1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

N. T., "To Dr. Beattie" General Evening Post (20 September 1783).



Hail thou, whose Muse, contemning grandeur's bowers
Erewhile, in native dignity array'd,
An artless "shepherd boys" unfolding powers,
And bright romantic reveries display'd,
In strains, which strong oblivion's envious shade,
Secure in genuine grace, can never fear,
While magic harmony's delightful aid,
While chaste simplicity's enchanting air,
And fancy's vivid flow'rs the poet's toils endear.

Oh! thou so favour'd by the tuneful Nine;
Tho' fond with plausive breath thy name to raise,
Taste, beauty, judgment, piety combine,
Accept the thanks a youthful rustic pays;
Whom yet the beauties of thy polish'd lays,
With mingled sorrow and regret inspire,
(Tho' much he could thy recent labours praise)
That silent sleeps so long thy tuneful fire,
And all neglected lies the more illustrious lyre.

The landscape bright, the thought, with justness new,
Portray'd in prose, can interest the heart;
But (tho' unchang'd the thought, unchang'd the view)
A more consummate pleasure they impart,
Embellish'd by the sweet Phoebean art;
When poesy exults, or tender grieves,
Much more of joy we feel, or pitying smart;
While memory, on her most retentive leaves,
Smit with the charm of sound, the dulcet notes receives.

But, ah! how few of Genius' honour'd train
Possess with strength of mind poetic skill!
And ev'n of those how oft the soothing strain
Infuses grovelling thoughts and passions ill!—
O suasive, elegant, sublime at will,
Whose spotless page ne'er shelter'd aught impure;
Employ thy talents yet again t' instill
The liberal wish — from lust of gain secure,
And to fair Virtue's paths the wav'ring heart allure.

Yet, yet, sweet bard, resume thy Edwin's tale;
When manhood's dangerous eminence he gain'd,
Oh! say, what fates th' ingenuous youth befel;
What lovely maid his gentle bosom pain'd,
And with sweet artlessness his heart enchain'd,
"Ye cherub train, that brought him on his way,"
As yet with pride and black distrust unstain'd,
"Oh! leave him not 'midst tumult and dismay!"
Warm Love, and thankful Hope, and mild Contentment, stay.

These simple rhymes shall unlamented die,
And quickly vanish in oblivion due:
Yet should'st thou chance, with condescending eye,
The fond request, therein preferr'd, to view,
And thence arous'd, that pleasing theme pursue;
Then to the bare request, however penn'd,
Of praise some slender portion might accrue,
Then might my name, avowed, to fame pretend,
And gentle souls unborn my useful zeal commend.