1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Addison

Academicus, "Lines written some time since, on seeing Alterations in Addison's Walk, at M—d—n Collge, Ox—d" St. James's Chronicle (20 January 1791).



What sacrilegious hand, determin'd foe
To artless elegance, rais'd high the blow,
And like the Calmuch, by its random aim
Made thee another walk, tho' styl'd the same?
Here was I wont, escap'd from Grypho's hand,
In summer's heat to take my loitering stand,
Or stray, untouch'd by Phoebus' scorching beam,
Near the smooth edge of Charwell's willow'd stream.
Alas! no more these pleasing scenes invite,
No more yon visto strikes my wond'ring sight;
But weeping oaks and elms, dismember'd, mourn,
From their spruce sides their verdant honours torn;
And beaches, stript of all their leafy pride,
Seek, but in vain, their gaping wounds to hide.
See now with arms close lopp'd, and mangled heads,
The stranger's view each drooping suff'rer dreads.
Gasping for life, unable now to last,
Another angry winter's chilling blast:
While bleeding saplings, pierc'd by barbarous rage,
The hopes no longer of the rising age,
Each trim and starch, their wonted form disgrace,
The meagre gawkies of the coming race.

But chief, that aged elm which loftier stood,
Nodding majestick o'er the eddying flood,
Like British Arthur, old but green in years,
Stately, and circled by his loyal Peers,
Now level with the dust up-rooted lies,
Nor longer lifts his branches to the skies.

Ye friends to dreary desolation, say,
Can puny gains the labourer's task repay?
And must Scotch firs, with close and niggard hand
Stuck here and there, such heavy tax demand,
That to vile plants, of dark funereal shade,
Sound English oaks dire sacrifice be made?

And could not ADDISON, respected name,
Plead for this walk, insur'd by classick fame?
O! may some vulgar undiscerning youth
Snap off each shoot of mean exotick youth
And may that Bursar, whose relentless aim,
Dar'd, with unerring stroke, these beaches maim,
Whoe'er he be, where'er he got a taste,
To climes, from whence he stole it, backward haste:
There unmolested, weep his judgement lost,
Fearful of Addison's indignant ghost.
E'en now I see it beckon, as I walk—
It waves the hand — methinks I hear it talk—
"O! had our Bursar lopp'd that neighbouring birch,
Whose obvious twigs require no active search,
Then had the injur'd Dryads found a scourge
Nor fail'd the kind correction home to urge."