1775 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

Urbanus, "Inscribed to Dr. B—tie" Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 28 (6 April 1775) 47.



Induc'd by no ambition meanly vain,
By mingling in the plaudit of your name,
To pilfer fame which nature hath denied;
Or, from the pliant wreath that on your brow
Sits graceful, aim to pick a twig of laurel:
O lovely songster, fav'rite child of nature!
Accept the warmest tribute of a friend,
Who never dar'd the steep ascent of high
Parnassus — of the Heliconian font,
Th' inspiring stream who never tasted;
On whom the Muses never deign'd to smile,
Yet deeply smitten with th' Aonian lore,
When B—TIE'S magic pen indites the song.
Devoted first to thee accept a strain,
Tho' roughly form'd into poetic numbers,
But wholly void of the poetic fire—
That in the Minstrel fondly would attempt
To trace the various beauties—
What voice thus interrupts my pen? 'Tis Edwin's!
It is the gentle voice of Edwin's genius!
What were his words? "Vain mortal! cease, nor dare
Above thy pow'rs to meditate a task.
Beauties that glow in ev'ry page — that strike
The wond'ring ear, and touch the melting heart,
My honour'd bard himself alone can paint:
In whose illustrious tale simplicity,
Prime ornament of rural song! appears
Dress'd in her chaste and native robe, with charms
Attractive — where purity of diction,
And strong as pure, and elegant as strong,
Add dignity and grace — where to the view
The various openings of the human mind
Unfolding, knowledge in fit gradation
Rises adorned by the finest feelings
Of an impressive soul — where truths divine
And moral, in noble union join'd, goodness
Of heart proclaim — Thou chiefest gift of heav'n!
To thee I suppliant bow! — For without thee
What is the poet's fiction? Fairy tales,
Mere luxury of wit — where numbers soft,
As harp of Aeolus, while it softly vibrates,
Sweetly responsive to the whisp'ring breeze;
Or, as the warbling song of matin lark,
While trem'lous she soars, and, from her airy
Stand, chearly carols to her list'ning mate
Enamour'd, — pour on the ear mellifluous,
Where rhime, or coupled or alternate, chimes,
Or, in the more excursive, wanton range
Of lyric, bane of verse! unfetter'd flows,
And moves with ease and majesty heroic;
Where genius creative, taste refin'd;
Where conduct of the fable, correctly rein'd,
And nicety chastised by sober judgment,
The whole perfections—

I heard despondent,
And felt the force of Edwin's just reproof,
Nor felt in vain. — Let never man, said I,
Pretend to rise above himself, or write
Against his stars — and flung away my pen.
Listen, ye poetasters! learn, be wise.
Banks of Spey.