing lights that fly
From the dark heaven of Myrto's eye,
Haply thy fancy then beguile.

VIII.
For so it is. thy stubborn breast,
Though touch'd by many a slighter wound,
Hath no full conquest yet confess'd,
Nor the one fatal charmer found.
While I, a true and loyal swain,
My fair Olympia's gentle reign
Through all the varying seasons own.
Her genius still my bosom warms:
No other maid for me hath charms,
Or I have eyes for her alone.

Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010

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