1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Armstrong

William Russell, "Verses on the Death of Dr. Armstrong" Town and Country Magazine 11 (September 1779) 495-96.



Ye swains of Liddal, as ye drive your sheep
To verdant pastures, or the russet steep;
If yet a Muse on Liddal's banks remain,
For tuneful Armstrong wake the plaintive strain.
Though from you long, long from the limpied wave,
In which he lov'd his infant limbs to lave;
Long from the pool, where oft with mimic fly
He patient angled for the silver fry;
Yet were his manners artless as your own,
The world he scorn'd; for well he knew to scan
The crooked views of narrow-minded man.

Ye sons of Galen, though he lack'd not skill,
Like you, by slow and secret means to kill,
He sought to save: he strove to heal the frame,
And breath'd Nepenthe in poetic flame.
From breezy summit, or fair opening lawn,
He bade his patients hail the chearful dawn;
Their villas build wide from the marshy mead,
But chief where bees on fragrant wild thyme feed;
As death itself avoid the smoky town;
Resist th' enfeebling luxury of down;
Far from the breast all rankling cares expel,
And there invite Content and Hope to dwell.

Love too he sung: Love was his favourite lay,
And oft their vows shall each fond couple pay,
Where rests his head. Monks let cold themes employ:
He taught how best to share the burning joy;
When keen desire the youthful bosom fills,
And thro' each nerve the fine sensation thrills,
Fell dangers how to 'scape; how to controul
The strong emotions of the melting soul,
When ruddy manhood eyes the virgin-breath,
And sees it ripe, and panting to be press'd;
To toy till Hymen fan the mutual fire,
And both embrace, both murmur, both expire.

Alas! what sung he not? — But cease, my strain:
For he is gone where joys immortal reign;
Where blooms each pleasure wyhich he priz'd below,
And love and friendship with more ardour glow.
Gray's-Inn, Sept. 10, 1779.