1782
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Elegy to dissuade young Persons from Poetical Pursuits.

Poems. By the Rev. Joseph Sterling.

Rev. Joseph Sterling


Edmund Spenser appears, as so often, in a catalogue of unfortunate poets. Joseph Sterling, an acquaintance of Thomas Percy and an early romantic advocate of Italian romance, was neglected by his contemporaries and ignored by later critics. Compare Mickle's Spenserians in "The Neglect of Poetry" (1776).

Critical Review: "'Irritability' has been attributed, from Horace's days to the present, almost proverbially, to the votaries of the Muses, and Mr. Sterling is 'a poet'" (1789) 358.

Samuel Egerton Brydges on the adversity suffered by poets: "It seems extraordinary that the Muse should be able to exert herself with success in the midst of anxieties, sorrows, and sufferings; but experience furnishes perpetual instances of it. The Fairy Queen must have been composed amidst perpetual alarms, in a country of barbarous rebels, impelled by want, revenge, and despair; in momentary insecurity; when a successful incursion of the threatening hordes who surrounded the author, would, even if he could save himself and his family from murder, condemn the remainder of his days to poverty and ruin" Censura Literaria 5 (1807) 404.



Bold is th' aspiring youth, who dares to climb
Th' aerial summit of the sacred hill;
Who dares to woo the muse, to build the rhyme,
And dauntless drinks the deep Aonian rill.

Fair spreads the opening prospect to his view,
What vernant meeds! what golden plains appear!
Unclouded suns, and skies serenely blue,
What splendid glories mark the circling year!

His pride impels him to the love of fame,
Aloft he soars upon her eagle wings;
Eager he grasps at an ideal name,
And o'er the lyre his hand he boldly flings.

Fond youth, beware, you tread on magic ground,
Court not a garland of poetic bays:
Still with the rose, the painful thorn is found,
It is a doubtful, and a dang'rous praise.

Soon will your smiling landscape fade away,
Soon will you find your glory in its wane;
When wint'ry suns shall shoot a languid ray,
And dark'ning clouds obscure th' eternal plain.

What mighty meed has been the poet's lot?
What bright reward has crown'd his ceaseless toil?
What, tho' his labour'd lines are ne'er forgot,
His tedious vigils o'er the midnight oil.

Who, like great Homer, wak'd the living lyre?
Yet by precarious bounty he was fed;
Had not immortal Lucan Jove's own fire?
Yet, in imperial Rome the poet bled.

Disast'rous chance, Torquato, sure, was thine,
Tho' thy transcendent lustre never dies,
Ne'er with her smiles on thee did fortune shine,
Thy death was lanc'd from Eleanora's eyes.

Illustrious Camoens won a deathless fame,
See! Mars and Phoebus on the bard attend;
The distant east reveres his honour'd name,
Yet, in affliction, did his sun descend.

Ev'n Colinet, whom all the muses love,
Whom all the nymphs, and all the swains adore;
Keen dissapointment often did he prove,
And pin'd in anguish by his Mulla's shore.

Fond youth beware, decline th' insidious muse,
Hear not the magic of her syren strain;
Unwise the man, who still her track pursues,
For science, wit, and genius blaze in vain.

[pp. 106-07]