An anonymously-published musical setting of Lycidas involving much condensation and metrical revision. Lycidas was first performed as an afterpiece at Covent Garden 4 November 1767, commemorating the death of the Duke of York. William Jackson, also esteemed as a landscape painter and essayist, was a musical member of Hugh Downman's circle of Exeter poets. His most ambitious work was an oratorio setting of Joseph Warton's Ode to Fancy (1767).
Monthly Review: "Milton's Lycidas is here applied to the late breach made in the Royal Family, by the death of the Duke of York. The design was absurd, and the performance was treated as such a piece of impertinence deserved" 37 (November 1767) 393.
Thomas Busby: "A piece called the 'Fairy Fantasies,' Milton's 'May Morning,' 'Lycidas,' an elegy, and other vocal works of Mr. Jackson's in manuscript, are spoken of with such high commendation, that it is to be hoped they will ere long find their way to the public ear; and add to that praise which every real judge of fine composition cannot but allow him" Monthly Magazine 16 (September 1803) 141.
William Jackson: "I do not recollect anything particular in my literary pursuits at this time [ca. 1777]. I continued to improve myself in the French and Italian languages, and at times read Terence and Virgil. Parts of Chaucer and Spenser were familiar to me, but I never could read either of these poets from beginning to end. [Samuel] Butler was from my earliest days my travelling companion" Memoir in The Leisure Hour (1882) 362.
P. W. Clayden: "Jackson died in July 1803, and, as a token of his regard for Rogers, left to him his copies of the first edition of Paradise Lost, and of the Faerie Queen" The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 401.
John Nichols's Select Collection contains sonnets by a W. J., dated 1777-79, conceivably William Jackson.
Yet once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never sere,
I come to pluck your Berries harsh and crude,
And with forc'd fingers rude
Shatter your Leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter Constraint and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb your season due;
For LYCIDAS is dead, dead e'er his prime,
Young LYCIDAS, and hath not left his Peer!
Who wou'd not sing for LYCIDAS? He knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty Rhyme!
He must not flote upon his wat'ry Bier
Unwept, and welter to the parching Wind,
Without the Meed of some melodious Tear.
Begin then Sisters of the sacred Well,
That from beneath the Seat of JOVE doth spring;
Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string.
Hence with Denial vain, and coy excuse,
So may some gentle Muse
With lucky Words favour my destin'd Urn,
And as he passes turn,
And bid fair Peace to my sable Shroud:
For we were nurs'd upon the self-same Hill,
Fed the same Flock by Fountain, Shade, and Rill.
Together e'er the Lawns appear'd
Under the Eyelids of the Morn
We drove afield, together heard
The Gray-fly wind his sultry Horn;
The rural Ditties were not mute
Attemper'd to the oaten Flute,
Satyrs and Fawns with cloven heel
The Influence of our Strains would feel,
To the glad Sound would listen long
And hang enraptur'd on our Song!
But Oh the heavy Change now thou art gone,
Now thou art gone, and never must return!
Thee, Shepherd, thee the Woods, and desert Caves
With wild Thyme and the gadding Vine o'ergrown,
And all their Echoes mourn!
The Willows, and the Hazel Copses green,
Shall now no more be seen
Fanning their joyous Leaves to thy soft Lays!
As killing as the Canker to the Rose,
Or Taint-worm to the weanling Herds that graze,
Or Frost to Flow'rs that their gay Wardrobe wear,
Such, LYCIDAS, thy Loss to Shepherds Ear!
Where we ye Nymphs when the remorseless Deep
Clos'd o'er the Head of your lov'd LYCIDAS?
For neither were ye playing on the Steep
Where the old Bards the famous Druids lie,
Nor on the shaggy Top of MONA high,
Nor yet where DEVA spreads his wisard stream.
Ah me! I fondly dream!
Had ye been there, could that have done?
What could the Muse that ORPHEUS bore,
The Muse for her enchanting Son
For whom all Nature did lament;
When by the Rout that made the hideous Roar,
His goary Visage down the Stream was sent,
Down the swift HEBRUS to the LESBIAN Shore!
Alas! what boots it with incessant Care
To tend the homely slighted Shepherd's Trade,
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
Were it not better done as others use,
To sport with AMARYLLIS in the shade,
Or with the Tangles of NEAERA'S Hair?
Fame is the Spur that the clear Spirit doth raise,
(That last Infirmity of noble Mind)
To scorn Delights, and live laborious days;
But the fair Guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden Blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorred Shears
And slits the thin-spun Life—
—But not the Praise,
PHAEBUS reply'd, and touch'd my trembling ears!
Fame is no Plant of mortal Soil,
Nor yet set off in glist'ring foil,
Nor in broad busy Rumour lies;
But spreads aloft by those pure eyes
And witness of all-judging JOVE.
As He pronounces on each Deed
Of so much Fame expect thy Meed!
O Fountain ARETHUSE, and thou honour'd Flood
Smooth-sliding MINICIUS crown'd with vocal Reeds,
That Strain I heard was of a higher mood;
But now my Oat proceeds—
And listens to the Herald of the Sea
That came in NEPTUNE'S Plea:
He ask'd the Winds, he ask'd the waves,
What had befel this gentle Swain;
And ev'ry Gust of rugged Wings
That sweeps across the troubled Main?
Alas! they knew not of his Fate,
No blast for EOLUS had stray'd,
To swell the smooth and level Brine
Where THETIS and her Sisters stray'd.
It was that fatal and perfidious Bark
Built in th' Eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark
That sunk so low that sacred Head of thine.
Next CAMUS, rev'rend Sire, went footing slow,
His Mantle hairy, and his Bonnet sedge,
Inwrought with Figures dim, and on the Edge
Like to that sanguine Flow'r inscrib'd with woe.
Ah! who hath reft, quoth he, my dearest Pledge?
How well could I have spar'd for thee
The Swains who lean and flashy Songs
Grate on the Pipes of wretched Straw?
The sheep look up and are not fed,
But swoln with the rank Mist they draw,
Rot and the foul contagion spread—
Not so thy Flocks, O Shepherd dear;
Not so thy Songs, O Muse most rare!
Proceed Sicilian Muse, and call the Vales,
And bid them hither cast their Bells
And Flowrets of a thousand Hues.
Ye Valleys that mild Whispers use
Of wanton Winds and gushing Brooks,
On whom the swart Star sparely looks;
Throw hither your enamel'd Eyes
That on the green Turf suck the show'rs
And purple all the Ground with Flowr's:
The Primrose that forsaken dies,
The Pink and Pansy streakt with Jet,
The Rose and glowing Violet,
With Cowslips wan that hang the Head,
And ev'ry Flow'r that Sadness wears,
Bid Amarant his Beauty shed
And Daffadillies drop their Tears
To strew the Hearse where LYCID lies!
For so to interpose a little Ease
Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.
Ah me! whilst Thee the Shores and sounding Seas
Wash far away; where e'er thy Bones are hurl'd,
Whether beyond the stormy HEBRIDES
Where thou perhaps under the whelming Tide
Visits the Bottom of the monstrous World;
Or whether Thou to our moist Vows deny'd
Sleepst by the Fable of BELERUS old,
Where the great Vision of the guarded Mount
Looks t'wards, NAMANCOS and BAYONA'S hold;
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth;
And O ye Dolphins waft the hapless Youth!
Weep no more, woful Shepherds weep no more,
For LYCIDAS your Sorrow is not dead,
Sunk tho' he be beneath the wat'ry floor,
So sinks the Day-Star in his Ocean-bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping Head
And tricks his Beams, and with new-spangled Ore
Flames in the Forehead of the Morning sky!
Woful Shepherds weep no more,
He is the Genius of the Shore,
He is ascended from the Waves,
With Nectar pure his Locks he laves,
And hears the Song of Joy and Love
From solemn Troops amid the skies,
Who singing in their Glory move,
And wipe the Tears for ever from his Eyes!