1762
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Untitled, "The fading gleam of parting day."]

Gratulatio Solennis Universitatis Oxoniensis ob Celsissimum Georgium Fred. Aug. Walliae Principem Georgio III. et Charlottae Reginae Auspicatissime Natum.

Henry James Pye


In an irregular Pindaric the future laureate, then a gentleman-commoner of Magdalen College, celebrates the birth of the Prince of Wales in Miltonic imagery and diction: "Listen to the jocund sound! | Lo! glorious shades and halcyon days appear | Fair as the Morn in saffron mantle dight." An azure-clad figure appears on the banks of the Cherwell to announce a respite from the anxieties of war with France in order to celebrate the royal birth. Thomas Warton, another future laureate.

Headnote in London Evening Post: "The Oxford congratulatory verses on the birth of the Prince of Wales, just published, contain many very excellent pieces, one of which, by the Rev. Mr. WHARTON, has already been extracted, and printed singly, for the satisfaction of the Public. We shall now present them with another, which we think for elegance, fire, spirit and sublimity, is exceeded by none in this collection" 11 January 1763.

Critical Review: "There is perhaps no species of writing so difficult as panegyric, which requires the utmost force of genius, and the greatest delicacy imaginable, to make it even tolerably agreeable. Nothing therefore is, for the most part, half so nauseating and dignified as the general run of Birth-day odes; poetical adresses, and complimentary verses on public occasions: how indeed should it be otherwise, when five hundred people are set to work on a performance, of which perhaps not above five among them have the least idea of! That this is the case with our academic bards, there cannot be the least doubt, as we find by melancholy experience; not twenty copies in the whole collection of the two universities, having merit enough to deserve any criticism upon them; though some disguise their nothingness in Greek, and others wrap up their no talent in Hebrew; some, as the ingenious author of the Poetry Professors [Robert Lloyd] observes, 'copy with prodigious skill | The figures of a buttery-bill, | Which with great folks of erudition | Shall pass for Coptic or Phenician" 15 (1763) 34-35.

W. Davenport Adams: "Henry James Pye, poet-laureate (b. 1745, d. 1813), produced The Progress of Refinement (1783); Shooting (1784); A Commentary illustrating the Poetics of Aristotle, by Examples taken chiefly from the Modern Poets (1792); Alfred (1801); and Comments on the Commentators of Shakespeare (1807). Collected editions of his poems were published in 1787 and 1810" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 505-06.



I.1.
The fading gleam of parting day
Forsakes the western sky,
Now shines Diana's chaster ray
With virgin majesty;
Her face with milder glory bright
Pales o'er the dusky shades of night,
And brings the varied scene to view:
The glassy lake, the bubbling stream,
Again reflect the borrow'd beam,
And take the silver hue.

I.2.
From the deep shade of yonder trees
The screaming night-birds call,
While floats in Zephyr's balmy breeze
The distant water-fall;
Sad Philomela's warbling throat
Pours forth the sweetly mournful note,
And charms the lay-resounding grove,
Where, trembling at the gentle gale,
The bending fir, and poplar pale,
In rushing murmurs move.

I.3.
What joyful sounds arise!—
These strains of rural music sink,
And shrill-ton'd clarions rend the skies,
The air a voice of triumph chears—
Behold, an awful form appears
On Cherwell's sedgy brink!
His azure length of robe behind
Loosely wantons in the wind,
Glowing like the vernal morning
Beams benign his eye-balls shed,
Ceres' wealth his brows adorning
Shades his venerable head.
Say, heav'nly Vision, what these notes portend;
Sits white-wing'd Vict'ry on Britannia's arms?
Does proud Iberia to our legions bend,
Or flies the Gaul at Granby's dread alarms,
Or stalks on India's sun-burnt plains afar
The force of Conflict keen, and giant rage of War?

II.1.
"Far hence, he cried, the tumult's roar
To distant climes shall fly,
Mirth revels now on Albion's shore,
And blithe Festivity.
Ye Muses, twine each fragrant flower
To crown with roseate braids the hour
Which gave to GEORGE a blooming Heir;
Ye guardians of this favour'd isle,
With graceful pleasure kindly smile,
Ye Nymphs your wreaths prepare.

II.2.
"Come happy babe! delight the lands
Which time shall make thy own;
Come happy babe! whom Heav'n commands
To fill a future throne.
And when the sacred lore of truth
Shall gently form thy ripening youth,
May ev'ry grateful Briton find
The soul of GEORGE'S godlike race,
With lovely CHARLOTTE'S softer grace,
Attemper'd in thy mind.

II.3.
"For thee on Afric's burning coast
Aloft the British ensign waves;
For thee by rattling tempests tost
Their navies awe the Gallic pride,
On every realm, whose hostile side
The boundless ocean laves;—
With nobler skill and fiercer fire
Strike the rapture-breathing lyre!
Hark! — on Cambria's cloud-topt mountains
Music winds her streams along:
As they flow, the crystal fountains
Listen to the jocund sound!
Lo! glorious shades and halcyon days appear
Fair as the Morn in saffron mantle dight,—
But sounds divine ill suit the human ear,
And fleeting visions mock the mortal sight."
He said: and rushing from my wond'ring eyes,
On rapid light'ning borne, he sought his native skies.

[Sig. M-Mv]