1763 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Langhorne

Incognito, "Epistolary Verses addressed to John Langhorne, Author of the Visions of Fancy, &c." Lloyd's Evening Post (9 December 1763) 560.



DEAR SIR,
I'll give you twenty years to guess,
Who now salutes you from the Press,
And in a free familiar way,
Trims the epistolary lay.
Is not your Fancy on the wing,
To find from what recondite spring,
Like that of Nile, from human eyes
Conceal'd, these running rhimes arise?
Methinks I see you in a fuss,
To smoke the Bard Anonymous;
You sit, perhaps, on thorns to know,
To whom this new Address you owe.

A stranger to your person quite,
Which never came within my sight;
I know nor if you're lank and thin,
Or stout behind a double chin;
One of those rosy-cheek'd Divines,
In whose plump faces Plenty shines.
Quite unacquainted with your looks,
I know you only by your books;
(In which I always something find
T' amuse, and to enlarge the mind.)
I only, as I write, impart
Th' effusions of a feeling heart,
Your genius, and poetic spirit,
Which strongly, as the call you follow,
Prove your commission from Apollo.

No man his talents more mistakes,
Than he who humble prose forsakes,
And with a lofty disregard
Of Nature, burns to be a Bard;
Supposing Poetry a trade,
And thinking Bards like blocks are made.

Unnumber'd Authors ev'ry day
Confirm the truth of what I say;
His evil genius each pursues,
And with self-consequence replete,
Is lodg'd by F—n in the Fleet.
And sometimes, too, a muse-rid maid,
Of man, nor of his works afraid,
Trips with her Verses, soft and silky,
To B—t, B—t, Br—n, or Wi—ie.
When Pamela, and Philalethes
Feel the Scribendi Cacoethes,
They think themselves inspir'd — a jest—
They're only — entre nous — possest;
And both deserve, instead of praise,
Contempt, and birch, not verdant bays.

It frequently provokes my spleen,
To see in ev'ry Magazine,
The minor Poets of the town
Strain hard to gain a laurel crown,
And in premeditated verse,
Tamely their joys and griefs rehearse.
Not the least ray of genius shines
To throw a lustre on their lines;
But all are dark and dull alike,
And, void of force, can never strike.
Mistaking flatt'ry for fame,
Poetic honours boldly claim;
And tho' to sense they bid defiance,
With bright-hair'd Phoebus boast alliance.
But Phoebus leaves the spurious race,
Short-liv'd, to perish with disgrace;
And only a selected few
Legitimates, like Gray and you.