1736
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thames: a Canto. On the Royal Nuptials in May 1736. In imitation of Spenser.

Publick Register or the Weekly Magazine (23 May 1741) 296-99.

Rev. William Thompson


35 unsigned Spenserians on the marriage of Frederick and Augusta by an Oxford Spenserian, published in 1741. In William Thompson's allegory Thamis appears and makes a speech; he is followed by Naiads, Albion's Genius, Liberty, Eusebia, Fame, Honour, Pow'r, Courtesy, and the Muses. The use of archaisms in non-burlesque verse was unusual at this time; it seems here intended to evoke a sense of wondering simplicity: ""O blessed Maid! receive thy Belamour, | With Glee receive him, and o'erflowing Heart: | Ne in high Prince's Court, nor Lady's Bow'r | A Youth so form'd by Nature and by Art, | Conspiring both, e'er cherish'd Cupid's Dart" p. 298.

The poem was retitled "Epithalamium. On the Royal Nuptials in May 1736" in Thomson's Poems (1757) with minor changes (the reference to Thomalin's "Annabel" is dropped). The name "Thomalin," which suggests "Thompson," appears in "March" of The Shepheardes Calender. Thompson, who actively collected and annotated old poetry, was one of the primary eighteenth-century Spenserians. He began publishing his once-admired imitations prior to those of Shenstone, Thomson, and the other mid-century poets. The Publick Register was a short-lived journal published by Robert Dodsley who would shortly afterwards publish Shenstone's Schoolmistress (1742).

Samuel Jackson Pratt: "Thompson was of the school of Spenser and Milton. Of nature he seems to have been an enthusiastic admirer and an accurate observer. His compositions abound in minute rural imagery and picturesque description: and in general are distinguished by fertility of invention, tenderness of sentiment, splendour of imagination, and harmony of numbers" Cabinet of Poetry (1808) 5:88.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "William Thompson, graduated at Queen's College, Oxford (of which he became Fellow,) 1738; succeeded to the livings of South Weston and Hampton Poyle, Oxfordshire; became Dean of Raphoe, Ireland, and died there about 1766. In 1734 and 1736, he wrote Stella, sive Amores, Tres Libri, and Six Pastorals, none of which he included in his collective edition of his Poems" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 3:2395.

William Lyon Phelps: "In May, 1736, Thompson produced his Epithalamium on the Royal Nuptials. This is in the regular stanza of the Fairy Queen and has something of the master's spirit in its sweetness and melody.... In the same year (1736) Thompson also wrote The Nativity, which he modestly called A College Exercise. This is also in the regular Spenserian stanza, and has some beautiful passages" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 57.

Herbert E. Cory: "His first Spenserian imitation, An Epithalamion on the Royal Nuptials, in May, 1736, borrows freely but delicately from Spenser's marriage of the Thames and Medway and from the Epithalamion" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 76.

Earl R. Wasserman: Thompson's Epithalamium "begins with a passage inspired, quite appropriately, by Spenser's marriage of the Thames and Medway; but it is enriched with a description of a 'gondelay' suggested by the one seen by Spenser's Cymochles (FQ 2.6.7) and is followed by other passages prompted by The Faerie Queene, the Epithalamion, and The Shepheardes Calender" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 126.

Christine Gerrard: "The most visible example of Frederick's princely image-making was the royal barge he commissioned from William Kent in 1732.... Accompanied by boatmen in gold-filigree rococo costumes and sometimes by an entire string ensemble following in another boat, Frederick made his progresses up and down the Thames, waving his hat at the cheering crowds. He used it to carry Augusta up the Thames in 1736" The Patriot Opposition to Walpole (1994) 195.

Thomas Gray, age 20, wrote his Latin "Hymeneal" for this occasion; compare Richard Owen Cambridge's "On the Happy Nuptials," in Prior stanzas, in the same Cambridge commemorative volume. See also William Thompson's "The Wedding Morn. A Dream," in couplets. The connection between Prince Frederick, Opposition politics, and Spenserian poetry is an interesting thing to observe; it culminates in the obituary volume published by Oxford in 1751, to which Thomas Warton contributed.



On Thamis' Banks, where many a flow'ry Gem
Blooms wanton-wild, prick'd on a jovial Crew,
Thick as the Daisies which his Meadows hem,
And with sweet Herbs the liquid Crystal strew;
For on the liquid Crystal gayly flew
A painted Gondolay, bedecked fair
With Gold and Purple, gorgeous to the View!
While loud-approving Shouts divide the Air,
"Hail, happy future Bride of Albion's worthy Heir."

Eftsoons the Father of the silver Flood,
The noble Thames, his azure Head uprais'd,
And shook his dewy Locks, worthy a God!
A lambent Glory round his Temples blaz'd,
On which the Naids all with Wonder gaz'd.
So sparkle Thetis' purple-trembling Streams,
When Phoebus, for his radiant Car yprais'd,
Strikes the calm Surface with his Morning Beams,
And sprinkles glitt'ring Spangs and the wide Blue inflames.

The wanton Naids, Doris' Daughters all,
Range in a Ring: Pherusa blooming-fair,
Cymodoce dore-ey'd, with Florimal,
Sweet-smelling Flowrets deck'd her long-green Hair,
And Erato, to Love, to Venus dear,
Galene drest in Smiles, and Lilly-white,
And Phao, with her snowy Bosom bare;
All these and twenty more, a dainty Sight!
In Daunce and Merriment, and sweet Belgards delight.

Around the Bark they daunce, wherein there sat
A Lady fresh and fair, ah! such a one,
So fresh and fair, so amiably great,
So goodly-gracious as never none,
And like thy sweet-beam'd Planet, Venus, shone.
They much admire, O very much, her Face,
Her Shape, her Breasts, for Love a downy Throne!
Her Beauties glorious shine, her every Grace;
As Angel she appear'd, at least of Angel-Race.

Her Thamis (on his golden Urn he lean'd)
Saluted with this Hymeneal Song,
And hail'd her safe, (Full silent was the Wind.)
The River glided gently-soft along,
Ne whispered the Breeze the Leaves among,
Ne love-learn'd Philomel out-trill'd her Lay;
A Stillness on the Waves attentive hung,
A brighter Gladness blest the Face of Day,
All Nature 'gan to smile, her Smiles diffus'd the May.

"Ah sacred Ship, to Albion wafting Good,
Our Wish, our long, long Hope, who safe convey'd
Thro' perilous Sea, from Ila's little Flood,
This Beauty's Paragon, this Royal Maid,
Isprung, I wist, of high, immortal Seed;
The Child of Heav'n, the Daughter of Delight,
Nurst by a Grace, with Milk and Honey fed!
Oh! Frederick, Oh! certes, happy Wight,
To whom the Gods consign the Maid Augusta hight.

"Ah sacred Ship! may favourable Gales,
The kindest Breath of Heav'n attend thy Way,
And swell the winged Canvass of thy Sails:
May Calmness be thy Path, and Pleasaunce lay
On the soft Bosom of the yielding Sea
Where-e'er thou wind; or to the spicy Shore
Of Araby the blest, or India's Bay,
Where Diamonds kindle, and the golden Ore
Flames into Purity, to deck Augusta more.

"Augusta, fairest Princess under Sky,
Welcome to Albion's renowned Land,
Albion well known to thy great Auncestry,
Made dearer far to Thee by Hymen's Band,
The Band of Love, of Honour and Command!
Deign to receive the Nation's publick Voice
Of Heartiness unfeign'd, who gleeful stand
In meet Array, and thus express their Joys
In Peals of loud Acclaim and Mirth's confused Noise.

"With warmer Raptures, and more passionate,
Tho' hard to be! The Royal Youth, I trow,
Shall thee embrace: Him ten-fold Fires elate,
And sacred Passions in his Bosom glow,
Which from thy Picture erst began to flow.
For thee he burns, for thee he sighs and prays,
Pours out his Soul to thee, nor Rest can know;
But dreams of thee long, live-long Nights and Days,
By Beauty led thro' all Love's thorny-rosy Ways.

"To heal his Pains soft Musick does divide
Most heavenly Melody in soothing Strains;
Nor heavenly Melody, nor aught beside,
Save thee, full well I weet, can heal his Pains;
Thy Form too deeply in his Breast remains.
So ever and anon he chides the Gales,
That slowly seem to brush the liquid Plains:
Oh! fly on all the Wings of Heav'n, ye Sails,
Oh! fly, he crys; and lo! a Lover's Pray'r prevails.

"Now cease thy Sighs. She comes, (Oh blessed Day!)
She comes, by all the Loves and Graces drest,
In proud Humility. See, Hymen play,
With Saffron Robe, and Flame-embroider'd Vest,
(Such Colours, sikerly, suit Hymen best.)
And Cupid catches rosy Wafts of Air
To stretch the Sails, and fan the Royal Guest.
Nor Chastity, meek-ey'd, is wanting there,
For she and Modesty, sweet-blushing, guide the Steer.

"Not Venus, Queen of Beauty and of Bliss,
So goodly shone, when erst the Goddess sprung
From Ocean's sparkling Foam; sweet Nakedness!
A thousand Smiles and Lovers upon hung,
And all the Gods for Joy and Wonder sung.
The Waves so proud the lovely Burden bore
Exulting; she around her Odours flung,
And bade the Billows laugh and cease to roar:
They gladly her obey, and gently kiss the Shore.

"So fair she looks, nay fairer, cou'd it be;
Did never mortal Man such Charms behold
In Bow'r or Hall. Spring waits upon her Eye;
Lo! Flora has her richest Stores out-roll'd
Of variable Flow'rs and blooming Gold.
The Meadows smile, the Birds renew their Love,
And throw themselves in Pairs, the young and old;
All Nature glows where she her Looks doth move,
And Beauty paints each Field, and Musick fills each Grove.

"But who is yon, each other Youth excelling
As much as purest Gold surmounteth Brass?
Sure Honour in his Visage chose her Dwelling,
And sacred Truth, pardie, adorns his Face,
Such Goodlyhead and Humbless never was.
Ah heav'nly Impe! full well those Looks I ken,
Where Joyaunce sits, and ever-smiling Grace:
Frederick! 'tis he! the first and best of Men,
Our darling Prince, to meet Augusta, well-beseen.

"And lo! what meddled Passions in him move:
He gazes, wonders, (great is Beauty's Pow'r!)
And, sweetly lost in Ecstasy and Love,
His Eyes her Whole, his Lips her Lips devour,
Which Venus had besprent with Nectar-Show'r.
Her slippery Charms allow his Eye no rest,
But thousand Arrows, nay, ten thousand pour
Into his wounded and transported Breast.
Sure none like her is fair, sure none like him is blest.

"O blessed Youth! receive thy Bonnibel,
Eternal Fount of Virtue, Love and Grace!
O! kneel to all the Gods, and pray to all
Who thus adorn her Body and her Face,
Who thus with sacred Fires her Bosom bless.
So shines Aurora in her rich Attire
When she Hyperion wou'd fain caress:
Gaze all the Host of Stars, and all admire,
Then twinkle in their Urns, and into Night retire.

"O blessed Maid! receive thy Belamour,
With Glee receive him, and o'erflowing Heart:
Ne in high Prince's Court, nor Lady's Bow'r
A Youth so form'd by Nature and by Art,
Conspiring both, e'er cherish'd Cupid's Dart.
So Phoebus, lusty Bridegroom of the Sky,
With native Splendour shines on ev'ry Part:
From East to West his pointed Glories fly,
He warmeth every Heart, he dazleth every Eye."

Here Thamis ended. Now the goodly Train
Of all the Naids, in most comely wise,
A Present make of Myrtle-Girland green,
Entrail'd with Flow'rs, and curious, rare Device.
The Graces eke, with Laughter-swelling Eyes,
A rosy Chaplet, steep'd in Nectar, bring,
(The Roses gather'd in the Morning Skies)
Then joining with the Naids form a Ring,
And round them deftly daunce, and round them blithly sing.

"As Roses and as Myrtles kindly weave
Their Sweets in one, much sweeter as they blend;
Emblem of Marriage — Love! So you, receive
Sweets interchang'd, and to each other lend!
Then in a blest Perfume to Heav'n ascend,
And mingle with the Gods. While here below
New Myrtles, Roses new, withouten end,
From your luxurious Stock, full plenteous, grow,
And with their Parent Sweets and Parent Beauty glow."

Next Albion's Genius came, bedite in Gold,
An oaken Chaplet nodded on her Head;
The Crown she held was glorious to behold,
And royall she taught her Feet to tread.
Soon as she spy'd the Prince's Goodlihead,
She pointed to the Crown, and rais'd her Voice
To hail the Royal Pair, and bless their Bed;
The jolly Chorus catch the grateful Noise,
Echo the Woods and Vales, and Heav'n and Earth rejoice.

Next Liberty, the fairest Nymph on Ground!
The flowing Plenty of her golden Hair
Diffusing lavishly Ambrosia round:
Her Hands a flow'ry Cornucopia bear,
Which scatters Joy and Pleasaunce every where.
Earth smil'd and Gladness danc'd along the Sky:
Before her vanish'd Grief, and pale-ey'd Care.
And eft, in smiling guise, she cast her Eye
Upon those gentle Twain, her Glory and her Joy.

And These beside, a sacred Pers'nage came,
Immaculate and sweet as Sharon-Rose:
Upon her Breast a bloody Cross did flame,
Aumail'd with Gold and Gems in goodly Rows;
A Pall of Lawn adown her Shoulders flows:
Yclep'd Eusebia. She pray'd aloud,
Then blessing both for her Defenders chose,
And sphear'd her Glories in a radiant Cloud:
Softly Augusta smil'd, full lowly Fred'rick bow'd.

Fair Fame behind a silver Trumpet blew,
Sweet to the Earth and fragrant to the Sky!
Her Mantle of a many-colour'd Hue,
Her Rainbow-wings, pouder'd with many an Eye,
And near her Honour, Pow'r, and Courtesy:
Honour of open Front and steady Grace;
Pow'r clad in Steel, a Faulchion brandish'd high;
Courtesy drest in Smiles her bounteous Face:
When these attend a Prince, thrice happy Subject's Case.

The Muses clos'd this intellectual Scene
From Helicon: Who knows not Helicon?
Their Lyres were Gold, their Laurels ever green.
Soon Clio to the Prince a Starry Crown
Presents, another to his Bellibone.
Then all in lofty Chorus swell the Song,
Big with their happy Loves and great Renown,
Prophetick Numbers float the Woods among,
For Shepherd-Lad too high, for Memory too long.

Nathless thy tuneful Sons, O Oxford dear!
By Muses visited, may catch the Lays,
Sweet-pouring Streams of Nectar on the Ear,
And from their Lips, in Vision, learn to raise
Their Loves and Fame, to brighten future Days,
Thee fits not, Thomalin, a simple Swain,
High Deeds to sing, but gentle Roundelays:
Go, feed thy Flock, of Annabel complain
On oaten Reed, content to please the humble Plain.

[pp. 296-99]