1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hannah More

Anonymous, "To the unknown Author of Coelebs" Gentleman's Magazine 79 (August 1809) 752.



Long had a false but specious taste prevail'd,
Through which our youths were fatally assail'd;
The great palladium of the British Laws,
The British Press, became th' unconscious cause.

Here all are readers, from the Prelate down
To him who makes the learned Prelate's gown;
Or, from the fair who glitters at the Court
To her who toils for ev'ry day's support.
Hence public Libraries in ev'ry street
Attract our notice, and our wishes meet;
Where the young virgin and the servant wench,
The prentic'd lad and student for the Bench,
Procure the floating novels of the day,
Imbibe their principle, and learn their way.
As these were wrong, so they were wrongly taught,
And big with mischief was the method fraught;
The writers all were venal, or, at best,
Manners and morals were their only test;
E'en they whose names stood foremost on the roll,
Wrote for the body, but forgot the soul.
None chose to take Religion for a theme,
But dipp'd their pens in Error's wand'ring stream.

'Twas left for thee to form the grand design,
To make a NOVEL speak of truths divine:
To shew Salvation's great and glorious plan,
The Christian covenant 'tween God and man.
That Faith alone is not approv'd above,
Unless it work by charity and love;
And our best works may yet be good for nought,
Unless in pure obedience they are wrought.

These are the truths that gild thy ample page,
And catch th' attention of a giddy age,
As Doctors oft, to cure their patients' ill,
Are force' to cheat them with a gilded pill;
So hast thou us'd a laudable disguise
To gain our reading, and to make us wise,
To lash our vices, yet conceal the rod,
And lead our views to goodness and to God.

Thine be the meed of well-deserv'd applause,
Of self-approval from a righteous cause!
O then no longer seek to hide thy name,
But in the temple of terrestrial Fame,
Let Time enrol it with the world's acclaim!