Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Ode to Liberty
By William Collins (1721–1759)
 
Strophe.
WHO shall awake the Spartan fife,
  And call in solemn sounds to life,
The youths, whose locks divinely spreading,
  Like vernal hyacinths in sullen hue,
At once the breath of fear and virtue shedding,        5
  Applauding freedom loved of old to view?
What new Alcæus, fancy-blest,
Shall sing the sword, in myrtles drest,
  At wisdom’s shrine awhile its flame concealing,
(What place so fit to seal a deed renowned?)        10
  Till she her brightest lightnings round revealing,
It leaped in glory forth, and dealt her prompted wound!
      O goddess, in that feeling hour,
    When most its sounds would court thy ears,
      Let not my shell’s misguided power        15
    E’er draw thy sad, thy mindful tears.
No, freedom, no, I will not tell
How Rome, before thy weeping face,
With heaviest sound, a giant-statue, fell,
Pushed by a wild and artless race        20
From off its wide ambitious base,
When time his northern sons of spoil awoke,
  And all the blended work of strength and grace,
  With many a rude repeated stroke,
And many a barbarous yell, to thousand fragments broke.        25
 
Epode.
    Yet, even where’er the least appeared,
    The admiring world thy hand revered;
    Still ’midst the scattered states around,
    Some remnants of her strength were found;
    They saw, by what escaped the storm,        30
    How wondrous rose her perfect form;
    How in the great, the laboured whole,
    Each mighty master poured his soul!
    For sunny Florence, seat of art,
    Beneath her vines preserved a part,        35
    Till they, whom science loved to name, 1
    (O who could fear it?) quenched her flame.
    And lo, an humbler relic laid
    In jealous Pisa’s olive shade!
    See small Marino joins the theme,        40
    Though least, not last in thy esteem:
    Strike, louder strike the ennobling strings
    To those, whose merchant sons were kings;
    To him, who, decked with pearly pride,
    In Adria weds his green-haired bride;        45
    Hail, port of glory, wealth, and pleasure,
    Ne’er let me change this Lydian measure:
    Nor e’er her former pride relate,
    To sad Liguria’s bleeding state.
    Ah no! more pleased thy haunts I seek,        50
    On wild Helvetia’s mountains bleak:
    (Where, when the favoured of thy choice,
    The daring archer heard thy voice;
    Forth from his eyrie roused in dread,
    The ravening eagle northward fled;)        55
    Or dwell in willowed meads more near,
    With those to whom thy stork is dear:
    Those whom the rod of Alva bruised,
    Whose crown a British queen refused!
    The magic works, thou feel’st the strains,        60
    One holier name alone remains;
    The perfect spell shall then avail,
    Hail, nymph, adored by Britain, hail!
 
Antistrophe.
    Beyond the measure vast of thought,
    The works the wizard time has wrought!        65
  The Gaul, ’tis held of antique story,
Saw Britain linked to his now adverse strand.
  No sea between, nor cliff sublime and hoary,
He passed with unwet feet through all our land.
  To the blown Baltic then, they say,        70
  The wild waves found another way,
Where Orcas howls, his wolfish mountains rounding;
  Till all the banded west at once ’gan rise,
A wide wild storm even nature’s self confounding,
  Withering her giant sons with strange uncouth surprise.        75
  This pillared earth so firm and wide,
    By winds and inward labours torn,
  In thunders dread was pushed aside,
    And down the shouldering billows borne.
And see, like gems, her laughing train,        80
  The little isles on every side,
Mona, once hid from those who search the main,
  Where thousand elfin shapes abide,
And Wight who checks the westering tide,
  For thee consenting heaven has each bestowed,        85
A fair attendant on her sovereign pride:
  To thee this blest divorce she owed,
For thou hast made her vales thy loved, thy last abode.
 
Second Epode.
    Then too, ’tis said, an hoary pile,
    ’Midst the green navel of our isle,        90
    Thy shrine in some religious wood,
    O soul-enforcing goddess, stood!
    There oft the painted native’s feet
    Were wont thy form celestial meet:
    Though now with hopeless toil we trace        95
    Time’s backward rolls, to find its place;
    Whether the fiery-tressèd Dane,
    Or Roman’s self, o’erturned the fane,
    Or in what heaven-left age it fell,
    ’Twere hard for modern song to tell.        100
    Yet still, if truth those beams infuse,
    Which guide at once, and charm the muse,
    Beyond yon braided clouds that lie,
    Paving the light-embroidered sky,
    Amidst the bright pavilioned plains,        105
    The beauteous model still remains.
    There, happier than in islands blest,
    Or bowers by spring or Hebe drest,
    The chiefs who fill our Albion’s story,
    In warlike weeds, retired in glory,        110
    Hear their consorted Druids sing
    Their triumphs to the immortal string.
      How may the poet now unfold
    What never tongue or numbers told?
    How learn, delighted and amazed,        115
    What hands unknown that fabric raised?
    Even now before his favoured eyes,
    In Gothic pride, it seems to rise!
    Yet Græcia’s graceful orders join,
    Majestic through the mixed design:        120
    The secret builder knew to choose
    Each sphere-found gem of richest hues;
    Whate’er heaven’s purer mould contains,
    When nearer suns emblaze its veins;
    There on the walls the patriot’s sight        125
    May ever hang with fresh delight,
    And, graved with some prophetic rage,
    Read Albion’s fame through every age.
      Ye forms divine, ye laureat band,
    That near her inmost altar stand!        130
    Now soothe her to her blissful train
    Blithe concord’s social form to gain;
    Concord, whose myrtle wand can steep
    Even anger’s bloodshot eyes in sleep;
    Before whose breathing bosom’s balm        135
    Rage drops his steel, and storms grow calm:
    Her let our sires and matrons hoar
    Welcome to Britain’s ravaged shore;
    Our youths, enamoured of the fair,
    Play with the tangles of her hair,        140
    Till, in one loud applauding sound,
    The nations shout to her around,
    O how supremely art thou blest,
    Thou, lady, thou shalt rule the west!
 
Note 1. The Medici. [back]
 
 
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