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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

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, or Pleasure’s, nursed the powers 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 turned 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.