1749
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Mr. Mason.

Gentleman's Magazine 19 (November 1749) 516.

John Chute


A tribute to William Mason, signed "J. C." in which "Thy lov'd Spencer" applauds William Mason, as Apollo crowns the young Cambridge poet. "J. C." comes to the defence of Mason's Musaeus (1747), which had been criticized for its archaisms in the October issue of the Gentleman's Magazine. The opening lines allude to Mason's imitations of Milton, Il Pacifico and Il Bellicoso (not yet published), and to Mason's just-published Isis, which with "bold essay" criticized Tory politics at Oxford. The poem is dated "Cambridge, Nov. 22." William Mason would have been a good choice for an eighteenth-century poet laureate, though his liberal politics (and during the 1790s his conservative politics) brought disfavor in some circles.

John Draper believes that "J. C." is "probably" John Chute in William Mason (1924) 145n, though it is not clear why Chute would date his poem from Cambridge. He was an intimate friend of Gray and Walpole, which would explain why he would have access to manuscript poems by William Mason.



Whether thou paint the scene of hostile strife,
Or the calm comforts of a peaceful life;
Or Isis' sons correct with bold essay,
Or sing great Pelham, in harmonious lay;
Alike successful all thy labours prove,
Reading, we praise; and meditating, love.
Well has thy Muse, illustrious Poet! paid
Her last best off'ring to thy master's shade!
This fun'ral rite the sons of Phoebus owe,
But ah! how few such homage can bestow!
See! how yon bards, a trim but slender train,
In antique guise approach the dying swain!
What sounds melodious issue from each tongue!
How pure the grief! how eloquent the song!
So just their language in thy verse is shown,
Without a name, each poet might be known.
If then, as yet too modest, thou decline
In verse, a great original to shine,
Proceed, and copy ev'ry son of fame,
Till, on their works, thou build a deathless name;
No other lines I'll read, but find in thee
Of Britain's noblest wits a full epitome.

Had Pope, bless'd Bard! those happy lines survey'd,
(But fate untimely bore him to the shade)
Where, like a faithful mirror, thou hast shown
So true, so just an image of his own,
Calm had he welcom'd death, rejoic'd to see
The world still happy in a son like thee.
Thus, when Vespasian from the earth withdrew,
Another star, great Titus, rose to view;
In acts of virtue e'en his fire surpass'd,
And the next reign was glorious as the last.

If ought of mortals touch the shades below
(Those happy shades, exempt from human woe)
Thy lines, which Phoebus with applause might hear,
Shall sweetly warble in Musaeus' ear;
And to the bard no vulgar joy impart,
That not, with him, expir'd the tuneful art.
There, as he roves the fair Elysian plains,
Wrapp'd in deep wonder of thy heav'nly strains,
Pleas'd shall he wreath, from ev'ry flow'ry bed,
A blooming garland to adorn thy head;
(For thou must fall, nor can the muses save
Their best-lov'd vot'ries from the destin'd grave)
Chaucer, with smiles, the laurell'd palm shall view,
And thy lov'd Spencer own the tribute due.

[p. 516]