1752 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on a new Plantation of flowering Shrubs in Trinity College Garden.

European Magazine 46 (August 1804) 131-33.

Rev. Thomas Warton


A fragment in eleven irregular Spenserians, uncollected in Thomas Warton's works. The poet summons the Dryads and the Genius of the wood to return to an Oxford bereft of its Wilderness, killed by frost: "Here, here again the lonely Bard shall meet | Majestic Contemplation's musing mein; | Here many an airy vision hail, | An Evening spreads her shadowy veil; | And as they shoot across his twilight walk, | Catch gleams of heavenly wings, and hear mysterious talk." The general model, as this quotation suggests, is Milton's Il Penseroso. The title is given as "Ode on a new Plantation of flowering Shrubs in Trinity College Garden, at Oxford; the old Wilderness having been destroyed by the hard Frost, 1740. By the Rev. Thomas Warton."

The Ode can be roughly dated by its allusion to a translation of the Argonautica of Apollonius, which Thomas Warton was to have published with Robert Dodsley according to an agreement signed in January 1752. But the translation was never finished, nor, it appears, was this poem, which tries to rhyme "stream" with "stem." The internal references to Milton's Comus and Greek literature also point to Warton's authorship. A MS of the poem is at Trinity College, Oxford.

Headnote: "The following Poem we have received from a friend. It is in the handwriting of its respectable Author, the late Poet Laureate, and is now printed for the first time" p. 131.

Samuel Johnson to Thomas Warton: "How goes Apollonius? Don't let him be forgotten. Some things of this kind must be done, to keep us up" 13 May 1755; in Boswell, Life of Johnson (1791); ed. G. B. Hill (1891) 1:334-35.

William Lyon Phelps: "His Spenserian imitations are Morning, written in 1745, published 1750, Elegy on the Death of Frederic (1753), though there is some doubt as to his authorship of this; and the Complaint of Cherwell, written in 1761, published 1777. It is curious that with all his knowledge of Spenser, his imitations should not have followed the regular stanza of the Fairy Queen. But although he did not pay so close attention to the form, he was filled with the master's spirit; allusions to the old poet constantly occur among his verses" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 82-83.

Myra Reynolds: "He has also an appreciation of wild nature, as we see from the descriptions in The Grave of King Arthur. Warton's work is of interest because of the many attractive details scattered through his poems, but there is little unity of effect. The general impression is that he saw nature first through Milton's eyes, and that when he afterwards made many charming discoveries for himself he tried to express them in the Il Penseroso manner" Treatment of Nature in English Poetry (1896) 128.



Where'er ye pensive rend your mantles green,
Whate'er sad bow'rs your exile steps detain,
Ye Dryads, haste to this your once-lov'd scene,
Haste to resume your violated reign;
To win ye back, with busy care
Lo! what trim mansions we prepare!
Again in ringlets quaint we curl the grove,
And nurse new shades, as erst with wanton windings wove.

Round the smooth turf where late ye lov'd to play,
See recent shrubs in varying verdure vie,
To court your blest return, and broider'd gay
With blooms of ev'ry fragrance, ev'ry dye.
For ye they rise in mazy row,
For ye their blossoms breathe, and glow:
Then haste to shroud beneath th' o'er-arching boughs,
Haste from the flowery stores to bind your lovely brows.

You, Genius, too, whate'er rich clime you seek,
Since Winter urg'd your flight with ruthless hand;
(I saw thee tear thy wreath, and heard thee shriek,
What time the Sorceror wav'd his icy wand;
I saw the wan-ey'd demon, Frost,
Lead thro' thy ranks his lurid host,
With touch all cold to stop the genial stream,
And freeze the fount of life in each gay-branched stem.)

Haste, Genius, haste, whate'er thy mansion fair,
Whether thou lurk in Hybla's fragrant land,
Or joy to seek at large the liquid air,
O'er Hesperus' Isles by spicy breezes fann'd;
Or lapt in bliss immortal lie
Up in yon azure-arched sky,
Where more at hand thy pure and purged ear
Listens the solemn song of each harmonious sphere.

Haste thee thy gentle office to renew,
To speed the wood-bine's elm-encircling spray,
To call from heav'n the salutory dew,
When faint the flow'rs in Sirius' scorching ray;
Unbosom all thy rich perfumes,
In livelier tints the gladden'd blooms
Haste thee with daedal finger light to dress,
And visit ev'ry shoot with murmurs made to bless.

Then hither Zephyrus shall oft repair,
When vernal rains their influence cool diffuse,
To bathe his plumes in balm of odours rare,
And cull bright patterns of gay-glancing hues;
Hence laden with the precious store,
Abroad in frolic-flight shall soar,
The blended spoils of this rich source to pour
O'er Isis' laughing vales in one ambrosial show'r.

Link'd with this train to this his old retreat,
Calm Thought shall bring the piercing eye serene;
Here, here again the lonely Bard shall meet
Majestic Contemplation's musing mein;
Here many an airy vision hail,
An Evening spreads her shadowy veil;
And as they shoot across his twilight walk,
Catch gleams of heavenly wings, and hear mysterious talk.

Fair Fame again on ev'ry sapling tall
Shall hang in seemly guise the silver lyre;
Here bid new DENHAMS wait her hallow'd call,
New CHILLINGWORTHS to Truth's high throne aspire;
Here place the form of Liberty
Before a future SOMERS' eye;
Bid other HARRINGTONS, these bow'rs beneath,
The patriot spirit sage of Grecian wisdom breathe.

O might I hope with these sublime to gain
The sacred shrine of Fame's etherial tow'r,
There might my name with these high-hung remain,
These the chief pride of POPE'S paternal bow'r;
While humble follower, I dare,
Yet still inspir'd with purpose fair,
T' unlock the Grecian fountains, and impart
To Albion's sons supine high themes of ancient art.

How valorous Jason, 'mid the flow'r of Greece,
Urg'd his rough way with unremitted oar,
From Scythia's King to gain the radiant Fleece,
O'er Pontus' billows vast, unplough'd before:
In vain with eye that never slept
The prize a direful dragon kept;
In vain the brass-hoof'd bulls around him breath'd
Fierce flames; the Chief return'd with glorious conquest wreath'd.

Emblem expressive of the godlike soul,
Which thro' dread dangers, arm'd with courage calm,
Still presses eager to that glistering goal
Where Virtue's hand high waves th' immortal palm;
Each passion's fierce assault he tames,
Fierce as those bulls that vomit flames,
He charms to sleep the watchful Dragon-guard,
And bears from Virtue's hand to heav'n the bright reward.

[pp. 131-33]