1773
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Mr. Mickle, on his Specimen of a Translation of the Lusiad of Camoens, from the Portuguese.

Poems by Mr. Fenton.

Richard Fenton


Richard Fenton, a young Welsh acquaintance of Goldsmith and Garrick, wittily hails William Julius Mickle as the explorer of new literary territories in his The Concubine (1767), an imitation of Spenser, and in his translation of Camoen's Lusiads. At the center of the poem is a rather critical tribute addressed to Sir Richard Fanshawe, whose earlier translation of the Lusiads supposedly failed due to the political temper of the seventeenth century. Mickle's long-reprinted translation of Camoens would appear in 1776.

John Langhorne: "We suppose this honest ancient Briton will hardly think us niggards in our approbation, when we allow that he does not discredit to his name. His poems are miscellaneous, many of them easy and pretty, and it gives us pleasure to seem them prefaced with such a noble subscription list of the Author's countrymen" Monthly Review 50 (May 1774) 408.

John Ireland: "Doctor Johnson told Mickle, that he once had the idea of translating the Lusiad himself, and afterwards recommended it to Goldsmith, but was glad that it was now fallen into the hands of one so capable of doing justice to the original. Mr. Thomas Warton, and many other gentlemen of the first literary character, frequently mentioned it in terms of the most decided approbation. Notwithstanding all these circumstances, and the subject being commercial, and therefore seemingly so peculiarly calculated for Great Britain, this Poem has not yet attained the celebrity it merits. But the time must come when it will be universally read, and then it must be universally admired" Poems and a Tragedy (1794) xxxvi.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Richard Felton, a Welch barrister, d. 1821. An Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire, a map, and 30 engravings by Storer and Greig, Lon., 1811, 4to, and imp. 4to. In this valuable work, which is rich in the history and antiquities of Wales, the author had the assistance of Sir Richard Colt Hoare. Mr. Fenton also wrote A Tour in Search of a Genealogy, Memoirs of an Old Wig, and left a MS. translation of Athenaeus" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:586-87.



When Gama first, with spirit unconfin'd,
Revolv'd the plan of commerce in his mind,
And found no common distance could prevail
To bound th' extent of his capacious scale;
His genius overlook'd with bold disdain
The banks of Tagus, and th' Atlantic Main;
And from the arms of more domestic ease,
Intrepid bore him into distant seas,
Which no audacious keel before had plough'd,
Still onward urging his untravel'd road,
Where the young sun, in orient ruby drest,
Is first awak'd upon the morning's breast;
And taught trade's empire, like the son, to own
No narrower limits than the world alone.
Like thy own Gama (let me call him thine)
The claim's attested by the sacred Nine;
Ingenious MICKLE, thy advent'rous lay
Scorns the worn track, and tempts a devious way:
Thy muse inspir'd with sympathetic pride
Forgoes and throws the humbler reed aside;
Which Mulla hearing slow had roll'd along,
Stay'd with the likeness of her SPENSER'S song;
And dares, superior to the narrow rules,
The pedant fetters which enslave the schools,
Fearless what unheard perils she may prove
In adding laurels to th' Aonian grove,
To pierce the depths of an unclassic shore,
And search a desart for a single flow'r.
Nor has thy hand with a successless toil
The growth transplanted to thy native soil:
Fresh shoots thy Scyon on an English stem;
Thy cut revives the lustre of the gem.
E'en CAMOEN'S self might envy thy success,
And wish his LUSIAD in no other dress:
Fix'd in suspense, and dubious which to boast,
It's first fair form, or transmigration most.
Long had the Muses mark'd th' advancing gloom
Of Gothic night, and fear'd the LUSIAD'S doom.
But fate forbade, and thou wer't sent to save
The wreck just whelm'd beneath oblivion's wave.
'Till now obscure the beauteous work had lain,
Like the new world, ere Gama dar'd the main;
Or, if e'er touch'd on, only known in part,
But faintly shadow'd out in Fanshaw's chart.
Unhappy Fanshaw! whose ill-favour'd rhimes
Had caught the aukward spirit of the times;
Whose ev'ry number with its neighbour jars,
As if the Muses dealt in Civil Wars.
Ill-fated poet! destin'd to an age
Of bigot jargon, and of factious rage;
When ev'ry page with quibble was o'er-run,
And sense tormented writh'd itself to pun.
When persecuted science stood aghast,
And arts, for want of patrons, breath'd their last;
And ev'ry other trade but that of blood,
In famish'd tortures gasp'd in vain for food.
That, and but that alone, luxurious far'd,
Nor more than monarch, than the subject spar'd.
And would the Muse not desert a land,
By crimes of such notorious hue profan'd?
Yes, heav'n descended, they forbore to stay,
And to the realms of peace re-trac'd their way.
Then let this prospect vindicate his lays,
Nor spleen abridge him of his share of praise;
Unenvy'd let him claim the first design
Which sketch'd the situation of the mine:
To thee 'twas left the treasures to explore,
And give a sterling impress to the ore;
That current it might pass through ev'ry clime,
And bear its value to remotest time.

Say, when thy Hero leads thee on to try
The varying aspect of a foreign sky,
(Thy Muse collecting spirit from the course,
As streams grow wider farther from their source)
Springs not a just contempt within thy mind,
To view the objects thou hast left behind;
Critics and Rhymers at a distance hurl'd,
As Gama less'ning saw the western world?
Whilst back they turn, unable to pursue
With fearful admiration from the view;
Whilst wide of them thou spread'st the bolder sail,
And ev'ry muse inspires the prosp'rous gale.
Thus when the eagle, with undazzled gaze,
Sublimely tow'rs to meet the solar blaze;
The linnet from the spray, with aching sight,
Eyes the stretch'd wing, and wonders at the flight.

Is there a tract of science unexplor'd,
Where sage has never pierc'd, or poet soar'd;
Embark auspicious! from the womb of night
Call forth the new Atlantis to the light:
That not the smallest quotient may remain
Without the limits of the Muse's reign;
'Till thou may'st weep, like Macedonia's son,
When by his arms the universe was won,
With noble indignation touch'd; to view
No fresh supply of empires to subdue.

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