1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Marcellus: a Monody.

Marcellus: a Monody. Humbly inscrib'd to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales. By Mr. Delap, M.A. Fellow of Magdalen College, Cambridge.

Rev. John Delap


John Delap, a Cambridge Fellow, offers up the "artless loyal teen" to the Princess of Wales, praising her departed husband as a patron of poets and father of children. The elegy, written in the manner of Milton's Lycidas, is notable for its less common Spenserian archaisms: "Full many an hour, his Offspring pratling round, | In gentle dalliance has he fondly smil'd; | Full many an hour, sequester'd from annoys, | In tender amorous talk, has he beguil'd, | With the dear Partner of his dearest joys" p. 7.

In 1756 Delap became William Mason's curate at Aston; this poem is so much in Mason's style one wonders whether they might have been exchanging verses. When Lloyd and Colman's burlesque of the odes by Gray and Mason was published, Gray suggested to Mason that Delap might be called upon to compose a response: "You talk of writing a comment. I do not desire you should be employed in any such office; but what if Delap (inspired by a little of your intelligence) should do such a matter; it will get him a shilling; but it must bear no name, nor must he know I mentioned it" 1757; in Works of Gray, ed. Gosse (1895) 2:329. In letter of the same year Gray speculated that Delap might have been the author of Robert Dodsley's anonymous Melpomene. Delap's Elegies were said to be in the manner of Gray, and his tragedies in the manner of Mason.

The many elegies appearing on this occasion drew some sharp comments in the London Daily Advertiser: "Casting my Eye this Morning over a Multitude of modern Pamphlets, the Remains of a Collection made within the Compass of the last six Weeks, and out of which I had already selected, as they came in, all that appeared worthy of the Notice of the Public, or of their faithful Servant, the Inspector; I found myself possessed of no less than thirteen Poems, under the different Names of Elegies, Monodies, Threnodies, and Elegiac Pastorals, on that solemn and affecting Subject, the Death of the Prince of Wales.... The great Mistake of these several Elegy, Monody, and Threnody writers seems to have been the supposing that a great Subject would be sure to produce a great Poem" 6 May 1751.



Ye virgin-train, that whilom wak'd your lyres,
Fast by the chrystal springs of Helicon,
To heav'nly strains of joy those dulcet Notes
Ill suit a Nation's universal moan,
When ev'ry hope with their lost Prince is gone.
The thrilling voice of joy no longer floats
O'er pale Britannia's sadly-silent shore;
MARCELLUS is no more!
But oh, the doleful change! the plaintive muse,
In cypress crown'd, must pour her piteous loan
Of sigh, and tear, and heart-empiercing groan!

Come then, Melpomene, begin the Lay,
With rueful Tears your sorrowing Dirges steep,
Such tears as erst your sister-muse did weep
For her dear twin-Palici: every stream
Shall stop to hear your theme,
Then sadly murmur to the plaintive shore
MARCELLUS is no more!
And feeble Echo from her aery cave
Shall back return the note, and ev'ry vale,
With all its flow'rs shall droop to hear the tale.

How can he lie unwept who knew to raise
Esteem and love in every loyal heart.
He was the pride of ev'ry Shepherd's praise,
Grac'd with each decent and each princely part.
Nor did the muse ungrateful pour her lays;
He oft wou'd listen to the poet's art:
And oft alone, beneath the muse's grot,
Hid from a nation's eye, he sat and thought.

Full many an hour, his Offspring pratling round,
In gentle dalliance has he fondly smil'd;
Full many an hour, sequester'd from annoys,
In tender amorous talk, has he beguil'd,
With the dear Partner of his dearest joys.
Mean while the foe of Life, with treacherous art,
In sly destruction prey'd upon his heart;
And yet no fatal symptom did appear;
The blood still mantled on his rosy cheek
As Phoebus oft the clouds with gold doth streak,
While brooding storms engender in the air.

Where was your knowledge then, you sapient Tribe,
That boast commandment o'er the pulse of life?
Was not a Princess' tears sufficient bribe,
Cou'd not a King's, a Nation's, pray'rs prevail
To make your nicest skill explore his ail?
Some few more Years the breath of Life supply,
And keep him from the Sky—
Ah me, what boots your skill? — Not all the pray'rs
That pale Britannia, and her King might pour;
Not all Augusta's sadly-flowing Tears,
Not Aesculapius' Sons with all their care,
Might ward the black inevitable hour,
Or could their Prince's vital Band repair,
Which in their mood the fatal Sisters tore.

Alas, he droop'd in life's maturest age,
While Albion's sceptre hung before his view;
And thrice the wise Machoan did presage
That Febris her inflaming rage withdrew;
Yet then renewing her malignant strife,
The deadly Fiend unhous'd his tender Life.
Then stream'd the tear from ev'ry British eye.
But chief th' unhappy sire, in dismal plight,
Detests the odious light,
And with loud wailings tears the arched sky.
And calls on death to bring a kind reprieve,
And lay his cruel sorrows in the grave.

But ah! my Muse, how may thy voice record,
Tho' well I ween thou shar'st her piteous state,
The tender unimaginable woe,
Of his dear Consort for her ravish'd Lord,
Torn by the hand of unrelenting Fate!
Then hide the tears thou canst not give to flow.
Enough, that when reviving life did chase
Death's dismal image from her pallid face;
With manly shew she mask'd her sorrows dread;
And greatly strove to chear with kind relief
Her tender Offspring's sympathetic grief,
Who at their Mother's wretched plight grew sad.
What heart so stony but did melt in tears?
See pale Britannia wears,
Thro' all her Sons, one dismal face of woe.
Nor British eyes alone do overflow;
See even the Orcades and frozen Realms
By Ocean's wat'ry barrier sunder'd far,
Pay their full tribute of a tender tear.

Mean while the awful tongue of death doth pierce
Night's drowzy ear, with tollings, deep and slow;
And now the solemn pealing Organs blow.
The winking Lamps a dusky lustre shed
Along the Mansions of the Dead,
Where mould'ring Kings in silent dust repose.
And now with often interrupted sighs,
The Lawn-rob'd Prelate his last duty pays,
And dust to dust conveys:
And now entomb'd his sacred body lies,
Free from the cares, that this vain life enclose.
Up to yon regions of eternal day,
The free, unbodied spirit wings its way;
There in the bosom of its god doth bide
In pure, immaculate, unshaken bliss;
Nor recks the loss of earthly Kingdom's pride,
Enthron'd for aye in heavenly paradise.

And thou, sad Consort of a Prince too good
Longer to visit this forsaken clime;
Ah! cease to weary the relentless sky,
With bitter penance and with bootless tears.
Nor deem with vainly-pious pray'rs
To draw him from his blissful dear abode;
Where now he never more may fear to die,
Nor grieve, save when your plaints wou'd him recall,
Nor lent for aye to your fond hopes, I ween!
And oh! forgive the muse, whose daring lays
Wou'd grateful pour her artless loyal teen;
Reckless that true to draw a Prince's praise,
Asks the nice touches of a master-had,
Since she may see in your fair Offspring plann'd
The graceful dowries of their Father's mind;
See Mercy, Truth, Religion, Liberty,
Beneath the shine of your enliv'ning eye,
And ev'ry virtue that may bless mankind.

[pp. 5-11]