1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Montagu

William Cowper, "On the beautiful Feather-Hangings, designed for Mrs. Montagu" Gentleman's Magazine 58 (June 1788) 542.



The Birds put off their ev'ry hue,
To dress a room for MONTAGU.
The Peacock sends his heav'nly dyes,
His Rainbows and his Starry eyes;
The Pheasant, plumes which round infold
His mantling neck with downy gold;
The cock his arch'd tails' azure show,
And river-blanch'd the swan his snow.
All tribes beside of Indian name
That glossy shine or vivid flame,
Where rises, and where sets the day,
Whate'er they boast of rich or gay
Contribute to the gorgeous plan,
Proud to advance it all they can.

This plumage, neither dashing show'r,
Nor blasts that shake the dripping bow'r,
Shall drench again or discompose,
But screen'd from ev'ry storm that blows,
It wears a splendour ever new,
Safe with protecting Montagu.

To the same Patroness resort
(Secure of favour at her court)
Strong Genius, from whose forge of thought
Forms rise, to quick perfection wrought,
Which, though new-born, with vigour move,
Like Pallas springing arm'd from Jove—

Imagination, scatt'ring round
Wild roses over furrow'd ground
While labour of his frowns beguile,
And teach Philosophy a smile—

Wit, flashing on Religion's side,
Whose fires to sacred Truth applied
The gem though luminous before
Commend to human notice more,
Like sun-beams on the golden height
Of some tall temple playing bright—

Well-tutor'd Learning, from his books
Dismiss'd with grave, nor haughty looks,
Their order on his shelves exact,
Nor more harmonious or compact
Than that to which he keeps confin'd
The various treasures of his mind—

All these to MONTAGU'S repair
Ambitious of a shelter there.

There, Genius, Learning, Fancy Wit,
Their ruffled plumage, calm, refit,
(For stormy troubles loudest roar
Around their flight who highest soar)
And in her eye and by her aid
Shine safe, without a fear to fade.

She thus maintains divided sway
With yon bright Regent of the Day.
The plume and poet both, we know,
Their lustre to his influence owe,
And she, the work of Phoebus aiding,
Both Poet saves and Plume from fading.