1727 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elijah Fenton

Walter Harte, "To a young Lady with Mr. Fenton's Miscellany" in Harte, Poems on Several Occasions (1727) 94-98.



These various strains, where ev'ry talent charms,
Where humour pleases, or where passion warms:
(Strains! where the tender and sublime conspire,
A Sappho's sweetness, and a Homer's fire)
Attend their doom, and wait with glad surprize
Th' impartial justice of Cleora's eyes.

'Tis hard to say, what mysteries of fate,
What turns of fortune on good writers wait.
The party-slave will wound 'em as he can,
And damns the merit, if he hates the man.
Nay, ev'n the Bards with wit and laurels crown'd,
Bless'd in each strain, in ev'ry art renown'd:
Misled by pride, and taught to sin by pow'r,
Still search around for those they may devour;
Like savage monarchs on a guilty throne,
Who crush all might that can invade their own.

Others who hate, yet want the soul to dare,
So ruin bards — as beaus deceive the fair:
On the pleas'd ear their soft deceits employ;
Smiling they wound, and praise but to destroy.
These are th' unhappy crimes of modern days,
And can the best of poets hope for praise?

How small a part of human blessings share
The wise, the good, the noble, or the fair!
Short is the date unhappy wit can boast,
A blaze of glory in a moment lost.
Fortune still envious of the great man's praise,
Curses the coxcomb with a length of days.
So (Hector dead) amid the female quire,
Unmanly Paris turn'd the silver lyre.

Attend ye Britons! in so just a cause
'Tis sure a scandal, to with-hold applause;
Nor let posterity reviling say,
Thus unregarded FENTON pass'd away!
Yet if the muse may faith or merit claim,
(A muse too just to bribe with venal fame)
Soon shalt thou shine "in majesty avow'd;
As thy own goddess breaking thro' a cloud."
Fame, like a nation-debt, tho' long delay'd,
With mighty int'rest must at last be paid.

Like Vinci's strokes, thy verses we behold;
Correctly graceful, and with labour bold.
At Sappho's woes we breathe a tender sigh,
And the soft sorrow steals from ev'ry eye.
Here Spenser's thoughts in solemn numbers roll,
Here lofty Milton seems to lift the soul.
There sprightly Chaucer charms our hours away
With stories queint, and gentle roundelay.

Muse! at that name each thought of pride recall,
Ah, think how soon the wise and glorious fall!
What tho' the Sisters ev'ry grace impart,
To smooth thy verse, and captivate the heart:
What tho' your charms, my fair Cleora! shine
Bright as your eyes, and as your sex divine:
Yet shall the verses, and the charms decay,
The boast of youth, the blessing of a day!
Not Chaucer's beauties could survive the rage
Of wasting envy; and devouring age:
One mingled heap of ruin now we see;
Thus Chaucer is, and Fenton thus shall be!