1803 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Dyer

Elizabeth Le Noir [daughter of Christopher Smart], "To Mr. George Dyer" Morning Chronicle (5 September 1803).



How shall so mere a versifyer
Attempt to rhyme to Poet DYER?
It is a bold presumptuous thing;
Yet, I must either say or sing.
For, if the dilatory bard
Will not at all my prose regard,
E'en must I try, tho' it prove worse,
If equally he'll slight my verse.

Where art thou, visionary man,
What airy castle dost thou plan?
Still dost thou roam those banks along,
That erst inspir'd thy dulcet song,
Where too, sublime and serious Gray
Was wont to sing, was wont to stray?
And he, be filial praise allow'd,
Whose hallow'd strain successful flow'd!
Say, dost thou muse some waking dream,
Along Cam's smooth and classic stream?
Whether or no its stream runs clearly,
I know not, I avow sincerely;
Yet, truly, it appears to me,
To have Lethean quality;—
Perhaps of it you make your tea;
Or with it mix your port — for sure
No poet drinks his water pure;
A wight train'd up in British college,
If he imbibes no other knowledge,
Will not for inspiration seek
In any water that is weak;
But, profiting, as sure he ought,
From what is practis'd, if not taught,
Will still retain, as one may say,
A sort of hydrophobia.
The Heliconian fount sublime
Flows marvellously well in rhyme;
But how the feeble verse will flow,
That has no better source, we know.

But, to return, Sir, to th' occasion—
Where are you? — This is all digression.—
Are you immerg'd, as black as Styx,
In city smoak and politics,
Pent in that town of noise and porter,
Far from the Muse and those that court her?
With no booksellers do you dine,
Gentlemen-ushers to the Nine,
Nor call, as once I thought you wou'd,
On Johnson, Longman, Phillips, Hood?
Have you my cause and me forsook?
What of my book, my book, my book?—

Jesting apart, where'er this greets you,
Healthy and prosp'rous may it meet you!
Reading,
April 22, 1803.