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An ODE. TO THE People of GREAT BRITAIN.

In Imitation of the Sixth ODE of the Third Book of HORACE. Written in 1746.

I.
1 BRITON! the thunder of the wrath divine,
2 Due to thy fathers crimes, and long with-held from thine,
3 Shall burst with tenfold rage on thy devoted head;
4 Unless with conscious terrors aw'd,
5 By meek, heart-struck repentance led,
6 Suppliant thou fall before th' offended God:
7 If haply yet thou may'st avert his ire;
8 And stay his arm out-stretch'd to launce the avenging fire.
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II.
9 Did not high God of old ordain,
10 When to thy grasp he gave the scepter of the main,
11 That empire in this favour'd land,
12 Fix'd on religion's solid base should stand?
13 When from thy struggling neck he broke
14 Th' inglorious, galling, papal yoke,
15 Humbled the pride of haughty Spain,
16 And free'd thee by a woman-hero's hand;
17 He then confirm'd the strong degree:
18 "Briton, be virtuous and be free;
19 "Be truth, be sanctity thy guide:
20 "Be humble: fear thy God; and fear thou none beside."
III.
21 Oft has th' offended Pow'r his rising anger shown:
22 Led on by his avenging hand
23 Rebellion triumphs in the land:
24 Twice have her barbarous sons our war-train'd hosts o'erthrown.
25 They fell a cheap inglorious prey;
26 Th' ambitious victor's boast was half supprest,
27 While heav'n-bred fear, and wild dismay,
28 Unman'd the warrior's heart, and reign'd in every breast.
IV.
29 Her arms to foreign lands Britannia bore;
30 Her arms, auspicious now no more!
31 With frequent conquests where the fires were crown'd;
32 The sons ill-fated fell, and bit the hostile ground:
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33 The tame, war-trading Belgian fled,
34 While in his cause the Briton bled:
35 The Gaul stood wond'ring at his own success;
36 Oft did his hardiest bands their wonted fears confess,
37 Struck with dismay, and meditating flight;
38 While the brave foe still urg'd th' unequal fight,
39 While WILLIAM, with his Father's ardour fir'd,
40 Through all th' undaunted host the generous flame inspir'd!
V.
41 But heavier far the weight of shame
42 That sunk Britannia's naval fame:
43 In vain she spreads her once-victorious sails;
44 Or fear, or rashness; in her chiefs prevails;
45 And wildly these prevent, those basely shun the fight;
46 Content with humble praise, the foe
47 Avoids the long impending blow;
48 Improves the kind escape, and triumphs in his flight.
VI.
49 The monstrous age, which still increasing years debase,
50 Which teems with unknown crimes, and genders new disgrace,
51 First, unrestrained by honour, faith; or shame,
52 Confounding every sacred name,
53 The hallow'd nuptial bed with lawless lust profan'd:
54 Deriv'd from this polluted source
55 The dire corruption held its course
56 Through the whole canker'd race, and tainted all the land.
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VII.
57 The rip'ning maid is vers'd in every dangerous art,
58 That ill adorns the form while it corrupts the heart:
59 Practis'd to dress, to dance, to play,
60 In wanton mask to lead the way,
61 To move the pliant limbs, to roll the luring eye;
62 With folly's gayest partizans to vye
63 In empty noise and vain expence;
64 To celebrate with flaunting air
65 The midnight revels of the fair;
66 Studious of ev'ry praise, but virtue, truth, and sense.
VIII.
67 Thus lesson'd in intrigue her early thought improves,
68 Nor meditates in vain forbidden loves:
69 Soon the gay nymph in Cyprus' train shall rove
70 Free and at large amidst th' Idalian grove;
71 Or haply jealous of the voice of fame,
72 Mask'd in the matron's sober name,
73 With many a well-dissembled wile
74 The kind, convenient husband's care beguile:
75 More deeply vers'd in Venus' mystic lore,
76 Yet for such meaner arts too lofty and sublime,
77 The proud, high-born, patrician whore,
78 Bears unabash'd her front; and glories in her crime.
IX.
79 Hither from city and from court
80 The votaries of love resort;
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81 The rich, the great, the gay, and the severe;
82 The pension'd architect of laws;
83 The patriot, loud in virtue's cause;
84 Proud of imputed worth, the peer:
85 Regardless of his faith, his country, or his name,
86 He pawns his honour and estate;
87 Nor reckons at how dear a rate
88 He purchases disease, and servitude, and shame.
X.
89 Not from such dastard sires, to every virtue lost,
90 Sprung the brave youth which Britain once could boast:
91 Who curb'd the Gaul's usurping sway,
92 Who swept th' unnumber'd hosts away,
93 In Agincourt, and Cressy's glorious plain;
94 Who dy'd the seas with Spanish blood,
95 Their vainly-vaunted fleets subdu'd,
96 And spread the mighty wreck o'er all the vanquish'd main.
XI.
97 No; 'twas a generous race, by worth transmissive known:
98 In their bold breast their fathers spirit glow'd:
99 In their pure veins [their] mothers virtue flow'd:
100 They made hereditary praise their own.
101 The sire his emulous offspring led
102 The rougher paths of fame to tread;
103 The matron train'd their spotless youth
104 In honour, sanctity, and truth;
105 Form'd by th' united parents care,
106 The sons, tho' bold, were wise; the daughters chaste, tho' fair.
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XII.
107 How Time, all-wasting, ev'n the worst impairs,
108 And each foul age to dregs still fouler runs!
109 Our sires, more vicious ev'n than theirs,
110 Left us, still more degenerate heirs,
111 To spawn a baser brood of monster-breeding sons.

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    About this text

    Title (in Source Edition): An ODE. TO THE People of GREAT BRITAIN. In Imitation of the Sixth ODE of the Third Book of HORACE. Written in 1746.
    Author: Robert Lowth
    Themes: corruption; politics; war; patriotism; glory of the British nation
    Genres: ode
    References: DMI 22540

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    A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. III. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758], pp. 18-23. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163)

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    The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.