1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Bryan Waller, "Verses on the Delay in the Erection of Dr. Johnson's Monument" Morning Chronicle (9 February 1792).



Doom'd whilst on earth each varied ill to try
(The lot of Genius chain'd to Poverty)
Posterity at length more generous proves,
And seems to dignify the Man she loves;
No longer she withholds the lingering bays
But with full hands her ready tribute pays:
As if Mankind, of living worth afraid,
Were only just to ashes and a shade!

Yet say, amidst the general acclaim,
So lavish now of honour and of fame,
Shall JOHNSON'S ashes still ignobly sleep
With common dust, an undistinguish'd heap?
No emblematic Muse be seen to shed
Those costly honours which embalm the dead?
No breathing Stone, no animated Bust,
True to his form, and to his memory just?

Shall Sculpture then her mimic pow'rs supply
To grace the pomp of guilty Flattery;
And shall the Poet, Moralist, and Sage,
Obscurely sink in an enlightened age?
Perish the thought! dishonest, as 'tis rude,
Forbid it Shame, forbid it Gratitude.
Let Arts at least their Sister Arts respect,
And glow with zeal each other to protect:
Ill-fated as they are, oh! let them be
True to themselves, and link'd in amity.

Know for ourselves we shall erect the pile,
A monumental honour to our isle;
Which, peerless long in the proud roll of fame,
To better titles now asserts her claim,
And to the Hero's joins the Poet's name.

Oh! would his skill some PHIDIAS might employ,
Whose work nor time nor ravage might destroy!
Whose happy art might teach the bold relief
With eloquence to speak our lasting grief!
That when succeeding times, with curious view,
In Laureat Marble should the Sage pursue,
Perchance (whilst smit with a congenial flame)
In smoother numbers might some Bard exclaim:
"Lo! this musing mien of that fam'd Sage,
Who lived revered, tho' Censor of his age.
In Him so justly Nature mix'd with Art,
That each to other did new lights impart.
Thrice-potent charms he gave to nervous sense,
And purest precepts cloath'd with eloquence.
Verse was to salutary Truth allied,
And Wit and Fancy fought on Virtue's side.

"No longer Greece her wonted boast retains,
No longer Roman Worth unrival'd reigns;
In our own Shakespeare's sovereign Muse we find
Arch Plautus with Euripides combin'd,
Menander's wit, and Aeschylus's mind.
With Homer, Milton shares the Epic Crown,
Great Dryden wears with grace the Mantuan's Gown;
In Pope's sweet numbers Horace lives again,
Fair Sophocles fresh blooms in Mason's strain;
To Churchill, Persius lends his caustic ray,
And Pindar's rhapsody is felt in Gray.

"With Cato, and with Socrates of yore,
We now alike dispute the Sage's Lore:
Britain in this one Man has fairly shewn
Wit, Wisdom, Piety, are hence her own!"
London, December, 1791.