1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

J. W., "Elegiac Verses on hearing that the Continuation of the Minstrel was prevented by the domestic Distresses of the Author" Edinburgh Magazine or Literary Amusement 55 (22 January 1782) 78-79.



Does B—y feel the scorpion lash of Fate?
In B—y's breast do pain and anguish brood?
B—y the wise, the gen'rous, and the great,
Nay, more than great — the worthy and the good?

He does — O Providence! expound, expound!
Thy ways are wonderful — and sure they're just;
But why should Virtue still with thorns be crown'd?
Fain would I trust — but tremble while I trust.

For B—y's woes in weightier terms impeach
The perfect justice of the moral scheme,
Than all that sophists — all that sceptics teach,
All Hume can prove, Voltaire or Ashly dream.

How "Vice should triumph, Virtue Vice obey,"
A seraph once descended to explain;—
O leave again, blest guide! the realms of day,
And tell why B—y feels the stings of pain.

'Tis Heav'n who marks the greatness of his mind,
And forms his virtues in the mould of woe,
That he, by trial, ripen'd and refin'd,
May shine on high, as once he shone below.

The sweetest flow'r that blossoms on the mead,
We plant in filth to blossom sweeter still—
The rose we crop — but each unnotic'd weed
May wax and wither, on its native hill.

The finest ore in crucibles must pass
Thro' all the tortures of the smelting fire;
But dross and dirt may swell the dunghill mass,
And ne'er be martyr'd on the shining pyre.

Thus B—y feels variety of woes,
While F—x and S—nd—ch bask in Fortune's beam;
But why a curse without a crime impose?
Does this the plan of equity beseem?

No — he for sin the penalty must pay—
For sin he bleeds — for sin, but not his own—
The paschal lamb, tho' innocent and gay,
Could yet for Judah's guilty land attone—

And while thy harp, that charm'd each British ear,
Is broke, sweet bard! by Mis'ry's rudest hand;
We see how Providence, with rod severe,
By scourging thee can scourge a guilty land.
Edin. Jan. 19, 1782.