1712
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Nereides: To Mr. Congreve.

Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues.

Rev. William Diaper


William Diaper dedicates his volume to William Congreve, who by 1712 had given over writing poetry though his pastorals were still highly regarded. William Diaper, who published anonymously, may have suspected that something so out-of-the-way as piscatory required a familiar name at the front of the volume. The poet was a Tory acquaintance of Bollingbroke and Swift, which perhaps explains the attacks on piscatory in Tickell's Guardian essays on pastoral poetry, Nos. 28 and 32.

Dorothy Broughton comments that "Nereides seems to have been uninfluenced by Spenser" Complete Works (1952) xxxviii. The overt model is Sannazaro, yet nothing marks a certain kind of Spenserian poetry like its willingness to break from the trodden path into a fairy land of the poet's own devising. Diaper is particularly successful at this, and quite aware of what he was about, even as he protests the familiarity of his subjects: "And since we have gone so far as to have found Inhabitants in the Planets, I hope I shall not be condemn'd for having discover'd the Manners and Conversation of a People nearer home: Besides we know, that the agreeable Images, which may be drawn from things on Earth, have been long since exhausted, but it will be allow'd, that the Beauties (as well as the Riches) of the Sea are yet in a great measure untouch'd: And those who have given us a few Piscatory Eclogues, like the first Coasters, they always keep within sight of Shore, and never venture into the Ocean" Preface.



As merchants whose sunk trade, and ebbing stocks
Fear every storm, and dread the lurking rocks,
Above her real worth their bark ensure,
Then careless hug themselves, and sleep secure;
They hear of wrecks, and fear no inward pain,
But seeming losses bring a real gain.
So, would your smiles protect the fearful Muse,
The vulgar praise I would with scorn refuse.
By you approv'd, condemn'd by all beside,
I'd court my fate, and swell with careless pride.
Since novel treats our modern gusts pursue,
I hop'd at least to please by something new.
The Muse long sought the woods, and mossy caves,
Despis'd the seas, and fear'd the rolling waves,
The flowry meadows, and the whispering trees
Have oft been sung, and will hereafter please.
Cool shady grots, and gently rising hills,
And the soft murmurs of complaining rills,
In antient verse describ'd their sweets convey,
And still succeeding Bards repeat the grateful lay.
But the vast unseen mansions of the seep,
Where secret groves with liquid amber weep,
Where blushing sprigs of knotty coral spread
And gild the azure with a brighter red,
Were still untouch'd—
Beside the Muse has no envenom'd rage,
No party-wars her innocence engage,
Nor partial falsehoods stain the guilty page.
She loves no pompous sound, or lofty strain,
Nor soars to sense obscure with awkward pain,
But would plain songs in artless verse contrive,
And humbly modest only asks to dive.
Joys free, and undisturb'd, and endless loves
The Triton seeks, and ev'ry Nymph approves.

But should the harmless pen have no regard,
Your name (like sacred spells that charm when heard
From blasting tongues secures the tender Bard,
The beauteous nymphs to your protection throng,
And beg, you would not scorn the humble song:
As Indian travellers wild beasts affright
By kindled fires, and skreen themselves with light.
So critic-wits, like other brutes of prey,
From a surrounding brightness slink away.
Men dare not censure (even when they ought)
If Virgil will approve what Maevius wrote.

[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:209-13]