1770 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Hugh Downman

Thomas Blacklock, "To Dr. Downman in London" 1770 ca.; Poems (1793) 207-09.



To the fond Muse, who sings of rural joys,
Involv'd in politics, and smoke and noise
Her Scotian sister gratulation sends,
Pleas'd that her taste, not on her place depends.
For oft contagions in the city breeze,
Hovering unseen, unfelt, the fancy seize:
Surrounding objects catch the roving eye,
And tastes with situations oft comply.
There party-passion wears the form of truth,
Pleasure in virtue's mask seduces youth,
Still handing round the sweet Circean bowl,
To warp the judgment, and pervert the soul.
Ye early plans, and wishes, then adieu,
We seek not what is fair, but what is new;
Each former prepossession leaves the heart,
And nature yields to meretricious art.

Oh! if in heav'n some chosen curse remain,
Nor thunders roll, nor lightnings flash in vain,
Curs'd be the wretch who cities first design'd,
To blast each native worth of human kind.
When first Astrea saw their strictures rise,
Fir'd with indignant rage, she sought the skies.
Th' ingenuous wish, that in one wide embrace
Clasp'd nature's frame, and glow'd for all her race,
Fair hospitality, in blessing blest,
Primeval candor, of translucent breast,
With horror shuddering at the baneful sight,
Retir'd, the vow'd companions of her flight:
Then from her bosom hell disgorg'd her train,
The lust of pleasure, and the thirst of gain,
Then pride luxurious rear'd her crest on high,
Deceit then forg'd the name, and cogg'd the die,
Then lawless tyrants from the throne decreed
Virtue to toil, and innocence to bleed.
In heart a tiger, tho' in looks a child,
Assassination stabb'd his friend, and smil'd;
While perjury, with unaverted eye,
Invok'd the god of truth, to seal a lie.

O conscious peace! to few indulg'd by fate,
When shall I find once more thy dear retreat?
When shall my steps the guiltless scenes explore,
Where virtue's smiles the age of gold restore
Where charity to all her arms extends,
And as she numbers faces, numbers friends?
Where unaffected sympathy appears
In cordial smiles, or undissembled tears?
Where Innocence and Mirth, the farmer's wealth,
Walk hand and hand with Exercise and Health?
Nor when the setting sun withdraws his ray,
And labour closes with the closing day,
Would I, with haughty insolence, avoid
The scenes where simple nature is enjoy'd;
But pleas'd, in frolic, or discourse engage
With sportive youth, or hospitable age,
Exert my talents to amuse the throng
In wond'rous legend, or in rural song.

Thus, by no wish for alteration seiz'd,
My neighbours pleasing, with my neighbours pleas'd,
Exempt from each excess of bliss or woe,
My setting hours should uniformly flow,
Till nature to the dust these limbs consign'd,
Leaving a short, but well-earn'd fame behind.

For thee, whom nature and the muse inspire
With taste refin'd, and elegant desire,
'Tis thine, where'er thou mov'st, thy bliss to find,
Drawn from the native treasures of thy mind;
To brighten life with love or friendship's ray,
Or through "the Muse's land" in raptures stray.
Oh! may thy soul her fav'rite objects gain,
And not a wish aspire to heav'n in vain!
Full on thy latest hours may genius shine,
And each domestic happiness be thine!