1693 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Samuel Wesley

Nahum Tate, "To Mr. Samuel Wesley on his Divine Poem of the Life of Christ" Wesley, The Life of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1693) sig. b2-b2v.



As when some Prophet, who had long retir'd,
Returns from Solitude with Rapture fir'd,
With full Credentials made securely bold,
To listning Crowds do's Charmingly unfold
What Angels him in awful Visions told;
With wond'rous Truths surprizing ev'ry Brest,
His sacred Mission is by all Confest.
So you, great Bard, who lay till now conceal'd,
Compiling what your Heav'nly Muse reveal'd,
No sooner quit the Shade, but strike our Eyes
With Wonder, and our Mind with Exstasies.
Ev'n we, the Tribe who thought our selves inspir'd,
Like glimm'ring Stars in Night's dull reign admir'd;
Like Stars, a num'rous but a feeble Host,
Are gladly in your Morning-lustre lost.
When we (and few have been so well inclin'd)
In Songs attempted to Instruct Mankind,
From Nature's Law wee all our Precepts drew,
And ev'n her Sanctions oft perverted too;
Your sacred Muse do's Revelation trace;
And Nature is by you improv'd to Grace.
Verse is a Tribute due to sacred Writ,
But seldom paid, or, not in currant Wit;
The Undertakers fail in Zeal or Art,
They want the Genius, or they want the Heart:
To Crown your pious Off'ring both combine;
At once your Numbers and your Theme divine.
The Race of Poets, while a virtuous Train,
For Inspiration never call'd in vain;
But fail'd in Wit, their stock of Virtue spent,
And as they grew Debauch'd, grew Impotent.
'Tis in their own, and in Religion's wrong,
When Beauty, Wealth or Pow'r employ's their Song.
But if they trespass who are only Vain,
What Punishment's reserv'd for the Prophane!
How shall the Panders scape, who foul Desire,
In Poetry's alluring Charms attire?
Too guilty, while, like Emp'ricks they employ
Their baneful Skill, and privately destroy;
But when the publick Teeming Press they ply,
Thro' all the Realm their poyson'd Papers flie;
Not rural Nymphs are safe in their Retreats,
Th' Infection reaches the remotest Seats.
Who once the Poets Function thus betray,
What Helicon can wash their Saints away!
Such Lepers wou'd make Jordan's Stream impure,
But Jordan's Stream can ne'er such Lepers Cure.
What just Encomiums, Sir, must you receive,
Who Wit and Piety together weave.
No Altar your Oblation can refuse,
Who to the Temple bring a spotless Muse:
You, with fresh Laurels from Parnassus born,
Plant Sion's Hill, and Salem's Tow'rs adorn;
You break the Charms, and from prophane Retreats
Restore the Muses to their Native Seats.
Our leading Moses did this Task pursue,
And liv'd to have the Holy Land in view;
With vig'rous Youth to finish the Success,
Like Joshua you Succeed, and all Possess.
Deep Learning's Stores to raise this Pile are brought,
Bright Fancy after Judgment's Model wrought:
The vast Idea seem'd a subject fit
To exercise an able Poet's Wit;
But to Express, to Finish and Adorn,
Remain'd for you, who for this Work was Born.
The temper'd Stile not too remiss or strong,
But suited to the Subject of the Song;
Which, varying, always shews a Master's Skill,
Sweet as a Vale, or lofty as a Hill.
Here, pious Souls, what they did long desire,
Possess their dear Redeemer's Life intire:
Here, with whole Paradise regain'd they meet,
And Milton's noble Work is now compleat.
N. Tate.
June 28. 1693.