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

The Force of Musick, a Fragment after the Manner of Spenser.

A New Collection of original Poems, never printed in any Miscellany. By the Author of Sir Walter Raleigh.

Dr. George Sewell


Published in 1720: this allegorical ode on the powers of music seems inspired as much by Dryden's St. Cecilia Ode as much as Spenser. At times the Force of Musick rather resembles William Collins's The Passions: "Then heart-sick Agony uprear'd her Head, | And Care sat smiling on his Iron Bed; | Convulsive Pain, that wont with restless Woe, | To writh her tortur'd Body to and fro, | The Smart remitted which she felt before, | Lean'd on her Hand, and listen'd to his Lore." The poem was very likely written when George Sewell was a Cambridge undergraduate, 1706-10.

Preface: "The following is only a short part of a long Poem, wherein the Author endeavour'd faintly to copy the Imagery of our beloved Spenser. It was written many years ago, rather as a Tryal of his Strength in that way, than the least Hopes of Approbation. Upon a Review, it happen'd to please some who are accounted the best Judges; which is a better Reason than People generally give for troubling the World with their own Amusements. He owns, that the Picturesque manner is extremely delightful to him, but they who never read Homer, Virgil, Tasso, Milton, and above all, Spenser, will never taste Beauties, or find Imperfections in this kind of Poetry. He might have mentioned Shakespear too, if it were only to shew that Poet's Judgment, who uses them frequently, but seldom of any length, as more improper for the Drama, where the Action must stop for the sake of the Description. This Essay, however accepted, he confesses he writ with Pleasure enough to make amends for every opposing Cavil, or Censure."

Samuel Austin Allibone: "George Sewell, M.D., born at Windsor, graduated at Peter House, Cambridge, subsequently studied medicine at Leyden, practised in London, and spent his latter days at Hampstead, where he died in 1726, in great poverty" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 2:2001.

Hoxie Neale Fairchild: "The author describes the palace of personified Music in heroic couplets, for he aims merely to capture the luxuriance of Spenser's descriptive imagery" Religious Trends in English Poetry (1939) 1:207.

Earl R. Wasserman: "A description, in heroic couplets, of a series of richly ornamented tapestries exemplifying his theme" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 118.



There story'd on the Walls were to behold,
The Miracles by Music done of old.
The Founders too of ev'ry diff'rent Part,
That give Perfection to the sacred Art:
Who shap'd the bending Bow, or stretch'd the String,
Or taught in Notes the Concave Wood to ring,
Who form'd the Pipe direct, or try'd to turn
The Spiral Trumpet, or the Snake-like Horn.

There stood that Engine fam'd in ancient Lays,
On which, as the judicious Artist plays,
The bubbling Waters in melodious Chime,
Runs just Divisions through the Scale of Time.
The tuneful Element in Measure floats,
And falls, and rises in harmonious Notes.

Nor wanted there the First, whose Skill renown'd,
To high, and low, and mean, distinguish'd Sound,
With half-clos'd Eyes, and Neck-reclin'd he stood,
As list'ning to himself in museful Mood;
Before lay Rolls with Notes unfinish'd wrote,
Ripe for the Hand to catch the rising Thought.

A distant Quarter of the Fabric held,
Old fabl'd Artists that in Song excell'd.
There on cold Haemus Top young Orpheus stood,
And from the Mountain call'd the list'ning Wood;
The barren Heath with sudden Groves array'd,
Smiles beautiful, and wonders at its Shade.
Again the Lyre his flying Fingers sweep,
And curling Winds upon the Ocean sleep,
O'er the rough Stream he casts a pleasing Look,
And holds in sweet Suspence the huddling Brook.

But different Scenes his gloomy Journey show
To the deep Regions of infernal Woe:
The chorded Instrument he wakes, and sings
With Voice divine, responsive to the Strings.

Then heart-sick Agony uprear'd her Head,
And Care sat smiling on his Iron Bed;
Convulsive Pain, that wont with restless Woe,
To writh her tortur'd Body to and fro,
The Smart remitted which she felt before,
Lean'd on her Hand, and listen'd to his Lore.
As sharp Revenge his Iron Weapon swung,
He heard; the Blow in Air suspended hung.
Pale Fear, that ever doubtful of Surprize,
Unweary'd roll'd the Quickness of her Eyes,
Shudd'ring, and starting oft from Place to Place,
Stood still, and fix'd her sight on Orpheus' Face.
Despairing Love, (for Love this World invades)
Self-slain, the saddest Object of the Shade,
Was figur'd straying on a lonely Plain,
And bending seem to meet the wafted Strain,
He look'd, as waking from bewilder'd Thought,
And in his Arms the fleeting Aether caught.—

[p. 71-75]