1710 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Strephon with my Poems to Philesia. An Ode.

Poems; Amorous, Moral, and Divine.

William Hinchliffe


William Hinchliffe's verse epistle is in seven Prior stanzas — with Elijah Fenton's Ode to the Sun (1707), it is one of the first of many eighteenth-century odes in this stanza, invented by Matthew Prior in An Ode to the Queen (1706). Several of the poems in the volume appear to have been part of a verse conversation taking place about 1709-11, though the other parts seem not to have been published.

Hinchliffe, whose poems were anonymously published in 1718, was a bookseller's apprentice and friend of William Duncombe and Henry Needler (the volume is dedicated to Needler) one of whom is surely "Strephon." Both were employed at the Navy Office, hence the references to the nymphs of Greenwich, described as heirs of Queen Elizabeth. Spenser's editor John Hughes was a friend of Needler, and may have known Hinchliffe as well. This little group of "Cockney" Spenserians recalls the constellation of Wither, Brooke, and Browne of Tavistock a century earlier and anticipates that of Hunt, Lamb, Proctor, and Keats a century later — the difference being that none of these eighteenth-century Spenser-followers produced work of any magnitude.

Advertisement: "It will be proper to acquaint the Reader, that almost all the following Poems, were composed in that Season of Life, when the Passions generally retain a Dominion over Reason; when the Mind is a Novice in Reflection; and before I had gained that competent Knowledge of the World, which is absolutely necessary, in order to form just and adequate Notions of Things."

A copy of this volume, presumably Duncombe's, appears in the 1769 sale catalogue of the libraries of William Duncombe and Joseph Spence; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 2:226.



These Strains, which Love and tenderest Thoughts infuse,
To thee, O Strephon, for Protection flee;
The Darling thou, of ev'ry Grace and Muse!
May I, unblam'd, present my Lays to thee:
Wilt thou, with Native Goodness, condescend
To save them, with approving Smiles, from Death?
Wilt thou be mine, and bright PHILESIA'S Friend?
And shield them from the Criticks blasting Breath?
Wilt thou, from grave and nobler Thoughts unbend
Thy studious Mind a while, and my soft Airs attend?

Full well I know the sweet Love-breathing Songs
To thee were ne'er unwelcome or ingrate;
Indulgent still to all the tuneful Tongues,
That softest Things harmoniously relate.
O, let me hope but to delight thine Ear,
Judicious Bard, with my aspiring Verse!
O may I please thee whilst I sing the Fair,
Nor shock thy Sense, whilst I her Charms rehearse.
But ah! I fear such glorious Heights to fly,
My Fate-depressed Muse with vain Efforts will try.

"Apollo, bright Latona's Radiant Son,
Thou God of Verse and Harmony Divine,
Father of Poets, Author of Renown,
And Sacred Prince of all the tuneful Nine,
From thy Olympian Arch, look down, Great Sire,
And from thy blazing Throne attend my Pray'r,
Oh! grant thy humble Son's devout Desire,
His ardent Vows with kind Indulgence hear;
So shall my grateful Lyre resound thy Praise,
In everlasting Hymns, in never-dying Lays.

"With such a Portion of thy heav'nly Fire,
As that thou didst in Strephon's Soul infuse,
With such a Ray my meaner Breast inspire,
And give me such a sweet yet awful Muse!
Then should thy genuine Sons applaud my Strains,
And bright PHILESIA glitter in each Line:
Then in my Verse, long as the World remains,
Her Youth should bloom, and all her Graces shine.
She with the Nymphs of Greenwich, then should vie,
Whom Strephon's Muse prefer'd to Immortality."

Delicious Greenwich! thou wilt well adorn
His Verse, whose happy Fancy dwells on thee;
At thy fair Seat, was Great Eliza born,
Renown'd for Beauty as for Majesty;
To thee with Juno chast, gay Venus came
That Night, and fill'd thy Park with waiting Loves;
Well-pleas'd, they wander'd on the Banks of Thame,
And prais'd thy pleasant Shades and grateful Groves:
"Henceforth be thou," (said Cythera bright)
"The happy Court of Love, our Garden of Delight."

E'er Since has Paphos mourn'd her absent Queen,
She visits once-lov'd Cyprus now no more;
Here, in Ten Thousand sparkling Nymphs she's seen,
And here, the bending Youths her Shrines adore.
Thy Genius, Strephon, gen'rously disdain'd
A meaner Subject than this dazling Throng,
Whose ev'ry single Charms had overstrain'd
A Muse, than thine less daring or less strong.
Forgive, Great Bard, my Muses feebler Vein,
Pity her drooping Flight, her less-exalted Strain.

So may thy Galatea still be kind!
(Bright Galatea is thy softest Joy!)
So may no bitter Thought e'er gall thy Mind,
No curst Mischance your natural Love destroy;
So may thy better Fate ne'er let thee know
Those racking Disappointments I must prove;
O may'st thou never feel the dreadful Woe,
The sad tremendous Pain of hopeless Love:
May Venus shield you from her cold Neglect,
As my PHILESIA you with kind Regard protect.

[pp. 3-7]