1745 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Samuel Say

William Duncombe, Preface, in Samuel Say, Poems (1745) iii-xv.



It may be proper to acquaint the Reader, that most of the following Poems were written in the Author's younger Years, chiefly as an Amusement from graver Studies, and never intended for the Press; But, after his Death, a Friend being desired to look over his Papers, and examine if there was anything of the Poetical kind, that might be acceptable to the Public, it was thought, on such Review, that this little Collection would be well received.

If the Reader will turn to what the Author has said in his Second Essay, p. 154, concerning the Idea he supposes HORACE to have pursued in his Satires and Epistles, viz. the pure and genuine Sense, without much Gloss or Ornament, yet the Accents still resting naturally on Those Words which are design'd to be Emphatical. But where HORACE is Harmonious, the Translator happily imitates him, being not unmindful of the Rule prescrib'd by one his Poetical Masters;

Your Author always will the Best advise;
Fall when he falls, and when he rises rise.
Earl of ROSCOMMON.

Some of the Poems on Moral and Divine Subjects are lively Paintings of the Author's humble, unambitious Mind; and others the Spontaneous Offering of a grateful Heart for the Grace and Goodness of GOD to Mankind in the Creation and Redemption of the World.

The Two Essays were drawn up about Seven Years ago, at the Request of Mr. RICHARDSON the Painter, who was pleased with Mr. SAY'S uncommon Way of Thinking on those Subjects.

The Author was the more careful to point out some of the Beauties in PARADISE REGAIN'D, in hopes of exciting a Curiosity to peruse That Poem, which, tho' supposed far inferior to PARADISE LOST in the General Plan, has, nevertheless, many shining Passages: And Some prefer the Fourth Book of PARADISE REGAIN'D to the latter Books of PARADISE LOST.

Mr. Say, as well as Mr. ADDISON, was a profest Admirer of CHEVY-CHASE. Whoever has the same Taste will be pleased to find the only Absurdity in that memorable Ballad, corrected here from the Old Edition of it printed by OTTERBURY in the Reign of HARRY the Sixth.

The Printer having desired some small Piece to compleat the last Sheet, it was thought that the Author's rational Account of the Scripture Sense of the Word PREACHING might be acceptable to the Reader.

It is not, perhaps, proper to attempt, in this Place, Mr. SAY'S Character as a Minister of the Gospel: And, besides, That has been already given by Dr. HUGHES in the Sermon preach'd on occasion of his Funeral: From which, however, I beg leave to quote a single Passage: The Words are these, "He never confined himself to the Sentiments of Any Party in the things of Religion; but followed wheresoever his Reason, his Conscience, and the Scriptures led him."

But it will not be thought foreign to the Office of an Editor of a Poetical Work, just to touch the Out-lines of his Character as a GENTLEMAN and a SCHOLAR.

He had great Candor and Good-breeding, without Stiffness or Formality, an Open Countenance, and a Temper always Communicative.

He was a tender Husband, an indulgent Father, and of a most benevolent Disposition; ever reader to do Good, and to relieve the Wants of the Distrest to the utmost Extent of his Fortune.

He was well versed in Astronomy and Natural Philosophy, had a Taste for Music and Poetry, was a good Critic, and a Master of the Classics. Yet with all these Accomplishments (so great was his Modesty!) his Name was scarce known but to a few select Friends. Among these, however, he thought himself happy that he could number the late Mr. JOHN HUGHES, Dr. WILLIAM HARRIS, Dr. ISAAC WATTS, &c.

He had such a Diffidence of his own Performances, that he never published above Two or Three Sermons; and Those were in a manner extorted from him by the Importunity of the Congregation. The Reader will not therefore be displeased to find here a Specimen of his Turn and Address in Preaching. The following Passages from his Manuscript Sermon will be sufficient to give some Idea of it.

THE DIFFERENT EFFECTS OF AN ARBITRARY AND A FREE GOVERNMENT: IN A SERMON PREACH'D SOON AFTER THE AUTHOR'S RETURN FROM A JOURNEY TO PARIS.

"We may observe therefore, here, the Difference between a Free People and a Nation of Slaves.

"In Countries that are Free, you may discern a Face of Riches, and an Air of Felicity amongst the meanest of the People; and wherever you go, you observe the sensible Effects of Trade and Commerce encouraged and secured. Every Spot of Ground is improved: The Valleys are raised; the Hills are levell'd; the crooked Places are made strait, and the rough are planed; Bounds are even set to the raging Ocean; and a Lake or Marsh becomes a rich and various Paradise of Pleasure. The Land is thick set with Cities every Hour of the Journey; and the Cities crowded with Inhabitants, while the Traveller, equally pleas'd and astonished, wonder by what secret Mines of Treasure, or by what Force and Magic of Policy, such vast Numbers are supported and maintained in so narrow a Compass; nor only maintained, but capable of dispensing and communicating from their own exuberant Wealth to all the Country round about 'em, that at once feeds, and is fed by them. On the other hand, in Kingdoms under the Power of Arbitrary Government, you see almost nothing but a general Appearance of Poverty and Misery; nothing but Rags and Nakedness, Beggary and Desolation from one End to the other; 'till you come to One proud City, the Court and Seat of the Tyrant, which devours all the Wealth of the Land, and builds it's own Greatness and Magnificence on the Calamity of many Provinces and whole Kingdoms, whose Treasures are drain'd to raise and support it. And, therefore, as Europe is the Seat of Liberty, we see also that it is the Seat of Power and Riches Superior to all the rest of the World, and that, by this single Advantage, the smallest, the most bleak, barren, and ragged Portion of the Earth is rendered preferable to all the Native Riches of the wider and more fertile East.

"And thus it will ever be, where every Man is secure that he toils for himself, that the Stranger shall not devour his Labours, and that the same Laws which guard the Prerogative of the Prince or the Power of the Magistrate, are the Guardians also of the Liberties and Properties of the People. For the rest, even the Wisdom of a SOLOMON could not join together the Luxury of a Court and the Felicity of the People. He made Silver and Gold, indeed, like the Stones in the Streets of Jerusalem; and yet, in the midst of all these Riches, Want and Poverty were the wretched Portion of his Subjects in the remoter Parts of his Kingdom."

FROM A FUNERAL SERMON, OCCASION'D BY THE DEATH OF A PROMISING YOUTH. THE TEXT I PETER I. 24 AND 25.

All Flesh is Grass, and all the Glory of Man as the Flower of Grass. The Grass withereth, and the Flower thereof falleth away:

But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever.

"If then all the richest Endowments of MIND, and all the most promising Advantages of the BODY are thus frail and uncertain, it follows of Necessity, that

"3dly. Such also must be all those Graces, those nameless and inexpressible Graces, which are the Result of a happy Mixture and Combination of both; and which accompany every Motion and Action; the Look and the silent Deportment of a lovely Body, which is informed and acted by a beautiful Mind. And even the Virtues of the Mind itself receive an additional Grace and Power to charm us, when they shew themselves in a beautiful Body. But then, 'tis a just Remark which some have made, that the true Complexion is wont to discover itself more in the Air than in the Features of the Body. We receive the general Shape and Lineaments of the Body, such as the Author of our Being hath been pleased to mould it; but the Soul itself describes and gives us, in the Air of every Feature, it's own inward Sentiments, Dispositions, and Habitudes: And, as it were, touches over all the Lines anew, brightens or mellows Colour, works off every Blemish and Deformity, and improves the Whole with new Charms and Graces.

"And I believe there are very few who have not made the Observation, that there is, in the very Countenances of some Persons, such an honest Openness, such a beautiful Simplicity, such an ingenious Modesty, and such a visible Sweetness of Temper and Manners, as steals, at first Sight, into the Heart of the Beholder, and prepares us to give 'em a ready and a pleasing Reception. And that these Endowments have a more irresistible Power to prepossess and bias the Judgment, in favour of younger Persons, who are not wont to disguise their inward Sentiments and Dispositions, and to put on the Colours and Imitations of Virtues, which they have not in Reality.

These advantages then, wherever they are found in any lovely Youth, add indeed to the BEAUTY of the Flower, but not therefore to the PERMANENCY of it."

THE VANITY OF ENDEAVOURING TO PERPETUATE OUR MEMORY IN THIS WORLD.

"In vain the laborious Master painted, (as he said) for ETERNITY: In vain the skilful Statuary inscrib'd his own Image into That of some Divinity which he carved in Stone, to transmit his Memory to latest Posterity: The Colours are long since faded; the Stone is moulder'd; or some rude Hand has defac'd and dash'd it to a thousand Pieces, without Remorse or Sense of th' inimitable Beauty.

"In Vain the proud Egyptian Tyrants endeavoured to raise a Monument of their Power and Greatness, which might last as long as the Earth itself: The Pile, indeed, stands; but the Name of the mighty Builder has been, many Ages since, forgotten: And as for all the rest of the boasted Wonder of the World, the very Ruins of them are lost and buried, and no Trace remains to shew us where Once thy stood!"

Some of the Moral Parts have been here only quoted from the Sermons, as seeming most suitable to the present Occasion.

Mr. SAY died, after a Week's Illness, of a Mortification in the Bowels, on the twelfth Day of April, 1753, and in the 68th Year of his Age. His whole Life was a fair Transcript of the Doctrine he taught, and he left this World with a full Conviction of those important Truths, which he had so long and so pathetically imprest on the Minds of Others, and with an entire Resignation to the Divine Will, supported by the Hopes of future Glory.

I shall take Leave of this amiable Man in the Words of BROUKHUSIUS, addrest to the Memory of his learned Friend GRAEVIUS. Among the Modern Latin Poets, BROUKHUSIUS was Mr. SAY'S Favourite; and the following Lines express the Editor's Own Sentiments in the most lively manner:

Cum tamen hoc esses, te Nemo modestius umquam
Est usus magni dotibus ingenii.
Mitis erat, ac pacis amans, animque quietem
Mens tua ventosis laudibus antetulit.
Non tua suscabant infames otia rixae:
Integer, et niveo pectore purus eras.
Civibus O gaude jam nunc adscripte larem.
O quem purpureo nova lumine gloria vestit,
O cui coelestes fas habitare domos:
Cantus ubi felix, & sine carentia semper
Gaudia, & ad dulces nablia nata modos!
Salve sancte Pater, nitidi novus incola Olympi,
Et nostro semper mactus amore, Vale.

—Such was thy Life, thy Learning such confest;
An humble Heart, with native Genius blest!
Lover of Peace, Peace did thy Footsteps guide
With more Content, than the tumultuous Tide
Of loud Applause can give — No Angry Strife
Ruffled the Tenor of thy Even Life.
Thy fair Example shone with mildest Light,
Pure as the falling Snow's Unsullied White!—
In purple Radiance clad, to Thee are giv'n
Mansions of Bliss; a Denison of Heav'n!
Where Joys on Joys in endless Circles move;
Where Saints, alternate, warble sacred Love,
And, join'd with Angels in One tuneful Choir,
Touch to their MAKER'S Praise, the Golden Lyre!—
Hail holy Father, New Adopted Guest
Of starry Realms! — still in My grateful Breast
The Dear Remembrance of thy Name shall rest.
April 6, 1745.
WM. DUNCOMBE.

POST-SCRIPT.

Mrs. SAY, the Author's worthy Relict, soon follow'd him to the other World. She fell asleep (for so it may be justly stiled, since she died of Lethargy, without any sensible Pain,) on the 9th of February 1744-45, and in the 71st Year of her Age.

They were lovely and pleasant in their Lives, nor in their Death were they long divided.

The Subscribers are oblig'd to Mr. RICHARDSON for the fine Head of MILTON, prefix'd to the Essay on the Numbers of PARADISE LOST, who lent the Plate etch'd by himself, to be used on this Occasion.