1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Warton

John Bannister, "On the Death of the Rev. Thomas Warton, B.D." Derby Mercury (10 June 1790).



Ye gen'rous youths, whom love of virtue fires,
Ambition arms, and Poetry inspires,
Heave the deep sigh, and shed the heartfelt tear
O'er laurell'd WARTON'S much lamented bier;
And, sacred Isis, bid thy waters flow,
In all the solemn majesty of woe.
The Bard is dead, whose sweetly sounding strains
So oft have charm'd thy list'ning nymphs and swains;
Or, by sublimer genius borne along,
Proclaim'd to all, in numbers bold and strong,
Thy glories, OXFORD, and before our eyes
Bad the great spirit of her sons arise,
Those who in legislative arts excell'd,
Or led Britannia's armies to the field,
Thro' slaughter'd foes pursu'd the road to fame,
And dreaded nothing but their country's shame.
Nor less the useful arts of peace delight,
With eloquence to speak, with taste to write;
To form the manners of the rising youth,
To point the way to virtue and to truth;
Such arts ennoble Oxford's darling sons,
And fame their worth with wreaths eternal crowns.
Behold our Poet, smit with sacred rage,
Explore the dark and long neglected page
Of antient bards, whose fires but faintly gleam,
Obscure their language, tho' sublime their theme;
But like some god he drives the mists away,
Reveals their beauties and restores the day.
CHAUCER appears with every living grace;
Him LYDGATE follows with unequal pace.
In days more polish'd, SACKVILLE'S wit design'd
His moral tale, a mirror for mankind;
Whilst SURREY'S tender muse delights to rove
Thro' all the pleasing labyrinths of love;
And Fancy's fav'rite child, sweet SPENCER, leads
Th' enraptur'd soul thro' groves and flow'ry meads,
Where chivalry her heroes brings along,
To raise the power of allegoric song,
And knights and ladies strike our wond'ring eyes,
And magic palaces before us rise,
In vain will genius on her vot'ry blaze;
The sickly flame, tho' dazzling, soon decays,
Unless fair Virtue shed her sacred light,
And make it shine as permanent as bright.
Thus WARTON, tho' thy ardent bosom caught
All that Apollo and the Muses taught,
Yet virtue triumph'd over every art,
And claim'd the largest portion of thy heart.
Just, lib'ral, candid, friendly and sincere,
Above the pomp of pride, and flatt'ry's servile fear,
Whate'er the fawning, courtly tribe may say,
("The short-liv'd insects of a summer's day,"
Who never paid their vows at virtue's shrine,
Or learn'd to estimate a worth like thine;)
Yet shall my feeble but unspotted lays,
From vice and flatt'ry free, record thy praise,
And while unfading laurels round thee bloom,
Weave this light garland to adorn thy tomb.