1710
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Poem to the Memory of the incomparable Mr. Philips.

A Poem to the Memory of the incomparable Mr. Philips, humbly inscrib'd to the Right Honourable Henry St. John Esq.

Leonard Welsted


John Philips is buried in Poet's Corner, "Where venerable Chaucer's antient Head, | And SPENCER'S much ador'd Remains are laid" p. 10. Spenser, Cowley, and Butler are also mentioned in a list of neglected poets: "This Cowley and this Spencer felt before, | And honest Butler died exceeding poor" p. 11. Leonard Welsted's catalogues of writers attempt to discriminate between the genuine merit of the canonical British poets and the pretensions of the D'Urfeys, Tates, and Blackmores. The poet, a bosom-friend of Thomas "Hesiod" Cooke, was among the Whig writers lambasted in Pope's Dunciad.

Isaac Reed: "Leonard Welsted was descended from a good family in Leicestershire, his maternal grandfather being Mr. Staveley, author of The Roman Horseleech, and other works. He received the rudiments of literature at Westminster-school, and is supposed to have been at one, if not both the Universities, but without making any stay at either of them. He afterwards obtained a place in the office of ordinance, and generally resided within the Tower of London, where he died about the year 1749" in Dodsley, Collection of Poems (1782) 4:298n.

W. Davenport Adams: "Leonard Welsted, poet (b. 1689, d. 1747), wrote Epistles, Odes, &c. with a translation of Longinus on the Sublime (1724); The Genius; a prologue and epilogue to Steele's Conscious Lovers; The Triumvirate; The Dissembled Wanton; The Apple Pie; and many other compositions of a similar character. His Works, in prose and verse, were published with notes and Memoir of the author, by John Nichols, in 1787" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 681.



Forgive my Crime, forgive it, gentle Shade;
If by the Fondness of my Grief betrayed,
I make that Grief unelegantly known,
In sounds, that are but Ecchoes to thy own.
How can I write? Could Israel's Captive Band
Sing Songs of Sion in a Foreign Land?
Or do the Birds in bleak December play
Their vernal Musick and their notes of May?
On my cold Brow a rising damp appears,
And all my Rhetoric is in my Tears;
What witty Sorrow is, I never knew,
And Grief, that's eloquent, is seldom true.

If Strephon, from the Shades you could transmit
One pregnant Beam of your enlivening Wit;
That might raise all my Powers, inform the whole,
And with harmonious Vigour tune my Soul:
Then like young Prophets with new Visions blest,
Like Lovers of their Bridal Charms possest,
With pleasing Raptures I might fill my breath,
And give ev'n Beauty to the Face of Death;
Nor need, for want of Poesie or Sense,
Those idle Fictions, and that dull pretence
Of weeping Nymphs and melancholy Floods,
Of pensive Shepherds and more pensive Woods,
To make my Verse emphatically low,
And furbish up a Threadbare Tale of Woe.

But, since that Hope is vain, and human Art
Can act no other than a human Part;
Accept this Mute but unaffected Tear;
The speechless Mourner truly speaks his Care;
And if Words here and there confus'd are found;
(For Grief sometimes will vent itself in sound,)
Attribute them to no poetic Strain,
Nor the kind Dictates of a happy Vein;
They're but the Signs of Sorrow in Excess,
The Sallies of a dumb but wild Distress;
The fruitless Efforts of distracted Care,
Of Grief and Passion blended with Despair.

O'er thy dear Reliques how could I complain,
And in soft Murmurs rigid fate arraign?
Oh, I could languish, till I were become
A breathless Shape, a statue to thy Tomb.
Yet, lest my Silence should be thought pretence,
And or misconstrued want of Zeal or Sense,
Lest I should seem (when Piso does command,
Piso at once my Patron and my Friend)
More cold to Virtue than averse to Rhime,
And my Excuse itself be made my Crime;
I'll give thee what my Sorrows will admit,
What may evince my Love, tho' not my Wit;
And sing thy Virtues in a lowly Strain,
Though every Virtue makes me weep again.

Each all my Tears and all my Art demands;
But Modesty the first and fairest stands;
She Strove with Virgin blushes to conceal
The Charms her Sister Graces did reveal;
She Strove with conscious Shame to veil their Light,
But made 'em shine more eminently bright.
So when some Shade would drive the Light away,
And intercept the gladsome Beams of Day;
Taught by the Sun to shine, that painted Cloud
Contributes to the Lustre it would shrowd.

All Power of Numbers in thy Verse did meet,
Which Learning made correct, and Nature sweet;
Wit mix'd with Spirit through the whole was found,
And manly Sense supported lofty Sound;
Judgement combin'd with Fancy grac'd the Song,
And all was solid, beautiful and strong.
Thy sweet but nervous Lines were doubly fair,
Food to the Soul, and Musick to the Ear;
To the strong Features of a lively Face
You still the last Embellishments did place,
An easy Sweetness and a flowing Grace.

With Classicks intimate and friendly grown,
Whate'er you writ, or said, was still your own;
And tho' so fondly Milton's Muse you lov'd,
His graces were not borrow'd, but improv'd;
Nor didst thou rob great Maro's sacred Shrine;
But by Amendment mad'st his Beauties thine.
They flourish and confess thy generous Toil,
Like Plants translated to a richer Soil.
Thoughts proper, Words expressive and polite,
A Judgment piercing, an Invention bright
In thy great Labours all exert their Part,
And much you owe to Nature, much to Art.

How nobly daring in thy pompous Page
The German and the British Prince engage?
With what impetuous Force and Rage divine
The Gallick and confederate Squadrons join?
To Worlds unborn our Deathless Fame is told;
And Blenheim will be young, when time is old.
But hear, oh hear, the Mourning Muse relate
Our once young Churchill's and our Gloster's Fate.
Less sad is Philomel's Nocturnal Tune,
Less sad the Musick of a dying Swan;
Involv'd in pleasing Pangs the Reader lyes,
And languishing on every Accent dyes.
Each Word revives indulgent ANNA'S Pain,
And makes her act the Mother o'er again;
The Mourning Victor drops his laurel Crown,
Proclaims thy Conquest and forgets his own.

When of big War and Martial Fame you write,
War seems your Province, Conquest your Delight;
And, when you choose some peaceful rural Theme,
By Nature fram'd for rural Lays you seem.
Thy Cyder, thy immortal Cyder, smiles
With richest Fragrance through these happy Isles;
Of equal Worth, since so divinely sung,
To Maro's Vintage, and shall last as long.
Henceforth the Pippin shall the Grape outshine,
The painted Redstreak triumph o'er the Vine;
Henceforth this od'rous Liquor shall be made
The cool Refreshment of each Lover's Shade;
Give the coy Nymph a free luxurious Air,
And tempt her to be kind as well as fair;
In the brisk Gallant's humorous Nirth surprise,
And sparkle in the Maudlin Coquet's Eyes;
O're jocund Frolick Wit it shall preside,
And raise the Wishes of each longing Bride;
Rouse the blithe bucksome Youth to Love's Alarms,
And add fresh Lustre to the Lady's Charms.

Oh, that Experience had not taught me this,
And that it were the frantick Poet's Guess!
But much I fear the Shepherds told me true,
Who said, Maria, Strephon dyed for you;
Cyder improv'd each Feature in thy Face,
And gave a softer Turn to every Grace;
In thy all-piercing Eyes did Magick prove,
And warm'd his willing Heart to fatal Love.
Ah! gentle Strephon, was there on the plain
Such killing Beauty and severe Disdain,
A Nymph with more than Woman's Charms supply'd,
A Nymph, was curs'd with more than Woman's Pride?
If such there was, oh may the shameful blot
Be in Oblivion's gloomy Shades forgot!
Nor her fair Name in envious Annals writ
A stain to virtuous Love and solid Wit.

To speak thee generous, loyal, just, and true,
A Constant Friend and not unfriendly Foe,
Were with superfluous Trouble here annext,
And but a Comment on a canvass'd Text.
But that Religion, Piety, and Zeal,
Should influence thy Life, and guide thy Will,
Was wondrous strange! A Bard devout and good!
Why 'tis a Crime unpardonably rude:
To the BEAU MONDE, the polish'd World a jest;
Uncomplaisant and singular at best;
But monstrous in these lewd unrighteous Times,
When the vile Muse's prostituted Rhimes
Become subservient to Dishonours Rise,
Turn Pimps to Wantonness, and Bawds to Vice;
When Priests and Poets are at open breach,
And the Stage censures what the Pulpits teach;
When Bawdy tickles wanton Woman's Vein,
And none is witty that is not prophane.
'Twas wondrous strange, in such an Age, that you
A Wit, a Lover, and a Poet too
Should stand conform'd to strict Religion's Laws,
And shun the fashionable Sins of those,
Whose Maxims are to live by Nature's rule,
That the poor Parson is the Statesman's Tool;
That Priesthood then began to flourish most,
And find increase, tho' at the People's Cost,
When subtle Knaves and Politicians found
Mankind by Laws restrain'd, by Conscience bound,
Themselves in more security might reign,
And Priests perceiv'd, that "Godliness was gain."
Yet ev'n in this degen'rate Aera cast,
Thy Muse was modest, as thy Manners chast;
Whatever, tho' in sportive Mood, she said,
By Matrons might be spoke, by Virgins read:
An Emblem of thyself in her we see;
Wise were thy Pleasures and thy Wisdom free.

Thus excellent you was—
But, ah! Such Heaven's mysterious ways we find;
So Providence disposes human kind;
The most deserving have the shortest Date,
And Virtue seems the mark of envious Fate;
The Learn'd, the Good, the Witty, and the Brave
Find the cold Comfort of an early Grave:
BION forsook us early, Sh—ll late,
And CREECH and OLDHAM are surviv'd by T—te.

Whether Prometheus bold Attempt above,
To steal th' authentick real Flames of Jove,
From Fiction wholly or in part began;
Yet sure there's something in the Soul of Man,
That bears Resemblance to material Fire;
The brighter 'tis, the sooner 'twill expire.

Blooming and Young to fall is thy Reward;
While every Maevius of the Age is spar'd,
From stiff CRITERIO to the CITY BARD;
With numerous Durfeys I omit to name,
Lest that might seem some Merit to proclaim,
Implying Envy still, and Envy Fame.

Virtue in all regards is Fortune's Sport;
Nor are her Days less wearisome than short:
Each heavier Mortal may his Wealth encrease,
And sleep out many drowsy Days in Peace;
With Plenty or with Honours blest may thrive,
If you had what would keep Content alive;
Thanks to your generous Patron good as great,
Who in despight of all the Storms of Fate,
Tho' the World frown and swift the Billows throng,
Shall be the Subject of my Love and Song.
Whose Bounties like the Nile unweary'd flow
Through the fair Realms where Arts and Learning grow,
And always come unsought, yet never slow.

Nor let me pass unsung that boasted Name
Which I and every British Bard should claim,
Sacred to Verse and Heir to endless Fame;
HARCOURT, whose powerful Rhetoric, when of late
In solemn Judgment Britain's Peerage sate,
Ennobled Learning and Religions Cause,
And reconcil'd old Truths to modern Laws;
How Years erase not foul Rebellion's Name,
That Scripture always was and is the same,
And loyal just Allegiance merits praise
As well in Anna's as in Charles's days;
His every Word than Honey sweeter flow'd;
His Tongue more charming was than Hermes's Rod.
HARCOURT, while I thy Death ignobly mourn,
Pays the last Office to thy sacred Urn;
And, rearing with Majestick Pomp thy Tomb
Swells the big Honours of that hallow'd Dome,
Where their dark gloomy Vaults the Muses keep,
And, lov'd by Monarchs near those Monarchs sleep;
Where Royal Heroes mouldering justly claim
Those their Associates that preserve their Fame,
Justly in Death with those one Mansion have,
Whose Works redeem their Glories from the Grave;
Where venerable Chaucer's antient Head,
And SPENCER'S much ador'd Remains are laid;
Where Cowley's precious Stone, and the proud Mold
That glories Dryden's mortal Parts to hold,
Command high Reverence and Devotion just
To their great Relicks and Distinguish'd Dust.

'Tis well a HARCOURT in this Age remains,
And generous Blood adorns a St. John's Veins;
'Tis well our Annals Trevor can enroll;
And that the Patriot lives in HARLEY'S Soul;
Else you, illustrious Virtue, might have seen
What SHAKSPEAR saw before, and worthy BEN.

Under penurious Stars are Poets born,
Subject to Envy or expos'd to Scorn;
By some strange Force and supernatural bent
Ever betray'd to Poverty and Want;
To lofty Garrets by degrees they rise,
And there are truly said to touch the Skies;
They purchase dear their Idol God Renown,
And still are complimented and undone.
Alas! FAME'S Palace in the Air is built;
We woe a Mistress but we find a Gilt.

This Cowley and this Spencer felt before,
And honest Butler died exceeding poor;
And when grim Death did tuneful Dryden seize,
He had not what would pay the Sexton's Fees.
Ev'n he who sung on yellow Xanthus Shore
The Trojan Fidler and the Grecian Whore,
Whom seven proud Cities wrangled for when dead,
Was a poor Mendicant, that stroll'd for Bread;
And, when kind Allmers had his Wants supply'd,
"Great Jove reward you, Sirs!" in Metre cry'd.

Since then much Poverty and little Fame
Is all the Dowry that a Muse can claim;
Since that sublime invigorating Heat,
That makes the Poets Pulse divinely beat,
At last rewards him but with barren Praise
Which Envy sullies, and which Want allays;
Here weeping o'er thy Tomb in mournful Verse,
And shedding Roses on thy honour'd Herse,
I'll take my last farewell, and bid adieu
To the curs'd Trade and all the jingling Crew;
Nay, rather than relapse to write, or strain
A miserable Crambo once again;
I'll turn Horse Doctor, bear a Scotchman's Pack,
Be Pettifogger, Conjurer, or Quack,
Or any thing you can conceive or know,
All but a Poet, Pedant, or a Beau.

Ye Criticks, that like Locusts vex the Press,
With little Reason damn and write with less;
Ye honourable Bards, that sung of old
The mighty Stories Greece or Athens told;
And thou, the worthiest of th' inspired Host,
The pride of Isis and thy St. John's Boast,
Be witness to the sacred Vow I make;
And when by Verse debauch'd that vow I break,
Pure unenlightened Dullness on my Head,
The Soul and Quintessence of Bl—re shed!

Sooner shall Players to Virtue make pretence,
And Learned Pedants condescend to Sense;
Sooner shall Country Curates Hebrew speak,
Physicians' Noddles be o'ercharg'd with Greek,
Attorneys cease to flock in Shoals to Hell,
And Maurus to write ill, or Prior well;
Sooner shall Eloquence in SMALLDRIDGE fail,
And humble W—ll—s over Sprat prevail;
Cuckold and Citizen two Senses frame,
And, differing in sound, not mean the same;
Than I the Purpose of my Soul forget,
His Lordship's Titles for true Worth admit,
And be a Beggar to be stil'd a Wit.

[pp. 1-12]