1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

J. W., "Inscription to Shenstone's Muse, cut out on a large romantic Oak, hanging from a Clift in the Side of a woody Hill" Edinburgh Magazine or Literary Amusement 48 (22 April 1780) 78.



No sculptur'd urn, or votive shrine,
No grotto weeping fragrant dews,
No dryads sylvan bower is mine,
To court my Shenstone's tender muse.

But tho' nor wealth's seductive glare,
Nor titled lineage gild my race;
Tho' fortune frown'd with wrathful air,
And spurn'd me from her warm embrace.

Yet could she not my soul divest
Of gentle fancy's raptur'd eye,
Or steal my young untutor'd breast
To glowing passion's plaintive cry.

And sure in thy mellifluous strain
The vivid warmth of fancy glows;
And passion's sweet pathetic vein,
Thro' each immortal number flows.

For who like thee could strike the lyre,
Or softly breathe the rural song,
When rapt, with all the Muses' fire,
Thy carrols hush'd the woodland throng?

Tho' Phillis on her lover frown'd,
And heard his lay with callous heart,
The ravish'd swains conven'd around
Oft felt the magic of his art.

For thee each shepherd thin'd his fold,
Of wealth's unstable gifts profuse,
And woo'd thy smile with proferr'd gold—
But thine was not a venal muse.

Like them, inspir'd with duteous love,
This venerably nodding tree,
The giant of the pensile grove,
Sweet bard! I consecrate to thee.

Its boughs let no rude school-boy climb,
Its stem no vagrant heifer gore;
Forbear, ye swains, with rustic rhyme
To lacerate its hallow'd core.

And let no foul envenom'd grains
No sacrilegious worm be near,
Gnawing, to sap its filmy veins,
Or even its spreading foliage tear.

And could I, Time, puissant thing!
The scythe of ruin wrest from thee,
Then should eternal verdure spring,
To crown my Shenstone's hallow'd tree.

Hither ye plumy tribes repair,
And India's balmy fragrance bring,
Its blossoms tend with fost'ring care,
And lap its buds with downy wing.

Ye minstrels of the vernal day!
Your throats in sweetest concord join,
The bard, perchance, to hear the lay,
Awhile may leave the sister nine.

Ye limpid streams that nurse the plains,
Your welling waters hither lead,
And thro' the Oak's diffusive veins
Your kind prolific moisture shed.

Let Flora here her roses strew,
And with her tulips paint the green,
And dapper elves that mock our view
Trip lightly o'er the shady scene.

Ye sister oaks, your arms combine
To shield it from the nipping cold,
Ye elms, your pliant tendrils twine,
And Shenstone's hallow'd tree enfold.

And 'neath its umbrage let me lie,
When modest twilight dims the scene,
And Phoebe from the orient sky
Emits her silver ray serene.

And here with Shenstone's genius fraught,
To emulate his lay aspire,
His tender lay! — an, frantic thought!
For who like thee could strike the lyre?

But yet, shouldst thou the Dorian reed
To my untutor'd hands consign,
Propitious fame might grant the meed,
And round my brow her chaplet twine.

Then, thankful for the gracious boon,
My heart should pour the choral song,
Each pendant cliff should catch the tune,
And roll the artless notes along.

These, these are joys that never pall
To rouse the poet's dormant fire,
And at the aiding Muse's call,
Like tender SHENSTONE touch the lyre.