A Familiar Epistle, from a Law-Student in the Country, to his Friend, at the Temple.

The Shamrock: or Hibernian Cresses. A Collection of Poems, Songs, Epigrams, &c. Latin as well as English, the original production of Ireland. [Samuel Whyte, ed.]


This amusing verse epistle, dated August 1761, was published in 1772 in Samuel Whyte's collection of Irish verse. Loosely based on Milton's companion poems, it contains a burlesque of Homer and a Spenserian burlesque of Shenstone's and Lowth's poems on the Choice of Hercules theme, here done up as a choice between the study of poetry and the law. There are several references to Spenser, plainly a favorite with this poet: "I sigh'd — Ah! fled is Colin's Strain, | And other Days and Hours remain: | O, why not in these peaceful Shades | Appear the fair Pierian Maids?" If this poem is not by Edmond Malone, it is likely by someone who knew him.

Note: "Tutsham-Hall (whence this Epistle was written) is situated on the Banks of the River Medway, in the County of Kent, about five Miles from Maidstone" p. 285n.

TUTSHAM-HALL, August, 1761.
When, rouz'd by Stings of sore Repentance,
Sage Prudence had pronounc'd the Sentence,
That I from London far should fly
To stiller Scenes, and purer Sky;
And there, in Solitude and Quiet,
By Study hard, and meagre Diet,
Should make Amends for every Minute
Which flew as if the Devil was in it;
And should atone for former Pleasures,
By other Rules, and other Measures:
Then (for the Bards of high Parnassus
Can little call to Mind what passes)
We, at that solemn Hour of Parting,
Did join in Deed and Contract certain;
And one Division of the Writing
Was thus — in legal Form — reciting:

"The Parties whom we now did mention,
With honest Hearts, and sound Intention,
Agree (though Chance, or envious Fortune,
Their Hours of Face to Face should shorten.
Howe'er disjoin'd by Fate, or Time,
Or Change of Humour, or of Clime)
Unless they can devise a better,
To send a Messenger, call'd Letter,
Who should, in ample Manner, tell
What Change, or Accident befell
Their Health, their Study, or their Weather,
Their Laugh, their Spleen, or all together.
And, as this Courier did petition,
For greater Ease and Expedition,
That these the Parties, or their Muse
Would help him with a Pair of Shoes;
Each, through Humanity and Conscience,
Agreed to give a Pair, which long since
Were call'd poetic Socks or Sandals,
The Work of certain Runes, and Vandals,
And now, in this our modern Time,
Are call'd the dancing Pumps of Rhyme;
With which (as did of old the God
For Juggling fam'd, and magic Rod)
He may, o'er Mountains, Rocks, and Torrents,
Skip hence to Paris, thence to Florence,
Now here, now there, as Whim inclin'd him,
While pursy Prudence lagg'd behind him
And flutter o'er the mightiest Fence,
The Bounds of Order, and of Sense."—

Now, Friend, in Spight of all thy Wit,
I think (in modish Phrase) you are bit;
And I, by wicked Scheme, and charging,
Have got the better of this Bargain;
As I by Precedent unfold,
Deduc'd from Sires and Sages old:
For, good Examples — Coke has said it—
In Law are deem'd of wonderous Credit;
And we, lest thought in Law's Defiance,
Pursue the Method of our Science.

In old Reports, though little known
To many a Coif-head of the Gown,
(Where publish'd, now, we cannot charge us,
At Athens, Colophon, or Argos,
So fam'd for Disputation-Prizes,
And their Olympical Assizes)
The Lawyer's Name, I think, was Homer,
Excuse me, if I make Misnomer—
In these Reports, the Case is told
In sterling Law, and Words of Gold:
As we forget the Method shewn,
We must relate it in our own.

"Now rushes Diomede to War,
In Radiance like the Autumnal Star,
Through Rank and File in Hurry flies,
Pricks the fair Strumpet of the Skies;
And kicks poor Mars, like any Fury,
That Bully of Etherial Drury;
Alone of all the Trojan Band,
Intrepid Glaucus dar'd to stand,
And his bold Hardihood engage
Against the Grecian Bravo's Rage.
But, ere they yet proceed to Blows,
Some Parley's proper amongst Foes:
And now a wordy Contest try'd is
Twixt Gaffar, Glaucus, and Tydides;
Much Talk — of mighty Folks above—
Of Families deduc'd from Jove—
Of Acts of Peace — and Deeds of Terror—
Of Amazons — and Fields of Error—
Of Step-Mothers — and Dragon-Warriors—
And Joseph's turn'd to Letter-Carriers—
'Till, after all these Windings past,
They find they Gossips were, at last.

"Then Tydeus' Son (as shrewd a Youth,
As Interest ever led from Truth)
'O Friend, be all our Bloodshed o'er;
Let's crack a Pint, and fight no more!
Old Oeneus, in his straw-built Cottage,
Warm'd brave Bellerophon with Pottage;
And twenty Days with Beef and Carrot,
And foreign Ale, and home-brew'd Claret,
This Guest of Climes remote (they tell ye)
Did fill the Vacuums of his Belly:
At parting, they bestow'd each other
Such Gifts as Brother makes to Brother;
In reverend State the King produces
A Bandage, fit for several Uses,
Well strengthened with repeated Stitches,
To tighten up his royal Breeches;
Of this his Grandsire did avail him,
When shrinking Hips began to fail him,
From whom descends this knightly Banner,
As Heir-loom of the Etolian Manor;
This gave the King by Way of Barter,
By Gods call'd Belt by Men call'd Garter.
Bellerophon then made his Tender,
Disdaining to be last in Splendor;
A Cup of wonderous Form and Metal,
Large as degenerate modern Kettle,
A Lid — Ionice, a Stopper—
The Cup of Tin, the Lid of Copper,
Fit for the King, when drunk, or sober,
To warm his Porter, or October:
And, now, let us, by Influence led
Of these, the Worthies of the Dead,
Exchange our Armour, as in Token
Of Friendship, and of Faith unbroken,
That all around us may be certain
We smil'd good-humour'd at our Parting.'

"Poor, honest Glaucus, little viewing
The Trap thus baited for his Ruin,
(Jove chang'd him to a Kentish Farmer)
Exchang'd for Brass his golden Armour,
With which he oft was wont to spark it
At every Lycian Fair and Market,
When Justs and Tournaments were held,
Militia-Triumphs of the Field:
And now Tydides bears away
The wheedled Trophies of the Day;
And is esteem'd, in War, or Peace,
The greatest red-coat Beau in Greece."

Thus ends the Tale: And, if a Dame,
Whom Modesty the Modest name,
Will not permit thee to unfold
Who takes in Brass, and pays in Gold;
That fair ingenuous Shame to wound,
From me be never borne the Sound;
But, may the pleasing Secret rest
Safe shrouded in this conscious Breast.

And, now, in proper Form, 'tis fit,
Without one doggrel Catch at Wit,
To let thee know how flow my Days,
In Toil, in Study, or in Ease;
And how the Summer's liberal Hand
With Pride adorns the smiling Land;
That some of there, or one, or all
May tempt thee down to Tutsham-Hall.

Ere early five has struck, I rise,
When fair Aurora streaks the Skies,
And, high on fluttering Pinions borne,
The lively Lark salutes the Morn,
And every Zephyr bears along
The Warblings of the matin Song;
I rise, but not abroad repair
To breathe the Fragrance of the Air;
Nor o'er the upland Meadow stray
To hail the rising God of Day;
But, wisely pondering future Time;
Disclaiming all the Sins of Rhyme,
And, provident for serious Age,
I seek the Work of reverend Sage,
(Who wrote, in Days of Yore, a Book
Of mickle Fame) y-cleped Coke:
With him Director of my Way,
Through Mazes intricate I stray;
And, smit with Dread and sacred Awe,
Behold the Labyrinths of Law;
Mazes, which be could well explore,
As could old Daedalus of yore;
And, like that Daedalus, he tries
To guide me through unusual Skies;
While I, on waxen Wings, essay
To gain a nearer Glimpse of Day
Down plumb, in Head-ache, and in Terror
I plunge into the Sea of Error.

When, thus, 'midst solemn Dons, at last,
Six lingering loitering Hours are past,
O! who the Pleasure would refuse
Of listening to the chearful Muse?
Or she, of old who wak'd the Lyre
With Horace's immortal Fire?
Or she, who, in inspiring Dream,
Late prompted the delightful Theme,
When to the Poet's raptur'd Eyes
Imagination bade arise
Each Spirit of the Fairy -Race
That crowds her Empire's ample Space,
And to late Ages bade the Strain
Convey the Wonders of her Reign?

Consulting, then, my Body's Weal,
I hie me to my moderate Meal;
Or Capon gown, or youthful Cockrell,
(Excuse this cursed Itch of Doggrell)
Or Lamb, or Veal, with Peas, or Sallad,
All Favourites of my vulgar Palate;
But still, with Constancy of Romans,
I most adhere to College-Commons.

But you, Apostate to the Throng,
The temperate Sons of moral Song—
You heed no more than Breath of Bellows
The Dictates of the sage Ofellus,
(Whom Horace mentions in his Satires,
To hate all Boar and Venison-Eaters,
And well to bear or Fast, or Famine,
As Cordelier, or Indian Bramin)
But riotously dare expatiate,
With keenest Appetite insatiate,
Loose every Rein, nor strive to curb it;
But batten on luxurious Turbot,
Or Marrow-Pye, or Venison-Pasty,
Or Pudding-Plum, or Pudding-hasty;
Nay, more to aggravate thy Crimes,
And brand thee to remotest Times,
Thou, late, devoid of common Pity,
With Felon-Scheme didst seek the City;
And, then and there, at House of Merchant,
Or Alderman, or Common-Serjeant,
Didst pour of Burgundy a Cadus
On living Turtle from Barbados;
And didst with Negro-Wench combine
To stew it whole in Floods of Wine;
And then, with Carver (Value Three-pence)
Didst score it, as a Child does Pippins;
And then, like Monk with reverend Tonsure,
Didst eat a Quarter as thine own Share:
I stop — arising now my Gorge is,
At Thought of such infernal Orgies—
"O ne'er may future Bard digest
The Horrors of so rich a Feast!"

When milder slopes the solar Ray,
Well-pleas'd, I take my lonely Way,
Or through the linnet-haunted Grove,
Where oft the listening Dryads rove,
Fearful lest any vulgar Eye
Should their chaste Mysteries descry;
Or to the Field, where all around
The Reapers' merry Tales resound;
Or where the Sheep are pour'd along,
Attentive to the Shepherd's Song,
And, starting from their Couch of Grass,
Oft gaze, and wonder, as I pass:
Or where, on yon extended Plain,
Each Hamlet spreads her youthful Train,
At Bars, or Cricket's nobler Game
Contending for the Wreath of Fame.
Each blushing Maid, with longing Eyes,
Incites her Lover to the Prize:
While all the reverend Sires around
At Ease recline along the Ground,
And fondly mention o'er and o'er
How fleet they ran in Days of yore;
And each, with Eyes of glistening Joy,
Beholds the Wonders of his Boy.

Thence bear me to the Meadow's Side,
Where flows the River's easy Tide!
Here oft in pensive Mood I stray,
Recalling many a tuneful Lay,
Which pour'd, this gliding Stream along,
The Master of the Fairy-Song;
And many a Note, and many a Tale,
Which hither stole from Penshurst's Vale,
When Sidney to the listening Swains
Breath'd all around his Doric Strains,
And fix'd the Medway's every Grove
The Seat of Poetry and Love.

As late I rov'd along the Stream,
Amus'd with many a floating Dream,
Before me quickly skimm'd along
My Childhood Hours of idle Song;
What Time, in rural Ease reclin'd,
I warbled to the passing Wind;
Or, when, along the secret Dale,
Amanda listened to my Tale,
And whisper'd in the conscious Grove
The faultering Sounds of mutual Love;
These Days, these Hours, in glittering Dyes,
My fond Remembrance bade arise:—
I sigh'd — Ah! fled is Colin's Strain,
And other Days and Hours remain:
O, why not in these peaceful Shades
Appear the fair Pierian Maids?
Or, why, when Time but now began
To stamp me with the Seal of Man,
Should every Grace and every Muse
Their oft intreated Aid refuse?
Again return, ye smiling Hours!
Return, ye fair poetic Powers!
And hither, laurell'd Sisters, bring
The breathing Lute, the sounding String!
Bid Joy here fix his happy Seat,
And Care, intruding Care, retreat!
Bid Venus bring her smiling Train,
And Love, end Ease, and Pleasure reign!
Thus I, presumptuous — As, of old,
Romances have the Wonders told,
How Knight (some Florimel to gain,
Whom Giant bound in ruthless Chain)
Arm'd cap-a-pie, in hostile State
Approach'd his Adversary's Gate,
And bade the Paynim Carle prepare
By Blast of Horn, for Deeds of War;
Straight, bickering Lightenings glance around,
And muttering Earthquakes rock the Ground;
On Griffon, or on Hydra flies
Some black Magician through the Skies,
And, with a Wand of mighty Force,
Stops the bold Warrior in his Course:
So happ'd it now: — A Form appears,
Low sunk beneath the Weight of Years;
A Band his sable Bosom grac'd;
A Girdle bound his ermin'd Waist;
His Nose, of Promontory Size,
Was arm'd with artificial Eyes;
A Wig, in mystic Curls y-spread,
Hung many a Fathom from his Head;
With Pain he bore, in tottering State,
A necromantic Folio's Weight,
Inscrib'd with Talismans most dire,
To check the sprightliest Muse's Fire:
I shook, turn'd pale, my Blood scarce ran:
He hem'd — ha'd — cough'd, and thus began.

"O Son! what direful Ills await
The Progress of thy future Fate,
If thus, by recreant Fancy led,
You woo these Harlots to your Bed,
And right, and legal Reason quit
For Lozels base, and Pagan Wit?
Albeit in this thy youthful Prime,
In Pleasaunce flow thy reckless Time,
Yet, when white Eld shall o'er thy Head
Its venerable Honours spread,
Eftsoons these tinsel Glitterings fade,
Their Pride is gone, their Sheen decay'd;
O, where, then, in that Evening Hour,
Thy Wealth, thy Splendor, or thy Power?
Or, where those Trappings of the Sage,
That should adorn thy studious Age?
Pale Want her Harpy-Wings shall spread;
And Care shall haunt thy lonely Bed;
No Bar shall echo with thy Fame;
Inglorious shall descend thy Name,
Or live, on blasting Murmurs borne,
Of serious Sense the Jest, and Scorn:
O rouse thee, then this mystic Lore
With Eyes of studious Zeal explore;
By Toil, by Hardiment, and Pain,
O strive the steep Ascent to gain;
Then, ail thy Hour of Labour past,
Each Day shall smile upon the last."

Thus he: — Light-stepping o'er the Green,
The youngest of the Nine is seen;
Who not on Pindus' sacred Height
Wing'd the bold Ardour of her Flight;
But at the Foot, in humble Cell,
With lonely Shepherd deign'd to dwell,
And oft, in many a lowly Lay,
Stole easy through the Summer Day)
With fluttering Joy her voice I hear,
Her Voice so 'custom'd to mine Ear—

"O! if for Happiness you strive,
For which alone the Wise would live,
For which, through Nature's various Plan
Attentive strains the Mind of Man,
Seek not her Smile in idle State,
Amidst the Tumults of the Great;
Nor yet with Wealth abides the Fair,
Wealth, the sure Host of pining Care;
Nor Power, nor Public-Fame, bestows
The moral Bliss of calm Repose:
But, in the Muse's lonely Seat
She deigns to fix her calm Retreat;
There oft, with fond, maternal Love,
She visits whom the Nine approve;
Beam'd from the Mind's interior Powers,
She gilds the virtuous Poet's Hours;
And, soaring to sublimer Things,
Leaves Pomp and Misery to Kings:
O let not, then, this Wizard's Tongue
Allure thee from the Sons of Song,
To busy Noise, and wordy Strife,
The wrangling Dissonance of Life,
Nor, by his Promise led astray,
Think Fortune shall attend thy Way;
If aught the Muse aright divine,
For thee no Hoards of Gold shall shine;
No Honours shall around thee wait;
No Clients shall besiege thy Gate;
Nor Fame in blooming Wreaths shall spread
The civic Crown around thy Head:
Then vain thy most assiduous Toil,
Thy early Watch, thy Midnight Oil,
Thy Hours of Labour never past,
Each Day shall frown upon the, last."

She ceas'd — Quick raptur'd from the Heart,
"Never, O never let us part!"—
When straight, without a Breeze, the Grove
In solemn Reverence seem'd to move;
And every Thing around was aw'd,
As conscious of some present God:—
Submiss I gaz'd, as through the Shade
Appear'd the Jove-descended Maid;
Who sometimes, though of heavenly Birth,
Deigns guide the erring Sons of Earth;
And then, with Olive-Branch is seen,
The Symbol of the Athenian Queen;
Deep through my Breast her Accents stole,
And mute Attention rapt my Soul:

"Think not the mighty Lord of Heaven
To Man has Life and Reason given,
That center'd in his narrow Breast,
Their active Energy should rest;
Nor think to any Sphere confin'd
The Blessing of the virtuous Mind:
The great Disposer here below,
Hath mingled Happiness with Woe,
And bade eternal Order move
In social Life, and social Love:
Who seeks, in Indolence and Ease
To waste the Blossom of his Days,
Too late discovers, to his cost,
His promis'd Happiness is lost.
He best can hope the Bliss to prove
Of Ease, of Pleasure, and of Love,
Who sometimes from the Crowd retires
To Thoughts which Solitude inspires,
And blends, with Business, and with Noise,
The pensive Muse's silent Joys.
For thee — whate'er thy future Sphere
Commit to Heaven's disposing Care—
Think, if one Orphan's grateful Sighs,
One Widow's Prayer shall reach the Skies,
Think, if one Friend confess thine Aid,
How well thy Labour is repaid!
Thy Heart with honest Joy shall glow;
Thy Days in honour'd Peace shall flow;
By every Friend of Worth approv'd
By candid Innocence belov'd;
And Time shall grave upon thy Stone—

Something she added, which, in vein,
I strove quite perfect to retain,
About a Swain, whose spotless Youth
She guided in the Paths of Truth;
To whom she oft had deign'd impart
Each Attic Elegance of Art:—
"To HIM" (she cried) "these Dictates bear"—
The Name was lost in empty Air.—

If e'er of such an one you hear,
Friend Thomas, twitch him by the Ear:
And tell him, that the tuneful Maid,
Who haunts the fair Parnassian Shade,
Was ne'er intended as his Wife,
Or Man's fix'd Concubine for Life:
But, that her soft assuasive Strain
Should soothe him in the Hour of Pain;
Should every finer Sense impart;
Should warm, should elevate his Heart;
Should grace, should dignify his Aim;
Should wake him to the Voice of Fame;
Yet, never from his Breast remove
The kindling Power of social Love;
Ne'er from the World's most toilsome Way
To turn his weary Steps astray;
But, up the Precipice of Ill,
And distant Virtue's stubborn Hill,
To rouse, to animate his Course,
To string in his unelastic Force,
And guide through Nature's mazy Plan
The Sage, the Patriot, and the Man.

[pp. 285-303]