Mark Akenside

(1721-1770 / England)

Ode Iii: To A Friend, Unsuccessful In Love - Poem by Mark Akenside

Indeed, my Phædria, if to find
That wealth can female wishes gain
Had e'er disturb'd your thoughtful mind,
Or cost one serious moment's pain,
I should have said that all the rules,
You learn'd of moralists and schools,
Were very useless, very vain.

Yet I perhaps mistake the case—
Say, though with this heroic air,
Like one that holds a nobler chace,
You try the tender loss to bear,
Does not your heart renounce your tongue?
Seems not my censure strangely wrong
To count it such a slight affair?

When Hesper gilds the shaded sky,
Oft as you seek the well-known grove,
Methinks I see you cast your eye
Back to the morning scenes of love:
Each pleasing word you heard her say,
Her gentle look, her graceful way,
Again your struggling fancy move.

Then tell me, is your soul intire?
Does wisdom calmly hold her throne?
Then can you question each desire,
Bid this remain, and that begone?
No tear half-starting from your eye?
No kindling blush you know not why?
No stealing sigh, nor stifled groan?
Away with this unmanly mood!

See where the hoary churl appears,
Whose hand hath seiz'd the favorite good
Which you reserv'd for happier years:
While, side by side, the blushing maid
Shrinks from his visage, half-afraid,
Spite of the sickly joy she wears.

Ye guardian powers of love and fame,
This chaste, harmonious pair behold;
And thus reward the generous flame
Of all who barter vows for gold.
O bloom of youth, o tender charms
Well-buried in a dotard's arms!
O equal price of beauty sold!

Cease then to gaze with looks of love:
Bid her adieu, the venal fair:
Unworthy she your bliss to prove;
Then wherefore should she prove your care?
No: lay your myrtle garland down;
And let awhile the willow's crown
With luckier omens bind your hair.

O just escap'd the faithless main,
Though driven unwilling on the land;
To guide your favor'd steps again,
Behold your better genius stand:
Where truth revolves her page divine,
Where virtue leads to honor's shrine,
Behold, he lifts his awful hand.

Fix but on these your ruling aim,
And time, the sire of manly care,
Will fancy's dazzling colors tame
A soberer dress will beauty wear:
Then shall esteem by knowledge led
Inthrone within your heart and head
Some happier love, some truer fair.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010

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