1731 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Matthew Pilkington

William Dunkin, "To the Reverend Mr. Matthew Pilkington, on the Progress of Musick, and his other Poems" Pilkington, Poems on Several Occasions (1731) ix-xiv.



Behold, the Father of poetic Fire,
Once more awakes the consecrated Lyre,
Commands his Son to touch the solemn Chords,
And temper Wit with Art, and Sound with Words;
To tune Ierne's ancient Harp, and raise
Ausonian Music in Britannic Lays;
To melt the tender Fair, to rouse the Brave,
To glad the Gay, and entertain the Grave.

Victorious Rome, her tow'ring Eagles bore
Over Britannia to th' Atlantic Shore;
Her deathless Warriors in pursuit of Fame,
Fir'd with the Glory of the Latian Name,
Far as they shook their Spears, or wing'd their Darts,
What they destroy'd by Arms, repair'd by Arts:
Ierne then unciviliz'd and rude
Remain'd — Ierne was not then subdu'd:
But now by Britain, and by Time encreas'd,
Her Manners brighten where her Triumphs ceas'd;
The God of Numbers, and the God of Light
Rescues our Poets from the Shades of Night,
Thro' Norther Climes his Glance divine displays,
Ripens our Judgment, and sublimes our Lays.

As in a finish'd Picture, something new
Is still presented to the second View,
Some Master-strokes of Art, which duly raise
Fresh Funds of Wonder, and Reserves of Praise;
So in thy Poems exquisitely wrought,
With all the Charms of Art, and Strength of Thought,
New Beauties still the ravish'd Fancy strike,
And still the more we read, the more we like.
Such are the various Beauties of thy Song,
Soft as Anacreon, and as Pindar strong:
Whether in lofty Notes you touch the Strings,
The Hill re-echoes, and the Valley rings;
Or tune in gentler Lays the breathing Lyre,
The Nymphs are ravish'd, and the Swains admire:
Apollo kindles the superior Flame,
And all the Sisters animate the Theme:
Pluck'd from the sacred Grove, the Laurel-Bough
Adorns thy Verse, nor withers on thy Brow;
The boasted Glories of the mighty Nine,
Blest Bard! are all epitomiz'd in thine.

Thus from their Parent Orb, for ever bright,
The streaming Rays of first-created Light,
Diffusely scatter'd thro' our Hemisphere,
Descending sicken in the grosser Air;
But call'd by Newton's Glass, the various Seeds
Are first attracted, as the Focus feeds;
'Till all the Particles collected shine,
And, blazing, prove their Origin divine.
But yet, undaunted Youth, tho' fond to raise,
By honourable Means, immortal Praise,
Yet, yet suspect from thy triumphal Car,
The Shocks of Envy, and the critic War:
Reflect upon the public Poet's Curse,
Of wedding Fame for better or for worse.
Be not transported with the sudden Blast
Of Praise, which flatters now, and now is past,
In Censure or Applause be still the same,
Nor sacrifice thy Quiet to thy Fame.
Whoever Bard or Patriot will commence,
Must serve the Public at his own Expence.
See Pope and Gay, (nor yet the World asham'd!)
This unrewarded, and the other blam'd!
Lo! sprightly Prior in the Dust prophan'd,
And the chast Urn by Hands polluted stain'd:
Great Milton, whose exalted Muse cou'd rise
Alone, to speak the Language of the Skies,
Cou'd scarce receive for all his Book of Fame,
What the disdainful Muse relents to name.
O! ever-injur'd Bard! ungrateful Age!
How great the Worth of his illumin'd Page!
May you, like him, enrich our native Isle
With Thought sublime, and Majest of Stile,
In Art and Nature equally compleat,
Like him excel — but meet a nobler Fate.
July 22, 1730.