Oxford. A Poem.

Oxford. A Poem. Inscrib'd to the right honourable the Lord Lonsdale.

Thomas Tickell

Thomas Tickell, writing anonymously, elevates William Congreve's pastorals above those of Edmund Spenser (a Cambridge poet): "Great Denham's Genius looks, with Rapture down, | And Spencer's Shade resigns the Rural Crown" p. 6.

Oxford is an early topographic poem by Thomas Tickell, who had taken his B.A. from Queen's College, Oxford in 1705 and who would become Fellow in 1710. It begins with praises of Oxford's neoclassical architecture, including the Sheldonian Theatre, Bodleian Library, and picture gallery (with its portraits of Scaliger and Ben Jonson). The Ashmolean Museum and Queen's College Library are next described. Tickell praises Christ Church's Henry Aldrich (1647-1710) as a teacher of poets, including the editor of Phalaris, Charles Boyle, earl of Orrery, and John Philips, famous for his Miltonic burlesques. There follows a list of contemporary Oxford poets, with the lion's share of praise going to Joseph Addison, who would soon become Tickell's patron. The Physick Garden is next described, where the topiary is trimmed to classical standards: "How sweet the Landskip! where in Living Trees, | Here frowns a Vegetable Hercules, | There Fam'd Achilles learns to live again, | And looks yet angry in the Mimick Scene" p. 7. The tour concludes with poets reposing by the river, and reflections on the public role of the colleges.

Tickell's poem is an interesting example of academic verse prior to the Spenserian-Miltonic revival. Tickell praises all things neoclassical, so much so that he concludes by imagining an Oxford populated by Roman poets: "Had'st thou, of old, been Learning's fam'd Retreat, | And Pagan Muses chose thy lovely Seat, | O, how unbounded had their Fiction been! | What fancy'd Visions had adorn'd the Scene!" pp. 9-10. Nonetheless, one might discover in his enthusiastic tone and interest in description and ecphrasis, a transition from Denham and Waller to the kinds of academic verse later associated with the Wartons. Tickell's poem might be compared to Addison's early verses in An Account of the Greatest English Poets (1694); both poets would later turn to distinctly national subjects and styles.

Thomas Hearne: "This day was the election of fellows of Queen's college, when Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Tickle were elected, over the heads of several of their seniors, and such as were better scholars. This Tickle is a pretender to poetry" 8 November 1710; in Reliquae Hearniae, ed. Bliss (1869) 1:209.

R. Eustace Tickell: "In these early writings his Cumberland friends are conspicuous; and the name of Addison is prominent from the first, but the references are to his writings rather than to the man, for Addison was Tickell's senior by fourteen years, and there is nothing to show that they were personally acquainted at that time" Thomas Tickell and the Eighteenth-Century Poets (1931) 18.

The poem is dedicated to the son of Sir John Lowther, first Viscount Lonsdale, who had held high offices under William of Orange. William Harrison, author of Woodstock Park, was a friend of Young and Swift who died in 1713.

Whilst You, My LORD, adorn that stately Seat,
Where shining Beauty makes her soft Retreat,
Enjoying all those Graces, uncontroll'd,
Which noblest Youths would die but to behold;
Whilst You inhabit Lowther's awful Pile,
A Structure worthy of the Founder's Toil:
Amaz'd we see the former LONSDALE shine
In each Descendent of his Noble Line,
But most transported and surpriz'd, we view
His ancient Glories all reviv'd in You,
Where Charms, and Virtues join their equal Grace,
Your Father's Godlike Soul, Your Mother's lovely Face.

Me Fortune, and kind Heav'ns Indulgent Care
To Famous OXFORD, and the Muses bear,
Where, of all Ranks, the blooming Youths combine
To pay due Homage to the mighty Nine,
And snatch, with smiling Joy, the Laurel Crown,
Due to the Learned Honours of the Gown.
Here I, the meanest of the tuneful Throng,
Delude the Time with an unhallow'd Song,
Which thus my Thanks to much-lov'd Oxford pays,
In no ungrateful, though unartful Lays.

Where shall I first the beauteous Scene disclose,
And all the gay Variety expose?
For whereso'er I turn my wond'ring Eyes,
Aspiring Tow'rs, and verdant Groves arise,
Immortal Greens the smiling Plains array,
And mazy Rivers murmur all the way.

O, might Your Eyes behold each sparkling Dome,
And freely o'er the beauteous Prospect roam,
Less ravish'd your own Lowther you'd survey,
Though Pomp and State the costly Seat display,
Where Art so nicely has adorn'd the Place,
That Nature's Aid might seem an useless Grace,
Yet Nature's Smiles such various Charms impart,
That vain and needless are the Strokes of Art.
In equal State our rising Structures shine,
Fram'd by such Rules, and form'd by such Design,
That here, at once surpriz'd and pleas'd, we view
Old Athens lost and conquer'd in the New,
More sweet our Shades, more fit our bright Abodes
For warbling Muses, and inspiring Gods.

Great Vanbrook's self might own each artful Draught
Equal to Models in his Curious Thought,
Not scorn a Fabrick by our Plans to frame,
Or in Immortal Labours Sing their Fame;
Both Ways he save 'em from destroying Fate,
If he but Praise them, or but Imitate.

See, where the Sacred Sheldon's haughty Dome
Rivals the stately Pomp of ancient Rome,
Whose From, so great and noble, seems design'd
T' express the Grandeur of its Founder's Mind.
Here, in one lofty Building, we behold
Whate'er the Latian Pride could boast of old.
True, no dire Combates feed the Savage Eye,
And strow the Sand with sportive Cruelty;
But more adorn'd with what the Muse inspires,
It far outshines their Bloody Theatres.
Delightful Scene: when here, in equal Verse,
The youthful Bards their Godlike QUEEN rehearse,
To Churchill's Wreaths Apollo's Laurel join,
And sing the Plains of Hockstet, and Judoign.

Next let the Muse record our Bodley's Seat,
And aim at Numbers, like the Subject, Great:
All hail thou Fabrick, Sacred to the Nine,
Thy Fame immortal, and thy Form divine!
Who to thy Praise attempts the dang'rous Flight,
Should in thy various Tongues be taught to write,
His Verse, like thee, a lofty Dress should wear,
And breathe the Genius which inhabits there;
Thy Proper Lays alone can make thee Live,
And pay that Fame, which first thy self didst give.
So Fountains which through secret Channels flow,
And pour Above the Flouds they take Below,
Back to their Father Ocean urge their Way,
And to the Sea, the Streams, it gave, Repay.

No more we fear the Military Rage,
Nurst up in some obscure Barbarian Age,
Nor dread the Ruin of our Arts divine,
From Thick-scull'd Heroes of the Gothique Line,
Tho' Pale the Romans saw those Arms advance,
And wept their Learning lost in Ignorance.
Let Brutal Rage around its Terrors spread,
The Living murder, and consume the Dead,
In impious Fires let Noblest Writings burn,
And with their Authors share a Common Urn;
Only, ye Fates, our lov'd Bodleian spare,
Be IT, and Learning's self shall be your Care,
Here ev'ry Art and ev'ry Grace shall join,
Collected Phoebus here alone shall shine,
Each other Seat be Dark, and this be all Divine.
Thus when the Greeks Imperial Troy defac'd,
And to the Ground its fatal Walls debas'd,
In vain they burn the Works of Hands Divine,
And vow Destruction to the Dardan Line,
Whilst good Aeneas flies th' unequal Wars,
And, with his Guardian Gods, Iulus bears,
Old Troy for ever stands in him Alone,
And All the Phrygian Kings survive in One.

Here still presides each Sage's rev'rend Shade,
In soft Repose and easie Grandeur laid,
Their deathless Works forbid their Fame to die,
Nor Time it self their Persons shall destroy,
Preserv'd within the Living Gallery.
What greatest Gift could bounteous Heav'n bestow,
Than to be seen Above, and read Below?
With deep Respect I bend my duteous Head,
To see the faithful Likeness of the Dead;
But O! what Muse can equal Warmth impart?
The Painter's Skill transcends the Poet's Art.
When 'round the Pictur'd Founders I descry,
With Goodness soft, and great with Majesty.
So much of Life the artful Colours give,
Scarce more within their Colleges they live,
My Blood begins in wilder Rounds to roul,
And pleasing Tumults combat in my Soul,
And humble Awe my down-cast Eyes betray,
And only less than Adoration pay.
Such were the Roman Fathers, when o'ercome
They saw the Gauls insult o'er conquer'd Rome,
Each Captive seem'd the haughty Victor's Lord,
And prostrate Chiefs their awful Slaves ador'd.

Such Art as this adorns your Lowther's Hall,
Where feasting Gods Carouse upon the Wall,
The Nectar, which Creating Paint supplies,
Intoxicates each pleas'd Spectator's Eyes,
Who view, amaz'd, the Figures heav'nly Fair,
And think they breath the true Elysian Air,
With Strokes so bold, Great Varrio's Hand has drawn
The Gods in Dwellings, brighter than their own.

Fir'd with a Thousand Raptures, I behold
What lively Features grac'd each Bard of old,
Such Lips, I think, did guide his charming Tongue,
In such an Air, as this, the Poet sung,
Such Eyes, as these, glow'd with the sacred Fire,
And Hands, like these, employ'd the Vocal Lyre:
And scarce admire their deathless Labours more.
See where the gloomy Scaliger appears,
Each Shade is Critick, and each Feature sneers,
The artful Ben so smartly strikes the Eye,
I more than see a fancy'd Comedy,
The muddy Scotus crowns the Motley Shew,
And Metaphysicks cloud his wrinkled Brow.
But distant Awe invades my beating Breast,
To see Great Ormond in the Paint exprest;
With Fear I view the Figure from afar,
Which burns with noble Ardour for the War,
But near Approaches free my doubting Mind,
To view such Sweetness with such Grandeur join'd.

Here studious Heads the graver Tablet shews,
And there with Martial Warmth the Picture glows,
The blooming Youth here boasts a brighter Hew,
And Painted Virgins far out-shine the True.

Hail Colours, which with Nature bear a Strife,
And only want a Voice to perfect Life!
The wond'ring Stranger makes a sudden Stand,
And pays low Homage to the lovely Band,
Within each Frame a Real Fair believes,
And vainly thinks the Mimick Canvas lives,
'Till undeceiv'd he quits th' enchanting Shew,
Pleas'd with the Art, though he laments it too.

So when his Juno bold Ixion woo'd,
And aim'd at Pleasures, worthy of a God,
A beauteous Cloud was form'd by angry Jove,
Fit to invite, though not indulge his Love;
The Mortal thought he saw his Goddess shine,
And all the lying Graces look'd Divine,
But when, with Heat, he clasp'd her fancy'd Charms,
The empty Vapour baulk'd his eager Arms.

Loath to depart, I leave th' inviting Scene,
Yet scarce forbear to view it o'er again,
But still new Objects give a new Delight,
And various Prospects bless the wand'ring Sight.

Aloft in State the airy Tow'rs arise,
And with new Lustre deck the wond'ring Skies;
Lo! to what height the Schools ascending reach,
Built with that Art, which they alone can teach,
The lofty Dome expands her spacious Gate,
Where all the decent Graces jointly wait,
In ev'ry Shape the God of Art resorts,
And Crowds of Sages fill th' extended Courts.

With Wonders fraught the bright Musaeum see,
It self the greatest Curiosity!
Where Nature's choicest Treasure, all combin'd,
Delight, at once, and quite confound the Mind,
Ten Thousand Splendors strike the dazled Eye,
And form, on Earth, another Galaxy.

Here Colleges in sweet Confusion rise,
There Temples seem to reach their Native Skies,
Spires, Tow'rs, and Groves compose the various Shew;
And mingled Prospects charm the doubting View,
Who can deny their Characters Divine,
Without Resplendent, and inspir'd within?
But since above my weak and artless Lays,
Let their own Poets sing their equal Praise.

One Labour more my grateful Verse renews,
And rears aloft the Low-descending Muse;
The Building, Parent of my young Essays,
Asks, in Return, a Tributary Praise.
Pillars sublime bear up the pompous Height,
Whilst Guardian Muses shade the happy Piles,
And all around diffuse propitious Smiles.
Here Lancaster, adorn'd with ev'ry Grace,
Stands Chief in Merit, as the Chief in Place:
To his lov'd Name our earliest Lays belong,
The Theme at once, and Patron of our Song.
Long may he o'er his much-lov'd Queens preside,
Our Arts encourage, and our Counsels guide,
'Till After-Ages, fill'd with glad Surprize,
Behold his Image, all Majestick rise,
Where now, in Pomp, a venerable Band,
Princes, and Queens, and Holy Fathers stand.
Good Eglisfield claims Homage from the Eye,
And the hard Stone seems soft with Piety;
The mighty Monarchs still the same appear,
And ev'ry Marble Frown provokes the War,
Whilst rugged Rocks, mark'd with Philippa's Face,
Soften to Charms, and glow with New-born Grace.
A Sight less Noble did the Warriors yield,
Transform'd to Statues by the Gorgon Shield,
Distorting Fear the Coward's Form confest,
And Fury seem'd to heave the Hero's Breast,
The lifeless Rocks each various Thought betray'd,
And all the Soul was in the Stone display'd.

Too high, my Verse, has been thy daring Flight,
Thy softer Numbers now the Groves invite,
Where silent Shades provoke the speaking Lyre,
And chearful Objects happy Songs inspire,
At once bestow Rewards, and Thoughts infuse,
Compose a Garland, and supply a Muse.

Behold around, and see, the living Green
In native Colours paints a blooming Scene,
Th' eternal Buds no deadly Winter fear,
But scorn the coldest Season of the Year;
Apollo sure will bless the happy Place,
Which his own Daphne condescends to grace,
For here the everlasting Laurels grow
In ev'ry Grotto, and on ev'ry Brow.

Prospects so gay demand a Congreve's Strains,
To call the Gods and Nymphs upon the Plains;
Pan yields his Empire o'er the Sylvan Throng,
Pleas'd to submit to his Superior Song;
Great Denham's Genius looks, with Rapture down,
And Spencer's Shade resigns the Rural Crown.

Fill'd with great Thoughts, a Thousand Sages rove
Through ev'ry Field, and solitary Grove,
Whose Souls, ascending an exalted Height,
Out-soar the drooping Muse's vulgar Flight,
That longs to see her Darling Vot'ries laid
Beneath the Covert of some gentle Shade,
Where purling Streams, and warbling Birds conspire
To aid th' Enchantments of the trembling Lyre.

Bear me some God to Christ-Church's Royal Seat,
And lay me softly in the green Retreat,
Where Aldrich holds o'er Wit the Sov'raign Pow'r,
And Crowns the Poets, which he taught before.
To Aldrich, Britain owes her tuneful Boyle,
The noblest Trophy of the conquer'd Isle,
Who adds new Warmth to our Poetick Fire,
And gives to England the Hibernian Lyre.
Philips by Phoebus, and his Aldrich taught,
Sings with that Heat, wherewith his Churchill fought,
Unfetter'd, in Great Milton's Strain he writes,
Like Milton's Angels, whilst his Heroe fights,
Pursues the Bard, whilst he with Honour can,
Equals the Poet, and excels the Man.

O'er all the Plains, the Streams, and Woods around,
The pleasing Lays of sweetest Bards resound,
A faithful Echo ev'ry Note returns,
And list'ning River-Gods neglect their Urns.
When Codrington, and Steele their Verse unrein,
And form an easie, unaffected Strain,
A double Wreath of Laurel binds their Brow,
As they are Poets, and are Warriors too.
Trapp's lofty Scenes in gentle Numbers flow,
Like Dryden, Great, as soft as moving Rowe.
When youthful Harison, with tuneful Skill,
Makes Woodstock Park scarce yield to Cooper's Hill,
Old Chaucer, from th' Elysian Fields, looks down,
And sees, at length, a Genius, like his own;
Charm'd with his Lays, which reach the Shades below,
Fair Rosamonda intermits her Woe,
Forgets the Anguish of an injur'd Soul,
The fatal Poniard, and invenom'd Bowl.

Apollo smiles on Magdalen's peaceful Bow'rs,
Perfumes the Air, and paints the Grot with Flow'rs,
Where Yalden learn'd to gain the Myrtle Crown,
And ev'ry Muse was fond of Addison.
Applauded Man! For weightier Trusts design'd,
For once disdain not to unbend thy Mind,
Thy Mother Isis and her Groves rehearse,
A Subject, not unworthy of thy Verse,
So Latium Fields will cease to boast thy Praise,
And yield to Oxford, painted in thy Lays:
And when the Age to come, from Envy free,
What thou to Virgil giv'st, shall give to thee,
Isis, Immortal by the Poet's Skill,
"Shall, in the smooth Description, murmur still,"
New Beauties shall adorn our Sylvan Scene,
And, in thy Numbers, grow for ever Green.

Danby's fam'd Gift such Verse, as thine, requires,
Exalted Raptures, and Celestial Fires;
Apollo here shou'd plenteously impart,
As well his Singing, as his Curing Art,
Nature her self the healing Garden loves,
Which kindly her declining Strength improves,
Baffles the Strokes of unrelenting Death,
Can break his Arrows, and can blunt his Teeth.
How sweet the Landskip! where in Living Trees,
Here frowns a Vegetable Hercules,
There Fam'd Achilles learns to live again,
And looks yet angry in the Mimick Scene,
Here artful Birds, which blooming Arbours shew,
Seem to fly higher, whilst thy upwards grow,
From the same Leaves both Arms and Warriors rise,
And ev'ry Bough a diff'rent Charm supplies.

So when our World the Great Creator made,
And unadorn'd the sluggish Chaos laid,
Horror, and Beauty own'd their Sire the same,
And Form it self from Parent Matter came,
That lumpish Mass, alone, was Source of all,
And Bards and Themes had one Original.

In vain the Groves demand my longer Stay,
The gentle Isis wafts the Muse away,
With Ease, the River guides her wand'ring Stream,
And hastes to mingle with Uxorious Thame,
Attempting Poets on her Banks lie down,
And quaff inspir'd the better Helicon,
Harmonious Strains adorn their various Themes,
Sweet as the Banks, and flowing as the Streams.

Bless'd We, whom bounteous Fortune here has thrown,
And made the various Blessings all our own!
Nor Crowns, nor Globes, the Pageantry of State,
Upon our humble, easie Slumbers wait,
Nor ought, that is Ambition's lofty Theme,
Disturbs our Sleep, and Gilds the gaudy Dream.
Touch'd by no Ills which vex th' unhappy Great,
We only read the Changes in the State,
Triumphant Marlbro's Arms, at Distance, hear,
And learn, from Fame, the rough Events of War,
With pointed Rhimes the Gallick Tyrant pierce,
And make the Cannon Thunder in our Verse.

See, how the matchless Youth their Hours improve,
And in the glorious Way to Knowledge move!
Eager for Fame, prevent the rising Sun,
And watch the Midnight Labours of the Moon.
Not tender Years their bold Attempts restrain,
Who leave dull Time, and hasten into Man,
Pure to the Soul, and pleasing to the Eyes,
Like Angels, Youthful, and like Angels, Wise.

Some learn the mighty Deeds of Ages gone,
And, by the Lives of Heroes, form their own,
Now view the Granique choak'd with Heaps of Slain,
And warring Worlds on the Pharsalian Plain,
Now hear the Trumpets Clangour from afar,
And all the dreadful Harmony of War,
Now trace those secret Tricks, that lost a State,
And search the fine-spun Arts, that made it Great,
Correct those Errors, that its Ruin bred,
And bid some long-lost Empire rear it's ancient Head.

Others, to whom persuasive Arts belong,
(Words in their Looks, and Musick on their Tongue)
Instructed by the Wit of Greece, and Rome,
Learn richly to Adorn their native Home,
Whilst list'ning Crowds confess the sweet Surprize,
With Pleasure in their Breasts, and Wonder in their Eyes.

Here Curious Minds the Latent Seeds disclose,
And Nature's darkest Labyrinths expose,
Whilst greater Souls the distant Worlds descry,
Pierce to the out-stretch'd Borders of the Sky,
Enlarge the searching Mind, and broad expand the Eye.

O You, whose rising Years so great began,
In whose bright Youth, I read the shining Man,
O LONSDALE, know what Noblest Minds approve,
The Thoughts, they cherish, and the Arts, they love;
Let these Examples your young Bosom fire,
And bid your Soul to boundless Height aspire.
Methinks I see you in our Shades retir'd,
Alike admiring, and by all admir'd:
Your Eloquence now charms my ravish'd Ear,
Which future Senates shall transported hear,
Now mournful Verse inspires a pleasing Woe,
And now your Cheeks, with Warlike Fury, glow,
Whilst, on the Paper, fancy'd Fields appear,
And Prospects of Imaginary War,
Your Martial Soul sees Hockflet's fatal Plain,
Or fights the fam'd Ramillia o'er again.

But I, in vain, these lofty Names rehearse,
Above the faint Attempts of humble Verse,
Which Garth should in Immortal Strains design,
Or Addison exalt, with Warmth Divine;
A meaner Song my tender Voice requires,
And fainter Lays confess the fainter Fires,
By Nature fitted for an humble Theme,
A painted Prospect, or a murm'ring Stream,
To tune a Vulgar Note, in Echo's Praise,
Whilst Echo's self resounds the flatt'ring Lays,
Or whilst I tell how Myra's Charms surprize,
Paint Roses on her Cheeks, and Suns within her Eyes.

O did proportion'd Height to me belong,
Great ANNA'S Name should Grace th' ambitious Song,
Illustrious Dames should round their QUEEN resort,
And LONSDALE'S MOTHER crown the splendid Court,
Her Noble SON should boast no Vulgar Place,
But share the Ancient Honours of his Race,
Whilst each Fair DAUGHTER'S Face and Conqu'ring Eyes,
To Venus only shou'd submit the Prize.
O matchless Beauties! More than Heav'nly Fair,
Your Looks resistless, and Divine your Air,
Let your bright Eyes their bounteous Beams diffuse,
And no fond Bard shall ask an useless Muse,
Their kindling Rays excite a nobler Fire,
Give Beauty to the Song, and Musick to the Lyre.

This Charming Theme I ever cou'd pursue,
And think the Inspiration ever new,
Did not the God my wand'ring Pen restrain,
And bring me to his Oxford back again.

Oxford, the Goddess Muse's Native home,
Inspir'd like Athens, and adorn'd like Rome!
Had'st thou, of old, been Learning's fam'd Retreat,
And Pagan Muses chose thy lovely Seat,
O, how unbounded had their Fiction been!
What fancy'd Visions had adorn'd the Scene!
Upon each Hill a Sylvan Pan had stood,
And ev'ry Thicket boasted of a God,
Satyrs had frisk'd, in each Poetick Grove,
And not a Stream, without its Nymphs, could move.
Each Summit had the Train of Muses shew'd,
And Hippocrene in ev'ry Fountain flow'd,
The Tales, adorn'd with each Poetick Grace,
Had look'd almost as Charming, as the Place.

Ev'n now we hear the World, with Transports, own
Those Fictions by more wond'rous Truths out-done;
Here pure Eusebia keeps her Holy Seat,
And Themis smiles, from Heav'n, on this Retreat!
Our chaster Graces own refin'd Desires,
And all our Muses burn with Vestal Fires,
Whilst Guardian Angels our Apollo's stand,
Scatt'ring rich Favours with a bounteous Hand,
To bless the happy Art, and sanctifie the Land.

O pleasing Shades! O ever-green Retreats!
Ye learned Grottoes! And ye sacred Seats!
Never may you Politer Arts refuse,
But entertain, in Peace, the bashful Muse,
So may you be kind Heav'n's distinguish'd Care,
And may your Fame be Lasting, as 'tis Fair.
Let greater Bards on fam'd Parnassus dream,
Or taste th' inspiring Heliconian Stream,
Yet whilst our Oxford is the Bless'd Abode
Of ev'ry Muse, and ev'ry tuneful God,
Parnassus owns its Honours far out-done,
And Isis boasts more Bards than Helicon.

A Thousand Blessings I to Oxford owe,
But You, My LORD, th' inspiring Muse bestow,
Grac'd with your Name, th' unpolish'd Poem shines,
You Guard its Faults, and Consecrate the Lines.
O might you, here, meet my desiring Eyes,
My drooping Song, to nobler Heights, would rise,
Or might I come to breathe your Northern Air,
Yet should I find an equal Pleasure there,
Your Presence would the harshest Climate sooth,
Hush ev'ry Wind, and ev'ry Mountain smooth,
Would bid the Groves, in springing Pomp, arise,
And open Charming Vista's to the Eyes,
Would make my trifling Verse be heard around,
And sportive Echo play the empty Sound,
With you I should a better Phoebus find,
And own, in YOU alone, the Charms of OXFORD join'd.

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