1785 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

John Marriott, "To Dr. Beattie" 1785 ca.; Short Account of John Marriott (1803) 163-66.



Hail thou, whose muse contemning grandeur's bowers,
Erewhile in native dignity arrayed
An artless "shepherd-boy's" unfolding powers,
And bright, romantick reveries displayed
In strains, which fell oblivion's envious shade,
Secure in genuine grace, can never fear,
While sphere-born harmony's delicious aid,
While chaste simplicity's enchanting air,
And fancy's vivid hues the poet's toils endear.

O, though so favoured of the partial Nine,
Though fond, with plausive breath, thy name to raise,
Taste, beauty, genius, piety combine;
Accept the thanks a youthful rustick pays,
Whom yet the beauties of thy polished lays
With mingled sorrow, deep regret inspire,
(Though much he could thy recent labours praise,)
That silent sleeps so long that nobler fire,
And all neglected lies thy more illustrious lyre.

The landscape bright, the thought with justness new,
Pourtrayed in prose, can interest the heart;
Yet (though unchanged the thought, unchanged the view)
A more consummate pleasure they impart,
Embellished 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 charms of sound the dulcet notes receives.

But ah! how few of genius' honoured train
Possess with strength of mind poetick skill!
And even, of those, how oft the insidious strain
Infuses grovelling thoughts and passions ill!
O suasive, elegant, sublime at will,
Whose flowery page ne'er sheltered aught impure,
Employ thy talents yet again to instill
The liberal wish; from lust of gain secure:
And to fair virtue's path the wavering heart allure.

Yet, yet sweet bard, resume thy Edwin's tale,
When manhood's dangerous eminence he gained:
O say what touching incidents befel,
What rural maid his gentle bosom pained,
And, with sweet artlessness, his heart enchained.
"Ye cherub train" that brought him on his way,
As yet with pride and black distrust unstained,
O leave him not "'midst tumult and dismay,"
Warm love, and thankful hope, and calm contentment, stay.

These simple rhymes shall unlamented die,
And quickly vanish in oblivion due;
Yet shouldst thou chance, with condescending eye,
The fond request therein preferred to view,
And, thence aroused, that pleasing theme pursue,
Then to the bare request, however penned,
Of praise, some slender portion might accrue;
Then might my name avowed to fame pretend,
And gentle souls unborn the weak attempt commend.