1755
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Academic. Written April MDCCLV.

Poems written chiefly at the University of Cambridge; together with a Latin Oration upon the History and Genius of the Roman and Canon Laws, with a Comparison of the Laws of England, spoken in the Chapel at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, December 21, 1756.

Sir James Marriott


An ode in 32 quatrains, written on the occasion of the construction of a new library at Cambridge, and published in 1760. Sir James Marriott, future master of Trinity College, contrasts the government's largesse to the university with the poverty suffered by its famous poet: "Where Spencer sits among your thrones sublime, | To the soft music of his mournful lays | Listening ye weep for his ungrateful time, | And point the better hope of happier days" p. 116. The volume is prefaced by a plate of the library drawn by "J. Marriott."

This pleasing poem does not appear in the Cambridge volume written to commemorate the occasion, though it was several times collected in anthologies.

Author's note: "His Majesty having been pleased to contribute a very considerable sum of money for the building of a new part of the University Library, in imitation of his Royal Father's munificence, who increased the library with the valuable collection of Dr. Moore Bishop of Ely; and his Grace the Chancellor having solicited for, and largely contributed towards the carrying on of this new edifice, together with the Earl of Hardwicke High Steward, and others of the Nobility and Gentry, these circumstances, which did so much honour to the University and its illustrious patron, make a principal part of this Ode, which was written at the time when the foundation stone was laid by his Grace the Chancellor: a prize medal, and several coins of his present Majesty, were placed underneath it. The beginning of the Ode was intended as a general eulogium of the munificent Founders of the University, and the conclusion of it as a Valediction to the University, which the author designed to leave, not having at that time the honour of being elected fellow of his own society" pp. vi-vii.

Horace Walpole: "I truth, I believe King George would have preferred a guinea to a composition so perfect as Alexander's Feast. He certainly did not spare rewards to those who served their country. The profusion of favours which he suffered the Duke of Newcastle to shower on the University of Cambridge ought to disculpate the King from the charge of neglecting literature — it was the fault of that body if they were not learned" 1760; in Memoirs of the Reign of King George II (1847) 3:304-05.

C. H. Cooper: "On the 30th of April, the Duke of Newcastle Chancellor of the University (who arrived at Clare Hall on the preceding day) laid the first stone of a new University library. The Earl of Hardwicke High Steward of the University was also present on the occasion. The Duke of Newcastle made a short prefatory address in Latin, and after the stone was laid a learned speech was made by Mr. Skynner the Public Orator. The cost of the building, which, though commodious, has but slight pretensions to architectural merit, was defrayed by subscription" Annals of Cambridge (1842-53) 4:293.

Oliver Elton: "The dissolving views of poetry in the middle of the century can best be observed in Robert Dodsley's famous Collection of Poems by Several Hands. The original six volumes (1748-58) were often reprinted, and re-edited, and supplemented. George Pearch, in 1768, revised the work, adding four more volumes; a previous supplement included verse by Moses Mendez. In these eleven volumes almost every poet of note, and many of no note at all, and of almost every school can be found" Survey of English Literature 1730-1780 (1928) 2:35.



I.
While silent streams the moss-grown turrets lave,
Cam, on thy banks with pensive steps I tread;
The dipping osiers kiss thy passing wave,
And evening shadows o'er the plains are spread.

From restless eye of painful Care,
To thy secluded grot I fly,
Where Fancy's sweetest forms repair,
To soothe her darling Poesy;

Reclin'd the lovely Visionary lies
In yonder vale and laurel-vested bower;
Where the gay turf is deck'd with various dies,
And breathes the mingling scents of every flower:

While holy dreams prolong her calm repose,
Her pipe is cast the whispering reeds among;
High on the boughs her waving harp is hung,
Murmuring to every wind that o'er it blows.

II.
Oft' have I seen her bathe at dewy morn
Her wanton bosom in thy silver spring,
And, while her hands her flowing locks adorn
With busy elegance, have heard her sing.

But say what long recorded theme,
Through all the lofty tale of time,
More worthy can the Goddess deem
Of sounding chords, and song sublime,

Than, whose parental hand to vigour bred
Each infant art, the Noble and the Wise,
Whose bounty gave yon' arching shades to spread,
Yon' pointed spires in holy pomp to rise?

Shall War alone loud-echoing numbers claim,
And shall the deeds of smiling Peace be drown'd,
Amid the Hero's shouts and trumpet's sound?
These too shall flourish in immortal fame.

III.
When Science fled from Latium's polish'd coasts
And Grecian groves, her long and lov'd abode,
Far from the din of fierce conflicting hosts,
Thro' barbarous realms the weary wanderer trod;

But to what more indulgent sky,
To what more hospitable shade,
Could trembling, bleeding, fainting fly
The helpless and devoted Maid?

Time-honour'd Founders! ye the virgin woo'd!
'Twas yours, with souls to native grandeur born,
To bid her radiant beauties shine renew'd,
With wealth to heap, with honours to adorn.

In Granta's happier paths she wept no more;
Heal'd were the wounds that scarr'd her gentle breast;
Here, still she smiles with Freedom's sons to rest,
Nor mourns her Attick towers, nor Tuscan shore.

IV.
Fathers of Genius! whom the Muse adores,
For sure to you her noblest strains belong,
Beneath whose venerable roofs she pours
The grateful notes of sweetly flowing song.

Th' increase of swift revolving years
With conscious pride exulting view;
How all ye plann'd compleat appears;
How all your Virtues bloom anew:

The generous zeal which erst ye felt remains,
Its bounteous beams still ardent to dispense;
While unexhausted to your learned plains
Rolls the rich stream of wide munificence.

Joy to your shades! the great career is run,
Reserv'd by Fate for some superiour hand,
Confest, the last, th' auspicious work shall stand,
And Statesman, Monarch, end what ye begun.

Ye too, once Inmates of these walls renown'd,
Whose spirits, mingling with th' etherial ray,
Of universal Nature trac'd the bound,
Or rais'd in majesty of thought the lay,

See your loved Arts this clime to grace,
Their rival radiance brighter shed,
While Holles smiles the wreath to place
Upon the youthful Victor's head.

Where Spencer sits among your thrones sublime,
To the soft music of his mournful lays
Listening ye weep for his ungrateful time,
And point the better hope of happier days.

If with the dead dishonour's memory dies,
Forget, much injur'd Name, th' unworthy woe;
In strains like thine so may our accents flow,
In nobler numbers yon' fair domes arise.

VI.
When Faction's storms, or some fell Tyrant's hate
Arts join'd with Freedom to one grave shall doom,
Then, tho' these structures to the hand of Fate
Bend their proud height, like thine, imperial Rome,

Know, vainly, Time, thy rapid rage
Shall point its wide destroying aim,
Since what defies the force of age
Thus consecrates the pile to Fame;

Some future eye the ruin'd heap shall trace,
The name of Holles on the stone behold,
Shall point a Brunswic to a distant race,
Benign, and awful on the swelling gold,

Th' historic page, the poet's tuneful toil,
With these compar'd, their mutual aid shall raise
To build the records of eternal praise,
And deck with endless wreaths their honour'd soil.

VII.
Sweeter than warbled sounds that win the sense,
Flows the glad music of a grateful heart;
Beyond the pomp of wordy eloquence,
Or strains too cold, high-wrought with labour'd art.

Tho' weakly sounds the jarring string;
Tho' vainly would the Muse explore
The heights to which with eagle wing
Alone can heaven-taught Genius soar,

Yet shall her hand ingenious strive to twine
The blooming chaplet for her Leader's brow;
While with new verdure grac'd, in Glory's shrine,
The ampler Palms of civic Honours grow;

When He, these favour'd shades appears to bless,
Whose guardian Counsels guide a nation's fate,
And with superiour toils for Europe's state
Mixes the thought of Granta's happiness.

VIII.
Hail Seats rever'd! Where thoughtful Pleasures dwell,
And hovering Peace extends her downy wings,
Where musing Knowledge holds her humble cell,
And Truth divine unlocks her secret springs;

This verse with mild acceptance deign
To hear; this verse yourselves inspire,
Ere yet within your sacred fane
The Muse suspends her votive Lyre.

Thee, GRANTA, thus with filial thanks I greet,
With smiles maternal thou those thanks receive,
For Learning's humble wealth, for friendship sweet,
For every calmer joy thy scenes could give.

While thus I sport upon thy peaceful strand,
The storms of life at awful distance roar;
And still I dread, still lingering on the shore,
To launch my little bark, and quit the land.

[pp. 112-19]