1740 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Impromptu on some of the English Poets.

Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century comprizing Biographical Memoirs of William Bowyer, Printer, F.S.A. and many of his learned Friends. 9 Vols [John Nichols, ed.]

Rev. William Clarke


Six stanzas published in 1812, by William Clarke, antiquary and chaplain to the Duke of Newcastle. Edmund Spenser appears in a catalogue of poets (Chaucer, Gower, Spenser, Shakespeare, Fletcher, Beaumont, Jonson, Milton, Cowley, Butler, Dryden, Prior, Addison, Pope). The comment on Spenser's verse seems a little ambiguous: if Spenser is by "Fashion's false power bewray'd" is this the sixteenth-century fashion for archaisms or the eighteenth-century fashion for smooth verses?

John Nichols: "Antiquities were the favourite study of Mr. Clarke, as his publications sufficiently shew: but he was a secret, and by no means an unsuccessful, votary of the Muses. He wrote English verse with ease, elegance, and spirit" Anecdotes (1812-15) 4:372.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "William Clarke, 1696-1771, Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, Rector of Buxted, 1724. Oration, 1768, 8vo. Connexion of the Roman, Saxon, and English Coins, Lon., 1767, 4to." Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:393.



See the Fathers of Verse,
In their rough uncouth dress,
Old CHAUCER and GOWER array'd;
And that Fairy-led Muse,
Which in SPENSER we lose,
By Fashion's false power bewray'd.

In SHAKSPEARE we trace
All Nature's full grace,
Beyond it his touches admire;
And in FLETCHER we view
Whate'er Fancy could do,
By BEAUMONT's correcting its fire.

Here's rare Surly BEN,
Whose more learned pen
Gave laws to the Stage and the Pit,
Here's MILTON can boast
His Paradise Lost;
And COWLEY his Virtue and Wit.

Next BUTLER, who paints
The zeal-gifted Saints;
And WALLER's politeness and ease;
Then DRYDEN whose lays
Deserv'd his own bays,
And, labour'd or negligent, please.

There sportively PRIOR
Sweeps o'er the whole lyre,
With fingers and fancy divine;
While ADDISON's Muse
Does each virtue infuse;
Clear, chaste, and correct, in each line.

To close the whole Scene,
Lo! POPE's moral spleen;
Ye Knaves, and ye Dunces, beware!
Like lightening he darts
The keen shaft at your hearts,
Your heads are not worthy his care.

[4:376-37]