1706
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Philander: an Imitation of Spencer: occasioned by the Death of Mr. Wm. Levinz, of M.C., Oxon, Nov. 1706.

Poems on Several Occasions. By the Reverend Mr. Thomas Warton, Batchelor of Divinity, later Vicar of Basingstoke in Hampshire, and sometime Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford.

Rev. Thomas Warton the Elder


The elder Warton (then eighteen years of age) mourns the death of a school friend: "Moving as Spencer I my Grief would tell ... A second Colin mourn a second Astrophel." While the elegy is framed by allusions to Spenser, there is little or no formal imitation; rather Warton translates into a more modest and personal vein the kind of gothic machinery found in several recent funeral poems, including a dream-vision of the deathbed and a concluding empathetic address to the boy's mother standing in for Spenser's address to the Countess of Pembroke. Philander has not been identified.

The survival of the manuscript of this poem confirms that, unlike other poems in this collection published in 1748, it was indeed written by the putative author, and when he was very young.

In October 1746, Joseph Warton wrote to his brother: "Since you left Basingstoke, I have found a great many poems of my father's, much better than any we read together. These I am strongly advised to publish by subscription, by Sir Stukley Shuckburgh, Dr. Jackson, and other friends. These are sufficient to make a six shilling octavo volume; and they imagine, as my father's acquaintance was large, it would be easy to raise two or three hundred pounds; a very solid argument in our present situation" John Wooll, Biographical Memoirs of Joseph Warton (1806) 214-15.

Alexander Chalmers: "He died in 1746, and is buried under the rails of the altar of his church at Basingstoke, with an inscription on a tablet near it, written by his sons. They afterwards published a volume of his poems, by subscription, chiefly with a view to pay the few debts he left behind, and supply his children with some assistance in the progress of their education. Whether the success of this volume was equal to their hopes, is uncertain, but the poems acquired no reputation" Works of the English Poets (1810) 18:75.

William Lyon Phelps: "At what date it was written I have been unable to ascertain; but it is interesting as showing how honestly the Warton brothers came by their fondness for Spenser. The poem is prefaced by a garbled quotation from the dedication to Spenser's Astrophel.... Philander is a short poem, in six stanzas, completely destitute of poetic merit. It is interesting simply as coming from the father of the Wartons, and because of its early date" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 73.

Herbert E. Cory: "Perhaps no men among the early romanticists have loomed larger and larger in the eyes of recent critics than the brothers Joseph and Thomas Warton. Both must occupy a considerable position in any history of Spenser's influence. Their passion for The Faerie Queene was doubtless learned from their father, Thomas Warton, senior, who wrote a very Augustan Spenserian imitation in the stanza adopted by William Whitehead and a group of the most barren followers of Spenser that fill the dull pages of a history of eighteenth century poetry. The elder Warton's poem, Philander, An Imitation of Spencer: Occasioned by the Death of Mr. William Jening, Nov., 1706, is only a typical pastoral elegy of the time. Two stanzas may be resurrected to show from what loins sprang the great Wartons" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 161.

Clarissa Rinaker: "A manuscript copy of this poem, probably the original manuscript, dated at Mag. Coll. Oxon, Sept. 29, 1706, is in an uncataloged manuscript in Winchester College Library" Thomas Warton: a Biographical and Critical Study (1916) 11n.

Earl R. Wasserman: "The model proposed is Spenser's Astrophel, but the poem does not at all suggest Spenser" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 147.

David Fairer: "Critics have made much of the fact that the Warton brothers imbibed an early love of Spenser from their father; it is reassuring to know that Philander is genuinely his, and that the eighteen-year-old Warton did have an admiration (however superficially caught) for the Elizabethan poet. Of the four poems extant in the hand of the elder Warton, this is the only one which has been faithfully printed by Joseph" "The Poems of Thomas Warton the Elder?" RES NS 26 (1975) 290-91.

Warton's imitation of Spenser seems to have been written soon after Matthew Prior's Spenserian An Ode to the Queen (1706); William Congreve had recently imitated Spenser's Astrophel in The Tears of Amaryllis for Amyntas (1703), a pastoral elegy that received considerable attention.



Give me, ye weeping Nine, the softest Airs,
Whilst I with you Philander's Fate condole;
Let Pity grace each sadly-pleasing Verse,
And tender Words that thrill the melting Soul:
Echo shall kindly answer as I mourn,
And gently-wafted Sounds my doleful Plaints return.

When rural Spencer sung, the list'ning Swains
Would oft' forget to feed the fleecy Throng;
The fleecy Throng, charm'd with the melting Strains,
Fed not — but on the Musick of his Song;
His Mulla would in ling'ring Bubbles play,
'Till his pleas'd Waters stole unwillingly away.

And cou'd my Verse but with its Theme compare,
Moving as Spencer I my Grief wou'd tell;
The ravish'd Bard shou'd to Elysium hear
A second Colin mourn a second Astrophel.
My Lays shou'd more than equal Glory boast,
And the fam'd Mulla be in smoother Cherwell lost.

Cherwell! bless'd Stream while Philander liv'd!
Where-e'er thy Waves in mazy Windings turn,
Tell ev'ry Stream of whom they are depriv'd,
And bid 'em all in sobbing Murmurs mourn:
Oft' on thy Banks he'd tell thy Praises o'er,
Twas there I saw him last — but oh! shall see no more.

Look, said the Youth, (as then he wond'ring stood)
How Cherwell's Waves in dinted Dimples smile!
I joy to see his amicable Flood
With circling Arms embrace the happy Soil:
How loth he seems those charming Shades to leave,
That from his silver Urn a nobler Grace receive!—

—But mute is now the Musick of that Voice,
That to th' attentive Flood such Praises gave!—
'Mong Bones and Skulls the dear Philander lies,
Cold, cold, and silent as the dismal Grave!—
Mourn then, ye Youths, for ever mourn his Fate;
Ye cannot grieve too long — but oh ye grieve too late!

—Look all around the Woods, and Plains, and Floods;
Do not ev'n they the mighty Loss deplore?
Lo Pleasure leaves the Floods, and Plains, and Woods!
And pensive Birds now warble there no more;
But pining Doves, and moaning Turtles coo,
And Choirs of Swans make up the Harmony of Woe.

Their tuneful Sorrow ravishes my Ear,
While mourning Vegetables please the Eye;
The sick'ning Flow'rs their Heads but faintly rear,
And droop beneath the dewy Tears, and die!
Like them the Youth a thousand Charms cou'd boast,
—But oh the Youth like them those short-liv'd Charms has lost!

Say, You his Friends, Companions of my Woe,
Say what kind Gentleness adorn'd his Mind?
Tell me, can You such native Candour show?
And may we still a true Philander find?
Vain Hope! — let all with gen'rous Shame confess,
None e'er excell'd you more — and yet cou'd know it less.

Oft wou'd the Youth into himself descend,
And act at once the Confessor and Saint;
How pleas'd he'd see th' examin'd Breast unstain'd,
And say with modest Joy "I'm Innocent!"
Confed'rate Graces spoke him Whole Divine,
All beautiful without, and spotless all within.

And must such fair Perfection yield to Fate?
Why was thy early Goodness ripe so soon?
Ye Pow'rs! let Virtue have a longer Date,
Or some prevailing Muse to make it known:
Oh! cou'd these Lays proportion'd Praises give,
The lovely Youth shou'd still in deathless Numbers live!

Thou constant Object of my lab'ring Thought!
Tho' thy dear Presence cruel Death denies,
Oft is thy Shade by kinder Morpheus brought,
And oft by Fancy to my longing Eyes:
Sometimes my Thoughts thy dying Gasps renew,
Ev'n now methinks I see all Death expos'd to View.

I see Philander on his Death-bed lain!
What griping Pangs his tortur'd Heart corrode!
Look how resign'd he bears each smarting Pain!
And inly groaning invocates his God!
How chang'd he looks! how ashy pale his Hue!
I ne'er unwilling saw the lovely Youth 'till now!

Are those the Arms with which we oft embrac'd?
Those Hands, benumm'd, and cold, are those like his?
And his dear Lips, by constant Learning grac'd,
Say, did they tremble, and look wan as these?—
—Love might with Fear a doubtful Strife maintain,
But that my Griefs present a yet more dismal Scene.

Behold! his Friends all croud around his Bed!
Hark with what bitter Cries they o'er him moan!
Look on their streaming Eyes! what Tears thy shed!
Their Grief makes all his Miseries their own!
And while this Pomp of Death Philander sees,
The dying Youth by their's perceives his Miseries.

Now his chill Face with eager Lips they kiss,
Grasp his cold Hand, and take their last Farewell!—
How languishing they fix their Eyes on his!
Their aking Sight cou'd there for ever dwell!
Too well they know those parting Looks are vain,
And turn themselves aside — yet needs must look again.

—But doubtful Mists swim hov'ring o'er his Eyes,
That feebly round their hollow Orbits rowl;
Whilst in imperfect Groans and less'ning Sighs,
With pious Carelessness he yields his Soul;
His Soul unfetter'd seeks the Realms of Light,
And to her native Heav'n she takes her tow'ring Flight.

But who can tell his weeping Mother's Care?
His Death in vain by silent Friends is hid.
For conscious Tears the fatal Truth declare,
And their expressive Silence says, He's Dead!
Her still-born Sorrow speaks an inward Woe,
Beyond what Sighs, or Tears, or Words unequal show.

O cease, thou good Sophronia, left forlorn,
For thy much-lov'd Philander weeps no more;
Those, who thy Son's sad Fate cou'd never mourn,
Will ev'n his living Mother now deplore;
For when such Piety in Tears they view,
Their soften'd Hearts must grieve to symphathize with You.

Look on thy Daughter, beauteous in Distress,
Nor think while Stella lives Philander lost;
Oh! may kind Heav'n in Her your Griefs redress,
And You in one num'rous Blessing boast!
May His redoubl'd Life to her return!
And you in Stella see Philanders yet unborn!

[pp. 65-75]