1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leonard Welsted

R H. W., "The Emancipation of the Muse; occasioned by the late Edition of the Works of Welsted" Gentleman's Magazine 58 (May 1788) 445.



Is this the Muse so long proscrib'd by Fame,
Whose strong pretensions were upheld to shame
By him whom Fortune once decreed to sit
"Sole Judge of Merit, Arbiter of Wit?"
No Bardling he, whom Genius thus supplies;
From every verse no common strains arise:
Doth WELSTED thus th' indifferent eye engage,
Melting with love, or kindling into rage;
"Painting th' embattled squadrons in array,
Amiably dreadful, and in horror gay?"
Support the vigour of the Latian Ode!
Brandish keen satire, point the Critic's road?
What darkling veil of just applause could wrong?
What pride conceal the Master of the Song?

The green-ey'd Monster, sure, with purpose fell,
For this call'd up some gloom-condensing spell
The verdant honour of his Muse to blight,
And with the poppy shade his laurels bright.

Illusions hence on those around descend
On Fashion's vote who servilely depend;
Of judgment void, or this possess'd unfree
With their own eyes, or for themselves, to see.

Thus may the magic of a name conceal
Charms that the most insensible might feel;
And bloated Envy Merit's claim disgrace,
Though demonstration star'd it in the face:
Envy, whose dictates may such influence gain,
As o'er the public sense entire to reign;
Enquiry bound, and with Lethean rod
Make angels reptiles, and a worm a God!

These facts degrading long the Wise avow'd,
But few will dare to stem the torrent crowd.
All who read WELSTED merit thought they saw;
Yet silence reign'd, devote to Custom's law:
Some even doubted they such pleasures found,
But that their feet had trod enchanted ground;
So long 'twas seen that Truth in vain might cope
With Prejudice, the Dunciad, and with POPE.

But when the Genius of fair Candour rose,
With pow'r vindictive to his fav'rite's foes,
With smiling scorn he broke their cumb'rous bands,
And arm'd a Hero for his high commands,
To claim the tribute to wrong'd Merit's cause,
In spite of Custom, and of Party's laws.
Here he the Muse's scatter'd strength regains,
Her radiant files he marshals on the plains:
But see the foe-men fly the war's alarms,
Nor dare to meet the injur'd host in arms;
Such lightnings from their gleaming lances flew,
Envy grew prudent, and his peers withdrew;
Who, while the victor with fresh wreaths was crown'd,
Furling their ensigns left the hostile ground.

Thus, when in States where dire contention springs,
And haughty Faction tramples upon Kings,
As wild Confusion's hydra-head uprears,
Peers sink to Peasants, Peasants rise to Peers;
Order, distinction, decency forgot,
(So prone t' extremes, O Party! is thy lot,)
Till time matur'd rescinds the hasty choice,
And Candour gradually exalts its voice,
With prudent caution; lest the regnant rod
Speak that a Tyrant, erst is spoke a God.

Tho' yet where Liberty its boast sustains,
And love of Freedom's current in the veins,
Congenial wishes by degrees are spread,
Till some brave champion starts, the people's head:
In him with joy each hope, each wish they view,
The Peers return, the Prince is crown'd anew;
Order's restor'd, and mad Contention flies,
Or hides abash'd its head, or in oblivion dies.