1749
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Farewell Hymne to the Country.

A Farewell Hymne to the Country. Attempted in the Manner of Spenser's Epithalamion. By Mr. Potter.

Rev. Robert Potter


Not seen. A descriptive poem in nineteen vast, irregular stanzas studded with archaisms. Edmund Spenser appears in a catalogue of poets and is declared the author's master in terms that acknowledge a Spenserian tradition with origins in Chaucer: "Lov'd Spenser, of trew verse the well-spring sweet! | The footing of whose feet I, painefull follower, assay to trace." Compare Spenser's famous salute to Chaucer in the fourth book of the Faerie Queene: "through Infusion sweet | Of thine own Spirit (which doth in me survive) | I follow here the footing of thy Feet."

Robert Potter, translator of Aeschylus, was a distinguished classical scholar who lived into the nineteenth century; his Farewell Hymne was reprinted as late as 1815. In 1742 Potter had been given the rural curacy of Reymerston by Richard Hurd, who was a close friend of Potter's elder brother John.

W. Davenport Adams: "Robert Potter, Prebendary of Norwich (b. 1721, d. 1804), translated plays by Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles; wrote metrical versions of the Song of Adoration and the Oracle against Babylon in Isaiah; and published an Inquiry into some Passages in Johnson's Lives of the Poets (1783)" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 493.

William Lyon Phelps: "In 1749 appeared A Farewell Hymne to the Country, Attempted in the Manner of Spenser's Epithalamion. This was by the Rev. R. Potter, who was an enthusiastic lover of nature and a great admirer of old English poetry in general, and of Spenser in particular. The Hymne was popular, and passed into a second edition the next year. It is not without poetic merit, and has a good musical flow" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 76.

Myra Reynolds: "Though it would be difficult to quote specific lines to prove the statement, it is nevertheless true that the whole poem conveys in a quite unusual degree a sense of warm, abiding affection for the simple scenes of the country. 'Smit with the peaceful joys of lowly life,' he gives thanks for 'the unmoved quiet of his silver daies,' and thinks with dread of 'the cares and pains in mad cities.' His use of Nature is almost entirely in a running assemblage of sweet sights and sounds to justify his preference for a country life" The Treatment of Nature in English Poetry (1909) 137.

Herbert E. Cory: "A close copy both of the intricate stanza-form of Spenser's marriage hymn and of its rich music" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 80n.

Earl R. Wasserman: "The most successful of all the imitations of Spenser's minor poems is Robert Potter's A Farewell Hymne to the Country.... The stanzaic form, the slow, drawn-out music of which Potter handles effectively, is that of the Epithalamion, though some of the imagery is taken from the Prothalamion; the archaisms do not appear forced, and Potter succeeds remarkably well in re-creating the flowing, languorous, sensuous tone of his model. The descriptions of external nature, to which the imitations of Spenser almost invariably led, are especially good and reveal not only a close attention to details but something of Spenser's tender reverence for the quiet beauties of nature" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 150.

Julius Nicholas Hook points out that Potter uses thirty archaisms when imitating a poem that contains none; "Eighteenth-Century Imitations of Spenser" (1941) 117.

Richard Frushell: "Dorothy and William Wordsworth wrote just such lines during or after their walks where Spenser was read and discussed. The nature-learning-virtue-formation paradigm is precisely the same as that for the Wordsworths.... Potter admittedly is a minor poet, but his Farewell Hymne, a good poem representative of its time of composition, serves as a revealing example of the employment of Spenser as a philosophic and moral inspirator and model in the service of some of the romantic emphases shown above. I am confident in saying that Potter's Spenser becomes the Spenser of British poetry for at least the next two generations" Edmund Spenser in the Early Eighteenth Century (1999) 87-88.



Sweet poplar shade, whose trembling leaves emong
The cheereful birds delight to chaunt their laies;
Where oft the linnet powres the dulcet song,
And oft the thrilling thrush descanting plaies;
Their tunes attempring to the silver Yare,
Which gently murmurs here,
A babbling brook; but swelling in his pride
Sees two fam'd towns upon his bankes appeare,
And the tall ships on his faire bosom ride;
Indignant then rolls his prowde waves away,
And fomes ore half the sea:
Sweet stream, with shade refresht, orehung with bowres
Entrailed with the honied woodbine faire;
Where breathes the gentlest, softest, simplest aire
Stealing fresh odors from the rising Flowres,
Joy of my calmer howres,
O sooth me with thy murmurs whiles I sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

With pleasance oft two silver swannes I view
Pranking their silken plumes with conscious pride,
A comely couplement of goodly hew,
Come softly swimming down the crystal tide;
The crystal tide, resplendent as it may,
Looks not so faire as they,
Whether their snowie necks they love to lave,
Or pluck with jettie bill in wanton play
The yellow flowres that fote upon the wave;
Or sdeigne to tinge their plumage, lest they might
Soyle their pure beauties bright;
But with slow pomp on the clear surface move.
Sweet cygnets, whiter than the new faln snow
That silvers ore Thessalian Pindus brow;
Purer than those that draw the queen of love,
Fayrer than Laeda's Jove,
Tune your melodious voices whiles I sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

Oft when the modest morn in purple drest,
Wak'd by the lively larke's love-learned laye,
Unbars the golden light gate of the east,
And as a bridemaid leads the blushing daye;
The sunnes bright harbinger before her goes
Scattering violet, scattering rose;
The jolly sunne, uprist with lusty pride,
Shakes his fair amber locks, and round him throws
His glitterand beams to wellcome up his bride;
Then bids his livery'd clouds before him flie,
And daunces up the skie.
Sweet is the breath of heaven with day spring born;
Sweet are the flowres, that ore the damaskt meads
To the new sunne unfold their velvet heads;
Sweet is the dewe, the spangled child of morn,
That does the leaves adorn;
Sweet is the matin hymne the glad birds sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

With early step yon verdant slope I tread
Crown'd with the florisht bowre of cremosin health;
Whence auntient Norwic rears her towred head,
Norwic, fair nurse of industrie and wealth!
Down in the dale my lowly hamlet lies,
Where truth without disguise,
Where dove-like peace, and virgin virtue where.
Hence Bacon's villa greets my pleasur'd eyes;
Bacon to Phoebus and the Muses deare,
Seeking, uncombred with the toyles of state,
This grove-embosom'd seate.
The tufted hill, the valley flowre-bedight,
The silver shinings of my winding Yare,
The corn green-springing, and the fallows seare,
The lambkins sporting round, rural delight,
From hence enchaunt the sight,
And wake the rural pipe, and tempt to sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

Oft when the eve demure with dewy eye,
Clad in a lengthned stole of raven-gray,
Assumes the sober empire of the skye,
The streakt west glimmering to the parting day;
When golden Hesperus, forth-streaming bright,
The leader of the night,
Marshals his radiant troopes, and gives command
In heaven's hie arch their lovely lamps to light;
Shouting he walks the Gideon of the band:
When first the youthfull moon begins to show
New-bent her blessed bow;
When, or uprising from her eastern bowre
Full-orb'd she strives her glowing face to shroud,
Gorgeously mantled in a lucid cloud;
Or all her beaming brightness deignes to powre
The silver'd landskip o'er;
And shepherd swains their evening carrols sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring,

Ore the new shaven level green I rove,
Where the fresh haycock breathes along the mead,
Or wander thro' th' uncertain shaded grove,
Or the trim margent of the river tread;
Where the soft murmurs of the poplars tall,
To the streames liquid fall
Attempred sweet, the museful mind delight;
Where the lone partridge to her mate does call,
Responsive in his homeward-hasting flight;
Where the lowe quail with modulation bland
Runnes piping ore the land;
Where, as I stray along the upland ground,
The farre-off clock just trembles to my ear;
Where the mad citties louder mirth I hear,
When swinging in full peal, a festive sound,
The deep bells roar around:
In mute attention hush'd I cease to sing;
Nor hills, nor dales, nor woods, nor fountaines ring.

Now night's pale fires a peacefull influence shed,
The flockes forget to bleat, the herds to low,
Loosely along the grassie green dispred:
The slumbring trees seem their tall tops to bow,
Rocking the careless birds that on them nest
To gentle, gentle rest;
Silent each one, save the lone nightingale,
Of all the tuneful sisters sweetest, best;
She, soft musitian, thro' th' encharmed dale
Powres dainty-dittied warbling to delight
The stillness of the night.
'Tis sacred thus to tread the dewy glade;
In the calme solitude of that still howre
To nature's God, the gratefull soul to powre
Or in the silvery shine, or doubtfull shade
By quivering branches made:
Rapt with the aweful thought I cease to sing;
Nor hills, nor dales, nor woods, nor fountaines ring.

When flaming in the zenith of his powre,
Darting directly down his fiery ray,
The hotte sunne, leaving his meridian bowre,
Enfevers with his beams the cloudlesse day;
The gadding herd from such a fervent skie
To the cool thicket flie,
Tormented with the bryzes teazefull sting;
Th' enduring sheep in th' hot sands panting lie;
The grashoppers, blithe insects, daunce and sing;
The mower swart his sweeping scythe forsakes,
The damzels quit their rakes,
And seated where the freshing shade is found
With joyous jolliment the daye beguile;
Sweet is the quaver'd laugh, the simper'd smile,
When, as the tale or gamesome song goes round,
The vocal vales resound;
Nor less to me, whiles I essay to sing,
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

Ye lordings great, that in prowde citties wonne,
Which gently-cooling breezes never blesse;
In gorgeous palaces with heat foredonne,
Come here and envy at my littlenesse.
All on a hanging hill, a simple home,
For its small tenant roome,
Safe-nested in the bosom of a grove,
Where pride, and strife, and envie never come,
Nor any cares, save the sweet cares of love:
A little garden gives a cool retreat
From the daies powrefull heat;
Where flowes my gentle Yare, whose bankes along
Th' inwoven branches, like a girlond made,
With wanton wreathing decke a daintie shade;
While the smooth watry glass, reflecting strong,
With bending bankes, and shades respondent vies,
Pointing to downward skies:
Here in this soft enclosure whiles I sing,
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

Here bountious nature, like a virgin faire,
Whose ladie fingers deck the velvet green
With cunning colourings of broidery rare
Sweetly enterchang'd the varied shades atween,
The grassie groundsoil, as a lovely bride,
Hath richly beautifide,
Strowing the primrose pale, the violet blew,
The silver'd snow drop, and the daisie pied,
The crocus glistering in its golden hew,
The cowslip drops of Amber weeping still,
The flaunting daffodil,
The virgin lillie, and the modest rose,
The prettie pink, the red and white yfere;
Flowres of all hewes that paint the various yeare;
And the mild zephyr, that emong them blows,
Around sweet odors throws,
Scenting the soft enclosure where I sing,
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

The chemist bee with busy murmurings
Extracts the soul of sweetness from each flowre,
Such as the Syracosian Thyrsis sings,
All in the shadow of the shepherd's bowre;
The stock-doves, darlings of the Mantuan swaine,
In melting murmurs plaine;
Sweet birds of such a swaine to be the care,
The sootest he that ever chaunted straine,
Or with the gladful pipe enthrald the ear;
Him, as he sung, the graces dauncing round,
With their own girlonds crown'd;
The nymphes that haunt the river and the grove,
Whether his skilful reed he sweetly charms,
Or strikes the sounding lyre, and sings of arms,
Apollo him, and him the Muses love
Their own blest quire above:
Ah! would they deigne their visits whiles I sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

Here the poetic birds no fear molests:
Did I, sweet tenants of my garden, say,
With ruthlesse hand ere marre your prettie nests,
Or steal th' unfeather'd innocence away?
For you my trees the spring's gay livery wear,
For you the ripening year
Purples the plum, in the deep cherrie glows,
And tempers the rich honie of the pear;
For you the laughing vine with nectar flows;
For you the permain, comely to behold,
Glows with irradiate gold,
The burnisht bough vermilioning; for you
The mellow'd fruit beyond its time has hung;
Well have you paid me, for you well have sung.
On nature's musick shall we not bestowe
Gifts we to nature owe?
Fond of our fellow poets while they sing,
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

An academic leisure here I find
With learning's lore to discipline my youth;
By virtue's wholesome rules to form my mind,
To seek and love the wise man's treasure, truth.
Oft too thy hallow'd sons enthroned hie,
O peerlesse poesie!
Sounding great thoughts my raptur'd mind delight;
He first, the glorious child of libertie,
Maeonian Milton, beaming heavenly bright;
He who full fetously the tale ytold,
The Kentish Tityrus old;
And he above the pride of greatness great,
Sweet Cowley, with the gentlest spirit blest
That ever breath'd a calme in humane brest;
Who the poor muses richest manor seat
The garden's mild retreat,
Wrapt in the arms of quiet lov'd to sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

And he, forth-beaming thro' the mystic shade
In all the might of magic sweetly strong;
Who steep'd in teares the pitious lines he made,
The tenderest bard that ere empassion'd song:
Or when of love's delights he cast to play,
Couth deftly dight the lay;
And with gay girlonds goodly beautifide,
Bound trew-love-wise to grace his bridale day,
With dainty carrols hymn'd this happy bride;
Lov'd Spenser, of trew verse the well-spring sweet!
The footing of whose feet I, painefull follower, assay to trace.
Bring fayrest flowres, the purest lillies bring,
With all the purple pride of all the spring;
And make great store of poses trim, to grace
The prince of poets race;
And hymen, hymen, io hymen sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

Witness ye hills, and dales, and woods, and plains,
Th' unmoved quiet of my silver daies,
Free here from all the cares, and all the pains
Whose storms do threat the citties dangerous waies:
There falsing forgery, and foule defame,
And lust of sclanderous blame;
There cancred tongues, school'd in th' ungracious art
To blast the bloosme of a well-deemed name;
Their malice wonneth deep in hollow hart;
Ambition there and pride, the lies of life,
Sleek guile, and carled strife:
Away plain honestie of simple eye,
And dove-like peace that calms the shepherd's day;
Away each science, and each muse away,
And single truth, and sunne-bright honour flie:
And lovely libertie:
Here then, sweet shade, O shield me whiles I sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountaines ring.

Thus on his rustic reed the recklesse swaine,
Smit with the peacefull joys of lowly life,
The world's gay shews forgiving, charm'd the plaine,
Withouten envie, and withouten strife:
All on a knot-grass bank, ore arched hie
With ivy-canopie,
And with wild roses richly well inwove,
He lay, and tun'd his rural minstrelsie;
When, lo! the favouring genius of the grove,
Fair Physis nam'd, to his entranced sight
Appeared heavenly bright:
Loose her fine tresses flow'd, like golden wire,
With budding flowrets perled all atween,
And shaded with a daintie girlond green;
And aye in green she did herself attire:
Beneath her feet in youthful rich array
A voluntary May
Threw sweets, threw flowres; the birds more joyous sing;
The hills, the dales, the woods, the fountains ring.

Then with a smile that brighten'd all the shade,
Mild she bespake, and deign'd to press his hand,
Enough, fond youth, to Physis has been paid
Break then thy rural pipe at her command:
These woodnotes wild, this flowre-perfumed aire,
And thy sweet-streaming yare
Must charm no more; no more the hallow'd cell,
Where white rob'd peace, and free-born fancy faire
With sacred solitude delight to dwell.
Wake then the spark of glorious great intent
In action excellent
That fires the noble-passion'd soul to shine:
In all the depths of useful lore engage,
To grace thy youth, and dignifie thine age:
Ne ween that Physis bids those paths decline,
For all those paths are mine.
Change then the straine; to hill, to valley tell
Farewells sweet shade: sweet poplar shade, farewell.

But, ah! beware; for in this goodly chace
A vile enchauntress spreds her vaine delights;
With guilefull semblants charming all that pass,
Till she enslaved hath their feeble sprights:
And sooth she is to view a lady faire,
Of beauty past compare:
And aye around her croud a gorgeous throng,
Skill'd in the mincing step, the vestment rare,
And the fine squeaking of an eunuch's song;
But sacred science, tender love, trew fame,
And honor's heaven born flame
They know not; yet the pompous name vertù
To th' idle pageant give: she cruel prowd
Deals magic charms emong the carelesse crowd,
And does them all to hideous apes transmew.
But fear not thou the minion's magic pride,
For Physis is thy guide:
Come then: to hill, to dale this burden tell,
Farewell, sweet shade: sweet poplar shade, farewell.

To Cosme's polish'd court thy steps I'll lead,
My sister she, tho' eft we strangers seem;
Far otherwise of us the wise aread,
But follies feeble eyes of things misdeem.
The straw roof'd cott, the pastur'd mead I love,
The mavis-haunted grove,
The moss-clad mountaine hoar, a rugged scene;
Along the streamlet's mazy margent rove,
That sweetly steals the broken rocks atween:
She thro' the manner'd cittie powres the flame
Of high atchieved fame,
The star-bright guerdon of the great and good;
And breathes her vivid spirit in the mind
Whose generous aimes extend to all mankind,
And vindicate the worth of noble blood;
Such as, in bowre Lycaean holding place,
The man of Spargrove grace:
Come then; to hill, to dale this burden tell,
Farewell, sweet shade: sweet poplar shade, farewell,

Als like a girlond her enring around
The sphere born Muses lyring heavenly strains;
The graces eke with bosoms all unzon'd,
A trinal band that concord sweet maintains;
And who is she that, placed them atween,
Seems a fourth grace I ween?
So looks the rubie pretious rare, enchaced
In the bright crownet of a maiden queen.
Each science too with verdant bay leaves graced,
With honour brought from Attic land again,
Adorns the radiant train.
Come then, let nobler aimes thy soul inspire:
But bring the cherub Innocence along,
And Contemplation sage, on pineon strong
High-soaring ore yon lamping orb of fire—
Thus pip'd the Doric oate, while echoes shrill,
To fountaine, dale, and hill
Resyllabling the notes, this burden tell,
Farewell, sweet shade: sweet poplar shades farewell.

[Bell's Fugitive Poetry (1789-97) 11:105-19]