1750
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Elegiac Ode on the Death of the Reverend Mr. Mordecai Andrew. A Vision.

Juvenilia: Poems on Various Subjects of Devotion and Virtue. By Thomas Gibbons.

Rev. Thomas Gibbons


A visionary dialogue with Death in eight irregular Spenserians (ababcC) by a dissenting clergyman. The use of this measure may have been suggested by Robert Dodsley's Pain and Patience, first published in 1742. This is not the same poem as An Elegy sacred to the Memory of the Reverend Mr. Mordecai Andrews, by Thomas Gutteridge (1750).

Gibbons evidently made a speciality of elegy, leading to some wicked satire on his verses published in the London Magazine: "I with the rest have oft-times read | Your panegyricks on the dead, | And wept, for how could I refuse, | To weep your sad departed muse? | I griev'd your friends should still supply | Fresh matter for an elegy" 18 (September 1750) 424.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Thomas Gibbons, D.D., 1720-1785, a Calvinist dissenting divine, a native of Reak, minister of the Indpendent congregation at Haberdashers' Hall, London, 1743-85. He published many sermons, treatises, poems, memoirs, a collection of hymns, &c., 1743-87" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:665.

Herbert E. Cory: "This stanza [ababcC] was quite as popular as Prior's variation ... e.g. On Happiness and Palinoda, in J. Husbands's Miscellany of Poems by Several Hands (1731). Dodsley, the publisher, contributed two deadly effusions: Pain and Patience (1742) and On the Death of Mr. Pope (1744?). The Juvenilia of Thomas Gibbons contains an Elegiac Ode on the Death of the Rev. Mordecai Andrew, A Vision. Dodsley supplementary Collection (1783) contains a poem in this stanza, The Hospitable Oak, of more interest because it practically retells Spenser's fable of the oak in 'Februarie' with a liberal use of archaisms, etc. The stanza has remained popular to this day" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 60.



Struck with the News of ANDREWS' sudden Fate,
(So falls a Tree, with Fruits ambrosial crown'd,
Torn by the Tempest, from its tow'ring Height,
And lays its Honours prostrate on the Ground)
URANIA pour'd the Anguish of her Breast,
Till Slumber clos'd her Eyes, and solemn Visions drest.

Methought, triumphant from his recent Blow,
Before me DEATH'S terrific Spectre stood;
With This Hand grasping his strong Ebon Bow,
With That his Shafts that drop'd with human Blood;
When thus my Lips the awful Silence broke,
Pale Fear bedew'd my Limbs, and chill'd me as I spoke.

"Say why, tremendous POW'R, should ANDREWS feel
In blooming Youth thine Arrow's fatal Force?
ANDREWS, who, kindled with seraphic Zeal,
With heav'nly Blessings mark'd his rising Course;
Skill'd to instruct and charm the list'ning Throng,
And from his Life enforce the Counsels of his Tongue.

Thou could'st, while ANDREWS still had grac'd the Stage,
Have pity'd hoary Nature's hourly Groans;
Or kindly finish'd the despairing Rage
Of weeping Ulcers, or of racking Stones;
Or from his Seat some impious Wretch have hurl'd,
His Nation's Plague accurs'd, and Terror of the World.

In this vast Stroke what clust'ring Woes are found?
Widows and Orphans mix their piercing Cries,
And Friendship bleeding with a ghastly Wound
Unlocks the gushing Fountains of her Eyes,
While his Church pours th' inconsolable Moan,
And Tear fast flows on Tear, and Groan resounds to Groan."

I spoke; the gloomy TERROR mild replies:
"Know I'm the Servant of th' Eternal King;
And, fraught with sov'reign Orders from the Skies,
I point my Shafts, and stretch the fatal String:
Then urge not this opprobrious Charge on me,
On me compell'd by Heav'n t' accomplish its Decree.

"A Pris'ner Thou of this terrestrial Ball,
And Clouds and Mazes will perplex thy Sight,
Till I, obeying the celestial Call,
Unbind thy Chains, and bid Thee spring to Light,
To Light empyreal, where thy ravish'd Eyes
Shall see from clashing Scenes harmonious Wisdom rise.

"Mean Time be active, while thy Sunbeams last;
Be patient in Affliction's gloomy Hour:
Think not I creep too slow or fly too fast,
All are immortal till their Work is o'er.
T' inflame these heav'nly Dictates I impart,
From ANDREWS' Life transcribe, and wear him at thine Heart."

[pp. 120-23]