1770 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Pennant

Richard Fenton, "To Thomas Pennant, Esq. whilst making his Tour of Wales" 1770; Poems (1790) 2:123-29.



Whilst thy bold genius tempts thee to explore
Paths yet untravell'd, scenes unknown before;
To freshen every trace round CAMBRIA'S coast,
Of all she had, and yet retains, to boast;
And in thy passion for thy native soil,
Is lost the sense of danger and of toil.
Whether thy journey o'er her Alps may lead,
Or less advent'rous o'er the subject mead;
Wash'd by that stream to which SABRINA gave
Her name, the purchase of a wat'ry grave;
Or near the fount, whose salutary flood
Has purg'd the stain of WINIFREDA'S blood:
Whate'er it may delight thee most to stray,
Admit my muse companion of thy way.
If e'er unbent thy hardy mind is brought,
To seek vacation from intenser thought;
And 'twere not to presume that verse like mine,
Should minister to leisure as thine.
And oh! forgive that in exotic lays,
A BRITON should attempt a BRITON'S praise.
Oh! could I string ANEURIN'S epic lyre,
Or catch one spark of TALIESSIN'S fire,
Then to the skies my strains should bear thy name,
The bard and language equal to thy fame;
But like the torpid paralytic frame,
Beneath the influence of th' electric flame;
By British subjects nerv'd the Saxon tongue,
Shall feel itself with firmer sinews strung.

Let SNOWDON'S caverns catch the muse's voice,
And teach old CONWAY'S echoes to rejoice;
And let the DEE imbibe the grateful strain,
Rolling in prouder triumph to the main,
For lo! a native champion now appears,
To challenge CAMBRIA from the wreck of years,
And give her to the world's astonish'd view,
Restor'd to all her greatness, dress'd anew.

From CARADOC, triumphant in his chains,
Through a long series of illustrious reigns;
To trace the princes of the CAMBRIAN line,
To count her heroes and her bards is thine.
'Tis thine to seek the spot, where, shrunk to rest,
The lion lies, that rag'd in GLYNDWR'S breast;
That most undaunted hero of his time,
Like his own mountains, fitted to the clime;
And form'd, like them, invincible to stand,
And frown untam'd the bulwark of his land.
The pangs of dying freedom to recall,
And dignify the brave LLEWLLIN'S fall!
Or paint BONDUCA, nicely quick to feel,
And punish ROMAN violence with her steel!
Queen, heroine, parent, meeting to inspire
Her breast with more than Amazonian fire;
Too much a BRITON to survive her wrong,
Who lives for ever in the poet's song.

Ye cloud-capt summits! soften your ascent
To meet the traveller, and his toil prevent;
Ye forests more umbrageous be display'd,
And greet him with a reverential shade;
And when the hand of sleep his lids shall close,
May pleasing visions sweeten his repose;
With soft illusion o'er his senses stray,
And be his night the reflex of his day.
His couch in solemn state let bards surround,
Whose harps with more than mortal airs resound;
And whilst, in all the majesty of verse,
The visionary minstrel shall rehearse,
Ere gold could bribe, or faction could divide,
How like one man our fathers fought and died;
And dying, hop'd a race might ne'er succeed,
Afraid to fight for liberty, and bleed;
Oft let him start, enraptur'd with the theme,
And wake to prove the patriot of his dream.

To trace thy country's glories to their source,
What toils, what dangers, have not mark'd thy course?
Which to recount, confounds the giddy brain,
And asks th' assistance of a nobler strain;
E'en fancy shudders at the dizzy height,
From which was stretch'd thy philosophic sight.
To view the torrent which, with headlong sweep,
Precipitates adown RHAIADR'S steep;
And foams impetuous on, from rock to rock,
Deaf'ning the whirlwind's less sonorous shock.
Above those vapours, which from vulgar eyes
Hide the pure sapphire of the upper skies,
Thou hast enjoy'd the more unclouded scene
Of MOELY FAMMAU, 'midst the blue serene;
The war of elements beneath thee hurl'd,
Lost in the distant murmurs of the world.
Fearless hast climb'd PLINLIMMON'S arduous side,
Where three fam'd rivers boast their urns supplied.
SEVERN and WYE, in fairy mazes led,
And RHEIDIOL rushing through his rocky bed,
Impatient to receive his YSTWITH'S train,
And make his speedier entry to the main.
Nor hast thou shunn'd the CADER'S rigid brow,
Aw'd by his breast of rock, and front of snow.

With step intrepid thou hast dar'd to tread,
Where PENMANMAWR hung nodding o'er thy head;
Whose scars and rifted entrails still disclose,
Eternal marks of nature's ancient throes;
Mountain on mountain, most stupendous pil'd,
Gigantic ruin! and convulsion wild!
Tremendous path! but yet with pleasure trod,
By him whose mind it leads to nature's God!
'Tis thine with curious search through vales profound,
Where scarce a human vestige can be found
To pierce those depths, where once the Druid train
In jealous darkness pour'd the mystic strain;
Where the stern priest inforc'd and plann'd his laws,
Or hymn'd sublimely wild, th' ETERNAL CAUSE!

To give his prospect to thy favour'd sight,
Lo! SNOWDON rears his more aereal height;
Majestic Snowdon! from whose regal frown
Retiring mountains sink in homage down;
The scenes he opens, in remoter lands,
No other giant-son of earth commands.
While the fam'd Alps here weep o'er heroes graves,
Trampled by ITALY'S buffoons and slaves!
Here shade the GAUL, in blood and guilt involv'd,
Each link of social unity dissolv'd.
Or here the ruffian SWISS, the sword who draws,
The hir'd assassin of each proffer'd cause:
Thy mountain, PENNANT, sees with happier view,
A blended race the pride of ROME renew;
Sees his own CAMBRIA straiten'd now no more,
Flow with returning tide round BRITAIN'S shore.
Sees arms and arts respect their proper end,
While these improve the land, and those defend;
Sees kingly pow'r with man's best rights combin'd
By laws asserted, and by laws confin'd;
Sees all asserted, and supporting rise,
Where, for the whole, th' impartial plan supplies
The virtue of the good, the wisdom of the wise:
White with the fleece his hills — with grain his vales,
His peopled seas with traffic's pregnant sails
Th' exulting monarch sees, and through the whole,
While conscious safety shoots, prolific soul!
Views science, genius of the scene, arise,
With searching eye explore his soil and skies,
Court Nature here, and, with ambitious aim,
Through distant realms pursue the flying dame;
Then to his feet the willing captive lead,
And thence diffuse o'er earth her radiant breed:
Proud SNOWDON sees — and on his PENNANT'S name
Careless of meaner honours, rests for fame!