1756 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman

Robert Lloyd, "Epistolary Verses, written in the Year 1756" St. James's Chronicle (7 May 1765).



You know, dear George, I'm none of those
That condescend to write in Prose;
Inspir'd with Pathos and Sublime,
I always soar — in Doggrel Rime,
And scarce can ask you how you do,
Without a jingling Line or two.
Besides, I always too Delight in
What bears the Name of Easy Writing;
Perhaps the Reason makes it please
Is, that I find it's writ with Ease.

I vent a Notion here in private,
Which public Taste can ne'er connive at,
Which thinks no Wit or Judgment greater
Than Addison and his Spectator,
Who says (it is no Matter where,
But that he says it, I can swear)
With easy Verse most Bards are smitten,
Because they think it's easy written;
Whereas the easier it appears,
The greater Marks of Care it wears;
Of which, to give an Explanation,
Take this by way of Illustration:
The fam'd Mat Prior, it is said,
Oft bit his Nails, and scratch'd his Head,
And chang'd a Thought a hundred Times,
Because he did not like the Rimes.
To make my Meaning clear, and please ye,
In short, he labour'd to write easy.
And yet, no Critic e'er defines
His Poems into labour'd Lines.
I have a Simile will hit him;
His Verse, like Clothes, was made to fit him,
Which (as no Taylor e'er denied)
The better fit, the more they're tried.

Though I have mention'd Prior's Name,
Think not I aim at Prior's Fame.
'Tis the Result of Admiration
To spend itself in Imitation;
If Imitation may be said,
Which is in me by Nature bred,
And you have better Proofs than these,
That I'm Idolator of Ease.

Who, but a Madman, would engage
A Poet in the present Age?
Write what we will, our Works bespeak us
"Imitatores, servum Pecus."
Tale, Elegy, or lofty Ode,
We travel in the beaten Road.
The Proverb still sticks closely by us,
"Nil dictum, quod non dictum prius."
The only Comfort that I know
Is, that 'twas said an Age ago,
Ere Milton soar'd in Thought sublime,
Ere Pope refin'd the Chink of Rime,
Ere C—n wrote in Stile so pure,
Or the great TWO the CONNOISSEUR;
Ere I burlesqu'd the rural Cit,
Proud to hedge in my Scraps of Wit,
And happy in the close connexion,
T' acquire some Name from their's Reflexion;
So (the Similitude is trite)
The Moon still shines with borrow'd Light,
And, like the Race of modern Beaux,
Ticks with the Sun for her lac'd Clothes.

Methinks there is no better Time
To shew the Use I make of Rime,
Than now, when I, who from Beginning
Was always fond of Couplet-sinning,
Presuming on Good-Nature's Score,
Thus lay my Bantling at your Door.

The first Advantage which I see,
Is, that I ramble loose and free:
The Bard indeed full oft complains,
That Rimes are Fetters, Links, and Chains,
And when he wants to leap the Fence,
Still keep him Pris'ner to the Sense.
Howe'er in Common-Place he rage,
Rime's like your Fetters on the Stage,
Which when the Player once hath wore,
It makes him only sturt the more,
While, raving in pathetic Strains,
He shakes his Legs to clank his Chains.

From Rime, as from a handsome Face,
Nonsense acquires a Kind of Grace;
I therefore give it all its Scope,
That Sense may unperceiv'd elope:
So M—rs of basest Tricks
(I love a Fling at Politicks)
Amuse the Nation, court, and King,
With breaking F—kes, and hanging Byng;
And make each puny Rogue a Prey,
While they, the greater, slink away.
This Simile perhaps would strike,
If match'd with something more alike;
Then take it dress'd a second Time
In Prior's Ease, and my Sublime.
Say, did you never chance to meet
A Mob of People in the Street,
Ready to give the Robb'd Relief,
And all in Haste to catch a Thief,
While the sly Rogue, who filch'd the Prey,
Too close beset to run away,
Stop Thief! stop Thief! exclaims aloud,
And so escapes among the Croud?
So Ministers, &c.

O England, how I mourn thy Fate!
For sure thy Losses now are great;
Two such what Briton can endure,
Minorca and the Connoisseur!

To-day, or e'er the Sun goes down,
Will die the Censor, Mr. TOWN!
He dies, whoe'er takes Pains to con him,
With blushing Honours thick upon him;
O may his Name these Verses save,
Be these incrib'd upon his Grave!

Know, Reader, that on Thursday died
The CONNOISSEUR, a Suicide!
Yet think not that his Soul is fled,
Nor rank him 'mongst the vulgar Dead.
Howe'er defunct you set him down,
He's only going out of Town.