1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Mason

Richard Polwhele, "An Epistle from the Reverend William Mason, to the Right Honourable William Pitt, Chancellor of the Exchequer: petitioning for the vacant Laureateship; April 23, 1785" Biographical Sketches in Cornwall (1831) 3:23-25.



High patriot son of Him whom Britain placed
To reign sole master of the subject waste,
Hear, son of Chatham (if perchance thine ears
Drink other homage than of new-made Peers)
O! whether fervid in Ierne's cause,
Or fir'd with images of Indian laws—
Or big with projects of Reform, the throng
Thou whelmest with the torrent of thy tongue;
O hear a bard, by no wild wishes sway'd,
The pensive bard of "Aston's secret shade;"
Who, crown'd with no fair meed, drags life along,
The jest of fools, that parodied his song;
And butt of pilf'ring booksellers, that cite,
(Yet not unpunish'd) from his copy-right!

But ah! I never knew, like some, to fawn—
Like some, now strutting in the Prelate's lawn.
Not that I envy their proud pageantry,
For I, like Balguy, would have scorn'd a see;
Content, while "harpies tear Britannia's breast,"
"While cringing Bishops bow and bless the feast,"
Here, in these solitudes to wooe the Nine,
"'Midst huddling brooks, and torrent-falls divine."
Yet oft, when Memory to my soul pourtrays
The picture of irrevocable days,
Where Hurd and D'Arcy bore so large a part,
The fond admirers of my tuneful art—
Alas! full oft I feel the rising sigh,
When Hurd, who erst could flatter, now looks shy;
And still — still more embitter'd my distress,
To lose my once warm patron, Heldernesse!
Oh! that my Gray were yet alive to raise
The pealing anthem of his Mason's praise!
How long we chanted, true to friendship's cause,
Responses of reciprocal applause!

But come, propitious Muse! aspire to fill
The noblest station of the Aonian hill,
And in the transport of thy Sybil fit
Purchase for D'Arcy's frowns, the smiles of Pitt!
Come, with the high distinction flush'd, presume
To light anew the Laureate's blasted bloom,
And, in the splendor of the regal rays,
Weave the fair wreath, and consecrate the bays!

And sure, if ever happiest genius glow'd
Thro' the rich structure of a birth-day ode,
Or, soothing to a Monarch's prick'd up ear,
Hail'd the first blushes of the new-born year,
For five long lustres changing, still the note,
In all the fine varieties of thought—
That genius shall illume my every line,
And all those fine varieties be mine!
Witness my ode of true Pindaric strain,
That sings or says, "'Tis May's meridian reign;"
And "proud, O Pitt, to celebrate thy spring,"
"Sighs, that no daisies blow, no cuckoos sing!"
Thus then, how easy on the fourth of June,
To deprecate the feverish flame of noon,
While the cool metaphor so softly plays,
Caught from "the first of April," thro' the blaze!

And oh! if smiling on thy Poet's prayer
Thou stick the Laureate-bayleaves in his hair,
To sound thy name my odes shall never fail,
Or at the head, the middle or the tail;
And bid "thy father's heaven-wove robe" embrace
Thy members — whether in or-out-of place;
Whilst o'er thy sinking fund, "by seraphs roll'd,"
He rains aethereal chink — from "clouds of gold."
Yes! — tho' thou fail to pay a nation's debt,
Thy presence shall adorn the cabinet,
And glow, while brother-brains feel leaden night,
New-moulded to a minister of — light!
E'en, tho', "ingenuous boy!" thy destiny
Doom thee in dark Ierne's gulph to die.

Tell, then, thy Sovereign (if his will incline
To let the Laureate's luxury be mine,
Assur'd with Horace, that no bard shou'd lack
The sweet enjoyment of a butt of sack)
Tell him — that if I soar not like a Pindar,
May lightning blast my pinions to a cinder!
Tell him — that blazoning the high new year's day
My Muse shall more than Whitehead's worth display;
And with a flight, to shame the trivial themes
Of war-worn armies, or a nation's dreams,
Triumph, as oft she pictures to his view
"That work to wonder at" — imperial Kew!
Tell him — her heart shall glory, thro' her lays
Associate of his hunts, to trace the maze!
Tell him, in fine, his favors to repay,
Her zeal shall tear Macgregor's mask away,
And crush the monster, who shall dare asperse
Scenes, that shall flourish in my living verse;
While Genius hastes to hang with fadeless flowers
"Thy throne, O Albion, and thy laureate bowers!"