1785
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

La Diamora.

The Florence Miscellany.

Robert Merry


In the second poem of a pair, Robert Merry sings the joys of domestic bliss, touching on the usual georgic topics: "Such the tranquil joys of home, | Never, never, will I roam." The Della Cruscans, long held in disrepute for their affected, decorative manner, followed in the footsteps of William Collins and mid-century Miltonism, anticipating something of the Cockney School of Leigh Hunt and his followers.

Robert Southey: "Merry was the most remarkable for the success and brevity of his career. Other reputations have been as sudden, and as short-lived; but we can I call to mind none which was so unaccountable, and which has so completely passed away. Certain it is, that by far the greater part of our readers will have no other knowledge of him or his name than what they may have learnt from the Baviad and Maeviad. One might suspect, at first, that his poems had been written as an experiment upon what Wilkes called the non-sense of the English public, for they are 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'; he wrote to the ear, and to the ear only; and if their real origin could now be known, it would most probably be found that he was led into this rhapsodical and senseless vein, by emulating the effusions of the Italian 'improvvisatori' in a language which requires for its poetry something more than rhythm and rhymes. He imposed, for awhile, both upon himself and others, to a most extraordinary degree. Lady-poets and gentlemen-poets out of number became his imitators; for when the thing had once been done, it was so easy, that they all could do it" "Sayers's Works" in Quarterly Review 35 (1827) 197-98]

George Saintsbury: "Della Crusca (Merry) and Anna Matilda (Mrs. Cowley, who, as in the Belle's Stratagem, had her moments of not being an idiot) give us, I think, nothing of this kind. Their amoebean octosyllabics are as destitute of the slightest redeeming metrical quality as Helen Maria's own, and a great deal sillier. If anybody wants to see the heroic quatrain — which Dryden had nearly perfected in one direction, and Gray quite in another — reduced to the lowest grovel and drivel, let him read Merry on Werter, or on Fontenoy" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 3:36.



Hence restless dissipation,
Of busy Travel, and still changeful time!
Ills of each varied clime,
Dull sleepless nights, and hardship, and vexation!
The want of friendship's smiles,
And dread of sickness in a foreign land,
The frequent murth'rous band
That haunt the lonely pass mid forests drear,
The welcome insincere,
The solitary meal, and flatt'ring stranger's wiles.
But come Retirement to my arms
In meek simplicity of charms!
With close-wrapt robe of plainest dye,
And breast untroubled by a sigh,
Thee, blue-ey'd Peace in days of yore
To wrinckled, rough Experience, bore:
For once beneath her olive shade,
He fondly press'd the yielding maid,
Thy birth his secret transports prov'd,
Child of his age and best belov'd!

O bear me quick to Albion's isle;
And cheer me with thy placid smile.
There let me oft at dewy dawn,
Compos'dly tread the russet lawn.
As my tranquil cot I see,
Embosom'd deep in many a tree;
Near it glides a winding spring,
Where the gray duck wets her wing,
And matron hen with infant brood,
Clucks beside the shallow flood
Or when lily-bosom'd May,
Trips along in youthful play,
With my rod, and mimic fly,
To lure the speckled trout I try,
That lurks beneath the sandy bank,
With sedge o'er-grown, and rushes dank,
Tempted by the faithless snare,
He leaps, and meets destruction there:
So alas! in life we find,
Artful tricks to catch mankind,
So we view the gilded bait,
And rush upon severest fate.

Varied bliss each season yields,
One while, wand'ring o'er the fields,
I see blithe groups collect the hay,
And shake it in the burning ray,
While the cattle in the brook,
Lash their tails with pensive look,
And mid the limpid waves assuage
The sultry Summer's scorching rage.
Or when Harvest-time is past,
And the barns are fill'd at last,
With my Gun at peep of day,
To fallow, lands I take my way,
There my pointer soon descries,
The num'rous covey ere it flies.
As it mounts I take my aim,
And pleas'd behold the falling game.
Or I bring my greyhounds where
Nimbly starts the scudding hare,
That o'er the wide-extended down,
Glides a fleeting spot of brown.

When on early breezes borne
From far I hear the winding horn,
That sweetly pours it's mellow song,
Lakes, and groves and hill, among;
I saddle strait my neighing steed,
And hasten o'er the distant mead,
'Till I reach the covert's bound,
Ransack'd by the searching hound,
The red fox shews his sleeky face,
And quits the copse with rapid pace,
To safer scenes he fain would fly
Like mortals in adversity.
Still the deep-mouth'd eager foes,
Scent the track where'er he goes,
Unwisting every treach'rous maze,
That his cunning skill betrays.
Then my hasty flight I guide,
O'er the mountain's shelvy side,
Leave the dang'rous fence behind,
Thro many a wood and valley wind,
And never quit the pleasing toil,
Till I view the dying spoil.

Oft with careless step I stray,
Where unzon'd Nature courts the day,
And the tow'ring forest view,
Deck'd with tints of varied hue,
Or listen to the mingled noise,
Of lowing herds, and playful boys,
Where seem yon hamlets to retire,
And peeps the narrow-pointed spire.
Now I throw my roving eye,
O'er plashy streams, and mountains high,
View the sheep-boy tend his flocks,
And wild goats browze the giddy rocks,
The careful Driver's long-drawn team,
Lather'd by the noon-tide beam,
Or hear the ruddy maidens sing,
As their gather'd loads they bring.
Then I go with curious eyes,
Where my lov'd plantations rise,
The grafted scion to behold,
And young leaves pierce th' obstructive mould;
There the virgin lily blows,
The streak'd carnation, moss-clad rose,
And every flower that opens fair,
Scatt'ring odours thro' the air,
And every shrub whose head I rear'd,
Whose stock with drill drops I cheer'd,
Shall purer happiness bestow,
Than pow'r and wild ambition know.

When the day's amusements end,
Home my vagrant course I bend,
And my slow-returning feet,
The faithful Spaniel comes to greet,
With his joy-denoting bound,
Frisking light in frolick round.
Then beside the table plac'd
In rural plenty richly grac'd
I sit with her, whose tender smile,
And sweet discourse the hours beguile:
While around, my children gay
In many a sportive circle play.

Then some heart-dear friend appears,
Companion of my early years,
Who oft reminds me, how, at school,
Constraint we scorn'd, and laugh'd at rule,
Or when the daily task was o'er,
Forth we rushed with rapt'rous roar
To strike the ball, or climb the tree,
Season of sweet extacy!
College pranks recalls to view,
Long-past pleasures to renew,
Tells how, lover-like, my pain
I utter'd on the midnight plain,
Nor more the ready scheme enjoy'd,
While fonder cares my mind employ'd,
But sadly mourn'd the tyrant pride!
Of her who blushing sits beside;
Entranc'd I mark her conscious sigh,
And the blue languish of her eye.
Thus the happy Evening goes,
'Till the hour of due repose.

But when wintry tempests rage,
Retir'd I read th' historic page,
Or with fancied harp I rove,
In the wild Parnassian grove.
Sweet Poetry! thy pow'r alone,
Can check awhile each bitter groan,
When thou point'st to Milton's page,
Or Shakespeare's still sublimer rage,
And all the heaven-descended crew,
Who bath'd their locks with glitt'ring dew,
And wove the myrtle garland fair
That proudly still thou lov'st to wear
Thus my ferried life shall flow,
Free from bustle, care, end woe,
Such the tranquil joys of home,
Never, never, will I roam.

[pp. 203-08]