1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Beilby Porteus

Anonymous, "Elegy on the late Beilby Porteus, Lord Bishop of London" Imperial Magazine 3 (March 1821) 241-42.



Say, letter'd Muse, thou whose high-soaring song,
Wafts grateful incense to the shrine of pride,
Must e'en to me the mighty theme belong,
To sing how Porteus liv'd, how Porteus died?

Round some proud Nimrod's blood-besprinkled urn,
The roses bloom, the circling laurels twine,
Extoll'd by thee, his fame the nations learn,
And crown the fiend-like murderer divine.

But when the pious hero yields to death,
No high eulogium swells the pompous strain,
No lofty urn displays the labour'd wreath,
Where tombs and statutes throng the mould'ring fane.

Ah! wherefore say to him alone denied?
"Slew he no victims at ambition's shrine?"
Or rais'd your hatred when to Heav'n he cried
To 'blast' the warrior's impious design?

Or tell, ye proud, who bask in fortune's ray,
Did he with truth, your noble ears defile,
Drag unpolite your vices into day,
Nor soothe your greatness with a flatt'ring smile?

This silence hence, thrice happy envied lot,
Free from the slime of Adulation's tongue,
By Christians honour'd, by the wise forgot,
By men neglected, and by angels sung!

Long as throughout th' infinity of space
Unnumber'd orbs in mazy circles roll,
Long as our central Sun retains his place,
And pondrous Earth revolves upon her pole,

The works, great man, shall live, shall still convey
Their healing influence to the tortur'd mind,
While breathing marbles into dust decay,
And float unheeded on the reckless wind.

Thy classic page with purest precept fraught,
Thy holy zeal, and unaffected strain,
Thy clear profundity of justest thought,
Convince the doubtful and confound the vain!

Ungrateful world! thy loss could'st thou but know,
Or from the future tear its dark disguise,
To see how long the stream of time must flow,
Ere such another sun shall gild thy skies.

How then in sable weeds thy sons array'd
Would weep their folly, and their crimes deplore;
Too late, alas, that fruitless tribute paid,
Swells but his merits and thy guilt the more!

Yet, grandeur, hear, when o'er the dark unknown
At life's sure close ye stand in dread suspense,
When pleasure, power, and vain parade are flown,
With all the paltry joys of mortal sense.

Then holy Truth, no longer spurn'd aside,
Shall dart her vivid soul-pervading light,
While rousing conscience rends the veil of pride,
Ann rob'd in thunder reassumes her right.

With anguish wrung beneath her piercing frown,
Should then a Porteus in your aid appear,
His counsels would ye spurn, his pray'rs disown,
Or, as of late, repay him with a sneer?

Ah! no, your high-born souls, no longer proud,
Trembling would hear his pious accents flow,
And gladly join, though late, the vulgar crowd
Who fear their God, and shun eternal woe.

Then, ere that awful hour arrive, prepare
While yet ye may, while heav'n vouchsafes you breath,
Lest sin involve you in her fatal snare,
And justice hurl you to eternal death.