1799 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Henry Ireland

Anonymous, in "The Shakesperian Hunt No. II" The Oracle and the Daily Advertiser (26 October 1799).



In early days, the converse of his Sire
Was won't to please his fancy. With delight
He listen'd to the lays of Antient Times;
Read o'er and o'er old Legendary Tales,
And Ballads that recorded val'rous deeds
Of English Hero's bold. At length, the fate
Of hapless CHATTERTON assail'd his ear;
Oft' he ponder'd o'er the unhappy record,
Yet would have gladly shar'd his luckless end
To be the partner of his fame renown'd.
Thus time elapsed, till the revolving years
Had Eighteen Summers told. 'Twas then the Youth,
With vanity inspir'd, first dar'd assay
His lofty purpose. Like th' unthinking Boy
Whose hand untutor'd wou'd the rein assume—
Of PHEBUS, mettled coursers. So he strove
To drive the Chariot of our ENGLISH SUN
And bear his Godlike Name. Th' attempt was bold;
But, like APOLLO'S Son, he aim'd too high,
And, from the lofty seat was headlong hurl'd
By thunders launch'd from direful Critics' hand.—
But, hold! Now to rehearse the vary'd themes
His brain assay'd. Humbly at first he strove
A SIGNATURE to pen. The CHEAT prevailed;
For most who saw, the FICTION credited.
FAME'S TRUMP then widely spread that wond'rous Tale;
'Twas soon the Public Converse; naught was heard
But SHAKSPEAR'S name rever'd. Thus accomplish'd
The primal purpose, his procreant brain
Attempted next the STILE to imitate—
When the Religious Tenets of our BARD
In meekest Strains appear'd. This was receiv'd,
And by the World admir'd. Our SHAKSPEARE'S note,
And the receipt, by HEMINGE penn'd, came next
To strike with wonder: For BILLS of PROMISE
A custom had been deem'd of modern date;
Yet this was overlook'd, so prone is man
To credit wonders which he'd fain believe.

The friendship of SOUTHAMPTON'S Noble Earl,
A tale traditionary next was vouch'd.
The whimsical CONCEIT to COWLEY sent—
The LETTER OF ELIZABETH renown'd—
And various Matters of less import, each,
At separate times, and not in mass produc'd,
Were genuine esteem'd. The alter'd LEAR;
The silken-twisted LOCK to ANNA sent—
Relic inestimable struck wonder
In the Multitude. Some, indeed, there were
At first Believers, who, at sight of this,
Shrunk back in doubt. Still unappal'd the Youth
Boldly dar'd adventure. And VORTIGERN
At length appear'd — But more of this anon—
Countless RECEIPTS, and, after lapse of time,
The ANNALS of our SECOND HARRY fam'd,
And peerless ROSAMOND, still multiply'd
Th' advent'rous FABRICATION.—

Of this enough. 'Tis fit I now rehearse
Th' OPINIONS vary'd of the numberless
Who saw the FICTION. — The Mansion's open,
When straight appears the Master of the whole,
Who rises, and, with free and courteous mein,
Each Stranger greets. Then most eloquently
The forged Tale relates; after the which,
Forth from the massive Chest, his treasure draws
And offers it to public view—