1766 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Cunningham

C. B., M.D., "To Mr. John Cunningham, on reading his Book of Pastoral Poems" 1766; St. James's Chronicle (3 March 1767).



Hail, gentle Cunningham! melodious Bard!
Thou genuine Son of the Pierian Muse:
Alike thy Numbers, whether on the Heath
Thou breath'st the pastoral Song, to Measures far
Surpassing Dryden's once-enchanting Strains;
(To thine, for sweet Simplicity of Thought,
And rustic Lay, unequal) or, when Pity
Calls forth the briny Harbinger of Woe,
The Pearl that ever decks Humanity!
When breathless Virtue, in her silent Form
More eloquent than Ciceronian Tongue,
Bids Grief array her in her saddest Robe—
Then, with a Shenstone's sadly-pleasing Powers,
'Tis thine, O Cunningham! to sooth the Breast,
To calm the Mother's agitated Soul
For filial Worth extinct. — 'Tis thine to quell
That Anguish of Despair each gen'rous Friend
Feels when bereft of his congenial Soul.
Nor less thy Energy, when lighter Task
Of Prologue and of Epilogue demands
The Sportings of thy Pen; — the jocund sSng,
The pointed Epigram alike are thine:
Matchless alike thy easy-flowing Line,
Whether thou soarest o'er Parnassus' Height,
Or sweetly low'ring in the Midway Seat
Of minor Poet; or descending still,
Thou dipp'st thy Pinions in the Silver Stream
Of Helicon, to rise with freshen'd Pow'rs,
To fam'd Piaeria's Top, thy native Seat.
Newcastle, Dec. 20, 1766.