1726 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elijah Fenton

William Broome, "An Epistle to my Friend, Mr. Elisha Fenton, 1726" London Journal (7 January 1727).



Why art thou slow to strike the harmonious Shell,
Averse to sing, who know'st to sing so well?
If thy bold Muse the Tragick Buskin wears,
Great SOPHOCLES revives, and reappears.
If by thy Hand th' Homerick Lyre be strung,
The Lyre returns such Sounds as HOMER sung.
The kind Compulsion of a Friend obey,
And, tho' reluctant, swell the lofty Lay.
Then list'ning Groves once more shall catch the Sound,
While Grecian Muses sing on British Ground.

Thus calm and silent thy own PROTEUS roves
Thro' Pearly Mazes, and thro' Coral Groves:
But when emerging from the azure Main,
Coercive Bands th' unwilling God constrain,
Then heaves his Bosom with Poetick Fires,
And his Tongue speaks sublime, what Heav'n inspires.

Envy, I own, with barbarous Rage invades,
What ev'n fierce Lightning spares, the Laurel-Shades:
And Criticks, byass'd by mistaken Rules,
Like Turkish Zealots, reverence none but Fools.
But Praise from such injurious Tongues is Shame;
They rail the happy Author into Fame.

Thus PHOEBUS thro' the Zodiac takes his Way,
And rises amidst Monsters into Day.

Me humble Joys, in calm Retirement please,
A silent Happiness and learned Ease:
Hail, holy Virtue! hail Celestial Guest,
Come fix thy pleasing Empire in my Breast!
Thou know'st her Influence, Friend! thy chearful Mien
Proclaims the Innocence and Peace within;
Such Joys, as none but Sons of Virtue know,
Shine in thy Face, and in thy Bosom glow.

So when the holy Mount the Prophet trod,
And talk'd familiar, as a Friend, with God;
Celestial Radiance every Feature shed,
And ambient Glories dawn'd around his Head.

Sure, what the unthinking Great mistaken call
Their Happiness, is Folly, Folly all!
Like lofty Mountains in the Clouds they hide
Their haughty Heads, but swell with barren Pride;
And while low Vales in useful Beauty lie,
Heave their proud naked Summits to the Sky.
In Honour, as in Place, ye Great, transcend:
An Angel fallen degenerates to a Friend.
The all-chearing Sun is honour'd with his Shrines,
Not that he moves aloft, but that he shines.
Why flames the Star on WALPOLE'S generous Breast,
Not that he's Highest, but because he's Best,
Fond to oblige, in blessing others blest.

How wond'rous few, by Avarice uncontroul'd,
Have Virtue to subdue the Thirst of Gold!
The shining Dirt the sordid Wretch ensnares,
To buy with mighty Treasures mighty Cares;
Blindly he courts, misguided by the Will,
A specious Good, and meets a real Ill.

So when ULYSSES plow'd the surgy Main,
When now in View appear'd his native Reign,
His Wayward Mates the Aeolian Bag unbind,
Expecting Treasures, but out-rush'd the Wind;
The sudden Hurricane in Thunder roars,
Buffets the Bark, and whirls it from the Shoars.

O happier thou, my Friend, with Ease content,
Blest with the Conscience of a Life well spent:
Nor would'st be Great; but guide thy gather'd Sails
Safe by the Shore, nor tempt the rougher Gales.
For sure of all that feel the Wounds of Fate,
None are compleatly wretched but the Great.
Superior Woes, superior Stations bring;
A Peasant sleeps, while Cares awake a King:
Expos'd to publick Rage or private Arts,
There Fortune and there Envy point their Darts.
Change but the Scene, and Kings in Dust decay,
Swept from the Earth, the Pageants of a Day!
There no Distinctions on the Dead await,
But pompous Graves and Rottenness in State.
Such now are all that shone on Earth before:
CAESAR and mighty MARLBRO' are no more!
Unhallow'd Feet o'er awful TULLY tread,
And HYDE and PLATO join the Vulgar Dead.
O COMPTON, when this Breath we once resign,
My Dust shall be as Eloquent as thine.

Till that last Hour, which calls me hence away
To pay that great Arrear which all must pay,
O may I tread the Paths which Saints have trod,
And Men who know they walk before their God!

Come, taste with me the Joys Retirement brings,
Look down on Royal Slaves, and pity Kings:
More happy, laid where Trees with Trees entwin'd
In bowry Arches tremble to the Wind;
With Innocence and Shade like Adam blest,
While a new Eden opens in thy Breast.
Then shall my Lyre to loftier Sounds be strung,
Inspir'd by HOMER, or what thou hast sung;
My Muse from thine shall catch a warmer Ray,
As Clouds are brightened by the God of Day.

So Trees unapt to bear, by Art refin'd,
With Shoots ennobled of a generous Kind,
High o'er the Ground, with Fruits adopted, rise,
And lift their spreading Honours to the Skies.