1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Thomas Percy

Thomas Maurice, "To the Reverend Thomas Percy, D.D." Maurice, Poems (1779) 5-8.



From classic plains, where science loves to dwell,
Sooth'd with the warblings of her Attic shell;
From bowers, where patriots, sages, kings, have stray'd,
With wisdom musing in the laurel shade;
Friend to the muse, this votive verse receive,
Praise what you can, and what you may, forgive.

Hither that muse thy favour'd footstep led,
And wreath'd a chaplet round thy youthful head:
Here bade thy soul, with daring search, explore
The rich, exhaustless mines of antient lore;
Reach the bold flights of Plato's fire-clad thought,
And scan the truths his greater master taught:
Wisest of men, whose firm unshaken soul
Beheld, without dismay, the deadly bowl,
Nor cou'd ungrateful Athens blast a name,
That still shall shine, their glory and their shame.
Here to thy view bade Athens's patriot rise,
Fate in his voice, and light'ning in his eyes,
The sons of Greece and freedom to confound,
And dash the pride of Philip to the ground:
Or warm'd thee with the sound of Tully's tongue,
On which admiring Rome with rapture hung,
Taught thee what strains the Theban roll'd along,
And all the sweets of Maro's polish'd song.

Oft, 'midst these kindred glades, thy mind might trace
The mystic page of Mona's antient race;
Whom, trembling thro' her forests inmost gloom,
She pour'd by midnight from her cavern'd womb;
Prophets, whose eyes the depths of fate cou'd pierce,
Who burst the bands of death with magic verse:
And those of later day, with rage sublime,
Who smote the harp, and rouz'd the soul of rhyme;
Whose martial strains rehears'd the toils of fight,
And warm'd the heart of many a hardy knight:
How, like a rock, each lion-chieftain stood,
Or urg'd his panting steed thro' seas of hostile blood.

Methinks I see, where Alnwick's turrets hoar,
Darken her flood, so often stain'd with gore,
A thousand heroes fill the spacious hall,
And helms and lances hang the frowning wall.
Full in the center of the warlike band,
I see a chief of bolder visage stand;
With keener flames his glist'ning eye-balls shine,
And his port marks him of the Percy line—
The song begins; the minstrels sweep the string,
And the high roofs with martial clangors ring:
Of tournament they sing, and tented plain,
A Percy victor, or a Douglas slain,
Or Arthur's feats, in daring lays rehearse,
Or Edward's conquests swell the mighty verse;
The sounds, like light'ning, pierce each warrior's soul,
And life's warm tides in brisker currents roll;
Their spears they shake, and clash the burnish'd shield,
And seem triumphant e'er they reach the field—

Bold were the notes, and kings approv'd the song,
Like those who heard, unpolish'd, rough, and strong;
But cou'd not o'er the arm of death prevail,
When all the powers of song and music fail:
Time, with oblivious hand, defac'd the page,
And Virtue only triumph'd o'er his rage:
Their rugged numbers we no more admire,
Yet tho' their language fails, their raptures fire.
PERCY, 'twas thine to cull each nobler lay,
And give new verdure to the wither'd bay,
The blooms of infant genius to restore,
Teach them to spread, and bid them fade nor more—
For long as genuine passion sways the heart,
And nature's painting shames the strokes of art,
Britain shall love the strain that sings, so well,
How her bold ancient heroes fought and fell:
Her rising offspring kindle as they read,
And burn, like them, to conquer or to bleed—