Ode to Liberty
by James Boswell
Goddess supreme! whose power divine
The yielding Passions all obey,
On me, O! with thy influence shine!
O! send a spark to fire each lay!
A soul by nature form’d to feel
Grief sharper than the tyrants steel,
And bosom big with swelling thought,
From ancient lore’s remembrance brought,
Prompt me with pinions bold my way to wing,
And like the sky-lark at heaven’s gate to sing.
Come, mistress of superior grace,
Daughter in hour sublime of Jove!
O’er the strong features of whose face
With air of distant awe we rove:
While mingling softness to the eye
Seems o’er each lineament to fly;
As when the sun’s resplendent rays
In summer glow with redd’ning blaze,
A floating blue-ting’d cloud does interveen,
And thro’ a veil the sire of light is seen.
Come, Muse! while Terror’s ghastly form,
And Pity, gentle maid, appear,
Or to assault the soul by storm,
Or steal the generous heart-sprung tear:
While they attendant on thy state,
Submissive thy behests await,
Dread as a hideous lion chain’d,
And Pity’s looks with crying stain’d,
O in thy dazzling majesty advance,
Thou who thro’ nature shoot’st with eagle glance.
’Tis thine the soul to humanize
By fancied wo;—Goddess! ’tis thine
To bid compassion melt the eyes,
And all the feelings soft refine.
’Tis thine, with great Apollo’s skill,
The inmost springs of life to thrill;
’Tis thine to move a breast of stone,
And make a brazen heart to own,
That solemn tragic numbers are of force,
To stop a villain in his bloody course.
Behold the buskin’d bard of Greece!
Th’ inchantment of whose tuneful shell
Could sooth the mind to gentle peace,
Or rouse to fury sprung from hell!
See in his kindling look, the fire
Bright flaming from his golden lyre!
Hark how he sweeps the strings!—such tones
Nature design’d affliction’s groans.
I feel, when now he wakes another strain,
The love of glory panting in each vein!
Unhappy Oedipus! thy fate—
—Gods! for one mortal how severe!—
While Sophocles deigns to relate,
In pomp of sadness shall appear.
The direful oracle we dread,
While on thy bare dejected head,
We see the black tempest’ous shower
Of Fortune’s wrath incessant pour:
We see a wretch o’er boiling eddies tost,
Till in a gulf of wo the victim’s lost!
O say, thou arbitress of mind,
What sympathy unites our race,
That even in savages we find
This wondrous tender, human grace?
How is the heart of man so soft?
—Which I, alas! have felt too oft.—
How are we mov’d with others wo?
How do the streams of pity flow?
How does the breast with throbs spontaneous beat?
How is compassion found so strangely sweet?
Hail! father of the British stage!
Shakespear! to whom shall still belong
Thro’ each successive wond’ring age,
The glories of immortal song!
Melpomene, with aspect mild,
With joyful hope exulting smil’d,
What time on Avon’s banks she saw
Thee young thy first rude sketches draw
Of richest poesy, whose strains sublime
Already aim’d th’ empyreum’s height to climb.
Genius unbounded as the sky,
That spreads itself from pole to pole,
Disdains a formal course to fly,
Or sweep the ground with lazy stole.
The Stagyrite may preach in vain,
And tasteless critics cold complain
That thou all rules of art hast broke,
And flung away the stated yoke;
To the kind heart alone thou dost appeal,
And bidst th’ ingenuous there conviction feel.
Say thou! th’ illustrious poet’s shade!
Whether old Westminster’s fam’d dome
Thou haunt’st, or where his childhood stray’d,
And where his bones have fix’d their home;
O say from whence such powers he drew,
By which the universe he knew:
Ye ghosts, and beings of the brain!
Witches, and all the magic train!
You he could lively paint with pencil nice,
And scourge, by force infernal, blasted vice!
Greatest of bards! O hear my prayer!
Gleam on my soul with chearing view:
Yet think not that I rashly dare
One of thy footsteps to pursue.
How have I, in my youthful age,
Ador’d to see the passions rage!
As when her swain with Juliet strove,
Who felt the anguish most of love;
Or when Old England’s annals were display’d,
And Piercy storm’d in martial fire array’d.
Forgive, tho’ I forbear to tell
Of you, ye other bards who shine,
Forgive tho’ I forbear to swell
With croud of names the sounding line.
When Oroonoko’s godlike soul,
By misery distracted, roll
In gloomy blood-streak’d eyes we see,
Can any bosom ruthless be?
Will not a hapless orphan make us weep?
Or Randolph’s lady plung’d in sorrows deep?
Augusta’s theatres!—with pride
How often have I witness’d there,
The lucid pearls of pity glide
From lovely eyes of British fair!
How often have I raptur’d seen
The passion of the present queen
With uncontroll’d applauses loud
Burn in each feature of the croud!
Lo! boundless liberty submissive deigns—
Triumph how great! to wear the actor’s chains!
See Garrick in poor Lear rave,
Borne down the tide of sore distress!
He seems ’gainst each o’erwhelming wave
With hoary majesty to press!
See Sheridan in Denmark’s heir!—
Wide spreads the prospect of despair!
With dusky clouds the sky is hung!
Pale horror falters on his tongue!
Torn is his wretched mind! ev’n now I view
Cold, pain-wrought drops his mournful face bedew!
O why by Cam’s delightful streams,
Does he who sung Elfrida’s wo,
Indulge his warm, poetic dreams,
But to the private eye to show?
Why does the moralizing train
Him from the world’s just glass detain?
Beams not bright beauty brighter still,
From the high summit of yon hill?
Drive him, Ambition, from th’ inglorious seat,
Tho’ Hurd approve his indolent retreat.
Goddess supreme! my vows attend.
O let the honour’d task be mine,
Thy temple trembling to ascend;
Trembling to offer at thy shrine.
While idle Folly’s glitt’ring train
Bask in the sunshine, ever vain;
Like Juno’s bird so pert and gay,
Their gaudy plumage still display;
O! let me visit oft thy sacred store,
And in ecstatic heat intranc’d adore!