Ode to Wisdom
by Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806)
The solitary bird of night
Thro’ the pale shades now wings his flight,
And quits the time-shook tow’r;
Where, shelter’d from the blaze of day,
In philosophic gloom he lay
Beneath his ivy bow’r.
With joy I hear the solemn sound,
Which midnight echoes waft around,
And sighing gales repeat.
Fav’rite of PALLAS! I attend,
And faithful to thy summons, bend
At WISDOM’S awful seat.
She loves the cool, the silent eve,
Where no false shows of life deceive,
Beneath the lunar ray:
Here folly drops each vain disguise,
Nor sport her gayly-colour’d dyes,
As in the glare of day.
O PALLAS! queen of every art
That glads the sense, or mends the heart,
Blest source of purer joys:
In ev’ry form of beauty bright,
That captivates the mental sight
With pleasure and surprize!
To thy unspotted shrine I bow,
Assist thy modest suppliant’s vow,
That breathes no wild desires:
But taught by thy unerring rules,
To shun the fruitless wish of fools,
To nobler views aspires.
Not FORTUNE’S gem, AMBITION’S plume,
Nor CYTHEREA’S fading bloom,
Be objects of my pray’r:
Let AV’RICE, VANITY, and PRIDE,
These glitt’ring envy’d toys, divide
The dull rewards of care.
To me thy better gifts impart,
Each moral beauty of the heart
By studious thought refin’d:
For WEALTH, the smiles of glad content,
For POW’R, it’s amplest, best extent,
An empire o’er my mind.
When FORTUNE drops her gay parade,
When PLEASURE’S transient roses fade,
And wither in the tomb;
Unchang’d is thy immortal prize,
Thy ever-verdant laurels rise
In undecaying bloom.
By thee protected, I defy.
The coxcomb’s sneer, the stupid lie
Of ignorance and spite:
Alike contemn the leaden fool,
And all the pointed ridicule
Of undiscerning wit.
From envy, hurry, noise, and strife,
The dull impertinence of life,
In thy retreat I rest:
Pursue thee to the peaceful groves,
Where PLATO’S sacred spirit roves,
In all thy graces drest.
He bade ILYSSUS’ tuneful stream
Convey thy philosophic theme
Of perfect, fair, and good:
Attentive ATHENS caught the sound,
And all her list’ning sons around,
In awful silence stood.
Reclaim’d, her wild licentious youth
Confest the potent voice of TRUTH,
And felt it’s just controul:
The passions ceas’d their loud alarms,
And virtue’s soft persuasive charms
O’er all their senses stole.
Thy breath inspires the POET’S song,
The PATRIOT’S free, unbiass’d tongue,
The HERO’S gen’rous strife:
Thine are retirement’s silent joys,
And all the sweet endearing ties
Of still, domestic life.
No more to fabled names confin’d,
To Thee! supreme, all-perfect Mind,
My thoughts direct their flight:
WISDOM’S thy gift, and all her force
From Thee deriv’d, unchanging source
Of intellectual light!
O send her sure, her steady, ray,
To regulate my doubtful way,
Thro’ life’s perplexing road:
The mists of error to controul,
And thro’ it’s gloom direct my soul
To happiness and good.
Beneath her clear discerning eye,
The visionary shadows fly
Of folly’s painted show:
She sees, thro’ ev’ry fair disguise,
That all, but VIRTUE’S solid joys,
Is vanity and woe.