1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Robert Lowth

William Hayley, An Elegy on the Ancient Greek Model. Addressed to The Right Reverend Robert Lowth, Lord Bishop of London (1779) 3-17.



Mourn! Son of Amos, mourn! in accent sharp
Of angry sorrow strike thy heav'nly harp.
Mourn! thou sublimest of the sainted choir!
Those lips, that, touch'd with thy coelestial fire,
Clear'd, from the gather'd clouds of many an age,
The bright'ning flame of thy prophetic rage;
Those lips, thro' Learning's sacred sphere renown'd,
Have stain'd their glory by a servile sound.
Envy with ranc'rous joy these accents heard,
And dwells with triumph on the fatal word;
Waging against Renown eternal wars,
Thus she insults the merit she abhors:
Peace! Envy, peace! nor deem, with bigot rage,
Long labours cancell'd by a hasty page;
Nor, if a word unweigh'd her lips escape,
Paint injur'd Virtue in Corruption's shape!
Shall sland'rous Prejudice, with gen'ral blame,
Plunge ranks unsifted in the gulph of Shame?
If some be servile, shall we madly rave
That ev'ry churchman is in soul a slave?
Abhorr'd idea! fraught with basest guile!
Turn to the splendid annals of our isle!
See mitred Langton lead the patriot van,
And bear, O Liberty! thy sacred plan!
Though lust of vengeance regal pride inflame
To brand his virtue with Rebellion's name,
Still in the tented field, from fear exempt,
No menace shakes him, and no offers tempt;
'Till England, sav'd from tyrannous controul,
Owes her bright charter to his guardian soul.
Let Freedom's eye our later story search!
Her modern champion issues from the church;
See Hoadley's persevering zeal withdraw
The veil of bigotry from heav'nly law;
With decent truth expound, with reason scan
God's gracious edict, and the rights of man!
To shield the dearest gift of Nature's hand
Was thine, pure spirit! and thy name shall stand
Engrav'd on Liberty's eternal rock,
With ardent Sidney, with the milder Locke,
And guarded by the Muse of Glory, shine
In manly Akenside's immortal line.
But these examples rise from hallow'd earth;
The church has models still of living worth:
Though some grave bishops, fond of dull repose,
Without a dream of Learning's friends or foes,
Enjoy their table, or from thence withdrawn,
Sink in soft slumber on their sleeves of lawn;
Though one fierce pedant, proud of ancient rule,
Rashly mistook a senate for a school,
'Till angry nobles bid his fury cease,
And lash'd the fiery pedagogue to peace;
We boast a Shipley, who with taste refin'd
Enjoys that richest treasure, wealth of mind;
Intent to pen, in Leisure's learned hour,
His just Philippick on oppressive pow'r,
Or teach thy flow'rs, Simplicity, to bloom
With Attic sweetness o'er an English tomb.
Nor you with honour can we fail to name,
Law! gen'rous guardian of that sage's name,
Who made mild government with faith agree,
And "stripp'd intolerance of every plea."
Nor dignity corrupts, nor time subdues
Your spirit, glowing with the noblest views;
While your keen eyes, undimm'd by age, explore
The utmost depths of metaphysic lore,
Still guard his fame, whose genius you enjoy,
And the dark sophist's baleful web destroy,
That seeks to shroud, with subtle falsehood spun,
The praise of Freedom's scientific Son!
O Lowth! we saw thy radiant name on high
Amid the purest lights of Learning's sky;
And long, if true to Freedom's guiding voice,
Long in thy splendor shall that sphere rejoice;
One passing vapour shall dissolve away,
And leave thy glory's unobstructed ray.
But while on Fame's high precipice you stand,
Be nobly firm! nor bend the virtuous hand,
Fill'd with rich sweets from Freedom's flow'ry mead,
To pluck Servility's oblivious weed!
High in the Court's rank soil that creeper winds,
And oft with dark embrace the Crosier binds;
While squeez'd from thence the subtle prelate flings
Its luscious poison in the ear of Kings.
Nor spread in courts alone these noxious leaves,
My Lord, as largely as he pays, receives,
And supple chaplains to a prelate bring
A dose as rich, as what he gives a King.
Such sycophants (could such to thee belong)
Might vent their venom on this friendly song;
Shame on the wretch (these flatt'rers would exclaim)
Who dares one accent of your voice to blame,
But fearing with your foes his name to blend,
Yet, more abusive, calls himself your friend."
No! let that radiant Truth, whose pow'r supreme
Rewards her genuine bard with Glory's beam,
Search my free spirit, and pronounce it clear
From meanness, spleen, malignity, or fear!
To ardent friendship I my numbers owe;
Whate'er their failings, from that source they flow;
If weak, yet honest; if presumptuous, true;
Thy worth the motive, and thy fame the view!
The man whose writings pure delight dispense,
Enchant my fancy, or enlarge my sense,
Whose heav'nly wisdom, mending human faults,
Warms my chill'd virtue and my soul exalts;
Friend of my bosom I this man declare,
And in my inmost heart the treasure wear,
Bishop or clerk! his fortune bright or blank!
Rever'd as noble whatsoe'er his rank!
His praise I eccho with a fond acclaim,
Joy in his health, and triumph in his fame.
With pure attachment, and with joy refin'd,
I boast such friendship with thy letter'd mind.
Whene'er, with deep delight and new regard,
We search thy comments on each Hebrew bard,
Where thy bold precepts to young minds impart
The end and value of the poet's art,
Its pow'rs ennobled by applause like thine,
Yet more we idolize that art divine;
With joy the justice of your wrath we own,
When your mild spirit takes a sharper tone,
When touch'd by Warburton's vindictive gall
It fires at Freedom's controversial call;
From wounded Genius flows your splendid line,
As from the trodden grape the sparkling wine:
Your hand, like Israel's unanointed King
Launching the pebble from his certain sling,
Strikes to the dust Presumption's mighty boast,
The proud Goliah of her critic host.
Thus robe'd in honour of the richest dye,
And view'd by Freedom with a parent's eye,
From thee that goddess with amazement hears
One note that sounds discordant in her ears;
Wild sparkles flash from her astonish'd eyes,
O save my falt'ring son! (she fondly cries)
Call his past glories to his sharpen'd sight,
And let him learn from their collected light,
My flow'rs, immortal, fear no winter's frown;
While lost in darkness Adulation's down
Flies like the gossamer, that whirlwinds bear,
In sport contemptuous, through the waste of air.
Tell him, though bright the smile of Kings may seem,
There shines a jewel of a brighter beam,
Above that smile, all human wealth above,
'Tis worn by Keppel in his country's love.
Shall Lowth adapt no more his Attic style
To the meridian of my fav'rite isle?
But feebly speak, in France's languid tone,
Faint as beneath Oppression's burning zone?
Or, blazing only with a bigot's fire,
Awake the slumb'ring flames of regal ire;
Stretch the state-theorist on Priesthood's rack,
And from the pulpit aim the personal attack?
Far other precepts suit the hallow'd sage,
Who aims to purify this venal age:
With juster wrath our mitred Lords declaim
On man's adult'rous guilt, and woman's shame;
Yes! lovely woman! Fashion's wayward spleen
Has idly plung'd, like Aegypt's giddy queen,
Thy purity, that pearl of richest price,
In the deep chalice of dissolving Vice.
Though thy unblushing frailties scorn excuse,
Let Pity still her palliatives produce!
Confirm'd by ages, let this truth be known,
Thy Honour's guardian first forgets his own:
While man holds Freedom as the noblest wealth,
Pride of his heart, and of his days the health,
With native charms his fair companion's grac'd,
If plain, yet lovely; and if simple, chaste;
Endearing age succeeds to rapt'rous youth,
Her life is virtue, and her love is truth.
But, when her guard, in Luxury's venal hour,
Yields his chaste soul a prostitute to Pow'r,
Heav'n, in just vengeance on the abject slave,
Corrupts the purest gift its bounty gave;
The tree of Comfort bears the thorn of Strife,
And poison'd marriage grows the pest of life;
Ills after ills in dire succession flow,
And private misery mounts to public woe.
O Lowth! whose voice, by purest Learning taught
To speak the language of exalted thought,
May best encounter Vice's murky crew,
And Faith and Virtue's fainting pow'rs renew,
Still by sage efforts of a soul sublime
Correct the rank abuses of the time!
Rememb'ring still, with Wisdom's just regard,
Thy fav'rite maxim of the Attic bard:
"As from the clouds bursts forth the weight of snow,
Light'nings or hail, that blast the scene below,
So bursts the ruin of a sinking State
From the dark vices of the guilty great."
In this blest isle, and shining only here,
Astraea, safe in Freedom's guardian spear,
With native boldness in her balance flings
The weak, the mighty; Ministers and Kings;
And Piety's blind zeal would curse the land,
If it could force this balance from her hand.
Rise, then! O rise! with Hoadley's spirit fir'd,
But in thy richer eloquence attir'd;
Teach us to guard from ev'ry mean controul
That manly vigour of the judging soul,
Which Faith approves, which Loyalty allows!
Teach us, while Honour to thy doctrine bows,
That Duty's praise in no blind worship lies,
But Reason's homage to the just and wise!
So to thy Country, to thy God endear'd,
By Heav'n protected as on earth rever'd,
May thy mild age in purest fame rejoice;
In fame, where Envy hears no jarring voice!
So may Religion, with divine relief,
Drop her rich balm on thy parental grief!
May that sweet comforter, the heav'nly Muse,
Who fondly treasures Sorrow's sacred dews,
In Glory's vase preserve the precious tear
Shed by paternal Love on Beauty's bier!
And O! when thou, to Learning's deep regret,
Must pay at Nature's call our common debt;
While life's last murmurs shake the parching throat,
And Pity catches that portentous note;
While in its hollow orb the rolling eye
Of Hope is turn'd convulsive to the sky,
May holiest visitants, each sainted seer
Whose well known accents warble in thine ear,
Descend, with Mercy's delegated pow'r,
To soothe the anguish of that awful hour;
With lenient aid release thy struggling breath,
Guide thy freed spirit through the gates of Death,
Shew thee, emerging from this earthly storm,
Thy lov'd Maria in a seraph's form,
And give thee, gazing on the Throne of Grace,
To view thy mighty Maker face to face.