1761
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To his Royal Highness the Duke of York, written from Winchester-Camp.

Epithalamia Oxoniensia, sive Gratulationes in Augustissimi Regis Georgii III. et Illustrissimae Principissae Sophiae Charlottae Nuptias Auspicatissimas.

Rev. Joseph Warton


A blank-verse Miltonic ode. The ghost of King Arthur appears to announce the future success of British arms: "a form appear'd, in iron mail | Of ancient guise; a sapling oak his spear; | He wore his beaver up, and on his cheek | Simplicity was mix'd with grace." "The wildly-warbling Doric bard, true child | Of Fancy and the Muse" is Theocritus. The poem is signed "Richard Phelps, M.A., Fellow of New College."

The attribution is made clear in a letter from Joseph to Thomas Warton, October 29, 1761: "Dearest Tom! I send you Phelps' Verses, which I hope and am apt to think you will like. Pray observe exactly what is to be done about them. You may exhibit them to the Inspectors but not put them to the press till you hear from me by Sunday next post which Letter you shall infallibly have Tuesday next; the reason is this & unavoidable. Phelps went up to London to be reviewed before I had finished them and will not return till Saturday next; then I shall shew them to Him and hear if he has any Objections and will send to you Sunday at all Events. In the mean time do write also to me by return of this post that I may hear as soon as possible your opinion. I fancy you will like the Connexions and the passing on from one thing to another. They must be dated Winchester camp; and the same objections cannot lie against this as against Dr. Sharpe's wares being dated from his Living, for Phelps is at this time actually a fellow of a college, and of a college whose statutes expressly dispense with residence for the service of the government. I greatly want to know your opinion of all my conclusion &c," Correspondence of Thomas Warton, ed. Fairer (1995) 106-07.

On receiving the collection, Joseph Warton wrote to his brother, "Phelps's verses are much talked of here [Winchester]. Guess how I enjoy what is said of them. The Warden, &c. don't seem to suspect any thing. By the way, the Warden is much pleased with them, and with yours" Biographical Memoir, ed. Wool (1806) 279-80.

Thomas Warton "acted as one of the inspectors for the Oxford verses on the king's marriage of 1761, one of several printed tributes from the university in the early 1760s which show a new atmosphere of reconciliation with the central government. Such collections gave students and fellows an opportunity to obtain kudos with a poem in English or another language. There was hot competition with the equivalent publications from Cambridge, and colleges were eager to see their notable members included — their names often attached to poems written on their behalf by the inspectors and their friends" David Fairer, "Oxford and the Literary World" in History of the University of Oxford vol. 5 (1986) 797-98.



Yet once more, tuneful virgins! will I seek
Your soul-inspiring grot, tho' absent long
From your gay choirs, and from that much-lov'd stream,
Romantic Isis: but my bosom burns
To hail CHARLOTTA, tho' the rugged strains
May grate her polish'd ear, to sweetest sounds
Attun'd. O YORK! benevolent of soul,
Who feel'st for others bliss, for others woes,
O speak thy bliss sincere to see thy GEORGE
By smiling Hymen blest; thy GEORGE, endear'd
By every sacred name, and holy tie,
King, Brother, Friend! Nor courts, nor poem, nor power,
(So wont with sordid thoughts the breast to sear)
These tender feelings from thy heart can rase
That best ennoble life, and far exalt
The man above the prince. Say, can the palms
Of glorious conquest, can remotest lands
To Albion's empire added, spicy Ind
To piny Canada, smooth-gliding Thames
To thundering Niagara join'd, can these
Without domestic bliss a monarch charm,
A virtuous monarch? Lo! CHARLOTTA form'd
To soften cares; by all the Graces taught
To make the Hours dance lightly; taught to smooth
The brow of business; the o'er-burden'd mind,
That in its mighty grasp ponders the good
Of grateful millions, and words of passion true:
But chiefly skill'd with music's potent airs
To pierce and win the soul, and with a voice
Soft as the south that o'er sweet Carmel blow'd,
To lap it in Elysium. My fond tongue
Dwells with delight upon her favourite name,
And longs to praise her in such raptur'd strains
As erst the Doric bard, Sicilia's boast,
Pour'd forth at Berenice's honour'd throne;
The wildly-warbling Doric bard, true child
Of Fancy and the Muse, who charm'd the rocks
Of that poetic Isle, in long sojourn
Where late I rov'd, delighted with its vales,
And classic streams, and cropt the luscious fig
From fruitful Egilus: mean-while intent
To trace the steps of ancient art, the piles
Of mouldering theatres, the columns huge
Of Tauromenium! 'till by war's alarms
To Britain call'd, following my brave compeers,
My PITT and BRUCE. O, Name for ever dear!
By early studies and true friendship join'd
In WYKEHAM'S sacred walls, whose airy spires
And awful arches, rudely great, arise
In pleasing prospect from this tented field.

Here, as I nightly rounding pac'd the plain
Beneath the glimmering moon, when the deep hum
Of busy men was hush'd, and all was still,
Save the ghaunt mastiff, or yon village-cock,
Or pensive tinklings of the neighbouring fold;
Sudden a form appear'd, in iron mail
Of ancient guise; a sapling oak his spear;
He wore his beaver up, and on his cheek
Simplicity was mix'd with grace: abash'd
I sunk, and struck with awe. "Behold," he cry'd,
"Old Arthur, Britain's king. From yonder towers,
My massy Castle once, I come, at eve
Where on its ruins hoar I frequent sit
Invisible. With joy your generous toils
Have I survey'd, who leave your cultur'd fields
And pleasant villas, for the din of arms,
And midnight watches in the chilling dew.
At this, pale Gallia trembles thro' her coasts,
Mindful of Cherburg's fall; where thy lov'd Prince,
Much-honour'd YORK, first flesh'd his maiden sword;
Who now with mightier grasp intent to wield
Great Neptune's trident, o'er his realms shall roll
The delegated thunder! GEORGE shall crush
Each stubborn foe: and to remotest time,
I see, I see, his race to Albion give
Peace, plenty, power, wealth, liberty, and fame."

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