1773 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Sheridan

I., "An Excellent new Ballad in Praise of Miss Linley" St. James's Chronicle (3 April 1773).



SIR,
A Gentleman having expressed himself in a large Company, the other Day, with much Rapture and Passion on the Voice and Person of Miss Linley, a Lady who was present observed, that she was surprised he could confine his Enthusiasm to plain Prose, and that he did not give his Sentiments the Advantage of Measure. She further enjoined him perpetual Silence on his favourite Subject, unless he should produce a Ballad in Praise of the Object of his Admiration, and added this unconscionable Restriction, that one Line in every Stanza should end with a Rhyme to her Name. The Poet soon found it was not in Language to comply with the Condition; but in order to avoid the mortifying Alternative, he produced the following Impromptu which was received as a sufficient Apology. If you should think it merits a Place in your Poets Corner, you will give it the Public on the first Occasion.
I am, Sir, your's, &c.
I.

Your Task, my dear Madam, is surely too hard,
And, believe me, it vexes me inly,
The the Sense and the Rhyme should divide your poor Bard,
In praise of the beautiful Linley.

By poetical Licence, permit me to change
Two Letters, before I begin it;
The Fiction is easy; confess it not strange
To call this sweet Warbler a Linnet.

Still, still, for my Purpose all Language is weak,
And the Metre — I can't discipline it:
No Words can I find, e'er so long tho' I seek,
To express all I feel for my Linnet.

Ye Bards! who make Verse to your Mistress's Brow,
And in sad woful Ballads who hymn it,
Oh! grant me some Language; some Metre allow,
To sing the bright Charms of my Linnet.

Your Captive too soon felt your Power, for sure
Your Eyes are the Meshes which in-net;
Your Soul-thrilling Voice the Decoy to allure
All Hearts, my adorable Linnet.

The fam'd Golden Pippin, the Goddess's Meed,
Were Music and Beauty to win it,
No Paris to Venus the Prize had decreed,
But to thee my dear amiable Linnet.

The Savage, when first struck by th' Notes of th' Lyre,
E'en fancied the Deuce was within it;
And, surely, some Angel, I think, must inspire
The Form of my ravishing Linnet.

The Pencil of Reynolds some Graces may steal,
But her Voice — ah! unless he can limn it,
His Colours in vain wou'd the Image reveal
Of the bright, the melodious Linnet.

Thus, Madam, you see I've exhausted my Rhyme,
So lengthen'd, so fine-drawn, no more can I spin it;
Then dismiss me, I pray, nor to Measure confine
The Raptures I feel for my Linnet.