1760 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Blacklock

James Beattie, "To Rev. Thomas Blacklock" 1760 ca.; Blacklock, Poems (1793) xxxiv-v.



Hail to the poet! whose spontaneous lays
No pride restrains, nor venal flattery sways.
Who, nor from critics, nor from fashion's laws,
Learns to adjust his tribute of applause;
But bold to feel, and ardent to impart
What nature whispers to the generous heart,
Propitious to the moral song, commends,
For Virtue's sake, the humblest of her friends.

Peace to the grumblers of an envious age,
Vapid in spleen, or brisk in frothy rage!
Critics, who, ere they understand, defame;
And friends demure, who only do not blame;
And puppet-prattlers, whose unconscious throat
Transmits what the pert witling prompts by rote,
Pleas'd to their spite or scorn I yield the lays
That boast the sanction of a Blacklock's praise.
Let others court the blind and babbling crowd:
Mine be the favour of the wise and good.

O thou, to censure, as to guile unknown!
Indulgent to all merit but thy own!
Whose soul, though darkness wrap thine earthly frame,
Exults in virtue's pure ethereal flame;
Whose thoughts, congenial with the strains on high,
The muse adorns, but cannot dignify;
As northern lights, in glittering legions driven,
Embellish, not exalt, the starry heaven:
Say thou, for well thou know'st the art divine
To guide the fancy, and the soul refine,
What heights of excellence must he ascend,
Who longs to claim a Blacklock for his friend;
Who longs to emulate thy tuneful art;
But more thy meek simplicity of heart;
But more thy virtue patient, undismay'd,
At once though malice and mischance invade;
And, nor by learn'd nor priestly pride confin'd,
Thy zeal for truth, and love of human kind.
Like thee, with sweet ineffable controul,
Teach me to rouse or soothe th' impassion'd soul,
And breathe the luxury of social woes;
Ah! ill-exchanged for all that mirth bestows.
Ye slaves of mirth, renounce your boasted plan,
For know, 'tis sympathy exalts the man.
But, midst the festive bower, or echoing hall,
Can riot listen to soft pity's call?
Rude he repels the soul-ennobling guest,
And yields to selfish joy his harden'd breast.

Teach me thine artless harmony of song,
Sweet, as the vernal warblings borne along
Arcadia's myrtle groves; ere art began,
With critic glance malevolent, to scan
Bold nature's generous charms, display'd profuse
In each warm cheek, and each enraptur'd muse.
Then had not Fraud impos'd, in Fashion's name,
For freedom lifeless form, and pride for shame;
And, for th' o'erflowings of a heart sincere,
The feature fix'd, untarnish'd with a tear;
The cautious, slow, and unenliven'd eye,
And breast inured to check the tender sigh.
Then love, unblamed, indulged the guiltless smile;
Deceit they fear'd not, for they knew not guile.
The social sense unawed, that scorn'd to own
The curb of law, save nature's law alone,
To godlike aims, and godlike actions fir'd;
And the full energy of thought inspir'd;
And the full dignity of pleasure, given
T' exalt desire, and yield a taste of heaven.