“To DEATH. An Irregular ODE”
HAIL, formidable KING!
My Muse thy dreaded fame shall sing.
Why should old HOMER’S pompous lays
Immortalize ACHILLES’ Praise!
Or why should ADDISON’S harmonious Verse 5
Our MARLBRO’S nobler Deeds rehearse?
Alas! no more these Heroes shine;
Their Pow’r is all subdu’d by Thine.
Where are these mighty Leaders now,
Great POMPEY, CAESAR, and Young AMMON too, 10
Who thought he drew immortal Breath ?
These bold ambitious Sons of MARS
Who dy’d the Globe with bloody Wars,
Are vanquish’d all by thee, victorious DEATH !
Ev’n while they liv’d, their Martial Hate 15
But firmer fix’d thy Throne;
Nor, tho’ it hasten’d others Fate,
Could it delay their own.
Nor didst thou want their Rage to kill;
Thy own can execute thy Will; 20
Whene’er thou dost exert thy Pow’r,
A Thousand morbid Troops thy Call obey;
Sometimes thy wasting Plagues devour,
And sweep whole realms away.
Now with contagious Biles the City mourns, 25
And now thy scorching Fever burns,
Or trembling Quartan chills;
Of Heat and Cold the dire extremes
Now freeze, now fire the Blood with Flames,
Till various Torment kills. 30
CONSUMPTIONS, and Rheumatic Pain,
And Apoplectic Fits, that rack the Brain;
Soul-panting Asthmas, Dropsy, and Catarrh,
Gout, Palsy, Lunacy and black Despair;
Pangs, that neglected Lovers feel; 35
Corroding Jealousy, their earthly Hell,
Which makes the injur’d Woman wild;
And pow’rful Spleen that gets the Man with Child;
Physicians, surgeons, Bawds, and Whores, and Wine,
Are all obsequious servants of Thine; 40
Nay, and RELIGION, too
When Hypocrites their interest pursue,
Or frantic Zeal inspires,
It calls for Racks, and Wheels, and Fires:
Then all our mystic Articles of Faith 45
Instead of saving Life, become the Cause of DEATH.
GREAT MONARCH! how secure must be thy Crown,
When all these Things conspire to prop thy Throne?
Yet, in thy universal Reign,
Thou dost not use tyrannic Sway. 50
Whate’er the Weak and Tim’rous say,
Who tremble at thy Frown;
Thou art propitious to our Pain,
And break’st the groaning Pris’ner’s Chain,
Which Tyranny put on. 55
In Thee the Lover quits his Care,
Nor longer courts the cruel Fair,
Her Coldness mourns no more:
In Thee Ambition ends it Race,
And finds at length the destin’d Place, 60
It ne’er could find before:
The Merchant too, who plows the Main,
In greedy Quest of Gain,
By Thee to happier Climes is brought,
Than those his wild, insatiate Av’rice sought. 65
PROPITIOUS Succourer of the Distrest,
Who often, by the Dead, dost make the Living blest !
How could profusive Heirs attend
Their Mistress, Bottle, Ball, and Play,
If timely Thou wert not their Friend, 70
To snatch the scraping Sire away?
How would dull Poets weary Time
With their insipid Rhyme,
And teaze and tire the Reader’s Ears
With Party Feuds, and Paper Wars, 75
If Thou, great Critic! didst not use
Thy Pow’r, to point a Period for their Muse?
The Bard, at thy decisive Will,
Discards his mercenary Quill,
Then all his mighty Volumes lie 80
Hid in the peaceful Tomb of vast Obscurity.
I, like the rest, advance my Lays;
With uncouth Numbers, rumble forth a Song,
Sedately dull, to celebrate thy Praise;
And lash, and spur the heavy lab’ring Muse along: 85
But soon the fatal Time must come,
(Ordanin’d by Heav’n’s unerring Doom)
When Thou shalt cut the vital Thread,
And shove the verbal Embryos from my Head.
Thence, since I’m sure to meet my Fate, 90
How vain would Hope appear?
Since Fear cannot protract the Date,
How foolish ‘twere to fear?
I’ll strive, at least, to stand prepared,
Thy Summons to obey; 95
Nor would I think thy Sentence hard,
Nor wish, nor fear the Day;
But live in conscious Peace, and die without Dismay.
FALLACIOUS Reas’ners wrong Thee, when
They call the Laws severe. 100
Severe! to whom? To wicked Men:
Then let the Wicked fear.
Thou judgest all with equal Laws,
No venal Witness backs thy Cause,
NoNo Bribes to Thee are known; 105
If thy impartial Hand but strike,
The Prince and Peasant fall alike,
The Courtier and the Clown.
What tho’ a-while the Beggar groans,
While Kings enjoy their gilded Thrones? 110
What are Distinctions, Pomp, and Regal Train,
And Honours, got with Care, and kept with Pain?
One friendly Stroke of Thine sets level all again.
All earthly Grandeur must decline;
Nay, ev’n Great GEORGE’S Pow’r submit to Thine: 115
But thy Dominion shall endure,
Till PHOEBUS measures Time no more:
Then all shall be in dark Oblivion cast,
And ev’ry mortal Kingdom fall; but thine shall fall the last.
1 King King George II (1683-1760), reigned from 1727.
3 Homer (Precise birth/death unknown; estimated to be ~750BCE). Ancient classical Grecian poet, author of the epics The Iliad and The Odyssey
4 Achilles Highly-acclaimed and famous warrior from Greek mythos; central character of The Iliad.
5 Addison Joseph Addison (1672-1719), author and co-founder of The Spectator, and poet.
6 Marlboro John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). English statesman whose lengthy career earned him extreme fame, power, and wealth.
10 Pompey (106 BC-48 BC) Supremely successful military general of Ancient Rome; Caesar Julius Caesar (100 BC-44 BC), prominent Roman statesman, prose author, and dictator. Assassinated by his own senators; Young Ammon Possibly refers to Molech, an ancient God worshipped by Phoenicians and Canaanites.
12 Mars Mars was a figure of meaningful conflict and male aggression in the Roman mythos.
27 Quartan A malarial fever that reoccurs every 72 hours.
33 Dropsy Medical condition where swelling of fluid beneath the skin causes great pain.
33 Catarrh A disorder of inflammation of mucous membranes in an airway or bodily cavity.
38 Spleen Most often used in this period to describe the nature of melancholy or hysterical affectation. But in this context, used to describe the surge of emotion that man feels towards women; ends in pregnancy.
39 Bawd A prostitute.
44 Racks, Wheels, Fires Refers to various methods of torture associated with religious inquisitions; the rack stretched an individual to dislocate/break limbs; the wheel was an actual wagon wheel that an individual was strapped to, then beaten. Fires could refer to a funeral pyre or burning at the stake.
45 Articles of Faith Refers to passages of the Bible that suggest death as a solution for sins.
62 Main Refers to the merchant “plowing” the main street of a city; a peddler seeking profit.
117 Phoebus Another name for Apollo, the god of the Sun in classical Greek mythology.
Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1738), pp. 99-104. [Google Books]
Edited by Spencer Lam