1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Benjamin Church

Rufus Wilmot Griswold, in Poets and Poetry of America (1860) 29.



The best English poem in the Pietas et Gratulatio is that of the celebrated Doctor Benjamin Church. He was born in Boston in 1739, and graduated at Cambridge when in the sixteenth year of his age. After finishing his professional education, he established himself as a physician in his native city, and soon became eminent by his literary and political writings. At the commencement of the revolutionary troubles he was chosen a member of the Massachusetts legislature, and after the battle of Lexington was appointed surgeon-general of the army. In the autumn of 1775 he was suspected of treasonable correspondence with the enemy, arrested by order of the commander-in-chief, tried by the general court, and found guilty. By direction of the Congress, to whom the subject of his punishment was referred, he was confined in a prison in Connecticut; but after a few months, on account of the condition of his health, was set at liberty; and in the summer of 1776 embarked at Newport for the West Indies, on a ship which was never heard of after the day on which it sailed. The concluding lines of address to George III, to which allusion has been made, are as follows:

May one clear calm attend thee to thy close,
One lengthen'd sunshine of compleat repose:
Correct our crimes, and beam that Christian mind
O'er the wide wreck of dissolute mankind;
To calm-brow'd Peace, the mad'ning world restore,
Or lash the demon thirsting still for gore;
Till nature's utmost bound thy arms restrain,
And prostrate tyrants bite the British chain.

Church also wrote The Times, The Choice, and Elegies on George Whitefield and Doctor Mayhew. He was a man of various and decided talents, but his poetical writings possess only a moderate degree of excellence.