1753
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rus. An Imitation of Milton's Measure in l'Allegro and il Penseroso.

London Magazine 22 (December 1753) 571-72.

Anonymous


A Miltonic retirement ode in octosyllabic couplets: John Gay and "rural Spencer" figure in a catalogue of country pleasures, balanced in the "Penseroso" portion of the poem by Young, Milton, Dryden, and Shakespeare. The London Magazine was for half a century the rival and imitator of the Gentleman's Magazine.

Henry James Pye: "From the descriptive parts of the Paradise Lost, from Thomson's Seasons, and Mason's English Garden, we may likely say, that heroic blank verse is admirably fitted for descriptive poetry, but L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, and Grongar Hill, forbid us to say it is exclusive" Commentary on Aristotle (1792) 470-71.

Henry Lyon Phelps: "Among the imitators of Milton, only a few names have been mentioned; the subject is too vague and elusive to warrant a rehearsal of the long list of poetasters who show his influence. Many of the Spenserians greatly admired Milton, and imitated him along with the Elizabethan poet" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 99.



Hence vanity and noise,
Hence empty pride and loose impertinence,
And all ye tinsel'd toys
That into folly's snares betray the sense;
Fly to the smoaky town,
Where low'ring hang th' unremov'd clouds of night,
And scarcely Cynthius bright
Sends thro' the tainted air a tim'rous ray,
Scatt'ring the sickly day.
But welcome, peace, sweet smiling maid!
and innocence in white array'd;
Thou liberty, who chears the swain,
With smirking plenty in thy train;
And nature dress'd with careless pride,
Leading gay fancy by her side:
Hail! hail! to thee, staid solitude,
While as the morn from th' eastern clime
Advancing o'er the pearly rime
Rolls the gold-breaking clouds away,
And sheds abroad the new-born day:
With thee retir'd from mortal eyes
My soul to distant regions flies;
The moral or the physick page,
Th' Achaian or Hesperian sage,
Or those that bless a modern age,
In this devoted silent hour
Unlock'd rich wisdom's wondrous store.
Welcome, ye goodly plants, so fair,
That erst have been my tender care,
Thro' whom a troop of zephyrs kind
Soft breathe the gentle-warbling wind,
Or waft to yonder neighb'ring bower
The fragrance of each woodbine flower:
That bower a calm and cool retreat,
From July's flaring noontide heat;
Where with trim madrigal of Gay,
Or rural Spencer's simple lay,
I lull into a peaceful rest
The roving passions of my breast.
Oft winding thro' the mazy shade,
By those wide branching beeches made,
I seek an hollow sunless dale,
Or the more spacious woodland vale,
Where herds retiring from the blaze,
Raging without, in shelter graze:
The incense-breathing kine that pass,
The living verdure of the grass,
The rush-fring'd rill that purls along,
The lark that chaunts his airy song,
Conspire at once to please my sight,
And wrap my senses in delight.
See! see beneath yon hawthorn shade
Fair Phillis with her Damon laid;
Their eyes the softest joys impart,
Looking the wishes of their heart:
When with a kiss he plights his troth,
Its influence calls sweet blushes forth:
The west thus breathes upon the spring,
Thus does his breath her roses bring.
Sometimes to the field I go,
Where damsels rang'd in goodly show
Spread amidst a fragrant stream
Fresh clover to the rip'ning gleam;
Or thro' the visto's lengthen'd way
Up yonder high brow'd hill I stray;
Where in the rustick tow'r reclin'd
The opening views dilate my mind;
The planted close, the enamel'd ground,
The various objects scatter'd round:
Here church, a village, and a green,
There the rang'd mountains shut the scene.
Mine eyes still fed with fresh delight
Thro' meads in flow'ry mantle dight
Trace the smooth —la's winding stream,
Where lightly sports the sunny beam;
While slow by willow rows he wanders
Wantonly hiding his meanders
Among the reeds that round him throng,
Who, as he gently glides along,
Aye wave their shaggy locks and nod,
Courteously bowing to the god.
Soon as th' eve-bird from hazel spray
'Gins lull to sleep the drowsy day,
And twilight on his saffron wing
Bears in the sober evening,
On some green bank retir'd from care
I list to the jingling bells from far:
The peal now runs along the skies,
Now in the sportive breezes dies,
Returning in a flood of sound,
The woods then tremble all around.
Oft rapt in thought and slow I rove
Darkling amidst the serious grove;
Where silence sits in solemn state,
While list'ning horrors round her wait:
Save when rude Auster's gusty breeze
Runs growling o'er the clashing trees;
Or distant crow of chanticlear,
Or show'ring leaves arouse my ear;
Or the mystick scream of owl,
Or the mastiff's midnight howl,
Startles the lost forgetting soul.
Here meditating I digest,
As holy passions fill the breast,
Thy sable-mantled muse, O Young,
Or, sov'reign Milton, thy fam'd song,
Majestick fraught with power divine
T' instruct and chasten; whose glowing line
Clads the almighty King in arms,
All heav'n resounding with alarms;
Far from the world, far from controul,
Shakespear possesses all my soul;
Whilst in imagination's eye
Hamlet's pale ghost stalks ghastly by.
Hark! a voice runs thro' the air,
A voice which bids the world prepare:
'Twas this perplext the Theban king,
As Dryden's tragick muse doth sing:
'Twas this appall'd Mackbeth of yore,
And bad good Duncan sleep no more:
This voice affrights the guilty still,
Still, still foreruns the murd'rer's will:
But he that wears a conscience clear,
To virtue's steady rules sincere,
Undaunted listens to the sound
And bids the busy shapes dance round,
While all alone, unvext by folly,
He dares to be pleas'd with melancholy.
When sleep his timely dews doth shed,
No hideous phantoms haunt my bed,
But led by Morpheus' magick train
I lightly skim the surgy main:
Or seated in Elysian bowers
Bedeck my Sylvia with May flowers,
As on her breast the zephyrs play,
And am'rous pant their soul away;
While she with more than modern sense
Descants on virtue's eloquence;
(When beauty pleads the golden cause
Her lesson more attention draws,
Than all the labour-gather'd rules
Sought in philosophy and schools.)
Or on fantastick pinions bore
Thro' the vast realms of air I soar,
Up Parnass' fruitful hill I climb,
Run o'er the day a second time,
Then tell, perhaps, my dream in rhyme.

[pp. 571-72]