Ode Xv: On Domestic Manners (Unfinished)
by Mark Akenside
Meek honor, female shame,
O! whither, sweetest offspring of the sky,
From Albion dost thou fly;
Of Albion's daughters once the favorite fame?
O beauty's only friend,
Who giv'st her pleasing reverence to inspire;
Who selfish, bold desire
Dost to esteem and dear affection turn;
Alas, of thee forlorn
What joy, what praise, what hope can life pretend?
Behold; our youths in vain
Concerning nuptial happiness inquire:
Our maids no more aspire
The arts of bashful Hymen to attain;
But with triumphant eyes
And cheeks impassive, as they move along,
Ask homage of the throng.
The lover swears that in a harlot's arms
Are found the self-same charms,
And worthless and deserted lives and dies.
Behold; unbless'd at home,
The father of the cheerless household mourns:
The night in vain returns,
For love and glad content at distance roam;
While she, in whom his mind
Seeks refuge from the day's dull task of cares,
To meet him she prepares,
Through noise and spleen and all the gamester's art,
A listless, harrass'd heart,
Where not one tender thought can welcome find.
'Twas thus, along the shore
Of Thames, Britannia's guardian Genius heard,
From many a tongue preferr'd,
Of strife and grief the fond invective lore:
At which the queen divine
Indignant, with her adamantine spear
Like thunder sounding near,
Smote the red cross upon her silver shield,
And thus her wrath reveal'd.
(I watch'd her awful words and made them mine.)
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