1749 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the well conceited Maister John Ellis.

European Magazine 21 (February 1792) 128-30.

Moses Mendez


An undated verse epistle to John Ellis (1698-1790), Tory political writer and friend of Samuel Johnson. Moses Mendez invites his London friend to visit his Twickenham cottage; after describing the landscape he presents a kind of Spenserian vision in which the Thames Maidens rise from their humid cells and offer blessings to Eton College and Oxford University.

John Ellis had Oxford connections, and was a friend of the Jacobite William King of Oxford University. Tory sentiments ebb and flow throughout the poem as Mendez deprecates the mansions of the wealthy Whig magnates along the river, complains of the gates of Richmond Park locked by the Princess Amelia ("Emily"), lauds the memory of Alexander Pope, spurns Windsor Palace, and appeals to Eton and Oxford to produce new Catos and Virgils to stay "the iron hand of rude Control."

Moses Mendez to John Ellis: "Sir, As I have already addressed you two Cantos of our well-beloved Poet and lately deceased friend Maister Edmund Spenser, I do likewise offer to your perusal and patronage the inclosed Epistle. Albeit it is written in more rude terms than well befitteth the present times, and your well-measured numbers, yet I shall pray you to set your judgment aside, inasmuch as I shall be a gainer thereby, more especially if by that I shall draw you from the Capital to taste the air of the country, which in these parts is right wholesome, I am truly thine, M." p. 128.

The "two cantos" mentioned by Mendez refers to The Blatant Beast, also posthumously published in the European Magazine. "Tucker" is a mutual friend, described as "S. Tucker of Dulwich" in the memoir of Ellis in which this epistle appears.

Samuel Johnson: "It is wonderful, Sir, what is to be found in London. The most literary conversation that I ever enjoyed, was at the table of Jack Ellis, a money-scrivener behind the Royal Exchange, with whom I at one period used to dine generally once a week" 1775; in Boswell, Life of Johnson (1791); ed. G. B. Hill (1891) 3:24.

James Boswell: "This Mr. Ellis was, I believe, the last of the profession called 'Scriveners,' which is one of the London companies, but of which the business is no longer carried on separately, but is transacted by attornies and others. He was a man of literature and talents. He was the authour of a Hudibrastick version of Maphaeus's Canto, in addition to other small pieces; but being a very modest man, never put his name to anything. He shewed me a translsation which he had made of Ovid's Epistles, very prettily done. There is a good engraved portrait of him by Pether, from a picture by Fray, which hangs in the hall of the Scrivener's company. I visited him October 4, 1790, in his ninety-third year, and found his judgment distinct and clear, and his memory, though faded so as to fail him occasionally, yet, as he assured me, and I indeed perceived, able to serve him very well, after a little recollection. It was agreeable to observe, that he was free from the discontent and fretfulness which too often molest old age. He in the summer of that year walked to Rotherhithe, where he dined, and walked home in the evening. He died on the 31st of December, 1791" Life of Johnson (1791); ed. G. B. Hill (1891) 3:24n.

European Magazine: "On the 19th of June 1750, Mr. Mendez was created M. A. by the University of Oxford; and we have been informed, that he once meditated to become an Advocate in Doctors Commons" 22 (October 1792) 251.



Where Ham, vain-glorious of her dusky wood,
Bids her tall dryads overlook the flood,
Unknown to Phoebus or Ambition's fires,
Deep in his cot your hermit friend retires.
Amid the glitt'ring mansions of the great,
Scarce can be seen his unaspiring gate;
Thro' his broad sash no glitt'ring sun-beams play,
But casements humbler lights admit the day.
Close to his door the double wall-flow'r blows,
And the full bush is fraught with many a rose.
'Tis here I taste the beauties of the Spring,
For me each woodland songster plumes his wing;
The sober bird, at Cynthia's paler glow,
For me renews her elegies of woe;
While the brisk Fairies active measures tread,
And Mab reposes on a cowslip bed.
Come, come, my ELLIS, haste from smoke and noise
To purer air and more substantial joys,
These rural pleasures taste awhile with me,
And leave the bride-groom one day longer free.

Hail! happy Fields! than which are none beside
More rich, more grateful to Thames' hoary tide,
Fast by whose margin, screen'd by spreading trees,
While Nature faints I taste the cooling breeze.
Observe the barge of painted streamers vain,
A thousand boats scud o'er the watry plain;
Here the proud swan, the honour of the stream,
Forgets rash Phaeton, and dares the beam;
Full on the wave the sunny rays behold,
And all the waters roll a tide of gold.

Survey yon hill, whose sylvan bow'rs diffuse
An awful gloom, and seem to court the Muse!
Erst in these woods, no passage then deny'd,
The 'prentice gallop'd, and the lover sigh'd;
Now ever bolted is the stubborn gate,
Such is the will of EMILY and fate.

By verse subdu'd, stones heap'd to form a wall;
Then wilt not thou, a poet, hear its call!
By numbers soften'd, tho' his destin'd feast,
The hungry wolf the trembling lamb releast;
And is a bard more stubborn than a beast?
To court you further, Tucker shall attend,
For Tucker ever loves to meet a friend.
And if a female her request may join,
Receive it from a favourite of mine,
Who, spite of fashion, whispers you alone,
She counts her husband's friends amongst her own.
Will this not do? and still, you wayward cit,
Still must you load your Elephant with wit?
Yet mark me further, and attentive hear
Truths only worthy of a poet's ear.

As late I stray'd, what time Endymion's fair
In Thames's mirror views her silver hair,
When no rude voice disturbs the peaceful deep,
And Philomel herself forgets to weep;
I saw the Genius of the Flood arise,
Pale were his cheeks, o'ercast his azure eyes,
His oozy beard hung quite neglected down,
And on his temples nods a bulrush crown,
'Twas where the God had listen'd oft of yore,
When Pope and Phoebus charm'd fair Twick'nham's shore.

Propp'd on his oar, he winds his twisted shell
To wake each Naiad in her humid cell,
Such was his wont to celebrate that name
Which stands the foremost in the list of Fame.

The yielding waters dimple all around,
The nymphs arise obedient to the sound;
Blue Vandalis, the offspring of the god,
Hastes to the call; Wey quits her milky road,
And proud Hampton's urges on her springs,
Regardless of the works of priests and kings;
Each nymph who dwelt in river, rill, or brook,
Heard Thames's summons, and her charge forsook.

A turfy shrine the pious maidens rear,
Rich with the beauties of the flowery year;
The lucid shell, with coral branches round,
Is with the poet's sacred laurel bound;
Each vacant space with ivy wreaths they fill,
The faithful witness of the critic's skill;
A chosen swan they for the rites provide,
Who sweetly sang and sweetly singing dy'd.

Their offerings paid, a Naiad of the train
Thrice sprinkles water round, "Hence, hence profane!"
She loudly cry'd, and thrice her sisters led
Near the green margin of the wat'ry bed;
The rill-born lilly bound her verdant hair,
And her blue robe danc'd lightly on the air.
She thus pursu'd: "Since Death's relentless dart
Has POPE o'erta'en, and riv'd our poet's heart,
Oh let us shun these vile polluted waves,
The seat of Fortune's sons or Pleasure's slaves.
Who on these banks the laurell'd sisters wooes?
Who on these banks the Athenian Maid pursues?
Of if some wretch attempt to taste their charms,
Minerva frowns, and Clio flies their arms.
Glide on, ye nymphs, along your wat'ry bow'rs,
Nor greet proud Windsor, but learn'd Eton's tow'rs,
There view the youth, the wanton youth around,
Plunge in your floods, or o'er your meadows bound;
O may they early list in Britain's cause,
Defend her altars, and support her laws!
May truth and virtue fire the generous train,
And what the boy has learnt the man retain!

Yet further on your glorious progress lead,
Where Gothic spires o'erlook Oxonia's mead:
There learned age performs the charge assign'd,
Unlocks to Virtue's call the rip'ning mind:
And if the iron hand of rude Control
Shall fail to stop the functions of the soul,
I see already op'ning to my eyes,
New Catos grow, and other Virgils rise.

Oh learned Isis, at thy honour'd name
I feel my bosom kindle to a flame;
A Naiad's praises will you deign to own,
Who form'd a LOCKE, who nurs'd an ADDISON,
Whose sacred streams shall ages hence endure,
Like the first source, unsully'd still, and pure.
Peace o'er thy gates extend her olive wand,
Be Oxford bless'd, and bless'd in all the land!"

She said; the pleasing prospect fades away,
Like Hamlet's spectre at approach of day.
Thus, when the love-sick virgin sinks to rest
(If sleep be known when Cupid wounds the breast),
Her dreams the symptoms of her mind unfold;
Knights, dappled steeds, and squires in burnish'd gold,
Throng to her presence; the romantic sight
Glows to her eyes, and still glows doubly bright:
At length officious Betty's constant knock
Warns the fair dreamer 'tis past ten o'clock;
Involv'd in clouds each airy knight retires,
And with him all his train of steeds and squires.

So I, who thought with fact to entertain,
Have stretch'd the fancy of a sickly brain;
If you approve these lines I fain would know,
Then haste to Ham, and answer Aye or No.

[pp. 128-30]