457. Ode to Simplicity

William Collins. 1721-1759

    O THOU, by Nature taught
    To breathe her genuine thought
In numbers warmly pure and sweetly strong:
    Who first on mountains wild,
    In Fancy, loveliest child,
Thy babe and Pleasure's, nursed the pow'rs of song!

    Thou, who with hermit heart
    Disdain'st the wealth of art,
And gauds, and pageant weeds, and trailing pall:
    But com'st a decent maid,
    In Attic robe array'd,
O chaste, unboastful nymph, to thee I call!

    By all the honey'd store
    On Hybla's thymy shore,
By all her blooms and mingled murmurs dear,
    By her whose love-lorn woe,
    In evening musings slow,
Soothed sweetly sad Electra's poet's ear:

    By old Cephisus deep,
    Who spread his wavy sweep
In warbled wand'rings round thy green retreat;
    On whose enamell'd side,
    When holy Freedom died,
No equal haunt allured thy future feet!

    O sister meek of Truth,
    To my admiring youth
Thy sober aid and native charms infuse!
    The flow'rs that sweetest breathe,
    Though beauty cull'd the wreath,
Still ask thy hand to range their order'd hues.

    While Rome could none esteem,
    But virtue's patriot theme,
You loved her hills, and led her laureate band;
    But stay'd to sing alone
    To one distinguish'd throne,
And turn'd thy face, and fled her alter'd land.

    No more, in hall or bow'r,
    The passions own thy pow'r.
Love, only Love her forceless numbers mean;
    For thou hast left her shrine,
    Nor olive more, nor vine,
Shall gain thy feet to bless the servile scene.

    Though taste, though genius bless
    To some divine excess,
Faint 's the cold work till thou inspire the whole;
    What each, what all supply,
    May court, may charm our eye,
Thou, only thou, canst raise the meeting soul!

    Of these let others ask,
    To aid some mighty task,
I only seek to find thy temperate vale;
    Where oft my reed might sound
    To maids and shepherds round,
And all thy sons, O Nature, learn my tale.

The Oxford Book of English Verse, HTML edition