1712 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Smith

Anonymous, On the Death of Mr. Edmund Smith, late Student of Christ-Church, Oxon. (1712) 1-20.



Shalt thou, O Bard Divine, who e'rewhile sung
In doleful Plaint, the hapless final Doom,
Of Philips, bright Companion of thy Hours;
Whether, or Days, or Nights, in social Cups,
Ye past, or studious Musing, fertile of Lays
Congenial, and various-measur'd Sounds:
And Thou, on whom the Heav'nly Powers bestow'd
A vein Benign of Wit, Thought unconfin'd,
Despising shackled Rhyme; Thou, Thou, O Philips!
Wou'd, Redivive, e'er this repay'd his Metre,
Mindful of Friendship past, e'er this adorn'd
His Tomb, in Numbers, flowing as thy Tears.
Shalt Thou, O Bard Divine, then die unsung?
Unheeded, Unlamented, shalt Thou want
Some tributary grateful Muse, full-summ'd
To blazon-broad in Elegiack Song
Thy Worth, and eternise thy Name diffusive?

Pardon, O generous Ghost, Attempt Vainglorious;
Already Thou hast liv'd enough, hast liv'd
To celebrate thy self, Proof as a Rock
Of Adamant unmov'd, 'gainst all Assaults
Of utter Hate envenom'd, Time, sworn Foe
To Song-attempting Author, Poet Modern;
Hast liv'd by thine own Hand, Nor Friends, nor Foes,
Augment, Officious, or decrease thy Fame
Firm-fix'd, distinguish'd only by thy Theme.

Hypolitus Elate declares thy Praise
In loud Acclaim, among the Shades below,
His joyful Sentiments expresses, vaunts
His happy State, first introduc'd by You
On British Theatre: Not Philip's Son
More pleas'd, when at Pelide's Tomb he stood
Greedy of Glory, nor with the Universe
Content; had he obtain'd his darling Wish.
And Sire Maeonides his mighty Feats
Of Arms, in never-dying Verse recorded.
Thus shall he live, be thus deliver'd down
To After-Time, drawn to the Life, he seems
Himself, nor his own Native Dress becomes
Him more: Euripides, Seneca, Racine,
Nor boast superior Merit: Greece, Latium, Gaul,
Confess thy up-grown Genius, over-peering,
And Ostentatious share the second Honours.

But yet, my Muse, tho' conscious of her Weakness,
Nor fit, nor worthy, to Thee, O Smith respectful,
And prompted by her Grief, Assays, else Mute,
O bold, O hard Assay! to tell thy Virtues
In Words of pure Affect; her Sighs in-pent
Burst out in Floods of Tears, as River damm'd,
Impetuous Torrent, Uncontrou'd, full Force
At length collecting, loudly Roaring, breaks
Down Banks, imprisoning Mound, Infuriate,
And sweeping all Oppose, o'erturns, o'erwhelms,
With Inundation wild, the Country waste.

Methought I ken'd the Reverend Shade of Bodley,
When thou declaim'st Solennial on his Deeds,
Rise from the darksome Grave, with Aspect stern,
Awful, and Rigid, tho' with Sweetness mixt,
Majestic, Grave, and Philosophic Leer,
Omen of instant Joy, Methought I heard
Thus his Approve the solemn Sage Announce.

"Well hast Thou spoke, O Youth mature, well learn't,
The moving Art of Rhetoric, the Native Force
Of Greek and Roman Diction, well art skill'd,
In ought becoming Pathos, Elocution,
Bland, Dulcet; strong as disgusted Patriot,
Haranging Senate, but so smooth at Will,
As the entangling Syren's artful Notes;
Or Favourite, deluding of his Prince,
Fawning with humil Cringe, and accent Bland,
And dropping Manna from his flattering Tongue.
Pleas'd, I must own I am, to see my Boon
Of Academic Books improve, bring forth
Such good Produce, blind Melesigines,
The Mantuan Bard, Demosthenes, and Tully,
Are drawn at large in Thee, and cent'ring meet.
But Time will come, alas, too soon 'twill come,
When Thou, prone-tending to the Grave, art snatch'd,
O Loss, invaluable, irrecoverable!
Nor silver A—ch long survives, but leaves
A Name Immortal as his Deeds, succeeded
(And happy 'tis to be succeeded thus)
By Att—y, Bright, Wise Governor,
Vers'd in all human Knowledge, and all Arts,
And All in every Art excelling; Him except,
Whom Convocations future shall admire
For Fluency of Tongue, and equal Learning,
Consummate Sm—ge! Still, still deserving
Greater Dignity, O excellent Divine!
To Thee Oxonia Bows, Thee, Church and State,
Hold in the highest Rank of just Esteem:
By Thee, instructed, taught from Regal Chair,
Out-sets the young Divine, well-fraught, and gains
Conquest o'er far and near, o'er monstrous Sects,
That swarm, and over-spread the Land with Error,
Worse than Cymmerian Darkness, horrid Shade."

Cou'd Ought, Polite, Refined, stave off th' Approach
Of grisly Death agast, with griping Paw,
Hideous to Sight, O Smith, thou still had'st liv'd,
Still had'st Thou tun'd thy Lays, near London's Seat,
To winding Thames Contiguous, Fulham Shoar:
There had'st Thou giv'n Attest of Judgment, Candour,
And Vigorous Turn of Thought, of Wit Facete,
Luxuriant, Chast, Uncommon, and Refin'd
From vulgar Dross, Horatian Sneer Attendant
On Banter, Glee, the Life of Conversation.
There had'st Thou try'd thy Muse in keen Invective,
With pointed Shafts of Satyr, Dorian Lyric
Gay, Humorous, or Judicious Epic
Best for Instruction form'd, or Epigram
With nibling Twitch, or Pompous Sound Dramatic,
Or Boiling Pindar's Odes, or odd Burlesque,
The Mimic Zani Muse that postures all;
Perfect in each of these a Genius deem'd.
And well might perfect be, in Longine's Arms
Indulgent, foster'd, sucking Knowledge exact
From Precept pure, as Heliconian Streams
Mellifluous, and forming Judgment true;
From whence both Gods and Men are taught to speak.
What might we expect from Thee, O Smith!
What nice Corrections, and what Censure just
On Faults, and not on Men, on Scriblers Vile,
Modern in Thought, in Dress, and Error foul?
How woud'st Thou've taught the World to Think, to Write,
To Speak? Retriev'd that Eloquence Divine,
Which mov'd the wild Democritus at Will,
Of Rome, or Athens, or to Peace, or War:
O Smith! at once our Critic, and Example.
All this, Thou'd'st done, and more than Thought can reach,
Or Words can tell, Inimitable Bard!
Had not untimely Fate Thy Days abridg'd
Relentless, and our Growing Hopes deceiv'd.
So fares th' Embosom'd Rose, in radiant Morn,
Disclosing Blushes to the Beams Titanic:
O Beauteous scented Foliage, short-liv'd Plant!
Nor all the live-long Day survives, but crop'd
By some fair Virgin's Hand, and decays.

O that some Christ-Church Bard, Foundation fam'd,
In Godlike Rapture, like thy Own, wou'd sing
Thy Destiny; or some New-born Muse arise
Inspir'd with Harmony Celestial, Offspring
Of Thy surviving Genius, Fire Paternal
Inheriting: So th' Arabian Bird
Engender'd, starts from the Productive Ashes
Of his dead Syre: So sacred Records tell
Thee, Great Elijah, Charioting to Heaven
In Fiery Vehicle, thy Mantle drop'd
Credential to Elisha, double Portion
Of Warmth Diffusing, and Prophetic Rage.

How are Thy Looks disorder'd, Ghastly-wan,
Thy Eye-Balls Fiery-red, and Parch'd, and Blear'd,
Oxonia? Parent Alm, Blest Residence
Of Learning, Arts, Yclipt Bellositum
In ancient Story known; Methinks I hear
Thy Generous Pity for Thy Son, Thy Moans
Sad, and Disconsolate, on Isis Banks,
Delightful Bordering Stream! Methinks I see
Thy Grief surpassing all Excess of Grief
Emphatical. Not Sorrow more express
Or seiz'd the Delian God, or Sylvan Nymphs,
When Rodopeius fell, to lustful Rage
A Victim, torn by the furious Race
Of Bacchus, and the wild Ciconian Rout
Of Revellers, nor cou'd the Muse defend her Son:
Seraphick Orpheus! who first with mortal Hand
Touch'd the Testacious Lyre, and taught to sing;
Who near the Streams of Phlegeton first breath'd
Thy Chords, and by the Force of Number drew
Euridice from Hell, and smooth'd the Visage
Of Cerberus Immane; who stopp'd the Floods
In prone Career, provok'd the list'ning Trees
To saliant bounding Mores, and gently tam'd
The bestial savage Race, with Musicks Notes
Harmonious; May thy Followers pursue
Thy Steps, Ambitious, but thy Fate avoid.

O H—y! may My Verse awhile detain
Thy Thoughts, tho' Waking for the Publick Good,
To Verse Obsequious: O St. J—n, lend an Ear
Attentive, as whilom you're wont to do
To Strains Miltonic: My flagging Muse before
By Chilling Damps deprest, and Nipping Cold,
Cheer'd and Encourag'd by the Glimpse of Favour
'Gins to Ensoar Aloof, on Wings of Hope
Aerial mounts, and burns with Fire Poetic.
So starv'ling Plant benumm'd by Winter Breme,
Unkindly forward Season, recollects
Fresh Vigour quick'ning, by the Genial Rays,
Of the Revolving Sun, Re-animate.

But stop, O Headstrong Muse, Ungovernable!
The Bard we 'wail best worthy to declare
Our Chiefs renown'd in Council, or in Camp.

What Trophies wou'd he raise, Arches Triumphant,
To H—y, Britain's Hope, Aversion dire
Of Gaul Aspiring? How describe his Worth,
Concern for Common Good, Brain-racking Cares,
And tedious sleepless Nights, his Condescension
To all Mankind, an Open Soul, nor warp'd
By lawless Gain, with Irretorted Eye
Beholding Heaps of Gold, Deep-piercing Head,
For Empires Weight Appropriate, Steddy Steerage
In shocking Storms of State, Upholding Kingdoms
By Schemes Unerring, and Advisement sure?
Deserving well of All, of Populace
Applause, Favour of Prince, Retrieving
From publick Debt Immense, the Nations Credit?
How paint an H—t well-deciding, passing
Verdict on ticklish Point, and Cause abstruse,
His Tongue with Rhetoric sleekt, His Musical
Perswasive Winning Voice, even Meeting those
That lose their Cause, his tempering Law with Justice,
Well ballast, and Inflexibly upright?
How wou'd he dwell on St. J—n Patriot Young,
Untainted, Loyal, with the Charge entrusted
Of Anna's sacred Secrets, deeply skill'd
In all the study'd Arts of Peace and War?
O Unexampled! Ripe beyond thy Years!
Up-grown in early Dawn, to Manhood full,
Authentick, already knowing more,
Than others, or obtain in Hoary Age
Fore-sighted, or Nestor Old in Council,
Gain'd in three Centuries, long liv'd Descent,
Plac'd on Ierne's Thone, True Representative,
Of Regal Majesty, Courtly Grandeur,
Innate, Familiar, join'd with Easy Converse,
And as his Arms, his Temper, All-subduing?
How wou'd he tell a R—n Renown'd
In Foreign Clime, for Conduct's Probity,
Knowledge of Men, and Books, Repute Unblemish'd,
Incapable of Stain, and Soul Extensive,
Fram'd to Command, and for High Station fit?
How sing, Thee, Br—y, Whom th' Establish'd Church
Esteems, her Best of Sons, Whom List'ning Senate
With Admiration hear, Discharging well
Thy Trust of Vast Import? — But Ann's Behests
Her Princely Care, Considerate, nor Punishing
Too soon th' Offender Guilty, nor too late
Rewarding Meritorious Great Exploits:
Heav'n-Chosen Queen! Her Zeal of Church Defendant,
Her Generous Love for Human Race, Her Goodness
Beyond Example High, from servile Yoke
Emancipating, Curbing Power Tyrannic
Superb with swelling Titles, and Elate
With Epithets thick-laid, and Names August;
Demand a Bard Transcendent, Elevate,
Inspir'd with Heav'nly Rage, and more than Man:
None of the Present Age, nor forward Poet,
Advent'rous, and Embold'ned with Presumption,
Assuming dares to sing, nor ought to Try
With his Audacious Lays, Philips and Smith
(A Pair Unequal to no Theme but This)
Might venture to Attempt, but cou'd not Reach.

Whoe'er desirous is, to sport in Verse,
Be this his first Concern, to Chuse a Subject
For purpose Meet, his Genius right Observe,
Well-weighing, nor above his Strength pursue
The Quarry, Over-eager, Theme Exalted
Misleading him in Error, and Bewildring
In the Eternal Maze of Lavish Thought.
So Bird New-fledg'd with humble Pinnions hops
From Spray to Spray, secure, but scudding Bold
The Welkin Inexplor'd, or falls a Prey
To Hawk, or Kite, Rapacious, Boy Untoward
In Persecution Sporting, or Confounded,
Ranges thro' desert Wilds. So Coasting Skiff
Sails dangerless, nor fearing Humber's Creeks,
Or Thames, or Severn's Bays, but out of Sight
Of Native Albion's Cliffs, is Lost, Amaz'd,
On the Out-stretching Main Atlantic, Wide Space
Of Nought but Horizontal Sea and Sky.

Thus Virgil tun'd his Eclogues, e'er his Muse
Assum'd Heroic Flames, the Fore-sung Pair
Playing with slender Toys, gain'd by Degrees
Parnassus's Forked Summit, Deathless Fame.
O Happy Pair! by Tuneful Choir Rever'd,
Beatic, or Chaucer, or by Spencer Plac'd
High, Unmolested, Joyous Stalk, or sit
In mutual Converse, Contemplate, Meditate,
In Fragrant Field Enamel'd, Cool Recess
Of Grot, or Cave, or Hospitable Grove,
With Arms affording Shade, thick-inter-wind;
Where Peleus Son his Patroclus enjoys,
Belov'd, and Loving, as the Grecian Bard
Relates; Where Nisus and Euryalus
Lock'd in each others Arms, kindly Commune
Together, by the Balmy Gales refresh'd,
Near silent Lethe's Banks, in Friendly Parl.