1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Untitled, "As in yon mossy grot retir'd I lay."]

Academiae Cantabrigiensis Luctus in Obitum Frederici Celsissimi Walliae Principis.

Rev. William Bell


The most ambitious poem in this Cambridge collection of elegies for Prince Frederick imitates Spenser's Astrophel, though omitting the pastoral machinery. William Bell emphasizes Frederick's public role as exemplary father and patron of the arts. Bell went on to a very successful clerical career, becoming chaplain to Princess Amelia and Treasurer of St. Paul's. Late in life he donated a large sum of money to Cambridge to support the orphans of clergymen at the university.

C. H. Cooper: "On the death of Frederick Prince of Wales, the University published a collection of poems, entitled Academiae Cantabrigiensis Luctus in Obitum Frederici Celsissimi Walliae Principis. Amongst the authors were Edmund Keene Vicechancellor afterwards Bishop of Ely, Hon. John Cavendish of Peterhouse fourth son of the Duke of Devonshire, Hon. William Hervey of Corpus Christi College fourth son of Lord Hervey, Hon. James Yorke of Corpus Christi College afterwards Bishop of Ely, Henry Cavendish of Peterhouse eldest son of the Hon. Charles Cavendish, Sir John Armytage Bart. of Trinity College, William Richardson D.D. Master of Emmanuel College, John Green D.D. Regius Professor of Divinity and Master of Corpus Christi College afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, William Bell of Magdalene College, John Hinchliffe of Trinity College afterwards Bishop of Peterborough, Erasmus Darwin of St. John's College, James Marriott of Trinity Hall afterwards Judge of the Admiralty, Richard Cumberland of Trinity College, Francis Maseres of Clare Hall, and Roger Lang D.D. Master of Pembroke Hall and Lowndean Professor" Annals of Cambridge (1842-53) 4:284.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "William Bell, 1731-1816, prebendary of Westminster, and treasurer of St. Paul's, was a student and Fellow of Magdalen College, Cambridge. He was noted for his liberality and general excellence of character. He transferred, in 1810, £15,200 three per cent. consols to the University of Cambridge, as a foundation for eight new scholarships, to be bestowed upon the sons of poor clergymen" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:161.

Earl R. Wasserman: "At the universities Spenser's poetry became one of the favorite models for the verse in the very erudite and very deadly commemorative volumes. The resulting verse is, at best, competent rather than effective, but these academic exercises give evidence of the dignity of Spenser's reputation and of his popularity in university circles even before Warton's scholarly analysis of his epic.... For some reason, the marriage of Prince Frederick to Augusta of Saxe-Gotha in 1736 and Frederick's death in 1751 suggested Spenser to a number of Oxonians who commemorated the occasion in verse.... Influenced by the Faerie Queen" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 149.



As in yon mossy grot retir'd I lay,
While yet no eastern cloud bespoke the day,
And busy Nature all around was still,
All but the whisp'ring breeze, and murm'ring rill;
To Meditation sweet the scene inclin'd,
And wak'd new transports in my pensive mind.
When straight a sigh the hardest heart would fear,
Shot thro' my grot, and pierc'd my trembling ear:
And lo! before me stood a lovely Fair,
In look majestick, and divine in air;
But in her downcast eye sat woe confest,
Pale was her cheek, fast heav'd her snowy breast;
Her golden tresses all neglected flow'd,
And all her mien some mournful Goddess shew'd.
"Say heav'n-born Maid, why hither art thou come
To leave for dusky groves thy azure dome;
What dread impending fate dost thou impart,
With swelling grief to burst each British heart?"
Then She, as off she wip'd the gushing tear,
"Behold, whom once you knew, sad Clio here:
Not so, whene'er at thy request I came
With rapt'rous fire to feed thy youthful flame
Not so, all bath'd in tears did Clio sing,
Or ought from heav'n but heav'nly transports bring.
But now alas! ye pleasing themes retire,
Far other airs must breathe from Clio's lyre.
For know by Phoebus' high behest I come
To tell fair Albion's unexpected doom;
The mournful tale thro' all her realms to spread,
Chill the young heart, and bow the silver'd head.
Oh! Albion's Sons your hapless lot deplore,
The great, the much-lov'd FRED'RIC is no more.

Nature, the fondest parent of this isle,
Who form'd and bless'd it with her sweetest smile,
Saw with a mother's pangs Fate's wasteful hand,
And rent with deep-fetch'd sighs the tott'ring land.
The sigh so deep, so strong the rushing blast,
As laid your isle's far noblest honours waste:
All wild it's fury with relentless sway
Tore in it's sweepy course whole woods away;
While tow'ring spires fell shatter'd to the ground;
And pale Britannia shudder'd at the wound.
Nor here alone were Nature's groans perceiv'd,
All Europe felt them, and all Europe griev'd.
Old Rhenus, when the dread decree he heard,
To comfort Ocean for his dying Lord,
Alarm'd, forsook at once his oozy bed,
And rais'd above the stream his rushy head;
Then roll'd his waves impetuous to the main,
Burst his high bounds, and delug'd all the plain.
Nor will the Muse Thee, Sequana, forget,
Unmov'd you could not hear the cruel fate.
What tho' thy floods in Gallic channels flow,
More us'd to noisy mirth, than modest woe?
What tho' thy verdant banks a lord must own
The rival of Britannia's high renown?
Thy softer breast a nobler passion fir'd,
And swell'd with sighs when Albion's hopes expir'd.
Alas! relentless Destiny forbad;
Else with what eager haste would you have fled;
Your beauteous shore, and dew-pearl'd haunts forgot,
The shelly palace, and the chrystal grot;
To mix your murm'ring waves with silver Thames,
And weep at once in sympathetic streams?
And you too gentle, venerable Cam,
Who lave the Muse's seat, so fair in fame,
Thy peaceful urn with their's essay'd to join,
And in one plaint united woes combine.
To Thames their floods obsequious all they pour,
While silver Thames still kept his wonted shore.
'Twas there no foaming wave with fury toss'd
Sunk the light bark, or marr'd the lovely coast:
Bow'd with mute grief his reed-curl'd honors low,
His streams, each murmur hush'd, forgot to flow:
No sporting breeze the mimic billow trac'd,
No rising rill the playful Zephyr chac'd.

And well these honours may His Name demand,
And higher far from this once happy land.
Pour forth your urns, weep all your floods away;
Too small a tribute to His worth to pay.
Indulge, ye Britons, now your gen'rous grief,
Now give the tear to flow, the breast to heave;
The heaving breast, the flowing tear will tell,
How Albion's Sons cou'd weep; when FRED'RIC fell.
Now sound soft-breathing airs to mournful strains,
Call all the valley nymphs, and wood land trains,
Each fountain Goddess, and each sacred name
From which the cooly grots derive their fame:
Then raise at once the elegiac lay,
And Echo waft the pious strain away,
High o'er the cloud-top'd hills, and far above
Where Fate permits the curious eye to rove;
There shall resound immortal FRED'RIC's praise,
And He will smile propitious on your lays.

And who more worth the Muse's sweetest song,
Of all that glorious; that heroic throng,
Who crowd the fairest page of blooming Fame,
And still fresh trophies to their honour claim?
Is it for those, whose wills all mortals sway,
To deal them woes, and ravish joys away?
Are then the Gods so much to envy giv'n,
And dwell such passions in the Pow'rs of Heav'n?
Else why command with such a fatal haste
Cold Death in teeming bloom such hope's to blast?
But that — forgive ye Powers! nor truth disown;
The Gods of Albion's bliss were jealous grown,
And sigh'd for FRED'RIC to increase their own.

Well might ye sigh, too happy Powers above;
For sure he knew to merit heav'nly love.
A soul so great, and yet so modest too;
All, all but FRED'RIC his own virtues knew.
Yes, mighty GEORGE, He grac'd thy glorious name,
Sacred to high renown, and lasting fame.
Search all thy freedom-loving race to meet
One more exalted, or more truly great.
What tho' his sword ne'er led the deep array,
Beam'd on embattled ranks, and flash'd dismay?
What tho' his arm unus'd sure fate to wield,
Ne'er strew'd, like Thine, with foes the well-fought field?
A heart as brave His manly breast could boast
As or the Trojan, or the Grecian host,
When dauntless Hector spread the carnage wide,
Or dread Achilles stemm'd the battle's tide.
But tim'rous Albion — ah! how vain her care;
Ne'er sent Him forth to roll the din of war,
Or crown with lawrels the triumphal carr.

But to each rip'ning Art t' extend His aid,
And call each finer science from the shade;
To know in war's just fury to engage,
And when to rouse, and when to check its rage;
The salutary balm of peace to pour,
And waft rich commerce to the smiling shore;
To rule a People with an equal sway,
Jealous of rights, yet willing to obey;
Upon His Subject's love to build His throne,
Their joys all His, and His their fair renown:
This, this, great Prince, was thy transcendent praise;
For this, my Sons, each olive trophy raise.

Oh! had the Fates but spun thy silken thread,
Till Albion's crown had grac'd thy royal head,
Then might the Muse have spar'd her feeble lay,
Nor veil'd thy glories in a weak essay.
But since they now that happy lot deny,
Pour the sad verse, nor stop the tearful eye.
The pious act to distant times may shew
The Muses taught Britannia's tears to flow:
For oh! each Muse must weep the fatal day,
That snatch'd their Patron, and their pride away.

Yet not for ever flows the gen'rous stream,
Nor hides reviving joy her friendly beam.
His course tho' short with happiest love was blest,
And each soft transport of the social breast,
With Virtue, Fortune to adorn Him vied,
That gave Desert, and This the fairest Bride.
Had then Apelles drew the Queen of Love,
He sure had left the Goddess with her Dove;
Here he had found a nobler image far,
And Virtue finish'd ev'ry grace and air.
See, the big drops upon His urn She pours;
So looks Aurora in the softest showers.
"And is it thus, She cries, my joys are flown,
My ev'ry hope, my ev'ry comfort gone?
Were these the promises of fraudful Fate,
That crown'd with ev'ry bliss our happy state?
Did it profusely all its blessings shed,
To sink at once this grief-devoted head?
The kindest Husband, the sincerest Friend,
And fondest Father, all in FRED'RIC end.
Ye little Mimics of His Godlike grace,
Well may Ye boast the semblance of his face;
But in Your tender minds with virtue sown
He drew a fairer portrait of his own."
The constant Partner of His bliss and care,
Each joy She heighten'd, and each grief would share.
And when the Fates pronounc'd the dire command,
And Death shook horrible his ebon wand,
On Her fair breast his drooping head He lay,
And sigh'd to rest His gentle soul away.
His trembling hand Her willing arm embrac'd,
And strove, 'twas all it could, to grasp it fast;
His dying eyes with interrupted gaze,
By turns survey'd, then lost the much-lov'd face;
Pale grew the cheek th' expiring Prince ador'd,
And all the Fair seem'd dying with Her Lord.

So when stern Winter waves his iron wing,
And leaves the frozen earth to softer Spring;
While breathing sweets Pomona calls the flow'rs,
Paints the gay meads, and decks the fragrant flow'rs,
Fair Clytia, mindful of her hapless love,
Peeps forth unseen in some untrodden grove.
There when the God of Light reveals the day
To eastern hills she turns, and courts his ray,
And turning still when in the midmost sky
Sees with fond pain his winged coursers fly;
But when down western steeps his carr they bear,
Hangs her pale head, and drops a dewy tear.

But cease, my Sons, enough to grief is giv'n,
Nor weep impatient at the will of Heav'n.
Bless'd is great FRED'RIC in those bright abodes,
Where dwell in bliss serene th' immortal Gods.
There all the Heroes ample Time can boast
Proclaim His welcome thro' the lawrel'd host;
O'er the arch'd sky their echoing shout rebounds,
And FRED'RIC's name from pole to pole resounds.
And see; great GEORGE still Albion's sceptre sways;
Sweep, sweep the sounding lyre to GEORGE'S praise.
Far distant years, and happiest times shall rise,
E'er He, His labours past, shall seek the skies.
Great GEORGE'S brow Britannia's crown shall grace,
Till FRED'RIC's Son can fill the Monarch's place.
And sure, if e'er Apollo could presage,
E'er read aright in Time's yet hidden page,
A Prince as glorious as e'er wore her crown
In blooming GEORGE shall happy Albion own.
Fraught with all Wisdom's precept can inspire,
Fir'd by the bright example of his Sire,
Eager for Virtue's prize He'll mount the throne,
And teach th' admiring world He's FRED'RIC'S Son."

So sung the Muse immortal FRED'RIC's fame,
While list'ning valleys echoed back the name.
"Go sing to all," she said, "the Muse's lay;"
Then spread her silver wings, and cut the liquid way.

[sigs S-T]