1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Frank Sayers

John Wolcot, "To Dr. Sayers, Author of the Dramatic Sketches of Ancient Northern Mythology" Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (10 July 1790).



I thank thee, Doctor, for thy Sketches;
Not that a presentation copy
(Gifts at which many a needy Author catches)
Climb'd the Parnassus of my garret-lobby,
Serving at noon my feasted soul to please,
At night to purchase bread and cheese.
Alas! I was not quite so cheaply treated.
Yet tho' a half-crown and a splendid shilling
Crept from my flaccid purse unwilling,
And all my savoury hopes of dinner
For lean to morrow have defeated,
I thank thee, I repeat it;
For by the bargain, faith! I am a winner.

I'm sick of Venus and the Graces,
They seem to have bespoken places
In every sonnet, ode, and song;
And with their tedious grimaces
Have play'd us off too long.
Must every storm from Neptune come!
All thunder from Jove's kettle-drum?
And Poets ever with plump Bacchus drink
In their ideal world divine,
Unknown to real wine?
If that's to be the case, I think
Apollo and the Nine
Had better rot; like duck-weed, on the brink
Of Helicon, where they so oft recline.
There's not a Poetaster now a days
But knows the Greek mythology by rote,
And with unbashful finger dares to raise
Even Pallas' under petticoat.

I'm sick of Milton and his Angels,
Since Dr. Watts's, and such fancies,
On the same track have been to range Hell's
Broad brimstone walks, and lime expanses;
And, borne on the balloon of love seraphic,
Or rather on the greasy wing of traffic,
Have seen, how plac'd in order serviceable,
In velvet caps of amaranth made,
Round the blue cloth of Heaven's high council-table
A club of Angels sit, like Lords of trade,
Striving a more than Gordian knot t' untie,
The dark arithmetic of trinal unity:
While on wet clouds, like dish-clouts hung around,
The duck-wing'd cherubs mightily abound,
And the nice ears of higher powers to tickle—
Their pennons panting exultation,
Their childish foreheads sweating inspiration,
(Bright image of an earthly conventicle!)
With glowing cheeks, and hair bestuck with palm,
Upturn the suet eye, and chaunt th' eternal psalm.

I'm better pleas'd with Odin's daily dinner,
His wild-boar hams, and frothing mead.
Doctor, I'll be a votary of thy sect,
I like Valhalla where th' elect
Come of a jolly toping breed.
By Heav'n, the blue-eyed wenches there, sweet sinners,
Are very pretty articles of creed.
And could Iduna's youth-bestowing apples
Appear at the desert of earthly tables,
They'd make of any land a paradise indeed.

Henceforth thy Gods be mine!
Whene'er I wander thro' the Strand,
May Frea take me by the hand,
And lend the golden tear divine,
Which wins her wandering train of misses,
To lisp so lovingly their venal kisses.
And when at home in lonely luxury
I lounge in elbow chair,
Heimdal, as butler, shall be by,
And in my ale reflect his amber hair.
If dullness then my drowsy forehead shrouds,
Surtur shall light my pipe, Thor curl its smoky clouds.

Or when the brighter hour is nigh,
That on the twinkling feet of rhime
Comes dancing to my phrenzied eye,
To goad my pen, and prompt the cunning chime—
If merry be the thoughts I think,
Kevaser's blood shall be my ink;
But if such loftier themes intrude
As hover o'er thy solitude,
I'll call thy Braga from his golden grove,
Where Mimer's sparkling waters rove,
Such as beside thy couch he stood,
With swimming eye and soul of fire,
And to his gold-hair'd lire
Pour'd on thy thrilling soul the full poetic flood.

Soon shall the imitative crew,
Like sheep by some bell-wether led,
The path thy genius taught pursue,
And pace again thy every fiery tread,
Till in due time e'en birth-day odes
Shall strut resplendent with thy Gods.
Thy Niord and his mermaid train
Bid old Britannia rule the main;
Thy Hermod on our George dispense
The gift of rapid eloquence;
Thy Frea flutter from above
To crown our Queen the Queen of Love;
While Hertha to her womb shall tie
The chain of long fertility.
Then if the Laureate, strangely bright,
O'erclimb his usual mole-hill height,
And with a simile of storms
Some bolder rugged line deforms—
With howl of blasts he shall arouse thy Thor
O'er the dark clouds to steer the thunder's fiery car.