1755 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

Robert Dodsley, "Verses occasioned by an Incident, at the Seat of Wm. Shenstone, Esq."1755; London Chronicle (22 September 1761) 287.



"How shall I fix my wandering eye? where find
The source of this enchantment? dwells it in
The woods? or moves there not a magic wand
O'er the translucent waters? Sure, unseen
Some favouring power directs the happy lines
That sketch these beauties; swells the rising hills,
And scoops the dales to nature's finest forms,
Vague, undetermin'd, infinite; untaught
By line or compass, yet supremely fair."

So spake Philenor, as with raptur'd gaze
He travers'd Damon's farm. From distant plains
He sought his friend's abode: nor had the fame
Of that new-form'd Arcadia reach'd his ear.

And thus the youth, as o'er each hill and dale,
Thro' lawn or thicket, he pursu'd his way;
"What is it guilds the verdure of these meads
With hues more bright than fancy paints the flowers
Of paradise? What Naiad's guiding hand
Leads, thro' the broider'd vale, these lucid rills,
That, murmring as they flow, bear melody
Along their banks; and, thro' the vocal shades,
Improve the music of the woodland choir?
What pensive Dryad rais'd yon solemn grove,
Where minds contemplative, at close of day
Retiring, muse o'er Nature's various works,
Her wonders venerate, or her sweets enjoy—
What room for doubt? Some rural deity
Presiding scatters o'er the unequal lawns
In beauteous wildness, yon fair spreading trees;
And, mingling woods and waters, hills, and dales,
And herds and bleating flocks, domestic fowl,
And those that swim the lake, sees rising 'round
More pleasing landskips than in Tempe's vale
Peneus water'd. Yes, some silvan God
Spreads wide the varied prospect; waves the woods,
Lifts the proud hills, and clears the shining lakes;
While, from the congregated waters pour'd,
The bursting torrent tumbles down the steep
In foaming fury; fierce, irregular,
Wild, interrupted; cross'd with rocks and roots
And interwoven trees; 'till now absorb'd
An opening cavern, all its rage entombs.
So vanish human glories! so the pomp
Of swelling warriors, of ambitious kings!
Who fret and strut their hour, upon the stage
Of busy life, and then are heard no more.

"'Tis fascination all! — And see, the spells,
The powerful incantations, magic verse,
Inscrib'd on every tree, alcove, or urn,—

"Spells, incantations? — ah, my tuneful friend!
Thine are the numbers! thine the wondrous works!
Yes, great magician! now I read thee right,
And lightly weigh all sorcery, but thine.
Nor Naiad's leading step conducts the rill;
Nor silvan god presiding skirts the lawn,
In beauteous wildness, with fair spreading trees;
Nor magic wand has circumscrib'd the scene.
'Tis thine own task, thy genius that presides,
Nor needs there other deity, nor needs
More potent spells than they." No more the youth;
For lo! his Damon, o'er the tufted lawn
Advancing, leads him to the social dome.
The Leasowes, 1755.