1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Westall

Thomas Maurice, "To Richard Westall, Esq. on his beautiful Paintings in this Year's Exhibition" Gentleman's Magazine 70 (September 1800) 873.



O thou, from whose energic pencil flows
All that in science charms, or nature glows!
Westall, from one who burns with kindred fires,
Accept the verse thy matchless art inspires.

True Genius, lighted at the solar ray,
O'er the bright canvas pours a second day:
Collected in one strong effulgent stream,
On thine the rainbow's vivid glories beam!
The sweetest flowers that ever charm'd the eye,
Fruits lovelier far than, in the tropic blaze,
Drink deep the ardent sun's maturing rays,
Breathe in thy master pencil's brilliant lines,
Where all the fire of genuine genius shines;
No brighter bower have Eastern climes survey'd,
Nor lovelier beauty in its fragrant shade.

Th' historic Muse unfolds her awful page,
Sublimely bold the pictur'd passions rage:
The royal dame in Alfred's infant soul
Bids the hot tide of kindling valour roll;
And while her lips, in high heroic verse,
His martial ancestors' proud deeds rehearse,
See in his dauntless ardent looks confess'd
The storm that agitates his boiling breast;
The lightnings from his brilliant eye that break,
The crimson flush revenge and glory wake.
On fire, his soul drinks in the wond'rous tale,
He seems already cloth'd in radiant mail;
He grasps the pond'rous spear, the blazon'd shield,
And stalks triumphant o'er th' ensanguin'd field.

Darken'd with crimes, and bath'd in royal blood,
That round him flows a mighty crimson flood;
For what new victim to his boundless lust
Of tyrant sway does ravening Richard thirst?
Too well those tear-swoln eyes, Imperial Fair,
The fears that shake thy inmost soul declare;
Too well those features, with distraction wild,
While to thy bosom clings the martyr child!
Oh! from that hallow'd shrine, where angels bend,
And with expanded wings the place defend,
Let not thy charge those holy ruffians tear,
And to the grim devouring tiger bear.—
She yields, — the ruthless harpies seize their prey,
To dungeon glooms his tender limbs convey;
His screams resound o'er Thames' affrighted wave,
And in its bed he finds a wat'ry grave.

From scenes of blood, where brooding horror reigns,
The Muse enraptur'd seeks the distant plains,
Where Health and Peace with village-swains reside,
And sweet the hours in rural passions glide.
Again thy pencil wakes the vivid dies,
In all her charms bids vernal Nature rise;
Again the flowers their golden hue resume;
Again the fruits with purple radiance bloom;
Again the woods, the vales, the mountains, glow,
And Rubens' rainbow-tints unbounded flow!
What bold expressive lines, — what manly grace,
Adorn that honest peasant's ruddy face,
Who, half-exhausted thro' the sultry day,
In the mild light of Phoebus' setting ray,
Exulting, to his homely cot returns,
While all the father in his bosom burns!
What heart-felt joys his blooming consort fill,
His lovely babe what infant raptures thrill,
As, gazing on the mother's rustic charms,
Round the dear child he glues his clasping arms!
Through Nature's bounds, beneath the pole or line,
Wherever oceans roll or planets shine,
No nobler object views applauding Jove,
More pure, more dignify'd, than wedded love;
And yonder cot more solid joy displays
Than palaces which gold and gems emblaze!

This tribute, Westall, to thy vary'd powers,
To Genius that so early — nobly — towers,
Is Britain's voice; — and all, who feel its flame,
Gaze with delight, and glory in thy fame.