1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hayley

Anonymous, "To Mr. Hayley, on reading his Tragedy of Russel" Gentleman's Magazine 55 (March 1785) 214.



Friend of my youth! whose elevated soul
Even in infancy had power to awe,
And in thy frolick hours, the gay, the wild,
With admiration of thy manly sense
In mute attention hold! — whose speaking thought
In ever-watchful, ever-grateful love,
And warmest quickest sensibility
Of unremitting filial tenderness,
Her anxious misery-fraught fears could calm,
Whose angel-form, with reason's powerful strength
Endued, and love's sublimest dictates, blest
With all a nurse's watchfulness thy youth,
Yet stor'd with every grace thy searching mind;
How bows my spirit to those truths sublime
Which o'er the heart-rending page we scatter'd trace!
Ineffable thy patriot virtue glows:
Thy pictur'd self in noble Russel shines:
Thy soul refin'd, thro' all his trying scenes,
In all his thoughts, firmness, and tenderness,
Itself arrays distinctly; and I hear
In every word thyself. — Oh! if that eye,
Tho' penetrating, mild and winning soft,
That, with maternal care, would fondly gaze
Enraptur'd o'er thy earliest flights, now views
Thy bright career matur'd, and witnesses
Thy free undaunted spirit, that a host
Of envy's undermining troops defies,
While nature's dearest ties to vindicate,
And baneful tyranny's accursed power
With manly, firm, and philanthropic zeal
Thy free-born Muse in boldest numbers dares;
How bright she shines amidst applauding shades
Who hail her, Mother blest of such a Son!

But, could that animated friendly mind,
To thy fond memory and mine so dear,
For genuine honest warmth of country's love
In good Sir Gilbert by thy pen pourtray'd;
Whose venerable age with taste was blest
Enraptur'd still the Muse's lyre to hear,
Her sweets enjoy, her energy to feel,
Whose years decaying by thy infant Muse,
Like melody of dying swans, was chear'd,
With his benignant voice thy Russel read;
How would he clasp thee to his glowing breast!
In every line thy own bright image scan,
With Bedford's fondness ponder o'er thy worth,
And whilst with over-whelming tears the fate
Of Russel he deplor'd, thank Heaven that sent
Thy spirit sublime in this degenerate age
The fair-fam'd honours of that patriot soul
To assert, and from th' envenom'd shaft of Envy's bow
Rescue the long-lov'd sound of Russel's name!