1799 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry James Pye

Thomas Dutton, "Lamentations on the Poet Laureate, on the Failure of the Expedition to Holland, and the consequent Miscarriage of his Muse" Morning Chronicle (9 November 1799).



Weep, Maids of Pindus! weep, ye sacred Nine!
And Phoebus, mix thy bitter tears with mine!
Hear how the Dutch have us'd your Priest and Poet;
'Twill wring your very heart-strings when ye know it!
Then list, ye Muses! — list! Oh! list, Apollo!
And hear the dismal tale which now doth follow!

AIR.
I, who with each returning year,
Am wont to sooth the Royal ear;
Whose muse, like Janus, double fac'd,
And sure of triumphs to my Masters,
Ne'er dreamt of rout and foul disasters;
But saw victorious trophies rise,
In bright perspective to the skies;
Saw through the glass of Poet's vision,
Both BRUNE and DAENDELS clapt in prison;
Saw Holland drench'd with Frenchmen's slaughter,
And purg'd at once with fire and water;
Saw her deliv'rance past a doubt,
By PITT'S man-midwives brought about;
Saw, in one word, a scene of glory,
Eclipsing all heroic story:
I, feeling this, with pious care,
My annual off'ring did prepare;
And, fearful of a dearth of rhymes,
Began to write my Ode betimes;
I now, alas! (who could such ills foreboade?)
Must measure back the path I trod before;
Must waft my heroes back to Albion's shore;
And, dire mishap! must write another Ode!

CHORUS.
What baneful planet rul'd the hour;
Were Imps of Hell let loose by magic power?
Were Lapland's witches tamp'ring with the moon?
And forging spells for DAENDELS and for BRUNE?
How could the Dutch withstand the British thunder—
And make a royal D— himself knock under?

SOLO.
What wight has greater cause to mourn and cry,
Than I — ev'n I — my own self I,
Grand Poet Laureat, master JEMMY PYE?

AIR, ACCOMPANIED.
Was it for this, with warlike numbers,
I rous'd Tyrtaeus from his slumbers;
And bade him in an English strain
Re-rout his foes, re-slay the slain?
Was it for this, in verse emphatic,
I sang Britannia's Rule Naucratic;
And rav'd of Neptune and of Mars?—
Sheer Greek to soldiers and to tars!
Who could have thought my strains their aim should miss?
Oh! day and night! — "that it should come to this!"

RECITATIVE, ACCOMPANIED.
Thus Fate ordains, and who can Fate resist?
Not fell SUWARROW with his clenched fist!
Not always angry clouds invest the Pole
When glares the forked bolt, and pealing thunders roll!

DIESPITER unbares his red right hand,
And sudden ruin desolates the land!
Th' infernal realms the mighty shock partake,
And earth's foundations to the centre quake!

CHORUS.
Even JOVE himself must Fate's control obey;
For ev'ry Dog by turns will have his day.

DUETT.
BETWEEN THE SECRETARY OF WAR AND THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER.
MR. W. What JOVE throws down, he can re-build—
And troops "kill'd off" may be recruited.
MR. P. But if recruits are daily kill'd,
A fresh supply may be disputed.
MR. W. Let us from danger counsel draw,
And as state-husbands prove our "vigour;"
We'll curb the Wise with wholesome rigour.
BOTH. Agreed! and now with tighter and with tighter strain,
We'll draw the bow until it snaps in 'twain.

FINALE.
Thus JOVE, when impious mortal tempt his ire,
Hurls the red bolt, and wraps their tow'rs in fire!
He with his whirlwinds mingles earth and skies,
Bids the high mountain sink, the valley rise!
But Jove cannot recal the past — thus fate ordains;
And for another Ode, poor PYE must rack his brains!