1746
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Three First Stanza's of the 24th Canto of Dante's Inferna made into a Song.

The Museum: or the Literary and Historical Register 1 (12 April 1746) 57.

Rev. Joseph Spence


Four irregular Spenserians "In imitation of the Earl of Surry's Stile" (only two have the alexandrine), attributed to Joseph Spence by John Nichols and (doubtless his source) Joseph Warton in Works of Pope (1797) 4:283n. The measure is that of Spenser's Januarye. The "stile" surely resembles Spenser more than Surrey. Spence, who had been Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in 1742, developed his abiding love for all things Italian during a tour of Italy in 1730-33. It was there he first conceived of writing his Polymetis.

John Campbell, in his Polite Correspondence (1741) describes a character who indulges in this kind of exercise: "Florimond is not only pleased with our ancient Poets, but also imitates them very happily, that is to say, he preserves their Spirit and manner of Writing, without falling into their Defects, particularly of false Rhymes, and harsh Numbers; I mention this, that out of many he has by him, he may be prevailed upon to transcribe a few. For since we all agree in this, that except the English Homer, the present Age is but barren in Poets, I could be content that every Man who has any Vein should cultivate it" p. 236-37.

Bell's Fugitive Poetry: "Mr. Spence was educated at Winchester School, and was afterward a Fellow of New College. Having taken his Master of Arts degree in 1727, and acquired reputation for his Essay on the Odyssey of Pope, he was elected Poetry Professor, and held that office for the space of ten years. With the Earl of Lincoln (now Duke of Newcastle) he travelled into Italy, and there collected materials for his Polymetis. Succeeding in 1742, to the rectory of Great Horwood, a college living in Buckinghamshire, he vacated his fellowship; but was appointed professor of modern History at Oxford in the same year, and in 1754 a prebendary of Durham. — He was found dead on the 20th of August, 1768, with his face in water, which as it was too shallow to cover his head, his death was ascribed to a fit. He appears to have been an elegant scholar and an amiable man" (1789-97) 3:184.

John Nichols: "Mr. Spence was elected Professor of Poetry, July 11, 1728, succeeding the Rev. Thomas Warton, B.D. father of Dr. Joseph Warton and Mr. Thomas Warton, author of The History of English Poetry, and poetry professor; each of which three professors were twice elected to their office, and held it for ten years, a period as long as the statues will allow" Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 2:373n.



When in the opening of the youthful Year,
Sol in Aquarius bathes his glistering Ray;
In early Morn the Fields all white appear,
With hoary Frost is cover'd every Spray:
And every Herb and every Grass is shent,
All in the chill Imprisonment ypent.

The mean-clad Swain, forth issuing from his Cot,
Looks sadly all around the whitening Waste;
And grieves that his poor Sheep, by Heaven forgot,
Can find no Food, no tender Green to taste:
He beats his Breast as one distract, or mad;
And home returns, with pensive Look and sad.

There silent grieves. Then once again looks out,
And sees the Groves and Meads quite alter'd are.
The Sun has cast his melting Rays about,
And every Green appears more fresh and fair.
Then Hope returns, and Joy unknits his Brows,
And forth he leads his Flock the tender Grass to brouze.

Thus when my Fair One views me with Disdain,
My Heart is sunk within me, sad and dead;
My Spirits yield, and all my Soul's in Pain;
I sit and sigh, and hang my drooping Head:
But if she smile, my Sadness melts away,
Each gloomy Thought clears up, and I'm all blithe and gay.

[p. 57]