1756
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Sonnet. Occasioned by leaving Bath, June 1755. Addressed to the Misses H ***.

Universal Visitor and Memorialist (1756) 330-31. [Christopher Smart, ed.]

Bp. Thomas Percy


In the second of the two anonymous Spenserian sonnets he published in the Universal Visitor, Thomas Percy recalls a Paradise Lost: "Then tell me, fair ones, can I chuse but grieve, | Who quit this Paradise, without an Eve" Just how gallant might a future bishop be? Eighteenth-century periodicals printed severak similar poems, gallant or pious, offered to young ladies with a copy of Paradise Lost.

In 1815 this sonnet was anonymously printed in the Universal Magazine with the title, "A Sonnet to a Young Lady. The author telling the ladies 'He looked upon himself in a worse situation than Adam banish'd Paradise,' was enjoined by them to express the same in rhyme" S3 3 (September 1815) 202. That the poem could be reprinted verbatim sixty years later during the height of the sonnet revival is testimony to the staying power of Percy's theme.

Bertram H. Davis: "Subsequently the date was altered to July, 1755, Bath to B-R-T-N, and the Misses H*** to 'Ladies.' Percy provided no explanation of these alterations" Thomas Percy: A Scholar-Cleric in the Age of Johnson (1989)) 22.

Oliver Elton: "The sonnet, a form predestined for grey reflections, begins to revive during this period after a long silence, and many examples have been catalogued, but with the exception of Gray's poem on West and a few by Thomas Warton they are still little known, and are often not worth knowing. Prentice-work, they prepare the way for Bowles and other practitioners, as these in turn do for Coleridge and Wordsworth. Many are sprinkled through the pages of the Gentleman's Magazine, and there multiply after 1780" Survey of English Literature 1730-1780 (1928) 2:26.

This sonnet, signed "P," appears under both "P." and "Percy" in the bibliography in Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 402.



When our first father thro' the dreary waste,
From Eden's plains an exile sad must go,
Oft he recall'd each scene of pleasure past,
Felt the dire change, and bid his sorrows flow.
Yet still a soft companion of his woe,
With sweet assiduous care attended near;
Fond to relieve, and resolute to shew
The soothing smile, or sympathyzing tear.
Far heavier doom, alas! attends me here,
Who leave, of nymphs so fair, a train behind;
Nor one is found the tedious way to chear,
Or raise, with converse sweet, the drooping mind.
Then tell me, fair ones, can I chuse but grieve,
Who quit this Paradise, without an Eve.

[pp. 330-31]