1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Warton

Philisides, "Elegy on a much respected and beloved Friend" Gentleman's Magazine 61 (February 1791) 165.



Isis, thy dancing waves, of late so bright,
Now black'ning stagnate — Warton is no more!
Mute in mid carol droop thy warblers light;
Sighs the chill blast along thy willowy shore.

How fades the new leaf on yon sapling green!
The springing grass how ting'd with wintry grey!
Now smiling but in song thy banks are seen,
Thy meads once echoing to his youthful lay.

Yes, mellow'd, in a good autumnal hour,
Late from the tree of life he gently dropp'd;
Cold Palsy, like the rush of icy shower,
Snapp'd short his with'ring stalk, in silence cropp'd.

Yes, ripe in years and fame, in peace he died;
Success had all his worldly wishes crown'd.
Ne'er stoop'd that noble heart to reptile pride;
No sordid passion there an entrance found.

Yet can the Muse refrain her parting tears?
Lifeless in dust her laurel'd fav'rite lies,
Who bade the songsters of her infant years,
Evok'd from England's antient groves, arise.

His Attic flash of merriment no more,
Enrich'd with learning, with good sense refin'd,
To festive glee shall elegance restore,
Or pour instruction in th' attentive mind;

No more, observant of each budding shoot
Of youthful fancy, shall his count'nance cheer
Its blushing progress. To each nutur'd root
Of genius, that benign regard how dear!

So meek, it bent indulgent ev'n to me;
All Wykham's sons confess'd its genial force,
O, Warton! if in heart I bear not thee,
Its pulse, its feeling's lost, and vital course.

How brisk it bounded, when he, smiling, laid
Light on my auburn curls his plausive hand!
"There is some spirit in these lines," he said,
"That's not ill turn'd, this not inaptly scann'd."

No more, auspicious to a brother's charge,
Shall Winton greet him, Oxford glad revere
His presence, wont to deal out light at large,
Expansive on each faint-reflecting sphere.

Reft of their pride, I hear th' Aonian choir
Wail, in sad presage of that hour at hand,
When churls profane, who spurn the sacred lyre,
A Gothic blight, shall desolate the land.

Avert it, Heav'n! — Thy spirit, Warton, soars,
By seraphs usher'd, to the throne divine.
Yes — audible thy speech impassion'd pours
A prayer more acceptably warm than mine:

"All Gracious! Albion's Genius, in despair,
To night primaeval sinking bids me crave
Suspension of her doom. Of Science fair
The cradle, must she soon become the grave?

"Shall Poesy, first-born of Science, soil'd
By Lewdness, ribald Spleen, and Party-spite,
Of all her graces chaste, and fame despoil'd,
Fall spiritless, debas'd, extinguish'd quite?

"She faints — her voice melodious dies away
Thou know'st, whene'er her heaven-taught art shall cease
To clear the dusky front of wan dismay,
And shed sweet flow'rets on the paths of peace;

"To wake the youthful soul to virtuous deeds,
The glorious thirst of well-earn'd praise inspire,
Of public-spirit rouse the dormant seeds,
And strike the raptur'd heart with hallow'd fire.

"Forth rush the dreaded pests. Of imps less fell
The swarm that blacken'd Rome's declining day;
Vice, with o'erweening Dulness, twins of hell,
Urge on, with giant strides, their baleful way."
Oxford, May 24.