1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

William Tasker, "To Dr. Johnson, on reading his Lives of the English Poets" Morning Chronicle (3 November 1781).



Like fam'd Longinus, in a green old age,
Warm with the Critic's fire, and poet's rage,
From unexhausted pen, you gain applause,
As with a shield, protect fair virtue's cause:
Champion of wit, and taste, unknown to yield,
Like old Entellus, you the Cestus wield,
And reign grand Victor, in the letter'd field.

With eagle-vigour, and with eagle-eye,
The Sun of verse, you nearer can espy,
Splendors and darken'd spots at once descry.
As Beauty's Queen, from her son's wond'ring eyes
Dispers'd the cloud: so, in Poetic skies
You drive the dull malignant vapours hence,
And a fair aether to the view dispense:
You give the radiant God of wit, to shine
And warm, with heav'nly fire, the tuneful nine:
You raise the sight to to his meridian ray,
And on young Fancy's "eye-ball pour the day."
Thus your delighted readers clearly view
The powers of mighty song outdone by you.
Not bards, in lasting fame, with you can vie;
Bards, in their strains, give others not to die;
You crown the bards, with immortality!