1834 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Tennant

David Vedder, "To Professor Tennant," 1834 ca.; Vedder, Poems, Lyrics, and Sketches (1855) 70-72.



Ten thousand bosoms throb with honest pride,
When sterling merit meets with due reward;
Alas! the meed of praise — and nought beside—
Is often all that greets the struggling bard,
Till overwhelmed by want's resistless tide,
He hides his honoured head beneath the sward:
Then obelisks arise, and busts are carved,
And elegies are penned, for him who lately starved.

Blush, Power and Patronage, with burning shame,
Review the past, and shed the scalding tear;
In sooth, ye did a "deed without a name,"
In sending Burns to an untimely bier.
What though the thousand trumpet-tongues of fame
Doth herald o'er the earth his right career,
He perished foully by the assassin's blow,
And by the poisoned shafts of slander, want, and woe.

Where slept the self-styled patrons of the Muse,
When perished Rowe, and Chatterton, and Lee?
Say, did not Wealth his boundless power abuse
When wayward Savage died in misery?
And did not pampered Luxury refuse
Her surplus scraps to Otway's penury?
Oh! did not glorious Milton, loved and mourned,
Exist upon such crumbs as menials would have spurned.

The blind old man, with his immortal story
Of thrones, dominions, potentates, and powers,
Heaven's bright hierarchy — celestial glory,
Its sapphire blaze, and amaranthine flowers,
Lay on his truckle-bed, enfeebled, hoary,
Lingering away his melancholy hours;—
While fashionable Folly idly laughed,
Ran pleasure's giddy round, and brimming goblets quaffed.

Shade of consistent Butler! hapless bard!
Thy life was spent in poverty and pain;
Although thy burning satire ever marred
The iron soul of Cromwell, — 'twas in vain:
The royal largess flowed not to reward
Thy firm untainted loyalty; the rain,
The snow, the storm, howled o'er thy houseless head,
Until thou refuge found within the narrow bed.

Why reckon up those spirits who possessed
"The vision and the faculty divine?"
The music of their lyres flowed unrepressed,
Though left in wretchedness and woe to pine:
Yes! unborn myriads yet shall call them blessed.
Then let not poets-militant repine;
A brighter and a better day is nearing—
See, all the literary skies are clearing!

And Scotland has for once performed her duty,
To genius , erudition, talent, worth;—
And lowly bending to my very shoe-tie,
I thank the ancient Empress of the North,
Whose falcon-eye perceived at once the beauty
Of Tennant's musings, by the banks of Forth;
Well may the sister-kingdoms both applaud her,
For elevating him who sang of "Maggy Lauder!"

She heard the thrilling music of his lyre,
From sea to sea its diapason rung;
Beauty with parted lips could scarce respire,
And horny-handed labour leaped and flung
In ecstacy — lasses in gay attire
Thronged to the spot whene'er the poet sung:
She's placed him in a grave Professors chair,
Who sung in jocund strains the joys of "Anster Fair."

Without a rival he's been long installed
The poet-laureate of the Fairy Queen,
And annually on Kelly's summit bald,
In gorgeous livery of gold and green,
He meets the tiny sovereign, nought appalled,
In dazzling splendour and unearthly sheen;
And from her royal hands he there receives
A bard's unfading wreathe of amaranthine leaves.

No doubt he quaffs a grace-cup with her highness,
Distilled from the aroma of Pleiades,—
For bards have been remarkable for dryness,
And always pledge — especially with ladies:
Save Cowper — I have never read of shyness
In any of the tribe when rhyme their trade is —
The horned moon gleams like a fiery flaught,
To see them tossing off so large a willy-waught!

In haste they mount their winged steeds, and flee
To Largo Law, or Lomond's steep sublime;
And there with ecstasy they hear and see
"Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme;"
What wild unearthly matchless melodie
Bursts on their ravished ear from time to time;
And aye the "toom" another nectar-horn,
Till Leslie's hundred cocks proclaim the coming morn.

To shift the scene — like Hero and Leander,
They either swim or fly across the Tay;
And on the Siedlaw Hills for hours they wander,
Like bride and bridegroom on their wedding-day;
She strikes the sod, and fairy rills meander
Bright as a moon-beam, or a solar ray;
Whilst Ursa-Major grunts his approbation,
To see the enamoured pair hold such sweet delectation.

When, presto, on the lunar rainbow's rim,
They glide to Dollar's classic grounds "instanter;"
The setting moon, though tired, doth shake a limb,
The Borealis dance to Oberon's chanter;
Ten thousand Fays, in cobweb tunics trim,
Cry "for a single hour of Rob the Ranter;"
We'd foot it deftly on the growing corn,—
Of Oberon we are tired, — confound his stock-an'-horn.

To fairy-realm anon they wing their flight,
Lit by a comet through the nether skies:
Bathed in a yellow flood of amber light,
The Imperial City meets their raptured eyes:
Its dome and spires, and towers and turrets bright,
In glittering magnificence arise,
And dulcet strains salute their ravished ears,
Excelled by nought except the music of the spheres.

Ten thousand rainbows span its glowing walls,
Its streets and squares Macadamized with gems,
Its river, with an hundred waterfalls,
A bank, incrusted o'er with diamonds, hems;
The dwellers in its moon-bright princely halls
Wear never-dying flowers for diadems;
The queen's Tiara darts a fulgent ray—
'Tis gemm'd with new-born stars from out the milky-way.

Thus hath our poet learned from observation
The secret mysteries of fairy-land;
And sweetly sung to an admiring nation
Of nought but what his eagle-eye had scanned;
The world hath stamped his song with approbation,
Though now, alas! he's broke his magic wand:
No more he'll sing of Puck and Anster Fair,
So, worthily may he fill a grave Professor's chair.