1748 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

Amintor, "Corydon, a Reflection on the Death of Mr. James Thomson" Kapelion, or Poetical Ordinary (January 1751) 246-49.



A Tear in Death (the silent Mark of Grief)
The Man demands, who merits Praise in Life.
Say then, what Tears to Corydon are due,
The Bard, whose Song still echoes o'er the Plain,
Soft pleasing Strains! of Virtue, Knowledge, Truth.
Sage moralizing Bard! how ravish'd, oft,
Attentive to thy pleasing Theme I've sat.
Alas! no more — the enchanting Reed is broke,
The Lyre unstrung, and ev'ry Muse is fled.
Wing'd long for Flight, and long ago had flown,
When Damon died, Damon with whom they dwelt,
Fast by where Thames rolls on her silver Tide,
But thou their Flight restrain'd. And as they sat
Pensive beneath the Cypress gloomy Shade,
In Sorrow drooping, mourning at his End;
Awoke the Song; the distant Sounds they heard,
And joyful cry, Lo! Damon lives again.
Mistaken Joy! yet list'ning to the Notes,
The Verse they own'd, reviv'd, and dwelt with thee.

But say, who now shall stop their dreary Flight?
Or charm their longer Stay on Britain's Plains?
Thrice happy Plains! whereon full many a Year,
The Sister Train have frolick'd o'er the Green,
In sunny Vale, or Stream, or flow'ry Mead
In wanton Play, at break, or close of Day,
Aside the Hawthorn Hedge, or Beachy Grove,
Britannia's Bards inspir'd with various Themes
Of Honour, Virtue, Liberty, or Love.

Thou first O Chaucer! tun'd th' unpolish'd Strains
With wond'rous Art, severe, as just thy Song.
Next Spencer, thou, the Prince of all the Train
Of Fancy's Sons! since thee, a numerous Band
Exampled high, as boldly struck the Lyre,
And nobly sung. Of these was Corydon,
To whom the Tribute of my early Verse,
Sincere I pay; how have I flatter'd oft'
My rising Fancy, that e'er long 'twould find
Some Treasure worthy Corydon's Regard.

Deluded Fancy! ev'ry Way misled
By feeble Genius; trifles all the Store
It homeward brings: how much unlike to his
Who sung the Year, in all its varied Forms,
Spring, Summer, Autumn; painting as he sung
The Scenes, enchanting Scenes! the Seasons yield.

Nor hoary Winter 'scap'd his moral Pen,
But led the facile Way, for him who since,
From Oxon's sacred School, has charm'd the World
With Meditations sweet. Ah! now no more
He sings, but silent in the lonesome Grave:
We pensive mourn his Loss. By why lament?
Why grieve for him? or mourn his fall in Death;
Who Death regarded not, as "losing all
Those fond Sensations, those enchanting Dreams
That cheat a toiling World from Day to Day."
But Death to him, Perfection, Glory, Triumph,
Then where the Cause? if still he dwells with Bards
Coelestial; where the circling Hours they spend
In Songs of Love, and raise their heavenly Themes
In Strains harmonious, never ceasing Strains.
Let then the briny Tears for Corydon
That swelling rise, drop for ourselves; for us
Who live, prone to the loose, and trifling Round
Of Vanities below. Pride, Pleasure, Dress,
Or Gold, or gilded Titles; vain destructive Snares!
That fill the Dream of Life; for what is Life?
A Dream that lengthens out our Nights and Days,
Its Joys are brittle, and its Pleasures vain,
From this we wake; but wake how few till Death.
He, faithful Watch who never miss'd his Hour,
Comes at the Dawn and thunders at the Gate.
We start — we rise — and lo! the Morn is up.
The Morn of long Eternity! to some
A long bright Summer's Day. But oh? to those
A tedious Winter's Night without a Moon,
Who waking cry, we never dreamt of this.
O had I equal Power to raise my Theme!
In those soft Strains that Corydon would sing:
Then might each list'ning Ear attentive wait,
Whilst glad Instruction (by the Muse convey'd)
Would strike the tenderest Strings that reach the Heart.
But who like him remains to move the Soul
To gentle Pity; or the rising Tear
From each affected virtuous Eye demand;
That secret Mark of Approbation, held
Applause more just! to be desir'd by far
Above the clatt'ring Noise, the Tribute giv'n
By a loud crowded Theatre of Fools.
Then let calm Silence better speak his Praise,
And save the Verse dejected, weak, and low.