1773 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Percival Stockdale

Carthusianus, "An Address to the Author of the Poet" Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (20 November 1773).



SIR,
It is very lately that I had an opportunity of perusing the POET, a very beautiful poem by Mr. Percival Stockdale: the pleasure it afforded me demands a tribute of gratitude to the author, and I willingly pay it; but I was greatly hurt to find, that Mr. Stockdale, in imitation of certain malevolent, invidious scribblers, had dropt from his pen a reflection, equally unjust and illiberal, upon a celebrated poet, whose writings are an honor to the age: the following cool expostulation is meant to reach Mr. Stockdale, and to that end, I am desirous of its appearing in the Morning Chronicle.
I am, Sir, your humbler Servant,
CARTHUSIANUS.

Is it not strange, O Percival, that minds
Endowed, like thine, with nature's richest stores,
Should be so far estranged from Candor's laws,
As to impeach the fair renown, that decks
The honored brows of nobler candidates
For never dying fame? that, all-inspired
By Apollonian rays, thou should decry
A mere conjectured criticism on
A favoured votarist of the Nine (1), and then
With rancour wound the fame our Grecian modellest (2)
Has well acquired? Of him, who hand in hand
Accompanied our modern Pindar (3) through
The beauteous maze of poetry and nature?
—What fiend impelled thee to th' ungenerous deed,
Or dictated the slander? for, by Jove!
Thy Genius better knew the Poet's worth,
Than to approve the injudicious satire.
Thy mind, full-fraught with all the muse's fire,
Refined by all the elegance of taste,
Could not despise the bard, whose attic strains
Delight our judgment, whilst they charm the soul:
Whose moralizing song adorns the age,
And would reform — whose genius ever pours,
Along each nervous and harmonious line,
The genuine feelings of a noble heart,
And captivates the breast, which knows to glow
With nature in her different emotions.
—Whose manly strains immortalize the patriot,
And fix him in the radiant hemisphere:
—Who glowing, paints our great progenitors
Contending fierce with sacrilegious tyranny,
And grasping freedom in the arms of death. (4)
—Who with peculiar elegance of thought,
And purity of language, celebrates
Connubial Chastity and faith, — pourtrays
The sad effects of violated friendship,
Fidelity infringed, allegiance broken. (5)
—Whose candor, fair companion of a mind
Dilate with conscious worth, and raised above
Anxiety, when merit gains the laurel,
Would grant to thee, what thou deny'st to him,
And own thy strains deserving of applause.
O shame! that lays like thine should be devote
To snatch the wreath that blooms upon his brow
With undecaying verdure, and refuse
The Poet's only recompense to him
Who well deserves, if ever man deserved,
The animating, but unsolid purchase.
That bard (6) whose and exalted strains
Shall melt, and animate remote posterity,
He knew, and shared his friendship, for their souls
In sympathetic unison were tuned;
Alike admiring and admired, they trod
Th' ascent to Pindus' height, nor blushed to see
The kindred flame that glowed in either bosom.
—And shall thy niggard hand withhold the tribute
Which that Immortal granted to the bard
Who was the counterpart, and but inferior
To him the prince of song? degrading thought!
Renounce the prepossession, and be just
To merit, thy detraction cannot blast.
—So shall thy lays, untinctured with the gall
Of madd'ning envy, meet that full reward
They well deserve; mankind shall own thy flame
Pure and etherial, delicate and bold.
—So shall thy verse no more be shaded by
That poisonous vapour, which the envious heart
Malignly sheds upon the Poet's lustre.

(1) Dr. Goldsmith, in his edition of Parnell, seems to think one of that author's pieces superior to all the Church Yard pieces that have since appeared. If the Doctor really meant to insinuate a preference of it to the late Mr. Gray's inimitable elegy, he is justly despised by Mr. Stockdale.
(2) Mr. Mason. (3) Mr. Gray. (4) Caractacus. (5) Elfrida. (6) Mr. Gay.
Mr. Stockdale affects to ridicule the pindaric ode, terming it "parent of nonsense in the shape of ode." I would ask him, if he thinks that mode of writing, which keeps the echo so far off, and casts such a beautiful veil over the rhime; which on account of its variety of numbers, is certainly adapted to express a variety of passions, is a fitter vehicle for nonsense than the measure of his own poetry, which by reason of its uniformity of sound, so constantly exercises the auricular organs, that a regular observance of this point is very often the only thing sought for — or discoverable.