1714 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Addison

Laurence Eusden, "Commendatory Verses to the Author of Cato" 1714; Addison, Works (1909) 1:164-66.



'Tis nobly done thus to enrich the stage,
And raise the thoughts of a degenerate age;
To show how endless joys from freedom spring,
How life in bondage is a worthless thing.
The inborn greatness of your soul we view,
You tread the paths frequented by the few.
With so much strength you write, and so much ease,
Virtue, and sense! how durst you hope to please?
Yet crowds the sentiments of every line
Impartial clapped, and owned the work divine.
Ev'n the sour critics, who malicious came,
Eager to censure, and resolved to blame,
Finding the hero regularly rise,
Great while he lives, but greater when he dies,
Sullen approved, too obstinate to melt,
And sickened with the pleasures which they felt.
Not so the fair their passions secret kept,
Silent they heard, but as they heard they wept,
When gloriously the blooming Marcus died,
And Cato told the gods, I'm satisfied.

See! how your lays the British youth inflame!
They long to shoot and ripen into fame;
Applauding theatres disturb their rest,
And unborn Catos heave in every breast;
Their nightly dreams their daily thoughts repeat,
And pulses high with fancied glories beat.
So, grieved to view the Marathonian spoils,
The young Themistocles vowed equal toils;
Did then his schemes of future honours draw
From the long triumphs which with tears he saw.

How shall I your unrivalled worth proclaim,
Lost in the spreading circle of your fame!
We saw you the great William's praise rehearse,
And paint Britannia's joys in Roman verse.
We heard at distance soft, enchanting strains,
From blooming mountains, and Italian plains.
Virgil began in English dress to shine,
His voice, his looks, his grandeur still divine.
From him too soon unfriendly you withdrew,
But brought the tuneful Ovid to our view.
Then, the delightful theme of every tongue,
The immortal Marlborough was your daring song;
From clime to clime the mighty victor flew,
From clime to clime as swiftly you pursue;
Still with the hero's glowed the poet's flame,
Still with his conquests you enlarged your fame.
With boundless raptures here the muse could swell,
And on your Rosamond for ever dwell:
There opening sweets, and every fragrant flower,
Luxuriant smile, a never-fading bower.
Next, human follies kindly to expose,
You change from numbers, but not sink in prose:
Whether in visionary scenes you play,
Refine our tastes, or laugh our crimes away.
Now by the buskined muse you shine confest,
The patriot kindles in a poet's breast.
Such energy of sense might pleasure raise,
Though unembellished with the charms of phrase:
Such charms of phrase would with success be crowned,
Though nonsense flowed in the melodious sound.
The chastest virgin needs no blushes fear,
The learn'd themselves not uninstructed hear.
The libertine, in pleasures used to roll,
And idly sport with an immortal soul,
Here comes, and by the virtuous heathen taught
Turns pale, and trembles at the dreadful thought.

Whene'er you traverse vast Numidia's plains,
What sluggish Briton in his isle remains?
When Juba seeks the tiger with delight,
We beat the thicket, and provoke the fight.
By the description warmed, we fondly sweat,
And in the chilling east wind pant with heat.
What eyes behold not, how "the stream refines,
Till by degrees the floating mirror shines?"
While hurricanes "in circling eddies play,
Tear up the sands, and sweep whole plains away,"
We shrink with horror, and confess our fear,
And all the sudden sounding ruin hear.
When purple robes, distained with blood, deceive,
And make poor Marcia beautifully grieve,
When she her secret thoughts no more conceals,
Forgets the woman, and her flame reveals,
Well may the prince exult with noble pride,
Not for his Libyan crown, but Roman bride.

But I in vain on single features dwell,
While all the parts of the fair piece excel,
So rich the store, so dubious is the feast,
We know not which to pass, or which to taste.
The shining incidents so justly fall,
We may the whole new scenes of transport call.
Thus jewellers confound our wandering eyes,
And with variety, of gems surprise.
Here sapphires, here the Sardine stone is seen,
The topaz yellow, and the jasper green.
The costly brilliant there, confusedly bright,
From numerous surfaces darts trembling light.
The different colours mingling in a blaze,
Silent we stand, unable where to praise,
In pleasure sweetly lost ten thousand ways.
Trinity College, Cambridge.