1709 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Samuel Wesley

Joseph Standen, "To Mr. W— on reading his Poems" Poetical Miscellanies: the Sixth Part (1709) 574-80.



Hail Heav'n-born Muse, that with celestial Flame,
And high Seraphic Numbers, durst attempt
To gain thy native Skies. — No common Theme
Merits thy Thought, Self-conscious of a Soul
Superior; though on Earth detain'd a while,
Like some propitious Angel, that's design'd
A Resident in this inferior Orb,
To guide the wandring Souls to heav'nly Bliss,
Thou seem'st; while Thou their everlasting Songs
Hast sung to mortal Ears, and down to Earth
Transfer'd the Work of Heav'n. With Thought sublime,
And high sonorous Words, Thou sweetly sing'st
Above the reach of vulgar Eyes or Thought,
Hymning th' Eternal Father: As of old,
When first th' Almighty from the dark Abyss
Of everlasting Night and Silence call'd
The shining Worlds with one creating Word,
And rais'd from nothing all the heav'nly Hosts,
And with eternal Glories fill'd the Void;
Harmonious Seraphs turn'd their Golden Harps,
And with their chearful Hallelujahs bless'd
The bounteous Author of their Happiness:
From Orb to Orb th' alternate Musick rang,
And from the chrystal Arches of the Sky
Reach'd our then glorious World, the native Seat
Of the first happy Pair, who join'd their Songs
To the loud Echoes of th' Angelic Choirs,
And fill'd with blissful Hymns terrestrial Heav'n,
The Paradise of God; where all Delights
Abounded, and the pure ambrosial Air,
Fann'd by mild Zephyrs breath'd ethereal Sweets
Forbidding Death and Sorrow; and bestow'd
Fresh heavn'ly Bloom, and gay immortal Youth.

Not so, alas! the vile Apostate Race,
Who in mad Joys their brutal Hours employ'd,
Assaulting with their impious Blasphemies
The Pow'r supreme that gave 'em Life and Breath:
Incarnate Fiends! Outragious they defy'd
Th' Eternal's Thunder, and Almighty Wrath
Fearless provok'd; which all the other Devils
Wou'd dread to meet, remembring well the Day,
When, driv'n from pure immortal Seats above,
A fiery Tempest hurl'd 'em down the Skies,
And hung upon their Rear, urging their Fall
To the dark, deep, unfathomable Gulph;
Where, bound on sulph'rous Lakes to glowing Rocks
With Adamantine Chains, they wail their Woes,
And know Jehovah great as well as Good;
And, fix'd for ever by eternal Fate,
With Horror find his Arm Omnipotent.

Prodigious Madness! That the sacred Muse,
First taught in Heav'n to mount immortal Heights,
And trace the boundless Glories of the Sky,
Should now to ev'ry Idol basely bow,
And curse the Deity she once adorn'd,
Erecting Trophies to each sordid Vice,
And celebrating the infernal Praise
Of haughty Lucifer, the desp'rate Foe
Of God and Man; and winning ev'ry Hour
New Votaries to Hell; while all the Fiends
Hear these accursed Lays, and thus out-done
Raging they try to match the human Race,
Redoubling all their hellish Blasphemies,
And with loud Curses rend the gloomy Vault.

Ungrateful Mortals! Ah! too late you'll find
What 'tis to banter Heav'n and laugh at Hell,
To dress up Vice in false delusive Charms,
And with gay Colours paint her hideous Face,
Leading besotted Souls thro' flowry Paths,
In gawdy Dreams, and vain fantastic Joys,
To dismal Scenes of everlasting Woe;
When the great Judge shall rear his awful Throne,
And raging Flames surround the trembling Globe;
While the loud Thunders roar from Pole to Pole,
And the last Trump awakes the sleepy Dead;
And guilty Souls, to ghastly Bodies driv'n,
Within those dire external Prisons shut,
Expect their sad inexorable Doom.
Say now, ye Men of Wit! what Turn of Thought
Will please you then? alas! how dull and poor
(Ev'n to your selves) will your lewd Flights appear!
How will you envy then the happy Fate
Of Ideots! And perhaps in vain you'll wish
You'd been as very Fools as once ye thought
Others, for the sublimest Wisdom scorn'd;
When pointed Lightnings from the wrathful Judge
Shall singe your impious Laurels, and the Men
Who thought they flew so high shall fall so low.

No more, my Muse, of these tremendous Thoughts,
Resume thy more delightful Theme, and sing
Th' immortal Man that with immortal Verse
Rivals the Hymns of Angels, and like them
Despises mortal Criticks idle Rules:
While the celestial Flame that warms thy Soul
Inspires us, and with holy Transports moves
Our lab'ring Minds, and nobler Scenes presents
Than all the Pagan Poets ever sung,
Homer or Virgil; and far sweeter Notes
Than Horace ever taught his sounding Lyre,
And purer far; tho' Martial's Self might seem
A modest Poet in our Christian Days.
May these neglected, and forgotten lye:
No more let Men be fond of fab'lous Gods,
Nor Heathen Wit debauch one Christian Line;
While with the coarse and daubing Paint we hide
The shining Beauties of eternal Truth,
Who in her native Dress appears most bright,
And charms the Eyes of Angels. — Oh! like Thee,
Let ev'ry nobler Genius tune his Voice
To Subjects worthy of their tow'ring Thoughts.
Let Heav'n and ANNA then your tuneful Art
Improve; and consecrate your deathless Lays
To Him who reigns above, and Her who rules below.