Ode to Poverty.


Hail ! mighty Power ! who o’er my lot1
Presidest uncontroll’d and free ;2
Sole Ruler of the rural cot,3
I bid thee hail, dread Poverty ! 4
Thine aid I crave to guide my strain, 5
Nor shall I supplicate in vain.6


When on this world of woe and toil,7
A helpless stranger, I was cast,8
Like mariner on desert isle,9
The sport and victim of the blast,10
Thy russet robe was o’er me flung,11
And to thy cold, lean hand I clung.12


In youth I felt thy guardian care,—13
Each saving, self-denying rule,14
Needful for those of fortune spare,15
I learnt and practised in thy school ;16
And of my lengthen’d life at large17
Thou still hast taken special charge.18


Much have I seen, much more I’ve heard,19
Of chance and change in this vain world ;20
The low to high estate preferr’d21
From high estate the haughty hur’d :22
But chance or change ne’er pass’d o’er me ;—23
I’m still thy subject—Poverty !24


(Ah ! how unwise are they who scorn25
Thy homely garb and humble fare ;26
Who scale the Tropic’s burning bourne,27
Ideal happiness to share !28
They tread the wild and plough the wave29
In quest of gold—but find a grave.)30


There are who know thee but by name,31
Who spurn thy salutary laws,32
And count thy mark a badge of shame,33
And hold it sin to own thy cause.34
Fools that they are ! they never knew35
Thy guiltless pride—thy spirit true.36


Full oft in danger’s darkest day37
Thy sons have proved their country’s shield,38
When Wealth’s effeminate array39
Appear’d not on the battle-field :—40
’Twas theirs to grasp the patriot brand,41
That dropp’d from Lux’ry’s nerveless hand.42


Full oft, when wealth-engender’d crime43
Roll’d o’er the lands its whelming tide,44
Their fervent faith and hope sublime45
Have stable proved though sorely tried :46
In virtue’s heavenward path they trode,47
When pleasure’s sons forsook their God.48


And yet nor stone, nor poet’s strain,49
Records their honours undefiled ;50
Ev’n poesy would weave in vain51
The laurel wreath for penury’s child :52
Should fashion sneer, or fortune frown,53
’Twould wither ere the sun went down.54


But greater, happier, far is he,55
More ample his reward of praise56
Though he should misery’s kinsman be,57
Though hardships cloud his earthly days58
Who triumphs in temptation’s hour,59
Than he who wins the warlike tower.60


What, though he may not write his name61
On history’s ever-living page !62
What, though the thrilling trump of fame63
Echo it not from age to age !64
’Tis blazon’d bright in realms on high,65
Enroll’d in records of the sky.66


What, though the hireling bard be mute,67
When humble worth for notice calls,68
There wants not voice of harp and lute69
To hymn it high in heavenly halls ;70
Around the cell where virtue weeps,71
His nightly watch the Seraph keeps.72


If peace of mind your thoughts employ,73
Ye restless, murm’ring sons of earth !74
Ah ! shun the splendid haunts of joy75
Peace dwells not with unholy mirth ;76
But oft amidst a crowd of woes,77
As in the desert blooms the rose.78


Thick fly the hostile shafts of fate,79
And wreck and ruin mark their course,80
But the pure spirit, firm, sedate,81
Nor feels their flight, nor fears its force.82
So storms the ocean’s surface sweep,83
While calm below the waters sleep.84


O ! may internal peace be mine,85
Though outward woes urge on their war,86
And, Hope ! do thou my path define,87
And light it with thy radiant star.88
Thou Hope, who, through the shades of sorrow,89
Canst trace the dawn of joy’s bright morrow !90