1783
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode II. Upon beginning the Study of the Law.

Sonnets and other Poems; with a Versification of the Six Bards of Ossian. By S. Egerton Brydges

Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges


An amusing burlesque of Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso in which the poet finds himself torn between Glory — the study of the law that would lead to a political career — and the Nymph of poetry. The spirit of "Inspired Spencer" appears to warn Brydges of the dangers of making a career of poetry: "For he to winds, and waters sung, | And Want assail'd his god-like tongue. | Scar'd at the warning aim'd at me, | I then once more shall yield to thee" p. 22. The poet agrees to follow Glory, should he be allowed to spend his midnight hours with "fairy Knights, and Barons bold."

Before departing Queen's College Cambridge for the Middle Temple, Brydges had fallen under the literary spell of Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, and Thomas Warton. A note is appended in the 1807 Poems: "The author's resolutions were vain: he found that he could 'live' but a very little while 'with toilsome Law' — 1806." Brydges eventually did serve in Parliament and publish on affairs of state, though his political career was even less successful than his poetical one.

Compare John Oldham's "A Satire. The Person of Spencer is brought in, dissuading the Author from the Study of Poetry, and shewing how little it is esteem'd and encourag'd in this present Age" in Poems (1683), Joseph Warton's The Enthusiast (1744), Thomas Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy (1747), and John Keats's "To Charles Cowden Clarke" in Poems (1817).

Mary Katherine Woodworth: "In 1783 he entered the Middle Temple; and there, as at Cambridge, he found the prescribed routine distasteful. He knew no lawyers, called the language of the courts a jargon, and of all Blackstone preferred The Lawyer's Farewell to His Muse" Literary Career of Brydges (1935) 6-7. Woodworth also comments that "Among his earliest experiments there were sonnets, odes in many patterns, octosyllabics, ballad measures, and Spenserian stanzas" p. 97.

Robert Southey and Sir Walter Scott first read the Faerie Queene as boys in 1783.



Yes, Glory! I have heard the sound,
That shook the vale and hills around,
Where all at ease reclin'd I lay,
With melting Poesy at play.
Rous'd at thy call to sterner Law,
To him my ling'ring steps I draw.
Yet must I leave my native plain,
No more to see my Love again?
What, tho' no more I all day long
May listen to her am'rous song;
Tho' I no more, from morn to eve,
Her fairy legends may believe;
A backward glance I still may roll,
To sooth the feelings of my soul;
And still at times thy toils may cease,
And thou thy captive may'st release,
Again in fairy paths to meet
The nymph, that led his infant feet;
To trace the verdure, as it spreads
Its stealing progress o'er the meads;
To mark the leaves begin to bud,
And hear the birds awake the wood;
And busy rooks, with clamor loud,
That round the reverend elm-trees crowd;
To mark the Spring's soft genial cheer
From trance awaken'd Nature rear,
And all the face of things rejoice
Rous'd by her enlivening voice:
With her, in Summer's noontide heat,
In some deep shade to take his seat,
And there unfold with rapt regard
The tale of some enchanted Bard.
Inspired Spencer then perchance
Across the lone retreat may glance,
Reproach my poor affrighted maid,
And tell her how she him betray'd;
How she on him from childhood smil'd,
And thence to dwell with her beguil'd;
How she his heavenly song refin'd
Too exquisite for gross mankind!
For he to winds, and waters sung,
And Want assail'd his god-like tongue.
Scar'd at the warning aim'd at me,
I then once more shall yield to thee.
But, Glory, thou wilt still allow
To her to breathe my casual vow:
With her sometimes, at midnight hour,
Amid the elemental roar,
When Winter bids his winds arise,
And spirits howl along the skies,
To turn the page of heroes old,
Of fairy Knights, and Barons bold,
And many a soft bewitching maid,
In fell enchanter's castle laid:
Then creep with thrilling fear to bed,
Nor turn around the room my head,
Lest 'mid the solemn shades of night,
Their ghosts should meet my shuddering sight.

If such indulgence thou wilt give,
Then I with toilsome Law will live.

[pp. 21-22]