1759 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

William Mason, "To the Rev. Mr. Hurd. An Elegy" Annual Register (1759) 450-51.



Friend of my youth, who when the willing Muse
Stream'd o'er my breast her warm poetic rays,
Saw'st the fresh seeds their vital power diffuse,
And fed'st them with the fost'ring dew of praise!

Whate'er the produce of th' unthrifty soil,
The leaves, the flowers, the fruits to thee belong;
The labourer earns the wages of his toil;
Who form'd the poet well may claim the song.

Yes, 'tis my pride to own, that taught by thee
My conscious soul superior flights essay'd;
Learn'd from thy lore the poet's dignity,
And spurn'd the hirelings of the rhyming trade.

Say, scenes of Science, say, thou haunted stream!
(For oft my muse-led steps didst thou behold)
How on thy banks I rifled every theme,
That Fancy fabled in her age of gold.

How oft I cry'd, "O come, thou tragic queen!
March from thy Greece with firm majestic tread!
Such as when Athens saw thee fill her scene,
When Sophocles thy choral Graces led:

"Saw thy proud pall its purple length devolve,
Saw thee uplift the glitt'ring dagger high,
Ponder with fixed brow thy deep resolve,
Prepar'd to strike, to triumph, and to die.

"Bring then to Britain's plain that choral throng,
Display thy buskin'd pomp, thy golden lyre,
Give her historic forms the soul of song,
And mingle Attic art with Shakespear's fire."

"Ah what, fond boy, dost thou presume to claim?"
The Muse replied. "Mistaken suppliant, know,
To light in Shakespear's breast the dazzling flame
Exhausted all Parnassus could bestow.

"True art remains; and, if from his bright page
Thy mimic power one vivid beam can seize,
Proceed; and in the best of tasks engage,
Which tends at once to profit and to please."

She spake; and Harewood's towers spontaneous rose;
Soft virgin warblings echo'd thro' the grove;
And fair Elfrida pour'd forth all her woes,
The hapless pattern of connubial love.

More awful scenes old Mona next display'd;
Her caverns gloom'd, her forests wav'd on high,
While flam'd within her consecrated shade
The Genius stern of British liberty.

And see, my Hurd! to thee those scenes consign'd;
O! take and stamp them with thy honour'd name.
Around the page be friendship's chaplet twin'd;
And if they find the road to honest fame,

Perchance the candour of some nobler age
May praise the bard who bid gay folly bear
Her chief applauses to the busy stage,
And leave him pensive Virtue's silent tear;

Chose too to consecrate his favourite strain
To him, who grac'd by ev'ry liberal art,
That best might shine amid the learned train,
Yet more excell'd in morals, and in heart:

Whose equal mind could see vain fortune shower
Her flimsy favours on the fawning crew,
While in low Thurcastan's sequester'd bower
She fixt him distant from promotion's view:

Yet, shelter'd there by calm Contentment's wing;
Pleas'd he could smile, and with sage Hooker's eye
"See from his mother earth God's blessings spring,
And eat his bread in peace and privacy."
March 20, 1759.