1723 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Steele

Anonymous, "To Sir Richard Steele, on his Comedy, The Conscious Lovers" 1723 ca.; D. Lewis, Miscellaneous Poems by Several Hands (1726) 66-70.



Accept the Muse, which Love and Wonder raise
To hail thy Labours, and attend thy Praise;
Her lowlier Voice, amidst th' applauding Throng,
O deign to hear, and patronize her Song:
What Thou approv'st, That She aspires to be,
And only lives to Virtue, and to Thee.

Too long have Pride, Impiety, and Rage,
And all the Pomp of Vice usurp'd the Stage;
Our Modern Muse made modern Ways her Choice,
And lent to Scenes impure her Heav'nly Voice;
Alike degenerate both, the Stage and Times
Transpos'd and authoriz'd each other's Crimes,
Each still reflected each, with mutual Skill,
And vy'd in all th' Alternatives of Ill.

'Tis Thine, O Steele, to touch the Muse with Shame,
To point her Course, and call forth antient Fame.
To teach the Stage whence noblest Praise should rise,
And bring Angelic Virtue to our Eyes:
On Vice triumphant Thou disdain'st to fawn,
And art the Christian Heroe thou hast drawn.

To mend Mankind has been thy constant Aim,
Fond to inform, but fonder to Reclaim.
Hence lately thy Spectators charm'd the Age,
Hence now thy Conscious Lovers grace the Stage.
Such Lovers as solicit Virtue's Cause,
And fill our Theatre with just Applause;
In Them each Sex their true Perfections view,
Each have the loveliest Pattern to pursue.
The British Fair, thy finish'd Model shown,
By Indiana's Conduct set their own;
Our Youths their darling Fopp'ries all resign,
And own th' Accomplish'd Man at last is Thine.

On thy Designs what Revolutions wait!
Thou great Reformer of the Moral State.
All Manners, see! to Thy Decrees submit,
Nor Rage is Honour, nor Grimace is Wit;
The Hate of Morals, and the Scorn of Arts,
Distinguish now no more the Man of Parts.
Esteem forsakes the Arrogant and Vain,
And recognizes Merit once again;
The World no longer Right and Wrong confounds,
And Vice and Virtue know their antient Bounds.

So some most exquisite Machine (design'd
Perhaps in Archimede's or Tycho's Mind)
If by Abuse, and our Defect of Art,
It move irregular in every part,
Explor'd by Newton's Philosophic Eyes,
Through all its Movements into Order flys;
Again instructs the Mind, and charms the Sight,
While corresponding Nature speaks it right.

Pursue thy darling Theme, with pious Care,
And gratulate, O Muse, the happy Fair.
No longer They precarious Loves commence,
The Men that please are now the Men of Sense;
None will the Good and Innocent explode,
Since Probity and Conscience pass to Mode;
Only the Worthy dare to Beauty sue,
And loveliest Hearts are destin'd for the true.
Again are heard the learn'd, and view'd the plain;
And Fops and Beaux are trifling now in vain.
See! Truth and Honour sway the female Breast;
And Toasts themselves vouchsafing to be blest.

Proceed, O Steele! these Blessings to impart,
And be thy Hand as bounteous as thy Heart.
Long may'st Thou live, at last to leave behind
More Copies still of thy extensive Mind:
More of thy self, much more O yet bestow,
Ere Thou art what thy Addison is now.
When his great Soul attain'd the Seats Divine,
Her other self remain'd, and shone in thine;
But when thy meritorious Toils shall end,
And Thou shalt pass to Glory and thy Friend,
Mankind Thy total Absence must bemoan,
And trace their Guardian in thy Works alone.