1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Steele

Jane Brereton, "An Epistle to Sir Richard Steele; on the Death of Addison" 1719; Brereton, Poems on Several Occasions (1744) 62-67.



If I, O Steele! presumptuous shall appear,
And these unskilful Notes offend thy Ear;
Forbear to censure what I've artless writ,
No well-bred Man e'er damn'd a Woman's Wit.
But sure there's none of all th' inspir'd Train,
Who do not of thy Indolence complain!
Ingrate, or indolent! or why, thus long,
Should Addison require his Funeral-song?
When a lov'd Monarch quits his Cares below,
The meanest Subjects joyn the common Woe;
But from the Fav'rite who his Worth best knew,
A Tribute of superior Grief is due.
Shall Ramsay, and Melissa's Lays produce,
That a Mechantick, this a Woman's Muse,
While thou, Wit's sole surviving Hope, supine,
The melancholy Theme dost still decline?
Exert that Fire that glows within your Breast,
Nor longer thus in lazy Silence rest;
Aloft your skilful Muse can wing her Flight,
And emulate his Strains whose Praise you write.

For me, the meanest of the tuneful Train,
T' attempt th' unequal Task were fond and vain;
But could I sing — Oh! sacred Shade! thy Praise
Alone should claim, alone inspire my Lays.
Thou kind Preceptor of the tender Fair!
Great was the Charge, and generous the Care.
You shew'd us Virtue so celestial bright,
So amiable in so divine a Light;
Asham'd at last false Glories we resign'd,
By Thee instructed to improve the Mind.

How oft reclin'd beneath a sylvan Shade,
Have I thy Marcia read, thy matchless Maid!
In her superior Worth, and Virtue shine;
Her Wisdom, Manners, her whole self divine;
In her a great exalted Mind appears;
And gentle Lucia melts my Soul to Tears.

Here, O ye Fair! in this bright Mirror learn
Your Minds with never-fading Charms t' adorn!
On these Accomplishments bestow some Care,
'Tis no great Merit, to be only fair.
His Rosamonda shall for ever prove,
A Mark to keep us safe from guilty Love.
Beauty's a Snare, unless with Virtue joyn'd,
An Angel-form, should have an Angel-mind;
But when the Bard displays the artful Scene,
The suppliant Beauty, and the vengeful Queen,
In melting Notes sings her disast'rous Love;
With Tears we pity what we can't approve.

How learn'd he was, O Steele! do thou declare;
For that's a Task beyond a Woman's Sphere.
Some Works there are, wrought up by Rules of Art,
Where poor excluded Nature had no Part;
But he the Stagyrite's strict Axioms knew,
And still to Nature, as to Art was true.
He touch'd the Heart, the Passions could command,
'Twas Nature all, but mended by his Hand.
Sublime his Style, his Sentiments refin'd,
Full of Benevolence to all Mankind.
In more than Theory he Religion knew,
And kept the Heav'nly Goddess still in view;
Rapt on her Wings, his Soul extatick soars,
Leaves our dull Orb, a better World explores,
And now he 'as reach'd the Etherial Plains above,
Th' eternal Seat of Harmony and Love;
Blest Harmony, and Love a-new inspire,
With Hymns, like theirs, he joyns th' Angelick Quire.

He's gone! oh, never, never to return;
Around his Tomb, ye sacred Muses, mourn!
Your pious Tears on the cold Marble shed,
You lov'd him living, now lament him dead!
Cold is that Breast, where glow'd your hallow'd Fire;
Silent that Voice, whose Notes you did inspire;
Still lies that Hand, the Lyre harmonious strung,
Unmov'd the gen'rous Heart, and mute the tuneful Tongue!
That Dome, where his Remains now lye confin'd,
Holds not the Clay that held a nobler Mind.
Here peaceful rest, to wait Heav'n's great Decree;
Soft be thy Slumbers, sweet thy Waking be!

Who can his Warwick's anxious Woes express,
The bitter Anguish, and the deep Distress?
The lovely Mourner does not grieve alone;
But distant Cambria echoes to each Groan;
Her native Country lends this poor Relief,
We weep, we sigh, with simpathetick Grief.
Ev'n I, oppress'd with Sorrows of my own,
Suspend them all to mourn her Addison.
O will She deign t' accept these lowly Lays,
My humble Muse thus offers to his Praise!
O may the lovely Child, the budding Fair,
Sooth all her Griefs, and sweeten every Care.
Still grow in Virtue, as she grows in Years,
'Till she in full-blown Excellence appears!
May she be perfect, as his Fancy wrought,
"The Poet's Race excel the Poet's Thought!"
Let blooming Charms united Marcia grace,
Her Sire's exalted Wit, her Mother's beauteous Face.