1762 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

A. B., "Advice to the Readers of old Romances, occasioned by reading Mr. Hurd's excellent Treatise on Chivalry" British Magazine 3 (November 1762) 608-09.



In old romance, the Gothic manners scan,
But scorn to be a savage brutal man.
Thy self to civilize, be first thy care,
Defend the helpless, ne'er delude the fair.
If like vile giants, passions thee controul,
They cloud thy reason, and debase thy soul.
Those mister-wights are grooms of evil guise,
That fawn or flatter, cheat or tyrannize.
By virtuous valour men must gain renown,
And chaste behaviour is the woman's crown.
Of feuds what Blackstone writes, if you peruse,
You'll find that Nature guides the Gothic muse.
When from the North a swarm of warriors came,
And independent roam'd for wealth and fame;
The vanquish'd natives were at their command,
Oblig'd to till their own paternal land;
And in due season all the produce yield,
Rais'd by their labour from the fertile field.
The conqu'ring chief, a bold ambitious man,
Was chosen king; each baron rul'd a clan,
Each common soldier had some land in fee,
And feudal tenants held by chivalry.
In peace the baron after Reynard flies,
Or hears a bard proclaim his victories;
And lest the art of war he shou'd forget,
A stated time for tournaments is set.
But if a lord in vice a giant grown,
Shou'd dare to invade a province not his own,
The injur'd lord and vassals him repel,
Sometimes by force, sometimes by magic spell:
The valiant knight then flies to Virtue's aid,
To seek, or rescue some chaste captive maid.
This habit by degrees exalts his mind
To wander o'er the globe to serve mankind.
At his return, his arms or bright renown
May gain an heiress, and, perhaps, a crown.
Tasso, like Homer, fav'rite of the nine,
Has unity of action and design;
The Grecian hero and the Goth we see
Alike in friendship, rage, and bravery.
Fairies enchant, and witches raise the dead;
Is more of Circe or Calypso said?
Did Hercules our great Saint George excel?
Men deify'd them both for fighting well.
Blame not the dream of fairies, witches, sprites,
Men erst believ'd whate'er sweet Tasso writes.
Believe he writes to men of such a creed,
His wond'rous magic will no comment need.
Creative wit disdains the vulgar bound,
Enchanted forest sees and fairy ground,
And he who best can admiration raise,
Is best entitled to the reader's praise.
Nought on the stage he shews; no, he relates
To our fond fancy what his muse creates.
Remove not Spencer from his list of fame,
But let his Fairy Queen his worth proclaim;
This Gothic bard well paints the Gothic field,
And scarce to Milton's classic muse does yield.

Ye fair, no more in Chivalry delight,
Our laws, protect beyond the doughty knight;
Those nectar'd sweets that from your lips distil,
Disarm all knights, and ravish while they kill.
All feudal jars have left our happy land,
And Peace, fair Peace, now waves her olive wand.
Our well-mix'd state, ye loyal ladies, prize,
Where king, lords, commons guard our liberties;
Where GEORGE the Third, another Alfred reigns,
Ordain'd by Heav'n to bless his native plains.