1774 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Owen Cambridge

William Whitehead, "To Richard Owen Cambridge, Esq." Whitehead, Poems and Plays (1774) 2:182-85.



Dear Cambridge, teach your friend the art
You use to gain the Muse's heart,
And make her so entirely ours,
That at all seasons, and all hours,
The anxious goddess ready stands
To wait the motion of your hands.

It was of old a truth confest
That poets must have needful rest,
And every imp of PHOEBUS' quire
To philosophic shades retire,
Amid those flowery scenes of ease
To pick up sense and similies.
Had VIRGIL been from coast to coast,
Like his AENEAS, tempest tost,
Or pass'd life's fluctuating dream
On Tyber's or on Mincio's stream,
He might have been expert in sailing;
But MAEVIUS ne'er had fear'd his railing,
Nor great AUGUSTUS sav'd from fire
The relicks of a trav'ling squire.

Had HORACE too, from day to day,
Run post upon the Appian way,
In restless journies to and from
Brundisium, Capua, and Rome;
The bard had scarcely found a time
To put that very road in rhyme;
And sav'd great cities much expence
In lab'ring to mistake his sense.

Nay he, whose Greek is out of date
Since POPE descended to translate,
Tho' wand'ring still from place to place,
At least lay by in stormy weather
(Whate'er PERRAULT or WOTTON says)
To tack his rhapsodies together.

But you, reversing every rule
Of ancient or of modern school,
Nor hurt by noise, nor cramp'd by rhymes,
Can all things do, and at all times.
Your own SCRIBLERUS never knew
A more unsettled life than you,
Yet POPE in Twit'nam's peaceful grot
Scarce ever more correctly thought.
In whirligigs it is confest
The middle line's a line of rest;
And, let the sides fly how they will,
The central point must needs stand still.
Perhaps your mind, like one of these,
Beholds the tumult round at ease,
And stands, as firm as rock in ocean,
The center of perpetual motion.

That CAESAR did three things at once,
Is known at school to every dunce;
But your more comprehensive mind
Leaves puling CAESAR far behind.
You spread the lawn, direct the flood,
Cut vistas thro', or plant a wood,
Build China's barks for Severn's stream,
Or form new plans for Epic fame,
And then, in spite of wind or weather,
You read, row, ride, and write together.

But 'tis not your undoubted claim
To naval or equestrian fame,
Your nicer taste, or quicker parts,
In rural or mechanic arts,
(Tho' each alone in humbler station
Might raise both wealth and reputation)
It is not these that I would have,
Bear them, o' God's name, to your grave.
But 'tis that unexhausted vein,
That quick conception without pain,
That something, for no words can show it,
Which without leisure makes a poet.

Sure Nature cast, indulgent dame,
Some strange peculiar in your frame,
From whose well-lodg'd prolific seeds
This inexpressive power proceeds.

Or does THALIA court your arms
Because you seem to slight her charms,
And, like her sister females, fly
From our dull assiduity.
If that's the case, I'll soon be free,
I'll put on airs as well as she;
And ev'n in this poetic shade,
Where erst with POPE and GAY she play'd,
Ev'n here I'll tell her to her face
I've learn'd to scorn a forc'd embrace.
In short, here ends her former reign;
And if we e'er began again
It must be on another score—
I'll write like you, or write no more.