1808 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

John Herman Merivale, "To a Lady, with the Continuation of Beattie's Minstrel" 1808 ca.; Poems Original and Translated (1838) 1:137-39.



Hoping thro' fields of fierce forensic war
The steep whence fame's proud temple shines afar
To gain, no more the humble Minstrel's lay,
Though often summon'd, will my call obey.
In gayer hours, by fairy visions drest,
The muse with rapture fill'd my youthful breast,
Whose health, and peace, and competence my aim,
I shrank to hear the obstreperous trump of fame;
With Edwin loved to trace the haunted stream,
O'er the white torrent gazed in bliss supreme,
Hung, mutely joyful, on the mountain's side,
Nor knew more transport than those scenes supplied.

E'en now, when you my youthful efforts praise,
And ask the tribute of my minstrel lays,
My random pearls I would again unite,
And string a jewel worthy of thy sight.
—In vain — the muse, disdainful of my prayer,
From her high throne thus thunders in my ear:
"Stay thy rash hand! These gems, my special care,
None but a true devoted bard may wear;
These fields, by Beattie till'd, by Edwin trod,
Yield not to rebel feet their sacred sod;
This Eden yet some favour'd bard may share—
—No flaming sword shall fright Eliza here;
But thou! — rebellious to my sovereign sway,
Bear thy rude steps and daring hands away!
Go, vow submission to the power I hate!
Go, swell the suppliants at ambition's gate!
Seek the throng'd bar, full wig, and flowing gown,
The miry streets and dingy walls of town!
And, when thy goddess hides her spurious fires,
When law provokes to sleep, and business tires,
Put on, to soothe thy spleen, my German bonnet,
Write tales of wonder, or some limping sonnet,
And think, with earth-born insolence o'er-run,
The muse still favours an apostate son!"

While such the answer to my humble suit,
In vain I gape to catch each poetic fruit;
Yet when my early love, not yet subdued,
Returns to frown upon my solitude,
I seek to make a compromise with fate,
And think repentance never comes too late.
Perhaps ambition may my suit repel,
And lofty honour scorn my humble cell;
The golden fruit elude my venturous hand,
And melt, my vision of the promised land:
No sapient coif may light upon my head,
No honour'd silk be o'er my shoulders spread.
Then disappointed, jostled, press'd, subdued,
While dolts and knaves before my face intrude,
Wearied with watchings, and with labour spent,
A prey to care and fruitless discontent,
May I, to pass my disregarded age,
Find out at eve some peaceful hermitage!
When true repentance aids my suit, the muse
Her humble suppliant may no more refuse,
But heal the wounds by foil'd ambition made
With balm fresh gather'd in her laurel shade,
Teach me to pour again my soul in song
With powers more ripen'd, and a voice more strong,
Again draw gentle Edwin forth to view,
And make the minstrel strain more worthy you.