Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ODE TO HOPE, by JANE BOWDLER



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ODE TO HOPE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Friend to the wretch whose bosom knows no joy!
Last Line: And never-fading joy in heaven's full glories reign.
Subject(s): Happiness; Hope; Strength; Joy; Delight; Optimism


I.

FRIEND to the wretch whose bosom knows no joy!
Parent of bliss beyond the reach of fate!
Celestial HOPE! thou gift divine,
Sweet balm of grief! oh, still be mine.
When pains torment, and cares annoy,
Thou only canst their force abate,
And gild the gloom which shades this mortal state.
Though oft thy joys are false and vain,
Though anxious doubts attend thy train,
Though disappointment mock thy care,
And point the way to fell despair,
Yet still my secret foul shall own thy pow'r
In sorrow's bitterest pang, in pleasure's gayest hour.
For from the date of Reason's birth
That wond'rous pow'r was given,
To soften every grief on earth,
To raise the soul from thoughtless mirth,
And wing its flight to heaven.
Nor pain nor pleasure can its force destroy,
In every varied scene it points to future joy.

II.

FANCY, wave thy airy pinions,
Bid the soft ideas rise,
Spread o'er all thy wide dominions
Vernal sweets and cloudless skies.
And lo! on yonder verdant plain,
A lovely Youthful Train appear,
Their gentle hearts have felt no pain,
Their guiltless bosoms know no fear:
In each gay scene some new delight they find,
Yet fancy gayer prospects still behind.
Where are the soft delusions fled?
Must wisdom teach the soul to mourn?
Return, ye days of ignorance, return:
Before my eyes your fairy visions spread!
Alas! those visions charm no more,
The pleasing dream of youth is o'er;
Far other thoughts must now the soul employ,
It glows with other hopes, it pants for other joy.

III.

The trumpet sounds to War:
Loud shouts re-echo from the mountain's side,
The din of battle thunders from afar,
The foaming torrent rolls a crimson tide;
The Youthful Warrior's breast with ardour glows,
In thought he triumphs o'er ten thousand foes:
Elate with hope he rushes on,
The battle seems already won,
The vanquish'd hosts before him fly,
His heart exults in fancied victory,
Nor heeds the flying shaft, nor thinks of danger nigh.
Methinks I see him now—
Fall'n his crest—his glory gone—
The opening laurel faded on his brow—
Silent the trump of his aspiring fame!
No future age shall hear his name,
But darkness spread around her sable gloom,
And deep oblivion rest upon his tomb.

IV.

Through seas unknown, to distant lands,
In quest of gain the bold Advent'rer goes,
Fearless roves o'er Afric's sands,
India's heats, or Zembla's snows:
Each rising day his dang'rous toil renews;
But toils and dangers check his course in vain:
Cheer'd by HOPE, he still pursues
Fancy'd good through real pain,
Still in thought enjoys the prize,
And future happy days in long succession rise:
Yet all his bliss a moment may destroy,
Frail are his brightest hopes, uncertain all his joy.

V.

Hark! the sprightly voice of Pleasure
Calls to yonder rosy bower,
There she scatters all her treasure,
There exerts her magic power.
Listen to the pleasing call,
Follow, Mortals, follow all;
Lead the dance, and spread the feast,
Crown with roses every guest:
Now the sprightly minstrels sound,
Pleasure's voice is heard around,
And Pleasure's sprightly voice the hills and dales resound.
Whence rose that secret sigh?—
What sudden gloom o'erclouds thy cheerful brow?
Say, does not every pleasure wait thee now,
That e'er could charm the ear, or court the eye?—
In vain does Nature lavish all her store;
The conscious spirit still aspires,
Still pursues some new desires,
And every wish obtain'd, it sighs and pants for more.

VI.

Are these, O HOPE! the glories of thy reign?
the airy dreams of Fancy and of Youth!
Must all thy boasted pleasures lead to pain;
Thy joys all vanish at the light of truth?
Must wretched man, led by a meteor fire,
To distant blessing still aspire;
Still with ardour strive to gain
Joys he oft pursues in vain,
Joys which quickly must expire;
And when at length the fatal hour is come,
And death prepares th' irrevocable doom,
Mourn all his darling hopes at once destroy'd,
And sigh to leave that bliss he ne'er enjoy'd?

VII.

Rise, Heavenly Visions! rise,
And every vain delusive fear controul;
Let real glory charm my wond'ring eyes,
And real happiness enchant my soul!—
Hail glorious dawn of everlasting day!
Though faintly seen at distance here,
Thy beams the sinking heart can cheer,
And light the weary pilgrim on his way:
For not in vain did Heaven inspire
That active spark of sacred fire,
Which still with restless ardour glows:
In pain, in pleasure, still the same,
It seeks that heaven from whence it came,
And scorns all meaner joys, all transient woes.
The soul, for perfect bliss design'd,
Strives in vain that bliss to find,
'Till, wing'd by HOPE, at length it flies
Beyond the narrow bounds of earth, and air, and skies.

VIII.

Still unmov'd, let HOPE remain
Fix'd on true substantial joy;
Dangers then shall threat in vain,
Pains torment, or cares annoy:
Then shall ev'ry guiltless pleasure
Smile with charms unknown before,
HOPE, secure in real treasure,
Mourn her blasted joys no more:
Then through each revolving year—
Though earthly glories fade away,
Though youth, and strength, and life itself, decay—
Yet still more bright the prospect shall appear;
Happier still the latest day,
Brightest far the parting ray.
O'er life's last scene celestial beams shall shine,
'Till death at length shall burst the chain,
While songs of triumph found on high;
Then shall HOPE her power resign,
Lost in endless extacy,
And never-fading joy in Heaven's full glories reign.





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