1765 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Anonymous, Churchill: an Elegy (1765) 3-14.



Great CHURCHILL dead! ye weeping Muses come
And hang with sweetest Wreaths your Fav'rite's Tomb;
The Pow'r of Song, alas! how vain to save,
How vain to rescue from the silent Grave!
Silent there lies the Tongue, that sang so sweet,
Enrich'd with all the Charms of tuneful Wit,
Scorning the oily Smooth of flatt'ring Art,
That prob'd by honest Truth the peccant Part,
That dar'd to point out Vice, tho' rob'd in State,
And goad with poignant Verse the guilty Great;
Designing Statesmen, with his Satire stung,
With Fear and Trembling heard, while CHURCHILL sung;
His Strains flow'd freely for the public Weal,
What free-born Britons thought, he dar'd to tell;
Wag'd with Corruption an eternal War,
And shew'd the Villain's Heart behind a Star.
'Twas nobly done; let Sycophants exclaim,
Let silken Courtiers wound his well-earn'd Fame,
The patriot Peer, who lists in Virtue's Cause,
Esteems this "shining Supplement of Laws,"
Loves honest Zeal, when deaf to Int'rest's Call,
It wants no Place, nor courts the vacant Stall.

This honest Zeal, alas, how rarely found!
Since Flatt'ry shed its pois'nous Bane around;
Flatt'ry, which chills the Poet's glowing Song,
And damps the Fervor of the Preacher's Tongue:
Oh now for CHURCHILL'S Muse, for CHURCHILL'S Pen,
(But will a Cent'ry yield his Like again?)
To drag our Kidgells forth in fearless Rhimes,
And hang their Names on high to stink to after Times.

'Twas thine, unequall'd Bard, to send the Dart
Of pointed Satire levell'd at the Heart,
To strip the Trappings from or Knaves or Fools,
And boldly stigmatize Pride's sordid Tools,
Who look at Lambeth with ambitious Eyes,
And stoop, alas! too meanly stoop, to rise;
Who think, ah perish the Hell-gender'd Thought,
Promotion cannot be too dearly bought,
Tho' for the Purchase Heav'n itself is sold,
And the Knee bent to idol Gods of Gold.

Forgive, ye Men of GOD, the WARMTH that glows
Thro' deep Resentment of our Churches Woes,
From those, who on a Mother's Vitals prey,
False Brethren, who the Cause, you serve, betray.

Ah why their heavenly Master's Liv'ry wear,
To prostitute the sacred Character;
In Forms they're decent, in the Exterior clean,
In vain, if the foul Mischief lurks within.

Yes 'twas CHURCHILL'S Talent to display
These solemn Fopp'ries to the Glare of Day,
To paint the full-blown Follies of the Age;
O Juvenal, with thy severer Rage,
To bid in lively Song the Figures rise,
Tho' strange mishap'd ones sometimes meet our Eyes,
When beyond Life the fervid Pencil ran,
And drew a Monster, where he meant a Man.

But what avails, tho' all the Muses play
Around the Bard, and deck his glowing Lay?
Apollo favours, and true Genius fires?
If stain'd with foulest Blots, his vicious Life
Is with his Tongue at never-ceasing Strife;
If while he mouthes aloud for Liberty,
No Gally-Slave is more in Bonds than he;
For tho' no Lacquey at a great Man's Board,
Ready to fetch and carry for my Lord;
He who is Passion's Slave 's a Slave indeed,
Nor can such speak from undue Bias freed,
Without some Heav'n born Principle at Heart;
His Zeal's Pretence, he only acts a Part;
We smile to see him all for Virtue warm,
We smile, when Satan cries, Reform, Reform.

Here, touch'd with tend'rest Pity, let us mourn,
And drop a friendly Tear on CHURCHILL'S Urn.
What robs of half their Force thy nevrous Lays?
What blasts the vernal Bloom of half thy Bays?
The World, tho' guilty, can their Force evade,
And scorn a Cure from such Physician's Aid;
"First heal thyself, those boasted Virtues try,
Nor let thy Practice give thy Pen the Lie."
And now, illustrious Bard, what boots it now
Tho' the most blooming Lawrels deck thy Brow?
Ah what avails to be for Genius prais'd,
And high on Fame's bright Pinnacle be rais'd,
To live a fancied Life in others Breath,
When at the Door stands the great Teacher Death?
Death, that of Things th' intrinsic Value shows,
And the vile Cheats which Earth and Hell impose;
Detects th' Ideal, marks the real Good,
And breaks the Air-blown Bubbles Men pursu'd.

Who then shall write? who guide stern Satire's Quill,
And bid the Caitiff's Heart its Vileness feel?
The Man in conscious Goodness bold, who dare
To speak plain Truth, unmov'd by Hopes or Fears,
Who walks secure, the sharp Retort defied,
Securely walks, with Virtue by his Side:
He with his gen'rous Pen shall firmly stand
A Guardian Angel to his native Land,
Foe to its Foes, and to its Friends a Friend,
Skilful alike to censure or command;
With Freedom censure Vice, tho' perch'd on High,
And give due Praise against the vulgar Cry.
See him disdain to plead a Wilkes's Cause,
Who means himself, while bawling for the Laws;
No Dupe to Party, but to Truth sincere,
His first grand Point to keep his Conscience clear.
A B—, tho' lodg'd within his Sovran's Breast,
Shall stand on Record as a Knave confest,
If for fair Freedom's Neck he forges Chains,
To future Times th' opprobrious Brand remains
In long-liv'd Verse: Yes, 'tis the Bard can give
Thy Name in lasting Characters to live.

Mute be the tuneful Triflers, who can play
Ever inglorious in the flow'ry Way,
Tuning their Harps to visionary Dreams
Of whispering Zephyrs, and of purling Streams:
What tho' the Colours of the Rainbow shine,
And Nature's gaudiest Dress bedecks each Line?
Those colours soon shall, like a Shadow, fly,
And all their Fancy's gay Creation die.

Oh wou'd some Bard with CHURCHILL'S Genius blest,
But more than CHURCHILL's Virtue in his Breast,
Bright Wisdom's Child, arise and turn his Art
"From Sounds to Things, from Fancy to the Heart."
If Satire please him, may his Patriot Zeal
Be kindled only for the public Weal;
Nor from stern Pride, or mean Resentment spring,
But where strict Justice calls, direct her Sting,
That Sting which Vice, e'en daring Vice must dread,
And from which grinning Folly hides her Head.

But rather may the Bard with CHURCHILL'S Fire,
Feel blest Urania all his Soul inspire,
To sing the Wonders of Emmanuel's Love,
And train up Mortals for the Thrones above.
'Tis his to soar aloft, the sacred Flame
Should to that Heav'n aspire from whence it came;
Aspire with kindling Raptures, and impart
The Warmth of true Devotion to the Heart:
All else is tinkling Sound, devoid of Sense,
The empty Strains of sweet Impertinence.

Ye favour'd of the Nine, like raptur'd YOUNG,
Awake to Truth, and solemnize your Song;
Oh emulate the glorious Choirs above,
Nor catch their Songs alone, but burning Love:
Thus while the Poet's heav'nly Strains arise
The pious Fervor fits him for the Skies:
He is what he describes, and knows to paint
From lively Feeling the extatic Saint;
Praise he affects, but not the Praise of Men,
For the warm Sallies of his glowing Pen;
Enough, if GOD approves, his Euge giv'n
Imparts a blissful Antepast of Heav'n:
This, this his Glory, not that babbling Fame
Shall caryy down the Stream of Time his Name,
But that it shall to endless Ages shine
In the fair Book enroll'd of Life divine.