1755
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Westminster Abbey.

Universal Magazine 17 (July 1755) 35-36.

Rev. William Rider


Eleven irregular Spenserians (ababbccC): a descriptive "graveyard" ode with a catalogue of British poets. Spenser is surprisingly absent — unless, as seems possible, the "dormant lion" in the penultimate stanza is an allusion to Mercilla's throne in Faerie Queene 5.9.33 (the parallel between Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne was conventional). "Westminster Abbey" appeared in four magazines in the summer of 1755, in the London Magazine specified as "Part I." No sequel seems to have appeared, though the poem was anonymously published with three additional stanzas in 1775. William Rider was an Oxford-educated London clergyman who was later a master at St. Paul's School.

This stanza was invented by Giles Fletcher, who used it in Christ's Victory and Triumph; William Rider possibly takes it from Phineas Fletcher's Brittain's Idea (then often thought to be by Spenser) or from Edmund Smith's "Thales. A Monody, sacred to the Memory of Dr. Pococke. In imitation of Spenser," recently (1751) printed from manuscript by John Newbery.

C. H. Timperley: "William Rider, B.A. lecturer of St. Vedast, Foster-lane, curate of St. Faith's, and many years sur-master of St. Paul's school. Author of a History of England to the year 1763 inclusive, in fifty pocket volumes; a Commentary on the Bible; an English Dictionary; and other works. He died March 30, 1785" Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:802.



Tir'd with the senseless trifling of the gay,
I steal from all the glare of gilded woe,
And 'midst the dead in pensive mood I stray,
While e'ry tomb discredits earthly show,
Pierces my breast, and bids my tears to flow,
Ah! flow my tears adown my furrow'd cheek?
Your torrents well my latent anguish speak,
And whisper virtue strong, and human glory weak.

Hither let me gaze, and as I gaze be wise.
Ah! what avails it to have nature known,
To trace the circling comets round the skies,
To sit with Science on her splendid throne,
And then become as senseless as the stone!
Newton, I wonder at thy noble plan,
Who to her utmost bounds didst nature scan,
If not of angel mould, yet something more than man!

See, ever awful spot, and ever fair!
Where far-fam'd bards allure the wond'ring eye;
Whose glory time nor envy can impair,
For well their fame may envy's tooth defye,
Favour'd by men, and foster'd by the sky.
Blest spirits, oft I turn your volumes o'er,
Feed my rapt soul with your celestial lore,
Attempt your flights in vain, and strive like you to soar.

Chaucer, who first in Britain taught to sing,
In his half-crumbling dreary tomb I hail;
Him ev'ry muse inspir'd to wake the string,
But yet how little doth his mirth avail!
His rhime, his language, and his numbers fail.
So shall the light'nings fade in Austin's eye,
So shall the charms of my Almira die,
Which now abash the sun, and brighter beams supply.

Twin'd round the lyre, and swelling to the sight,
The serpent seems to roll his spires along;
In Milton's strains his frauds afford delight,
To Milton's strains such mighty pow'rs belong,
And such the force of soul-enchanting song!
Well might'st thou miss the blessing of thine eyes,
Whose fame with ancient sightless Homer vies,
And claims a nobler birth, — the product of the skies.

Lo fancy's fav'rite now attention draws,
Shakespeare, whose foibles glitter to our view,
With beauties snatch'd beyond the bounds of laws,
He wins the soul, and seems for ever new;
And deathless lawrels to his worth are due.
Shakespeare, I read thy lesson to mankind,
That pomp and wealth are fleeting as the wind,
And as the baseless vision leave no wreck behind.

On Rowe's plain bust the friendly tear I shed,
Oft to his strains my eyes this tribute paid;
Oft o'er his tragic tale my heart has bled,
Wept the slain hero, and the captive maid;
With so much softness all his lines perswade!
Taught by his lore, the paths of truth I trace,
Court ev'ry virtue, call forth ev'ry grace,
That speaks our heav'nly birth, and dignifies our race.

Smit with the speaking stone enrapt I gaze
Wisdom here views surpriz'd her fav'rite son,
Rhet'ric his worth in all her pomp displays,
Fame writes the trophies by her minion won,
And gilds the thread of life with glory spun.
Argyle, the fame to Scipio's ne'er shall yield;
Argyle, the state's whole thunder born to wield,
"And shake with equal might the senate and the field!"

Or Cornwall, at thy name my bosom fires;
Thy name to every Briton ever dear,
Immortal vengeance 'gainst thy foes inspires,
And mingles curses with each grateful tear,
Thy fate at once I envy and revere.
Who would not die, like thee, in glory's prime!
Die in defence of Albion's favour'd clime!
Heir to the loud applause of never-ending time!

The dormant lion now with rage inflam'd,
Seems to arise beneath Britannia's feet,
Shakes his huge mane, and looks of rest asham'd,
Whilst real thunders arm the sculptur'd fleet,
Our foes as erst in Anna's days to greet.
Britannia's face contracts a graceful frown,
And at her side the goddess of renown
Sounds with her trump the name that wins the laurel crown.

Hither let Albion's valiant sons repair,
And as the briny stream of woe they shed,
Lean in the midst of threatning death to dare;
Or while the dreadful carnage round they spread,
Remember Cornwall, for his country dead.
And at this pile, as Afric's son of yore,
Eternal war with Rome's republic swore,
Swear vengeance against Gaul, till Gaul shall be no more.

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