1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Blackmore

Samuel Cobb, in Poetae Britannici (1700) 21-22.



A Bard, who seems to challenge Virgil's flame,
And next in height, would be the next in name.
With lofty Maro he at first may please:
The Righteous Britain rises by degrees.
But once on Wing, through secret Paths he rows,
And losing Virgil's sight, in a main Ocean flows.
Then seeks his Pilot through the boundless Sky,
And sometimes soars too eager and too high.
The Mantuan Bird keeps a soft gentle flight,
Is always lofty, and still plays in sight.
Calm and Serene his Verse: his active Song
Runs smooth as Thames's River, and as strong.
Like his own Neptune, he commands the Waves;
Like Aeolus, high Bl—re sometimes raves.
We grant he labours with no want of Brains,
Or Fire, or Spirit; but he spares the pains.
One happy Thought, or two, may at a heat
Be struck; but Time and Study must compleat
A Verse, sublimely good, and justly great.
It call'd for an Omnipotence, to raise
The World's imperial Poem in Six Days.
But Man, that off-spring of corrupting Clay,
Subject to err, and subject to decay:
In hopes, desires, will, power, (a numerous Train)
Uncertain, fickle, impotent and vain,
Must tire the Heavenly Muse, with endless Prayer,
And call the smiling Angels to his care:
Must sleepless Nights, Vulcanian Labours prove,
Like Cyclops, forging Thunder for a Jove.
With flame begin thy glorious Thoughts and Style,
Then cool, and bring them to the smoothing File,
If you design to make your Prince appear
As perfect, as Humanity can bear;
Whom Vertues at th' expence of danger please,
Deaf to the Syrens of alluring ease.
No Terrours Thee, Achilles, could invade,
Nor Thee, Ulysses, any charms persuade.
This must be done, if Poets would be tead,
Who seek to emulate the Sacred Dead.