1758
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Le Sociable. Partly in the manner of Milton.

London Chronicle (26 September 1758) 301.

Rev. John Langhorne


At the time he published this imitation of Milton's L'Allegro John Langhorne was working as a tutor at the village of Hackthorn (mentioned in the poem). The reference to despair and the "I ween" possibly suggest that the poet was reading Milton through Spenser; both Spenser and Milton were climbing towards the zenith of their popularity at this date.

Le Sociable was reprinted with few changes as "Society" in Langhorne's Poems on Several Occasions (1760), with a companion "Le Solitaire" likewise reprinted from the London Chronicle. Neither was collected in Langhorne's Poetical Works (1766, 1804), though they were revived by the antiquary Thomas Park in his edition of Langhorne, published in 1806. Since the poem is signed "Mr. Langhorne," is is possibly by the poet's brother William (1721-1772) who also published verse in the London Chronicle.

Samuel Jackson Pratt: "His chief fault is redundant decoration, an affectation of false and unnecessary ornament. He is not always contented with that concise and simple language which is sufficient to express his sentiments, but is tempted to indulge in superfluous diction, by the fascinations of novelty. His sentiments, however, are always just, and generally striking. A great degree of elegance and classical simplicity runs through all his compositions; and his descriptions of nature, rural imagery, pictures of private virtue, and pastoral innocence, have a judicious selection of circumstances, a graceful plainnness of expression, and a happy mixture of pathos and sentiment, which marks the superior poet" Cabinet of Poetry (1808) 5:ccclxxix.



Hence, gloomy Spleen, and sullen Care,
Of black stol'd Night and horrid Hydra born!
That lead the fret forlorn
All thro' the rueful regions of Despair.
Hence to the dark and dire abode,
Where Folly mourns in Superstition's chain,
And Priests, devoutly vain,
Forsake each virtue to adore their God.
Nor yet, ye deep immured cells,
Nor yet, ye dim glooms, ought have ye to please,
Where oft the mind's disease,
Beating her lorn breast, Melancholy, dwells.

Far from these I fly to thee,
Blithe-ey'd nymph, Society!
In thy dwelling, free and fair,
Converse smooths the brow of Care,
Who, when waggish Wit betray'd
To his arms a silvan maid,
All beneath a myrtle tree,
In some vale of Arcady,
Sprung, I ween, from such embrace,
The lovely contrast in her face.
Perchance the Muses, as they stray'd
Seeking other spring, or shade,
On the sweet child cast an eye,
In some vale of Arcady,
And, blithest of the Sisters three,
Gave her to Euphrosyne.
The Grace, delighted, taught her care,
The cordial smile, the placid air;
How to chase, and how restrain
All the fleet ideal train.
How with apt words, well combin'd,
To shew each image of the mind:
Taught her how they disagree,
Aukward fear, and modesty,
And freedom and rusticity;
True politeness when to know
From the superficial shew,
From the coxcomb's shallow grace,
And the many-modell'd face;
That nature's unaffected ease
More than study'd forms would please;
When to check the sportive vein,
When to fancy give the rein;
On the subject when to be
Grave or gay, reserv'd or free;
The speaking air, th' impassion'd eye,
The living soul of symmetry,
And that soft sympathy that binds
In hidden chains congenial minds.

Memory, mother of the Nine,
Led her oft to Learning's shrine;
And taught her from the treasur'd page
To cull the flowers of ev'ry age.
Come, gentle herald of the heart!
Fraught with every pleasing art,
On Hackthorn's silent shades a while
Sweet Queen of parley! deign to smile;
For thee an hour I well could spare,
Stol'n from solitude and care.

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