1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hamilton Reid

Tom, "A Reply to the Lines addressed to Tom, signed W. H. R." Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (6 April 1787).



Sure Billy, you seem to be in a sad passion,
Or is it the truth of your dissimulation;
If your conscience is clear like the Castalian stream,
Why then like a guilty thing start thus in a dream,
And trudge to Parnassus to inquire of some maid
If Tom, a small Poet, had a visit there paid,
The biforked high mountain you say you search'd o'er,
But no tidings of him cou'd you gain on that shore;
Declamation's base sword you then drew from its sheath,
And swift like a poor frantic rav'd wild o'er the heath;
Sure insanity hath with your wits made a sport,
Or you'd sought him and found him you know in Smith's-court,
But you say the gay Thalia — ah! bless me, that's right,
She there met you, when pausing — remember the wight,
Then she told you (her favourite) for to persevere,
But you'll pardon me, Billy, you never was there,
For this lady, believe me, she's courteous to none
That e'er pilfers a laurel another has won,
For had you been there with your grave-pillag'd wreath,
The chastening broom you know grows on the heath,
And there is not a doubt but brisk Thalia the fair
With a fresh gather'd birch wou'd have tickl'd you there;
But if in the midst of her well-ply'd correction,
The voice of Philaster had gave new reflection;
Of some of your spangles you must then have been shorn,
And divested of all the bright beauties of morn;
As for the advice of your dusty-fly fable,
Was you to apply it 'twould furnish your table.
But this I would have you remember my friend,
That like you the proud Icarus strove to ascend,
And with high presumption would have flown to the sun,
But his fine-feather'd wings they were only wax'd on,
When the wax melting quick as a soaring was he,
His gay pinions dropp'd off, and he fell in the sea.
April 4.

[Reid had written on 2 April:
With no little surprise an insidious intent
I perceiv'd in return where no person was meant,
For I could not imagine the wounding of fame,
Where Parnassus had never acknowledg'd the name!
Yet supposing it might 'mongst the heathwood be found,
I travers'd the mountain around and around,
When Thalia so gay who my errand suspected,
With her hand on her forehead at length recollected,
That there had been a Tom, a pert arrogant wight,
Oft attempting the mount under cover of night;
But as soon as Apollo emitted a ray,
Like a will o' the wisp he would vanish away;
Then conjur'd me if that I'd her favourite preserve,
Her friendly injunctions I still would observe,
And only admonish poor Tom to apply
That pertinent fable concerning the fly,
Who, encircled with dust on the swift chariot wheel,
Was thus heard to express his intemperate zeal
To the pitiful croud that the insect survey'd,
See my consequence now — What a dust I have made!]