1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Melancholy.

Epicedia Oxoniensia in Obitum Celsissimi et Desideratissimi Frederici Principis Walliae.

Rev. Foote Gower


An adaptation of Milton's Il Penseroso composed as an elegy for Prince Frederick, addressed in the conventional terms as a parent and patron of the arts: "But now this genial Heat is fled, | Fair Poesy reclines her Head: | Sculpture inanimated stands, | And drops the Chizel from her Hands: | Whilst Music, melancholic-slow, | Can only trill the Note of Woe." Foote Gower, who took a degree in medicine, was later a clergyman and antiquary. He was a Fellow of Brasenose College.

Henry Augustus Beers: "The imaginative literature of the years 1740-60 was largely the literature of low spirits. The generation was persuaded, with Fletcher, that 'Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy.' But the muse of their inspiration was not the tragic Titaness of Durer's painting: 'The Melancholia that transcends all wit' [James Thomson, City of Dreadful Night] rather the 'mild Miltonic maid,' Pensive Meditation" Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century (1899) 162.



Hence ye Pleasures fond, and vain,
Hence ye light, fantastick Train!
But come, Thou Goddess, sad, and slow,
Who tread'st the solemn step of Woe!

Come, and with Thee bring along
The pensive Sigh, and plaintive Song,
The wrinkled Brow, the Visage drear,
The bursting Heart, and starting Tear,
Grief, that in stupid Silence stands,
And Sorrow wringing both his Hands.

Come at Horror's highest Noon,
When howling Dogs proclaim the Moon,
When the Schreech-Owl tunes her Throat,
And lengthens out the boding Note,
When, from the Ivy-mantl'd Tow'r,
Sullen sounds the Midnight Hour.

Sober-suited be thy Trim,
Thy waxen Taper blazing dun,
To cast around a serious Gloom,
And glimmer in the silent Tomb;
Where repose the pompous Dead,
Where the mighty lay their Head.

Hail! Goddess, Hail! and with me deign
To meditate this darkling Scene—
Its scanty Limits, scarce a Span,
Its hoarded Treasures, Wrecks of Man,
Reason, Beauty, Honour, Birth,
Lost in mould'ring Dust and Earth.

Yet here, in mimic State, must lie
The Glory of this nether Sky;
Whose awful Brow cou'd doom to Death,
Whose Smile recall the parting Breath,
Whose Pow'r benign, with copious Hand,
Cou'd scatter Plenty round a Land.

The Orphan eat His daily Bread;
He eat, and blest the Hand that fed.
The Widow told her piteous Tale—
The wasting Oil forgets to fail.
Her smiling Offspring round her rise,
And catch the Comfort from her Eyes.

Ev'n Mis'ry ceas'd to clank its Chain,
He charm'd away its Sense of Pain:
Ev'n Care cou'd blunt its sharpest Sting,
And 'midst her Torments laugh and sing:
Envy unmov'd cou'd gaze at Bliss,
And bid her Gorgons cease their Hiss.

The Sister-Graces beat the Earth
Light, in all the Maze of Mirth.
In Saffron Robe, and loosen'd zone,
They led the laughing Seasons on;
Cherub Joy, with aspect bland,
Attendant on the decent Band.

Ah! Goddess, such the Halcyon Times,
When FRED'RICK hail'd these blissful Climes;
When, like the Bird whose Mattin rings,
He foster'd us beneath his Wings;
And, by the Boon of partial Heaven,
To us the brooding Warmth was given.

But now this genial Heat is fled,
Fair Poesy reclines her Head:
Sculpture inanimated stands,
And drops the Chizel from her Hands:
Whilst Music, melancholic-slow,
Can only trill the Note of Woe.

And hark! amidst the mournful Gloom
Slow winds a murmur round the Tomb,
Which seems to sound in hollow Strain,
This is Melancholy's reign.

[sigs 8H-8H2]