1757
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Musick.

London Chronicle (6 October 1757) 332.

William Woty


The power of music is illustrated in an octave of eight eight-line Spenserians in couplets, signed "W. W—ty, Widow's Coffeehouse, Sept 27, 1757." The stanza, mixing pentameter with octosyllabic lines, joins Spenserian verse to Milton's L'Allegro. This is one of the first published poems by William Woty, a prolific minor poet, a member of Robert Lloyd's circle, and by all accounts a determined foe to melancholy. In the 1760s Woty became the prince of newspaper poets, foreshadowing what "Peter Pindar" would be a generation later. On Musick circulated for quite some time, being published in the London Courant and the Morning Herald as late as 1781.

Ralph Straus: "On New Year's Day, 1757, the first number of The London Chronicle, or Universal Evening Post, made its appearance. Boswell tells us how Johnson did not disdain to accept a guinea from Dodsley, who was part proprietor, for writing the introduction. Dodsley himself, however, withdrew from this newspaper after the eleventh number, and for a reason which reflects no little credit upon him. In pursuit of the prevailing custom, several extracts had been reprinted in it from the 'Test' and other scurrilous papers of the kind. Dodsley objected to a feature which contradicted the aims of the paper, as set forth by Johnson in his introduction. He spoke to Strahan, the printer of the paper, bidding his explain to the editor, one Spens, his views. Strahan either forgot to do so, or, more probably, did not succeed in convincing him. Whereupon Dodsley in some anger demanded to know how Strahan himself could allow such things to continue. '[...] And why is our Paper immediately to become the vehicle of private scandal and low detraction? Does any paper of credit give into t his dirty practice? The Daily and the Public Advertiser; the General and the Whitehall Evening Posts; are they not all extreamly cautious of admitting personal abuse? And did not the Evening Advertiser destroy itself by these very measures?'" Robert Dodsley (1910) 96-97.



Hence, dull-brow'd Melancholy! creep away
To weeping caverns, exil'd from the day.
Thy temples bathe with nightly dew,
That drops from yonder baneful yew;
Or go where endless Horror dwells,
To Bedlam walls, to Newgate cells,
Else while thy front distills a sweating show'r,
Go watch the murder'd corps at midnight's frightful hour.

But come, thou parent of poetic song,
Pride of my verse, sweet MUSICK, haste along,
Descend from thine aethereal bow'rs,
And with thee bring the sportive Hours.
She comes — the clouds her voice obey,
And brighten into purer day.
A harp adorns her hand; and on her face
Sits laughing Mirth with Harmony's attracting grace.

No more the swelling North is heard to rave,
Yon foaming flood has calm'd his angry wave,
Hush'd is the jay's discordant note,
Silent the raven's croaking throat,
Throughout the woods, throughout the plains,
Stillness, an awful stillness reigns.
Gay smile the blue-girt skies. All nature round
Seems pausing, and prepar'd to hear the magic sound.

And hark! how gentle she salutes the ear!
The touch how soft! the melody how clear!
To Love she slightly sweeps the strings,
Smooth fly the notes on silken wings.
These are the strains that sooth my care,
Alarm, and terrify Despair.
The low'ring daemon startles at the sound,
Stalks off in sullen mood, and treads unhallow'd ground.

Now, now the note she swells and sings of arms,
Heav'ns! how the noble air my spirit warms!
I feel, I feel my courage glow,
And rush in thought to meet the foe.
Methinks I see the martial plain
Ensanguin'd o'er with heeps of slain:
Heroes and steeds in wild confusion roll,
And terrors seize on all, but Fred'rick's daring soul.

See! while the Goddess plays, around her throng
The joy-struck quadrupeds to hear the song.
Delighted neighs the conscious steed,
The hungry bull forgets to feed,
Yon stag is tame. The dappl'd fawns
Exult, and bound along the lawns.
Enamour'd Echo in the distant vale,
Answers her sister's voice in ev'ry soften'd gale.

No more the fierce-ey'd tyger threatens harm,
But lays him down, and listens to the charm:
Nor less the lion 'bates his rage;
(Such pow'r has Musick to assuage)
The rav'nous wolves let loose their prey;
Her impulse furious pards obey.
The crawling adder too, at her command
Puts forth his harmless tongue to lick her tuneful hand.

—But ah! she stops her soul-enchanting strain,
And soars to her coelestial throne again.
Oh! all ye flatt'ring Sounds, adieu!
The change is felt all nature through.
Surcharg'd with rain the clouds appear
To stain the products of the year;
And now they burst — Loud thunder tears the sky,
And naught, but gloom oppressive strikes the weeping eye.

[p. 332]