1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

J. M., "Lines to Eliza, on reading Shenstone's Poems" Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (11 October 1779).



O favour'd Bard, in whose soft verse there flows
The magic pow'r to soften all our woes;
Melodious sweetness runs thro' ev'ry line,
And proves thy influ'nce from the sacred Nine.
Thy sweet tun'd numbers harmonize the soul,
And ev'ry boist'rous Passion can controul;
Can soothe Ambition, and the rage of Pride,
Those deadly foes that spread destruction wide;
The pangs of Jealousy they might assuage—
Like Music's charms dispel th' envenom'd rage:
The Mind attemper'd by th' harmonious sound,
Sinks into rest, as by enchantment bound;
And dark Despair, that rends the sicken'd mind,
Thy sweetly-soothing strains at once can bind.

Oh! had I pow'r to catch the sacred fire
Which warm'd thy soul, whene'er thou strung'st thy lyre
Or drank with thee of that Pyaerian spring;
Inspir'd by which, thou didst so sweetly sing,
That listning birds attentive round did throng,
And charm'd with thine, forget their own sweet song
The Nymphs no longer harken'd to the strain
Of oaten reeds, with which the am'rous swain
Had pleas'd so oft, upon the verdant plain,
But stood with speechless pleasure, and amaze,
To hear the gliding softness of thy lays.

To me, had thus th' indulgent Muse prov'd kind,
The pow'r to charm so sweetly had consign'd;
In strains like thine, I had my passion told,
Nor had Eliza to my vows prov'd cold:
By her instructed, I had learn'd the art,
With melting words to captivate the heart:
Taught her with sympathetic glow to feel,—
With blushing beauties the fond tale reveal;
In faltering accents, freed me from the pain,
Which now I suffer from her cold disdain:
To ease my doubts, each anxious care remove,
And fondly whisper — a return of love.

But I, whom Nature form'd in roughest mould,
In strains as harsh, my amorous plaint unfold;
And though I feel a passion as sincere,
Yet want the art to court the fair one's ear.
Th' unvarnish'd tale, which speaks my hopes and fears,
She disregarding, unattentive hears.

Oh! could I snatch from unrelenting Death,
The melting sweetness of thy tuneful breath;
Still would I sue, until the lovely maid,
With kindness listen'd to the vows I paid.
But since my hard, my rigid fate denies
That pow'r persuasive, which in language lies,
With silent grief, henceforward I will view
Those charms which first my fond attention drew;
And, like the insect, round the blaze I'll fly,
Till parch'd, the vital streams consum'd, I die.
Portsmouth, Oct. 5.