1684
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the Earl of Roscommon, on his excellent Poem.

An Essay on Translated Verse, by the Earl of Roscommon.

Rev. Knightly Chetwood


Knightly Chetwood compares the state of poetry to the state of political affairs; Edmund Spenser (who "lost a Noble Muse in Fairy Land") appears in a catalogue of poets (Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Cowley, Denham). This particular list begins to resemble the final form of the select English canon, suggesting that Dryden (who wore "the Bays") may have been near at hand.

Robert Southey: "Dr. Chetwood was chaplain to James II. who nominated him Bishop of Bristol, but abdicated the kingdom before his election passed the seals. He was made Dean of Gloucester, and went abroad with Marlborough as chaplain to the English forces. The Dissertation prefixed to Dryden's Virgil in 1697, is his" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:351.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Knightly Chetwood, D.D. 1652, 1720, Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, 1683. Sermons, 1700, '08, '15. Lives, published in 1683. Poems in Nichols's Collection, &c." Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:377.

Knightly Chetwood, who James II nominated to be Bishop of Bristol, later contributed the preface on pastoral in Dryden's translation of Virgil; see James Edmund Congleton, Theories of Pastoral Poetry in England (1952) 77-78.



As when by labouring Stars new Kingdoms rise
The mighty Mass in rude confusion lies,
A Court unform'd, disorder at the Bar,
And even in Peace and rugged Meen of War,
Till some wise States-man into Method draws
The parts, and Animates the frame with Laws;
Such was the case when Chaucer's early toyl
Founded the Muses Empire in our Soyl.
Spencer improv'd it with his painful hand
But lost a Noble Muse in Fairy-land.
Shakespear say'd all that Nature cou'd impart,
And Johnson added Industry and Art.
Cowley, and Denham gained immortal praise;
And some who merit as they wear, the Bays,
Search'd all the Treasuries of Greece, and Rome,
And brought the precious spoils in Triumph home.
But still our language had some ancient rust,
Our flights were often high but seldom just.
There wanted one who license cou'd restrain,
Make Civil Laws o're Barbarous Usage reign:
One worthy in Apollo's Chair to sit
To hold the Scales, and give the Stamp of Wit.
In whom ripe judgement and Young fancy meet,
And force Poetic Rage to be discreet.
Who growes not nauseous, while he strives to please:
But marks the Shelves in the Poetic Seas.
Who knows, and teaches what our Clime can bear,
And makes the barren ground obey the labourers care.

Few cou'd conceive, none the great work cou'd do,
Tis a fresh province, and reserv'd for You.

Those Talents all are yours, of which but One,
Were a Fair Fortune for a Muses Son.
Wit, reading, judgement, conversation, art,
A head well ballanc'd, and a generous heart.
While insect Rhymes cloud the polluted Skie,
Created to molest the world, and die.
Your File do's polish, what your Fancy cast,
Works are long forming which must alwayes last,
Rough iron sense, and stubborn to the Mold
Touch'd by your Chymic hand is turn'd to Gold,
A secret Grace fashions the flowing lines,
And inspiration thro the Labour shines.
Writers in spight of all their paint and Art,
Betray the darling passion of their heart.
No Fame you wound, give no chast ears offence,
Still true to Friendship, Modesty, and Sence.
So Saints from Heaven for our example sent,
Live to their Rules, have nothing to repent.
Horace, if living, by exchange of fate,
Wou'd give no Laws, but only yours translate.

Hoist Sail, bold Writers, search, discover far,
You have a Compass for a Polar-Star.
Tune Orpheus Harp, and with enchanting Rhymes
Soften the savage humour of the Times.

Tell all those untouch'd Wonders which appear'd
When Fate it self for our Great Monarch fear'd:
Securely thro the dangerous Forrest led
By guards of Angels when his own were fled.
Heaven kindly exercis'd his Youth with Cares
To crown with unmix'd joyes his riper years.
Make Warlike James's peaceful vertues known,
The Second Hope and Genius of the Throne.
Heaven in compassion brought him on our Stage
To tame the fury of a monstrous Age.
But what blest voice shall your Maria sing?
Or a fit offering to her Altars bring?
In joys, in grief, in triumph, in retreat,
Great alwayes, without aiming to be Great.
True Roman Majesty adorns her Face;
And every gesture's form'd by every Grace.
Her beauties are too Heavenly, and refin'd,
For the Gross Senses of a Vulgar mind.
It is your part, (you Poets can divine)
To prophecy how she by Heavens design
Shall give an Heir to the Great Brittish Line,
Who over all the Western Isles shall reign,
Both aw the Continent, and rule the Main.
It is Your Place to wait upon her Name
Thro the vast regions of Eternal fame.

True Poets souls to Princes are ally'd,
And the Worlds Empire with its Kings divide.
Heaven trusts the present time to Monarchs care,
Eternity is the Good Writers share.

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