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

An Epithalamion, addressed to Mirtilla, &c.

Poems; Amorous, Moral, and Divine.

William Hinchliffe


An Epithalamion appears as part of a sequence of marriage poems in William Hinchliffe's volume, published in 1718. "Mirtilla," who is travelling abroad with her spouse, was likely one of the Greenwich maids Hinchliffe celebrates in his verses To Strephon; Thyrsis, the groom, appears earlier in the volume as part of the poet's pastoral community. The imagery of the Epithalamion possibly suggests Spenser: "Now, Hymen, in thy Saffron Robe appear, | And trim thy Torch, and shed thy Blessings here; | See where Mirtilla with her Thirsis stands, | Join'd are their Hearts, and link'd their faithful Hands: | This Day, auspicious to their mutual Vows, | Rewards the Bridegroom with his lovely Spouse."

William Hinchliffe, a bookseller's apprentice, was something of a Queen-Anne Cockney whose amatory verse recalls that of the previous century even as it looks ahead to romantic poetry to follow.



Divinest Clio, strike the trembling Strings;
Not so, as when you sing of fighting Kings,
Or armed Squadrons marching from a-far,
Or paint the rugged Pomp and Thunder of the War;
But softest Sounds, and sweetest Measures move,
Such as enchant and melt the Soul to Love.
If thou, O Goddess, aid'st me while I sing,
I to Mirtilla, will this Present bring.
The Song her Spousals and her Praise pursues;
A grateful Task! Mirtilla loves the Muse.
Nor fear, chaste Bride, to listen to my Lyre;
These Notes no brutal Sentiments inspire.
The Matron, and the modest Virgin too,
Each tender Line, without a Blush, may view.
My nicer Lays, with Elegance of Art,
Shall gently warm, but not infect the Heart.
My decent Muse a virtuous Pride maintains;
And Purity of Manners decks her Strains.

Now, Hymen, in thy Saffron Robe appear,
And trim thy Torch, and shed thy Blessings here;
See where Mirtilla with her Thirsis stands,
Join'd are their Hearts, and link'd their faithful Hands:
This Day, auspicious to their mutual Vows,
Rewards the Bridegroom with his lovely Spouse.
His ev'ry Kiss, and ev'ry kind Embrace,
Lights up the conscious Colour in her Face.
On each fair Cheek the varying Blushes play,
And rival all the Glories of the Day.
How well did Nature for this Nymph prepare
A Sable Crown of jetty-colour'd Hair:
As if to let us see, with strange Delight,
The Blaze of Noon, in Neighbourhood of Night.
Fain would the Muse exalt Mirtilla's Praise
In worthy Verse, and in immortal Lays:
But oh! a Hundred Tongues it would require;
And Lungs of Brass, my Bosom should inspire,
A Song like this to teach the living Lyre.
For could I paint her Eyes, her Air, her Grace,
And all the various Wonders of her Face,
What Sounds are so emphatick and refin'd,
To teach the greater Beauties of her Mind?
Meek as the Lamb, and gentle as the Dove,
Good, as the gracious Gods who rule above,
And all her Soul is Innocence and Love.
There Royal Reason, with a sceptred Hand,
Do's o'er th' inferior Faculties command.
This peaceful Heav'n the Virtues make their Seat;
And hither, from the madding World retreat.
Well might the Youths for thee, Mirtilla, pine;
And well adore what seems so much Divine.
How often have I heard them, with Delight,
Fatigue their Tongues to do thy Beauty right?
In vain they languish now, in vain they burn;
Mirtilla goes, and never will return.
The happy Thyrsis bears the Prize away;
Thyrsis the Young, the Gallant, and the Gay.
O envy'd Youth! on whom the charming Maid,
The strictest Ties to constant Love has laid.
Content, with thee o'er swelling Seas to roam
To distant Climes, far from her Native Home;
Pleas'd, she forsakes fair Albion's pleasant Land,
And tempts the dang'rous Deep, and seeks a Foreign Strand.

Blow soft ye Winds, ye Billows gentle rise,
And smile ye Planets from the brighten'd Skies;
Let blest Mirtilla be your righteous Care,
Amid the Faithless Waters be her Guide;
Securely let the honour'd Vessel ride,
And ev'ry Wave triumphantly divide;
Conduct her safely thro' the liquid Plain,
And give her at the last, the wish'd-for Port to gain.

O Sacred Love! Divine Imperial Pow'r!
Whose awful Altars Gods and Men adore!
What dare not Mortals when by Thee inspir'd?
When thou their Breasts, when thou their Blood hast fir'd?
The feeble Fair, tho' delicate of Frame,
Outstrip the Heroes in the Lists of Fame!
Love, with Almighty Energy, imparts
Strength to their Arms, and Courage to their Hearts.
Sometimes thou triumph'st in a diff'rent Way,
And mak'st the Roughest Minds thy Laws obey;
So absolute, so boundless is thy Sway:
Ev'n stubborn Souls, whom nothing else can move,
Nor Storms of Fate, nor Bolts of angry Jove,
Are melted down, and humaniz'd by Love.
Let bright Mirtilla witness what I say,
That nought can stop, when Love shall urge the Way:
He rushes on, nor will his Course restrain,
And Rocks and Mountains interpose in vain,
The Desarts of the Land, and Terrors of the Main.

But now, methinks, I see the Bark that bore
The happy Pair, approach the Indian Shore.
Mirtilla now on Albion left behind,
Reflects, with soft Anxiety of Mind.
She calls her Thyrsis with her beck'ning Hand,
And pointing, shews th' Appearance of the Land;
Then twines her snowy Arms around his Neck,
While from her Lips these tender Accents break.

"Thy Faith, O gen'rous Youth, now let me prove;
Remember all the Merit of my Love;
Parents, and Friends, and Country, All for thee
I left, and thou art more than All to me:
If e'er you lik'd, oh! now protect these Charms;
And take me, Thyrsis, to thy Guardian Arms:
Receive thy Wife; a Stranger, oh! defend;
My Husband thou! my Father! and my Friend!"

Her moving Words breathe in the gen'rous Youth,
The firmest Loyalty and kindest Truth:
Within his Souls the silent Raptures rise;
And Tears of Fondness overflow his Eyes:
His Heart dissolves; he clasps her to his Breast;
And calms her troubled Thoughts, and lulls her Mind to rest.

Look down, propitious God of Love! look down,
And with thy choicest Gifts these Lovers crown.
Let Gratitude the Bridegroom's Heart dilate;
And tend'rest Passions warm his beauteous Mate.
Oh! may their Ardours no Abatement know;
But Fires Eternal in their Bosoms glow.
And from the fruitful Fair and Genial Bed,
Grant that a hopeful Progeny proceed!
Let Mirth and Plenty gladden ev'ry Year;
And rich Contentment soften ev'ry Care.
Be thine, Mirtilla, All the dear Delights
That sweetest Love in mingled Minds excites;
"And Peace thy Days, and Pleasure crown thy Nights."

[pp. 93-100]