Moses Browne constructs his country house poem as an allegorical quest in a Bower of Bliss; the narrator is drawn up suddenly when death is discovered in paradise. Perhaps this unusual poem was written in response to Thomson's Castle of Indolence (1748): both Thomson and Browne were clients of Frances Thynne Seymour, countess of Hertford, whose estate is here described. The poem was belatedly published in 1755; the delay was likely at the request of the Countess of Hertford who lived in deep seclusion following the death of Beauchamp, the family's son and heir eulogized at the conclusion of the poem.
Moses Browne borrows lines from Grongar Hill (1726) by John Dyer, another poet patronized by the Countess of Hertford; see Aubin, Topographical Poetry in XVIIIth-Century England (1936) 135. George Lyttelton's famous monody "On a Lady lately deceas'd" (1747) is also a model. Percy Lodge, formerly known as Richings, was pulled down and replaced by a modern neoclassical structure before the end of the eighteenth century.
James Hervey: "Mr. Moses Browne tells me, he is publishing a little piece of poetry, entitled Percy Lodge, the Duke of Somerset's seat, [wrote at the desire of the late Duke and Duchess, in the year 1749. Had they lived, poor Browne would have met with the encouragement he deserves. They loved him, and fully intended to have served him]. When it makes its appearance, I will desire you to accept of a copy" 13 December 1755; in Hervey, Works (1769; 1802) 6:228.
Critical Review: "Percy Lodge is a seat which belonged to the late duke and duchess of Somerset, by whose desire this poetical description of it was penned; wherein, tho' the bard informs us that he has procured the Muses to quit their favourite haunts of Windsor, Stowe, &c. to come to his aid, we are sorry to say, that, to us, there don't appear the slightest mark of the sacred irradiation: the language is mean, and the epithets ill chosen; the words of the very first line 'Sport shall the rural Muses, still | On Cooper's heights,' — are forced into an unnatural and obscure order of construction, which is inconsistent with real genius" 1 (March 1756) 167.
James Kirkpatrick: "We can sufficiently collect from the poem, indeed, that the gardens &c. at Percy Lodge are delicious, extensive, and various; but the poetry itself rarely rises above mediocrity, and not seldom sinks beneath it. Besides, in reading verse on such subjects, we are naturally reminded of Cooper's Hill, and Windsor Forest; the heroic numbers of which, not to mention their other advantages, seem better adapted to description, and to that solemnity which accompanies scenes of grandeur and retirement. The distich of eight syllables, especially if the double rhymes occur often, seems to move too quick for the sweetly detaining subject, and to approach too near the Namby Pamby style" Monthly Review 14 (January 1756) 60-61.
Isaac Reed: "Frances, eldest daughter of the honourable Henry Thynne, only son of Thomas first viscount Weymouth. She was married to Algernon Earl of Hertford afterwards Duke of Somerset, and died at Percy Lodge July 7, 1754. She was the intimate friend of Mrs. Rowe, on whose death she wrote some verses, and likewise was author of the Epistles signed Cleora, in the Collection of Letters from the Living to the Dead. Mr. Walpole says, she had as much taste for the writings of others as modesty about her own" in Dodsley, Collection of Poems (1782) 5:1-2n.
Robert Southey devotes chapter CVI of The Doctor to an appreciation of Frances Thynne Seymour and Percy Lodge: "The widow passed the remainder of her days at a seat near Colnbrook, which her husband had purchased from Lord Bathurst, and had named Percy Lodge: Richkings was its former appellation. Pope in one of his letters calls it 'Lord Bathurst's extravagante bergerie,' in allusion to the title of an old mock-romance. 'The environs,' says the Duchess, 'perfectly answer to that title, and come nearer to my idea of a scene in Arcadia than any place I ever saw. The house is old but convenient; and when you are got within the little padock it stands on, you would believe yourself an hundred miles from London, which I think a great addition to its beauty.' Moses Brown wrote a poem on it, the Duke and Duchess having appointed him their laureate for the nonce; but though written by their command, it was not published till after the death of both, and was then inscribed to her daughter, at that time Countess of Northumberland. If Olney had not a far greater poet to boast of, it might perhaps have boasted of Moses Browne" The Doctor (1849) 252.
Sport shall the rural Muses still
On Cooper's Heights, or Grongar Hill?
Nor other Haunts their Visits know
Than Windsor, or the Groves of Stowe?
When PERCY-LODGE to fresh Delights
The woo'd, the cherish'd Train invites;
And the sweet Shades their Presence claim,
Made great, by that enobling Name.
They come, in all their smiling Pride,
The Sister Graces at their Side;
Exstatic Sounds my Senses steal,
Their soft Divinity I feel:
They warm my Breast, they tune my Tongue,
And Percy-Groves are all my Song.
If SOMERSET'S mild DUKE shall deign
His gentle Audience to my Strain,
While, boldly grateful to appear,
My Verse would win his princely Ear;
If his bright CONSORT, Friend to Art,
The wisest Mind, the gentlest Heart,
If She shall, pleas'd, my Lay peruse,
She, more inspiring than the Muse!
My Genius, favour'd by their Aids,
Shall plant my Laurels in their Shades.
Genius of this blissful Place,
Rural Nymph! of bashful Grace,
Come, with thy meek Associate-Pow'r,
Bring the mute Silence from his Bow'r,
And with him youthful Fancy bring,
Ranger, ever on the Wing.
And lonely Contemplation pure,
And Judgment with his Look demure:
Join, all join, me on my Way
Where I tune my wand'ring Lay,
Thro' thy Mazes, o'er thy Greens;
Lead me round thy vary'd Scenes,
And ev'ry Beauty let me trace,
Genius of this blissful Place!
What Odours, like Arabia's, sweet,
From you blest Vale my Senses greet?
Sure, from her Aramantine Bow'rs,
The Queen of Love her Roses show'rs.
'Tis more than Vision, See! the Vale
Whence all these breathing Sweets exhale.
A Field of Roses blooms in View,
Of every Species, Scent and Hue.
Not Enna's Field, the fam'd, the bless'd,
Was of such Fragrances possess'd.
'Twas once a Pit, bare, scorch'd, and dry;
A Chaos, rueful to the Eye.—
'Twas once a marly, barren Waste,
By the Spade's greedy Spoils defac'd:
Neglected, shun'd, to Pleasure lost;—
'Till She (of Heav'n Resemblance most,
Most of his fav'rite Creatures) SHE
Bid the rude Heap an Eden be.
Passive to her, her sweet Command,
Now fertile grows the steril Sand,
New Form and Elegance receives,
And a large, beauteous Offspring gives.
Thick rise the Verdures, bloom the Flow'rs,
The Air perfuming with their Pow'rs.
The little Labourers of the Hive
In the rich Buds for Nectar dive—
By grassy Steps, of easy Tread,
Let me, in soft Descent, be led
It's Walks to roam; by such Descent
The Trojan to Elizium went.
I roam it's Walks, around, around,
All where I go's enchanted Ground!
I seek it's Grot, and laid at Ease,
Drink in the Spirit-giving Breeze;
And ev'ry captiv'd Sense awhile
With harmless Luxury beguile.
Now on, to new Delights, I range
Path after Path, from Change to Change:
All free, I fetch a Compass large,
Circling the Park's fair ample Verge.
Often sunny Meadows viewing,
Whilst my devious Rout pursuing,
Catching there the Gales at play
On the Cocks of tanning Hay;
And Plains with Furrows russet brown
Here and there, mixt up and down,
And Flocks I view, in Pastures fair;
Feeding wanton, here, and there;
With the small Birds, sweetly singing,
Ev'ry Hedge and Thicket ringing.
Joining Accents — warbling — trilling—
All, the various Concert filling.
Whither, from Walks of grandest Shade
My sweet Transition have I made?
A shifting Scene my Eye has caught!
Where is the rural Lover brought?
See, to a neat fram'd Hut I draw,
Roof'd with a Cupola of Straw;
In artless Elegance compleat,
Dissembling well a Shepherd's Seat.
Smooth-pav'd, with shapely Pebbles clean,
In which his pictur'd Dog is seen—
And from the left, through parting Trees,
My Eye a stately Temple sees,
Half hid in Greens; and, from my right,
Apollo's Statue wins my Sight;
And from before, thro' breaking Bow'rs,
High Windsor lifts her royal Tow'rs;
And, all about me, close at hand,
Tall Crops of bearded Ceres stand,
Whose rusling Sound my Ears assail,
Dancing to the jocund Gale.
Over daisied Beds I pass,
That intersect, of smooth-shorn Grass,
By thin-plac'd Trees at Distance found
With Flow'rs the Roots set simply round.
In frequent Turns, of Fancy's chusing,
Idly gazing — reading — musing—
Walking thoughtless — sitting — lying—
Ev'ry Change of Pleasure trying.
When Phoebus from his mounted Team
Pours down direct the moon-shed Beam,
And splendent with o'er-fervid Light,
The Forms too glaring pain the Sight,
I seek the Groves that round me rise,
To check the Rage of sultry Skies;
Thro' whose close Tops, entwining high,
Day's searching Glance cou'd never pry;
Where, in serpentine Allies green
The Paths, meand'ring, intervene.
The Wand'rer sees, who here shall stray,
A thousand Mazes tempt his Way;
His Steps delighting, while they range,
With sweet Perplexity of Change.
Lo! to the dusky Entrance nigh,
A dancing Faunus strikes the Eye,
Whose antick Mimes, express'd with Grace,
Relieve the Glooms that spread the Place.
Far in, a lonely Cell is found
On a small op'ning Plat of Ground,
'Twixt two tall Elms that, Tempest-proof,
Rise stately o'er the craggy Roof:
And a torn Arch above it's Height,
Shews rudely-graceful to the Sight.
While up it's buttress'd stone-cleft Sides
His Foot a clamb'ring Ivy guides,
And Hollies pale, and dark'ning Yew
The Entrance keep with solemn View.
So look'd the dread Cumaean Cave,
Where Oracles the SYBIL gave.
Within, an ample Concave swells
Of Pummice wrought and shining Shells;
Where, near a Seat of native Stone,
A Fountain keeps its bubbling Moan,
And from beneath the craggy Wall
Creeps slow, with tinkling — trilling — Fall.
Here the sweet Lady of the Grove
In lonely Walk delights to rove,
And sooth with Thought her Mind serene,
Charm'd with the solitary Scene.
What Thoughts her happy Mind possess?
Those Hours, what rais'd Reflections bless?
What Tastes she gains of Heav'nly Love?
What Visits wait her from above?
To those bright Forms are only known,
Whose Natures are so like her own.
By a strange Influence seiz'd — imprest—
I enter, struck — an awe-pleas'd Guest.
Some Genius, some celestial Grace
Sure fills, invisible, the Place!
I feel (as with his Presence caught)
Immortal Foresights calm my Thought!
I feel a Ray, a Hope divine,
Thro' my dark Breast of Sorrows shine!
Light grows my Lot, perplex'd and toss'd,
My Present in my Future lost;
While thus, methinks (my Mind to cheer)
The bright Intelligence I hear:
"Why pin'st thou at thy Doom unblest?
Why sobs thy disappointed Breast?
How vain Ambition is thy Strife!
What, thy poor Moment, fleeting Life!
How transient, how uncertain all
The few, mixt Joys, which thine we call!
"Disclaim thy Hopes of earthly Good!
False are those dazling Objects view'd:
As in the Mirrour of the Stream
The Landscapes all inverted seem.
"Bear Soul! with keen Misfortunes smart,
Call in thy Wishes, restless Heart;
Tho', with Vicissitude of Woes,
Dawn thy sad Morns! thy Evenings close!
"The friendly Grave, Care's sweetest Bed,
Shall safely rest thy anxious Head,
And Griefs, each Day repeated o'er,
Vex the frail Child of Dust no more.
"When thy dark Thoughts their Clouds encrease
Turn to the Realms of Light, of Peace:
Far shall thy Soul nor need to roam,
Look to the Skies and view thy Home."
Loth I leave this charming Cell,
While such Lores my Passions quell;
While such Scenes my Senses greet
Wildly grand, and rudely sweet—
And the shrill Buzz of the Fly,
And the Drone's base Minstrilsy,
And the Linnet from above,
And the mournful Turtle-Dove,
And the loud loquacious Jay,
And the Birds on ev'ry Spray,
Native Concerts round impart,
Soothing Sadness from the Heart.
Where employ'd on thoughtful Themes,
Where inspir'd with gentlest Dreams,
Pleas'd, a Hermit would I dwell—
Loth I leave this charming Cell.
Slow — contemplative — I stray
Wherever Chance inclines my Way.
O'er broad, green Walks that spacious lie,
Wall'd in with Trees, and roof'd with Sky.
Where the Lev'rets sporting thro'
Catch at diff'rent Turns the View,
'Till a wide Area Prospect yields
Of rustick Farms, and neighb'ring Fields,
And Colnbrook's Vill the Eye obtains
And Hounslow spreads her op'ning Plains
And in the Meads of lofty Grass,
The Mower strays, and nut-brow Lass:
In mirthful Bands they crop the Soil,
And laugh and prattle o'er their Toil.
Re-entring now the woody Glades,
The Hexagon my Sight invades,
Rear'd of firm Stone the Pile is found
Fenc'd with the Poet's Laurel round,
Where o'er the Door his Lays divine
Inscrib'd in golden Letters shine.
"Hail thou! of Silence bless'd, the Seat!
Hail solitary Horrors, sweet!
True Residence of soft Repose,
Of Peace, which humble Fortune knows."
Politely grac'd the lofty Room
Strikes, from within, an awful Gloom
Turn'd to six Views it's Windows lie
That meet, from diff'rent Walks, the Eye,
Here the great Master of the Bow'r
Tastes oft retir'd the studious Hour,
And, by Reflection deep, impress'd,
Improves the Virtues of his Breast.
Still cou'd I stay in fix'd Delight,
But a new Charm has caught my Sight,
That glancing round the Temple spies,
Graceful it's Range of Columns rise;
In Plainest Ornament, yet great;
O'er a Canal it looks with State,
And, from it's Scite, it's Prospects gain,
Down five long Walks, the distant Plain.
Behind two small Apertures spread,
Where, in my Tour alternate led,
A Circle wide of Trees appear
A woody Amphitheatre;
Soft Zephyrs sport the Boughs between,
Breathing o'er the blossom'd Bean,
Whence the wing'd Insects fetch their Spoil,
Singing to their hony'd Toil.
Where shall I turn, or rove, or stay?
Some new, new Pleasure tempts away.
Now the tall Green-house, seen from far,
'Lures me o'er the sleek Parterre,
From whence the grand Canal is spy'd
Stretching smooth, and long, and wide,
O'er whose Surface, looking down,
Chertsey's Hills the Landscape crown;
While my Ear is list'ning made
By the falling close Cascade.
Now the Bongalo invites
To range it's Rooms and climb it's Heights,
Whence Ivor's Tower, and Windsor, green,
Are, from the airy Summits, seen.
All open round, for Coolness made,
The light Apartments wide are laid;
It's foreign Looks, well copy'd, please,
A Model of the fam'd Chinese.
Some new, new Pleasure tempts away
Where shall I turn, or rove, or stay?
Ranging, shifting, to and fro,
Happy Libertine I go.
Sometimes Path with Gravel smooth
Easy Ambulations sooth,
Where the bending Beeches twine,
And a Length of Arbour join,
Terminating (pleas'd) the Sight,
In their low-bent Arch of Light,
At whose End a Gothic Seat
Yields me Place of short Retreat—
Till, from roving led to rove,
Next, th' Italic fair Alcove
Stops my Eye, to mark the Pile,
Where, with rested Limbs the while,
EDWARD'S royal Bust I join,
Glory of the SEYMOUR Line.
Back my Thoughts, revolving fast,
Trace those happiest Annals past,
When, of Heaven's full, purest Ray
Beam'd our Noon of Gospel-day.
—Ah! declining since — obscure—
Foul bedim'd with Mist impure!
Wan it's Lustre! wain'd! decay'd!—
Sinking in primaeval Shade!
Tracking up the shining Clue,
Mem'ry sighs, in sad Review!—
With the preaching, modern, Scheme,
Heart-disgusted — drops the Theme!
—Fresh Excursions calm me soon,
Gazing pensive Tumult down—
—There, uprais'd, a princely Tent
Wide displays it's Ornament:
Sofas spread luxurious lay,
Deck'd in Fringe — with Hangings gay—
And Statues in my Walk are seen—
And Woods with Fields enclos'd between—.
Ranging, shifting, to and fro,
Happy Libertine I go.
Here let me yet an Hour deceive,
In the cool Walk by Twilight Eve,
When in still Air on dark'ning Plains,
Each Grove a softer Aspect gains,
That seems a Picture to the Eye,
Drawn on the Canvas of the Sky.
And shifting Clouds, as fades the Light,
Put on a thousand Robeings bright,
Till their poud Tints at length decay,
Chang'd for coarse Vests of Palmer Grey,
So shall the loveliest Face at last
Be, by dull Age's Veil, o'ercast.—
Sad sings the Philomel forlorn,
The heavy Beetle winds his Horn,
Forth flies the Bat, Day's banish'd Fowl,
Her nightly Hoot begins the Owl.—
From the dark Cavern's drear Abode
Steals the fell Weazel, and the Toad.—
The quiv'ring Leaves, the Moon's pale Beam
Now just has tipt with silver'd Gleam;
And in her dewy Lodging damp,
The Glow-worm hung her glist'ring Lamp;
When a black Horror spreads my Mind,
Unusual, sudden Pang I find;
I feel my vital Pow'rs depart,
Chill Melancholy damps my Heart,
My bosom'd Thoughts for Utt'rance swell,
On a mourn'd Subject much they dwell;
When Griefs, that long my Breast had pent,
Thus to the silent Night I vent.
"He's gone! the Grave's too early Prey,
That Angel, Fate has snatch'd away!
Who might for long, for happier Days
Have liv'd, to patronise my Lays;
Liv'd! to have warm'd their noblest Rage,
And prov'd the Shelter of my Age.
That promis'd Hero! Patriot! — all
That great we see, or best we call!
"Alas — he's gone! — his Country's Hope,
His antient House's last, dear Prop,
A Nestor's Wisdom in a Youth!—
That Form, all Sweetness, Sense, and Truth.
Whose Worth had ev'ry Heart engross'd
The lovely! lov'd! and ah! — the lost!
"Wonder of Excellence beheld;
Scarce equall'd e'er, by none excell'd.
In all Perfection, past Degree
So good! — Ah BEAUCHAMP! — is it thee?"
Thy Name has rais'd the Eccho's Cries,
Ah BEAUCHAMP! — is it thee? (she sighs)
Ah BEAUCHAMP! thee? — Woods, Plains and Springs
(Touch'd with strange Woes) all (senseless Things)
Their Murmurs and their Plaints diffuse;
Woods wail! Floods moan! and weep the Dews!
All join to raise my Grief's swoln Tide:
While pensive, by my drooping Side,
Thy lov'd, thy faithful Bruen here,
Looks up, as conscious of my Tear.
Still, still he lives (O calm our Strife!)
Far happier lives, far nobler Life;
Angelic Worlds have seen him rise,
Have lodg'd the Cherub in his Skies.
Such Change divinest Solace gives;
More great! more blest! he shines! he lives!
Henceforth — farewel! — In PERCY-GROVES
(Seat of the Muses and the Loves)
This last sad Tribute is allow'd;
What to thy Manes, long, I vow'd.
O if those Groves (in which retir'd
First their sweet Charms this Verse inspir'd)
Kind to the Verse a Fame would give,
Like them, immortal might it live.
What tho' no Hill thy level Soil
For Prospect yields, the Gazer's Toil,
Tere, like the OWNER'S Mind, is spy'd
True Greatness, without swelling Pride.
The Wonderer here, that led to stray
Thy vary'd Beauties shall survey,
No fairer Scenes shall with to see,
No prospect want while viewing Thee.
O Spot, beyond Description bright,
Sequester'd Seat of pure Delight,
Resembling most that happy Place,
The first best Seat of Human Race:
As blest thy Groves, thy Plains as fair,
And honour'd by as great a Pair.
Lives there, by Virtues or by Blood,
His worthier? — gentle, generous, good.
Lives there than HER, of female Kind,
A sweeter Form, a lovelier Mind?
Benignest Stars their Births impress'd,
Their Loves the happiest Hymen bless'd.
Tho' Care my busy'd Life embroils,
A Life worn out in studious Toils,
Tedious tho' move my Minutes down,
Forc'd from the lov'd, too distant Town,
Favour'd the while, of feeling Heart,
Grateful, but ignorant of Art,
The Debt so due, till yet delay'd,
My MUSE hath to her PATRONS paid.