1760
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Untitled. "Erst in Imperial robes did Albion sit."]

Academiae Cantabrigiensis Luctus in Obitum Augustissimi Regis Georgii II. et Gratulationes in Serenissimi Regis Georgii III. Inaugurationem.

William Smith of Covent Garden


Seven irregular Spenserians (ababcC) signed "Smith, B. A. of St. John's College." The author is William "Gentleman" Smith, a friend of Richard Cumberland who attended St. John's College before being rusticated. The use of the stanza and the phrases "gladsome plenty" and "Fiend Despair" render the poem a Spenserian utterance in what was becoming a particularly popular mode used for celebrating the accomplishments of the British Empire. Smith, who had a long and successful career as an actor and lived to a remarkable age.

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "The immediate cause of his leaving college, was a drunken frolic with some other young men, which induced him, when pursued by the proctor, to snap an unloaded pistol at him. For this offence he was sentenced to a punishment, to which he did not choose to submit; and, in consequence, to avoid expulsion, left the university, and came to London, with the intention of trying his success on the stage. He immediately put himself under the tuition of Barry, and on the 1st of January, 1763, made his debut at Covent Garden, as Theodosius, in the tragedy of The Force of Love. His performance was a decided hit, and, for twenty-two years, he continued his career at the same theatre, with increasing reputation" The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most Eminent Persons (1832-34) 4:367.



Erst in Imperial robes did Albion sit,
With India's spoils enrich'd, with glory crown'd:
Vict'ry impatient did each look await,
To spread her empire o'er remotest ground.
Her Sons would then with chearful ardor tell
How each brave warrior fought, or how more nobly fell.

By fortune once caress'd, thrice happy Isle!
What nation own'd not thy supreme command?
Indulgent Heaven bestow'd it's choicest smile;
And show'rd it's blessings on thy favour'd Land.
The eager winds to swell thy triumphs sought,
While each fresh rising gale some recent conquest brought.

But sudden shifts the Scene: the roses fade,
And chaplets shall no more adorn the brow;
Lo! wreaths of Cypress Albion's temples shade,
And every face is veil'd in clouds of woe.
Ev'n Victory's self the general sorrow shares;
And, though with Laurels crown'd, the garb of mourning wears.

Speak the dire cause — The best of Kings no more
Shall bless his People with a gentle sway;
Whose Virtues so adorn'd the Crown he wore,
That Malice fled, and Envy pin'd away.
By Force to bind whilst Others vainly strove,
He fetter'd with the chains of gratitude and Love.

While Europe echo'd with the clash of Arms,
And every tide ran purple to the Main,
Secure We liv'd, nor fear'd the dire alarms;
For courage fought, while wisdom held the rein.
Yet nought avail'd — For cruel Death reveres
Nor all thy Virtues, Prince, nor spares a nation's tears.

While pleasing Scenes of Peace each thought employ,
And gladsome Plenty meets our longing Eyes;
While every British heart is fir'd with joy;
Fame sounds the dismal tale — Your Parent dies.
A bliss supreme the Gods will ne'er bestow:
Life's sweetest draught is still embitter'd with a Woe.

Yet weep not Albion: Fiend Despair be gone:
In milder strains the Muse prophetic sings;
"Your much lov'd Prince has but exchang'd his Throne:
I saw — to Heaven He fled on Virtue's wings.
Still happy Isle! — Behold, a Youth divine
Succeeds; And every wish'd-for blessing shall be thine."

[sigs Hh2v-Ii]