Let others boast the golden spoil
Which Indian climes afford;
And still, with unavailing toil,
Increase the shining hoard:—-
Still let Golconda’s dazzling pride 5
On Beauty’s forehead glow,
And round the fair, on ev’ry side,
Sabean odours flow: —-
Be mine the balm, whose sov’reign pow’r
Can still the throb of Pain; 10
The produce of the scentless flow’r,
That strews Hindostan’s plain.
No gaudy hue its form displays,
To catch the roving eye;
And Ignorance, with vacant gaze, 15
May pass regardless by.
But shall the Muse with cold disdain,
Its simple charms behold!
Shall she devote the tuneful strain
To incense, gems, or gold! 20
When latent ills the frame pervade,
And mock the healing art;
Thy friendly balm shall lend its aid,
And transient ease impart;
Shall charm the restless hours of day, 25
And cheer the midnight gloom;
Shall blunt each thorn, which strews the way
That leads us to the tomb.
And oft, when Reason vainly tries
To calm the troubled breast, 30
Thy pow’r can seal our streaming eyes,
And bid our sorrows rest.
What tho’ this calm must quickly cease,
And Grief resume its pow’r,
The heart that long has sigh’d for ease, 35
Will prize the tranquil hour!
A short oblivion of its care
Relieves the weary’d mind,
Till suff’ring nature learns to bear
The weight by Heav’n assign’d. 40
Reviv’d by thee, my drooping Muse
Now pours the grateful strain,
And Fancy’s hand sweet flow’rets strews
Around the bed of Pain.
At her command gay scenes arise 45
To charm my raptur’d sight,
While Memory’s faithful hand supplies
Past objects of delight.
Yet Memory’s soothing charms were vain,
Without thy friendly aid; 50
And sportive Fancy’s smiling train,
Would fly Disease’s shade —-
Did not thy magic pow’r supply,
A mild, tho’ transient ray;
As meteors in a northern sky, 55
Shed artificial day.
And shall my humble Muse alone
Thy peerless worth declare!
A Muse to all the world unknown,
Whose songs are lost in air. 60
O! may the bard, whose tuneful strain
Resounds thro’ Derwent’s vale,
At whose command the hosts of Pain,
Disease and Sickness, fail—-
That Sage, to whom the God of Day 65
His various gifts imparts,
Whose healing pow’r, whose melting lay,
United, charm our hearts—-
May he devote one tuneful page,
To thee, neglected Flow’r! 70
Then Fame shall bid each future age,
Admiring, own thy pow’r!
Title Opium The foremost medicinal painkiller until synthetics were isolated in the 19th century (Encyclopedia Britannica).
1 spoil “Goods… seized by force” (OED).
2 Indian climes The East India Company obtained much mineral wealth from India, which they controlled on Britain’s behalf when this poem was written in 1793 (Encyclopedia Britannica).
5 Golconda A city in Southern India famous for diamonds (Encyclopedia Britannica).
8 Sabean odours An echo of Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Sabéan odors from the spicy shore/ Of Araby the Blest” (Book IV, 162-163). Refers to ancient kingdom of Saba in the Arabian peninsula (Encyclopedia Britannica).
17 Muse A Goddess related to poetry and the arts, and a word referring to a particular poet’s inspiration (OED).
21 pervade “To spread throughout; to permeate” (OED).
51 Fancy “Imagination” (OED).
52 shade “A dark figure ‘cast’ upon a surface” (OED).
61 bard An admiring reference to Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), poet and naturalist, whose popular poem The Botanic Garden: A Poem in Two Parts first appeared in 1789. Part II was titled “The Loves of the Plants.” (Encyclopedia Britannica).
62 Derwent’s vale Derwent is a river in northwest England; a number of valleys could be associated with it (Dictionary of British Place-Names, 152).
65 God of Day The use of ‘His’ in the next line suggests this is an allusion to Apollo, the god of light and the sun, but also of poetry. (Encyclopedia Britannica).
72 “This was written just before the publication of “The Loves of the Plants;” a work which had been long impatiently expected by everyone who had been so fortunate as to see any specimen of the Author’s poetical abilities” [Author’s Note].
Source: Poems on Several Occasions… Second edition (York, 1793), pp. 17-21. [Google Books]
Edited by John Holden