1738 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Poesy, or the Fine Arts. An Epistle, to the Rt. Hon. Richard Earl of Shannon, on the Advancement of Literature.

Poems by the Revd. James De-La-Cour, A.M.

Rev. James De La Cour


Printed in 1778: Edmund Spenser appears in a long catalogue of ancient and modern poets whose merits have been recognized by their sovereigns: "Edward and Alfred pay'd respect to Bards, | Old Spencer, Queen Elizabeth rewards; | Henry the Eight indulg'd the tuneful quire, | And e'en that age a Skelton could admire" p. 103.

James De La Cour (or Dalacourt), who as he complains, languished in obscurity in Ireland, joins the chorus of opposition bards complaining about the neglect of the muses during the reign of George II. A reference to the death of Queen Caroline (1737) helps to date the poem, which seems to have first appeared in Poems, printed at Cork in 1778. Perhaps De La Cour hoped that the Earl of Shannon would play Sir Walter Raleigh to his Spenser, and bring him to attention in London.

In this vein, compare Aaron Hill's Spenser imitation, The Tears of the Muses; in a Conference, between the Prince Germanicus, and a male-content Party (1737), addressed to Prince Frederick. De La Cour had connections to James Thomson, a member of Frederick's group of Opposition poets.



Who would not write when Queens vouchsafe to read.
Kings visit bards, and princes praise the dead?
This stuck the harp of Orpheus in the sky,
And mortals rais'd to immorality.
This dubb'd them fav'rites to a royal fair,
Who judg'd not by the eye, but by the ear;
In trifles spent not her inglorious time,
But from the ball retir'd to books and rhime,
Where Britain's genius entertain'd her queen,
And Merlins image haunts fair Richmond's green:
Fir'd by the praise of Sundon and of Kings,
There Duck will dabble, ev'n Cibber sings.

But I'm condemn'd to waste away my hours;
Far from the great and all poetic pow'rs,
Far from all taste, from wit and breeding far,
The blood of Inchiquin, thy rank Kildare:
From Lyttleton, inspirer of parts,
And Pult'ney, parent of the orphan arts;
From Doddington, the friend of ev'ry worth,
And Grenville prompt to hand the virtues forth;
From Chesterfield a name that Phoebus loves,
Beyond each name, that ev'ry page improves;
Dropp'd on the farthest isle of all the West,
The Punnian end of Europe at the best,
Where Boyles but few our rising Popes inspire,
Where but one Mann stirs up the tuneful fire,
Where Browne, where Berkley deign scarce to reside,
And shield young merit from the foot of pride,
Where no encouragement attends the muse,
Such as of old imperial patrons use,
When pens unflatt'ring royaliz'd regard,
And met a province for their just reward.

Poesy sigh'd, she found her labour vain,
Where is the tribute now and golden chain?
Imperial pension that a Virgil warms,
Poets expiring in an emp'ror's arms?
Alas! they're all with Carolina fled,
With Adrian vanish'd, with Augustus dead.

O Ignorance! Thou goddess brazen bright,
Profuse of jibes, and shallow with delight,
Eternal laughters in thy presence reign,
And smiling censure loads thy empty train,
Eas'd of her load, ev'n dulness grows more light,
And impudence conceited in thy sight:
Thou mak'st the aukard face of folly gay,
Gives front assurance, modesty dismay.
Thee, goddess, thee, the mob adore alone,
In fortune's tinsel drest, and Bristol stone;
While few discern the riches of the mind,
Or understand the jewels of mankind.

Lives there a race beneath the mortal skies,
Who sacred honours to the Bard denies;
Behold Demodicus on high is plac'd,
By Greece, and with the choicest viands grac'd:
Light'ning itself the laurel will revere,
Nor blasts the bay, because it's Paeans wear.

Let learned Gaul in any science shew
Books more antique than Homer, Hesiod, knew,
Let Poetry trace ancient Linus higher,
Father of fancy, and of sense the sire,
Italy Ennius, Gower England quote,
And Aethiopia Liquanus for thought.

Philosophy itself durst not appear,
First to the world, but in the muses sphere.
Thus Thales wrote, Parmenides aspir'd,
And nature in Lucretius is admired:
And thus the sage Pythagorus of old,
From iron anvil hammer'd verse of gold,
Manilius shines in astronomic lays,
And mathematics to a Halley's praise.

See History Herodotus's theme,
Christens her books by each a muse's name:
Divinity herself here gives her vote,
When Paul and Atterbury poets quote;
Nor will this client oratory quit,
In this cause Tully pleads for banish'd wit:
What Cato wanted, strove, but strove in vain,
What Ammon wish'd, what Lewis scarce could drain,
Is not methinks a frivolous desire,
Which Popes profess'd, and princesses admire.

Maz'rine and Richlieu both indulg'd this rage,
The greatest statesmen of their sev'ral age.
And thought it policy to aid those arts,
Which made their masters rule a nation's hearts.

By this sweet art Arion gain'd his store,
And charm'd mute fish to listen to his lore:
A dolphin drawn by his harmonious hand,
Receiv'd him on his back, and bore to land,
He on his crouching crest sits all at ease,
And with his harp claims th' insulting seas;
Thus the divine musician sail'd along,
And paid his passage with a smoother song.

Let music tell how Orpheus drew wild beasts,
While Thrace the Bard tore, emblem of bad tastes;
Then ev'n rude Rhodode sweet ecchoes heard,
And caught the voice of the expiring bard;
Yet tho' the Thracians pull'd him limb from limb,
To see him fountains rose above their brim,
The rivers ran and left their channels dry,
The rocks seemed smitten with his harmony,
Trees gathered round him, join'd the gazing crowd,
And, as he passed, the woods respectful bow'd.
Ev'n hell was pleas'd; — all but the beast call'd man,
Brutes may be tam'd — but blockheads never can.

Edward and Alfred pay'd respect to Bards,
Old Spencer, Queen Elizabeth rewards;
Henry the Eight indulg'd the tuneful quire,
And e'en that age a Skelton could admire;
Chaucer had patrons, yea the psalmist Brady,
Protected was, and cherish'd by Queen Mary.
The hero William, and the martyr Charles,
One knighted Blackmore, t' other pensioned Quarles.
Garth by King George, and Euseden by queen Ann,
One dubb'd a knight, one led the laurel van.
Ev'n Milton's daughter liv'd on Milton's lays,
And Steele a Knighthood gain'd by arts like these,

Polnitz behold a Prussia's king admire,
And Voltaire famous for Apollo's lyre;
Loaded with medals, lo! returns the bard,
And royal gifts a D'Argens pains reward.
These lift this monarch to imperial sway,
Of princes prime, whom arms and arts obey.

Oxford on wit confers a grand degree,
And every college but cool Trinity.
Sorbonne her Rollin boasts, and Oxford Spence,
Cambridge her Trap for belles-lettres and sense:
But since schools fell, no vermine lost its breath,
No rat or knave, dread satyr rhymes to death;
Disease, misfortune, are not charmed away,
Nor sickness flies before th' inchanting lay.

Poets in Ireland now are rarely prized,
As learned men in Turkey are despised,
Dulness the beaten road, the general rule,
Which if you quit, they point you out a fool,
Nor is it strange, where folly rules the roast,
Wit should be little prized, and nonsense most.

Yet Genius ev'n in Ireland is enhanc'd
Clancy is pension'd, Carthy is advanc'd;
Dunkin, the king of schoolmasters is grown,
And Francis among strangers meets renown;
Then let it not be said, prophets at home,
Are not unhonour'd but in Munster's dome.

The man that hath no musick in his soul,
Why let him rattle dice, or call a vole,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
This man is fit not for a pack of hounds,
He's fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils,
For mid-day quarrels, and for mid-night broils;
The motions of his mind are full of spite,
He's dull as Erebus, and dark as night;
Let no such man be trusted, Shakespear faith,
For yew-like, he sheds round him baneful death;
Whereas whoever acts what's worthy praise,
Admires the muses, and adorns their lays.

Wits by pert pedants only are despised,
As your tame birds by those unciviliz'd;
Like common sense could genius be acquired,
Thy parts, O Stanhope, would be less admir'd:
Great Wits like comets do not oft appear,
And their price rises from their being rare;
But fools appear in multitudes and throngs,
And like the pendulums of clocks their tongues.
Tho' would you hear what you may chance to like,
One must wait the hour before they strike:
Those human insects which in buz alarm,
And round the wit, as round the taper swarm,
Tho' in his face they fly, resolv'd to wound,
Yet by the blow are tumbled to the ground,
Those sons of twilight hate the light of morn,
Sightless they fly, and to their dung return,
Taken for bees by undiscerning eyes,
The wise find them beetles and despise.

Poor is an epithet to poets given,
Yet David was a bard, and lov'd by heaven.
Where's the foundation? for past times explore,
You'll surely find the lesser number poor;
Great Maro, Flaccus, Lucan, Ovid rich,
And tho' untitled, of no vulgar pitch;
Nay our own times examples may afford
Of genius meeting in a duke or Lord!
Fam'd Dorset, Surrey, Halifax, were earls,
And Orrery, and Chesterfield are pearls;
Hear Rochester, Roscommon, Landsdown sing,
Bright Buckingham and Falkland touch the string,
Soft Sedley, Denham, Butler, Steel were knights,
And Addison tho' secretary writes!
His Excellency Prior tun'd the lyre,
And Congreve tho' commissioner had fire;
Lo! Pope and Swift, the wonder of our days,
Were far from poor, and yet they dealt in bays.
Williams ambassador to Berlin sent,
A royal authors ear to compliment.

See Wycherly by Cleveland's grace admir'd,
By Charles courted, Drogheda desired;
See Addison to Warwick's arms confin'd,
Charm'd by his head, and harmony of mind;
Mallet and Glover, Marlbro's choice approv'd,
With her last breath whose merit Montrose lov'd,
To be approv'd by wit and sense is more,
Than if the lords and commons thank'd you o'er and o'er.

Behold great Bourbon Bolingbroke commands,
To take the royal signet from his hands;
Lo! Savoy's watch, and Eugene's box of gold,
Pope and Centlivre as a praemium hold.
See Boyle's hand honour'd by a Sheffield's ring,
The muse's gift by daughter of a king;
Churchill's best jewel Chesterfield adorns,
It well becomes him who all flatt'ry scorns;
Yet tho' none merit or good sense regard,
Desert like virtue is its own reward,
And tho' but few to worth their tribute bring,
The mind's complacence is a diamond ring;
As the rich brilliants the fair fingers grace,
So fortune sparkles upon wisdom's face,
Whereas rich gems expose the dunce they deck,
Like a gold chain about a lord-mayor's neck.

Alas! 'Tis wit itself has given the slur,
And bards too often act the cabbin-cur;
Thus wits to coxcombs still new weapons send,
Who beat us with the very sticks we lend,
Strange each profession to itself adheres,
Fools herd together, foplings walk in pairs,
But wits still straggling scatter at this rate,
By congregated fools are easy beat;
Some have of wit, and some of wealth have store,
But envied by the ideot, and the poor,
'Twixt wit and folly there's eternal war,
As heat and cold cause thunder in the air.

Behold the pride of Languedoc (Tholouse)
Vain of its wit, which ev'n the women use,
Bred in French forms each belle's a sonnetteer,
And ev'ry nymph apes Maz'rine and Dacier,
Ballad and song, the product of the soil,
And proud Versailles is ev'n to them a foil.

Yet ev'n here Cambray hath his Meaux,
And Perrault pasquinades the great Boileau;
A Polnitz envies Voltaire's happy vein,
Tho' he commends a Corneille or Racine.

Envy's the common consequence of praise,
And calumny still grows upon the bays;
So Pope, Gay, Dryden, Horace, Virgil found,
Who bids the bard, have brows with ivy bound;
Lest the muse fall on Milton's evil tongues,
Thus Homer Zoilus, Ovid Cinna wrongs.
Then why should I who claim not half their due,
Complain because I have my Codrus too?
Rail on Demetrius, Tigellius bite,
Plotius and Varus read whate'er I write.
Shall flea Pantillus, bug Hermogenes,
Make me uneasy, or disturb my peace?
No, my Maecenas, you my lines commend,
And while you like, my labours have an end.

[pp. 99-109]