1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir James Bland Burges

Anonymous, "By Sir J— B— B—, late K. M. (Knight Marshall)" The Oracle (28 July 1801).



We cannot commit the following admirable performance to the Public, without acknowledging most gratefully the high sense we entertain of the flattering partiality with which this Paper is peculiarly distinguished. We have taken the liberty of making some trifling emendations in the spelling, and have likewise ventured to add a few Notes, by way of more fully illustrating its various and incomparable beauties.

THE ARGUMENT.
Lord H— having thought fit to deny me and my Knights Companions the use of a room under the Secretary of State's Office, in Downing-street, under pretence that the cleaing of our arms, and other military exercises, disturbed the public business, I straight invoke the Muse.

RECITATIVE.
A few eves since, quite tir'd with noise and talk (1)
I pensive sought the lonely Bird-Cage Walk;
The drill being o'er, the soldiers stood at ease, (2)
Some play'd at chuck-farthing beneath the trees,
Whilst others tempted to the leafy shades,
To hear soft tales, the blooming Nurs'ry Maids.
Thus all being still (3), I call'd my valiant Knights,
Who danc'd around me like so many sprights;
All arm'd from top to toe, before, behind—
Their nodding feathers quiver'd in the wind; (4)
Thrice did I clear my pipes, which made the Park to ring;
Thrice did I cough and sneeze; and, lo! I thus did sing. (5)

AIR.
Oh, barb'rous man! Oh, H—, too severe,
Behold these cheeks, bedew'd with many a tear,
But, no! a warrior should be bold—
By MARS! I'll weep no more:
Though BLAND by name,
No longer I'll be tame,
But growl and curse and scold,
Grin, storm, and chatter, gnash my teeth, and roar! (6)

CHORUS OF KNIGHTS.
H—, thou shalt have thy gruel,
Dread the bagganet so bright;
How could'st thou be so very cruel,
To such a brave poetic Knight! (7)

RECITATIVE.
ACCOMPANIED BY FLUTES AND TRUMPETS.
Thanks, Thanks, my friends, companions of my toil,
Your balmy praises feel like softening oil,
Which, gently trickling o'er the gaping sore,
Allays the pain, and bids it throb no more. (8)
'Tis true we must, inexorable doom!
Consent to lose our ancient fav'rite room;
(ALLEGRO.)
But mind, attend,
Each valiant friend;
Hear what I vote,
With gaping throat: (9)
(FORTE.)
Swear by your beards, your hands in contact join (10)
To do a deed — I vote we all resign.—

FINALE.
FULL CHORUS — DOUBLE DRUMS.
Agreed! Agreed! Agreed!
The deed is done! Done is the deed! (11)

(1) The familiar opening and easy language of this line cannot be sufficiently admired. What an image does it draw of a great man fatigued with business and wearied with applications! The word "Eves" deserves particular commendation. "Nights" or "Evenings," would have been common and prosaic, but "Eves" is in the highest degree poetical.
(2) How ingeniously and unaffectedly does Sir JAMES, in this and the three following lines, display his knowledge of military duty and amusements!
(3) We conceive this to be a licence in which Poets are allowed to indulge; for, how could all be still, when, three lines before, the soldiers are playing at chuck-farthing?
(4) What wonderfully obedient men are these Knights! Bounce, they leap upon us, arm'd cap-a-pee, at the word of their Commander, without our so much as knowing if they were within call.
(5) Sir JAMES has here improved upon POPE'S Alexandrine Verse. He doubtless thought it unjust for the last line to be longer than the one preceding. and has, therefore, with the strictest impartiality, manufactured them both of the same extent, so that now neither has a right to complain. But there is still a more striking beauty in these two lines: When the Reader is breathless with expectation; when his impatience to know the consequence of all this preparation of coughing and sneezing is would up to the highest pitch, how artfully and satisfactorily is he relieved by "Lo! I thus did sing."
(6) In the air, SIR JAMES discovers a surprising versatility of talent. In the commencement he is charmingly pathetic; then, recollecting himself, he waxeth warm, the consequence of which is he growls; he is then induced to curse, and, at last (like a man ascending a ladder) he reaches, step by step, the climax of roaring.
(7) Superficial minds may consider this chorus low, but it must ever please the Reader of taste and discernment. It is written with a strict regard to what the Painters call "Keeping", for the same elegant language which suits an Officer would sound unnatural from the mouth of a private. The Poet has here embraced a fine opportunity of praising himself, without running the risk of being charged with Egotisms.
(8) Sir James exhibits both gratitude and surgical skill. — Oil bidding a wound to cease throbbing is a figure not less novel than pleasing.
(9) The Poet is here in earnest.
(10) A very solemn and impressive adjuration!
(11) This Finale, which defies Criticism, contains a great and important fact, viz. "When a deed is done, it is done."