1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Untitled, "Little I whilom deem'd, my artless zeal."]

Epicedia Oxoniensia in Obitum Celsissimi et Desideratissimi Frederici Principis Walliae.

David Murray


Some elegant Spenserian diction and many patriotic sentiments are offered by a distinguished Oxonian abroad. This elegy for Prince Frederick is one of very few poems in such collections to become an anthology piece — it was collected in Vicesimus Knox's Elegant Extracts. Murray's family had patronized the Spenserian poet Samuel Boyse.

Horace Walpole to Horace Mann: "We have been overwhelmed with lamentable Cambridge and Oxford dirges on the Prince's death: there is but one tolerable copy; it is by a young Lord Stormont, a nephew of Murray, who is much commended" 18 June 1751; in Letters, ed. Cunningham (1906) 260.

Thirty years later this poem was reprinted as a satire on "the noble author" with notes "Scriblerus," e.g.: "It is remarkable that the author has written most of his best poetic performances at Paris. It is well known, that, during his last residence there, he was very intimate in the family of Mons. Neckar. One would naturally have concluded, that the reasons of his visits were of a political nature — that he wished to avail himself of the distinguished financiering abilities of that Minister, and perhaps collected information there, which he could not have procured through any other channel. No such thing. I am well assured, that his intimacy was chiefly with the female part of the family. We are told, that Jupiter would sometimes condescend to dance among the inferior deities, and that Kings have now and then not disdained to converse with a Pinchbeck; Who then shall dare to censure an Ambassador, if he has often unbended his mind, to compose petite jeu d'esprit with Madame Neckar and her sister?" London Courant (21 March 1781).

John Nichols appends a note, suggesting that the young nobleman may be "supposed, like Teucer, to have been materially assisted by an Ajax in classical learning, now a most reverend Prelate" Select Collection of Poems (1780-82) 8:202n. This was perhaps William Markham; see D. Nichol Smith, "Thomas Warton's Miscellany: The Union" RES 19 (1943) 267-68, and Correspondence of Thomas Warton, ed. Fairer (1995) 346n.



Little I whilom deem'd, my artless zeal
Shou'd woo the British Muse in foreign Land
To strains of bitter Argument, and teach
The mimic Nymph, that haunts the winding Verge
And oozy current of Parisian Seine
To syllable new sounds in accent strange.

But sad occasion calls, who now forbears
The last kind Office, who but consecrates
His Off'ring at the shrine of fair Renown
To gracious FRED'RICK rais'd, though but composed
Of the waste flourets, whose neglected hues
Checquer the lonely hedge, or mountain slope.
Where are those hopes, where fled th' illusive scenes
That forgeful Fancy plan'd, what time the Bark
Stem'd the salt wave from Albion's chalky bourn.
Then filial piety and parting love
Pour'd the fond pray'r; "Farewell, ye less'ning Cliffs
Fairer to me, than ought in fabled Song
Or mystic record told of shores Atlantic.
Favour'd of Heav'n, farewell, imperial Isle,
Native to noble wits, and best approved
In manly science and advent'rous deed.
Celestial Freedom, by rude hand estranged
From regions once frequented, with Thee takes
Her stedfast station, fast beside the Throne
Of sceptred Rule, and there her state maintains
In social concord, and harmonious Love.
These blessings still be thine, nor medling Fiend
Stir in your busy Streets foul Faction's roar.
Still thrive your growing works, and Gales propitious
Visit your Sons who ride the wat'ry waste,
And still be heard from forth your gladsome Bowers
Shrill taberpipes, and ev'ry peaceful sound.

"Nor vain the wish, while GEORGE the golden scale
With steddy prudence holds, and temp'rate sway.
And when His course of earthly honour's run
With lenient hand shall FRED'RICK sooth your care,
Rich in each Princely quality, mature
In years, and happiest in nuptial choice.
Thence too arise new hopes, a playful troop
Circles his hearth, sweet pledge of that bed
Which Faith, and Joy, and thousand Virtues guard.
His be the care t' inform their ductile minds
With worthiest thoughts, and point the ways of honour.
How often shall he hear with fresh delight
Their earnest tales, or watch their rising passions
With timorous attention, then shall tell
Of justice, fortitude and public weal,
And oft the while each rigid precept smooth
With winning tokens of parental love."

Thus my o'erweening heart the secret stores
Of Britain's hope explored, while my strain'd sight
Pursued her fading hills, till wrapt in mist
They gently sunk behind the swelling Tide.
Nor slept those thoughts, whene'er in other Climes
I mark'd the cruel waste of foul oppression,
Saw noblest Sp'rits, and goodliest faculties
To vassalage, and loathsome service bound.
Then conscious pref'rence rose, then Northward turn'd
My eye, to gratulate my natal Soil.
How have I chid with froward eagerness
Each veering blast that from my hand witheld,
The well known characters of some lov'd friend
Though distant not unmindful; still I learn'd
Delighted, what each Patriot plan devised
Of Arts, or glory, or diffusive Commerce.
Nor wanted it's endearment every Tale
Of lightest import. But, oh! heavy change!
What notices come now? distracted Scenes
Of helpless sorrow, solemn sad accounts,
How fair AUGUSTA watch'd the weary night
Tending the bed of anguish, how great GEORGE
Wept with his infant Progeny around,
How heav'd the Orphan's and the Widow's sigh
That follow'd FRED'RICK to his silent tomb.

For well was FRED'RICK loved, and well deserv'd,
His voice was ever sweet, and on his steps
Attended ever the alluring grace
Of gentle lowliness and social zeal.
Him shall remember oft the labour'd Hind
Relating to his mates each casual act
Of courteous bounty. Him th' Artificer
Plying the varied woof in sullen sadness,
Though wont to carol many a ditty sweet.
Soon too the Mariner, who many moons
Has counted, beating still the foamy Surge,
And treads at last the wish'd for beach, shall stand
Appall'd at the sad tale, and soon shall steal
Down his rough cheek th' involuntary tear.

Be this our solace yet; all is not dead;
The bright memorial lives; from his example
Shall Hymen trim his torch, domestic praise
Be countenanced, and Virtue fairer shew.
In age succeeding when another GEORGE
To ratify some weighty Ordinance
Of Britain's Peers convened, shall pass beside
Those hallow'd Spires, whose gloomy vaults enclose
Shrouded in sleep pale rows of Sceptred Kings,
Oft to his sense the sweet paternal voice
And long-remembred features shall return,
Then shall his gen'rous breast be new enflamed
To acts of highest worth and honest Fame.

These plaintive strains from Albion far away
I lonely meditate at Eventide,
Nor skill'd nor studious of the raptur'd Lay,
But still remembring oft the magic sounds
Well-measured to the chime of Dorian Lute
Or past'ral stop, which erst I loved to hear
On Isis broider'd mead, where dips by fits
The stooping osier in her hasty Stream.

Hail Wolsey's spacious Dome, hail, everfamed
For faithful nurture and Truth's sacred lore,
Much honour'd Parent. You my duteous zeal
Accept, if haply in thy laureat wreath
You deign to interweave this humble Song.

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