“Ode to Venus”
On seeing the Estate of Gretna-Green advertised for Sale in the News-papers of the Day.
When Horace pray’d thee, Queen of Love,
To quit in haste thy Cyprian grove,
And seek his Fair-one’s roof,
The paltry smoke her incense threw,
And message trite to all thy crew, 5
Had kept thee well aloof.
A juster plea, a menac’d wrong,
Unvarnish’d by the Poet’s song,
Demands thy instant aid;
Quick let the doves their wings prepare, 10
Cupid alone attend thy car,
And speed to Gretna’s shade.
To Gretna speed; your strongest hold
Plutus attacks with arms of gold,
And thinks the fortress won; 15
But Hymen your approach will meet,
For only there he’s wont to meet
The Mother and her Son.
Fear not yon dotard’s sooty face,
His blacken’d hands, his hobbling pace, 20
‘Tis not thy spouse, sweet dame!
From nets of steel our smith abstains;
Fetters of silk, and rosy chains,
His gentler labours frame.
But Christie lifts his hammer high; 25
Oh! swiftly, swiftly, Goddess, fly,
And vindicate your claim!
So Gretna’s priest shall chaunt your praise,
And frequent pairs enraptur’d raise
A column to your fame. 30
Title Venus Roman goddess of beauty and love (OED).
Subtitle Gretna Green A Scottish village that became a popular destination for English couples looking to elope after Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act (1753) was brought into force in England. The Newcastle Courant, for example, carried an advertisement for the “Sale of Gretna” by auction (No. 6354, 21 July 1798).
1 Horace Roman lyric poet (65-8 BCE), whose ode addressed to Venus (Odes, IV.1) is being paraphrased in this stanza.
2 Cyprian Of Cyprus, “an island in the eastern Mediterranean, famous in ancient times for the worship of Aphrodite or Venus” (OED).
4 paltry “Very small or meagre” (OED).
5 trite “Worn out by constant use or repetition” (OED).
7 juster “Well-founded; justifiable” (OED); menac’d “Threatened” (OED).
8 Unvarnish’d “Not covered” (OED).
11 Cupid Roman god of love, son of Mercury and Venus (OED).
14 Plutus Greek God of abundance or wealth (Britannica).
16 Hymen God of marriage in Greek and Roman mythology (OED).
19 dotard “An old person” (OED); sooty face “At Gretna Green the marriage ceremony was usually performed by the blacksmith” (Britannica).
23 Fetters Figuratively, a restraint (OED).
25 Christie James Christie (1730-1803), a Scottish auctioneer who founded the auction house Christie’s in London, England.
28 chaunt “A repeated rhythmic phrase” (OED).
SOURCE: The Gentleman’s Magazine (August 1798), p. 707. [J. Paul Leonard Library]
Edited by Jhadeeja Shahida Vaz