ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION
, "On the ensuing Poems of Mr. John Oldham, and the Death of his good Friend the ingenious Author" Oldham, Remains (1684) sigs. A2v-A3v.
1684: John Dryden
1684: Thomas Flatman
1684: Nahum Tate
1684: Thomas D'Urfey
1700: Samuel Cobb
1709: Dr. William Coward
1709: Rev. Isaac Watts
1712: Bezaleel Morrice
1728 ca.: Alexander Pope
1779: Rev. Vicesimus Knox
1791: William Gifford
1806: William Taylor of Norwich
1808: Sir Walter Scott
1824: Bryan Waller Procter
1872: William Cullen Bryant
1880: A. W. Ward
1684: John Oldham
1690: John Milton
Obscure and cloudy did the day appear,
As Heaven design'd to blot it from the year;
The Elements all seem'd to disagree,
At least, I'm sure, they were at strife in me:
Possest with Spleen, which Melancholy bred,
When Rumor told me that my Friend was dead,
That Oldham honour'd for his early Worth,
Was cropt, like a sweet Blossom from the Earth,
Where late he grew, delighting every Eye
In his rare Garden of Philosophy.
The fatal Sound new Sorrows did infuse,
And all my Griefs were doubled at the News:
For we with mutual Arms of Friendship strove,
Friendship the true and solid part of Love;
And he so many Graces had in store,
That Fame or Beauty could not bind me more.
His Wit in his immortal Verse appears,
Many his Vertues were, tho' few his Years;
Which were so spent as if by Heaven contriv'd,
To lash the Vices of the longer liv'd.
None was more skilful, none more learn'd than he,
A Poet in its sacred Quality:
Inspir'd above, and could command each Passion,
Had all the Wit without the Affectation.
A Calm of Nature still possest his Soul,
No canker'd Envy did his Breast controul:
Modest as Virgins that have never known
The jilting Breeding of the nauseous Town;
And easie as his Numbers that sublime
His lofty Strains, and beautifie his Rhime,
Till the Time's Ignomy inspir'd his Pen,
And rowz'd the drowsie Satyr from his Den;
Then fluttering Fops were his Aversion still,
And felt the Power of his Satyrick Quill.
The Spark whose Noise proclaims his empty Pate,
That struts along the Mall with antick Gate;
And all the Phyllis and the Chloris Fools
Were damn'd by his invective Muse in Shoals.
Who on the Age look'd with impartial Eyes,
And aim'd not at the Person, but the Vice.
To all true Wit he was a constant Friend,
And as he well could judge, could well commend.
The mighty Homer he with Care perus'd,
And that great Genius to the World infus'd;
Immortal Virgil, and Lucretius too,
And all the Seeds o' th' Soul his Reason knew:
Like Ovid, could the Ladies Hearts assail,
With Horace sing, and lash with Juvenal.
Unskill'd in nought that did with Learning dwell,
But Pride to know he understood it well.
Adieu thou modest Type of perfect Man;
Ah, had not thy Perfections that began
In Life's bright Morning been eclips'd so soon,
We all had bask'd and wanton'd in thy Noon;
But Fate grew envious of thy growing Fame,
And knowing Heav'n from whence thy Genius came,
Assign'd thee by immutable Decree
A glorious Crown of Immortality,
Snatch't thee from all thy mourning Friends below,
Just as the Bays were planting on thy Brow.
Thus worldly Merit has the Worlds Regard;
But Poets in the next have their Reward;
And Heaven in Oldham's Fortune seem'd to show,
No Recompence was good enough below:
So to prevent the Worlds ingrateful Crimes,
Enrich'd his Mind, and bid him die betimes.