1708
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Cyder. A Poem.

Cyder. A Poem. In Two Books.

John Philips


John Philips, writing anonymously, catalogues "Tender Spencer" among the suffering bards in the concluding paragraph of Book I.

Samuel Johnson: "In the disposition of his matter so as to intersperse precepts relating to the culture of trees with sentiments more generally alluring, and in easy and graceful transitions from one subject to another, he has very diligently imitated his master; but he unhappily pleased himself with blank verse, and supposed that the numbers of Milton, which impress the mind with veneration, combined as they are with subjects of inconceivable grandeur, could be sustained by images which at most can rise only to elegance. Contending angels may shake the regions of heaven in blank verse; but the flow of equal measures and the embellishment of rhyme must recommend to our attention the art of engrafting, and decide the merit of the 'redstreak' and 'pearmain'" Lives of the English Poets (1779); ed. Hill (1905) 1:318-19

Joseph Warton: "He [Pope] frequently expressed his total dislike of this poem, though its author was patronized by Bolingbroke, who also induced Philips to write the poem on Blenheim. Cyder was elegantly translated into Latin verse by my amiable friend Mr. Phelphs, Under Secretary of State to Lord Sandwich, whilst he was a Scholar at Winchester College, 1738" in Works of Alexander Pope, ed. Warton (1797) 8:60n.

W. J. Courthope: "His is the merit of having first shown the capacities of blank verse for didactic poetry, and having been the pioneer of the style afterwards developed by Thomson and Cowper" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 5:65.

George Saintsbury: "It is certain that Philips was one of the numerous and not ungenerous tribe who never make fun of anything with so much zest as of the things they love; for he stuck to blank verse in both his serious poems — Blenheim, and Cider. For the bombast and the absurd pseudo-classical machinery and mannerism of the first, he has been severely and in part deservedly, but perhaps excessively, blamed by Macaulay and others. Cider is far better. If such things as Georgics are to be done in verse at all, it establishes blanks as an excellent vehicle for them; and as for form, there is no doubt that it is right to regard Philips as a predecessor, and probably a preceptor, of Thomson" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 2:475.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "In Cyder John Philips succeeds in adapting the manner of Virgil in the Georgics to the style of Milton and the result is a well-proportioned, humorous and picturesque poem. Philips observed English landscape closely and not the least of his merits is the strong local colour of Cyder.... Philips' attitude towards his great predecessors in the realm of poetry is characteristic of the age. 'Sacred Virgil' is the best poet; the verse of 'tender Spenser' was 'not debased by Fortune's frowns'. His Toryism makes him bewail that Milton, 'that first ennobled song with holy rapture' was not 'among many faithless, strictly faithful found'.... Cyder is as Miltonic as a poem can well be. The general plan is based upon Virgil, but metre, diction, phrases and even whole lines are borrowed from Milton. The only trouble is that Milton's greatness is conspicuous by its absence" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 151-52.



Thus sacred Virgil liv'd, from courtly Vice
And Baits of pompous Rome secure, at Court
Still thoughtful of the rural honest Life,
And how t' improve his Grounds, and how himself:
Best Poet! fit Exemplar for the Tribe
Of Phoebus, nor less fit Maeonides,
Poor eyeless Pilgrim! and if after these,
If after these another I may name,
Thus tender Spencer liv'd, with mean Repast
Content, depres'd by Penury, and Pine
In foreign Realm: Yet not debas'd his Verse
By Fortune's Frowns. And had that Other Bard,
Oh, had but He that first enobled Song
With holy Raptures, like his Abdiel been,
'Mong many faithless, strictly faithful found;
Unpity'd he should not have wail'd his Orbs,
That roll'd in vain, to find the piercing Ray,
And found no Dawn, by dim Suffusion veil'd!
But He — However, let the Muse abstain,
Nor blast his Fame from whom she learnt to sing
In much inferior Strains, grov'ling beneath
Th' Olympian Hill, on Plains and Vales intent,
Mean Follower. There let her rest a-while,
Pleas'd with the fragrant Walks and cool Retreat.

[pp. 47-48]