1729 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Savage

Thomas Cooke, in "The Battle of the Poets" Tales, Epistles, Odes, Fables (1729) 140-44.



His Work perform'd, the Critic [John Dennis] took his Way,
Slow pacing, homeward, and uprose the Day.
As on he went he saw approaching nigh
The Form of one that seem'd, and was, a Spy,
Thick stuff'd his Pockets and his Sides with Rhyme,
And mutt'ring as he walk'd one endless Chime;
As on he wander'd, like a Wretch possess'd,
The Critic seiz'd him, and unman'd his Breast;
Trembling he stood, his Guilt creating Fear;
His Crimes were many, and his Judge severe.
With Anger and Contempt thus spoke the Sage
Austere but just, his Brows denouncing Rage.
Say, conscious Traytor, such you seem to Me,
What can your Bus'ness in the Forest be,
Thus arm'd, alone, now scarce the Night is fled,
To kill the living, or to strip the dead?
Tell Me, for 'tis in vain to hope to fly,
Your Name your Purpose, or expect to dy.
With Tone terrific to the Sons of Song,
And Sounds emphatic which the Words prolong,
O! venerable Sire, the Captive cry'd,
Phoebus forbid your Will should be deny'd!
To smooth the Rigour of impending Fate,
(Spying the Cane unfriendly o'er his Pate.)
I'll Truth, unsully'd, with a Ly relate.
To him the Sage reply'd. No more despair;
Speak Truth and longer breathe the vital Air.
Then he, of all the Wretch's Might the Bane,
No more suspended held the pond'rous Cane;
Behold, he cry'd, the Object of thy Dread,
The Cane no longer trembling o'er thy Head:
Proceed. Encourag'd thus the Wretch began,
Louder his Voice, and almost like a Man.

Savage my Name, unbless'd my natal Morn,
Who to the Ills of Poetry was born.
From Pope deputed, from my Heart's Ally,
To yonder Camp I tend a dauntless Spy.
Thro great and many Dangers safe I go,
My only Guard my Falsehood to the Foe;
Before a Friend profess'd they know no Fear,
But trust their Secrets to a faithless Ear;
I watch their Motions, and each Word they say,
And all, and more than all, I know, betray:
In kind Return he cheers my Soul with Praise,
And mends, where such he finds, my feeble Lays.

Thus interrupting, with a scornful Smile,
Enough thy Folly speaks, enough thy Guile,
To him the Sage with aweful Voice rejoin'd.
What Mercy, Traytor, can you hope to find?
To Thee the Promise of thy Life I gave,
A false, a fawning, and a witless, Slave;
But now thy Soul appears so mean, so black,
That Justice bids Me call that Promise back.
He paus'd a while, then spoke. Thy Life I give;
Thy greatest Torment, Wretch, must be to live.
Thro the prismatick Glass deceiv'd you see,
Believing all Things, as they seem, to be;
But sad Experience late shall ope thine Eyes,
And shew Thee those who flatter most despise.
Thy Friends were many when thy Faults were less,
Whom not thy Merit gain'd, but thy Distress;
While those you teaz'd all harmless with your Rhyme,
And scribbling Nonsence was your greatest Crime,
Pity and Scorn they cherish'd but conceal'd;
Now Scorn and Hate prevail, and those reveal'd:
Such is of Spys like Thee the certain Fate,
Whether the Spys of Verse, or Spys of State.

Ending, he rifles his poetic Store,
Reads of each Piece a Verse, and reads no more,
Then, with these Words, returns the wond'rous Lay,
Nor tragic, comic, neither grave, nor gay.

Take it, and fearless of my Censure sing,
Whose winter Fruit can not survive the Spring.
He ends, and drives him homeward in his Sight,
And sighs and pitys from his Soul the Wight.