1743 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Fragment.

The Works of David Mallet Esq; in Three Volumes. A New Edition, corrected.

David Mallet


David Mallet adopts Milton's octosyllabic verse and times-of-day design in an early example of the romantic "fragment" poem. It concludes by addressing the Genius of Freedom. The date is taken from R. D. Haven's bibliography of Milton imitations; the poem was first published in 1759.

Robert Anderson: "Pathos was a quality which he conceived to be so much the characteristic of his own poetry, that he once quarrelled with Jones, author of the "Earl of Essex," for pretending to it. The dispute ended by his turning the poor bricklayer out of the room where they were spending the evening together" British Poets (1795) 9:677.

C. H. Timperley: "He died April 21, 17[65], and it was remarked of him, 'that he was the only Scot whom Scotchmen did not recommend.' On which Mr. Steevens remarked, that 'h was the only Scotchman he ever knew unregretted by his countrymen.' The news of his death was followed by no encomiums on his writings or his virtues" Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:682n.

Oliver Elton: "There were two Miltons, the younger and the elder. There was the Milton of L'Allegro, whose senses, to apply a phrase of Burke, were 'unworn and tender,' and who retained 'the soft green of the soul'; whose melancholy was a happy mood, and for whom nature was peopled by Laugher and Quiet, and by the Muses and river-gods. Even before 1740, in Dyer, Mallet, and others, his attraction can be seen. Then it increased; poets like Akenside and the Wartons, Gray and Collins, were devoted to the younger Milton. But the authors of the Seasons and the Night Thoughts, of the Chase and the Art of Preserving Health, studied above all the Milton of the Epics" Survey of English Literature 1730-1780 (1928) 1:352.

Amy Louise Reed, The Background of Gray's Elegy (1924) devotes several pages to Mallet's Excursion (1728) as part of the tradition of poems on melancholy.



Fair morn ascends: soft zephyr's wing
O'er hill and vale renews the spring:
Where, sown profusely, herb and flower,
Of balmy smell, of healing power,
Their souls in fragrant dews exhale,
And breathe fresh life in every gale.
Here, spreads a green expanse of plains,
Where, sweetly-pensive, Silence reigns;
And there, at utmost stretch of eye,
A mountain fades into the sky;
While winding round, diffus'd and deep,
A river rowls with sounding sweep.
Of human art no traces near,
I seem alone with Nature here!

Here are thy walks, O sacred HEALTH!
The monarch's bliss, the beggar's wealth!
The seasoning of all good below!
The sovereign friend in joy or woe!
O thou, most courted, most despis'd,
And but in absence duly priz'd!
Power of the soft and rosy face!
The vivid pulse, the vermil grace,
The spirits when they gayest shine,
Youth, beauty, pleasure, all are thine!
O sun of life! whose heavenly ray
Lights up, and chears, our various day,
The turbulence of hopes and fears,
The storm of fate, the cloud of years,
Till Nature, with thy parting light,
Reposes late in Death's calm night:
Fled from the trophy'd roofs of state,
Abodes of splendid pain, and hate;
Fled from the couch, where, in sweet sleep,
Hot Riot would his anguish steep,
But tosses thro the midnight-shade,
Of death, of life, alike afraid;
For ever fled to shady cell,
Where Temperance, where the Muses dwell;
Thou art seen, at early dawn,
Slow-pacing o'er the breezy lawn:
Or on the brow of mountain high,
In silence feasting ear and eye,
With song and prospect, which abound
From birds, and woods, and waters round.

But when the sun, with noontide ray,
Flames forth intolerable day;
While Heat sits fervent on the plain,
With Thirst and Languor in his train;
All nature sickening in the blaze:
Thou, in the wild and woody maze,
That clouds the vale with umbrage deep,
Impendent from the neighbouring steep,
Wilt find betimes a calm retreat,
Where breathing Coolness has her seat.

There, plung'd amid the shadows brown,
Imagination lays him down;
Attentive, in his airy mood,
To very murmur of the wood:
The bee in yonder flowry nook;
The chidings of the headlong brook;
The green leaf shivering in the gale;
The warbling hill, the lowing vale;
The distant woodman's echoing stroke;
The thunder of the falling oak.
From thought to thought in vision led,
He holds high converse with the Dead;
Sages, or Poets. See they rise!
And shadowy skim before his eyes.
Hark! ORPHEUS strikes the lyre again,
The soften'd savages to men:
Lo! SOCRATES, the Sent of heaven,
To whom it's moral will was given.
Fathers and friends of human kind,
They form'd the nations or refin'd,
With all that mends the head and heart,
Enlightening truth, adorning art.

While thus I mus'd beneath the shade,
At once the sounding breeze was laid:
And Nature, by the unknown law,
Shook deep with reverential awe.
Dumb silence grew upon the hour;
A browner night involv'd the bower:
When issuing from the inmost wood,
Appear'd fair Freedom's GENIUS good.
O Freedom! sovereign boon of heaven;
Great Charter, with our being given;
For which the patriot, and the sage,
Have plan'd, have bled thro every age!
High privilege of human race,
Beyond a mortal monarch's grace:
Who could not give, nor can reclaim,
What but from God immediate came!

[1:49-53]